Life in the Key of Grace.

According to Thomas Moore, whose soul-centered philosophy speaks deeply to me, some of the more turbulent life passages we’ve experienced need to be healed, or we stay stuck. In our ‘stuckedness’ (my made-up word, not his). Unhealed passages leave us acting out in immature, unconscious ways that limit the grace with which we pass through each day and ultimately, prevent us from knowing grace in aging.

“Passages are not always easy. You may decide it is too much for you and settle for being stuck in a comfortable phase.” — Thomas Moore, Ageless Soul

Moore suggests we look back on our lives and see various passages as linked by plateaus which represent the stages of our lives. Not necessarily the ‘aged’ stages, but rather, the significant events which make up our growing ‘up’. School. Marriage. Travel. Jobs. Adventures…

Sometimes, we don’t navigate the passages between plateaus well. Sometimes, in our inability to let go of one plateau to pass through to another, we refuse to say yes to possibility and hold onto, or stay stuck in, what was and can never be again.

There are many ways to heal those broken passages.

One way is to draw a timeline of your life. (For me, doing this exercise, I like to tape pieces of 8 x 11″ paper end to end horizontally. I begin at the beginning – birth, and include photos, pictures cut out of magazines, drawings, etc. as I move along my timeline. I take my time – this is my lifeline, my life journey, I want to savour each moment, whether I judge it good or bad – it is my life.)

From birth to today, mark the significant events and a word or three to describe what you did when that significant event appeared in your life.

Look for patterns, for spaces where your reason for ‘living in the NO’ or stepping back from possibility carried over into other areas of your life, even when you wanted to say Yes.

Now, hold those moments lovingly in your mind, and let compassion, love, acceptance pour over them. Let your heart open wide to the realization that in those instances you chose No, not because you couldn’t do it, but rather, because doing it was too risky, scary, fear-inducing, or you just felt more comfortable staying stuck.

Let the grace of self-forgiveness envelop you. Imagine grace is a serene river flowing through every fibre of your being.

And then, say, “I see you. I forgive you. I let go. I am peaceful with my decision today.”

Repeat often.

The questions we ask ourselves.

Monday morning. An uncharted day.

My afternoon was to have been busy – but I made a mistake in dates and now, it’s wide open.

How will I fill it? Or is it, spend it? Or use it up? How shall I pass the time?

Perhaps rather than any of the above, I need to see my time as a time to live wild and free. Bold and fierce.

Maybe, rather than asking myself, ‘How shall I pass the time?’, I invite myself into the day with the question, “How shall I live these hours fully-heartedly in love with my life today?”

And then, as Rilke invites, ‘to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.‘ so that I can ‘live the questions now.’

Ah… to live the questions as if they are a book written in a very foreign language.

Memory stirs. Athens. My then-husband driving. I am navigating. I know where we want to get to but am totally lost. My map is in English. The roadsigns in Cyrillic. Which I can’t read.

I try to decipher them. Quickly. I am losing ground as he tries desperately to stay with the traffic which is a cacophony of blaring horns and angry voices of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and donkey cart drivers all vying for the same piece of road.

My driver is frustrated. Getting angrier by the minute.

I try to decipher the signs faster and faster as the temperature goes up in the car with the ferocity of a Chinook wind blowing in off the Rockies.

I am not succeeding.

Suddenly, I fold up the map and declare, “Let’s get lost.”

He laughs (sort of). “We are lost!”

Right. We are.

Then… let’s stay lost. Rather than seeking the pre-determined destination, let’s see where the road leads us. Let’s be open to the adventure!

I’d like to say that’s what we did but, if memory serves me well, we chose the safer route. (My idea of adventure and his were not the same.) We found a tourist office and acquired concise directions to take us to the inn we had booked for our week in Athens.

But what if… what if we’d stayed on the lost path? What if we’d chosen to keep travelling into the unknown.

Today, it isn’t the what if’s about the past that makes the difference. It’s the lessons learned, the growth experienced, the memories made of the journies taken.

