Category Archives: The Seeker’s Journey

That Ain’t My Gig.

The words for this page appeared before I began creating it.

“And in the end, when the veil that separated life from death was lifted and she slipped through into the ever-after, all that she left behind were her prayers and the Love that carried her through her life into the eternal grace of God’s embrace.”

This is the final page of the altered book journal I’ve been creating for the past few months with the prayer cards my mother left behind.

When I first began this journey I thought it would be… effortless. Seamless. A traipse through memory sweeping the past clean and closing doors on remembered words and perceived hurts that haunted me in my mother’s silence.

It has been non of that and all of that and so much more.

This deep dive into the power of prayer and my ‘mother memories’ of the rights and the wrongs, the beauty and pain, has brought me face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the quintessential ‘mother wound‘.

Healing the mother wound has been a lifelong journey for me. While it might seem all about a woman’s relationship with her mother, it is bigger than that.

The archetypal mother wound is generational. It is the universal struggle to fit into a world that is constantly changing, yet struggling to transform. It is a world that does not make room for a woman’s exploration of her power and potential because the world itself is constructed by a patriarchal set of rules that do not acknowledge the power and potential of women. It is the fight against the ties that bind while holding onto the apron ties that taught us how to be women in a world constructed in man’s ways.

According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach in THIS ARTICLE on GOOP,

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“The mother wound reflects the challenges a woman faces as she goes through transformations in her life in a society where the patriarchy has denied us ongoing matrilineal knowledge and structures.”

“This agenda tells females not to shine, to remain small, and that if you are going to try to be successful, that you should be masculine about it.”

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I am still searching. Scouring mind and heart for the words that will describe this journey I am on. This journey of reckoning.

With my mother’s passing. The words unwinding. The deeds undoing. The messages deconstructing. The lessons unlearning.

It is a journey of Repatriation. Reclamation. Restoration. Rejuvenation. Of myself.

It is a journey not just through time and space and generational legacies and patriarchal ties that bind me to a way of being that does not fit my skin, my soul, my sense of who I have the right to be in this world. A world that does not know how to create space for the art of the feminine to rise up and be heard and seen and known with grace.

I have come to the final page of this journal I have been creating of my mother’s prayer cards.

I can no longer blame my mother or hold her hostage to my unrealized dreams. I can no longer pray for my freedom from the past, from all that has kept me tied with invisible threads of silence and shame to beliefs and ways of being that do not fit me.

I have come to the time when I must claim my right to be free or crumble beneath the sorrow and rage of a life not lived.

No 5. #ShePersisted Series Mixed Media 2017 Louise Gallagher “Rock the Boat”

My mother has taught me well. Through her silence and her belief it was better to not make waves, I have learned to rock the boat.

Through her insistence I walk with both feet firmly planted in obedience, chastity and faith, I have learned to peer into the darkest night of the soul and see the light within.

In showing me how to be a woman bound to man’s ways she has gifted me the freedom to be unbound. To run wild of heart and free of spirit.

And now it is time.

Time for me to dive into the rising tide full of the song of the soul rushing in to greet me on the shore where I stand in anticipation of life washing me clean of the past. Body arced, arms flung wide above my head, waves crashing over my feet, I dive deeper and deeper into the sacred waters of the Divine Feminine. Into the depths of the great mystery where magic flows free and life dances gloriously unbounded by the conventions of a way of being that is not mine.

It is time for me to hold onto only Love and say to the rest, “The hell with that. That ain’t my gig!”

Yup. It’s time to shine big and dance!

ThE Incantations

“Whispered into the holy night, her prayers were an incantation awakening sacred joy and delight.” Pgs 51 & 52 My Mother’s Prayer altered book journal

My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?

It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.

Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.

Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.

“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”

“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”

To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.

I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.

I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.

And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.

“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”

And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.

After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.

How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?

How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?

Namaste

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One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…

Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.

Magic.

The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)

The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.

For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.

I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.

The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.

