Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Are you willing to practice being magnificent?

Years ago, while teaching a self-esteem course at a homeless shelter, I asked the 12 or so men gathered in the room ‘what kind of man do you want to be?’.

Across from me, at the far end of the boardroom table sat a tall, handsome man who had once been forced to become a child soldier in his homeland. “I want to be a proud man,” he said. “But how can that be possible when I have done so many horrible things?” he asked.

“Do you want to keep doing those things or things of which you’re proud?” I asked him.

And he replied, “Of course I want to do things I’m proud of. But I see me only as that bad man.”

“What if I told you I see you as a magnificent human being?”

He flashed me a big smile and said, “I’d say you need better glasses.”

I laughed at his joke and I told him my glasses were okay. What if, it was just the lens through which he was looking at himself that needed adjusting?

The whole class listened intently to our conversation, with several others chiming in that there was no hope that anyone would ever see them as magnificent.

What if the first step isn’t for others to see you as magnificent but rather that you do? I asked.

I invited everyone around the table to close their eyes, for just a moment, and imagine that they truly were magnificent. Sit tall, I encouraged. Breathe into being and feeling and knowing you are magnificent. Be that.

And for a moment, 12 men closed their eyes, sat tall and breathed into their magnificence.

It was trans-formative.

Facial features relaxed. Their breathing slowed. Small smiles of recognition appeared on some of their faces.

After a moment, I invited them to open their eyes and asked, “Could you feel it? Could you feel your magnificence?”

And everyone in that room agreed. Yes they could.

Then it exists within you, I told them.

Now, imagine that we connect through our magnificence. Imagine that our magnificence is the thing we carry out into the world and share.

Would your world be different?

Yes, they all murmured.

Magnificence exists within each of us. It is who we are born as, and to be.

And then, life happens, we forget our birthright and start living in the narrow corridors of the hurtful things we’ve experienced, done, and seen that we tell ourselves define us. Limit us. Are us.

It’s not true.

The things that happened, including the past, does not define us. We do. In the here and now.

And in the here and now is where we can begin to practice letting go of our limiting beliefs and breathing into celebrating our magnificence.

Those beliefs were founded in the past because those were the things we were taught, forced to learn, forced to endure because the world around us didn’t know how to celebrate our magnificence, or its own.

Those are the beliefs that keep us playing into our limitations and living small today.

Just for today, practice breathing into your magnificence. Imagine your entire being is imbued with the beauty and wonder and awe that is you when you let go of living out the learned patterns of mediocrity that have kept you trapped in forgetting the magnificence of who you are born to be.

And in your magnificence, imagine that you are a divine expression of grace. That you are… Love.

Breathe and Be. Breathe and Be.

And so it is.


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The art of being creatively alive.

There was a time when I did not think of myself as an artist. When I told myself I couldn’t paint. I had no talent.

Life, and the willingness to let go, showed me how little I know about my creative essence.

I tried to paint in my 20s. A friend gave me a set of oils, a canvas and some brushes and said, “Try it.”

I did.

I judged myself not very good.

I quit.

In my 40s I decided to join my then 14 year old daughter in painting. She loved to paint and I wanted to do something that was uniquely ‘ours’. Her younger sister and I rode horses together. She was hyper-allergic. Why not make painting ‘our thing’.

And that’s when I learned the first lesson in The Art of Being Creatively Alive.

  1. Let go of your plans.

My daughter was a teenager. Painting was fun. But she had a lot of other things to do that were equally as fun — some included me, some did not. And even though my plan had been to paint with her, I fell in love with the joy of splashing paint on a canvas, with or without her. In that joy, while we don’t often paint together, we love to visit galleries and devour other artists work whenever we are together.

The second lesson has had profound ramifications in my life.

2.  Don’t believe everything you tell yourself about yourself.

All my life I told myself I was a writer. I was not an artist. Committing myself to exploring my painterly ways in my 40s taught me that I was not always right. That in fact, the things I tell myself about myself are often based on my fears, not my heartfelt desire to live a true and authentic life. And, sometimes, the things I tell myself I can’t do are simply an expression of my fear of not being able to do it right or perfect.

