Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the other side of your comfort love

All I really, really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you too. Joni Mitchell
I have been fighting an ennui these past few weeks. Ennui born of fear that I will 'never learn'. That I will repeat the mistakes I've made and that those around me will behave the same as those from my past behaved.

Time to get over myself.

In colours jargon (a personality typing system that uses colour to represent personality types), I tend towards a Blue/Green, Green/Blue personality construct. I use the phrase 'tend towards' because in my testing, I appear Green. In my heart, I swim in a sea of Blue emotion.

I believe my family of origin plays a significant role in my colour typing. As a child, being 'blue', or living from my heart, was not safe. I moved into my mind, that powerful tool of reasoning and creativity, to keep my heart from being hurt. As an adult, my Green habit does not fit as comfortably as it would if I were a natural Green - sort of a like a blond with dark roots coming through. I've been continually touching up the roots, grounding myself in my mind, until eventually, there's not enough dye in the world to cover over my Blue heart. Because the habit of staying in my head is deeply ingrained, I keep painting over my heart, protecting its roots from the light.

I struggle to walk that 18" pathway, finding balance along the way, finding solace in my heart connected to my brain.

Some days, it's not an easy path to trod.

I am a romantic. It was my romantic nature that drove me into the arms of Conrad, the man who promised to love me 'til death do us part and went about taking the death part way too seriously. Since that relationship ended with his arrest (The Dandelion Spirit) six years ago, I've been tentative in reclaiming my romantic nature. The recurring dialogue in my sub-conscious mind that filters up to my consciousness -- well that didn't work very well for me in the past did it. We're not going to do that again any time soon.

Anything I avoid out of fear of the past limits my joy in the moment.

I am a romantic.

It's come as a bit of a surprise to C.C. who is quite accustomed to my rather blase approach to love and loving.

"I experience you as being emotionally high-maintenance," he told me the other night when we were discussing my request that we talk at least once throughout the day. "You seem needy."

Thank you for caring enough to share.

I still believe it's important to connect during the day, even if only for a quick "Hello. How's your day going."

And thus, my angst.

How do I balance my monkey mind chatter that says, "He's right. You should be stable enough to not have to talk to him during the day. You've been doing it that way for a couple of years. Why change it if it's not broken?"

Reality is: it has nothing to do with being broken or unbroken. It has everything to do with my romantic nature. A nature I am reclaiming -- in all my angst and trepidation.

Knowing someone loves me doesn't mean I don't want to hear them tell me they do on a daily basis. Knowing I love someone doesn't mean I don't want to tell them on a daily basis, either.

It isn't about changing who I am or who they are. It has everything to do with changing the way we do things to ensure we receive more of what we want in life and loving.

It is a fine line I walk when balancing my hearts yearning for romance and my mind's calling to be practical, to be self-reliant. To be independent and to keep my distance.

I am a human being. I am relational.

My angst has nothing to do with C.C.'s resistance to change or his way of doing things. It has everything to do with my fear of being true to my heart. Of listening to its yearning for romance.

Time to get over fear and leap into the courage to be all of me without worrying about the outcome.

Time to 'Turn up. Pay attention. Speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.'

The question is: Are you ignoring your heart's calling? Are you listening to the monkey mind chatter that would have you walk away in fear of living life on the other side of your comfort zone?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Change of state

The universe will fill your cup — if you carry a big cup, a little cup, or a thimble! Sonia Choquette
Yesterday, at our Director's meeting at work, the Exec. Dir. commented on the posture of those who get on the elevator weighed down by their woes and worries. He stood and postured like someone telling him about the lack in their world, how nothing is going right, how everyone is against him. "What can I do to change his state of being?" he asked.

Good question.

What can any of us do to change someone else's state?

"It's not his state we need to change," I said. "It's ours. As the leadership team, we need to ensure we model the behaviours we want to see in both our clients and staff."

Later that day, I got on the elevator with a client who was on his way to 'Day Sleep'. "How are you doing today?" I asked him cheerfully.

"Okay," he said, his shoulders hunched, his head looking at the floor. "I've got a toothache, a wicked cold and these bugs that keep itching me."

I backed away wondering how far the bugs can leap. "Sorry to hear that," I said. "Do you have anything for the pain?"

"Oh yeah. They gave me some Tylenol and cream for the itching. It seems to be helping." He looked at me standing in the corner of the elevator. "It's okay. The bugs are gone." He paused and chuckled. "I think."

"That's a relief. While I'd love to share in your abundance, bugs are not high on my priority list." I laughed as the elevator stopped at his floor. "Hope you get a good rest."

He laughed back and waved as he got off the elevator. "Thanks for making me smile."

On Friday night at Choices, D., a client who was taking one of the weekend programs, put his brand new running shoes outside his bedroom door. He has a 'thing' about foot odour and didn't want to burden his roommate with his. In the morning, when he went to retrieve his shoes, they were missing. Someone had filled them with water and kicked them down the hallway to the stairwell.

Both D., and the man on the elevator expect little that is positive from the universe. They don't expect good tidings, good things. They don't go looking for abundance. Mostly, they expect the universe to deliver what they've already got. Scarcity.

And, in their lack of expectation, what they do receive often makes them suspicious. Filled with apprehension that the 'gods' will deliver one more blow, they protect themselves from further abuse by contracting into themselves whenever they can. D. realized that the missing shoes were not a personal attack against him. Most likely they were initiated through kids playing a 'prank'.

What the game players didn't realize is the impact of what they were doing. They expected to have fun. They didn't look at the cost their fun would have on the person who was the recipient. For D., struggling to put the pieces of his broken life back together, those missing shoes were just another blow in a world of disappointment.

For all our clients, life often falls heavy on their shoulders. They get kicked when they are down. They get beat up when they are broken.

It isn't that the universe sets out to disappoint them. The universe doesn't care. It simply 'is'. Their state of being, however, sets them up for more of what they've already got. In their disappointed state, they do not hold a half empty nor half full cup. There is no cup in their hands. They stand, head bowed, shoulders hunched, waiting for the next blow because within them is the state of being that dictates, "This is all I'm worth. This is all I'll ever get."

How do we change our state of being? Like all changes of state, it's the baby steps taken one after the other that lead us away from where we're at. For those suffering the depravity of homelessness, simply holding out a thimble would be a good start. Sharing a smile and a laugh is a good beginning.

The question is: What are your expectations? Are your hands open to abundance or clenched in defeat?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The choice is ours

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh
Four hundred years ago, Galileo was threatened with death if he did not recant his theory that the earth was not the centre of the universe. He didn't find the threat of death reason enough to let go of what he knew to be true. Forced to recant by a church that decreed his teachings heresy, he never let go of the truth and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Confined to his home, he never gave up on exploring the universe beyond the four walls that contained him. In his commitment to discovering the truth about the universe, he became, "the father of modern day science".

During World War 2, thousands upon thousands of people in Europe knew that killing the Jews was wrong. The threat of death did not stop them from doing what was right in trying to save whomever they could from the death camps. In their acts of courage, people did not perish and the truth did not die. In their acts of courage, they became heroes.

Every day, individuals leave the shores of safety and set sail into unknown seas. They cause ripples in the waters, disturb the status quo, upset the apple carts of life and discover new horizons never before imagined -- simply because they had the courage to leave the shores of their comfort zones and journey into uncharted waters. They still feel fear. Anxiety. Concern. But they don't let their feelings stop them from doing the right thing. The brave thing. The only thing they can do to live the life of their dreams.

Every day we are faced with opportunities to step beyond our comfort zones and explore the land on the other side of our knowing. Every day we make decisions that determine whether or not we will do what we've always done and get what we've always got, or, do something different to create more of what we want in our lives.

The choice is always ours to make. The step always ours to take.

Will we choose in favour of change? Will we take a step in the right direction?

Or, will we choose to stick with the tried and fail safe, even if we're not achieving what we want? Will we step carefully in the steps we've taken before, hoping for a different outcome, even though those steps keep us away from living the life of our dreams?

The choice is always ours.

