Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What do you want more of in your life?

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
5 x 7″
2019 Louise Gallagher

This is my last post for a few days.  I am off to coach at Choices Seminars tomorrow — Long days. Short nights.  And I am excited.

There was a time when I coached at least 6 – 7 times a year.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been in the room.

When I joined the team at the homeless shelter where I work, I struggled to balance worklife, homelife and such a significant volunteering commitment. Something had to give, and I let my Choices commitment go.

I am soooo excited to be back in the room for the next five days.

There is something incredibly enlivening and inspiring about being in a room where I get to witness miracles happening with every breath.

It doesn’t start out easy. Trainees walk into the room scared, confused, defiant, eager to learn, resistant to changing. They are all over the emotional map.

And then, slowly, they begin to get the idea that Choices isn’t about magic wands that will suddenly solve all their life issues and feelings of loss, unworthiness, separateness, loneliness.

Choices is about doing their own work to discover their own answers, their own way of being in this world that gives them the ‘more’ that they are looking for.

It’s one of the key questions we each get to explore in our lives, when we are willing to peel away the layers of past hurts and shame and fear and self-loathing that prevent us from seeing, ‘better is possible’.  The question is:  “What do I want more of in my life?”

For me, I want more time… to create, to spend with those I love, to laugh and sing and inspire others feel joyous and light. I want more space to simply be present in each moment, without worrying what the next will bring.

I want more of being me without the masks, without the fear that being me will bring ridicule, shame or blame.

I have been blessed. Thanks to a beautiful friend I trust deeply, I entered that room in April 2006 and began this amazing journey into peeling away the layers of the past so that I could be free in the present.

I am so grateful.

Thirteen years ago, my Choices journey began. At first, I was kind of dubious. Kind of, ho-hum, done all that digging, there’s nothing else about me I need to learn – or change — for that matter.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we’re willing to explore what’s possible when we give up believing we know it all, or that this is all there is. Blinded by our beliefs and fears and judgements over who we are, and who others are, we become stuck in the comfort zone of our unease and fear breaking free.

Over the past 13 years I have been in that room countless times and every time I come away with my own, ‘Ah Ha’s!’ that break me free just a little bit more, that give me just a little bit, or a whole lot, of what I want more of in my life.

In that room I have witnessed hearts breaking open, spirits breaking free and lives being changed for the better.  I have witnessed people choosing to drop their anger, pick up their self-esteem, walk away from relationships that were unhealthy, forgive themselves, forgive others.  I have witnessed those who felt so lost they only wanted their lives to end, claim their right to live. And I have watched miracles happen again and again as people awoke to the beauty and wonder of how incredibly powerful they are when they walk in their own truth.

I am off to coach at Choices tomorrow. Off to stand in a room where the common denominator is that our human journey is so much richer and fulfilling when we let go of what is holding us back from living the more of what we want in our lives.

No magic wands. No abracadabra’s. Just a whole lot of opportunity to walk alongside people as they learn new ways of being, new tools to use so that individually they can find their own answers to living the life of their dreams.

Namaste.

 

 

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Wide open spaces of possibility and other vistas

Alcohol Ink on Yupo 11 x 14″ 2019 Louise Gallagher

I played yesterday. I set aside my list of ‘todo’s’ and immersed myself in the pure joy of spreading colour and texture upon a canvas. Well, Yupo paper to be exact.

Yupo paper is a synthetic sheet of plastic that alcohol inks do not soak into but instead, float on the surface until they dry. It’s what gives them such vibrancy and unpredictability. That, and their chemical make-up.

My chemical make-up has been struggling with the fears, tears, frustrations, angst of imminent retirement. I smile as I read back on what I just wrote. This having an end date without a ‘destination’ is rather daunting! And while I am excited, thrilled, filled with anticipation and joy, this transition time also has its ennui.

Who am I without my title? Who am I without a place to be every day?  People expecting me to turn up, have answers, make decisions, make things happen?

And while I know the answer is “I am all of me and then some”, there is still this place of angst to navigate and cross-over.

It is a threshold. It is part of living because life is filled with thresholds.  Some easier to cross than others. Some harder.

In a workshop I recently took with the incredible Kelly Lee Bennett , she encouraged each of us to create a list of 100 Aspirations.

At lunch last weekend with my beautiful friend Kerry Parsons, she encourged me to leave off determining the ‘how’ of my aspirations until after I’ve spent the summer enjoying life, savouring downtime and alone time and time to play with my grandson and my creativity. “Can you give yourself space to just be present without having to set any goals?” she asked me.

