Friday, October 30, 2009

The God in everyone.

The heart has eyes which the brain knows nothing of. Charles H. Perkhurst
I had to give a presentation in Banff (a mountain resort an hour west of the city) today. Alexis came with me for the drive -- and maybe even to add her commentary on my presentation.

As we drove westward, dawn lurked in the eastern sky waiting for night to tire of the darkness. Snow covered the ground, a white blanket eerily covering the world around us.

Alexis and I chatted as we drove, deep conversation. I reminded myself to listen, really listen, to what she was saying. To hear her and not hear my mind busily finding answers, solutions, responses to whatever she was saying.

At one point, she told me what a co-worker had said about difficult people who come into Lululemmon and demand attention. "I see the God in each of them."


I told her about my encounter with the reporter and Native artist. About my realization that I wasn't listening to him, but rather speaking for the benefit of the reporter beside me. "When I see the Divine in everyone I meet," I said, "I hear them from my heart."

She smiled and said, "And do you do that with the people you work with?"


It is so easy to lose sight of the global application of these 'laws' of higher goodness. In the minutiae of daily living and working, I forget to "see the God" in everyone -- not just those who have nothing or are lying bruised and battered on the road of life.

When I came back to the city I had a meeting with a woman who works for the Homeless Foundation. We had a lively discussion about ten year plans to end homelessness and the role of shelters. "We are so arrogant," she said. "We think we have all the answers for someone else when really, we never asked them what they wanted in the first place."


How can we have the answers for anyone? Even if we ask them what they want, do we have the right to give them answers no matter how well we think they will fit them? In the process of 'giving' answers, we strip them of their right to find their own path, to uncover their own truth, to discover their own value. We dis-empower the impoverished.

"I used to believe people only wanted to be loved," said Alexis. "I think what they really want is to share their love."

Give and you receive.

When I give an answer to someone -- it remains my answer. When I give love. When I give them the gift of seeing 'the God' in them, I give them what I value most -- the God in me.

"It's as you wrote," Alexis said. "My best. It's in me to give."

My best is always Love.

The question is: Are you withholding your best in the belief there will never be enough Love to go around?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Deep Listening Conversation

I am engaged in an online conversation at Global Mindshift on The Art of Listening. As part of the conversation, we were asked to watch two short videos on YouTube. One with Professor Jacob Needleman and the other an interview from 1974 with Krishnamurti. I watched both videos and was intrigued with what both had to say. But even more so, I was amazed by me mind as I watched them.

Time to tell on myself! As I was listening to Krishnamurti's interview I caught my mind wandering. It was thinking about an article I have to write on homelessness. I thought about opening a blank page in Word. I caught myself thinking -- I could listen to the interview and write my article at the same time!

Hello! Where did deep listening become multi-tasking with half my mind engaged and the other half scrambling to keep up?

It was a good awakening as I realize that I often do that. I begin with listening and then slide into the list of things to do, of forward thinking my responses. I listen with 'half an ear' open to the conversation and the rest on what's happening in my mind.

Krishnamurti's interview was interesting -- can I hear you if I only hear you through my filter of what I see when I am listening to you?

Yesterday, while standing talking to a TV reporter in our driveway at the shelter where I work, a native client came up to talk to me about his art. The reporter had finished interviewing me and we were just waiting for the cameraman to finish up his shooting. The man approached and started to tell us what a gifted artist he is, and how he loves to paint. He was somewhat inebriated, and I remember this feeling of slight embarrassment as the reporter looked a bit disquieted by the man's appearance.

"I'm a great artist," the man said. "Why don't you come up to our art studio?" I asked him. "I'm a great artist," he repeated. "Yes. And we have an art studio you could come and use," I repeated.

Truth is. That man wasn't interested in our art studio -- at least not right then. He wanted to be heard. To be listened to. To be acknowledged as an artist -- not as who he appeared before me, as who I judged him to be -- slightly intoxicated. Stumbling as he walked. A lost soul on the road of life.

He was a man searching for his dignity in the not very dignified world of homelessness. Beneath his story was his heart's desire to be valued. To be seen. And heard. Not as he appeared. But as he truly is inside, beneath his wounds, his addiction, his dirty clothes and finger nails. He yearned to be seen from the spirit out.

And I gave him what he didn't need. What I didn't want to give, because I wasn't listening deeply to myself, nor him.

He didn't need my embarrassment. Nor my pity. Nor my judgement. He needed my deep listening. And, because I was conscious of the reporter beside me, I kept my ears above the waterline of my hearing heart, keeping my mind preoccupied with what I needed her to see and hear, not what the man needed.

I think that's what Krishnamurti is talking about. I was filtering that entire conversation through my 'business' persona, seeing myself and the man through the eyes of the reporter. I was attached to how she perceived me -- even more than I was conscious of how she perceived him. I was not engaged in the interaction between us. Rather than listening to and hearing him -- which is what he needed -- I was conscious of what I perceived she was seeing and hearing in my interaction with him. And I was trying to manage her perceptions.

As Jacob Needleman suggests in his speech, I had an egoistic attachment to my own thoughts. I was not acting upon my moral values, I was listening to my own mind from my place of ego.

In listening to what I learnt through reflection of that encounter, I embrace that part of me that shadows my listening with ego and separates me from hearing what is truly happening around me. I could see the man. I couldn't see my role in devaluing his presence through my lack of authenticity in our interaction.

What a wonderful learning for me. What an awesome place to find myself again. In a place where I can listen deeply to my spirit's expanding into all that I am when I come from that place within me where judgement does not cloud my hearing or damn up my sight with visions of who I want other's to perceive me to be. What a joyous realization to know that I can bridge the divide separating me from who I truly am when I see and look and hear and feel deeply into the beauty and spirit of the other person.

The question is: Are you listening deeply to the conversation you're in, or are you listening with one ear open and the rest of your mind closed off? Are you willing to sink deeper into the art of listening?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the moment of awakening.

We're our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves. Tom Robbins
So, It's True Confessions time. You know, that point on this journey where I leap up, wave my hand in the air and scream, I've got a confession. I'm a cross-dressing, pseudo pinko, ultra-liberal card carrying SOB who cheated on my dog and stole the kitty litter to give to the rat next door and.... ooops! Wrong show. This is not Jerry Sprung Loose on the Cyber Wave.

Okay, but I do have a confession. I believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And, I believe in fairy tales, especially that part where Prince Charming comes in to rescue the fair maiden and sweeps her off her feet and carries her into the rosy dawn of happily-every-after.

Yup. I do. I do. I really do.

Alright. Truth is, I used to believe in fairy tales, and I really did believe Prince Charming was out there waiting to rescue me, myself and I from an uncertain present to sweep me off into a predictable future of white picket fences and glass ceilings that never fell.

And then I awoke to the truth. No one out there can rescue me from myself. That's my job. My responsibility. My purpose in life. My raison d'etre.

In "The 21-day Consciousness Cleanse", Debbie Ford writes, This is what I know:

You are designed to reinvent and re-create yourself, over and over again. And, you are here -- whether you want to acknowledge it or not; whether you even know it or not -- for the evolution of your own soul. p 19

There are no guarantees in life. It doesn't come with a pre-loaded credit card guaranteeing you x number of tearful encounters or y number of laughter filled moments. Life comes in the living. It unfolds with every step we take. And there are no guarantees. And nobody's gonna rescue you from yourself.

There was a time when I believed somebody would. Somebody could. Somebody should rescue me -- I mean, I wasn't doing a great job of it so somebody must have my answers! There was a time when I held onto the view that if I do this or this or that, if I wear size 6 Prada's, designer clothes and speak and look and act a certain way, Prince Charming will fall in love with me and I'll have my white picket fence and a two car garage in the suburbs and a career and a man of my dreams.

And then I awoke.

I can have all of that if I really, really want it without Prince Charming riding in. I can create the life of my dreams without having to don designer togs or stuff my size 9s into shoes that hurt me. I can have all that I ever imagined and everything better by living up to my higher good. By being my most amazing self -- without looking for someone else to make it happen for me.

See, money doesn't grow on trees and pigs don't fly. But, who cares?

A money tree was never what I was after. And flying pigs don't seem that appealing. They'd taste like chicken anyway. And boy, would they hurt you when they fell.

What's important is that I know the value of money. I spread my own wings. I know my own worth.

What's important is I live my life as if nobody else can live it for me. Because, they can't.

French literary critic, Charles Du Bo wrote, "The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."

Letting go of make believe and fairy tales and wishing and hoping upon stars for all our dreams to come true takes a courageous soul. It takes letting go of limiting beliefs that would have you hold fast to everything you know about yourself, to fall into that space where everything you've always imagined about yourself is possible and true. It takes dispelling your belief that you are a mere human being grinding away at the grist in the mill of your human experience. It takes opening up to your disbelief that you are a being of wonder, the divine expression of God that is uniquely you. A being of power and light, of creation.

There ain't nobody coming to your rescue. It's time to get into the flow of limitless possibilities that open up when you embrace all that you are, right now, in this moment, without fear you will never be enough.

You are enough.