The question is: What will you choose to do today that is different than yesterday? How will you grow today beyond your wildest dreams? What small thing, or big thing, will you do to bring you closer to making your dreams come true?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Angels and other heavenly appearances

Angels have no philosophy but love. Adeline Cullen Ray
Before the training session at Choices begins, Thelma Box, the creator of the program, gives the coaches three rules: 1. Love the people when they walk through the doors. 2. Love the people when they walk through the doors. 3. Love the people when they walk through the doors and keep loving them.

This week, I was blessed with the responsibility of being one of two Team Captains. Our job, to ensure the training ran smoothly, the coaches were on task and that no task was left undone. For the five days of training to be successful, the schedule needs to be adhered to, processes completed in sequence and the details effortlessly filled in. Papers need to be handed out. Lights dimmed. Microphones shared. Chairs moved. Circles formed. Signs posted. Doors opened and closed.

Everyone was on task and completed their jobs with ease and grace to create a successful week.

But that's just the practical part of the training.

For each trainee to 'walk away a winner', as the C&W song suggests, they must feel loved.

And that's where the angels come in.

I was surrounded by angels all week. By human beings of the ethereal kind who, through their constant and continuous loving of each trainee, created the space for miracles to appear amongst us.

On Friday morning, Bill Spangler, who is the Choices Rep for Alberta, asked the group to look around the room, to see the faces beside them and across from them and ask themselves, "Is this the same person who walked into the room at noon on Wednesday?"

In two and a half days, burdens were lifted, broken hearts opened to love, and spirits awakened to their beauty. Eyes had brightened (and would become brighter yet within the next two and a half days). Frowns had turned into hopeful smiles. Heads were lifted higher. Faces softened. Bodies stood taller.

"Think about the stories you've told and how in their telling you have freed yourself of their pain," he said. "And then, think about the people you meet out on the street, in your office, at the coffee shop. Like you they're just ordinary people going about their business. If each of us in this room carries pain, is it possible every person we meet is carrying pain too?"

Pain and sorrow is limiting. Past hurts lugged into today inhibit our ability to move freely.

What would happen in the world if everyone could let go of the pain and sorrow of the past, no matter how small, how trivial, how inconsequential they think it might be? What if everyone gave up keeping up appearances and simply appeared as the beautiful human being they are right now and loved themselves for all they're worth -- warts and blemishes and all?

What a different world this would be.

There were angels in the room this week. And, amidst their beauty, miracles unfolded in the hearts and minds and spirits of everyone.

In their loving embrace hearts beat freely, dreams awoke and the world became a more loving place.

It is possible to 'change the world one heart at a time'. To do it, we must never stop beating the drum of love.

The question is: What drum will you beat today? What pain will you release to free yourself up to loving yourself just the way you are?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Are you willing to shine?

Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs. Malcolm Forbes
We come into this world, nothing more, nothing less than perfect beings of the human kind. We are each and everyone of us different. Different sizes, different skin tone, different eye colour, different weight. We have different heart beats, different blood types, different DNA. We are born in different times, different places, different circumstances. We are different and yet, of the same body, the same human form. And within each of us, there lies a treasure trove of unique gifts awaiting their moment to sparkle. Gifts that make a difference in the world through our unique way of expressing them.

As we grow and unfold into our human condition, we are forged upon the circumstances of our journey. Having never witnessed the perfection of their beauty, the humans around us treat our delicate spirits as they were taught to treat theirs. They yell and hit. They lie and cheat. They run from love and act out their fear. They hide their brilliance beneath the dirt that life has dumped upon them.

In their teachings, we learn to believe we are nothing than worthless pieces of dirt with no value to add to this world. In our disbelief that there is nothing more than this state of being, we become frightened, weak, disheartened and dispirited. We learn to hide our gifts, to stand in the shadows of our light and play it small, play it safe, play it silent, play it angry, play it sad. And in our learning how to play the game of life, we hide behind our fear that we are not unique, we are not brilliant but rather nothing more than a chunk of coal. And in our sorrow, our lives turn into the daily grind of struggling to keep warm in the long dark nights of the souls journey that has become our life.

And then, one day, there is a moment. A moment of truth. Of desperation. Of hope. We encounter an event, a person, a place, a time where the weight of wallowing in the dirty messy mud of our lives no longer outweighs the idea of breaking free of the prisons of our mind. We break open.

In our breaking open, we break free of the deep black chunk of coal imprisoning us in the soil. We begin the journey of learning to shine. To sparkle, to cast multi-facets prisms of light that reflect the brilliance of our human being.

And as we begin to sparkle, as we work hard at polishing off our every facet of being, we begin to shine as no other human on earth can shine.

Each and every one of us is a beautiful sparkling diamond. We are each of us unique. Each of us special.

At Choices, I am given the gift of watching every single being in the room unearth the uniqueness of their spirit. To touch the brilliance of their being.

The task of breaking open has begun. The journey is now upon them to embrace their human condition and shine.

The question is: Are you willing to unearth your brilliance? To let it shine let no other being on earth can shine? We are each diamonds. Multi-facetsed Brilliant. Unique. Are you willing to shine?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Be creative!

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.Joseph Chilton Pearce
Every morning, I listen to my heart to find the idea about what to write. This morning, I knew I wanted to write about courage -- I just didn't realize what it was and how apropos it would be until I read the quote above! What a perfect quote for me to uncover this morning. I am off to coach at Choices -- it will be a week of long days, fast sleeps, and many miracles.

Which means, I won't be online much -- I will post Saturday but tomorrow and Friday are iffy!

However, this quote is so powerful for me today as I have been asked by Thelma Box, the founder of Choices,to be the co-Team Captain this week. It is an honour, a privilege and..... scary.

A perfect day to bundle up my fears, leap into my courage and be creative!

The question is: Ae you letting your fear of being wrong, doing wrong, getting it wrong keep you from living a creative life? What's in it for you to live small?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Listen to your heart.

Just when I found out the meaning of life, they changed it. George Carlin
I was reading about a study conducted by psychologists to answer the question, "What makes people happy." A research team from Personality 100 sent out queries to elderly people in 20 countries and asked them to answer the question, 'If you could give one piece of advice on how to find true satisfaction in life, what would it be?'

Astoundingly, regardless of race, ethnic background, religion, socio/economic position, or anything else, the answers were very similar:

1. As soon as possible, take the time to get to know yourself, and
2. Learn how to follow your own heart.

Great advice!

One respondent answered, "I believe the most important thing is to never settle for being a passenger in your life. Jump into the driver's seat."

I have spent an inordinate part of my life being a passenger. What a joy to become the driver of my own destiny, of my own happiness, my own self. The meaning in my life appears in living colour when I give it my 100% and live it up, live it large, live it each day as my best day yet.

This morning I am driving to Banff, a mountain village an hour's drive to the west of the city, to speak to high school students about my work in the homeless shelter. It's an early morning class and I must be on the road by 7am -- so this blog is short.

The question is: How much time do you plan on spending today getting to know yourself? What is your heart telling you? Are you listening?

Painting Joy

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. Danny Kaye
On Saturday, we filmed the video portion of the Stand by Me (words and lyrics by King/Leiber/Stoller) production we are producing for the shelter where I work. About 75 people turned up to be part of the activity -- what a blast.

The objective was to paint a scene that resembled our second floor 'day area'; a large open space with tables and chairs where clients can sit, read, eat, chat, play cards, etc. About 45 clients and a handful of external volunteers turned up to play the role of 'clients'. Their job was to look enthusiastic, to be excited, to be engaged by the music -- to look like they were having the best of times.

About 15 musicians turned up to stand together to perform the song. Their job was to 'lip sync' the music bed we'd previously recorded and to look like they were having the best of times.

Reality was, everyone was having the best of times.

D., my assistant, had spent the previous week convincing clients to participate in the event. As two young guys told her at the end of the day, "We only came because you promised there'd be good food. We stayed because we were having so much fun."

And fun was had by all.

There wasn't a face without a smile. A body that didn't stand just a little bit taller. A spirit that wasn't lifted.

For me, it was a job well done. My objective was to ensure that every single person there had a good time. Liseanne, my youngest daughter, came out to help choreograph the event and to be a cheerleader with me. Our job -- to raise the energy in the room.

Our clients are often very cynical and depressed. They see the world through the skewed perspective of the despair that settles upon them every day.

