Tag Archives: essential living

A gift from the quiet hours before the dawn

coyote

In a burst of exuberance, the wind swept down from the mountains 
whispering stories of faraway places.

“Runaway with me and I will show you the world!” the wind called out and Coyote laughed.
“Here is where I run free,” he told the wind. And the wind blew on and Coyote ran free.

Art Journal Entry, August 26, 2014

There was a time when she believed if she could just be somewhere else other than where she was, everything would be okay.

There was a time when she wished for nothing more than to be someone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see in looking for another way of being is that no matter what she wished for, she could never be anyone else other than who she was.

What she couldn’t see was that the parts of her that didn’t fit her well in this place, would not fit her any better in another.

Fearful that she would never find her way, she attempted to jettison her past, extricate herself from being herself to become someone she thought others wanted her to be. “Perhaps if you change directions, or even just your clothes, you’ll find yourself another way,” her nimble mind whispered like the wind blowing down from the mountains, calling her to run away.

And she ran, and ran and still she found herself where ever she was at, trying to run away from the one she could never leave behind, herself.

“Perhaps if you simply stand true to who you are, stay present to what is here in this moment, you’ll find yourself right where you’re at,” her loving heart whispered into the howling of the wind.

Frightened by her heart’s calling and tired of constantly running away, she fell to the ground and rested right where she was at. And in her sleep, her heart beat strong, and her mind grew restful as the truth of who she is set her free to run wild like the wind through her dreams.

“There is nothing to fear in being you,” her heart whispered. “Who you are is who you’ve always been. Perfectly human in all your human imperfections. Beauty and the beast. Loving and loved. A child of the universe, seeking her way into the light of her own brilliance shining brightly on the path of her creation.”

Like coyote and the wind, there is always a calling to venture into another space, some distant place where what is here will not be there. It isn’t until I quit searching for somewhere else to be that I discover, everything I need to be free is here right now, because, no matter where I go, I am where ever I am at.

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The painting and story above came from my meditation. Like the caterpillar story yesterday which came from a dream where I awoke with the image of the unhappy caterpillar and his desire to be anything other than himself,  the image of the coyote slipped through my mind as I sat in silence.

I was seeking a peaceful mind and still the wind blew in.

I tried to push it away. Instead, it insisted on leaving its mark in the form of a coyote, the trickster of Native American lore. I asked coyote what he had to tell me, and the image and story were born.

In my practice, both here on the written page and on my art journal page, I have learned to trust in the process. To allow the words, and images, to appear without trying to discern them before they flow.

It can be challenging. I like to control. I like to dictate, to organize, to force and cajole things into being, just so. I also like to judge what I create. Measure its worth against some unseen yardstick in my mind.

Learning to trust in the process without judgement means, learning to trust in me.

A big leap.

Which is probably why, when I awoke at 3:30 this morning with the image of a cliff in my mind, the words appeared, “Leaping off the edge of what she knew to be true, she found herself believing in the possibility of flight.”

What a lovely gift to find upon awakening in the quiet hours before the dawn.

Ain’t no power in feelin’ sorry!

The lovely Elizabeth who writes at Almost Spring, posted a comment on Monday’s blog. She asks: “In regard to feeling compassion for your abuser, is that sympathy as in feeling sorry as you would for someone with an illness, or is it empathy in fully understanding WHY?”

Her question triggered an immediate fissure of disquiet within me. The phrase “feeling sorry for…” sets off alarm bells. It triggers memories of my past that do not sit well with me.

I love triggers! I get to look at them, explore them and then, set myself free.

When my youngest daughter was about five or six years old she had significant back pain. Doctors, numerous tests, twice yearly MRIs didn’t solve it.

Irish dancing did.

At least, that’s my belief.

But that isn’t what triggered my feelings of disquiet this morning. What triggered them was the memory of my mother saying, “Poor Lele. I feel so sorry for her.” She would repeat this, whenever we got together. Say it again and again. It drove me crazy!

Ugh!

I hate that. Seriously I do. Okay. Hate is a strong word. I strongly dislike when someone says, “I feel sorry for….” or, “Poor you, blah blah blah.”

I feel powerless in sorriness! And believe me, when your five-year old daughter is in constant pain and there are no answers as to why, feeling sorry and powerless just doesn’t cut it.