Always were.

Always will be.

Even if you don't know how to make your dreams come true. Even if you are terrified of letting go of your control. Do it. Take the leap. Listen to your heart's calling. Tune into your spirit's voice rising out of the quagmire of your disbelief. You are an amazing human being the reflection of all that is divine and holy in your creation.

You are a wondrous being of light. Your wings are calling, whispering sweet everything's in your ear. They are calling you to leap, to spread yourself wide and open up to the absolute bliss of being in love with all you are and all you ever will be. There are no limits to your greatness. Take off the brakes. Accelerate your dreams and get living it up in the here and now.

There's nobody coming to rescue you from today. It's up to you to set yourself free to be your most amazing self in this moment of your awakening.

The question is: Are you willing to fall into that space where you don't know how to make it happen and let the magic rise around you? Are you willing to be free?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And the circle continues.

I've found that when I make a good play and take my pitcher off the hook, it's just natural for me to feel better than if I made a flashy play that doesn't do anything except make me look good for the grandstands. It works the same way off the ball field, too. Doing a good turn for a neighbor, a friend, or even a stranger gives me much more satisfaction than doing something that helps only myself. It's as if all people were my teammates in this world and things that make me closer to them are good, and things that make me draw away from them are bad. Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr
I have been busy this past week making presentations for the United Way's fall campaign. Yesterday was no different. I had two presentations to make, one of them to a company in an industrial area -- plant staff and management got together over a potluck lunch to kick-off their Days of Caring campaign. I was the guest speaker.

Before I arrived the host had called to ask me to gear my presentation around the theme, "We don't have it so bad. Look at all the people who are worse off than us."

While I think it is important to recognize that, 'we don't have it so bad', I believe it is more important to give because giving is the right thing to do. Because we can. Because we want to be our best in all areas of our life. Because we want to express our gratitude for what we have been given.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

Giving is receiving.

In my presentation, I sometimes tell the story of a former client of the shelter where I work who first came to the shelter at the age of 60, penniless, depressed, confused and, a crack addict. He hadn't been an addict in his youth. A Masters in Education, he was a teacher, a guidance counsellor, a father, a husband. Life was good, or at least manageable, until he started to feel the loss of being cut off from the people he loved, and the man he believed himself to be. The marriage went first. He lost the role of 'husband'. It was a big blow to him. He'd been a husband for thirty plus years. He had trouble adjusting.

In the absence of that role, he took on a new persona. Lonely. Depressed. He looked for ways to cope with these sensations and found a bar at the end of his street.

"I should have known better," he said. "I did. But what I knew wasn't important. I wasn't thinking straight. I needed people and found them. I couldn't imagine it would turn out so bad."

It was a neighbourhood kind of place. Regulars sitting on bar stools, nursing their drinks. A dart board in the corner. The darkness of the bar was comforting. He knew it was keeping him out of the light, but he wanted company. He didn't need to talk to them. He just wanted to be around them. He started going more often. Twice a week. Four times. Every night. He met a stranger. A guy on the next bar stool. They started chatting. 'I'll be your friend,' the stranger said. He believed the stranger. 'Why wouldn't I,' he asked. 'I had no reason to lie to him. Why would I think he'd lie to me?' He told him of his loneliness. The broken marriage. The loss of identity. His new friend promised he could help him feel better. 'I'll show you. It's out in my car.' Out in the car was a bag of crack. 'This will be way better than the booze. It'll help you forget.' He gave it to him for free. At least for a couple of weeks until he knew the man was hooked. Then he had to pay.

With crack, his drive, his commitment to work to everything else evaporated. His self-esteem took a dive. The job went next. Early retirement. His self-competency plummeted. He didn't open his mail for months. Bills went unpaid. Knocks at the door unanswered. And then, he lost the condo. Lost the respect of his two children. Lost all contact.

Until he came to the shelter.

There he found himself again. It took awhile. Four years. But today, he is living on his own, still struggling to keep his addiction at bay, but surviving. Living. He's reconnected with his daughter. His son will not speak to him. Yet. He's gained a lot. He still feels the loss of a life he loved. Still feels the loss of the numbness crack gave him. But, he's waking up to himself these mornings. Waking up to the belief that this is better than what he had found on the streets.

When we give, I told the crowd, we help people like this man who was so lost on the road of life he ended up in a place he never could have imagined. A homeless shelter.

No one imagines ending up in a shelter. No one imagines falling so hard the only place that can catch them is the one place where you have to lose everything to get to it.

No one can imagine.

Yet, it happens. Every day.

Two years ago in the United States, few people ended up homeless because of foreclosures. Today, it is estimated that at least twenty-five percent of those falling into homelessness are doing so because of foreclosure.

Who could have imagined?

It's hard to imagine what it's like living in a shelter. Sleeping with, as one client called it, '1200 roommates'. The loss of privacy. Self-efficacy. The loss of personal space. Belongings. Voice. Following rules you had no say in creating, because in a community rules 'keep people safe' and make things run smoothly. Of having to eat what you're given, when you're given it. Having to ask for the very things you used to take for granted. Toothpaste. Shampoo. A towel. A cup of coffee.

It's hard to imagine that beauty can flourish in a shelter. That human spirits can find their wings and soar.

And yet they do. Everyday.

And every time we give, our time, money, energy to a place like the shelter, we are sharing our light to help those who have lost everything find their way back home.

We can't imagine what it's like to lose everything and live in a shelter. We can imagine what it feels like to give because we can. To share our time, energy, money to create a world of difference in the lives of those who have lost their way.

The Canadian Blood Service has a slogan: Blood. It's in you to give.

I believe we could all say, "My best. It's in me to give."

My best arises, as Bobby Doerr suggests, when I look at the world as my teammates. When I give of my best, I feel better. In giving, I create a ripple effect that connects me to all that is good and right and beautiful and loving in all of us. In giving, I receive the gift of having lived up to my best. And the circle continues.

The question is: Are you focused on 'how bad' you've got it, or are you making yourself feel better by sharing the best of you to create the best all around you?

Monday, October 26, 2009

I am open to finding myself lost.

Know thyself. Socrates
Some mornings, I awake and wonder what to write. What to say. How to access my mind on that delicate rope of possibility that connects it to my heart. Some mornings, to awaken to 'the flow', the collective force of energy through which I believe all things flow, I begin with the statement, "I am lost. I have forgotten who I am and why I came here."

I am lost. At a loss for words. Bereft of thoughts. Not a clue. No idea. Nada.

Or, I am lost. An empty vessel of possibility. An open page yet to be written. A receptive soul. An inquisitive spirit searching for truth.

As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki counselled, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few."

Let me awaken every morning with Beginner's Mind.

It's all in my perspective. Know everything. Know nothing.


This was a Choices weekend. A weekend of hearts opening to the wonder of their spirit's rising. A time for connection. For learning. For growth. For awakening to the limitless possibilities in my life today.

Saturday, while witnessing someone stretch outside their comfort zone, a friend came up and said. "You just love it here. The energy. Excitement. People."

I thought about what she said, and she's right. I do. There is something incredibly beautiful and soulful in being a part of someone's discovery and acceptance of their beauty. The energy in the room is contagious. It is a safe and loving place. More than anything however, I love being in the Choices training room because in that room, I am fearlessly 100% me. In that room I know complete acceptance, of myself and others. And I know, I am accepted exactly the way I am. I am not judged. Nor 'wanting'. I am okay.


I am in awe of the human spirit. We are such amazing beings. Filled with light. With possibility. Hope. Creativity. Joy. Love.

We have endured unspeakable harm. Dark nights of the soul that should have pulled us under, rendering us back to the dusts of time.

And still we survive.

I chatted with a woman who was telling me the story of her abuse at the hands of the man who had promised to love her 'til death do us part. It was horrible. Awful. Crazy-making stuff.

But she wasn't crying. She wasn't the victim. She was strong. Positive. Engaged. "I am so grateful for Choices," she said. "I don't have to carry the load of what happened in the past any longer." She paused and laughed. "It's a good thing. It was killing me."

And that was the key -- it wasn't what he had done that was killing her. It was carrying the load of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, fear, sorrow, regret -- all of those things we carry from the past, after the past has happened. Those were the things that were dragging her down.


On the Lovefraud blog, where I contribute an article every week, someone asked me, "How did you find the strength to control your thoughts about him."

The answer was pretty simple. Thoughts about him did not add value to my life. After he was arrested and I received the miracle of my life in freedom, thoughts of him kept me stuck in the past. Thoughts of him hurt. They weighed me down. They limited my freedom. Thoughts of him had no value to my healing journey. Learning more about him, or trying to figure out 'why' he did what he did, kept me embroiled in his schtick. I needed to learn about me, not him. And so, I chose to bring my will to bear to keep my thoughts focused on me, myself and I. The one place I had dominion over.

I am lost. I have forgotten who I am and why I came here.

I am a fearless woman, touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free to dance in a world of wonder.

That's who I am. And, knowing 'who' I am makes the how easy. Be all of who I am, fearlessly living this one, wild and precious life in the rapture of now.