Which brings me to the third and equally as important lesson falling in love with painting taught me.

3.  Set yourself free to express yourself, without expectation of what will happen next.

The beauty of any form of creative expression is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. There is simply ‘the way’ you choose to do it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and unless you have expectations of being discovered as the next Picasso or Monet, the point of creative expression is to express, not create a masterpiece. Don’t set yourself up with expectations of what your creative expression will look like, or do or be in the world. Meaning is not found through your artistic endeavours, it’s created through the act of creating. When you live from that place of being free to express yourself, you create space for others to do so too. And in that space, the world within and around you is changed for the better

Set yourself free to express yourself and then… let the magic happen. Creative expression is one part alchemy, one part science, one part sweat and labour and all parts pure magic. When you give into the mystery and the magic, who knows what you will inspire that creates profound change in the world?


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The Naked Truth of Letting Go

Journal entry Mixed Media | Naked truth of letting go | ©2016 Louise Gallagher

Journal entry
Mixed Media |
Naked truth of letting go |
©2016 Louise Gallagher

 

 

Thanks to Val Boyko at Find Your Middle Ground for this morning’s inspiration in her post, The Gift of Letting Go.


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Be Unstoppable: Walk proud. Live strong.

dare to take the high road copy

There is something deliciously satisfying about the thought of getting even with someone who has caused you pain. Yet, no matter how pleasing the thought, the act of getting even is fleeting, illusory, unfulfilling.

The only thing that getting even does is lower you to someone else’s level. It does not bring you lasting peace. And it definitely does not change whatever happened to cause you grief.

When the man who was actively engaged in making the ‘death’ part of his promise to love me forever was arrested, I desperately wanted to make him pay for all the pain and horror he had caused in my life and the lives of those I love. I wanted him to feel my pain. To know the totality of all that he had done.

Wasn’t going to happen.

There was nothing in this world that I could do that would cause him anguish without also causing me pain. To get even with him I would have to have contact with him. And that was not healing, safe nor smart for me. Nor would it have accomplished my goal. He did what he did because that was a reflection of who he is, where he lived, how he walked through this world. I’d been there long enough with him. I had no desire to go back.

Admittedly, there were moments where my thoughts drifted into gleeful persecution of him. Occasionally, to relieve the pressure in my mind and heart, I would stand in the shower and imagine dipping him in a vat of hot tar, dousing him in feathers and then rolling him up in one of the priceless rugs he so loved and running over him with one of those big road paving roller machines until he was as flat as Wiley Coyote of cartoon fame. And that would be the end of that. I would let the warm waters of the shower wash over me and wash all thoughts of him down the drain.

Cleansed of my need for revenge, I would return to finding my path out of the darkness into the light of living peacefully with all my heart in the now.

Living peacefully with all my heart in the now was my truth. My life. My way.

Thoughts of getting even with him only kept me stuck in his truth, his life, his way.

I deserved better.

I needed more.

We all have moments of wanting to slip off our road of integrity into the muck of someone else’s bad behaviour. Don’t do it. Don’t give into the pull of getting even. It will only leave you wearing the dirt of the past and feeling the anguish of someone else’s choices ‘back then’ in the here and now.

If the lure of getting even grows too strong and you feel yourself succumbing to its call, take a shower. Just for a moment, let your mind wander as far as it must into the imaginary world where your getting even sets things right. And then, lovingly bring it back into the present. Be unstoppable in your desire to walk tall and proud. Be unstoppable in living this one wild and precious life with all your heart beating strong on the high road of your integrity.  Walk proud. Live strong.

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

This post is in response to today’s one word – Daily Prompt. Unstoppable.


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How to fall in love with yourself.

cardHow does one fall in love with oneself?

In my years of coaching, working with street teens, working in the homeless sector, learning what it means to live as ‘an artist’ of my own heart, running art programs, teaching story-telling and delving into the power of Love and writing about it, there is a common thread that runs through our psyches, no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how we’ve gotten to where ever we are at.