When we first started playing the music, they were shy and tentative in looking enthusiastic. Attitude is everything in a homeless shelter. For most people, the belief that they have to keep the barriers up to protect themselves from being hurt, ridiculed, ostracised or shunned, limits their ability to experience joy in the moment of living in the rapture of now.

There was a whole lot of 'rapture' going on Saturday. Even those clients who habitually see the negative in everything, were smiling and clapping, singing along and having a good time.

One gentleman told me that he noticed something while 'performing' for the camera. "Acting like I was having a good time, moved me into feeling like I really was having a good time. In the end, I quit acting and just had a great time."

Act your way into a feeling.

If your feelings are getting you down, liven them up with acting happy.

If your mood is sagging, lift it up with action.

As I went around the room thanking people for their active and enthusiastic participation, I stopped by one man who had been particularly enthusiastic, to thank him for his help in keeping the energy up.

"You know," he said, his body still swaying to the beat even though the music had stopped. "It was really cool to just do it and not care what anyone thought about me. At one point, when the music was playing and there was no singing, I sort of let my arms down and quit moving. The energy dropped. When I put lots of energy into it, the energy in the room rose."

"Your energy created more energy around you," I told him. "You 'changed the state' of the room by upping the energy you put into the room."

At one point, I watched one of the client musicians. His face was set in a scowl. A dark cloud seemed to be descending around him. I know him quite well. Know how angry he gets when he feels out of place, or out of sorts with what is going on around him. Like many of our clients, he has an internal dialogue that talks about how he doesn't fit in, doesn't deserve to be 'happy', doesn't deserve the best.

"Don't you just love chaos!" I said, walking up beside him where he sat at the edge of the stage, holding his guitar.

"No," he quickly responded. "Something's gotta change. Fast. I'm ready to blow."

"Then change your state," I told him. "Stand up. Punch the air. Yell. Make a power move with your arm. Get the energy flowing in a positive direction."

He didn't want to do it. He hunkered over his guitar, clinging to his bad temper.

It didn't matter. In the end, the fun and laughter, the energy of the room invaded his spirit and he too was lifted up to join in the joy.

It was a day of standing together. Of making a difference in each other's lives by being the change we want to see in the world.

For the musicians, the volunteers, the film crew, it was a chance to give back -- and to have fun while doing it.

For the clients and staff who came out to support the event, it was a day to be part of something bigger than homelessness, bigger than the tension of being part of a community that is often marginalized by the city around them. It was a day to build bridges, to create understanding and, to stand together and give back to the people who make a difference in their lives every day.

For everyone, it was a day to remember. An event to relive in stories told around dinner tables, no matter which floor they're on; the second floor of the shelter or the dining room of a home somewhere in a suburb of the city.

It was a day to splash paint upon a canvas to create a picture of the hope that lives at the shelter every day. It was a day to paint in bright and vibrant colour, to sing and dance and cheer and laugh and share in creating something remarkable.

It was a wonderful day!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One Enchanted Evening

If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Last night, C.C.'s daughter and another Grade 12 classmate put on a benefit show on behalf of the shelter where I work. The evening included artworks by M.C. and her co-organizer, A., as well as guest artists and performers.

When M.C. first approached me with her idea, I suggested using the multi-purpose room at the shelter, a large airy and bright room on our sixth floor. The view is inspiring, the space lofty. The windows over-look the valley where a river serpentines through the city. Houses step up the hillside on the other side of the river and trees promenade along the skyline amidst lush and verdant parkland.

When M.C. first suggested the show, I thought, "What a lovely idea."

What I didn't have was an idea of how beautiful an evening she would create.

When M.C. and her friends arrived to set-up, the room was open and bare. By the time they finished mounting their artworks, along with pieces from the artists of the shelter, the room was filled with spirit, with imagination, with dreams spilling out into the hallway where the client artists filled the space with vibrant paintings and photos, pen and ink drawings and soapstone sculptures.

It was an inspiring and moving evening. It was One enchanted evening.

There is something heartfelt and touching about a young woman who has a vision and then sets out to make it happen without any muss or fuss, without long drawn out committee meetings where agendas are set and Visio charts constructed to ensure fiscal and corporate accountability are measured against clearly defined outcomes and expectations.

There is something refreshing in having no expectations other than to open a space for someone to create one enchanted evening.

For M.C. and her co-host, the evening was a final adjudicated event they needed to create to complete their Fine and Performing Arts Certification before graduating high school. They could have simply put on a show at school and called it done.

Instead, M.C. wanted to make a difference. She wanted to be the change she wanted to see in the world.

And she was.

M.C.s guests mostly included friends and families of the students involved. When they arrived at the shelter, most of them were surprised to find themselves in a place they never imagined they would be.

"Our clients are the same," I told one woman who mentioned she was taken aback when she walked through our front doors. "Being in a homeless shelter is never something they dreamed would ever happen to them"

"My daughters got a different perspective on life this evening," she said.

"It's the same for our clients," I replied. "The first time they come here, they are in shock. Frightened. Confused. Their lives are crumbling around them. Their hopes are dashed. They don't want to be in a shelter, yet, here they are."

Here they are.

Struggling to find themselves. Searching for answers. Hungering for a way out of despair back to hope, to possibility, to dreams unfolding.

Last night, M.C. brought hope alive with her heartfelt desire to make change happen. She raised some money, brought in some clothing and food donations. At one point, the musicians who are part of our recording of Stand by Me, performed and one of M.C.'s friends, a saxophone player, joined them on stage. They'd never rehearsed together, and yet, with the fluidness of water flowing in the river below, they joined together to create beauty in the notes they played. Some of our clients sold art pieces, some made connections, chatted and talked about their lives and dreams and hopes. Some simply stood back and enjoyed the happenings going on.

No matter where they were in the room, where they stood and watched and listened, no one was unchanged by what was going on. No one was untouched by the enchantment of the evening.

It doesn't take much to change the world, and in M.C.'s open and honest sharing of her talents, her gifts and beauty, the world became a better place last night.

As Mahatma Gandhi implored many years ago, may we all become the change we want to see in the world.

Blessings to all.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Get a smile on!

We are defined by the way we embrace the opportunity to serve others. Smile and

Every day I work in an environment where the opportunity to serve is front and centre. Yesterday, as I walked towards the stairwell on the second floor, our Day Area, a client approached me.

"S. says I have to talk to you about coming up to the art studio," D. said. "I thought we already had a talk."

"We did," I replied. "And you agreed you would come into the studio and any art program with your behaviour at a 9. I understand you were very disruptive in a workshop last week."

"It wasn't my fault," he quickly responded. "Well, I mean, I'm not blaming her. But she [the staff member] was in my face the minute I walked in. I didn't even get a chance to tell her you and me had a talk. She made me get angry. And I admit, my behaviour never got close to 9. It was more like a 4. And there was a moment where I yelled. I saw her flinch. I apologized the next day."

"I know you did, D. But from what staff told me something similar happened at another session too."

"I just get so frustrated sometimes," he said. "I want to do my art. I know it will help me. You know, I'm like a fifteen year old. That's how I behave. People look at me and see a grown man. But inside, here," and he touched his head. "I'm 15. I try really hard. Do you know what April 10 was?"

"No, I don't."

"It was my fifth month anniversary. Crack was my drug of choice and on Good Friday, I was clean for five months. I'm trying really hard."

I took a breath. How could I be of service to him and the staff member who was frightened by his behaviour.

"I don't want to make life any more difficult for you than it is D.," I told him. "But to be in the art studio, I need to ensure that the client supervisor is onside with monitoring your behaviour so that you can be successful and achieve your 9."

"Please help me."

"Tell you what. On Saturday, we're filming on the sixth floor. We're shooting the video for Stand by Me. How about you come and volunteer and we'll work together to ensure you find a way to be a 9, or even a 10. You'll have to do what I say and not indulge in any inappropriate behaviors. It will be a lot of standing around and waiting, and you'll need to be quiet during those periods. Are you willing to do that?"

"Yeah!" His smile lit up his face. "And guess what I'm doing tonight."

"I don't know. Tell me."