Yesterday, I worked in the Purpose Room at Choices. It is the final weekend of the nine day process (five days, two weekends) where each participant discovers their "Purpose".

It was a different space for me yesterday. My role shifted from 'guide', the person sitting in the circle with a small group of people as they work through the process of claiming their purpose, to 'checker'. As a 'checker', my role was to come into each circle after the work was complete and hear the individual state their purpose -- and clarify any gaps, questions, hesitations, etc. to ensure nothing was missed.

I was nervous yesterday. Worried -- what if I don't do it right? What if I mess up? What if I make a fool of myself?

Ego. It always awakens in the most inopportune times.

My ego is a wily guy. He likes to pop in and out and pull the rug out from under my belief, I am a magnificent human being on the journey of her lifetime. Life begins outside my comfort zone. It's almost as if he believes that feeling 'okay' or good about myself is not safe. Or that, learning new skills, stretching myself outside my comfort zone is risky business -- and risky business equals... DANGER! Go figure.

Ego is me making it all about me. Ego is me being fearful.

Yesterday, I stretched. I let myself flow into that space where to 'do it right', I had to acknowledge I didn't know it all in the first place (ooh, now that's scary!). I had to learn the process before I could feel comfortable doing it. And, in that room, I know I am safe. I wasn't thrown to the sharks. I shadowed the other checkers first. Listened to how they asked questions. Queried. I knew the six points to watch for to ensure each purpose was aligned with the individual's higher good. I didn't have to do it perfectly.

There is no 'perfect' in human interaction. All I had to do was give my 100%. And when I give my 100%, my best meets your best to create a unique field of connection. An open ground where possibility of new and more and exciting opportunity and interesting ideas and learning exists.

It was a great learning experience for me. To accept -- Fear is the opportunity to be courageous. And in that moment, fear was my opportunity to accept -- it's not about doing it 'right', it's about giving myself the grace of learning, and the wisdom to delve into my deep knowing about the process to listen to my intuition. It wasn't about me yesterday. It was all about the experience.

And what an amazing experience it was.

The question is: Are you awakening with Beginner's mind where limitless possibility exists for you to be your most magnificent self today?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Loving the unlovable in me

A true knowledge of ourselves is knowledge of power. Mark Rutherford
Friday. One of those days to let out a big whoof, to decompress from a busy week and relax into the opportunity to reconnect with ... oops. I forgot. The weekend is busy too!

And that's the rub. I forgot to schedule time for me this weekend. Time to relax and let go. To drift back into contemplation.

The beauty of today is, it's not too late to change tomorrow! I know me. Taking time for myself is an essential ingredient in my self-care. I need to recharge my batteries by disconnecting from the external to nurture the internal flame of my passion to be authentically me.

I read a beautiful story yesterday about a man who met a guru and asked him the secret to enlightenment. Be who you truly are, the guru answered. How will I know who I truly am? asked the man. Take away all the parts of you you don't like and all the parts you do like and you will see yourself. For there is God.

We are darkness and light.

Guy Hendricks writes that when we notice something we want to change within ourselves, first love and accept it as it is.

What do you find least likable/lovable about yourself? Is it your temper? Body? Laziness?

Love is limitless. Love has no boundaries. Love can love the parts of you you don't love. Just ask it.

Start by loving yourself for not loving yourself all the time. Then let yourself fall in love, just a little bit, with the parts of yourself you don't love. Ooops. Not too much. (just kidding). go for it. Love yourself for all you're worth -- even the parts you deny have any value in your life.

Reality is, if they didn't have value, we wouldn't cling to them so hard.

Yesterday, I received an email from a client at the shelter where I work who takes a program I teach on managing life. "I'm writing a piece and was wondering if you would be willing to take a look at it."

I am always in awe of the human spirit opening up and sharing its brilliance.

J. wrote about what it means for him to be labelled, 'homeless'. How it feels. How it sits in his psyche. And at the end of his email he wrote, "I’ve become complacent by allowing myself the luxury of ignorance. I keep telling myself that as long as I don’t know how bad my situation really is then I still have some attachment to my former social status."

He's not alone.

Denial is an insidious force of darkness.

Denial keeps us stuck in disbelief. How could this be my life today? How can this be happening to me? I'm not really, lazy, stubborn, stupid....

In our unwillingness to look at the parts of ourselves we don't like, we disown part of our birthright to be authentically, completely, absolutely children of God. Divine beings of light and love.

Six years ago when I awoke from an abusive relationship that was killing me, I had to face a very hard, difficult and painful truth. I had done something I could never have imagined myself doing. I had deserted my children and caused them great pain. I didn't want to face that truth. (What kind of human being did that make me?) I didn't want to look at the pain and horror of my actions and the impact they had on my daughters.

I wanted to hold onto the belief he was the cause of all their pain. It wasn't my fault. I was abused.

Reality had a different agenda.

I wanted to heal. To heal, I had to be willing to love myself, exactly the way I was, in that moment of awakening. Bruised and battered. Shattered. Alone. Frightened. Abused. And a woman who deserted her daughters. And a woman who loved her daughters enough to acknowledge what she had done hurt them and herself.

In accepting my darkness and light, I embraced my pain, surrendered and fell in love with all of me.

Wanting to deny the darkness within is human. So is loving our darkside. When we love the darkness, we make room for greatness to rise in the light of awareness.

Love yourself for all you're worth.

It's your birthright.

Here's an exercise.

Pick one thing about yourself you think you're hiding from the outside world. It might be, shyness, it might be, I think I'm fat. Or, simply, I'm lazy.

Now, write it out in the middle of a piece of paper. With a red pen, draw a big heart around the unloved part of you.


Close your eyes. And say quietly to yourself, "I love my... shyness. body. laziness...


Again and again for one minute.

Open your eyes.

See. That wasn't so difficult.

Keep thinking about loving your unlovables. Wash them in a bath of warm soapy love. Hang them out to dry. Expose them to air and light.

You are a child of God. Lovable. Unique and very much needed and wanted on this planet exactly the way you are.

The question is: What are you denying? Are you willing to start loving the parts of yourself you've been denying?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Power of Good-bye

Even the most troublesome patterns change when you love and accept them just the way they are. Guy Hendricks
Every week I contribute to a website for men and women who have had encounters with psychopaths (p), sociopaths (s), or narcissists (n). The site is designed to provide information on these specific personality disorders, and to provide guidance on how to deal with and, as in my case, heal from encounters of the disorderly constructed kind.

Yesterday, I met with a woman on an unrelated issue to discuss a literacy program for the shelter where I work. "You know I wrote an article for," and she named a major Canadian Women's magazine. "I had to use a pseudonym but I needed to tell the story of my relationship with a psychopath."

"No," I replied. "I didn't know."

I don't know what I don't know.

What always amazes me is the serendipity nature of encounters where we discover we have a connection beyond the surface of conversation. When we realize, oh, you've experienced that too.

It was a revelation for me yesterday. Not because she had a story that parallelled mine, but because in hearing her story, and the pain and sorrow she still carries, I realized -- I have an experience and the voice to speak up that can help other's heal.

Now, I 'know' I have these things -- what I don't always accept is my responsibility and my power in sharing what I've learned to create a better, more loving, caring world around me.

Last night, I shared on the other site, a piece I'd written a year after being released from the relationship that set me free to become all I've ever imagined being. I'm still a work in progress. I continue to explore and expand all I'm meant to be. And every day I come across myself hiding out, I turn and embrace the part of me I've been denying and move into the wonder of asking myself, "What's in it for me to.... play small, be fearful, shut up, act out... or the host of self-defeating games I engage in when I'm refusing to see, I am the creator and the destroyer of everything I ever want to be or have in my life.

I have a pattern of playing small. Today, I choose to play it big. To stand tall. Speak up. Embrace all I am and love myself for all I'm worth.

Today, I choose to share with you a piece I wrote five years ago that spoke volumes about the power of one word to heal and strengthen and release me from my pain. It is a piece I'm very proud of -- and I smile as I write that. My lesser self wants me to repeat after it -- "don't be proud."

See, it isn't just an abusive relationship with another that hurts us. It is the abuse we heap upon ourselves when we play small, act out, undermine our higher good with our lesser intentions of not living up to all we are meant to be.

When I turn the tables on my thinking. When I face the truth -- I abuse myself when I act out, I set myself free to love myself, darkness and light, beauty and the beast, yin and yang. I set myself free to create the magnificent life of my dreams.

The Power of Good-bye

As night settled into its soggy wet blanket, the pooch and I went for a walk. The rain beat a sibilant hiss upon the shiny black road, the streetlights glowed iridescently, casting golden orbs of light, punctuating holes into the dark shadows of the night. I was wrapped in the misty blanket of a rainy evening, my skin moistened by the water-laden air, my breath a frosty vapor leading me silently forward. The pooch pranced happily by my side, her tail a constant metronome displaying the tempo of her happiness as we journeyed forth into the dark.

It was a mystical, magical evening. A night for quiet thoughts that drifted through my mind as effortlessly as the raindrops falling one-by-one from the pearl clad branches all around me.