And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.

Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.

Now is where Life happens.

Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.

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In The Garden Of Her Prayers

Her prayers became a garden. “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal. Pgs 49 & 50

I remember as a young girl my mother admonishing me after one of the squabbles my middle sister and I often had. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was one of her favourite sayings.

My mother kept her silence. A lot.

I used to think her silence hurt her. Filled with all the not-nice things she wouldn’t say, her silence constantly grated against her peace of mind.

As I work in this journal and come to its last pages, I recognize the limitations of that belief. As I paint and meditate on the pages. As I collage a prayer card on the page and allow the words to divine their way into being known, the awareness grows that her prayers were her way of transforming her silences, her secrets, her worries and fears and anger and tears into hope and love and above all kindness.

As a child, I never liked that adage of my mothers.

It was my inability to not be silent that frustrated my mother the most. Particularly, as my speaking out often came in the form of questions about things she never wanted to discuss.

“Let bygones be bygones,” she’d say.

“Stop making trouble Louise. It was long ago. It doesn’t matter today what happened then.”

“Don’t be mean. Be quiet.”

I never meant to be mean, but to explain to my mother the source of my angst or questions required speaking of the things she did not wish to speak of, at least not with me.

Which is one of the gifts of this journal journey.

There was a time when I thought that my mother just wanted to avoid talking about everything and anything that did not please her or paint her in good light with the saints to whom she whispered her prayers. And while she did like to ‘look good’ and spent a great deal of energy worrying about what others thought, it was her right to choose what she did or did not speak of.

In my constant questing for answers, and her desire to not speak of things for which she knew her answers would not be enough for me, there was no safe container for either of us to find our way through the turmoil of the past together.

In all probability, my mother did speak of the unspeakables she carried deep within her heart and mind. It’s just, the only one she trusted with her thoughts and feelings, fears and doubts, anguish and anxiety, was her God.

My mother, like me, was never perfect.

She was kind. Caring. Generous. Shy. Quiet. Creative. Loyal. Steadfast.

And above all, she was a woman of great faith.

A woman who wanted the best for others. And even when she didn’t know how to give it, or how to speak the words, she never doubted that her faith was enough. In her steadfastness, in her constant prayers, I was free to grow fierce and loving. Strong. Wild. Free.

As this page says, “Her prayers became a garden where Love grew stronger in the memories of those she left behind.”

Namaste.

Faith Was Her Way

Faith Was Her Way — Pages 47 & 48 – altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers


I am almost finished the altered book art journal I’ve been creating with the Prayer Cards my mother left behind when she departed this earthly plain in February.

It has been a sacred journey of great healing. Of appreciation. Acceptance. Growth. Love.

As I created this page in the journal, my heart full of memories from my recent trip to visit my grandchildren in Vancouver, I thought about my mother and how, when she learned her great-granddaughter would be named Ivy, after her mother, she took my daughter’s hands and held them as tightly as her crippled fingers would allow and whispered, “Thank you.” Her prayers were answered.

My mother never got to meet her great-granddaughter who was born in June, but I know that where ever she is, she continues to pray for everyone just as she did throughout her life, never doubting her prayers would be answered.

The words that appeared for this page are: “Her prayers gave her strength to have faith in darkness and in light.”

It didn’t matter what path my mother was on, what fork in the road appeared before her, or what obstacle blocked her way, she always prayed. To God and Jesus and Mother Mary and all the Saints, asking for their interventions to guide her, protect her, save her and those she loved.

Faith was embedded in her DNA, stretching across time and space, spanning the past through the connective tissues that carried her into the future.

Faith was her way. Prayer was the song that carried her through life’s travails, its glories and tragedies, its beauty and its ugliness.

For my mother, faith held her fast in her belief that God would never let her down. Prayer lifted her up into His everlasting arms of Love.