Goals are the ‘how’ of my aspirations. They are the concrete, measurable steps I need to take to create reality to the things to which I aspire.

Aspirations are my ‘why’, my heart-driven, emotional sometimes whimsical thoughts of what I’d love to create in my world if…. my life were ideal, my world perfect. I was living my dreams.

Goals are factual. Aspirations are an expression of my inner self, my feelings and emotions.

Since moving into this home a year ago, I have been planning on having our builder come back to build out my studio space downstairs. One of the deterents has been C.C. and my conversatoins on where to put the studio versus where to put his ‘den’. You know that man cave where he watches sports, drinks beer and throws peanut shells on the floor — okay the throwing peanut shell bit is not true but it paints a true picture of what the space is for.

I need light.

He needs…. whatever light he feels like turning on.

Hence, the debate has been studio in the front end of the downstairs walkout leading to the river or, in the farside where there are no windows.

Not having the studio builtout has resulted in my using the kitchen island as my makeshift studio. It’s 14 feet long so there’s lots of room to paint and cook, but, I do put everything back at the end of every painting session simply becuase I don’t like the mess.

It’s also meant I haven’t had much space to work with anything other than the inks.

Yesterday, I jettison  my ‘to do list’ in favour of creating a space in the walk-out side of the downstairs for me to paint. (You know, the ‘to hell with waiting to make the decision, I’ll just take matters into my own hands’ kind of move that gets one thing done immediately — and leaves the rest of what needs to be decided until later.)

I am grateful. Relieved. Happy.

Something in my heart went click, like the tumblers in a safe’s combination falling into place.

I have a space, a place. To create in. To dream in. To aspire in.

I have an artist’s space.

It is filled with light. Beauty. Possibility.

I threw away my ‘to do’ list yesterday. I played with inks and then, decided to get busy creating for myself a space where I can come home to the canvas, to my art journal pages to find myself at ease, inspired by the sheer joy of letting my creative expressoins flow freely.

Hello retirement!  Or, as Thelma Box, founder of Choices Seminars calls it, ‘Refirement’.  I am all fired up about the wide open terrain before me as I step lightly into the undefined, unmapped possibilities of my life.

Namaste.


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What makes you happy?

I dropped in to visit friends at Choices over the weekend. The seminar was in session so I knew there’d be lots of people there to hug and say hello to.

I wasn’t wrong.

It is what I love about visiting Choices friends. It’s as though whatever time has passed is erased and we are all standing, heart-to-heart, connecting on the deeper plane we each discovered exists when we went through the program. It’s the space the space that makes life so much more rich and vibrant.

At one point, I sat and chatted with a lovely woman whom I don’t see very often but when I do, always reminds me of the power of the human spirit to grow and heal and stretch and deepen.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with her, but today, as we sat and chatted about the things in life that have held us back from living the life we want, time wasn’t important. Our heart conversation was.

We talked about how the experience of going through Choices and using the tools in our lives has changed us and all our relationships. How we have both found our lives enriched and our capacity to use our voices strengthened.

One of the greatest gifts Choices has given me is the belief in myself and my right to be happy and my accountability for my own happiness. There was a time when I thought a man would make me happy. Or perhaps the right job, or more education, or more money, or more anything.

What I didn’t realize was that my search for externals was keeping me from diving into the one place where I would find the source of my discontent, and my happiness. My own heart.

Another friend commented that my life seems really busy. “It is,” I replied.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

I heard her question coming straight from her heart and stopped a moment to reflect. I took a breath. In. Out.

Am I happy?

I listened deeply to my heart.

“Yes,” I replied. “I am. And even more than happy, I’m content.”

“What makes you happy?” she asked sincerely.

Ahhh.. Well, of course my grandson. Daughters. My marriage. My life. Beaumont — of course.

But even deeper is my sense of fulfillment. My sense that the work I’m doing matters. That I matter.

A few weeks ago, when I took on the role of Interim Executive Director of the family emergency shelter where I work, I wasn’t thinking about my happiness. I was thinking about  how taking on this role was the right thing to do for the organization at this time.

Doing what I believe is the right thing makes me happy.

I hadn’t thought of that until my friend asked me, “What makes you happy?”

In many instances, I’ve been focused on how scary it is to step into these shoes. How daunting a task to try to stabilize an organization that has gone through a challenging period.

