Friday, July 31, 2009

Fulfillment is living WIN

It's not what you do some of the time that counts, it's what you do all the time that counts. Jack LaLanne
My mornings have taken on a different flow. No longer stirring at the crack of dawn, I awaken slowly, letting the sun warm up the air outside the window, entreating the birds to get busy twittering at the feeder. The rhythm of my day takes on a different timber, the ebb and flow becomes less frantic, as I open up to having a day of no commitments, no, 'To Do List", no deadlines or crisis to meet.

In my recovery, lying here with my foot up, watching the birds and bees in my back yard, what I do all the time becomes much more apparent. No matter my day, no matter the daily need of getting things done that have to be done, of having my day hi-jacked from the first phone call or email requesting an answer or information or help, what I do is ask myself, as Brian Willis of Winning Mind Training teaches: What's Important Now -- WIN.

No matter the circumstances, no matter the crisis or situation, my WIN dictates that I create more of what works in my life and less of what doesn't by asking myself -- what's my WIN?

Healing is a priority for me right now. Staying off my foot creates a better outcome for the future than ignoring my doctor's advice and getting busy 'being busy'.

What I'm realizing as I sink into this moment of unpressured time, is that often my 'busyness' is a way of avoiding putting my focus where it needs to be to create the life of my dreams.

Fulfilling dreams is important work. And it can be scary too. By making myself appear soooo busy that I don't have time to do What's Important Now, I build in a ready made excuse for why I'm not doing what I dream of doing -- as opposed to loving what I'm doing.

See, I love working in a homeless shelter. I love what I do there -- but, I still have other dreams, other priorities, other goals that are important to me -- and in this unstructured time, this gift of time to heal, I can spend my time looking out the window, watching the birds, or, I can spend my time creating the WIN in my life.

The choice is mine.

It's now Day 9 since I came home from the hospital. I've given myself ten days to rest and recuperate, to enjoy the sensation of 'no pressure' to get anything done. In the gift of that time, I have awoken to the reality of my WIN.

What's Important Now is that I get creating. Creating an outline for my new book. Creating a plan. Creating a map.

I've been given the gift of time. It is up to me to fill it with What's Important Now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

If I had but one prayer

The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place. It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings. From "Trapping hte Monkey" in THE TEACUP AND THE SKULLCUP: CHOGYAM TRUNGPA ON ZEN AND TANTRA.
Page 72
Lying in bed, 'doing nothing', is a great opportunity to reflect, and to 'do nothing'. At least, it would be a great time for such indulgence if my monkey mind didn't keep interfering.

"Don't be so lazy. Get busy." Its voice whispers with a sibilant hiss oozing like steam seeping from a lumbering volcano.

The more rational part of me leaps in to defend my indolence. "Get busy doing what? Not much I can do hobbling around on crutches."

But still the monkey mind persists. "There's gotta be something you can do. Quit lying there feeling sorry for yourself. Nobody likes a lazy person."

Ahhh, the power of the monkey mind to disturb peace of mind and tranquility.

My lovely friend CW wrote me today and offered up a quote from Buddha, “Patience is the greatest prayer.”

If I had one prayer, it would be, "Thank you."

Perhaps gratitude is the most powerful force for healing.

As I lay in my bed I whisper to the birds at the feeder, "Thank you for brightening my day. Thank you for your song. Your lithesome spirit. Your twittering verse."

I look up through the green leaves of the birch and apple trees to the blue sky beyond and whisper, "Thank you for your shade. Your whispering leaves. Your beauty."


To fall into prayer I must surrender my ego's need to justify my existence -- my state of doing nothing, as well as my state of doing 'busy'. To surrender, I must release my need to feel that everything I do matters. As my daughter Alexis recently wrote on her blog, "I am nothing. And everything... I do not matter. And yet, I am matter, so I must."

I must surrender my need to matter enough that my matter becomes all that matters to me. When I matter enough to cherish the goodness in my being me, to respond from my highest good, no matter the weather, the time of day or night, or the circumstances surrounding me, then I will have fallen into that place where all that matters is -- the moment in which I breathe.

I move into gratitude, the gateway to patience. If I had but one prayer, let it be, Thank you.

The question is: Have you prayed today?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everything begins with hope

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 Breathnack
My world has narrowed into vistas of our backyard. It has become a daily joy of watching birds frolic in the giant apple tree, where they eat from the feeder or peck at the fruit just starting to appear. They chase each other around and about, squawking and twittering. Big birds. Little birds. Medium sized birds all vying for a place to perch upon the edge of the feeder, in the limbs of the trees or on the rim of the birdbath.

On the weekend, C.C. mounted the fountain I bought some months ago onto the outside wall of the garage. It's a replica of a fountain you might find in Italy or France, a lion's head with water spouting out of its mouth into a large cavern. This morning, I watched as two robins swam in the pool, splashing around, gaily singing as they pecked at themselves and each other.

It is a world of wonder.

Yesterday I received a call from someone I had spoken with once, about a year ago. She had called to ask my advice on her marriage. "I need to leave. I need to stay. I need to keep myself safe." Words I have heard many times from women all over who are mired in the arms of deceit, looking for sense in the nonsensical. "I can play his game," she said.

"Why would you want to?" I asked.

Life is a journey of seemingly small moments opened up into expanding horizons when we have the courage to ask the difficult questions we have been avoiding, or don't want to see, or don't want to face. Life is always a question of, Am I willing to do the right thing, or the easy thing? Am I willing to turn up in all my truth and beauty, warts and all, or do I want to keep pretending I don't see reality as it is.

My friend Mark posts a blog every morning. This morning, he wrote, "Maybe everything begins with hope. And ends without it."

When I contemplated the surgery on my foot, I hoped I'd feel better after it. Hoped I'd be able to run again, to ski, to hike, to do the things I love to do but have been limited in doing because of the damage to my foot. Sitting here in bed, with my foot up, watching the birds outside my window, that hope still lives. My foot is healing. I am becoming more adept at managing my crutches and less crotchety about being limited in my mobility. I have hope.

Someone dear to me is diagnosed with cancer and I pray he will be able to overcome it. I have hope, as does he and those who love him.

I watch the birds outside my window and am in awe of the beauty and the simplicity of life. Every morning they appear at the feeder in hope of finding food. When there is none, they flutter away to look elsewhere. There is always hope they will find it. There is always the hope that I will remember to fill it again before the next morning. Lying here watching them has become such a gift, their hope is not futile. I will ensure the feeder is always full.

Hope, like love, is always there. It is up to us to focus on what we want. To do the right thing to make it happen. To commit ourselves to believing; in our dreams, ourselves, the abundance of the universe, the power of love to give wings to our hope so that we can live free of fear there will be no tomorrow more beautiful than today.

There is always more beauty abounding when I live in hope of being more and more of who I am meant to be with each day passing. There is always the hope that I will create the life of my dreams with more clarity and vision when I live today as if it is my best day yet and stay focused on being my most magnificent self, in awe of the world around me, living this wild and precious life in the rapture of being alive.

Someone once told me hope was an empty word not worth speaking.

I disagree. Hope is the tiny spark that ignites our imaginations and transforms dreams into heaven on earth. Everything does begin with hope.

The question is: Are you letting go of hope to become mired in disbelief that there is nothing more, or nothing better for you, here on earth? Are you willing to count your blessings and transform your world into heaven on earth?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open to Love

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself. Henry Miller
Sometimes in life, mysterious things happen which we do not see or understand or believe. In our desire to make sense of the unbelievable, we scramble around searching for meaning, for some reason why, only to come up empty handed.

Sometimes, the only answer to 'why' truly is the answer our parents gave and we gave as parents. "Because it is so."

