Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Angel of the Imagination

May the Angel of the Imagination enable you
To stand on the true thresholds,
At ease with your ambivalence
And drawn in new directions
Through the glow of your contradictions.
from Blessing of Angels John O'Donohue

I work in a place where people are living lives they never imagined possible. Who could have seen it coming? they ask. Who knew...

They look at the choices that lead them to the shelter door and wonder, 'how could 'this' have happened?"

Often, they believe it's not their fault. Bad roommate. Bad employer. Bad economy. The addiction. What can I do? I'm helpless. Hopeless. Homeless.

To make sense of what has become the nonsense of their lives, they look at all the things that have contributed to their finding themselves in a homeless shelter, and reject the notion, there's something they can do to change what is happening to them today.

Homeless begins to equate with 'hopeless' and in their hopelessness, they resign themselves to the belief that now could be forever. What on earth can they do to change the powerful winds of destiny blowing them into the door of the shelter?

Yet, in that place is the hope, the dream, the belief that 'now is not forever'. Though sometimes, it feels like it will always be this way, as the four graduates of Project Forward, a life-skills and personal finance course I teach in, attested to last night, 'now is definitely not forever'.

The four men had come to join the new members of Project Forward to share a little inspiration.

"You know," said one of the graduates, "when I started this course a year ago, I didn't have a job. I didn't have a bank account. I lived in the shelter and I worried I'd never get out. Now, I'm living on my own. Every month I do my budget. Make sure my rent and essentials are covered and put a bit into my savings and next month, I'm going on a holiday. Imagine. Me. On holiday."


What was fascinating last night was that along with the breath of hope was 'ambivalence' -- no, this couldn't be me. I can't get a job. I can't... The other students listened and wanted to disavow 'it could happen to me'. Just as, once upon a time, they thought, 'it couldn't happen to me', -- homelessness that is -- they wanted to disavow that getting out of this situation, finding a job, moving on could happen to them.

All it takes is a little imagination.

Imagine, I invited the group, that you have a job, you've saved up enough to move out, you're moving on with your life leaving 'this place' behind. Imagine how that would feel.

Pretty awesome, said one.

Amazing, said another.

If you can imagine it, it can be so, I told them.

But first, we must give up our disbelief. Let go of our consternation. Our confusion. Our desire to not dream. Our wish to not 'think big', to not think beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.

It was an inspiring evening. The four graduates shared their stories. Their struggles with moving on and their joy in being on the road of life unencumbered by the belief, 'here (being homeless) is all I deserve'.

And through it all, I was reminded of the Angel of the Imagination's power to shake me up, to riddle me with questioning of my ambivalence.

Do I believe?

Do I believe these men have what it takes to move on, move out, keep moving forward?

I do.

But my belief in them is nothing compared to what it will take for them to believe in themselves. And until a timethat they can awaken to their self-belief I must hold onto my belief in them, for them. I must hold the card in place for them until they are willing to take their place on the other side of the table where, 'here' is not where they belong. Where 'here' is just a memory of a stepping stone, a momentary way-station where they caught their breath until they built up the courage to grab hold of the dream that there is, beyond the horizon, a world of freedom and joy and feeling mighty proud of yourself. A world never before imagined.

In that room, I cannot afford ambivalence. For in that room, I must stay awake. Remain open and steadfast in my belief that -- we are all magnificent beings on the journey of our lifetimes. In this time and place to be all we're meant to be. Connected. Committed. Supporting each other as we call upon the Angels to carry us through rough waters, turbulent times and moments of despair that would have us believe 'now is forever'.

And until they can grab hold of their dreams, their belief that 'out there' is not just a figment of their imagination but a real possibility, then, along with those who came to support and inspire the class last night, I shall hold onto my belief and cherish the opportunity to be part of the unfolding of their disbelief. I shall continue to let my imagination draw them out into that place where they learn to awaken to the truth of their birthright as they turn their eyes into the wonder and awe of being who they were always meant to be. Magnificent beings on the human journey of their lifetime.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stop It!

To confront a person with his shadow, is to show him his own light. Carl Jung

My youngest daughter called yesterday from Athens. Her bankcard was lost and she was desperate for help. "Can you go to the bank and re-activate my account, get me a new bankcard, activate it and send it to me please?" she asked, panic and worry in her voice.