Namaste

Fun Times 10,000 Times

Mixed media on watercolour paper 9 x 10″

There is something mystical about spending time in the studio creating without ‘a plan’.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Plans are important. When organizing an event, an election, a campaign for something, an attack maybe, plans are critical. But… when plans involve other people, or objects, it can be hard to predict how they will respond to your plan. As Dwight D. Eisenhower is attributed with saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

As an aside, the originator of the quote, which was not quite so pithy until condensed by a speechwriter, was a Prussian Field Marshall in the mid 19th century, Helmuth Von Moltke, who said, “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” Yeah. You can see why someone had to make it more quotable. Source

I kind of like what Mike Tyson is attributed as saying, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.”

Okay. So back to ‘no plan’ at my art table.

Yesterday I sat down to play. And that was as far as my planning went. Without thinking about what I wanted to create, I pulled out some watercolour paper because there was still some paint in my dish that I thought I’d use up. It’s a nice thing about watercolour paint. Unlike acrylics, it ‘comes alive’ when touched by water when still on the palette or dish.

Mixed media on watercolour paper 9 x 10″

More than anything yesterday, I wanted to simply practice making subtle backgrounds.

And then, I met my ‘enemy’. The ‘add one more element’ artist in me who just can’t ‘let go and let be’.

That artist usually appears when I get to a point where I’m liking where I’m at. No. No. it hisses! It can be better! Add Something More.

Sometimes the ‘something’ works. Sometimes not.

Like in the painting above. That big rose…

It was really soft and subtle until I decided to try out some pastels on it. That’s when I discovered my white pastel stick had a bit of black on the edge. Naturally, I didn’t check the edge until I touched the page…

Then it became an experiment in figuring out how to soothe the dark splodges with more vibrant pink.

And perhaps that’s the point of planning. The plan was to ‘have fun’. My responsibility was to breathe into the joy and the mess and find the fun in it all.

The fact is, amidst the fun there were moments of distress and stress. Moments where I wondered, “What am I doing?” and moments where my heart sang with joy.

Through it all, there was the creative impulse beating wildly free with its exhortation that, “To have fun you gotta let go and be present in it all.

To Let Go and Be Present In It All doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. It means I am willing to let my curiosity take me places without my judgement interfering. It means I’m willing to be open to curiosity, experimentation and practice.

It’s said that it takes doing something 10,000 times to become a master.

Imagine if I imbued every 10,000 attempt at doing something again and again as ‘fun’!

In that case, I’ve had a lot of fun over the past 13 years writing blogs! With 3,896 blog posts published since I posted my first blog on March 10, 2007 (this includes 1,677 posts on my original blog, Recover Your Joy) I am over a third of the way to becoming a master blogger. Now that’s a lot of fun!

Perhaps it’s time for me to have fun painting 10,000 flowers…

Namaste

There Are No Accidents In The Human Heart

There Is No ‘Us And Them’. – two page spread in altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers

My mother was devoutly Catholic. She was also very superstitious.

Though putting shoes on a table isn’t particularly hygienic at the best of times (like if they’re new) for my mother, it was cause for panic. It was a harbinger of impending death.

Stir with a knife. Stir up strife.

Black cat on your path. Look out!

We used to tease her a lot about her superstitions. Here response was to pray for us with another Hail Mary.

And, though her faith was firmly embedded in Catholicism, her roots were grounded in the land of her birth and the Hinduism of Southern India.

In my parent’s home, the Crucifix along with statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ dominated. But there was always a place for Shiva and Brahma. And, because my father liked to stir things up, there was always a Buddha or two sitting on a shelf high above our heads. As a little girl, I loved to rub the Buddha’s belly. No matter how high the Buddha sat, I’d climb up on a chair or reach up on my tiptoes and rub away. My mother told me it would bring me good luck.

I still have a Buddha on a shelf in my kitchen along with a statue of Shiva and an elephant with its trunk upturned (its good luck). The crucifix my mother carried around the world with her since leaving India decades ago, sits on the mantel in my studio and yesterday, I carefully placed the figurines of Jesus and Mary that sat on her bedside throughout her life on the side table by the sofa. A tiny Laughing Buddha stands with them.