Life is a constant journey of one moment leading into the next, of one event flowing into another, seemingly at times without rationale cause, without direction without some 'grand plan' or design.

There are moments when, as a mother, I wish I had a better answer for my daughters than, 'Because it is so." I wish I could swipe a beautiful magic wand and make pain and fear and heartache disappear. I wish I could carry their pain and leave them free to dance in the sunlight, to run through rain showers and shimmer in the rising moon.

But I can't.

I can never take away someone else's pain. Never make sense of turmoil in someone else's life, no matter how much I might want to or even try.

And when someone I love is in a place of pain and turmoil, all I can offer is the one thing that never ends, Love.

All I can do is love them, love me, love the world around me and know, and believe and embrace the truth -- love is all that counts. Love is all that matters.

I have been off work for a week now. Away from the daily turmoil and drama of a homeless shelter, it is easy to see how I can become so wrapped up in the world around me, I lose sight of the people closest to me in this world, my friends and family.

Last night, a girlfriend dropped by to visit. My daughters and a friend dropped in, my girlfriend's husband dropped in and when C.C. came home, he lit up the barbecue and we shared a meal.

Sitting there in the garden, the water spouting, or as C.C. likes to joke, spewing, from the lion's head fountain. The trees shading us, the scent of flowers a delicate fragrance on the evening breeze, I knew love. I could feel it. Embrace it. Hold it and be held in its embrace.

No matter what life brings. No matter the turmoil, angst, hardship or heartbreak, love is all that counts.

Life brings us challenges. We succeed in life when we rise to the challenges and move through each moment aligning who we are with everything we do. Sometimes, we may move with grace and ease, dignified in our every word and action. Sometimes, we may stumble and falter, awkward in our every response.

No matter how we move, when we surrender and fall in love, with every step we take we are beauty in motion, a world of love in action.

Life is filled with wonder. And life is filled with the unbelievable. Sometimes, the wonder comes on a field of sorrow we cannot believe we will ever endure. No matter how life appears and opens up the moment before us, it is up to each of us to open ourselves up to the wonder of the world around us, and, in spite of our pain, or suffering, stay open to Love.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I have a couple of girlfriends who are like, healing. We take care of each
other. They know when I need to be taken care of. Maggie Gyllenhaal
I am truly blessed. Over the course of the past week, as I've mostly laid in bed, foot elevated, napping and reading then napping some more, I have been blessed by my friends and family who have phoned and visited, dropped off flowers -- and wine -- and simply given me a supportive hug or ear. My friends and family are my healing circle.

I am, as C.C. will tell you, not a very patient woman. Particularly, when patience is needed for myself. Being constricted by having to hobble around on crutches is a pain! I'm learning to balance myself on my crutches, and I'm learning patience.

Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, once wrote, "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

I know that in time, my foot will quit hurting and I will be able to walk without crutches. It's getting to the 'in time' part that I lose patience with! I want it now. And I know that in my 'wanting it now' I am undermining my healing. Short circuiting time's gentle passage and its ability to heal all wounds.

And so I breathe.

The only way to 'speed up' the healing cycle is to give into my bodies need to rest. To keep my foot elevated as much as possible and to stop trying to do more than I need to do in this moment.

Time is a powerful warrior! And a powerful tool.

I was very fortunate while I was in the hospital. I had a semi-private room -- and no one in the other bed. Until the next morning after my surgery. A young pregnant woman arrived and needed surgery. I apologized after the nurse left her bedside and told her, "I couldn't help but over hear your conversation. Are you scared for your baby?"

"Yes," she whispered, her voice filled with tears. "I'm scared what the anesthetic will do to my baby."

Sometimes, we don't know the value of our experience until many years later. When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, Alexis, 23 years ago, I had to have surgery at the 14 week mark of my pregnancy. Serious surgery. They told me I wasn't pregnant. I said I was. They gave me drugs anyway. A week after the surgery, they came back and said, "Oh look. You are pregnant." I spent the next six months terrified the drugs would have an effect upon my unborn child's development.

If it did, I'm grateful. From birth, it was pretty evident that Alexis was an amazing human being.

Lying in my bed, the curtain drawn between us, I shared the story of my surgery during pregnancy and my fears for Alexis' health. I told her about my amazing daughter, about her intelligence and talent and incredible spirit.

"Really?" the woman asked me. "She's okay?"

"She's more than okay," I said. "She's incredible."

When I left the woman stopped me and said. "Thank you for sharing your story. You've eased my fears."

We don't know what we don't know.

I never knew that one day my experience would give hope to another woman in the same situation. I never knew that I would be able to ease someone else's fears through sharing mine.

I am healing. I didn't know before I had this surgery how frustrating it would be -- I also didn't know what a gift of time it could be.

I'm starting to feel more clear headed. Less fuzzy-brained. The anesthetic and drugs are easing off and while I remain somewhat hindered by the crutches and the need to keep my foot elevated, I am free to read and write and sleep and think and enjoy the beauty of this day.

Life is a gift. Each moment a precious drop of beauty waiting to expand into joy and love and laughter and healing.

Each day is an opportunity to live it up -- no matter your circumstances.

I'm living today as if it's my best day yet. Thank you everyone who has emailed or commented. Thank you for your well wishes and your love and support. You make a difference!

See you tomorrow!



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A lesson from my sister

I am out of commission for a few days as I get 'purdy feet'! I hope to be back online by the weekend -- please keep checking back. I promise -- if you check back, I'll get writing!

With me this morning I am taking a vision of my eldest sister, J.T. She is the word 'courage' in action. A week ago she had an operation that changed the state of her body. How it operates and how it looks. It was a long time coming. A disease she's carried around with her most of her life finally took its toll, requiring major surgery and alteration to give her a better quality of life.

In the intervening week, as she's recovered, she has been positive, optimistic and upbeat in her outlook about both the changes to her body, and her 'new reality'.

We can all learn from J.T.s attitude and perspective.

Her body has been changed. Her attitude has remained constant. Throughout the pain and trauma, she has held her ground on accepting -- this is my reality. How do I make it work for me?

My surgery is nowhere near as serious. 'They' tell me the pain will be substantial. I get to choose how I respond to it.

I choose, with grace and dignity.

It's a lesson I learned from my sister.

Have a great day. Keep smiling. Keep being your most amazing self and keep making the world a reflection of your beauty!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The power of golf

If you don't know where you are going, how can you expect to get there? Basil S. Walsh
Yesterday, we knew where we were going. We were just having a lot of trouble getting there!

It was a bright, blue sky prairie afternoon. C.C., my daughters Alexis and Liseanne and I, all decked out in our matching black shirts, the girls in matching plaid golf shorts and white runners, climbed into two carts and joined in the fun at a golf tournament to support the scholarship program at Choices. And a fun time was had by all...

Now, it's important to know that the only golfer on our team was C.C. I played twice last year (the only two times in my life) and C.C. arranged a lesson for the girls on Friday at his Club. That's it, three players who have hit the ball maybe 50 times out of 1,000 tries, and a man whose competitive spirit will always beat him to the pin.

Fortunately, it was a best ball tournament -- which meant we mostly shot from C.C.s position on the course -- otherwise, we'd still be trying to get the ball in the hole!

Like life, golf is a head game. The more you let your head get in the way, the harder it is to get the ball to fly straight.