She and her friend are off to the Greek Isles today for eight days. Santorini. Crete. Corfu... Opportunities to bank were limited and they didn't have a lot of cash. Her girlfriend had lost her wallet just a few days ago and the two young women were feeling the distance between home and where they were at.

I raced to the bank. Did as required and Liseanne has a new bank card en route. What was amazing was the power of technology to connect us. Before she left, Liseanne gave me Power of Attorney on her accounts. A good thing as it allowed me to do everything I needed to do without any hassle. However, at one point, I realized I had her online password but not her bank card PIN with me. To change the PIN I needed her existing number. I called her sister in Vancouver. Alexis emailed Liseanne in Athens and within minutes, Liseanne was calling on my cellphone, providing her PIN and her new card was activated.

If only the psyche worked so fast.

Hey. Brain. I've lost my access card to memory of my birthright. I can't remember the access code to my greatness. Can you please reset. And within moments, synapses connect, neurons are fired and voila! Greatness activated.

In the shadows of our mind, accessing greatness should be easy. I mean, we're born with it. Born as it. Born, these perfect beings, reflections of God, miraculous vessels of Love.

And then life happens and we become mired in the belief, we only have one access route to take on the road of life, and it ain't pretty. But, regardless of its beauty, or lack of pleasant surroundings, we begin trudging it. Bemoaning the fact that it just isn't easy being me, or you or him or her. Life isn't easy. But what's the option?

But.... what if.... that's just a belief?

What if.... Life is easy. Effortless. Grace filled and gracious.

What if... It's all in our perspective.

What if.... Life isn't the issue. Living isn't the state of being we need to shake up?

What we really need to shake the silly's outta', what we really need to give a shake is our head. Our thinking is messing up our journey!

What if... it's our 'stinkin' thinkin' we desperately need to give a shake, a make-over, do-over, re-do, re-wire, re-connect.

What if.... It's our thinking that's in need of realignment?

Yesterday I had lunch with a former co-worker who has catapulted himself into living the life of his dreams.

"I can't always determine the experiences that come to me," he said. "I get to determine how I deal with them though. That's up to me. And, I get to decide how I feel about myself. That's my choice and I'm choosing feeling great about me!"

He told me about an experience he'd had recently and in the course of our conversation, shared some wise and funny wisdom he'd learned from a Bob Newhart skit on Mad TV. Ok. So I'm not a big fan of Mad TV. Call it heresy, but sometimes, I just don't get it! But this skit is quite funny and.... what if Bob's right? What if the only way to stop a thought or behaviour is to just.... Stop It!

Yesterday, I committed to Get in Motion. I walked the stairs (up and down at least 3 times). Walked to my business meeting downtown and, once home, took Ellie for a long walk. I consciously thought of what I was putting into my body -- and ensured I was active during that witching hour when picking at whatever I can find in the kitchen traps me into believing I can't change.

Yesterday, what I chose to do was to Stop It! I chose to stop doing the things that were not getting me more of what in life and to engage in those things that will change my life for the better.

How cool is that?

To change what I'm doing I only need to Stop it! and Get in Motion with the things that support me, love me up and lift me higher!

To be happy, content, fulfilled, loving every step on this journey of my lifetime, all I have to do is.... Stop doing what doesn't work and start doing what does work.

Enjoy the video!

Enjoy your day and remember. If you don't like what you're doing..... Stop it! :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Get in Motion

While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us. Benjamin Franklin
Inside me is a beautiful butterfly with gossamer wings of stained glass colours. Inside me is a woman 10 feet tall. A woman with the power to see into hearts and hear dreams calling. A woman so powerful nothing stands in the way of her dreams coming true, nothing stops her from claiming her place in the sun. Confident. Radiant and alive.

Inside you is a butterfly with gossamer wings of stained glass colours. Inside you beats a heart so true the universe hears its tattoo and responds with your dream's awakening in the light of dawn.

Inside each of us is the capacity to stand true, stand tall, stand up when the sky is falling and be counted upon to push back against the winds of adversity crashing all around us.

Inside each of us is the spirit of our destiny calling us to get up, get going, get out and be counted for the capacity of our hearts to beat true, for the power of our minds to ring sure and the purity of our dreams to awaken to our hearts' calling us to be free.