I haven’t thought about my own happiness. I haven’t had to.

In doing what I believe is the right thing, I have inherently created a sense of happiness within me. Because, to not do it would have left me disquieted. Uneasy. I would have felt like I was letting people down and while that’s not always a good enough reason to do something, there is a place in me that recognizes that being of service to others fills me up. It feels right within me. And when I feel right within me, I am happy.

I spent a few hours this weekend immersed in the world of Choices. It was a gift of time. Of connection. Of deep-feeling and listening.

It was also an opportunity to delve inside and connect to what makes me tick. What gives my life meaning. What brings me joy.

I am so blessed.

I have a life I love. I am surrounded by people who love and adore me and whom I love and adore.  I get to work everyday in a place where I find meaning and fulfillment. And I have friends who are willing to ask me the tough questions that give me pause to consider… What makes me happy?

What makes you happy?

 

 


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Get naked with life

As teenagers, my sister and I liked to play tricks on each other (the naked truth — I liked to play the tricks, she tolerated them. I’m the youngest… what can I say? :)).

One night, a girlfriend and I decided that as my sister tended to sleepwalk, we’d play a trick on her. Laughing at our ingenuity, while my sister was sleeping, we took a bite out of a chocolate covered cookie and placed it on the pillow beside her head.

The next morning, she awoke with chocolate smeared all over her face and the sheets. She couldn’t figure out how the cookie got there.

We told her she was sleep-walking. (Naked truth again — we hadn’t counted on her rolling over onto the cookie and the heat of her face making the chocolate melt. We were a bit scared to tell her the truth, so…)

She believed us. For years (and years). Until thirty years later when I fessed up.

The truth is, I thought the story of her sleep-walking was way more interesting than the reality where I was the culprit and she the innocent victim.

The moral of the story? We all sleep-walk through life. It takes a conscious decision to get up close and naked with life for us to awaken from our dreams, and our nightmares.

Naked with life means stripping away the masks, the games, the excuses we employ to protect ourselves from loving intimacy with ourselves, and the world around us. It means, letting go of the stories we tell about why we fear being vulnerable, being real, being hurt.

It means letting go of our fear that life will hurt us.

Life will serve up hurts and pains, joys and triumphs. It’s up to each of us to decide how we want to carry life’s happenings. In secret. As a burden. As a deadly weight. As an opportunity to learn and grow and become more intimate with ourselves. The choice is always ours.

We are not separate from life, we are one with life.

This life, the one we’re living right now, is all we’ve got to live. When we choose naked contact with it, we are choosing to grow, to learn, to become more intimate with ourselves and in that intimacy, to grow vulnerable and real with the world around us.

Sure, we can stay all decked out in our stories. We can hold onto our fears and life will continue on. Day by grinding day.

To get naked, to reveal our true selves, to fall fearlessly and consciously in love with ourselves, is a constant journey into the wonder and mystery that sparkles within the multi-faceted, ever fascinating aspects of truly knowing, being, living as Me. Myself. and I.

Why not try it on? Get naked. Get real. Get living awake!

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One of the most fulfilling and rewarding ways I have ever found to get naked and real with my life has been through Choices Seminars.

And wouldn’t you know it — a brand new session begins today at noon. If you’re in Calgary and environs, you still have time to give yourself the gift of awakening to the wonder and mystery of you! I invite you to check it out!


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3 Things I learned through Choices

The world can be a harsh place. Filled with breath-taking beauty, it also holds inexplicable pain, suffering and terror.

It can be easy in today’s world to forget about the beauty. To believe the suffering and terror are consuming the love and joy, pushing it further and further back into an ever present darkness.

In the Choices Seminar room I am constantly reminded of the awe, beauty, and power of the human spirit, of our capacity to live IN LOVE and let go of fear.

There are many, many things being in that room teach me.

Here are 3 key take-a-ways from this past week.

  1. LOVE is always present. Choosing to embrace LOVE, know it, be it, is my choice.

I get to choose what I carry with my on this journey called life. I can ‘travel heavy’, burdened down by past regrets, choices, experiences, or, I can choose to accept this moment right now is all I have. What do I choose to fill it with?

I do not want to be consumed by fear, holding onto regret, clutching desperately to the past believing it will be my future. I have a choice. To hold on to what doesn’t work for  me anymore, or let it go and fill each moment with love.