I thought of love found and love lost and moving on. Of new relationships and old. New found love and love that never fulfills its promise of growing old beside me. Of promises made and promises broken. Journeys taken and voyages lost because the voyageur could not see by the light of the moon and lost his way among the stars. And I thought of my brother to whom I had never said good-bye and the P to whom good-bye was just another word for, 'the door is always open until I say so.'

For such a little word, good-bye carries a mighty wallop.

Good-bye can mean, see you in a while, or see you in a year. It can carry us into the night on the hope of tomorrow or it can sweep all hope away as we look back and see there will never be a next time, another day, or a new tomorrow.

For those who have journeyed into the valley of the abuser, good-bye is a word fraught with the fear that once spoken it can never be returned. It lays frozen upon our tongues, our minds numb in the fear it might slide out on a breath of air and change our lives forever. Terrified we might slip, we pack our hopes and dreams into that one little word and stuff our pride and dignity into the cracks of our pain seeping in beneath the door held fast against our fear that he will leave before tomorrow ever dawns. And all the while, we search for the perfect last words that will either make it all right or make him hear us, just this once, before he slithers off into the dark from whence he came.

And as we flounder in the depths of empty words and promises, we pray that there will never be a time to say good-bye but rather, welcome back, I’ve missed you. Spiraling into the darkness of the painfully long good-bye they began when they said, hello, we silently hold onto the word that will set us free and stumble through the words of begging them to please not say it.

But in the land of lies, the door we thought we held so firmly closed is always open, no matter how hard we push against it. Eventually, when we have worn ourselves out upon the welcome mat of our desire to be all they will ever need, we must face the reality that we will never have the chance to say our fond farewells. They have already left. Gone in search of new tomorrows. Of some other happily ever after which we never saw coming.

In their passing, we are left holding the shreds of our battered hearts in the basket of our dreams, frozen in time. Alone, forlorn, we whisper, good-bye, into the empty space that lays before us, hoping they will hear the soft promise of our hopes they will find out there, that which they could never find in us. We peer into the darkness of the lengthening shadows, our tears puddling around our feet, forming a river into which we fall, in fear of drowning as we cry out for one last chance to say good-bye.

Good-bye. It’s such a little word but it keeps us stuck on the dream of wanting them back so that we can have the last word that will close forever the door to our hearts they so easily open.
In the end, the best good-bye is the quiet hello we whisper within our hearts as we pick at the scab of our wounds that never seem to heal as long as they keep walking through the door to our dreams. Good-bye lies. Hello truth. Welcome back to me.

In our good-byes that are never spoken we will never find the key that will unlock the secret door to their understanding. It resides somewhere in the dark, beyond the edges of the light. But, beneath the scabby, jagged-edge scar of our disbelief, new skin is forming with our welcome home. If we leave it alone long enough to heal from the inside out, we will understand that he could never hear our good-bye. He could never cherish our hearts because he was always and forever, a figment of our imaginations. He was never true.

In our awakening to the light of a new tomorrow without him we discover, it was only the darkness of being without him we feared. And without him, we have nothing to fear.

In seeing the gift of his departure in the light of a new day dawning, we lift our heads and see, the sun is shining. As it beckons, we step into the light of finally knowing, the only way to say good- bye to what never was, is to accept it never will be.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I see you

Run your fingers through my soul. For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel, believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive, look, experience, examine, and for once; just once, understand. Unknown
He is a small man. Clean shaven. Baby-faced. Dark hair pressed against his head. Greasy. His eyes tiny beads of dark peering out, constantly searching the world around him, on guard, looking out. His hands are never still. They pick at the dark fabric of his pants. Wearing thin already thin clothing. He wears a dark blue ski jacket. Dirty ring around the collar.

He is homeless. And he is dying. Cancer has a grip on his lungs. "I can't fight it any more," he said when we stood chatting on the second floor of the shelter where I work. "It's stronger than I am."

He doesn't care any longer about the cancer. He does care about Irene*. His girlfriend. His lady love.

He had caught my sleeve as I walked across the Day Area of the shelter. "Can I talk to you in private? It's really important," he'd said. His dark eyes peering intensely into mine. Unwavering. Unyielding.

"Sure," I'd replied. "Give me a minute to finish off what I'm doing and I'll come and find you."

"Why don't I just follow you?" His lips pressed into a smile. "So you don't forget."

I thought of promising I wouldn't forget but I knew he wouldn't believe me. His is a world of disappointment. A world of giving up on people believing in you. A place where you forget to believe in yourself. Or that you had anything to believe in. His is a world of the forgotten.

Homeless. Addicted. Mentally disabled. Physically challenged. We never forget the names we use to label a place we don't understand. It is a place we can't forget because we don't really know it exists until we've been there.

I smiled back. "I can finish this later. Let's chat now."

He looked around. Furtively. Nervously.

"Can we go somewhere private? Quieter?"

Finding a quiet place in a shelter is tough.

It was a Sunday. We couldn't go up to my office on the sixth floor, not unless I had another staff with me. He didn't want another staff member listening he said. "It's important. I need to talk to you."

I took him into the Hygiene section. It was closed for lunch hour.

Now. I must explain. I am not a counsellor. I am the PR director. Dealing with client issues is not my bailliwick. But, clients see me walking around the building, talking to media, to other staff, to other clients. I carry a 'red' access card which means, I'm with admin. I can get into areas other staff can't. They assume it means, I'm important. A mucky, muck, as one of the clients called me one day. Or, a big shot, as another said.

Often, desperate for an ear, for someone to listen to their story, they'll approach me in the belief I can do something about whatever it is that is causing them angst around the shelter.

Often, all I can do is listen deeply to their words. Affirm their feelings and let them know, "Sawbonna."

Sawbonna is a South African phrase that means, "I see you." or even deeper, "My soul sees you."

My beautiful friend, Margot Van Sluytman created The Sawbonna Project to commemorate her father who was shot dead by a burglar when she was sixteen. She met her father's murderer thirty years later and found healing, peace, and a passion for restorative justice.

Margot writes in her book, Sawbonna: A Journey of Hope,

My soul sees your soul.
And our shared dancing,
Stretches to the very core
Of all that is possible.
All that is.
My soul sees your soul.
Margot van Sluytman

That day, standing in the midst of silent washers and dryers, weak sunlight seeping across the floor, I listened to a man tell me of his love, his passion, his fears for the woman he desperately wants to save.

Sawbonna. My soul sees your soul.

"I know she's a drunk," he said. "But I'm really working with her to help her change her behaviour. I'm so scared that after I'm gone, she'll get barred from here." He gripped my sleeve again. "What will happen to her if she can't come here?"

He is dying. Six months, maybe a year. If he's lucky.

I wonder about lady luck. I wonder what luck's got to do with prolonging life on the edges of existence. In that forgotten place where lives are lost every day to a street that doesn't care if you're willing, ready or not, to go.

There wasn't much I could do for this man except listen. Deeply.

I made a couple of suggestions. Asked if he'd talked to a counsellor or one of the floor staff.

"Yeah," he said. "But I still can't get anyone to listen to me. To help her. They keep barring her because she brings alcohol into the building and doesn't do what she's supposed to. I know she doesn't follow the rules but really, she's gotten better. And other people do even worse things than she does and they don't get barred. It's not fair."

Ahh, fairness.

The age old equalizer. The child's tormented plea for justice. It's not fair.

Nope. It's not. I want to tell him fairness doesn't have anything to do with life in a homeless shelter. But this is not my story to tell. It's his.

I listen more. Deeply.

I see his soul.

He is frightened. Scared. Fearful. He will die and never have made a difference. He will pass through this place on to where ever he is going and never have left a mark. There will be no footprints left behind. No impression imprinted on the fabric of life.


He wants to make a difference. He wants to make his life mean something. And helping his lady love gives his life meaning.

I promise to talk to the Supervisor and a counsellor on her behalf.

"Somebody's got to watch out for her," he pauses. "You won't forget?"

"I won't forget."

In a homeless shelter, there are people who pass through and are forgotten once they're gone. They arrive. Silently take a seat, a meal, a bed, a place to rest until the time arrives when they move on. To where ever they're going. Where ever they're meant to be next on their journey.

Sometimes, someone arrives and doesn't pass through. They sit and wait and hope life will be different. Change will appear upon the horizon pulling them into another space, another time, another life. They pass away the hours waiting and hoping for it to be different. For life to wake them up from this nightmare where they will find themselves again on the other side of the street. Sometimes, all they can do is wait. And all we can do is wait beside them.

And then, someone arrives. Like this man. He's been a shelter client off and on for over ten years. Homelessness, poverty, despair gripped his soul long ago, took a hold of his hopes of passing through and deposited him on the side of the one's who never get off the street with their lives intact.

And still, he wants to make a difference. He wants his life to have meaning. For someone. Somehow.


I see you.

My soul sees you.

In a shelter, sometimes all I can do is see a person through the telling of their story. To hear their words and honour them with my listening deeply to their heart's calling out for attention.

I cannot change this man's journey. I cannot change this woman's life.