My parents taught my siblings and me to listen and see and feel and know and honour everyone. Not by the labels of society, but by their hearts. They taught us that there is room for everyone at the table no matter where they came from, where they were going, or what they brought to the table.

If Buddha and Christ could stand side by side on a counter, why couldn’t we sit side by side at a table?

Yesterday, after finishing rearranging and organizing my studio, I delved back into the altered book journal I’ve been creating in honour of my mother. “My Mother’s Prayers”.

It is not an accident that the left side of the page has a prayer card of Mother Mary. Just as it is not an accident that Brahma graces the right side of the page tucked beneath the purple flowers I painted in remembrance of my mother.

As my parents taught me; There is no ‘Us and Them’. We are not our faith, or colour of our skin or land of our birth. We are our hearts and there are no accidents in the human heart. There is only Love.

Namaste.

The Big Mess.

My ‘new’ writing corner in the studio.

The ‘e’ on my keyboard sticks. Actually, the tile came off so I crazy-glued it back in place. It works, but requires extra ‘oomph’ to make the ‘e’ appear on the screen. (Unlike the other tiles, it’s a little wobbly.)

Sometimes, I don’t notice the ‘e’ hasn’t appeared until after I press ‘Send’ or print the page.

Like life. Sometimes I don’t notice what I’ve missed or mistakes I’ve made or things I’ve let go or left undone until something else happens and I realize where things have gone off the rails or need attention.

Like in my studio.

When I create, I make a mess.

Over the course of working on the altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers, my studio devolved into a big mess.

On the weekend, a girlfriend gave me some fabulous shelving (Thanks Tamz!) and I had no choice but to get busy reorganizing my studio.

My goal… to create both an airy and organized space that feels peaceful, inviting and calm. A place where everything has a place and I know that when I look in that place, what I’m expecting to find there will be in its place!

And that’s the piece about myself I hadn’t really noticed was missing. The honouring of my desire for ‘order’ and harmony in my creative space.

The fact is, the studio was getting so messy I was avoiding going in. Which isn’t all that logical as I know creating every day is good for my soul, my mind, my heart, my life, my world. Plus, I can’t ‘unmessy’ anything until I go in and do the work of unmessying it up!

Avoidance strengthens fear.

And my fear of the mess was getting bigger.

After I wrote my Someday Is Not A Day Of The Week post yesterday, I realized what I’ve been avoiding. The mess.

And that’s the thing. Messes don’t just go away on their own. They don’t magically disappear with the swish of a magician’s wand or the wiggle of an upturned nose and the sprinkle of a few incantations.

Like life, messes need tender care and loving attention in order to find their way back into balance, harmony, flow.

We all make messes in our life. Some big. Some small. And while part of our journey is to learn from our messes so that we don’t create them again and again, some messes go unnoticed until something happens to give us greater insight.

Like the sticking ‘e’ on my keyboard that requires extra attention when I type, the mess in my studio was interfering with my creative process.

It took a gift from a friend to kickstart getting things into place. In the process of reorganizing the space, I discovered how the mess on my worktable was a reflection of something that needs my constant tender care and loving attention for me to live my heart’s desire of a creative life.

Messes happen. Doesn’t matter the size. What matters most is whether or not we’re courageous enough to dive into the mess and do what it takes to allow in balance, harmony and flow.

Namaste

Someday is Not A Day Of The Week.

As human beings, we like comfort. We like the familiar. The well-trod path. Our comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable.

We develop habits that line the walkways of our life like comfort food at a buffet. We don’t dare try the dish with the unpronounceable name. What if we don’t like it? What if it makes us sick?

And then, to keep ourselves feeling okay about our habitual paths, no matter how maladaptive, we tell ourselves it’s okay. “It’s safer this way,” we repeat again and again into the mirror. “It’s just the way I am. It’s just the way life is.”