"I'm signing up for the Ride to Cure Cancer. I'm going to ride my bike to California as part of the team to raise money for cancer. I need to pay $75 for the registration fee and then I have to raise $20,000 by July. I know I can do it. I've collected enough bottles for the registration fee and if I get busy I can raise the rest so that I can take part in the ride."

We are defined by the way we embrace the opportunity to serve others.

D has mental health issues. He has been living in shelters for 8 years as he struggled with his mental health as well as his drug addiction. He's clean and sober now. He will always have his mental health issues. His behaviour is erratic, and he's working on finding ways to raise the bar to a 9.

The '9' came from a discussion we'd had the previous week when we'd met to discuss his working in the art studio. I'd asked him to describe a time when he felt his behaviour was a 9 or 10 and then when he'd thought it was less than 5. He'd been honest and forthright in his evaluation. "I know what a 9 is," he'd said. "I know I need to be at least an 8 to be in the studio. I know I can do it."

He wants to help himself and give back. To give back he's embracing the opportunity to serve by riding his bike in support of finding a cure for cancer.

We could all be so inspired.

The question is: Are you focusing on your problems and missing out on the opportunity to serve? Are you frowning and stewing or smiling and moving through your day?

P.S. I invite you to watch the video at the Smile and Move link above. It's worth the 3 minutes -- and you could start a movement!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On friendship

Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. Kahlil Gibran

A lovely friend sent me the quote above. We've become friends of deepening spirit over the invisible connection of cyberspace. There's no plan, no clearly defined path to our friendship, just a sharing of what fills our hearts and lifts our spirits.

Friendship is like that. A call to be open and deep. To flow like a river, filled with endless movement into the deeper waters of life.

In my life I have been blessed with amazing friends. There's my friend L.D. with whom I shared the secrets and the sorrow of my first love. Several years ago, after about 25 years of never having spent time together since being at school in Germany, we met and spent five days at a lakeside village in the off season. The friendship that connected us in our teens, connected us still in our forties. The things that were important to us back then, the values and beliefs we shared, still connected us 25 years later.

One of the first blogs I wrote was about a weekend with my friend B.H. with whom I shared many a laugh and tear when I was at school in France. B.H. and I had kept in touch, sporadically, over the years and one weekend got together to spend time reconnecting. It was a wonderful weekend, built on a friendship that endures.

The ancient Greeks had a name for it: philia. Philia is the kind of love that exists not because of a need to love, but rather because of a strong bond that exists not related to family or progeny. It is about the connection, the thing the individuals share. Because of their focus on the connection between them, friendship endures beyond the strength of the individuals involved.

My friends fill my heart with joy. They rest beneath the veneer of a simple hello and keep connecting beyond the good-bye. My friends are the one's who saved my life when I was lost in the hell of an abusive relationship. My friends love me for who I am and always want the best for me.

There is no purpose to my friendships. There is only love and deepening spirit.

I am blessed with friends.

My life is an ever-deepening journey of spirit. When I am a good friend, when I enrich the deepening spirits of my friends, I am swimming in the waters of life, floating in the spirit of love.

The question is: Are you a good friend? Do you deepen spirit?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Doing something different.

One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears -- by listening to them. Dean Rusk
Yesterday, as I walked up from the second floor of the shelter where I work to my office on the sixth floor, I heard my name being paged. "LouiseG. Please call SW at x827."

It was late in the day. I had a meeting at 6pm and had a few things to tidy up before I left for the meeting. But, I thought I could stop by SW's office on the fourth floor to see what she wanted.

Expect the unexpected and you'll always be surprised.

When I got to SW's office she was sitting with a client whom I know quite well. He's a gifted artist and musician. Earlier in the day, one of his fellow artists had approached me and asked, "Have you seen, B? I'm worried about him. He hasn't been around."

I hadn't seen him but promised to watch for him. And here he was. Deep in conversation with SW, asking for me to come and sit in on the chat.

I missed my six o'clock meeting. People are more important than meetings.

B admitted that he'd been 'spiralling downwards', as he called it. "I don't know what happens to me," he said. "But I get to this place where I can feel my mental health disappearing and I just start sinking. I don't like it. I don't want to feel like that."

"What do you want more of in your life?" I asked.

He quickly responded. "Calmness. Stability. Passion for what I'm doing."

"Can you tell me a time when you had calmness?"

Without hesitating he described how and when and where he used to have calmness. He went on to describe how over the weekend, he'd done some things to give him that sense of calm. Gone for walks along the river. Watched the birds in the lagoon.

He then described things he'd done to get a sense of stability into his life over the past few days. Very positive, concrete examples of his taking good care of himself.

"So, rather than sink you've constructively worked at your well-being." I said.

"Yeah, I guess I have. But I'm still afraid of sinking too deep. I'm scared I will."

"Do you know you do that a lot?" asked SW.

"Do what," B queried.

"Say something positive about yourself and then cut it down with something negative."

"Yeah? I guess I do." He paused. "It's a habit."

"Does that habit get you more of what you want or less?" I asked him.

"Definitely less."

"Then stop doing it. Every time you want to say something negative about yourself, CANCEL the thought. Consciously think of painting over it with something positive. Could you do that? Paint over the negative thoughts in your mind?"

He nodded his head. "I could do that. That would be easy."

We talked for about an hour and half. Three people focused on bringing out the best in each other. SW and I encouraged him to celebrate his courage for having taken proactive steps to ward off the 'sinking' he was afraid of.

"You've told us at least five or six things you've done to help yourself," I said. "Celebrate that. It took great courage, determination and conviction to do what you've done. Celebrate it. You are a courageous man."

I learned a lot yesterday. We all have fears. Having the courage to reach out and speak about our fears opens the door to courage rising. I learned what courage looks like, feels like, tastes like. And, I learned that by giving my ears I am open to the gift of receiving the beauty of another man's truth.

It is what inspires me every day at the shelter. People's lives may be in disarray yet, their courage lives in their willingness to speak their truth and turn up for themselves, without being attached to the outcome.

B. didn't know what would happen when he opened up about his fears -- he just knew he needed to do something different. He needed to speak from his heart about what was heavy on his spirit. In speaking his truth, he lifted himself up to the possibility of hope rising.

If we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got.

B chose to do something different over the past few days. And in the doing, he lifted himself up. His courage to be the change he desires, awoke within me the passion to be the change in the world I too desire.

We are all connected. And in our reaching out to each other, we connect to the beauty and wonder of our human spirits awakening to the truth of our being when we share the truth of who we are -- Wondrous beings on the journey of our lifetime.

The question is: Are you being your wondrous self, sharing your truth, fears and all, so that you can create more of what you want in your life? Are you connecting to the power within you to create a world of wonder and hope around you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The blessing of this perfect moment

When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present....we experience heaven on earth. Sarah Breathneck
Yesterday, I drove to, Canmore, a mountain town an hour west of the city to give a couple of presentations at a high school. Just before reaching Canmore, there is a large expanse of water known as Lac des Arc. As I rounded the curve that swoops around the shoreline of the lake, I saw a flock of white birds floating on the water. Surprised, I pulled into to a fly-away, to watch a flock of about 50 Trumpeter Swans relaxing on the water, taking a break from their migration north.

Later that evening, Ellie (the pooch) and I went for a run along the reservoir, an expanse of water that feeds the city's water supply. As we ran, a cool breeze blew from the north, heralding the snow that fell over night. Spring break-up could be seen in the large patches of water that circled the ice that still covers a large portion of the centre of the Reservoir. In the open water, flocks of seagulls and Canada Geese swam or paddled across the ice that edged the water. In their midst, two beautiful and regal Trumpeter Swans floated tranquilly upon the water, oblivious to the absence of the rest of their flock.

Much to Ellie's chagrin, I had to stop and watch. I was so enthralled by their presence.

The two swans floated, pecked at each other, ruffled their feathers and ignored the shrieking and cackling of the other birds.

I imagined their month long flight north from their winter migration habitat in Yellowstone National Park. Somehow, they became separated from their flock. One of the birds, probably a female, heavy with child, kept falling further and further behind. Her mate, like Joseph of Biblical fame, always on the look-out for a place to rest, spied the open water of the reservoir and encouraged her to take a break. "It's a long way to the Yukon," he might have said. "We'd best hunker down here for a couple of days to build up your strength."