C.C. won the award for patience yesterday -- even though his game fell apart. How couldn't it not fall apart when it took 23 tries for Liseanne to hit the ball off the first tee? Between fits of laughter and admonitions to 'keep your eye on the ball', he had to let go of any expectations of a serious round of golf. The girls did win the award for being the 'cutest' on the course and he did win a prize for hitting his ball into the water on the left side of the fairway on the 9th hole! I too hit the water -- after I'd missed it. Hit my ball into the trees at the edge of the water and it shot back out of the forest into the pond! Go figure. Neither hazard was even close to where I intended the ball to go!

And that's where the head game gets into play.

Liseanne was frustrated from the get-go. "I kinda psyched myself out on that first tee," she told someone at the banquet following the game. "It took me awhile to get centered after that. Had to do yoga on each hole. And I did learn to do a cartwheel. First time in my life. I did one on every green after that!"

A quarter way through the round the wind picked up and we battled elements and the course. Alexis huddled in the cart, trying to stay warm but when she hit the ball, her natural focus paid off. Her ball always went where she directed it, just not very far.

Me. I got in a few good shots, but mostly, I let myself focus on having fun -- and not taking myself too seriously. Good thing. With the wind, the ball never had a chance of going where I intended it anyway!

The thing about golf though is you have to know where you want the ball to go before you hit it. And, you have to know where you're going as you traipse the course -- otherwise, you can end up on the wrong tee box. Which is what happened to us yesterday.

We started at the 17th hole -- but we couldn't find it. Perhaps the course officials forgot that in a Texas Scramble -- every team starts on a different hole -- you should provide a map to where you need to go. Ten minutes after starting out in search of the hole, we finally found it. Don't you love it when men play true to stereotype? :) C.C., didn't think it necessary to stop and ask for directions...

The real lesson yesterday though came in the laughter and giggles the four of us shared throughout the day. Driving the carts, hunting for balls, taking swings -- at the ball and each other, we were lucky to spend an afternoon filled with what makes life rich and meaningful. Time spent with those we love.

In the end, all that really mattered was we came in from the course with smiles on our faces and the memory of a good time. For the girls and me, it was a chance to try our hands, (and backs and arms and legs and psyches) at a game we'd never really had a chance to experience. For C.C., it was a chance to share his love of the game with people he loves and who love him. As we drove home Alexis said, "I could get to like this game."

I watched the smile on C.Cs face broaden into a beam.


It's important to know where you're going.

I set out in the morning, thinking we were going to play a round of golf. Have some fun. Share some laughs. I didn't anticipate the impact of sharing in the game with the people I love most in the world would have upon my heart. The power of spending time together on a course, amidst the beauty of trees and mountain views, surrounded by nature and those you love -- what an amazing gift!

It was a fitting end to my 'summer'. Tomorrow, I am having surgery on my foot and will be out of commission for a few weeks. It also means I'll be out of commission here for a few days too. 'They' tell me the pain is rather fierce for the first few days. I'll be in hospital for the night, home on Wednesday and laid up with my foot in a cast until the end of October. I'll be back here later this week -- once my head has cleared.

Take good care. Live this one wild and precious life as if there is no tomorrow! Today is the present. A gift to be savoured and enjoyed.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Just like a bear

Take a deep breath, count to ten, and tackle each task one step at a time. Linda Shalaway
The stories we tell on ourselves are telling. In a homeless shelter, the stories people tell are replete with anger and fear, frustration and worry, sorrow and grief. They are stories about steps taken and retraced, again and again and again. They're tales of tasks tackled and discontinued as the mounting belief that nothing changes, nothing ever does begins to outweigh one's capacity to take a breath without feeling each breath will hurt more than the last.

It is the challenge of homelessness. It saps you of energy, focus and even sanity. Homelessness drives you crazy.

Yesterday, as C.C. and I drove along a street en route to pick up my mother, we waited at a corner for a young man to cross. He stared at our car. Stared at the crosswalk. His arms hung loosely by his sides. Each one twitching independently as if attached by strings, pulled by an unseen puppeteer.

We waited, silently witnessing this man's angst.

He looked at us. Scowled and stepped into the crosswalk in front of us. Unsteadily he began to navigate his way to the other side of the street.

The crosswalk cleared, we turned the corner and drove on.

This was not unusual behaviour to see in this neighbourhood. Someone so high they look like they will fall down.

We were a few blocks from the shelter where I work. On the other side of the river from it. It is an area where fear has begun to heighten as the construction around the shelter on the south side of the river, has caused a migration of 'the homeless' across the river.

"Don't feed the bears" one article in the community newsletter espoused. "They'll just keep coming back."

I phoned the man who wrote the article.

"Are you going to yell at me?" he asked when I told him who I was.

"No." I replied. "I'd like to understand what it is about your fellow human beings in distress that causes you to equate them with bears," I said.

"These people are animals," he replied. "They're unpredictable. Dangerous. Territorial. See, humans and bears don't mix well. If you're camping, you don't leave food out to attract bears. In our neighbourhood, we shouldn't be leaving bottles out or giving the animals change. It will only keep bringing them back to forage."

It's not only homelessness that drives people crazy. Intolerance and narrow-mindedness can do it too.

"The only thing I regret in my article," he told me, "is I included the homeless under the umbrella of 'bears'. I really just meant pan-handlers, bottle pickers, junkies and addicts. They're animals."

I wanted to hang up. To scream at him that they were all human beings. Every single one of them. There are addicts who are homeless. Addicts who are housed. Bottle pickers do communities a service by cleaning up debris.

"They can have the bottles lying in parks and on sidewalks," he replied when I mentioned about the public service bottle pickers provide, "but they shouldn't be in laneways rummaging through garbage cans. They scare people. Just like the bears."

I took a breath.

To affect change I must take it one step at a time.

"Why don't you come into the shelter for a tour," I asked him. "I'd love to have the opportunity to show you around."

"I don't see the point," he replied. "I don't need to understand any more than what I do about what you do. I think it's great you want to help the working poor and those who are truly homeless because of mental illness or being down on their luck. I don't see why you have to harbour criminals and addicts and junkies."

Because someone has to. Someone has to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Someone has to provide them safe harbour until they can find their way again.

Someone wrote back to his article in the paper. "I think it's unfair to the bears. You shouldn't demean them by calling these lowlife 'bears'. The real bears deserve better."

One breath at a time. One step at a time.

I cannot change the world. I can change my world by changing how I respond.

I breathe. Intolerance is a learned response to fear. Ignorance is an opportunity to teach.

I breathe and let go of my judgements. I breathe and step into creating opportunities for understanding to grow.

I can't change this man's perspective. I can change how I reply. Ignorance will not be enlightened by ignorance. Truth enlightens darkness.

Giving into the belief I cannot affect change in this man's perspective gives me little hope of enlightening the darkness of his thinking with truth.

Believing that I can affect change creates the opportunity for light to shine, even in the darkest minds of prejudice, intolerance and ignorance.

I breathe again. Freely now. Deeper.

I am not powerless. I am powerful beyond my wildest dreams. Beyond my wildest imaginings.

I am wildly powerful. Just like bears.

Perhaps, I am a bear too!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The faculty of my mind

There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. Epictetus
Lying in bed this morning, I heard yelling from a neighbour's house. It was early morning. Far too early for yelling. But then, anytime is not a good time for yelling, (unless of course it's a soccer match and the yelling is actually cheering on your favourite players!). I couldn't pinpoint what house it came from, and I wasn't sure if it was 'fighting' yelling, or 'under-the-influence' induced. As I lay there listening, I thought, "human relations are so difficult."

What a funny thought for early morning reverie.

I love those thoughts that wander into my mind, awakening me to my limiting beliefs.

Human relations are not difficult -- unless I choose to believe they are and choose to put the power of my will behind the thought.

What is the question behind the belief, I wondered. What's really going on here?