I have never forgotten that drive through Athens. It was the genesis of my journey into letting go of my need to know every step of the journey before it began and my desire to stay rigidly attached to the outcome. It was the beginning of learning to trust in the process rather than the plan.pic

Unbroken Morning

Wrapped in the soft glow of candlelight illuminating the dark, I sit in the quiet of night’s velvety embrace.

It’s early. Dawn sleeps deep, bedded down in night’s arms. The dark envelopes the sky.

I sit at my desk, breathing in the silence and watch the lights from the pedestrian bridge that crosses the river outside my window shimmer on the water’s inky black surface.

I am awake. I don’t want to be. But a dream I cannot remember awoke me. Unable to find sleep again, I do the thing I always do when sleep evades me. I get up, light a candle on my desk. It sits in front of the large picture window in our living room, looking west. Looking out into the darkness, to the river, the dark silhouettes of the trees that line its banks, nature’s painting of black on light shadow, waiting, like portals into some magical, far away land calling me to let go of what I know to enter the realm of all there is yet to discover.

My fingertips skim the keyboard on my laptop. The river flows. Olafur Arnald’s piano quietly plays in the background. The fridge hums. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, lies at my feet, sleeping.

A light moves along the bridge. Someone on a bicycle is crossing. East to west. For a moment I am distracted. Where is he going? What is he doing riding a bike across the bridge at 4am?

His light disappears. I return to this moment.

The river flows. No wind stirs the naked branches of the trees that fill the gaps between tree trunks like cracks in ice spidering out.

Morning has yet to beckon.

Day has yet awaken.

I breathe in the quiet of the moment and feel my body easing into the darkness.

There is nowhere to be in the dark of night. No one thing I have to do. There is only this. This moment where I sit typing, breathing, and watching the river flow and the lights dance on its surface.

Day will come. Light will return to the sky. For now, I sit in the dark belly of night and let my mind flow like the river and dream of dancing with wild, fierce abandon into the unknown adventures of the day yet to rise.

Namaste

You Are Not A Mistake

Transitions can be frightening and necessary. We can’t see the road ahead. We don’t know what will happen. We feel unsafe in unknown territory.

And…we worry that to step forward into the unknown means leaving the past behind. Including the anger, the loss, and the pain that fuels us.

Somewhere, in a book I have long forgotten the name of, I read that we must look to nature for inspiration. The author wrote of how the beauty of fall is followed by the death of every leaf. The leaf lets go because it knows it’s time to move on. It is not striving for something else. It is not angry with the tree for letting it down. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the willingness to acknowledge its journey was perfect.

For humans, that perfect journey includes acknowledging our human imperfections, making amends where our imperfect behaviours have caused harm (where possible) and forgiving others so that we can transform our hearts and lives throughout our journey as change is as inevitable as the sun’s rising every morning.

To let go of what was and to allow what is unfurling to unfurl, we must forgive what was, what was, what wasn’t, and what did hurt us, and caused us angst, or pain.

And in that forgiveness is the gift of more. More peace. More gratitude. More possibility. More grace.

It isn’t that forgiveness negates justice or the need for justice. It is that forgiveness sets the forgiver free — and possibly the forgiven too. It is that forgiveness opens our hearts to possibility. Renewal. Hope. Peace. Love and Joy.

Forgiveness makes me whole. Because no matter what justice I deem necessary, or the law determines right, there is and always will be room for Divine mercy.

Mercy is the right of the God, the Divine, the Universe, the unknown and forgiveness is the deepest mystery of all.

A mystery is not something that cannot be solved or to be frightened of. Mystery is something I do not understand enough. And in the quest to understand the mystery of forgiveness, I am strengthened in my quest for inner freedom through learning what it means to forgive.

Those words in a book I cannot remember, continue to resonate as I explore what it means to be human on this journey of my lifetime.

A human being who makes mistakes and is never a mistake.

Resilience is built into our nature.

Episode 26 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

When I worked in an adult homeless shelter, people always commented on how it must be a very depressing place to work.

I always replied, “It’s one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever worked.”