And so they rested. Two regal birds amidst the squawking cacophony of seagulls who frequent the Reservoir in constant search of fish and free handouts from joggers and bikers who use the trails.

Courage. Stamina. Fortitude. Strength. Tradition.

Every year the Trumpeter Swans use the migratory corridor that edges along the Eastern slopes of the Rockies to get from their southern winter habitat to the northern marshlands at the edge of the Arctic tundra.

Most years, I miss their local stop-over. Their migratory corridor is only fifty miles wide. Normally, with the focus of a driver by-passing the congested roads of the inner city, they travel within that corridor, keeping far west of the city.

There are gifts of nature all around when I stop focusing on how busy I am and stop to 'smell the roses'.

Yesterday also gave me a gift of the human kind in the form of an email from a friend. I loved the Rumi quote this morning, she wrote. It resonated. And then, she shared a poem she had written earlier that morning. May I share it, I wrote back. Yes, she replied.

Like the courageous Trumpeter Swans searching for open patches of water to rest on during their long flight north, Cheryl Williams teaches us to breathe into the moment, to treasure what is here and now, to rejoice in the beauty all around. Cheryl is beauty in motion. In gentle spirit rising.

Come alive to the present moment
Do not think of past hurts
They did not happen
There is no guilt
Burst Open.
Celebrate this holy instant
Poignant as a redbird
perched on a post
As sunlight dancing
on a lake’s still waters
As love flowing
through the river of your heart.
It is all here, all now
Awaiting your joyful embrace
Bathe in it,
drink it in
Let it fill you up
The blessing of this perfect moment.
Written by: Cheryl Williams

The question is: Are you stepping into the courage to be in the moment, floating on open patches of water, ignoring the ice that surrounds you? Are you drinking in the blessings of this perfect moment?

Monday, April 13, 2009

In grace

You are so weak. Give up to grace.The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore. Rumi
When I was broken and lying on the ground, grace found me and whispered in my heart, 'get up, I will hold you'.

When I arose and was too afraid to walk, grace whispered in my ear, 'you are safe within my arms, take the next step'.

And when I step with my mind, heart and arms open in love, I become the voice of grace moving into the world around me.

There is no secret to living with grace. It is a state of being in love.

In love with all of me. Beauty and the beast. Warts and blemishes and all.

Years ago, while I was living on the west coast, healing from the encounter with the 'bad man', I took Ellie, my pooch, for a walk in the woods. We hiked up a trail along the headwaters of the Lynn River. It had rained the previous week and the trail was wet and slippery in spots.

Ellie was in heaven. There was no one else on the trail so I let her run free. Free to explore, she leaped over fallen logs, burrowed into crevices of tree trunks rooting out smells like a pig digging for truffles.

At one point, we rounded a corner and she spied a giant mud puddle. Before I could say, "Mud puddles are for pigs," she raced forward, leaped into the center of the puddle and lay on her belly wallowing blissfully in the mud.

There wasn't much I could do but laugh. She looked so happy and content. So pleased with herself.

We hiked up to the headwaters, her coat a splotched blanket of dried and caked on mud. When we reached the pool of water at the top, she leaped in and cleaned herself off. I joined her in the ice cold waters, slashed around, watched rainbows sparkle in the air and laughed and laughed in the pure bliss of being alive in the moment.

As we hiked down, I was careful to hold onto her at the site of the giant mud puddle (much to her dismay). As we successfully passed the puddle, I slipped on a patch of mud and landed on my butt on the trail. I let go of my hold on her collar as I sprawled on the trail, my backside covered in mud!

There wasn't much I could do but laugh. And Ellie, suddenly released from my hold, took advantage of the situation and raced back to her puddle so that she too could have a mud bath.

Laughing outrageously, I lay on the ground and gave into the moment.

I'm not sure what triggered the thought, but as I lay there, I 'saw' myself standing small in front of a giant fire breathing dragon. It was my mission to slay the dragon, to take away its power. Because I was standing right at its feet and so much smaller than it, it couldn't reach me with its fire.

I was scared, but I knew what I had to do. I held a sword in my right hand and a shield in my left. I raised my shield above my head to protect me from errant flames, and shakily raised my sword and pierced the dragon in its neck as it leaned over to try to reach me. The dragon collapsed and sank to the ground. As its body crumpled into itself, it transformed itself into a beautiful white dove. The dove flew into the air towards me and alighted on my shoulder.

While that may seem like a rather weird thought to race through my head while I'm lying in a puddle of mud on a mountain trail, for me, that 'vision' represented so much of what I'd been fearful of in life. I was afraid of being me. Afraid of living life in the fire, on fire. Yet I kept standing in my own way, cowering beneath the power of my own fiery nature, burning myself with my fears.

I saw Beauty. I did not want to see that I was also the Beast, the very thing I was afraid of. In slaying my dragon, I transformed 'the beast' into a dove of grace who sits forever on my shoulder.

To live in grace is to live without fear of being burnt by the flames of passion living in each moment of this wild and precious life.

Grace is the flame that warms my heart when I stand in love without fear that tomorrow there will be no grace. Tomorrow takes care of itself when I take care of today in love with all I am, and the world around me.

The question is: Are you living with your mind and heart and arms wide open in love? Are you being the grace you would see in the world around you?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The dance of life

Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music. Angela Monet
I love to dance. Love the feeling of letting my body fall into the rhythm, leap into movement, soar into feeling my way through time and space connected to the music. Sometimes, when I dance, I forget there is a world around me and simply move, wildly and ferociously. My daughters call it my 'crazy dance'.

When I dance, I don't think. My mind becomes filled with the passion of each moment.

When I dance, I am, as Joseph Campbell says, 'living in the rapture of being alive.'

When I dance, I am on fire, in the fire. I am the fire.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance."

God does dance. He is the wind whispering gently in the leaves, howling fiercely in the night. She is the dance of light playing on the water, sparkling in the sunlight. He is the Northern Lights dancing across the horizon on a cold, clear winter's night.

God is the dance.

On this Easter Sunday, may we all dance in the love and grace of life. May we dance together in peace and harmony. Joy and laughter. May our tears pool into sunshine, our sorrows fade away into the dance of life unfolding our arms, opening each of us up to the rapture of being alive.

Happy Sunday. May this day bring you into the passion of being in love with all of you. Beauty and the beast. May you live in the rapture of being alive.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A sacred space

Good Friday.

I remember as a little girl going with my mother on Thursday, (or was it Wednesday?), evenings to change the flowers surrounding the altar of the church where my family were parishioners. It was a sacred time.

There was a smell, a feel, a sense to those times that remain long past the childhood years where they once lent such meaning. Motes of sunlight filtering through stained glass windows. Red carpet laid flat against the sacristy floor. Wood railings. Wooden pews. Silence. A smell of incense, of candles burning.

As my mother worked at the altar, I would sit in the front pew, my feet dangling from my legs, kicking back and forth, one after the other, then two together, then separate, creating a tempo only I could hear. My legs were too short to touch the ground.

I remember the hard cold feel of the wooden pew beneath the bare skin of my legs, the smoothness of the wood against the palms of my hands where they gripped the edges of the pew. I'd slide my body back and forth against the seat as I watched my mother work silently at the altar.

Where ever she went, my eyes followed her. When she carried a vase from the altar to the kitchen in the back, I'd hop down from my seat and skip towards her, until I remembered, or hist admonishen to 'Stop that' reminded me, that this was a holy place and skipping wasn't allowed. Quickly, I'd genuflect before the crucifix, never lifting my eyes to see the blood dripping from the body of Jesus held fast to the wooden cross with nails. I didn't like the blood. Blood scared me.

As fast as I could without running, I would follow my mother into the back. Sometimes, she'd let me carry a vase if it wasn't too big. "Be careful", she'd whisper as she handed me the vase. I was known for not always paying attention to what I was doing. My mind, off on some adventure, wouldn't connect to my feet and hands and I would often trip or drop things in my enthusiasm.