I'm struggling with my human relations at the moment. In my angst, I'm embracing the negative belief -- they're difficult -- and acting out my anxiety. In stating 'they're difficult' to my subconscious, I am creating what I fear; difficulty in my human relations.

The yin/yang of existence. What I focus on grows stronger in my life. My focus on the difficulty of my relations grows stronger as I look at the problem and hold myself in the thrall of what's going on beyond the power of my will.

By focusing on external circumstances I create my own internal distress. I give up my power and my will to create more of what I want in my life. I buy into the belief -- relationships are difficult and fall into the victim's voice that would have me believe, 'it's not my fault. There's nothing I can do. This is reality, face it and grow up...'

And underneath that I find a tape I haven't acknowledged before, "You're too sensitive."

I have a long history of denying my feelings. When in physical pain, I laugh. When in emotional angst, I smile and stuff my feelings down. I lose my authenticity as I struggle to pretend, "there's nothing I can do to change how I'm feeling about what's going on."

Reality is, I'm not okay when I fall into the belief that what other people are doing and saying is all about me. I am responsible for what I'm feeling, not about what's going on with others.

What's all about me is what I am doing, saying, thinking, feeling, being.

That's it. No more. No less.

I cannot change the world. Cannot be responsible for other people's behaviours, thoughts, actions or feelings.

The power of my will extends only as far as the circle of my influence within my life. My ability to create happiness in my life extends only as far as the power of my will.

It is the power of my will to control my mind, to open it up to my higher good that determines my happiness and success in life.

Within the faculty of my mind there exists a school of thought greater than any I can imagine. When I willfully let go of my power and buy into the belief, 'it's too difficult' what I'm really saying is, 'I don't want to be responsible for me. I don't want to be accountable for myself. I'd rather blame how I'm feeling on what's going on beyond the power of my will."

In my victim's place, I undermine my ability to create more of what I want in my life -- happiness, contentment, peace of mind, integrity, beauty and ... love.

It is no coincidence that I am uber-sensitive to C.Cs tone of voice when I am falling under the thrall of being powerless to create change in my work environment.

It is no coincidence that I am uber-sensitive to nuances at work when I am losing myself in my feelings of being powerless to create more of what I want in my relationship with C.C.

It is no coincidence that I am giving into my lesser-self by eating what isn't healthy for me, or not exercising every day, when I am feeding my mind with limiting beliefs like, 'human relations are difficult'.

I am blessed. I have a powerful tool, the most powerful school of thought I could imagine, available to me, 24/7. My mind. It's up to me to focus my will on creating thoughts that uplift me, support me, strengthen me and empower me to create more of what I want in my life.

As I let go of my limiting belief I turn my focus inward. I shine my light upon the only person I have control over and surrender and fall in love, with me, myself and I.

I am not powerless. I am powerful beyond my wildest imaginings as long as I keep my attention on my will to be self-directed in all my thoughts, words, and actions.

That is the gift of my will. To embrace the truth about my power -- I am self-directed. In control of where my mind leads me because I have the will to bring all my faculties and senses to bear to create all of this and everything better in my life today.

The question is: Are you giving into the belief you are powerless, or, are you willing to bring all your senses to bear on your will to become all you are meant to be in a world of limitless opportunity?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The page of life

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. Salman Rushdie
He's worked at the shelter for a couple of years. A caring, honest guy who treats clients with dignity and respect. Intense. Kind. Fair.

"I've written a story for the newsletter," he told me yesterday. "Would you be willing to take a look at it?"

"Sure," I replied.

He stood nervously beside me as I scanned the pages. His writing was clear. Concise. Powerful and honest.

"Here's the question," I asked him when I'd finished and told him how moved and touched I was by his story. "Have you thought about how you'll feel after this story is published and staff and clients and thousands of people will have had the opportunity to read it and 'see' into your past. See your story. Will you be able to go look in the mirror and say, 'Wow. I'm one courageous, cool dude. I am proud of me."

He hesitated. "Oh. I don't know."

"Then, before I publish this, you need to think about that. What you've written is very powerful. It's honest and fresh and intense. It's very good, and, once it's published, it won't be your story anymore. It will be a story out there where people can pick it apart. It's important to know that now so that you aren't surprised if someone has comments to say that aren't what you expected, or want to hear. You have to know that 'this story'," the pages fluttered in the air between us like white prayer flags fluttering on the trail to Everest. "This story is just that, a story. It is not you. It is part of the past that made you, 'you', today. In telling it, you will inspire, and you might upset, people. Some will have judgements that are harsh that they will want to share with you. We're all human, we all do. Their judgements are just their opinions. How will you handle the criticism of a co-worker? How will you feel if someone questions the 'truth' of what you wrote?"

See, he'd started drinking at age seven. Drugs at 12. He'd been in foster care. Juvie detention. He'd done things he'd had no idea would haunt him, or bring him down to the point where he didn't want to live but, as he told me, was too scared to do anything about.

Today, he's a college graduate. A proud father. A caring husband. He is a man who has taken his past and used the pain and turmoil and the lessons learned to create great value in his world today.

"Telling this story", I told him, "is a chance to let it go, to put it out there into the universe, so that others might be inspired to change, to grow, to step away from the addictions that haunt them. In telling this story, you create space to write the new story of your life from today forward. To do that, you have to be willing to let the story go in love."

When I wrote the Dandelion Spirit, I too had to come to grips with the realization that once the story was told, once it was released to the universe, it was no longer 'my story', but simply 'a story'. It didn't belong to me. It didn't define me. It simply reflected a time in my life and the learnings and teachings of that time.

In letting the story go, I opened up space to create the new story of my life. The life I experience today where I am free to be all that I am meant to be -- living this one wild and precious life with passion and purpose, present in mind, body and spirit.

We all have stories to tell. A book to write. A movie to create of our lives. We are all creating stories, movies, books -- right now, today. It is the story of our life. Of how we are living, how we are stepping forward, backwards, sideways. How we are falling, flying, swimming. This life is our story. It is filled with dreams and hopes and feelings of sadness and joy. It is replete with wishes made upon a star that never lift off the ground. It is a story of hope. A story of passion. Of sorrow. Of blame or shame or feeling left out, left behind.

The story we tell today can only be created on the foundation we've laid in the past. The challenge is -- do we step on ground well travelled, or do we take a leap of faith to meet the path less travelled? Do we open our eyes and choose the street unknown where adventure awaits, where new beginnings open up to fresh starts, where limitless possibilities widen out to vistas of untold joy as we create a life beyond our wildest dreams.

We cannot create a new story of our life holding onto the belief that our best story is the one where we were the victim of life's follies played out upon the pages of our life being turned by some unseen hand. There are countless stories to tell, countless dreams to unfold -- but first we must let go of defining ourselves by flipping through the pages of the past, again and again, for fear of facing the blank page of today waiting to be written.

For me, the best way to do that is to keep telling stories on myself that place me as the heroine of my own life. Stories that uplift me, nurture me, strengthen me. Stories that celebrate my human being doing what I do best -- living rapturously in the moment of now being me in my all beauty, warts and all.

For me, the story of my life has just begun. This morning. Right now. Right here. It is a story worth telling. A story waiting to be told. A story worth living and celebrating. A story only I can tell.

The question is: Are you stuck on a page of the story of your life that you cannot turn? Are you willing to tell your story and then, let it go so that you can create the story of your lifetime?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A bit more time

I stopped at the Nurse's Station to ask for his room. "Ah yes, J.," the nurse behind the counter said. "Just follow the corridor to the right as it wends its way around. On your right you'll see a door marked, "Over Capacity. That's his room."