I can make a difference by seeing the beauty of his spirit beneath the ragged clothes, the nervous tick, the dirty fingernails. I can make a difference by letting him know.


I see you.

My soul sees you.

May each encounter along your journey today be filled with the opportunity for Sawbonna to enter your heart. May you find the space to see another, soul to soul as you witness your spirit's rising in the dance of life.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shake up your soul

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. Anais Nan
I got shaken up yesterday. By words. Written words. Words that lifted off the page in fat, juicy rhythm, stirring the edges of my mind, scouring the ridges of my perceptions. Rounded vowels, slim and lithe consonants. Sentences plump with meaning. These words had meaning. A turn of phrase. A phrase turned into itself rounding the corner of simplicity, catching me unawares with the stark reality of truth rising in a thought exposed to air.

I was shaken up by words yesterday. And I am grateful for the shaking to the root of my soul.

The words became apparent in an essay by Maureen on her blog, Writing without Paper. Like James Nachtwey's speech, Maureen's words are a must read. A pulsing vibrant commentary of these times in which we live. Of these times in which we must breathe into the collective consciousness rising if we are to survive. If we are to soothe the troubled world.

I felt heavy when I was finished. Sated. Lost for words, I found myself weeping upon the page, my heart burning in agony for the child's arms upraised to heaven, 'as if heaven knows', she wrote.

In a tragically conflicted world, war and peace, hatred and love, anger and forgiveness, darkness and light vie for supremacy with the intrusive insistence of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign jockeying for brand recognition amongst the common mind. Amidst the maneuvering for position truth weighs-in burdened by concrete shoes, sinking beneath the lie that we cannot create peace. It is the lie that filters down to earth like radioactive dust, poisoning the fragile bloom of the peace flower struggling to break ground upon the battlefields of our crazy messed up but oh so beautiful world.

Oh for crying out peace! From the rooftops. From the depths of our souls. Cry out for peace.

Remembrance Day is on the horizon. Peace is on my mind.

Let there be peace. And if we cannot uncover it upon the battlefield, let us find it in our hearts. Let us make love, not war. Let us sow seeds of harmony, not discontent. Let us, as Gandhi once exhorted a nation, become the change we want to see. We must see. We must create.

Leap into the unfamiliar. Shift your perceptions. Let magic arise around you and within you.

Choose peace today. Choose to live in harmony with the world around you, soothing the world inside with words that comfort your soul and raise your spirits. Open your arms wide. Breathe. Embrace the dichotomy around you. Embrace the fear, the angst, the hardened thought. Exhale. Release. Lighten up.

Shake up your soul today. Rattle the status quo. Stir the fires of greatness within you. Stoke the flames of your passion for all that is holy and divine within and without you. For all around us is the possibility of peace, if we just give it a chance to catch its breath so it can breathe life into all we have lost in our harried pursuit of all we don't have.


Shake up your world today and give peace a chance where ever you go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Through the eyes of one man

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man. Edward Steichen

My eldest daughter gave me the link to an acceptance speech, photographer, James Nachtwey made as the recipient of the Ted Wish Prize in 2007. His speech can be seen, and heard, here. "It's shifted something in me," she said. "You have to watch it." And I did.

In a world filled with wonder, there is war. In a world of mystery, disease ravages entire countries. In a world of abundance, children starve of hunger, die of thirst and cry out for a mother's care. In a world of possibility, where each of us has a voice and the freedom to speak up, there is always hope. We will end war, cure disease, stop starvation.

There is always hope. As long as we do not give up speaking out, speaking up, standing up, standing together, standing strong. As long as those with eyes and ears, and voices continue to write and speak and take photographs and compel us to witness what they have seen and heard and felt so that we too understand. So that we too take action to stop destroying all that is good and great and magnificent about humankind. As long as we open our eyes and our hearts and our minds and do not give up on believing we can make a difference, there is hope.

There is hope.

I encourage you to watch James' speech. It is profound.

I am moved. I am saddened, and I am inspired. To speak up. To give voice to, to stand against and lean into -- hope. I am convinced the only way I can make a difference is to give my best to the world around me.

When I was a little girl I wanted to change the world. Into my teens and then my twenties, I wanted to make a difference. I still do.

I may not have the power to stop war. I may not have the power to change the course of disease raging through a village in far off Africa, but I can make a difference.

Right here. In my world. And in changing my world, in contributing all that is great and magnificent about me to the world around me, I change. And when I change within me, the world outside changes with me. The ripple I create spreads out in continuous waves of hope and love and possibility.

I believe we can change the world when we put down anger and guns and abuse and greed and learn to celebrate all that is magnificent about human kind.

I believe we have the power to change our lives and thus change our world with our ripple effect.
Just for today, I invite you to join me in creating a world of difference. I invite you to live up to your very best, to seek your higher good and contribute all that is magnificent and great about you to the world around you. I invite you to be the ripple effect infecting the world with love, hope, joy and possibilities.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of anger to create peace within you? Are you willing to drop fear to change the world with your courage?

Dead and gone

A mother's child died today
a casualty of life
ended on the battlefield
with one shot
through the heart
bleeding the blood that once
through his mother's veins
from her womb to his breath
he died
for the cause
against tyranny
for the right
to bear arms
to be free
to end war
to stop terrorism
to put food on the table
of the one's he loves.

A mother's child died today
his body wrapped
in the flag
of her confusion
Arms empty
she weeps where
his blood runs
no more.

A mother's child died today
and she cries out
to stop
the right
to kill one another.

ML Gallagher Oct 19,2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shine! The light is in you to share.

When you no longer need to learn how to deal with disharmony in your life you'll stop creating it. Dr. Wayne Dwyer
Yesterday I met with a woman who is working on a video about street people. Her target audience are police officers. The purpose of the vid is to connect with their compassion so that they can work with street level individuals on a consistently more caring and concerned basis.

Interesting concept.

Yet, as I kept thinking about it during the night, knowing that something in the concept was not working for me, it suddenly struck me -- In my conversations with police officers, and all the workshops I've presented on homelessness, their issue isn't a lack of compassion. The majority of officers I've met are very compassionate. They believe they treat everyone with respect. They believe they are compassionate. They believe they are doing a good job, the best they can, given what they deem the judicial systems 'catch and release policy' whereby, a drug dealer is caught and back on the street within hours. And given they have limited resources and options on how to deal with someone who is 'breaking the law', yet doesn't belong in jail.

Their issue isn't a lack of compassion for those suffering from homelessness. It's frustration, anger, and confusion because they have few options on how to deal with someone who is 'breaking the law' and needs help, not incarceration. Often, because their frustration levels are so high, they lose sight of the human on the street and fall into the trap of believing they are powerless to do the very thing that inspired them to become police officers in the first place -- make a difference.

In a world where the human spirit is beaten down and shaken up with drugs and alcohol, mental health issues and disorderly conduct, they rail against the one size fits all constraints of 'the law'. What do you do with someone who is breaking the law, destitute and incapable of paying a fine for public intoxication when they are seldom sober in the first place? The law says, arrest them and throw them in jail. Compassion says, find another path. Reality says, I don't have time.

The street is the microcosm of the macrocosm of our world. On the street, disharmony, disorderly conduct, despair mirror the disharmony, disorderly conduct, despair in our greater world. What happens on the street is not an aberration from life, it is life. It's life to the nth degree times 1,000 volts of darkness.

Street life is the dark side of our world. It is our shadow. And we cannot get rid of our shadow until we stand in the light and celebrate all that is great, magnificent, holy and divine within us.

Until I claim all my wonder, I cannot create a wonder-filled world around me.

Until I claim my right to live in harmony, I cannot let go of creating disharmony in my life.

I work in a world where people crawl silently beneath the darkness pulling them under their despair, hiding them from the light. It is a world filled with compassionate and caring people -- on both sides of the street. And everywhere we go, we search for the light, out there. We search to awaken the light in each person we meet.

Reality is, when we start shining our own light without hiding it, or diffusing it because of the conditions of the street, we will stop creating darkness in the world around us.

This morning, I am choosing to create joy in my world.

Last night I had a heart talk with my eldest daughter over dinner that broke me wide open in love. Last night, I participated in all that is great, magnificent, holy and divine between us. We created a space where beauty rose up and embraced us with its ruffled, unruly, uncomfortable and unconditionally loving arms and said, "WoW! This is life. This is living beyond the edges of your comfort zone."

Outside that space where I am comfortable treading water, is a big wide world of wonder. Here, on the outer limits of my life, I am free to shine light, to live in harmony, to be all I'm meant to be.

Because out here in the wonder zone of fearlessly living up to the possibilities of this wild and precious life that is mine, I embrace all of me -- beauty and the beast, light and darkness, light and shadow -- and know, I am love.

May you be love today. May you embrace your darkness and your light. May you dance in wild wonder of your magnificence. May you shine.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Joy is not in things; it is in us. Richard Wagner
This morning, I awoke and felt tired. Weary. I had difficulty getting to sleep last night. My foot was pulsing and my body felt keyed up. In fact, I felt energized when I went to bed. I had Reflexology yesterday and in the process, unblocked some flow that needed freeing -- hence the energy that needed release. When I awoke, I didn't want to get out of bed. There's snow out there. As much snow in two days as we normally get in a month of winter. Go figure!