And then, we play our cop-out card. “Someday.”

Someday, I’ll quit this job I hate and travel the world like I’ve always dreamt I would.

Someday, I’ll go back to school and finish that degree in art studies I started way back when.

Someday, I’ll stop…. [fill in the blank with a maladapted behaviour]. Drinking. Eating junk food. Hating myself. Having meaningless sex with strangers. Taking risks with my prsonal safety I secretly hope will kill me. Doing drugs. Lying. Cheating. Procrastinating.

Someday…

Years ago, when I first started working at a homeless shelter, I started an art program. Every Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, I’d invite clients to come up to the 6th-floor multi-purpose room and share the quiet of the space and the joy of painting, writing, creating in silent communion with others (Plus! The view of the river valley below was spectacular!)

There was one man who sat at a table on the second floor common area, an island of perceived calm amidst the sea of 500 people who used the area on a daily basis. He would lay his paints on the table beside him, prop a pad of watercolour paper on his lap and create beautiful images of the world beyond the shelter while all around him the room buzzed and vibed with activity and commotion.

“Why don’t you come up to quiet of the multi-purpose room and paint with us,” I’d ask him every time I saw him painting.

“I’m not ready,” he’d reply. “Someday. Soon.”

Finally, after one more repeated, “Someday,” I asked him if he’d chosen a date when someday would come.

He shook his head. “No. Not yet.”

“Then why don’t you just make it today? Why not make today, someday.”

And he did and he went on to paint amazing works of art, to write music and songs and poems and to become a valued and integral member of the Possibilities Project, an art-based initiative I developed at the shelter that incorporated the full spectrum of the arts to provide clients, staff and volunteers an opportunity to explore their human condition and shared experiences through visual and performing arts.

Someday is now.

Someday isn’t in the future. It doesn’t have enough clarity and substance to last that long.

Someday is now.

If you’re struggling with holding on, with not letting go, with not giving up on something that just isn’t giving you peace of mind or joy or laughter and love, ask yourself, “Am I holding on for someday?” “Am I hoping for someday to fix my life, change my outlook, move my perspective?”

‘Cause if someday is on your calendar somewhere, anywhere, make it today that someday comes true. Make today your release from holding on to waiting, wishing and hoping for someday to come and set you free.

Namaste.

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Thank you David Kanigan for the inspiration for this morning’s post!

Be. Here. Now.

I am walking in the woods. Dry leaves crunch beneath my feet. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle bounds through the leaves and grasses surrounding us.

I walk and as I listen to the inviting crunch of the leaves I notice my mind is busy, filled with thoughts darting through my mind like Beaumont chasing a squirrel bounding through the forest.

I stop to watch their dance. Beaumont thinking he can catch the squirrel. The squirrel confident in his prowess and speed.

I stop and listen to my thoughts, trying to capture them but they are fast. Elusive. All I feel is the sensation of their wanting to capture the beauty around me by comparing it to what is happening around me and to how golden, or not, the leaves and trees and forest was yesterday.

“How often does that happen?” I wonder. “This constant comparison and judging of this moment against past moments?”

I think it’s probably a lot.

I step closer to a tree and stand beneath the autumn filled canopy its branches stretched out above me. I reach out and touch its gnarled trunk. “Here I am,” I whisper as I crane my neck and look up through its golden leaves to the clear blue sky high above.

And the tree stands in silent witness to my presence. Neither comparing nor judging how I am and how the world is in that moment.

“Be like the tree,” the voice of wisdom deep within me whispers. “Be. Here. Now.”

And so I breathe and close my eyes and let the presence of the tree fill me with its silence.

“Here. I am. Now.”

Namaste

Fall Deeper

Friday morning. Days turn into weeks. And then months.

Forest fire smoke that clouded the sky has lifted. Leaves are falling as the season turns from summer to golden autumn.

And I find myself curving back into myself, again and again, where I fall, deeper and deeper into Love’s way with every step I take.