Eventually, the doctors did label her distress with a word I couldn’t spell let alone pronounce. Didn’t make the pain go away, but it did give me a label to focus on, to beat up, and to try to stuff into a box of my understanding.

Label in hand, I let go of ‘why’ and worked with my daughter to not let the label circumscribe her life. (which is where the Irish Dance came in and the subsequent years of ballet and jazz and every kind of dance she could imagine — the dance strengthened, and stretched, her muscles, improved her posture and in the movement, overrode the pain with grace and litheness that continues to enhance her life today.)

My biggest fear at the time was that my daughter would grow up believing she was ‘sick’ or different, even ‘sorry’. I couldn’t change the label and I definitely didn’t want her to believe she was dis-empowered by her disease. I wanted her to know she was powerful beyond her wildest imaginings.

I forbid my mother to say it.

It didn’t work.

It is part of her make-up. Her way of expressing sympathy and support. It is her way.

It’s not mine.

So when Elizabeth asked, ” is that sympathy as in feeling sorry as you would for someone with an illness,” my mind leaped to that  ‘No Way!’ place, as I began to back pedal through memory to ensure I wasn’t wallowing in feeling sorry for someone else.

And now I’m smiling. And laughing at myself.

The answer is so simple.

I don’t feel sorry for him. That would dis-empower him and the universe. Feeling sorry for him would be to say he has no ability to manage his own actions, no capacity for change. No place for miracles in his life.

Like me, like you, like all of us, he deserves miracles. It’s his choice whether he chooses to open up to his own power, and the gifts of the universe, or not.

And I have nothing to do with his choices.

What I have to do with are mine — how I look at the past. How I chose to let what happened then, affect me now. And I choose to let it affect me, in Love.

I choose to breathe through Love into those spaces where discord, angst, pain and sorrow once consumed me. I choose to stand in Love and trust in the Universe to always be there, to always support, applaud and make possible our wildest dreams come true. I choose to believe in the wonder and awe of humankind. I choose to believe in the essential nature of our magnificence.

I choose not to ‘feel sorry’ for someone else. I choose to see their brilliance, their capacity and courage and ability and power to deal with whatever life has given them without my heaping ‘sorriness’ onto their back. They don’t need my sorry. They need my belief in their power. They deserve my absolute conviction that we are capable of creating miracles in our lives because, we are, each and every one of us, powerful, magnificent, miracles of Life. The Divine expression of amazing grace.

And when faced with situations where I have no control to change what another does (which is kinda always ’cause I can’t change another, I can only work on me :)), I choose to not dive into asking why does he do that? The why will always lead me back to the inexplicable. And trying to figure out his why, keeps my light from shining in my own life.

I choose instead to accept, it is who he is in this moment right now and what he is doing does not fit with my life — and let my thinking, and him, go. And as I do, I release myself from wishing and hoping and feeling sorry for another. I dissolve into Love. In Love I celebrate the capacity for change inherent in each of us. In Love I am released from feeling responsible for anyone else’s life but mine.

Thank you Elizabeth. Your question triggered my exploration of what is true for me. Your beauty inspired my heart to grow in Love.

 

 

 

The $8 sniff test

Some time ago, I received an email from two different people about a ‘clear and present danger’ to women. Bands of people were lurking in shopping mall parking lots attempting to abduct women. Their ploy, a tiny strip of ether soaked sniff test paper posing as an $8 knock-off of a $20 perfume sample. The warning came with a long, ‘this almost happened to me but I dodged the bullet’ missive from a woman in the police service. I read the text and thought, this is important information to know. In fact, at the top of the email it told me this was very important information to know and I must share it with everyone on my email contact list.

Even more important about the information I received, however, were the questions I pondered before passing it along. I wondered.. what was the likelihood of a little strip of paper containing enough ether to knock me out? I mean, think about the movies you’ve seen. When ether’s applied to knock out a ‘kidnappee’, it comes soaked in a cloth of unknown origins that is held at length against the victim’s mouth and nose. Doesn’t ether have a strong smell? Doesn’t it evaporate in the air? Couldn’t I tell the difference between an $8 perfume knock-off posing as a $20 perfume that is actually ether intended to render me unconscious?