It is my choice. To believe in Love or give into fear. And if I fall, or forget, or buy into fear, it is my choice to choose Love again and again, always.

2.  We are not alone.

We all have experiences in the past that have hurt us, caused us to falter, to stumble on our journey. And while my experience may be unique to me, and yours to you, we all share in this human experience. We are not alone on this human path.

When we risk telling our stories of pain and expressing our fears, we make room for others, including ourselves, to see into our hearts. When we choose to look into the heart of what makes us build walls to keep others out or push back against those who want to know us deeply or dig ourselves into corners and hide in darkened rooms, we create the possibility of light shining through, illuminating even the darkest corners of our fears.

When the light shines through its easier to see, we are not alone. There have been others in the darkness with us, yearning for the light too. And beyond the darkness, we can see those standing in the light reaching in to help us out.

3.  I can choose to be Right or Happy. It is my choice.

The need to ‘be right’ is seductive.  It convinces us that if we hold onto it, we will never be hurt, or disappointed, let down or feel out of control.

The challenge is, being right means someone else has to be wrong. And in that space, true intimacy, the one that is spelled “In-to-me-see” cannot happen. And without intimacy with those closest to us, we feel unseen, unheard, unknown, and disconnected.

We are human beings. We are hard-wired for connection. We can’t connect with others when we hold onto our need to be right.

Choosing to ‘be happy’ invites us into that beautiful space where there is room for others, along with ourselves, to feel seen, heard, known and connected.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree with other’s points of view, it just invites us into that space where other points of view are different, not wrong. And that’s okay.

Being in the Choices Seminars room these past five days has reminded me of my power to live each day with a loving heart and open mind.

It has renewed my commitment to walk my path believing in my worthiness and my capacity to create passion, delight and kindness all around me.

It has reminded me that we are all beautiful human beings sharing this space called Planet Earth, taking this journey together. We may live on separate continents, different towns and cities, but we all share in this human condition. And when we choose Love, we create greater possibility for peace to happen, miracles to appear and Love to blossom in every heart.

None of us are powerful enough to change another, but we can choose to change how we see ourselves and our capacity to create better in our world.

When we focus on how we are in the world, and look into our own hearts, we make space for others to share their heart’s desires too. In that sharing, we create opportunities to connect through Love so that hate and terror and war and abuse and a host of other human conditions that are hurting us, can be exposed and healed in the light of love.

Namaste.


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Choices: Simple tools to live life fully

I am off to spend five days in awe and wonder tomorrow.

I am off to coach at Choices Seminars where I will be immersed in the human journey.

It has been several months since I have been in the Choices room.

The demands of work, of striving to find balance in my world called for me to find my centre in the busy-ness of all that is around me.

Coaching at Choices is a volunteer activity. I choose to do it for the benefits of being part of experiencing the joy people feel when they open their eyes to the true wonder and beauty of who they are at their core.

Giving is Receiving and in the Choices Seminar room I receive the beauty of miracles all around.

It is a room where miracles are visible. They are visible in the broken hearts healing deep pains that have bound them up in confusion, disappointment, disillusionment and grief. In the wounded spirits freeing themselves from the darkness of the past to stand tall and proud in the light. In the silenced voices finding the courage to speak their truth.

For eleven years, I have volunteered my time to support others on their journey through the Seminar. For eleven years, I have been given the gift of continuous support on my journey of becoming all that I am when I let go of believing the lies I tell myself about why I need to play small in a great big world of possibility.

Eleven years ago, when I walked into the Seminar room, I didn’t really think I needed to be there. I had just spent three years deep-diving into healing from the pain of a relationship that had almost killed me. My book, The Dandelion Spirit, had just been published. I had a new job in the homeless serving sector, and I was writing and producing a documentary on The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede for Global TV. My daughters and I were reunited, healing the wounds of the past. My world was turning up aces! I didn’t need some self-help mumbo-jumbo to help me live better. I was doing great.

We don’t know what we don’t know. We cannot find new paths until we stop walking the old one’s.

Choices, I discovered, wasn’t about what I did in the world. It was about learning simple, yet powerful ways to do what I choose to do  — with heart, compassion, passion and integrity – no matter how dark, bumpy, lumpy, crooked or straight, smooth or light-filled my path.

Everything might have been going great, but if better is possible, why not go for the greatness of being fully alive, free of self-defeating games and limiting beliefs that would have me stumble whenever life’s curve balls took a swing at me?