I remember the scent of the flowers. That slightly pungent aroma of stagnant water mixed with the heady aroma of roses and peonies and hyacinths. My entire being focused on doing the job right, I would clutch the vase in my hands, hold my breath in fear of one errant exhale pushing the flowers from my grasp. In the kitchen, I'd stand behind my mother, proffering my vase like a supplicant holding out an offering to the gods.

She would take the vase. Place it on the counter, carefully pull out dead flowers from the arrangement. Rearrange, reorganize, reassess. She'd cut off stems. Change the water. Mix and match bouquets, fill in gaps with the new assortment of flowers she'd brought in with her for the task and create new arrangements for that weeks ministries.

Carefully, we'd carry the vases back into the sacristy. She'd place them around the altar, on the steps, by the communion railing. She would move a vase here. Turn it around and around to find the best exposure for the flowers. Move it a foot to the left. Then to the right. Pluck a dried leaf off and tuck the crumpled refuse into her pocket. She'd push a leaf back, pull a stalk forward. Always rearranging, moving, shuffling the bouquets until they were perfect.

The church was silent, the only sound the quiet whispers of my mother's prayers. Sometimes, I'd interrupt her with questions. Always she would remind me to be quiet. Silent. Still.

Sometimes, another parishioner would drop by to visit the priest, or to complete some other task. Always, my mother would stop her activity for a few moments to say hello, to wish them God speed.

Sometimes, when she'd introduce me, I would shyly tuck myself into the folds of her skirt and peek out.

"Don't be shy," she'd insist.

I would pull out and forward, unwrap myself from the safety of her legs and say, "Hello."

Sometimes I'd forget to whisper when I spoke and she would remind me, "Softly. Speak softly."

My mother always said, "If it can't be said in a whisper, don't say it."

I loved those sojourns in the church with my mother. The quiet, intensity of her commitment to adding beauty to the sacred spaces. The sibilant melody of her whispered prayers. The time together that only she and I shared.

I loved the beauty of the bouquets. Still do.

I hated throwing out the old, dead flowers. Still do.

In the sanctity of those moments with my mother, memories were born, hope awoke and life was renewed. In the sanctity of those moments a little girl saw her mother in another light.

Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

There's magic all around.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. William Blake, 1799, The Letters
Today is a big day at the shelter where I work, especially for Reg, one of the client artists who frequents the art studio. Today, his book, Reg's Trees, will be launched.

Reg's Trees is, in Reg's words, "a book of magic called Art." It's not just the content that's magical, it's the concept and the path the book took to become 'real' that is magical.

Reg loves to paint trees. Well, actually, Reg loves to paint, trees are one of his favourite subjects. Trees have roots. Trees have arms that reach to the sky. Trees have history, a story, a life. Trees tell their stories in the leaves they drop, the blossoms they bloom, the shelter they offer to whomever stops beneath their leafy embrace. Trees are a story.

Reg's Trees tells the story about what can happen when men of imagination give into their nature to create.

Reg's Trees was created from 'found' objects -- one of Reg's favourite art forms. Another client rescued ten wooden tablets from a certain death in a garbage pile when he saw a yard sale owner about to chuck the tablets away at the end of his sale. Knowing of Reg's yen for found objects, he asked if he could have the tablets. The yard sale owner agreed quickly. He carried the 8" x 5" blocks of wood back to the studio at the shelter and presented them to Reg. Reg, delighted to have new found objects, painted over the old photographs laminated to the blocks of wood. Trees appeared.

One day, a poet, David van Belle, was at the shelter working on a play he was producing on homelessness. David admired Reg's trees. Reg, never shy, asked David if he'd be willing to write a poem for each tree. David quickly agreed.

A woman named Dawn came from the City to visit. "Can you help us connect with homeless artists so that we can build stronger community?" she asked.

"Absolutely," I replied.

We opened our doors to the This is My City project and magic happened. In appreciation, she gifted the publication of Reg's Trees.

Today, Reg will see his work in print. David, the poet, will have his first book of poetry published. And for all the artists, and everyone else at the shelter, we will have a chance to celebrate the magic that happens when we let go of disbelief and fall into the certitude that magic is all around.

The question is: Are you opening your eyes to the magic and wonder of your day?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All is well in the world today

Has creation a final goal? And if so, why was it not reached at once? Why was the consummation not realized from the beginning? To these questions there is but one nswer: Because God is Life, and not merely Being. F.W.J. Schelling, 1809
Last night C.C. and I went to see my eldest daughter perform in a play she and four other young actors have been rehearsing for the past three months. It was funny and fun. What a joy to watch your child who is now an adult excel. Afterwards, C.C. took his daughter and her boyfriend home and Alexis and I stopped into a wine bar down the street from the theatre for a glass of wine and a nice long chat.

Long ago I could never have imagined being a mother. Today, I could never imagine not being a mother.

You don't know what you don't know.

Who would have thought that becoming something I could never imagine being would have such a profound effect on my life and be so fulfilling?

Yup, definitely don't know what I don't know.

As we sat across from each other, talking about life and stress, and dreams and fears, I was in awe of the beautiful young woman in front of me.

Since last fall, she has been working with a program for at risk youth in schools. Every week, along with three other actors and a core team of counsellors, they work through 'life issues' using drama as the context upon which they teach healthy life skills.

Every week, she has become more and more committed to her belief that to make a difference in the world, her future does not lie on the stage, but in creating opportunities for youth to take centre stage of their own lives and live the best that they can be.

This fall, she will be returning to university to work towards her masters in psychology. She is on fire. In the fire. Burning up with her desire to add value to a world sorely in need of healing.

The youth Alexis works with are all in high risk environments. Families where violence, addictions, poverty create a powerful cocktail of abuse. Like the young man she mentioned last night, many are struggling, at the young age of 14 and 15, to stay clean and sober. To rid their bodies of addictions to drugs and alcohol.

In Alexis' eyes, they are not hopeless. They are filled with possibility.

In her eyes, the path that led them to where they're at is nothing compared to the possibilities for new directions. The path that lead them into violence and abuse can end here, once they learn there is somewhere else to go other than that place called re-enacting the pain and turmoil of their family of origin's history.

I admire my daughter. She is compassionate and passionate about creating a better world. About creating lasting change that will open up the world to possibility and open up spirits to the truth about their wings -- we are all born with wings, we lose our ability to fly when we fall into the belief, life is a daily grind of repeating everything we learned yesterday, over and over again.

What we learned yesterday is simply the information we needed to get us here. It is fodder that fuels our learning to be more than the negative belief that we are meant to crawl in the muck of living in the past.

Last night I watched a group of young actors create laughter in a room. To create their performances, they had to work together. They had to be committed to do what it takes to have what they wanted to create -- an evening of stellar entertainment that lifted up the spirits of everyone in the room.

Last night, I chatted with my daughter and was touched by her essence. Touched by the joy of knowing, this child of mine is a beacon of light. As she illuminates her path, she casts a mighty glow that lights the path for others to follow.

All's well in the world today.

The greatness we are capable of is far greater than the darkness we fear will consume us as long as we each keep our light shining brightly. As long as we illuminate the path with the best we can be, the universe will evolve into all it is meant to be.

The question is: Are you shedding light on your path so that others can follow you home to love?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

To fly, we must leap.

Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain. Kahlil Gibran
There was a man who was lost in a vast desert. He wandered for days, searching for water, fearing he would die. As he stumbled over one more sand dune, he saw, at the bottom of the other side, a vast and mighty river flowing. He tumbled and spun down the dune to the edge of the water and drank gratefully.

When his thirst was sated, he looked up and on the other side of the river, saw a land beyond his imaginings. Lush and green, birds sang in the mighty trees that covered the distance to the horizon. Flowers blossomed in a carpet of rainbow colours upon the ground, fruit hung from every bough.

"Oh how I wish I could be there," he whispered to the sky.

But there was no bridge. No ferry waiting to take him across.

He looked around and saw pieces of wood strewn across the shore. Quickly he gathered the largest pieces and built a boat. Satisfied with his work, proud of his accomplishment and ingenuity, he jumped into his craft and sailed across the river to the other shore.

"How beautiful! How wondrous!" he cried when he stepped upon the far shores. Everything he could ever imagine was there. Fruit hung from every branch. Mushrooms and vegetables grew in the ground.