I went on a hunt. Sure enough. The $8 sniff test doesn’t pass the truth or fiction test. It’s an urban myth. Snopes.com-Snatch and Sniff Test

Which brings me back to being aware and conscious. Making choices that celebrate the wonder of my life in freedom.

When I honour myself, honour my freedom and my beautiful life, I am aware of both the dark and light side of living on this complex, magical and mystical planet we call earth. In The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker talks about the need to face reality. What is real and true and actual. An elevator door opens, he writes and when you look inside you see a man who smiles at you. There’s something about him that makes you feel uncomfortable. You hear the voice inside whisper, “Take another elevator.” Your ‘don’t make a scene. Don’t be rude/insensitive/whatever’ voice, says, “Get in. There’s nothing wrong.” What do you do? Heed the voice of observation and wait for the next elevator? Or, get into a steel chamber with a closed door with a stranger?

Listening to myself means not worrying about whether I look rude, silly, fearful or anything else I think lessens me in the eyes of others. When the elevator comes and I choose not to ride with a stranger, I am perfectly okay with my choice. Doesn’t mean I’m paranoid. It means I honour my life and my right to make choices that state clearly and unequivocally, I am free. I have choice. I acknowledge there are risks, I will not put myself at undue risk. I exercise my choice for my own good.

When I was in that relationship that caused so much pain and stress on my life and the lives of those I love, I didn’t honour my life, nor my right to make choices that celebrated my freedom. I continually made choices based on fear, denial, terror, confusion. I made choices based on what one man told me to be true, and never questioned the possibility that it was all fiction. I chose to believe he wouldn’t hurt me, even when the facts so clearly demonstrated, yes he would.

In my denial, I lost sight of the truth. My choices make the difference in my life. Will I choose to celebrate life, or kill off any hope of freedom? Will I open doors to change, or slam them shut in the face of possibility? Will I step into my fear of the unknown, or, will I stay stuck in my denial of what is, fearful of what I cannot see beyond what I know today?

In my life today, I accept with open arms the truth of who I am. I am responsible for me. Back then, I wasn’t willing to accept that. Back then, I wanted to deny the truth. I wanted to avoid taking responsibility for the one life I have total control of how I live. Mine.

That is the joy in my life today. When I do something that holds me back, puts me down, or simply keeps me stuck, I know I’ve made a choice to undermine my beautiful life. It’s up to me to ask the tough questions. (What’s in it for me to do this? What’s the purpose of my living in fear? Why do I believe I deserve to treat myself with disrespect? What do I want more of in my life — and will this get me more, or less, of what I want?…) And, to make better choices. To acknowledge my mistakes. To change my actions. To step in a different direction.

That is the joy of freedom. I have the power to create a beautiful life for myself. It’s up to me to live it up for all I’m worth.

Taking down my Durawalls

I am sitting by the lake, the water a smooth sheet of glass that mirrors the high grey on white sky above. The morning sun waits in the distance to break through. The birds tweet and chirp in the trees that stand silent and thick at the water’s edge.

Ah. This is paradise

C.C. and I have come to visit our dear friends U and A at their lake house on Barry’s Bay in Ontario. Normally, autumn leaves would be turning red and gold when we come to visit but this year, we had a wedding in Toronto on Canada Day weekend and decided to make a longer trip of it.

We spent the weekend in Toronto. The wedding was Sunday. Monday was a family BBQ where C.C.’s brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews gathered to celebrate en masse, Canada Day and a chance for everyone to visit with the out of town relatives. And then, for we two, an hour and a half drive north to Orillia where C.C. and I spent the night with the amazing Alyssa Wright and Don Bray.

And now, five days by the lake before we fly home on Sunday night.

Ah, yes. This is paradise.

There is something about the peace of the lake, about visiting good friends, about spending time kicking back with no agenda but to breathe into the rhythm of each day that soothes my soul. It restores my spirit and sets my mind to wanderings of what if…

What if… I were to focus my attention on… and the ideas pop like kernels of corn eager to become the ubiquitous yumminess of popcorn slathered in butter waiting to be devoured in the glow of a fire sparking in the night. Each thought enriches the next, leading me away from habitual “I Can’ts” to that place where anything is possible when I open myself up to my infinite capacity to create more of what I want to experience and create in a world full of wonder and awe and limitless possibilities.