Every day I experienced a thousand people awakening in the morning to take another step. Their lives may have been in disarray, they may have lost everything and carried only the heaviness and indignity of the label, ‘homeless’, but they kept going.

That was inspiring.

I learned a lot about resilience at the homeless shelter. I saw it every day. From the young 18-year-old who was determined to finish his high school education to the 60-year-old woman who met her 20-something daughter, whom she hadn’t seen in several years, on the elevator one day. In that one meeting the mother made the decision to get help with her mental health issues so she could move out of the shelter and be a mother that could guide her daughter away from street life.

Resilience was everywhere at the shelter.

I remember Colin. An indigenous man who had left his family and community behind when the load of his past became too much to bear. When we met, Colin had been on the streets for many years and hadn’t seen his adult sons since they were school-aged children. “I want to be a man they’d be proud of,” he told me in the self-esteem-building class I was teaching.

In an environment where being sober was the anomaly, Colin was very proud of his three-month-old sobriety. Determined to see his sons again, he kept taking steps in the right direction.

I was in awe of Colin’s commitment and resilience. Life kept knocking him down and he kept standing back up and moving forward.

Six months after we met, a massive heart attack took away any chance Colin had of meeting his sons again. And though he lost that final battle, he died exactly as the kind of man he told me wanted to be, “A proud man.”

Colin, and so many others I met at the shelter, displayed the characteristics of resilience every day. Courage. Strength. A willingness to face life’s challenges without giving up, and a deep awareness that to take a different path they had to change the things that brought them to the shelter door.

Resilience can come in many forms. There’s physical resilience, mental resilience, emotional resilience, and social resilience.

At the shelter, resilience came wrapped up in a community that held each other up and gave what they could to one another, no matter how little they had. And, it came in the hope and belief tomorrow would be a better day as long as they made it through today, together.

Colin never got to that tomorrow where he met his sons and heard them say, “We’re proud of you, dad”. But, in getting up again and again and continuing to fight for his sobriety, he taught many others the value of holding true to yourself and your dreams.

It is a lesson that continues to inspire me today.

Episode 26 – Resilience week – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

Take the “What’s the Big Deal about Aging?” questionnaire!

I’m really interested in a) writing and talking about aging, and I’m really interested in your feedback so if you don’t mind taking a few moments, I’d love to get your feedback – it’s my very first survey so I’m learning as I go! (in other words, it’s not the best designed survey but it’s my first! 🙂 )

Click HERE for survey (max 5 minutes to respond)

Gratitude is a light within

Episode 25

It has been smoky here all week.

The smoke, while bothersome, doesn’t cause me discomfort. It hasn’t affected my walks with Beaumont nor my enjoyment of being in nature.

For my beloved, it’s a different story.

It’s been a long week. Confined almost continuously to the house, he still coughts and struggles at times to breathe. And, because he’s in a clinical trial, he can’t take any oxygen or drugs, other than his normal inhalers, to help alleviate the angst.

I am grateful for this clinical trial which may result in relief of his symptoms.

But, as medical science searches for ways to alleviate asthma and lung disease, it is uncomfortable for him, and I know, at times, terrifying. To struggle for breath. To feel always as if you are gasping for air.

I am grateful this week that I had chosen to write about gratitude. Grateful that in keeping my focus on its many graces, I have been constantly reminded to breathe into its healing powers.

It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I do. I worry. I fixate on wanting him to get up and get moving. On thinking there’s something else, he, or I, can do to make it better.

I get out of sorts. Short tempered.

And then, I come back to gratitude.

I am grateful for this practice. Grateful to have this safe space to return to centre, to find, as Val Boyko calls it, my middle ground.

I can’t ‘fix’ any of this. I can’t, as he asked me the other day, get him a new lung. What I can do is get him a cup of tea. Bake him my chocolate chip cookies he loves so much, even though I worry about their impact on my hips. He was once a professional football player. Weight is still not is issue, other than the need to put it on! Other than when I was pregnant, I have never had a problem putting on weight! 🙂

And, I can change how I respond when I’m feeling frustrated and worried.