What an odd name for a room, I thought as I followed her directions and came to the room with the promised signage. He was inside. Sitting on his bed. The blue hospital gown over his t-shirt and jeans. Long blond hair streaming out from beneath the ever present baseball cap he always wore.

He greeted me with a smile. Shy. "Thanks for coming," he said. "It's nice to see a familiar face."

The room was cramped. No window. No cupboard. No washroom. No visitor's chair. There just wasn't room in the storage area turned into a hospital room for anything other than the bed and a sink. I wondered if along with the label "Patient", his other label, "Homeless" had followed him into this dark space. I didn't want to ask if there was a connection between his lack of economic status and the position of the bed he'd been provided. I didn't want to embarrass him or to cause him to question his position on the ward. But still I wondered. He must have seen the question in my eyes. "The nurses are nice. They treat me real good."

He had been there since the first day of the month. Fourteen days of tests and trying to stabilize him enough to keep food down. Since May, he's lost sixty pounds. Ten alone over the fourteen days he's been there.

"Look at this," he said, showing me the menu from his dinner. "Everything's pureed. Ugh. Pureed pork." He smiled. "The popsicles aren't bad. And I like Jello. But I just can't get enough to eat." Shrug. "At least I'm keeping this food down."

We chatted for a bit about people and happenings at the shelter. He told me about his family. Two sisters. Two brothers. I asked if he wanted me to contact them.

"Not yet," he replied. "I'd rather get the details on what they're going to do before I worry them needlessly. My one sister won't care anyway. She never responds to my emails. But the others. They'll just worry about me. They don't need that."

I'd brought with me some of the photographs he'd taken and had mounted for an art show coming up at the shelter. When he'd called earlier he'd told me about his conversations with the doctors. "It'd be nice to show them some of my work," he said. "I might even be able to sell some. I'm not doing any bottle picking these days," he added with a laugh.

"I can bring some with me," I said.

"Would you? That'd be great."

He set the photos up on the floor, leaning against the wall. The light wasn't great, but even in that dim space, the beauty of his photography leaped at you. The city scape through the porthole of a bridge. A flower, its delicate pink petals glistening with dew. A duck floating on the river, its ripple trailing behind it.

He has an eye for composition and light. An uncanny ability to see beyond what the human eye discerns to the negative spaces between shapes and shadows. He'd only started taking 'pictures', as he calls them, a year and a half ago. I'd given him a disposable camera. He filled the film. Had it processed and fell in love with the medium. "I'm getting kind of old to keep doing manual labour," he'd told me. "Maybe picture taking could become my retirement plan." He'd laughed when he said the words, "retirement". Laughed and kept on taking pictures.

He doesn't know now how long of a retirement period he's going to get. "They say it's probably cancer," he said. "I figured they might find something in my lungs. Never thought it would be my stomach."

He's waiting for surgery. Waiting to find out if he's got a couple of months, a year, maybe more.

"Let's focus on many more," I said.

"More would be good," he agreed. "But I'm pretty happy with what I've had." He paused. "But a bit more would be nice."

I hope he gets the bit more. Hope he gets a chance to take more pictures. To capture on film the world as he sees it. A world of beauty frozen in the angles of glass and concrete girders where sun glints off the corner where they meet as they touch the sky. A world of wonder where dew drops glisten on a purple flower in the early dawn. Where river ice floats upon a sea of mist and dusty pink dawn bruises the azure sky.

I hope he gets a bit more time to experience more of the wonder he's found behind the camera. Time to share his gifts. Time to be alive.

I hope.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

May love become you

Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all of us looking for the key. Alan Bennett
What if there is no 'key' to life? What if this is it? This, right now, what you're doing, being, seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking, experiencing -- this is life. Your life. For better or worse. In sickness and in health, this is what it is.

What would you do differently?

Last night, I indulged in a habit that is becoming my new favourite activity to experience with my daughters -- Yoga class. It was a Yin/Yang class -- using the energy of Yang to move us into the stillness of Yin where we become balanced and at peace. The instructor was superb. Her melodious voice, filled with rich, vibrant words flowed around us as she moved us through each movement, encouraging us to hold each posture for just a little bit longer, to feel the sensations, invite them into our bodies and let them awaken us to living, completely, wholly, sensually alive.

At one point, as we worked on opening up our heart Chakra, she invited us to focus our attention on someone we love. Anyone. My mind leaped to my two daughters lying on their mats behind me. Surround that person(s) with the energy of love, she encouraged. Open your heart to them. Let your love pour out, encompass them, wrap them up in its illumination. Feel the healing grace of love embrace them and you, connecting you, holding you safe, wrapping you up together in love's beauty and peace.


What if it were that simple?

What if in thinking love I become love? What if love is a renewable resource that never ends, never stops flowing, never stops healing? What if.... love is all it takes to create a new reality?

What I put my attention on becomes stronger in my life.

When I think of what is wrong in my life, my feelings about what is wrong in my life grow stronger. I begin to feel like everything is wrong, there's so little right, what's the use in trying to change?

When I think of 'love', my feelings of love grow stronger. My senses awaken to love's limitless capacity to heal, to change, to create. I become one with the lifeforce creating more of what I want in my life and the world around me.

My prayer for today is...

For today, let me 'be love'.
Surround my thoughts, my actions, my words, my being with light. Let me become love as love becomes me.
For today, I surrender my victim's story and my hero's tale.
With each breath I flow into love. I breathe into the energy of love that lives within me, above me, below me, before me and behind me.
With each breath I become the power of love to create a world that reflects my higher good in all my actions, words and thoughts.
For today, love illuminates my heart and opens me up to its healing grace. In grace, I surrender and fall in love where beauty flows all around me.
Let me be love.
And so it is.

This is my prayer for you today, all of this and anything better. Take a moment, close your eyes and breathe.

Let love flow. Feel its warmth. Its beauty. Its delicate warp and weave.
Let love buoy you up. Let it be the key to all that is good and healing and strengthening in your life.
Let love illuminate your heart and set you free.
As you journey through your day, let every thought begin with "I am love." Let every action be served with, "I am love". Let every word be anchored in "I am love".

For today, may you be love. May love become you.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The best of us!

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. Arnold Schwarzenneger
Cowboy hat firmly planted on her head, blond hair flying out from beneath its brim, heels down in her stirrups, body forward, reins gripped firmly in one hand, she burst into the arena on her horse Roundpen and was the fastest rider to round the three barrels and make it back past the starting line. When she walked on stage to claim her prize, a beautiful bronze sculpture of a Barrel Racer and a $100,000 cheque, the announcer asked her, "What's this prize mean to you?"

Tears immediately poured down her cheeks. Her shoulders started to shake. She took the mic, looked up into the blue sky above and said, "A lot better than this morning. My son was killed in a car accident two weeks ago. This one's for him."

For a moment, there wasn't a sound from the 20,000 plus people in the outdoor arena. And then, people stood on their feet, clapped, hooted and hollered as they honoured this mother who had just won the title of Champion Barrel Racer at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede and endured a moment none of us ever want to experience -- the loss of a child.

We don't know what we don't know.

Earlier, watching her and the nine other women in the semi-final race, I was in awe of their focus, their attention to that seventeen second moment in the arena as their beautiful steeds carried them in a flurry of motion around the barrels. I wasn't thinking of losses, of sorrow and fears and tears and pain.

I was enjoying the race.

So were the riders and their horses.

But, as Tammy Key-Fischer rounded each barrel, she carried with her the pain and sorrow of her loss. Nothing will ever override her loss. Nothing will ever bring back her son. He is gone and all they can do for him now is what they've done. Carry their grief and carry on with living. He is gone and in his stead, they have set up a rodeo scholarship to honour him.