Shame.

We are burdened with shame and gratitude depleted.

Brené Brown writes about shame. She studies it, researches it and expresses its debilitating effects with great clarity in her may books on the subject.

She writes:

“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”

“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

We can be shame driven or heart full.

We can be shame full or heart driven.

Or,

We can be heart driven and heart full and in the fullness of living from our heart-centered wholeness, we can set ourselves free.

It’s all in where we put our attention. Whatever we put our attention on becomes stronger in our life.

When I focus on avoiding shame, my avoidance grows stronger giving shame little chance to flow free.

When I put my attention on how unworthy I am of love, how undeserving of grace or kindness or tender loving care, my story becomes all about how unworthy, undeserving I am. It also gives me an excuse not to change, not to face my fears and step through the threshold of my shame.

It is easier to hate myself when I’m constantly telling myself how much I hate myself, my life and the world around me. The story of why I have the right to feel this way, to tell myself this is true, is a powerful story. Staying connected to the story I’m telling myself, even when it hurts, is safer than letting it go.

Change your story. Change your life.

How do you fall in love with yourself?  Stop hating yourself.

Here’s an exercise.

  1. Go stand in front of a mirror and look into your eyes. (It’s okay. You can keep your clothes on. You’re looking into your eyes, not at your body – and it’s not about judging what you see. It’s about being open to looking in). Look deeply, yes deeply, into your eyes and repeat OUT LOUD 10x (slowly, breathing between each repetition) “I love you.” (repeat 10x) Remember — Keep your eyes open and look deeply within them, not at them.
  2. Breathe. Yes. Breathe. It’s okay. Telling yourself you love yourself is a good thing to do. It’s a place to start. Sure, you may feel silly, stupid, uncomfortable. You might even tell yourself ‘well, that’s a lie’. But, think about it. Is the statement “I love me” any different than “I hate me”?  You are your thoughts. If your thoughts are all about hating yourself, that will become what you believe to be the truth. So, start gently, lovingly, even if you’re afraid, by changing the message you tell yourself.
  3. Repeat many times, every day, until it comes as naturally as breathing. Eventually, dispense with the mirror. Just keep telling yourself, I Love You. I Love Me.

Think of the alternative. Do you want to tell yourself 10x in the mirror, “I hate you.”?  What if you chose instead to just love yourself, even within hating yourself?

Do you want to keep repeating out loud how small, useless, unworthy, undeserving you are?

Even if that feels like the truth, it’s not. It’s just your attention has been on hating yourself for so long, there’s been no room to allow the truth of Love to appear in your eyes.

And yes, I have most definitely simplified the process of falling in love with yourself. It is a journey, an adventure, a grand expedition to choose to fall in love with yourself, even when your mind is telling you ‘Well that’s dangerous. Don’t go there. You’ll get hurt. Let down. Betrayed. Destroyed….”

You have to begin somewhere. Why not here?

Loving yourself is not for sissies.

It’s for everyone. Each of us. All of us.

Loving yourself takes courage. Passion. Fortitude. Hope.

Loving yourself takes heart.

Namaste.

 


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Accepting our own power

Acrylic on Canvas 24 x 36 Louise Gallagher

Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 36
Louise Gallagher

“If you tell me I just have to accept it, I’ll scream,” my friend said as she finished telling the story of a ‘wrong’ she’d experienced. “I feel like hitting someone, not accepting their bad behaviour.”

“What does acceptance mean to you?” I asked.

“It means I can’t do anything about it. I just have to accept it and move on.” (Okay. She wasn’t quite that calm but that is the gist of what she said.)

Too often, we equate acceptance with being helpless.

My friend was not helpless in this instance, and once she talked it through, she came up with several things she could do to ease her burdened heart and circle-thinking mind.

Acceptance wasn’t found in the victim’s role of throwing up her hands and telling herself ‘there’s nothing I can do. Accept it and move on.’