I can stop thinking about how ‘this isn’t what I expected’ and turn instead into the love that brought us together, the shared joy in each other’s company.

I can stop wallowing in self-pity and awaken my desire to be playful, joyful, and heartful in our relationship.

I can stop being driven by fear and allow courage to draw me back into Love, peace, and joy.

Rather than thinking about the things we can’t do together, I can lean into the things we enjoy doing together. Play games. Read to each other out loud. Watch a movie together. Cook a meal together. And so much more.

I am grateful that we get to be together. That we get to share each day, together. And, that in being together, we get to support one another in living life to the fullest of our abilities and capacities, always giving the best of what we have to one another. Always keeping our vows in the forefront of our life together.

I am grateful that in writing about gratitude, I am reminded to put my own words into action.

I am grateful.

Namaste

Brian Pearson and The Mystic Cave

I first met Brian Pearson of The Mystic Cave many years ago when I attended a concert in the church where he was once pastor. A talented orator, humble leader, gifted musician and writer, Brian’s ability to transcend Christian doctrine to reveal the ephemeral nature of our human condition wowed me. A devout, ‘I’m not into organized religion’ advocate, he didn’t convince me to sit in a pew every Sunday morning going through the rituals. He did however, awaken and inspire me, so much so that when he asked me to be a moderator on The Mystic Cave private FB group, I said yes. Spending time with Brian is always a gift.

Recently, I had the gift of spending time with him when he interviewed me for The Mystic Cave podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts). Brian is an exceptional interviewer. Beyond asking great questions, which he does, he does his research, listens deeply and dives into not just the who, what, why, but the impact and import of everything.

He’s also just a very warm and welcoming host which makes it easy to relax when in his presence.

I hope you take the time to visit Brian’s website and… if you’re so inclined, listen to our chat.

Love Will Always Find You

When my daughters were little, I loved to write stories just for them.

One such story was about a lobster named Louis (my father’s name) who liked his shell so much he did not want to have to change. One day he decided to run away thinking that would prevent the inevitable.

As we all know, if it’s inevitable, it can’t be prevented and some things in nature are… our nature.

For Louis, running away resulted in a series of misadventures that almost got him trapped in a lobster cage (it looked safe!) until finally, he fell asleep behind a rock only to awake to discover his shell had deserted him.

Embarrassed by his shell-less body, he dug a hole in the ocean floor and buried himself in the sand.

Of course, in his shell-less/defenseless state, it was the best thing he could do. Looking out at the darkness around him, he discovered another pair of eyes looking back at him — it was a lady lobster named Sue who was also hiding beneath the sand.

The long and short of it… They fell in love with the sound of each other’s voice and the words of comfort they shared (not quite that mushily in the story ’cause Louis was scared and Sue was wise and witty…)

Anyway, what Louis learned is what the story was all about — no matter where you go, or what you do, or how you look, or how deep the hole you’ve dug for yourself…. being yourself is the only way to be, ’cause being yourself is where Love will always find you.

______________________

Louis’ story drifted into my mind in the early morning hours as I lay soaking in the bath, the light of a candle flickering and classical music playing softly in the background.

I’d awoken with a dream in which I was chasing a butterfly through a field of wildflowers and fell over the edge of a cliff to land in a bed of roses.

Just kidding.

I’d awoken at 4 from a dream where I was angry and couldn’t remember about what. As I wasn’t getting back to sleep I decided to have a bath.

It does makes sense that I was thinking about anger. I’d been speaking with someone about anger earlier in the day. They asked me, “How do you get over anger?”

You don’t, I reply. You go through it.

Anger in the moment can be a powerful force for change (as long as we express it appropriately), I said. Anger many years later is a sign of something deeper. Have you considered seeing a therapist?

I’m not broken, they exclaimed.

And that was when it struck me — as a society we sometimes hold a collective view that seeing a therapist is a sign of what is wrong with us.

I disagree.

For me, seeing a therapist is about acknowledging things that aren’t working for me anymore and seeking help to find my way through. It’s about getting right within myself so that I can walk through the world doing the right things to create a better place.