It takes courage. Commitment, Perseverance and endurance to ride into a rodeo ring. It takes love to get a mother onto the podium when all she wants is to grieve the loss of her child.

"He would have wanted this for me," she told the audience.

In life, their are moments when pain overwhelms us, fear grips us, sorrow bends us. We can ride on or stop dead in our tracks. We can let go of our goals and dreams. We can let life have the better of us.

We never know what someone is enduring. We judge them, as in the case of the rodeo, on their ability to ride, to rope, to wrestle. We don't ask ourselves, what's that person going through? What are they enduring? What heartache are they carrying?

We expect them to be on task, professional, first-class.

And when we discover their pain and angst, we applaud them for their fortitude.

Later, as my daughter, Alexis, and I wandered through the art exhibition (our favourite Stampede activity to enjoy together) we chatted with a woman we know in one of the booths. When she heard of Tammy's announcement upon winning the race, she exclaimed, "Oh my. I couldn't imagine doing that. How could she ride after such a loss? I'd still be in bed crying."


Or, perhaps we'd be doing the same thing. Focusing on our dream, putting aside our tears out in public as we carry the grief of loss with us around the arena only letting the tears flow when we are alone, out in the back forty, or at night in our bed.

Tammy Key-Fischer spent ten days at the Rodeo, qualifying through each round to make it to the final event where she and her horse rode to victory. She never mentioned her loss. Never used her sorrow as a crutch or an excuse. And then, in the final moment of glory, with tears streaming down her face, she could honour the one she'd loved and lost with a, "This one's for him."

We can't change the past. Can't bring back what was lost or reconstruct a moment gone to become something else. All we can do is keep doing our best.

Perhaps, for Tammy, the best way to stave off the pain is to keep doing what she knows how to do best. To not surrender. To keep being a winner.

No matter the weather, no matter what life dumps on us, we need to keep our dreams alive so that, in the moment of triumph we can raise our eyes, look towards the sky and exclaim, "This one's for you!"

It's easy to judge a mother for not responding the way we expect. It's easy to admire her too.

Hats off to Tammy Key-Fischer. She is a shining example of how to stay focused on your dream, to keep racing no matter how rough the ride. To keep honouring the best in ourselves and to pay homage to those we love by giving them the best of us in everything we do.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Being the change

Laughter is the brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of your heart. Mort Walker
When my youngest daughter, Liseanne, was a little girl, she loved to laugh. Her giggle was a deep, rumbling gurgle that erupted up from her belly, cascading out of her body, creating ripples of 'I feel good' all around her. She seldom cried, in fact, when she was about four, I asked her older sister to teach her how to throw a tantrum -- the theory being, what we don't do in childhood we'll end up doing in adulthood. Liseanne never did learn to throw a very good tantrum, and as an adult, she would still rather stuff emotional distress full of humour than have it eat away at her equilibrium with regret and anger. I admire her, she is adept at 'letting it go'.

Me, on the other hand, well, I'm not so adept at just letting it go. I tend to 'take myself too seriously'.

Last night, C.C. and I had a long chat about my tendency to 'give it all', to weigh myself down with wanting to change the world.

"It's a beautiful quality, your desire to want the best for people," he said. "It's one of the many things about you I love. I wonder though if in caring so much you are remembering to give yourself medicine, to nurture yourself so you have the energy to keep doing what you do without depleting yourself?"

I laughed. Okay, so it wasn't a very humorous laugh, more like a nervous giggle. Like when your funny bone gets hit and it doesn't really feel all that funny but who cries over a hurt funny bone?

I knew he'd hit a nerve.

"I wonder why when you said that I felt tears immediately rise?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "Only you can answer that."

Good point.

It's like when my friend C.S. said the other day, "I don't know how you do what you do."

I felt tears rise.

Don't they get it, someone has to. If not me, who?

And therein lies the crux of my dilemma. I know it has to be done. I know we need to care for those who can't care for themselves -- but I gotta keep my sense of humour about it. I gotta keep myself balanced. I can't care so much it's at the expense of those I love and me.

When you give so much to people 'out there' and have nothing left to give to people 'in here', there's a problem.

And I've been creating a problem. I've lost my sense of humour. Lost my perspective on the world around me.

Time to imbue it with a little bit of fun and laughter. Joy and frivolity. Love and tenderness.

It's like when my brother died in a car accident and we went to the funeral. People spoke of him as this amazing man who did so much for them, who always gave, always laughed. Always smiled. Always lent a hand, stood by them when they were in need. I was moved to hear their eulogies of my brother. He was a wonderful man. My memories of him were tainted by our familial angst, the tug pull of the alcohol that consumed him and my desire to protect myself from the barbs of his angry outbursts.

In his passing, I have come full circle to love the brother who taught me how to ride a bike. Who made me laugh with him, dance with him, leap for joy with him when we were young and carefree. My brother cared a lot. About people, animals, the world around him. My brother laughed a lot too. He was very funny and always wanted people to smile and 'feel good'.

Something I can learn from him, and my daughter is, when I create a world around me that 'feels good', I am letting the change I want to see in the world begin with me.

C.C. last night said, "One of the things I find most powerful at Choices is the statement, Changing the world one heart at a time. No one can change the world in one fell swoop, Louise. We can all create change though by starting with ourselves and letting love grow outward from where we're at, one person at a time."

Time to breathe. To move back into the circle of love that is my family and friends. To reconnect with what is really important to me -- the legacy of being known by those I love as a woman of integrity, love, kindness and caring. A woman who knows the value of what she has is greatest when she's creating value from the inside out. Time to let love be expressed in the laughter I share, the smiles I create and the 'feel good' changes I make in me.

I can still keep doing what I'm doing, being who I am, I just need to let go of taking myself so seriously I forget, I am not responsible for the world. My job isn't to change the world. My job is to be the change I want to create in the world around me -- and that comes with a whole bucket full of laughter and joy.

The question is: Are you taking yourself too seriously? Are you giving yourself the medicine of laughter, sunny days and buckets of joy? Are you being the change of love and joy?

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. Scott Adams
It was late in the day and M.C. really wanted to chat. "I've got important news to tell you," he said, his smile a cheshire grin, his eyes twinkling.

Who can resist such an invitation?

"I'm here late this evening," I told him. "Why don't you drop into my office later?"

He came around five, sat down and said, "I wanted to tell you, I've decided to quit drinking."

It's been a long road, he told me, but he's finally realized he's not living to his potential. "I deserve better," he said.

"What I really wanted to tell you though, is I met a couple of your friends." he paused. "Police officers."

Oh oh. Not a run in with the law!

"It's okay. I've had a couple of warrants outstanding for the past few years. They've just sort of played at the back of my mind, causing unease, but I was scared to deal with them." He laughed. "Amazing how something that's so easy to deal with can cause so much internal distress."

When the officers had approached him they were respectful and kind. He decided then and there to give them his real name, not a fictitious one like, "Bob Gallagher". He laughed. "In the end, your name was a good omen anyway."

In the end, the officers discovered the two outstanding warrants and M.C. agreed to walk to police HQ with them. "You'll probably have to spend a night in jail," they said.

M. laughed. "Like it could be worse than a night on a mat in Intox?"

As they walked, they talked about homelessness, living in a shelter, the officers experiences on the street. At one point, one of the officers asked, "Do you know Louise Gallagher?"

M.C. laughed when he told me their question. "Do I know Louise Gallagher," he said. "Of course I do."

"Well," said one of the officers. "There's a guy at the shelter she often speaks about. An artist. She always speaks highly of him. That wouldn't be you would it?"