I am a creative soul. I know this. Have always known this, even in those times when I tried to fit myself into a box of non-creative cloth.

And I have also always known that stifling my creative essence leaves me restless, dissatisfied and grumpy. Immersed in the minutiae of life on the ‘road well travelled’ I see the down side of everyday and leave myself little room for the wonder.

It is an interesting phenomena to me, that when I detach myself from my creative essence, I live behind a wall of disbelief that would have me believe – happiness, joy, elation are not available to me with every breath. Disconnected from my joy, I fall into the belief that joy has no place in my everyday world. Cut off, I become committed to ‘getting it done’ without really committing myself to doing it for the joy of it, not the necessity.

In Adam Kahane’s Tranformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future, he writes of a man from Zimbabwe who, when sitting in a room of individuals from every facet of Zimbabwean society who have come together to build a new plan for the restoration of Zimbabwe, said, “In Zimbabwe, we often build our houses behind high concrete walls (we call them durawalls) that prevent us from seeing anything going on outside. In our society, we do the same thing; we sit within the durawalls of our own thinking and are not aware that there might be other ways of looking at what is going on. I think that the objective of this project should be to take down our mental durawalls and enable more of us to see more of what is going on.”

I came on this holiday with no intent other than to breathe deeply into each day and let the spirit of the day move me.

I’m changing my mind.

I’m getting connected. Getting inside my spirit’s call to awaken me to the wonder of each moment shimmering with joy all around me.

I’m taking down my durawalls to see what is possible outside my thinking, to hear what is real beyond my belief and my disbelief of what I think is going on, or not.

I’m immersing myself in my creative essence so that I can live from that place within that sees wonder and joy all around. That place where I am connected to my essential essence, my essential nature that knows from deep within my soul, anything is possible when I release myself of the limitations of my thinking and set myself free to be, me in a world of infinite wonder.

May your day be filled with awe. May you see beyond the durawalls of your mind to all that is going on, can go on, will go on when you release the limits of your own thinking.

Namaste.

With All My Heart

There is a civility to life here on the west coast. A politeness that superimposes itself on everyday living, infusing each breath with ease.

Unless you’re a driver, or pedestrian or anywhere near a thoroughfare — but that’s a whole other story.

Heck, even the buses are polite in Vancouver. When out of service their electronic banner doesn’t just read “Out of Service”. The story of their status begins with “Sorry”

See what I mean. Polite.

And see, there it is again. Story.

Story is everywhere. I’m writing a story right here, right now. Sharing with you the story of my life, of where I’m at in this moment, how my story is unfolding for me right now.

Perhaps you can see the chips in the wood of the round table I’m sitting at in the coffee shop down the street from my daughter’s apartment. Can you hear the music? A blend of Indie and folk? Pleasant. A slice of thought-provoking lyrics, just not too harsh for awakening minds to hear on this cloudy west coast morning. Can you see the two men chatting at the table by the window. Grey-haired salt and pepper man standing beside bald man in black. I wonder if salt and pepper regrets his decision to step over and say hello. He keeps trying to interject some positivity into the story of woe the man in black is telling him about how ‘bad it can be’. I hear them both. I know there are multiple sides to every story. Many dimensions to the same situation. And in the end, they are just stories we tell ourselves and each other.

Story.

Those two men are wrapped up in theirs. Each with a different perspective. Each with their own POV of how life is meant to be, really is and can be, or can’t possibly become depending upon the ground on which they stand.

Yesterday, as I walked back from the SeaWall a man approached me. Toothless grin. Orange hair rising in messy spikes from above a furrowed brow. He was dressed in a long down coat, clean, no tears. It was the shoes that gave him away. Tattered runners, the logo long since worn away. The laces long since disappeared.

“Oh thank you for stopping,” he said as he stood in front of me.

I hadn’t really had a choice. He had planted himself directly in my path on a narrow part of the pathway.

And he went on to tell me his story of arriving in from Australia in the early hours of the morning. Of sleeping in the lobby of a posh hotel as they searched for his luggage, his lost passport, missing wallet.

He showed me the tattoo on his arm. A kangaroo with the words, “Down Under Is Tops”, printed in black.

He told me how I reminded him of his mom. Kind eyes with a koala bear in their light. That one confused me but I wasn’t about to ask for clarification. He shook and jittered as he talked. His hands flying around his head as if shooing away pesky Australian flies.