You cannot heal or change what you do not acknowledge.

Therapy is the opportunity to heal those things that no longer work for you.

For years after my brother died, I carried this unsettling anger about his choices and the things he’d done. Holding onto it wasn’t making my world a more peaceful, loving place today. It was holding me stuck in the past.

Anger needs to be released and the best way to do that is to let it flow into the Love that is always there. And sometimes, we need a guide to help us find our path.

Like Louis and Sue who shared the darkness and found their way home to themselves — ’cause that’s where Love will always find us, no matter how far we run.

Namaste.

If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

The Unconscious Leader

When we lived in Metz, France, every day my father would drive the winding road leading down the hill from National Defence Headquarters into the city.

Fog was not uncommon.

One day, while carefully navigating the winding road in a pea soup fog, he missed a curve, drove off the road narrowly slipping between two plane trees until coming to rest in a farmer’s field.

Stuck. Yes. Damaged. No.

Until a woman rear-ended him. In the middle of the farmer’s field.

She’d been following his taillights. She trusted they would lead her into the city. Instead, they lead her into the back end of his car in the middle of a farmer’s field.

Fortunately, because of the dense fog, she too had been travelling very slowly. The damage was negligible. Though my father was a tad annoyed!

Once, while skiing through dense fog on the Zugspitze in Germany, the fog was so thick it was almost mandatory to stop after every curve to ensure you weren’t about to go over a cliff. As I took a sweeping curve in the trail, I stopped to check where I was at and a woman skied into me, knocking us both over. She’d been following my bright orange ski suit as her beacon down the mountainside.

We don’t generally get such dense fog here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, but occasionally, fog will roll in off the river valley and obscure the view.

Whenever it does, as it did earlier this week, I am reminded of that story my father loved to tell about the woman who crashed into him in the middle of a farmer’s field.

He was upset she hit his car.

She was upset he went off the road and stopped in the middle of a farmer’s field. She was trusting him to lead her to safety.

Just like the case of the woman who was following me down the mountain. I didn’t know she was following me. She didn’t know I was about to stop. Though she was grateful I did when she saw the cliff we both might have sailed over!

Sometimes on our life journies, we can be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to notice if there is anyone else on our path, or if someone else is trusting our ability to lead to get them to safety.

Sometimes, we can be following someone else’s path so intently, we forget to watch out for our own safety, relying on their discretion to keep us safe.

In both cases, it is the belief we are alone on our journey, and not responsible for anyone else’s safety, that gets us in trouble.

Like my father, intensely focused on navigating my own way down the mountain, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. And, while that is an almost natural response to pea soup situations, had I thought to call out, just in case there was anyone else in the same predicament or had my father immediately put on his emergency flashers, perhaps the outcome might have been different.

‘Cause here’s the thing. We can be unconscious leaders.

But the way is so much safer for everyone when we travel consciously acknowledging we are not on this road of life alone.

____________________________

A man, toddler and dog who were rescued by a volunteer in a boat after being stranded by high water due to flooding walk on high ground in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck – Source

I have been glued to the news about the horrific events unfolding in British Columbia. For those people caught between two landslides, for the people who spent days and nights in their cars or stuck in Hope, waiting for a way back to the lower mainland, for those who lost their farms and livelihoods, their homes and possessions, their everything, my heart is heavy.

I can not lead them out of the devastation they face. I can contribute to their recovery.

We all can.

If you have any amount you can contribute, please consider helping the efforts to lead people back to safety, so they can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives, comforted by the knowledge, they are not alone.

This CTV story and this Daily Hive article list several organizations and agencies doing on-the-ground work that need our support.

Thank you.

______________________

A severed portion of BC’s Coquihalla Hwy5 at Juliet is seen in a BC Transportation photo on Nov 17, 2021

On the weekend I booked my flight for Vancouver and was already scheduled to be there December 8. It is stunning to realize that I cannot drive there right now — all roads are washed out. The first time since 1885 when the railroad was completed — the west coast has no eastern access via road or rail.