"Well, it could be," he replied. I'd asked M's permission long ago to use his story in my talks, but neither of us knew it would have such value today.

The officers went on to tell him how in my talks I encourage them to shift their perceptions and their attitudes towards individuals experiencing homelessness. "We don't go about hassling them," they told him. "We really approach individuals now with an attitude of concern. How can we help? What can we do? It's made a difference."

In the end, the difference for M. was rather than spend a night in jail, they processed him in fifteen minutes and gave him a notice to appear. The next morning, he appeared in front of a Justice of the Peace and had his issues dealt with in minutes.

His past mess is cleared up and his conscience is clean. Sobriety is taking hold.

M knows he may fall, "But I can get back up again," he said. "I know I'm worth more than being drunk. I know I have a lot to give, a lot of value."

"I really wanted you to hear the story about how I was treated," he said. "I know how hard you've worked to change perceptions, to shift attitudes. It's working. Don't give up."

Gratitude. Appreciation. Healing. Love. Grace

All those emotions swept through me as I listened to Ms story. All those emotions live within me as I realize, I can make a difference, as long as I don't give up.

We all can make a difference. Those two officers made a difference to M. He shifted his perceptions and attitudes towards police because they took the time to be considerate, caring and respectful.

We never know the ripple from our actions and words. We never know how something we do or say will resonate in the world beyond the sphere of our influence.

I felt gratitude yesterday to know that something I had said or done, had rippled out beyond the block where the shelter stands into the city beyond, into the hearts of those who serve and those who are served.

The question is: What kind of ripple will you make today?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Counting Chickens

The more we refuse to buy into our inner critics - and our external ones too - the easier it will get to have confidence in our choices, and to feel comfortable with who we are…. Arianna Huffington (
When I went through Choices three years ago, I created a contract with myself that is designed to remind me everyday of what I need to be to have more of what I want in my life. "I am a Fearless Woman" has become my mantra. My personal cheerleader spurring me on to take on more challenges, to do what I must, need, can to create the life of my dreams.

"I am a Fearless Woman" works well for me because, fear is the biggest stumbling block I face in my attempts to attain my goals. In fact, 'fear' is what keeps me from setting goals in the first place. When I remind myself that "I am a Fearless Woman" I remind myself that it is up to me to BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what I want.

In Laura Day's fabulous book, The Circle, she writes, "Sometimes you have to count your chickens before they hatch, or they may not hatch at all."

Sometimes, we have to 'pretend' to be who we intend to be in order to become who we are meant to be.

Being fearless is sometimes a pretend act. Yet, when I exercise my fearless muscle, it becomes stronger. In its strength I become that which I have been pretending to be.

As I get into the rhythm of being fearless, I set up a vibration in harmony with the world around me -- a world filled with abundance waiting for me to claim as my birthright. Believing that I am fearless, gives me options I never before dreamt were possible.

When I first set out to become a writer I was in my thirties. Most of my life I had dreamt of being a writer, but had always been too afraid to articulate my dream. So, I became a closet writer, squirreling away notebooks and journals of stories and ideas that I dreamt of one day publishing. In my fear of expressing my dream, I held myself back from acknowledging my inner desire. And in that fear I lived a life without passion. Sure, I appeared passionate on the outside doing all sorts of exciting and interesting things. But, on the inside, I was a quaking puddle of fear searching for a path to run free from my dreams. Rather than focusing on making my dream come true, I spent my time working on pushing it down.

A lot of spent energy in the wrong direction!

My fear of articulating my dreams is founded on the notion that other people will tell me I am wrong/stupid/conceited/self-centered/misguided (fill in the negative opinion) to even dream of doing what I dare to attempt. In my fear of their opinion I give away my power, my voice, my right to live the life of my dreams and give into the notion that it's okay to live my life by other people's measuring sticks.

It's not.

Firstly, often my concept of what other people are thinking is faulty. I'm projecting my fears onto them, constantly listening for the negative in their opinions to confirm I have a right to be afraid.

And secondly, I am grasping onto fear to keep me grounded in the valley of unrealized dreams. In my fear of reaching for the stars, I let gravity pull me down into the mire of the self-fulfilling prophecy that life is a struggle rather than an act of courage inspiring me to greater and greater heights.

In my fear of 'going for it', I seek out all the reasons why I can't. I weigh my opinions upon anything I can find that will reaffirm that going for it is out of the question. What would... people think? The neighbours say? The government do? What if.... I fail. How embarrassing would that be?

Well, having failed a few times and lived through every failure, I know that failure isn't the measure of my success. Learning from mistakes, taking chances to try new ways, to create value from everything -- that's the measure of my success.

And today, I'm one successful woman. I've quit playing chicken and am dancing on the frying pan of life sizzling with opportunity I've set on fire!

The question is: Are you playing chicken, counting only the hatched ideas of someone else's making? Or, are you willing to unhook the door to your chicken coop, throw open the windows and start hatching new ideas on how to live your life fearlessly beyond the edge of reason?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wisdom within

Wisdom consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate as knowing what to do next. Herbert Hoover
It was a week of sitting on the dock, feeling the gentle up and down motion of its sway pulling me away from stress into tranquility and calmness. It was a week of sun and fun and laughter and wine. A week with good friends doing what good friends do when faced with an empty calendar and lots of time to share being friends -- laughter, food, wine, stories, exploring and having fun.

We were on Kootenay Lake. A deep basin of water situated in the southern interior of British British Columbia. Mountains dress in fir trees and dying pines soared up from the shore touching the blue, blue sky high above. It is the dying pines that seemed so sad, so out of place in such a vibrant area. The pine beetles have had their way, chewing through tree bark into the delicate life force at the core of every tree. Amidst the green boughs of fir and spruce, the dry, red needles of the pines are a stark reminder of nature's fury. There is no cure for the pine beetle, no defence. Entire mountainsides are decimated by their hunger. Valleys are stripped bare, denuded of all vegetation.

And yet, there is a beauty in the deforestation. The trees are burnt red. Ochre. Tinder dry they remind us that life is an impermanent journey. No matter how much we know, life always has a surprise or two in store. Life always has its own way of bringing us back to what is important.

On this trip I was reminded of what is important everywhere I looked. C.C. and I drove out Thursday morning, a meandering route through Rockies, into the interior along the vastness of lakes lying like jewels in the centre of the surrounding peaks. He drove. I read and slept and occasionally chatted. Comfortable. Serene. Quiet. We were relaxed.

It set the tone for the week. Quiet. Serenity. Time unfolding at its pace as we flowed with it, into it, through it.

It was a week to refresh, to rekindle, to reconnect. A week to sink into the truth of what it means to be 'in relationship', to have a relationship, to be relational.

it was a week to cherish.

I am refreshed. Reinvigorated. Refocused. I spent a lot of time this week writing in my journal in the early dawn hours while C.C. and our two friends slept in the house. I'd awake, make a pot of coffee, gather up my book and journal and yoga mat and wander out onto the dock. Beneath the clear blue sky, the gentle swaying of the dock beneath me, I spent a couple of hours doing yoga, meditating, writing and reading. It was an ideal start to my day. As the rest of the crew awoke, I returned, refreshed and clear minded.

I have some decisions to make, some changes to set in motion, some ideas to flesh out. I am wiser for having taken the time to get to know where I'm at, and where I want to go, discerning what to do next. I am wiser for the time spent getting in touch with me, myself and I.

The question is: Are you sinking into the wisdom within, willingly letting yourself dip into the clear waters of your intuition, your knowing? Are you listening to your knowing what to do next?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Success is not found in perfection

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. Dr. David M. Burns

It is a small but significant distinction. Strive for success not perfection. When I am busily going after perfection, fear is constantly whispering in my ear. "No, not like that. Like this. Stop. That could be wrong. What if it doesn't work? How did the last person do it? What will people say if they find out it didn't work? What will people think if...." And on and on and on.