Not feeling too inspired, I sat down at my desk and began journalling on the subject of 'joy'. What is it? Where does it come from? What does it mean for me?

A poster on a forum to which I contribute had written, "I am not in a joyful place. I am in a hopeful place."

I wondered about that sentence. How do we tell where we're at? Who determines our position?

It isn't an outside force -- it has to come from within us. So, if I want to be joyful, why would I limit my experience by defining my emotion with a word less than how I want to feel?

My pondering got me writing and in my writing about 'joy' I began to feel 'joyful'. I felt energized. I felt alive.

It was a profound moment. The realization that even feeling tired is -- all in my head. Sure, my body lacks its complete seven hours of sleep. Focusing on my lack, however, only keeps me mired in feeling tired.

Focusing on my abundance, moves me out of tired into joyful.

How powerful is that?

I can lift my mood by focusing my thinking on how I want to feel.

Joy is an emotion. It is that feeling of knowing -- I am alive. I am free. I am me!

There is no one else I want to be. No where else I want to be than right here, right now within me.

I can't change the weather outside. I can change the weather within me.

Today, I choose joy!

To keep myself joyful, I focus my thinking on being joyful. I imagine my spine is a flower stalk growing up towards the sun. Atop it, where my head is, a beautiful, happy daisy greets the morning light. Fresh faced. Glowing with happiness, revelling in the light of day shining upon me, I grow taller. I sit straighter. I breathe deeply.

This is joy. Right now in this moment. Right here.

I tuck my feelings of joy inside my heart and set out to greet my day. It is a beautiful day to be alive. It is a beautiful day under the sun.

How I greet my day. What I carry into it is my choice. It always is.

No matter how cloudy the skies, behind every grey cloud, the sun still shines.

Behind every heavy heart, joy awaits.

Today, I choose joy.

The question is: What about you? What are you going to carry into your day? A tired and weary heart or a joyful spirit revelling in the gift of this day where you are Alive!? The choice is yours. what will you choose?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The stories we tell

The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. Carlos Castaneda
Carlos C. is right. The amount of work in making ourselves feel one or the other is the same -- it's in carrying the load of our creation that we are worn down, or lifted up.

I work in a place where people are worn down by their stories, day in, day out. They carry the load like a weight upon their shoulders, sitting at tables with hunched shoulders, rounded backs. They walk with shuffling footsteps, backs curled into their chests, their hopes gripped in hands buried deep down into their pockets, forever fearful of coming up empty handed.

I work in a place where many people believe, this, this life of poverty, of misery, of hopelessness, is all they deserve. All they will ever create.

Fellow blogger, Maureen of Writing Without Paper, wrote in her powerful poem, The Things They Carry,
"Someone's morning pastry, last night's handouts
The story of his life."

When you're down and out, living below poverty, below the threshold of main street, sometimes all you've got to make yourself visible are the odds and sods of other people's handouts and the story you carry to mark your passing. It is all you've got to tell. The only thing that's yours and yours alone. It's all you've created in a life of despair. It is all you fear losing. You don't fear death -- this is a living death. You don't fear rock bottom. You've already hit it. You fear, losing your story. Without your story, where would you be?

We all have a story. Doesn't matter which side of the street we walk, we carry our story -- sometimes, it will lift us up. Sometimes, it will drag us down. We decide when and where and to whom we tell our story. How often. How loudly. How softly. We decide it if is a rant or a song. A dirge or a symphony of joy, of hope, of love.

We decide.

Once upon a time, I had a story. It was the story of being abused. Of being a bit part in another man's creation. I thought I was his leading character. I wanted to believe I was and so in my mind, I painted my story of our relationship with me as the heroine. Me as the lead actor. I was strong and loving. I stood by my man. I could, as he told me, make him a better man.

I became so attached to my story that I couldn't see it was killing me. Dragging me down into the pits of despair. Pushing me under. Drowning me.

I couldn't let go of the story I'd created because... well because I feared if I let it go I would be lost. Where would I be without the story of me as a super heroine of such astonishing power I could make a mere man a better man? Who would I be without this story of love awakening in the rosy dawn of his happily-ever-after? How could I be the heroine of my own life? I was his, forever more, forever and a day. Ours was a love committed 'til death did us part. How could I claim my own story away from my one true love when I had promised to help him be the man he'd always dreamt of being?

I was too frightened to look at the possibilities on the other side of our happy ending that never was. The story where I claimed my place in the sun for me, myself and I.

See, I'd always held onto the notion, buried deep within me, that I needed a man to complete my story. I needed someone else to make my dreams come true. Convinced that story where I was completed by another was the only one I could ever write, I became lost in the land of make-believe, telling my story again and again hoping for a different ending. No matter how many prince charmings came riding through, or how quickly they swept me away, the story never changed in my telling because I held onto the notion of needing their kiss to awaken me to life beyond my wildest imaginings.

We all have a story.

I've created a different story today than that sad tale of an abused woman too scared to admit that what was happening to her hurt like the dickens. That story was a sad tale of two people where the best of times were only a figment of my imagination. I kept grasping for the golden ring of what wasn't there so that I would not have to see what was right before my eyes --I was living in the worst of times. I was refusing to claim my power to write the story of my lifetime just for me, myself and I.

We get trapped in our stories.

The secret is to step out of the characters we've created and ask ourselves, Is this truth or fiction? Am I the passive voyeur committed to watching the story unfold, letting it happen without my direction, or, Am I the active hero/heroine creating the story of my life as I direct each choice I make towards my goals, creating more and more of what I want in life with every passing day?

In my daughter Alexis' awesome blog, Outside the Lines, she writes,

"I want to race through the grass in bare feet, and swim in the deepest part of the ocean, and eat an apple right from the tree, and fall recklessly in love,
and run with the bulls, and find a cliff and dive!
No safety gear or parachute to break my fall.
Straight into the great wide open.
Sailing fearlessly into life."
The question is: Do you fear the story of your life outside the coloured in lines of your existence? Do you fear creating a new story beyond the comfort zone of your limitations? Are you willing to colour outside the lines?

Just for today. Try it. Do something you fear. Step outside your comfort zone and leave yourself exposed to creating a new story of your life unfolding like you dreamed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That Quintessential Feeling

A daughter is a miracle that never ceases to be miraculous...full of beauty and forever beautiful...loving and caring and truly amazing. Deanna Beisser
My daughters made it back, safe and sound from Vancouver last night. A long weekend. A long drive. A long day. And they were happy. Time spent together. Time spent with their Aunt and Uncle. Time spent with their Grammie. Time spent by the ocean. With those they love. With eachother. Time well spent.

They walked into the house, laughing and chatting, carrying a cardboard box.

"What's that?" I asked my youngest daughter, Liseanne, as she put the box down on a side table.

"Oh. Some books from Auntie A." she replied, giving me a hug.

Her sister followed her into the house. "Where's the box?" Alexis asked.

Liseanne pointed to it and quickly added, "You should check out the books from Auntie A, mum."

They both stood watching me expectantly as I opened the box.

Tears immediately clouded my eyes. My heart felt warm. If books hold the wisdom of the ages, this gift held the wisdom of the heart.

I touched the cool surface of the object inside the box. I didn't want to lift it up. It was so beautiful, sitting there inside its cardboard container. So symbolic.

'It' was a red pottery bowl. But it was so much more than just a beautiful red pottery bowl. It was similar, yet different, to the one that I wrote about breaking in The Road Kill Salad two weeks ago.

"We couldn't believe the pottery store was open," Alexis said. It was a statement that would be repeated by one of my daughters several times over the evening.

They had driven into Field specifically to find a red bowl. They'd stopped at The Truffle Pigs restaurant to see if they sold them there, and were disappointed there were none. When they'd left, they'd spied the sign for The Velvet Antler Pottery shop down the road and run quickly towards it. It was 5:30 pm on a holiday Monday. They didn't expect it to be open. It was. They raced inside and there sat Ryan, the potter. They told him the story of the broken bowl. He was working alone. His wife had gone into Calgary for the day to share a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family while he worked away at a commission. He hadn't meant to be there. But he was.

"We couldn't believe the pottery store was open," one of the girls repeated as they watched me lift the bowl out of the box and hold it gently in my hands. It felt so warm and cool all at the same time. If beauty had a feeling it would be love.

I placed the bowl carefully on the dining room table. It sits there now. A beautiful counterpoint to the over sized glass vase that holds an ochre candle on a bed of stones. It sits serenely in its place. At home. A deep warm red imbued with swirls of gold and blue and black. Shiny. Sleek. Perfect.

And what is even more perfect is the gift of love it holds. The gift of caring. Of thoughtfulness. Of cherished connection.

I am blessed.

