Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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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!

 

 


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Day 4: the ultimate un-guide to surrender. Resistance is futile.

surrender banner 1 copy

I yelled at C.C. last night. He had gone to pick up his son from the airport and I had gone to bed. My neck was hurting. Bad.

Later, when he climbed into bed beside me I was moaning and groaning about the pain. Every movement was agony. The slightest touch painful.

“Do you want ice?” he asked.

“I don’t know!” I yelled and started to cry. It hurt so much.

He got me ice.

Smart man.

Not only did he hear my unspoken need to have him take care of me, he got me the one thing that actually did work on relieving the pain.

This morning, I went in search of Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life. I couldn’t find it in the bookcase so I searched online for “What does Louise Hay say it mean when your neck hurts?”

Google, as always, delivered.

sargam-neck-pain
Source:  Sargam Mishra: Inner Alchemy

How divinely sublime.

As I struggle and search for understanding of what I don’t know about surrender, the universe (aka google) delivers up “Change is the only Constant”.

Seriously?

No wonder my neck hurts. I just got walloped with understanding.

Resistance is futile. Acceptance necessary.

As I read the article by Sargam Misra, pranic healer, I felt knowing invade my being.

Sargam writes:  Neck – refusing to see other sides of the question, stubbornness, inflexibility.

What? Me stubborn?

Then again, what is the question?

Good question.

As I sank into the meditation she shares at the end of her post, the question came floating in as softly and easily as a cloud drifting across a summer’s day. “Are you willing to let go?”

Let go? I wondered. Of what?

It all.

What all?

Your resistance.

But I’m not in resistance. I just don’t understand.

What if there’s nothing to understand?

How can there not be? There’s so much to know. And if I don’t know it all, everyone will think I’m stupid.

How will you know when you know it all?

That one stumped me. I am reminded of a piece of feedback, Thelma Box, founder of Choices Seminars gave me once in a process we were doing on the JoHari Window. “I experience you as a woman who will never find an answer good enough for her.” That one stumped me too.

Problem is (which is just another way to say ‘the gift I received in her feedback’), she was dead on.

Sometimes, no matter the question, I think there’s got to be a better, deeper, more complete, all-knowing answer and keep searching for a better one and better one and better one.

Like this morning. After reading Sargam Mishra’s article on Neck Pain and its spiritual causes, I listened to the meditation she shared at the bottom of her post and in the mantra’s melodic affirmation found my neck pain easing, the stiffness relaxing.

Does it matter if I know what I am resisting as much as letting go of my resistance?

Does it matter if I can’t label all the responsibilities I tell myself I’m carrying that are causing my neck to spasm as much as I let go of my belief I am carrying a truckload of responsibilities that I tell myself are weighing me down?

Does it matter if I can’t name the fear beneath my sense of carrying the world on my shoulders as much as I let go of my belief I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders?

Release. Let go. Surrender.

My mind wants to tell me it’s too woo hoo wacky to write about this stuff, to even suggest I think it might have helped

My heart and soul know. Believe it or not, my body responds to loving care. My spirit responds to intention.

My intention this morning was to dive beneath the physical manifestation of pain in my neck to sink into what I didn’t know about the pain in my neck.

I know the pain is real. Perhaps its cause is not quite so real. Perhaps its source is a belief I’m holding onto that does not serve me well.

In Sargam’s mantra I find relief. And that’s all I need to know. To trust. To allow.

“I release, I relax and let go. I am safe in life.”

Universal Mantra for Healing : Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hum