My awakening didn’t happen all at once in the room. It happened slowly, over time, as I began to use the simple tools I was given in the room that would have a profound difference on my life and the world around me.

Like being courageous — to speak up when all I wanted to do was retreat. To step into conflict when all I could think about was hiding. To stay true to my values, my beliefs, my right to be heard when my habit was to smile and pretend everything was okay in the face of everything not being alright.

Choices isn’t a magic pill. It is a profoundly moving and shifting experience that provides simple tools and practices to live life outside your comfort zones. In Choices, you’re not told how to live. You’re provided a loving space to look at yourself and see where what you are doing is, or is not, working for you anymore. And in that space, to make your own decision and choices to create the life you choose to live.

Life is a journey best taken in Love.

In the Choices Room, I am grateful I get to walk beside people as they fall in love with the person they spend their whole lives with, themselves.

I am off to coach at Choices tomorrow. It promises to be An Adventure of a Lifetime!

See you next week.

Namaste.

 

 


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Give Love Away | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 52

Consciously choose to give Love away today. No matter where you are, what you’re doing, consciously decide to let Love be your answer and choose the most loving path, no matter what.

And yes, I know it can be hard.

Habits, patterns of behaviour built up over the years, accustomed responses can all get in the way of our capacity to respond through Love, not Fear. Not Anger. Not Confusion.

Watch yourself.

Check out how you are responding in certain circumstances and in those instances where your behaviour is causing you angst or causing someone else harm, ask yourself, “Is this an habitual way of responding in moments of stress, discord, confusion? What’s with that?”

Don’t fall into the trap of asking, “Why?”  Ask instead, ‘What?”

“What’s compelling me to respond/behave this way?” “What’s my motivation for ____________ (fill in the blank, i.e. yelling at my kids, shutting down when someone disagrees with me, staying silent when someone talks down to me…)

I’ll let you in on a secret. ‘Why?’ is the question we ask that let’s us off the hook of getting accountable. Why keeps us spiraling in trying to find answers to questions we don’t really want to know the answers to.

Remember as a child when an adult asked, after you’d done something that wasn’t really all that positive or constructive, or was nonsensical, “Why do you always……?” or, “Why can’t you…..?”

The real answer was, “Because I’m learning.”  “Because I’ve not yet learned better.” “Because I don’t understand what you want.” “Because I don’t feel safe.”…  etc.

And, because we thought there really was a ‘deeper’ why to our behaviour, (that’s often what we were told as children) we developed strategies that either, prevented us getting into ‘trouble’ or constantly got us into ‘trouble’.

Those habits were developed at a time when we couldn’t make sense of the world around us. Back then, they may have served to protect us from having to answer the ‘why’s’ of the ways we were that we didn’t really understand, but today, they do not always serve us well. They often prevent us from getting, giving, sharing and expressing Love — without expectation or conditions.

If you struggle to Give Love Away because habitual behaviours interfere with your joy, gratitude happiness, expressions of Love, seek help.

This week, in the Choices seminar room, over 50 people will gather to learn ways to fall in love with themselves without fear blocking their path home to their hearts.

There are many courses, books, therapists out there who can make a difference in how you know, express and act out in Love.

For me, Choices was the gift that gave me simple, practical and workable tools to create room for me to get out of my own way so that I could come home to my heart without fearing my heart was not a safe place for me to be. In the process, I have fallen in Love with being in Love with me and the world around me. I have learned to seek the joy in this moment, to see the beauty all around and to share Love in everything I do.

Try it. You might just fall in Love all over again with the one you were born to Love forever. You.

Namaste.

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On March 21st, 2016 I made a commitment to share an Act of Grace a week for 52 weeks. Along the way I’ve missed a week and always, I have carried on, creating Acts of Grace until this week when I have completed my vision of creating 52 Acts of Grace.

Thank you to everyone who has chimed in, shared, commented and been part of this journey.

I am so blessed. Grateful. Joyful.

As a FYI — this is the second time I’ve shared the Act of Grace: Give Love Away. (The first was Week 14, June 20, 2016, HERE)

It is always worth repeating. Always worth reminding ourselves we have a choice. No matter the circumstances, between every action and reaction/response, there is always a millisecond of choice where we can choose Love over Fear.

To access all 52 Acts of Grace, click HERE. The PDF will download with links to each Act of Grace in the weekly compilation.

Thank you everyone!