Striving for success however, gives me room to be human, to learn and grow from my mistakes, to find joy in each step I take. Measuring success is much more profound and fulfilling than measuring perfection. Like the Stand by Me video we just created at the shelter where I work. If I had been focused on perfection -- I'd be unhappy with the results and I'd be dissatisfied with my role in making it all happen. I'd have spent the entire process worrying about am I doing it right? Is this the right singer? Are they the right client? Is this the right way to get everyone together. Is that cut better than this cut to use? There would have been angst and drama around every step, every choice, every decision.

For me, that video is a success. Not because it's perfect -- believe me, I could show you all the flaws, of which there are many, and prove to you it is 'not perfect'. The flaws however, don't make the video. What makes the video is the spirit, the generosity, and the willingness of everyone who came out to participate. They came and gave their best, their 100%, without fearing whether or not they were 'doing it perfect' -- they were doing what they love to do with passion, purpose and grace. They were perfectly perfect in all their human imperfections. The outcome is a perfect reflection of all their efforts, of the spirit imbued in every moment of its creation.

And in the end, the project was a huge success. Not because I did everything right -- in fact its success comes through the lessons learned, the challenges overcome, the willingness to let go of being right so that everyone could be happily involved in creating something of significance.

Striving for success raises lots of questions. First, I need to know, what makes me happy? Do I know what brings joy and fulfillment into my life? How much of my day is spent being contented with where I'm and what I'm doing at versus how much is spent bemoaning what's going on for me?

These are important questions. Questions we need to stop and answer if we are to live a passionate, fulfilling life.

If you don't have any answers to 'what makes me happy', take some time today (remember, Start Right Now), and ask yourself, when was the last time I felt truly contented, satisfied with what I was doing, or how I was living my life? What was I doing? Am I doing any of that in my life today? Am I willing to make room for more of it? If not, why not? How important is it to me that I keep whining about what's going wrong in my life today? Am I willing to take action to change? What's in it for me to stay where I'm at, feeling what I'm feeling, doing what I'm doing if it makes me unhappy.

We can all get caught in the trap of measuring ourselves against a yardstick of perfection that cannot be attained. For some of us, it can become a habit to be constantly striving for the unattainable, working to achieve something we know we can never measure up to. The challenge is, to step away from the ruler and into the joy of being who we are truly meant to be aligned with everything we are doing to create a better world around us. Letting go of the need to 'be right', 'do it right', have it the 'right way' gives us space to start flowing into the joy of knowing we are successful when we joyfully align who we are with everything we are doing.

The question is: Are you feeling alive today? Eager to leap into action, to step forth with confidence into a day well lived, your best day yet? Do you know what makes you happy?

PS: C.C. and I are off on a five day adventure and I won't have access to a computer until we return Monday night. See you Tuesday morning!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Being Canadian

No man can produce great things who is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself. James Russell Lowell
He walked alone. A tall man. Slender. Black hair. Black t-shirt. Black jeans. Native. He was steady on his feet. Arms swinging freely by his sides. I didn't really notice him as I drove towards him until a police car swept in front of me from the opposite lane, stopping abruptly, nose to the curb, beside the man.

I approached slowly. Unsure why the car had so suddenly catapulted across the road. A tall, heavy-set officer got out. I recognized him immediately. B. Known by staff at the shelter where I work to be officious and not particularly kind to our clients. I passed him as he stepped around his car. He pulled on black gloves as he approached the native man who kept walking away.

"Stop right there," the officer screamed. "Stop."

The native man stopped and slowly turned towards the officer.

I kept driving slowly by. My eyes watching. The officer turned and saw me. I nodded my head. Raised my hand. He didn't smile back but he did stop pulling on his gloves.

I drove up the street, the girlfriend in the car with me visibly confused by what was going on. "Do you mind if we just stop and watch for a second?" I asked her.

"No problem," she replied. "Why'd he stop the guy?"

"I'm not sure. The man looked as confused as we do."

We pulled up against the curb further down the road, our eyes glued to the rearview mirrors.

The officer eyed my vehicle. Eyed the man standing in front of his car. The man spoke, obviously confused as to what he'd done wrong. The officer motioned to the lane from which the man had exited. The man shrugged his shoulders. He still seemed confused.

I watched as the man passed over what appeared to be his ID.

The officer got back in his car. The man waited. I waited.

A few minutes later another man came walking down the street. He was obviously under the influence. Staggering. Lurching from side to side as he walked. He saw the man standing in front of the police car. Stopped to chat. He was laughing. Pointing at the officer. The man in black motioned for him to move away. The man kept laughing. The man in black gave him a shove as if to say, "Go away." The other man persisted. The tall man in black took the man's arm and started to lead the man down the street towards the shelter. Suddenly, the officer leapt from his car, yelling at the man in black. The man let go of the other man's arm and stepped back towards the parked police car. The officer waved his arms in the air, still yelling.

I was too far away to hear distinctly what was being said. It was obviously not very kind. The tall man hung his head and stood silently in from of the officer. The officer passed the man back his papers. The man walked away.

I waited a few more minutes. The man kept walking. The police officer kept watching. He glanced back towards where I was parked. Looked towards the man walking away. Got in his car. Backed up and sped off.

It lasted only ten minutes but the pain of that encounter permeated my being. My girlfriend was also affected. "Why'd he stop the guy?" she asked.

"Unfortunately, it happens all too often" I told her. "Homeless individuals are often harassed for the fact they are homeless. For this man, compound his 'condition' with the fact he's Native and it's a double whammy."

"He looked so," she paused searching for the word. "Defeated."


It is the word I use most often to describe the people we serve. Defeated. Beyond depressed. Beyond angry. Beyond frightened. They carry their defeat like a blanket protecting them from the harsh winds of life that constantly swirl around them.

Defeated. A posture. An aspect. An outlook.

I hadn't wanted to get out of my car and approach the officer. I knew my presence alone would deter him. To confront him would have forced him to make up a story to validate why he'd stopped the man. I didn't want to risk worsening the situation. I wanted him to know he was being watched.

It is the sad reality of homelessness. So often, encounters with authority happen out of sight of watchful eyes. So often, encounters are pointless exercises of the authority given to someone by a badge, a gun, an oath to serve and protect that does not extend to someone the person in authority believes is criminal by the very label he carries.

I knew the officer last night. We had worked with the District to have him removed as his attitude has been excessively aggressive towards the people we serve. He's obviously still in the district. Still flexing his muscle when a kind word, a helping hand would go further to aid those suffering from homelessness.

I breathe.

I cannot change his attitude. I can adjust mine to accept that being watchful is as important as being present.

No question today. It is Canada Day. A holiday here on the northern side of the 49th Parallel. A day to celebrate what makes us uniquely Canadian. I wish being fair and kind and humane with all human beings, regardless of their socio/economic status was one of our attributes. I wish being Canadian meant everyone has the same value, equal representation, fair treatment, fair consideration, no matter their address.

I wish, Being Canadian meant everyone is special. Everyone experiences the joy of living their best without fear that where they're at is where they'll fall one day because no one was there to catch them. No one was willing to help them get back up.

I wish, Being Canadian meant the same for everyone. I wish it meant no one was defeated by life.

I breathe into my Canadian roots. Regardless of my land of birth, my birthright is the same as every human being. This is the journey of my lifetime. How I walk it is up to me. I cannot change the world. I can change how I walk through my world to create a gentler, kinder place all around me.