Acceptance was found in the acknowledging the impact the other person’s behaviour had on her, and then, identifying where she had the power to not let their behaviour cause her to act without integrity, to contravene her own values.

Acceptance was in recognizing that what the other person did was not a statement of my friend’s worth, but of the other person’s position. No matter what motivated the other, what they did caused harm to my friend. And that is not okay.

It’s also not okay to retaliate in kind. As the wise and gentle Val at Find Your Middle Ground wrote in her post, Outer and Inner Lives, on her blog yesterday,

Our outer lives and living are a reflection of our inner lives.
When we are at peace within we are at peace without.

My friend is not a violent person. She’d never hit another, even in that instance when she claimed she wanted to. It is not her nature. Violence is not a value she upholds.

Yet, in her frustration and belief that acceptance means ‘accepting the other’s bad behaviour’, she felt powerless, helpless, confused. And in her confusion, she wanted to lash out at those who hurt her.

It is human nature to want to right wrongs, correct mistakes, fix problems.

We all make mistakes and sometimes, we don’t want to face our role in what has happened in our lives because we want someone else to be held accountable for what they did to cause the problems in our lives.

I will never be powerful enough to make the man who abused me be accountable for what he did.

I will never be powerful enough to change the past.

I am powerful enough to be accountable for the harm and pain it caused my daughters and those around me and to create better today.

I am powerful enough to let go of holding onto the need to avenge his wrong-doing and live freely in the beauty of today without letting revenge and bitterness steal my joy.

I am powerful enough to accept I am not helpless. I am powerful beyond my wildest imaginings.

When I let go of holding on to my fear of letting go of all the things I tell myself hurt me, I cannot change, or cannot let go of, I am free to live my life on the wild side of my dreams.

When I accept that the change I want to create in the world begins with me, I fall with grace into Love.

 

 

 


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Do life or be done by life. There is no in-between.

do life copyWe can either do life or be done by life. There is no in-between place where life is not happening.

As so often happens, the words emerged as I was rising out of my meditation this morning.

And then I forgot them.

Ugh.

I scrunched up my eyes, scrunched up my face into a grim expression and fought to remember the words that had hit me like a potent cocktail just moments before.

Relax. Breathe, the voice of wisdom from within me whispered.

Relax. Breathe.

And the words emerged.

We can either do life or be done by life. There is no in-between place where life is not happening.

There is no in-between place.

Where are you in your life today? Are you standing in your power? Standing in your voice, speaking out in loving kindness for what is true for you?

Or, are you letting life have its way with you? Letting life dictate the ebbs and flows, rhythm and tempo of your journey? Stuffing down the words you yearn to speak, the actions you ache to make?

It’s often been said, ‘life is not a dress-rehearsal’.

It’s the real deal. The real thing. And we only have one crack at gettin’ ‘er done.

Get on with life today.

Breathe deeply and tell yourself, this is not a dress rehearsal. This is my life where I stand tall, speak up and let out all the wonder and magnificence that lives within me, just waiting for me to wake up and set it free.

It’s easy to feel defeated. It’s easy to feel like life is a daily struggle to get by, moment to moment, without any thought for the quality of each moment passing by.

Being passive in life is easy. It’s what you’ve done for so long. It’s how you’ve felt for the forever past you can remember.

Let go.

Being passive in life doesn’t get you anything other than more misery, more feeling defeated, more feeling like you’re not worth the bother.

Give it up.

And hold on.

Hold on to the belief that if you don’t turn up and speak your truth and live your life as if it’s the only life you’ve got, no one else will. No one else can.

Sure, there are rocks on the road, hills to climb, obstacles to overcome.

That’s life.

And so much more.

There are sunrises to witness. Sunsets to breathe into.

There are rivers to swim and seas to cross.

There are mountains to summit and ocean deeps to dive into.

There are pools of love to fall into. There are arms to embrace and smiles to share.

There are moments to experience the wonder and awe and pure joy of being alive, being here, being you!

Don’t let life do you. You do it!

Go on. You know you want to. Go ahead. Do life!