I don’t shake because I’m a junkie, he said. I’ve got MS. And he told me how he needed to get out of town. How he couldn’t take it anymore. Tears welled up in his eyes. Rolled down his cheeks.

Please help me, he pleaded.

I offered to take him somewhere he could get help. (a shelter, a drop in centre where he could get help. Maybe even a place to clean up and… change his story.)

He shook his head vehemently.

No. No. No.

I need $48.00 to get out of town.

I sighed and gave him a gentle smile and shook my head. I can’t do that. Give you money.

There’s a bank machine downstairs in the building, over there. And he pointed to the left of where we stood.

I’m not prepared to do that.

And his shoulders slumped as he realized I wasn’t buying his story.

Story. It is everywhere.

A man at the Art Gallery tells me how he doesn’t take phone calls anymore. Text me. Email me. But please don’t phone me. I wonder what’s his story.

I walk past the Coal Harbour Community Centre and watch a group of mostly women bend and stretch and lean into downward dogs and stand up to welcome in the sun (it didn’t work — it rained most of the day) and I pass people walking dogs and riding bicycles and hear the flap flap flap of joggers shoes running past me on the wet pavement. Carrying their stories with them. Bending them. Shifting them. MOving them along.

I sit and sip a Chai Latte in a coffee shop overlooking the harbour and hear the metal on metal chatter of boats bobbing, a float plane’s engine revving up in the distance. I walk past a public garden space and hear the sound of a shovel as a man tenderly prepares the earth for spring flowers. I walk along and overhear a woman on her cell phone laughing as she tells her listener, “He wants a divorce he can have one. But if he’s driving away in a Porsche so am I.”

I listen to my daughter share her story of dreaming and waking up and seeing life in a whole new perspective as I sit over lunch with her sharing a glass of wine and an assortment of Greek dips. Later, we sit in an oyster bar and laugh and chat and share another glass of wine (Prosecco this time) and chat with our waiter who is from Saskatoon. He’s an actor here, but somewhere within him that prairie boy still yearns for the wide open spaces and clear blue skies of his home, that place where his mom and dad still live. And as we leave, we fall into the lyrical notes of the voice of the man giving us directions and sigh deeply into the sensual textures of his words. His Irish accent lures me into remembering the stories of a distant green island where my roots run deep into the earth of my father’s Irish ancestors.

An then, we join 30,000 people, mostly women, to hear a woman share the stories of her journey out of the poverty of rural Mississippi onto a global stage where her story of the redemptive power of forgiveness and gratitude reigns supreme.

Oprah rocked the house last night. She moved about the stage, sharing stories, sharing laughs, connecting. The dots and so much more. Connecting hearts and igniting minds to the majesty, the wonder, the amazing grace of being alive.

Who are you? she asked and my answer was right there. I’ve known it for some time now. I’ve felt its call rising within me, stirring me up, igniting my passion to be present, alive and inspired in this moment right now.

I am the divine expression of God’s amazing grace.

And in that answer I will do as Oprah suggests. I will live my truth with every breath, with every act, word, thought. I will be who I am with all my heart.

Namaste

The Value of Vulnerability — Guest blog

The first time I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability was shortly after it appeared in 2010. I was hooked. Gave the link to my daughter. Shared it with everyone I know. Read, The Gift of Imperfection and recommended it with everyone I know.

Today, guest blogger, Ian Munro. shares the value of vulnerability in our lives — not only will it help lower stress, you’ll love yourself and your life a whole lot more!

Thanks Ian for sharing your light so graciously. Thanks for being so vulnerable!

 

The Value of Vulnerability

By Ian Munro

The holiday season is behind us and we are back to our normal work routine. It gave me pause to reflect back on the past several weeks. This year I worked through the break, having taken my vacation earlier in the year. Normally I would find working through the holidays somewhat burdensome but this year was totally different. I found myself using this slower time of the year to have some slow, meaningful conversations with people. With both time and some solitude as the office wasn’t very busy, these conversations often penetrated through a few layers of the normal office shields we wear to protect our essential selves. They were great connections, and I look at them now and see how uncommon it is for us to reveal the true nature of ourselves to each other, especially within a work environment.  To read the rest of Ian’s fabulous article, click here!