Delighted he had found his very own paradise, the man set off to explore the lands before him. But he could not leave his trusty craft behind. "What if I come upon another river?" he asked. And he hefted the little boat upon his back and began to walk.

As he walked, the boat grew heavier and heavier. But he could not put it down. "What if I need it?" he kept whispering to himself. "At night, it will make a good shelter and who knows when it might come in handy up ahead."

Eventually, the man's knees buckled beneath the weight of the boat. He fell to the ground. He crawled as far as he could, the boat moving with him like a giant turtle shell upon his back. And when he could not move any further, he lay quietly and fell asleep upon the ground, where he sleeps forevermore, safe within the shell of the craft that carried him to where he is today.

To be free, we must let go.

To fly, we must leap.

To land, we must fall.

Holding on to feelings that got us through to where we are, keeps us feeling what was, and limits our experience of what is.

What is exists only in the experience of now. To experience what is real and true and happening right now, is to let go of feeling what was real and true back then.

That was then. This is now. And now is not forever.

Yet, sometimes, we hang on to now as if it will never change, never be any different. We hold on in the fear that to let go will mean we must change, be different. We hold on in the fear that to let go means what was had no meaning, no value, no purpose in our journey. We hold on because to let go of what was means we have no control of what is.

And we couldn't be more wrong.

We always have control of what is in our lives today. We make the choices that determine how we live this moment right now. It's what was we can no longer control. It is the past. Gone. Over. Finished. The feelings we carry with us, those are the stuff of our imaginings. The past is not 'real'. It only exists in our mind. Perhaps in frozen memories pasted on the page of a picture book we turn to when we want to remember what was, or who was, part of our journey. But it is not real. It does not exist in the three-d realm of our existence today. It's value is in the strengths we've gathered through coming through the experiences, the courage we tested and climbed upon to get to where we are. The value is in who we are today, not the journey that brought us here.

Let go of believing in the past, and hold onto being real in this moment. Drop the burdens, carry only your truth in this moment. Who you are, what you are doing right now is what counts. The only way to build a better tomorrow is to do your absolute, total, complete best right now.

Your best is good enough. Be it.

The question is: Are you holding on to spent emotions, fuelling the flames of regret, the fires of resentment, the embers of distrust with your desire to hold onto what doesn't create value in your life today? Are you willing to put down the burden of feeling less than who you truly are when you set yourself free to be the magnificent, awesome, wondrous being who has spent your lifetime getting to this place where you are living your life for all you're worth? Are you being rapturously alive?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Being Alive

Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. Ralph Blum
Six years ago when the police walked in and set me free from a relationship that was killing me, I was broken. My life in disarray, my heart in tatters, I had to begin the process of healing. I had to choose, would I live or would I die.

In "The Power of Myth", an interview with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell suggests that humankind is not seeking the meaning of life. Rather, he states, we are seeking and have always sought what Campbell calls "The rapture of being alive". That feeling of bliss, of connectedness, of deep-seated knowing that this, this very moment filled with the power of all that is real and gutsy and scary and fulfilling, this is what counts. This is what makes life so grand. Campbell goes on to say that no matter the times, no matter the culture, our journey is not about finding some special vocation or mission in life, it's about the vibrant full-bodied experience of being alive.

Yesterday, Ellie and I walked on a ridge over-looking the river that serpentined through a vast parkland area of trees and shrub. Two weeks ago, ice covered the river. Now, the centre part of the river flows free. Ice still holds its edges snug against the embankment. Snow still covers the ground except on southern slopes where the sun's heat has melted the snow in open spaces, revealing the dirt and grasses that lay dormant beneath its blanket.

A gentle spring breeze caressed my face, played peek-a-boo with my hair, lifting errant strands to tickle up against my ears and forehead. Ellie was in heaven. She leaped and frolicked and rolled in dry grass, her eyes ever vigilant for a mud-puddle to roll in. Fortunately, I was even more vigilant and called her back from unruly encounters of the mud rolling kind.

Walking silently in the spring sunshine, the scents and sounds of spring alive around me, I felt the burden of my heart breaking open. C.C. and I had just had a heated discussion that had left both of us feeling exposed, unnerved, vulnerable.

Intimacy does that. Brings us close to the edge of reason where we dig in our heels and push back against our fear of falling.

A broken heart is an open heart. And an open heart is a loving heart.

To be intimate, I must be open. To be open I must break through the corroded casements sealing off the windows of my heart, shatter the panes of fear and throw caution to the wind.

To be intimate, I must break open the windows of my fear.

Yesterday, I sat upon the hillside watching the slow silent moving of the river below. I watched a crack form along the icy shore, a chunk of ice fall into the river and drift away. It didn't go far. At the point where the river meets open water, ice blocked its passage. The chunk of ice retreated, advanced, retreated, advanced until eventually it grew silent and melted into the waters.

Like my heart and mind. I flow into love and retreat in a fury of angst when an old wound cracks the icy edges of my heart. A chunk of fear breaks off, falls into the river and flows onward, jamming up against the wall of my resistance to break free.

It will take the warmth of the sun to break up the ice. The sun will need time and the gentle caress of the wind to aid it in its mission to heal winter's transgressions so that the river can flow freely.

It will take the rapture of being alive to unblock my fear of falling. I will need time and the gentle caress of forgiveness, of love, of acceptance to break free.

I can dance. I can swim. I can fly free. The choice is mine. No matter what I do, to be intimate, I must break open my heart and let the fresh winds of spring clear away the icy residue of the past. To live in the rapture of being alive, I must plough through the waves of caution holding me back from the waterfall of my fears. I must surrender my past and tumble freely over the abyss to fall rapturously in love with all that I am and all that I can be when I am free of my fear of living in my heart broken open in love.

What a wild and wondrous journey of life and loving I have before me.

I am blessed.

The question is: Are you jammed up against your icy heart, willing yourself to hold fast to the shores of discontent? Or, are you breaking up the ice, warming your heart upon the fires of love, melting your fear with forgiveness and tenderness and acceptance and love? Are you setting yourself free to flow into this wild and rapturous state of being alive?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Doing it differently.

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable. Maya Angelou
So, the bug has passed and I am once again on my feet. That's the thing about bugs, they come and they go, and like most things unwanted in my life, they pass on through. The only residual is a couple of days lying in bed coddling myself (in between trips to the bathroom), sleeping and doing nothing.

It is a beautiful day here in Calgary. Spring is in the air -- as it should be! On the south side of the street, outside my office window, large patches of brown grass interrupt the snowy leftovers of our last storm, and the one before that and the one before that... The sky arcs in an endless blue fading into infinity, a magpie struts across the road, searching for some piece of offal to pick at.

This was a violent flu. Time to think was minimized by writhing around in bed, willing the churning in my stomach to dissipate.

Finally, realizing that lying in bed feeling sorry for myself was not gaining me any peace of mind, I pulled out an imagery CD I bought from Winning Mind Training -- I recommend Brian Willis' Circles of Personal Excellence highly. Half an hour with Brian's voice coaching me through the process, I felt refreshed and invigorated. It's a simple process to find your 'Circle of Personal Excellence', and it's very powerful.

The moral: There is value in every situation. Giving myself a pity party only creates more pity. While it's important to 'give into' a flu bug, it's also important to keep nurturing spirit. I bought this CD a few months ago and had never taken the time to listen to it. Feeling low, I put it on and got high again on life.

The question is: What are you willing to do differently today? Are you ready for miracles to appear?

Friday, April 3, 2009

No blog today. A flu bug has gotten in the way of my being able to sit at the computer and write.

I'll be back tomorrow!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Gentle Man

Character develops itself in the stream of life. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We drove north. The snow had abated sometime during the night and the roads were clear. Three hours after leaving the city, we arrived at our destination. A small town courthouse where T., a client from the shelter where I work, had a date with a judge that afternoon.

The journey had not been without its highlights. My cell phone rang incessantly as friends from Choices, the personal development course T. had experienced two months previously, kept calling to wish him well, to let him know they were thinking of him, praying for him and standing with him in spirit.

T. wasn't really into talking. "I'm just plain scared," he told me somewhere between the city and our destination. "I know what I did and didn't do in this case," he said. "I will plead guilty to what I did, but I can't go down for something I didn't do."