When I became a mother, I imagined my relationship with my daughters when they were grown up. Warm. Loving. Caring. I imagined their sharing their life's ups and downs with me. Of caring for them. Of caring about what happened to them. Of where they were going. Who they were with and what was happening in their lives. I imagined their listening to my advice (and taking it!) and how we would laugh and cry and laugh some more over life's ups and downs, always connected by the circle of love that surrounded us where ever we went, whatever we did.

I never imagined this.

This feeling special. Feeling like I count. I am important. I am ... valued.

It is a gift. A blessing. A feeling to be cherished and nurtured and carried in my heart forever. It is that quintessential feeling of love, of contentment. Happiness.

I am blessed.

May you be blessed today with knowing you are special. Important. Valued. May you know your worth comes from your loving heart, from sharing in all that is beautiful and caring and wondrous within you. May you know love. May love know you. May you be love. May you be loved.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank You

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John Fitzgerald Kennedy
It is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. First believed to have been celebrated by Martin Frobisher in 1578, Canadian Thanksgiving falls earlier here than in the US to coincide with our earlier harvest. In the land of the True North Strong and Free, we have to give thanks before the cold harsh winds of winter freeze our memories of all we have to be thankful for!

Every morning, sitting at my computer, watching the sky lighten from indigo to pale blue to pink and gold and azure blue, I give thanks for my abundance. Even the fact I have a computer sitting on my desk in my warm and cozy office is something I am grateful for.

There was a time, just six and a half years ago, when it wasn't a given that I would be sitting around typing on my keyboard. Back then, my life was in turmoil, my daughters living with the fear that their mother would never be found, my family and friends vainly searching for me. I believed I was better off dead. I believed I was worthless, unlovable, an appendage to a man who wove a weave of lies and deceit around me so strongly that I could not see through the F.O.G. (Fear. Obligation. and Guilt.) of his lies.

Today, I am far from that place where I believed I had no reason to live, nothing to give, no purpose in life.

Today, I am free of the FOG, of living in confusion, of believing his lies, of believing I was his.

Today, I know I am a Woman of Worth. WoW.

I've come a long way!

And I am so grateful for this journey. I am grateful for my daughters whose beautiful loving hearts taught me how to love and live again.

I am grateful to my family who stood by me as I struggled to find myself beneath the weight of my despair.

I am grateful to my friends, who reached out to me and supported me as I stood back up and claimed my place under the sun.

I am grateful for my life. For each moment. For every breath. I am grateful for C.C. who nourishes me and sustains me as we journey together falling deeper and deeper into love.

I am grateful for Ellie, the wonder pooch, who walks beside me, constant, gentle, loving. And Marley, the Great Cat, who brings such laughter into our home.

I am grateful for the wonder of science that has healed my foot -- and made it purdy too!

And for technology, which gives me a voice.

I am grateful for my gifts, for writing and painting and the art of living this one wild and passionate life in the rapture of now.

I am grateful for life.

I have much to be thankful for. Today. Yesterday. and Tomorrow. My life is a journey of love when I fill my heart with gratitude and give thanks with every breath and every thought and live my words with grace and ease and integrity.
May your day be blessed with gratitude, with loved ones sitting around as the Scandinavians call it, 'a groaning board', sharing in plenty of food, laughter and love as you give thanks for your abundance.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The economy of self

Trust can be difficult to establish, but it's well worth the investment. My daily horoscope from Shine
We make investments in ourselves everyday. We give time, or not, to ourselves to meditate, ponder, exercise, eat, communicate, work, play. We are constantly investing ourselves in ourselves, in our lives, our daily actions.

The challenge is sometimes our investments are not that wise, or healthy.

Think of your 'self' as a bank. Everyday you deposit goodies (love, joy, laughter, smiles, happy thoughts,), you can eat good food, consume or create good ideas, take positive actions, make healthy lifestyle choices, and a myriad of good decisions into your bank account. Your investment in your self pays off with a positive bank balance that can weather any storm, any crisis you encounter, including every day withdrawals that deplete your resources of energy, time and money.

Withdrawals come in the form of everyday occurrences such as traffic jams that make you late, bank machines that are 'out of service' when you need them most, an angry partner, a run stocking, a soiled shirt, an empty bottle of shampoo when you are half-way through your shower.

Withdrawals are part of the yin/yang of living. How we handle them is what creates our negative balance. Withdrawals deplete our account when we make negative choices. Unhealthy food choices, binges of anger, jealousy, envy, regret, and a host of other emotions. Unforgiveness, non-repentance, uncompromising positions that undermine our peace of mind.

Withdrawals can be reversed with 'goody' deposits such as love, joy, laughter, sharing a good time with a friend, acts of kindness, volunteering, etc.

As long as deposits outweigh withdrawals, your bank account is healthy and happy. You are in the black.

Big picture, with your healthy bank account, you trust yourself to be able to maintain your balance. You trust yourself to weather any momentary blips in the economy of self.

In my economy of self, I am teaching myself good financial management of self. That means, maintaining my integrity in everything I do so that I unravel the bad habits that have depleted my bank account in the past.

Like, my favourite, poor eating habits. When I make a choice to eat something I know is unhealthy for me, I am making a withdrawal from my self. I choose what I put in my mouth. I choose what feeds my body. When I choose to negatively impact my body, I am depleting my self of vital, necessary and essential nutrients. I am shifting the balance in the economy of my self to the negative.

When I invest in trusting myself by making positive choices, I am depositing goodies that sustain and create wealth in me. Every time I teach myself that I can trust 'me' to make healthy choices, I strengthen my bottom line (and my bottom).

Today's exercise:

Write down the dollar figure $1,000.00 in the middle of the top of a blank page in your notebook.

Beneath it, draw a line to the bottom of the page dividing the page in half.

On the top left side write: Withdrawals On the top right side write: Deposits

Throughout the day, remind yourself to write down a value for every emotion you experience during the day.

Every emotion has a value of $1.00. Doesn't matter if the emotion is love or anger -- it has a value of $1.00 on the Deposit side of the ledger.

Now, if you notice that the anger lasts longer than the momentary 'noticing' of it, make a withdrawal. Every withdrawal is valued at $2.00.

For example, you are in a meeting and Joe from the corner office is, as always, late. The thought of Joe being late is a positive emotion -- lateness is 'rude'. However, the 'as always' component is a negative. Have you ever discussed the importance of punctuality? Have you found a respectful way to tell him about your feelings around his lateness? So, in this situation you have a $1.00 deposit and a $2.00 withdrawal.

As the meeting continues, Joe asks a question about something that was discussed before he entered the meeting. You reply, (or think), "If you'd been here on time you'd know the answer."

That's a $2.00 withdrawal. There's no deposit because you've already given your emotions around his tardiness a say.

Later on, you go for coffee and Joe is standing in line in front of you. As you walk towards him, you smile, but in your head you think, "Ha. He's never late for coffee." That's a $2.00 withdrawal.

Back in your office, the phone rings. It's a supplier telling you they'll be late with delivery. It's the second time this month. You mention that fact and they apologize, explaining that they haven't received the necessary components because their supplier is late. You agree on a new delivery date and you hang up. You get a $1.00 deposit because you handled the interaction effectively.

Later on, you are explaining to your boss about the late delivery and complain about the supplier, blaming them for the situation, yada yada yada. That's a $2.00 withdrawal -- and more withdrawals for every time you repeat the story about how they are to blame -- like when you get home and tell your partner all about it, complaining about the supplier's lack of responsiveness. Oh, and you also get a $2.00 withdrawal when you talk about Joe's tardiness.

At the end of the day, add up each column. Are you in the negative or positive? Look through eyes of wonder at your bottom line and ask yourself, What can I learn? What can I do to change my bottom line? Be open, and joyful. Just in doing the exercise you have created positive well-being for your self.

The reality of this exercise is to bring to our consciousness the impact of our complaints and the effect of our critical, negative talk on our well-being.

When we invest time and energy into criticising, condemning and complaining, we are making withdrawals from our economy of self. We are depleting our resources, running our balance down and creating stress -- think about your bank account. When the balance is depleted, do you worry about how you'll make ends meet. How you'll pay for the new tires, the furnace repair, that dress you really want for the Christmas party? Criticising, condemning and complaining are energy vacuums. They suck the 'goodies' right out of us.

Stop it.

Make a commitment to notice how much you criticize, condemn and complain on a daily basis. Offset the negative with positives. Keep focusing on the positive, on the deposits, and ease yourself away from making too many negative withdrawals. Life has its ups and downs. Some one will inevitably do something to hurt, disappoint, disillusion, betray.... us. It is inevitable.

How we handle the ups and downs makes all the difference in the world to our economy of self. Choose to create a bank account of well-being that is continually balanced with positive 'goodies' that will sustain you through any situation that may arise. Keep yourself in the black by continually depositing self-sustaining and enhancing well-being.

The question is: What's in your bank account?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Through eyes of wonder

Generations have passed and this is a new generation. The moon is always the same, only the water changes. Justice remains the same justice, learning the same learning, as people and nations change.

Generations have passed; the true meanings stay constant and are eternal. The water in the stream may have changed a million times – the reflection of the moon and stars stays the same. Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi)

We live in fast changing times. Yet time has never changed its pace. We've changed our perception of time passing.