The previous few days had been difficult. His legal aid lawyer had withdrawn from the case due to not having received any of the disclosure documents. T. couldn't ask for an adjournment. He'd already had three. He couldn't afford a lawyer of his own and there wasn't time anyway to bring someone up to speed. He chose to go it alone.

When we arrived at the courthouse, two other women were waiting for us. They had met him in Choices and were there to support him. They greeted us with hugs all around."We're here representing the whole group," one of them told him. "We're all praying for you."

The afternoon moved on. Defendants were called. Cases heard. Finally, late in the afternoon, it was Ts turn. As I was there as a character witness, I had to leave the courtroom. Nervously, T. motioned for all three of us to leave. He couldn't handle an audience.

We sat outside in the waiting room. Chatting. Watching the clock. Chatting. Sitting silently. Watching the clock. Chatting.

Finally, two hours later, a smiling T. exited the courtroom.

Suspended sentence. Eighteen months probation. His worst fear unrealized. He was not going behind bars.

"My legs are like rubber," T. exclaimed as we waited for his paperwork to be processed. A big man, tears shone in his eyes. "I'm going to be okay," he kept whispering to himself.

The phone started ringing again. Well wishes. Congratulations.

With every passing second of freedom, more and more tension lifted from his face. Finally, paperwork in hand, we drove off to meet the other two women at a coffee shop where they had gone to wait for us.

"Can we not talk about my situation?" he asked us, when he sat down.

We laughed. "Absolutely," we chimed in together. And we started sharing more stories. About life and love and living and being human.

Finally, T. and I took our departure and started driving back towards the city. Night was falling. The setting sun pulling the blanket of dusk into its warm rosy pillow nestling against the Rockies to the west.

My cellphone was out of battery and I had forgotten my charger. Music played. We sat quietly, side by side, driving into the dusk. Driving 'home'.

T. stared out the window and watched out for deer. For horses. Cattle. We drove through a native reservation. "Ok," he said. "Don't stop anywhere between here and the main highway."

I kept driving.

A few minutes later, we passed a village. A man stood at a gas pump filling his car. A woman walked hand and hand with her child. A dog trailed behind them. Lights shone in the houses nestled amongst the trees. Lawns were strewn with child playsets, snowmobiles and other country paraphenalia.

"Isn't that something," T. said. "I'm judging these people who are obviously just trying to get by in life, trying to live like everyone else, by the Natives I see downtown in the city. The ones who surround me at the shelter. Drunk. Drugged out. Begging for 'food'. (Food is street lingo for crack). I'm judging them like others judge me for being homeless. For having made a mistake."
He looked towards me. Compressed his lips into a straight line. Nodded his head up and down. "Gotta learn from my mistakes. Gotta stop judging people. Gotta start treating everyone the way I want to be treated."

Earlier he had given me twenty dollars for gas. "I don't want it," I said and tried to give it back to him.

"I want you to take it," he said.

I put it in my pocket. He was asking for what he wanted. It was something I could give him.

As we merged onto the freeway, he pointed to the gold sunset sinking behind the Rockies. "I can really enjoy that beauty now," he said. "Imagine the palette of colours you'd need to paint that." He paused. "You know I can never repay you for what you've done for me."

I took my eyes off the road for a moment and looked at him. "Every moment you live your best, you are repaying me," I said.

There's a miracle here. A man who believed he was destined to live a life of pain and turmoil, who could only express his fear through anger and addiction and acting out against the bonds of a society that constricted him, held him pinioned to a life he didn't want to live. He's learning to live up to his best self. To be the best within him every where he goes.

"I am a gentle man," he said.

"Yes you are." I replied.

His eyes grew heavy and he nodded off to sleep. I drove south. Darkness settled around us and in its depths, the promise of a new tomorrow grew with each passing moment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A process for creating value

In every difficult situation is potential value. Believe this, then begin looking for it. Norman Vincent Peale
I have this tape that runs in my head when ever I'm involved in something and things go awry. Yesterday, my tape fired and I found myself front and centre in self-defeating gamesmanship of the ugly kind. I wanted to quit. To cry. To pack up. To run away and hide.

My tape is: It's all my fault.

The particulars of the event are not important. The realization that I was playing a self-defeating game is what makes the difference.

I'm not a good blame game player. My mind tells me, somebody has to take the blame. Don't go blaming other people for what's gone wrong. It's obviously all your fault. You may as well just accept it. In my belief that 'it's all my fault', I shut-up, shut-down and shut out possibility.

Yesterday, my game kicked in for awhile and I found myself blaming me for all that had gone wrong. I am 100% accountable for everything I do. I am not accountable for what someone else does or doesn't do. But, in my self-defeating mode, there's a narcissistic tendency to believe, 'it's all my fault'. You know, I'm the centre of the universe. All powerful. All controlling. It's all about me. It's all my fault.

That's my victim mind. That little girl who once believed she was powerless. That bad things happen to good people because they deserve it. And who, when I'm afraid of 'getting caught' immediately retreats into fear and confusion and tears.

In identifying the voice of self-abasement, I stepped back from the brink of self-defeat as I was about to tumble over the precipice. Sure, I spent a few moments stewing about doomsday scenarios of how I have precipitated the end of the universe and all that jazz. But, in acknowledging my game, I quickly drew up into focusing on what's the value in this situation. What can we do to learn from what's happened? How can we create 'better' out of 'the worst' that's happened?

In any situation gone wrong, there is a process to creating value in the moment.

The process is:

Be aware. Get conscious of what's happening inside you. What's going on? Is there a roar in your head. Is your pulse quickening. Are you tightening up. Contracting your muscles. Tensing your shoulders.

Breathe. Let oxygen fill your mind and body with its life-saving grace. Let the breath give you a moment to collect your wits about you.

Open up. Consciously invite opening up into your being. Don't close down. Open up. Think of a flower unfurling its petals with the sun's warmth. Open up to the feelings, open up to a different perspective. Open up to the possibility of change.

Step back. No matter what's going on, take a moment to step back out of the fray and breathe again. Keep opening up.

Name your feelings. Acknowledge what's going on inside. I feel... afraid. Angry. Confused. Tearful. You don't have to say it out loud, but to yourself, name what you're feeling. If you can't think of 'the name' for that feeling, call it 'confused', or unhappy, or frightened. Give it a name. Make it up if you have to. Listen to what tape is repeating itself in your head. (Tapes are the subconscious messages we've carried throughout our lives -- they're formed in childhood when we unconsciously learned from our environment feelings of fear and shame and not being loved...) Greet the tape like an old friend, embrace it and smother it with love. Smile at yourself. You're just being you when you're afraid, or tired, or worried, or.....

Engage. Engage yourself in action. If you need to take a walk for a few moments, do it. If you need to go to the washroom to collect yourself. Do it. Disconnect from the drama and engage yourself in positive action that will help you re-balance yourself. Meditation. Listening to soothing music. Call your answering machine and leave the message you want to leave the other person and then play it back to yourself five or ten minutes later -- do you really want to leave that kind of footprint on someone else's heart? Do something positive. Be proactive. If you're in a meeting and the situation gets tense, ask for a coffee break. If that's not possible, ask a question to gain understanding -- not judgement. Listen to the response. Do not let your monkey mind jump about leaping to self-defensive back-talk. Don't take it personally. Keep BREATHING.

Communicate Clearly. Once your pulse has settled down, your thinking has calmed down and your attitude has stepped down from confrontation, communicate clearly using 'I' words. Do not blame, shame, accuse. Look for opportunities to expand the situation into learning. Be clear in what you are saying -- Turn up. Pay attention. Speak your truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

Yesterday, when I found myself engaging in negative self-talk and self-blame, I breathed and opened up, and focused the group on how we could learn from the situation. I still felt the fear inside, but I had named it -- and I am a fearless woman -- my fear is just the opportunity to be courageous. To be my best self yet.

Playing self-defeating games is only a habit. And habits can be replaced with positive action when I listen to the best of me and let go of engaging in tapes that would have me believe it's all my fault. That's just me being small minded. And I am capable of so much more. We all are!

The question is: Are you prepared to change your negative habits by opening up to the best you can be?