Yesterday, I taught in Project Forward -- a personal development/financial management course, at the shelter where I work. Last night, we focused on the exercise I presented here yesterday.

One student, when asked to look ahead to next year, the year after and then the year after said, "I have trained myself not to do that -- at least not with the negative. I don't like beating myself up with my negative traits."

"That's a great habit," I replied. "What if, you look at the exercise with eyes of wonder rather than through eyes of blame? What if, you chose to put the emphasis on, what can I learn about myself in embracing the negative?"

"But, if I'm feeling depressed today and project that forward for five years, I'll really be depressed."

"If you're feeling depressed today, how would you rather feel?"

He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'that's pretty simple', "Happy."

"Which feeling is real for you today?"


"On the page, which is real next year, happy or sad?"

He looked at me. Down at the page. "Well, neither. I'm here today, not in next year."

"Right. So on the paper, neither side of the column is 'real'. Both sides of the page exist because your mind created the words and you wrote them on the page. Neither is real until you make them real. Which do you choose?"

It is all in our choices. If I am unhappy today and don't want to carry it into tomorrow, what do I choose to do today to create the opportunity for me to change how I feel?

I am 100% accountable for my life. I am 100% responsible for my actions, my words, my thoughts, my deeds.

What do I choose? To do. To say. To think. To create.

It is all in my choices.

Today's exercise focuses on accountability.

Pull out your list from yesterday. Look down the left side of the page and pick one emotion that you really don't like. Maybe it's anger. Or, disappointment. Or, bitterness.

Now, close your eyes, take a couple of deep, deep breaths. Let your mind settle. Let the tension ease away from your body. Imagine a leaf falling gently to the ground. Softly. Gently it falls. Slipping side to side. Side to side. Gently. Softly. Lower and lower. Sinking. Softly.

Think about the word you chose. Open your mind to wonder. Ask yourself, "I wonder what this word wants to teach me? I wonder where the power is for me in this word."

Sit quietly for a few moments and let your wonder of the word open you up to embracing all it has to tell you.

After a few moments of wonder, open your eyes slowly, take a deep breath, shake your shoulders, pick up your pen and start writing (without censoring) the learning that came into your mind. Let yourself be free of judgement. Let the wonder become visible on the page.

For me, the word I chose was: Bitterness. As I settled into wonder, I asked myself, What is it about the word bitterness that does not sit well with me?

When I wrote, here's the wonder I found on the page:


Bitterness makes me think of rancid food. It smells. It dries up. It cracks. I don't want to be dried up and bitter. I don't want to become all used up like old people. So, this has to do with getting old? Yeah, well, remember dad. He became so set in his ways. So opinionated. I don't want to close off to learning, to growing, to being open to new ideas, new thoughts. I want life to be a constant journey -- of wonder. I want to be filled with wonder at how amazing life is.

Are you?

Filled with wonder?

Yeah, filled with wonder.

I try to be.

Trying is lying.

Oh, right. Well, I'm working on it.

That's skating around the issue.

I'm scared I will lose my wonder.

What will make you lose your wonder?

My choices.

Right -- you are accountable for you. What are you going to do to embrace wonder and let go of judgement, criticism, complaining...

I am going to focus on what I want more of in my life and keep myself free of complaining. I am going to get conscious of where I complain, what I complain about -- I am going to be scrupulous with my language. I am going to be filled with integrity.

Great! Now change the language to active, present tense, not passive.

Right! I choose to focus on what I want more of in my life. I choose to not complain, criticize and condemn. I choose to get conscious of where I complain, what I complain about -- I choose to be scrupulous with my language. I choose to act with integrity in everything I do and say and think.

In my wonder, I have opened up to the wonderful opportunity to realize a 'truth' that has scared me -- I fear getting old like my father. I fear being bitter -- and yet, there were so many wonderful things about my father. If I can age and maintain his enthusiasms, I will be doing well. I don't have to also become rigid in my outlook at life -- my attitude is and always will be -- my choice!
Give yourself the gift of wonder. Look at the 'dark side' of your personality with eyes of wonder and let go of blame or shame or fear or whatever emotion you attach to what you think of as 'negative' about yourself. Open yourself up to wonder, and you will be in for wonderful surprises.
The question is: Do you choose to explore yourself with eyes of wonder, embracing the learning that comes when you do not judge yourself but love yourself for all you're worth?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Out of darkness comes the light

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung
In the world of darkness, there is light. And in a world of light, there is always darkness. I work in a world where darkness blocks the light. Addictions. Mental Illness. Ego. Pride. Fear. Poverty. Abuse. Self-denial. All of this, and more, inhibit individuals from stepping outside the darkness into the light of consciousness rising -- whether they are homeless or not.

Yesterday, I stepped into my office and it felt like the intervening months had not passed. It felt like time had simply stopped still, waiting. Nothing had changed and yet, everything was different.

I walked across the second floor and was greeted by many of the same faces. I walked through the halls and saw new faces and faces I hadn't seen in awhile.

"How are you?" I asked one man. A former client, he regularly came in to volunteer. He was always cheerful. Always talked about the joy of 'giving back'.

"Considering that I'm back to live," he replied. "Not so great."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I replied. "What happened?"

And he went on to tell me a tale of how his roommate of seven years ripped him off. "I don't get it," he added. "I didn't do anything wrong. Why did this have to happen to me?"

What if it isn't about wrong, or right. What if it's not about it happening 'to me'. What if it's reality? This, what I've got right now, is my life, right now. If I want it to be different, what am I willing to do differently?

Within each of us there exist dreams and aspirations. Goals and wishes waiting to be fulfilled. We tell ourselves. "Next week, next month, next year... I'll take that step. Quit that addiction. Move away from where I'm at to where I want to be. Not yet. I'm not ready. The stars are not aligned. The frost isn't on the pumpkin. The apple hasn't fallen from the tree..."

We wait and wish and hope and yearn for something different. We look at all that is wrong, unfulfilled, incomplete, undesirable in our lives and sentence ourselves to more time. In the prison of our fear that this life is all we'll ever get, we hold ourselves captive to staying stuck in this moment where we don't want to be.

Everything that's going on your life today is of your own creation. This is your reality. This is your life. If you don't like it, are you willing to shine some light on what's going on and step out of the darkness of denial, fear, self-sabotage -- whatever it is that is keeping you stuck?

I have a friend who hates his job. But.... and there's that ole' butt. Sitting down where it doesn't belong! But, it's a job, it pays the bills. The economy sucks there are no jobs in his area of expertise. He's too old to change. He's only got eight years left before his pension kicks in. It's not his fault management is so... blind, stupid, backward...

Imagine eight years of sitting in a place you hate. Imagine eight years of waking up every morning loathing the idea of where you're headed for your day. Imagine carrying that load with you, where ever you go.

And now, imagine coming home with that load of anger, sorrow, regret, sadness, fear. Imagine it corroding your insides. Eating away at your joy. Imagine walking in your front door, looking for a place to deposit it but it won't leave you. It's yours. No one else wants it.

What do you do?

Some of us will drown it in an addiction. Some, will douse it with bursts of anger. Others will slip into a semi-conscious state, whiling away the hours watching mindless chatter on TV until sleep is our only surcease. We'll get creative, or so we think, with how we ease our pain, and in the end, we'll still have spent another day, another hour, another moment hating our lives, and everyone in it as we kill ourselves off with every waking thought.

It doesn't have to be that way.

I can be different.

It is our choice.

My eldest daughter gave me some really good counsel last night. She turned my mirror back on me and asked me, "Can you hear yourself?"

Yes I can.

I have the power to make change happen in my life. I have the power to do it differently.

We all do.

For the next four days, I am going to write about one step we can each take to move beyond the darkness of hiding from our light.

What you'll need for today's exercise is a notebook and pen, and a willing mind. find a comfortable place to sit without any distractions. Light a candle if you like, burn your favourite incense, put on soft music and sit quietly for a few moments sinking into the silence. Imagine you are a leaf drifting to the ground. Slowly. Softly. Gently.

Think about one area of your life where you feel unhappy, dissatisfied, that you'd like to change. Now, in your mind, move yourself forward one year. Imagine you're feeling exactly the same. Move another year forward. Feeling the same. Do it, until you can't move forward any more with those feelings. (You may go three, five, eight, ten years forward. There is no right nor wrong place to get to.)

When you get to that place where you can't move forward, open your eyes, and your notebook to a blank page, and write down how you were feeling at the end of your mental pathway. Write down everything. Be honest with yourself. Be open.

When you've finished writing, draw a line down the next page making two equal columns. On the left side, write down the words describing your emotions. Angry. Sad. Frustrated. Pissed off... On the right side of the column, write the emotions that describe how you'd like to be feeling about your life in three, five, eight, ten years. Happy. Fulfilled. Energized. Fabulous...

At the bottom of the right column, in big bold letters, write: All of this and everything better!

For the rest of the day, focus on All of this and everything better. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at what is holding us to one side of the page.

The question is: Are you willing to shine some light on what ails you? Are you willing to step into the darkness to find your light?