In his first inaugural address, then US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Inside of each of us is this nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which can paralyze us to retreat when what is called for is advance. Fear which encourages us to do nothing, when what is needed is our taking action. When what we must do is act up to our higher good, get engaged to ensure we make ground against the ennui that would pull us back into the quicksand of our belief, 'I can't help myself,' or 'I can't do it,' or 'I don't know...' what to do, where to go, who to ask, why I should...

I have started my 'Get in Motion' program. Yesterday, my run turned into a vigorous walk with C.C. and Ellie. Today, my commitment is to walk, not ride in the building. Rather than press a button and wait for a mechanically driven room to open up to deliver me from the parkade to the sixth floor, I shall use my legs and lungs to carry me up the seven-stories. It shall be my mantra throughout the day. 'Walk. Don't ride.'

Change is necessary when combating menopausal spread and any other spread of behaviour that would pull me down into believing doing nothing is the best course of action. Doing nothing only gets me more of what I've got. A body I'm not treating with love and care. A life I'm not cherishing with the right foods, right actions, right thinking. Getting active is essential to fighting psychical fitness ennui. Getting active is necessary to combat doing nothing, or doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

My brain registers the need. My mind chatters incessantly about why I don't have time, the right shoes, the right clothes on, the right.... When ultimately, all its chatter is wrong for my getting into motion!

So beginning today, I commit publicly to my Get in Motion campaign. I commit to overriding my lesser good and stepping with confidence into my higher good calling me to take good care of me, myself and I.

'Cause if I don't do it for me, who will I do it for? If I don't do it, who will?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Technology blues

My friend Diane over at Contemplative Photography has declared this a 'no technology Sunday' in her home.

I've just spent a second morning frittering around with my technology, trying to get it to work properly and am royally fed-up with the process!

Just so you know, I am non-techie. Sure, I know a bit about bits and bytes and all that stuff -- enough to be dangerous but not effective.

What has got my ire right now is we just installed a new wireless router as the old one died an unnatural death last week. In the process of switching, my new wonderful super fast laptop is now 64-bit browser active. Which is not one bit of goodness in my life. Yesteray I spent three hours trying to get my Internet connection to work... and I eventually did. But, in the process managed to switch from 32 bit to 64 bit -- and now I can't figure out how to switch it back!

Am I frustrated? Yup.

Am I going to let it ruin my day? Nope.

I'm going to get my lovely and wonderful pooch Ellie and go for a run. It's a new regime. A recognition that I've lapsed (not just a 'bit' but big-time) on physical well-being and need to ship myself into shape. Or is that shift? LOL - whatever it is, it's time to get active.

Putting my body in motion releases my mind to embrace wellness and who knows, maybe magically, mysteriously my technology blues will evaporate and all will be well in cyberland! Tee hee. Yeah. Like that's going to happen :).

So -- like Diane, I'm going non-techno this Sunday and shipping myself off to the great outdoors.

have a wonderful day.

See you tomorrow!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

A legacy of unexpected words

Kites rise highest against the wind - not with it. Winston Churchill
In 1955 she married. They travelled to Europe for a six month honeymoon, visiting countries she'd only read of in books. She loved the food. The sights. The people. The wine.

In 1959 her son was born and depression hit. They didn't have a name for it back then. Post-partum depression. Get on with it, they told her. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. And so she struggled. Wine. Rum. Scotch. They became her support system. And life spiralled down. And down.

She wasn't able to cope. She tried. Oh how she tried. But it seemed too much for her. Felt too heavy. She loved her son. Her husband. But couldn't connect the feelings to the action of loving, of caring, of being present.

She began to disappear. In small spurts at first. But eventually, she disappeared from their lives completely. They made up stories about why she left. Where she'd gone. They wanted to understand but mostly, father and son didn't get what had happened. Where had she disappeared to?

Husband and wife divorced. Son stepped away from his mother. The pain of trying to connect became greater than their ability to love this woman who had meant so much to them, and who couldn't find the meaning in her own life.

And she kept falling.

Eventually, she slipped into a depression so deep she could not see the light. Drugs weren't working. In and out of psych wards. She struggled. And she kept falling.

Until one day, when she was 65 and the mental health bed she had occupied was closed, and she was told to go and live in the community, she said enough. She didn't have the support out there in the community. Her husband and son had long since stepped back from the constant turmoil of her life. Her sisters and brothers were far away and they too had given up hope.

She didn't know where to turn and so she turned up at the front door of the homeless shelter where I work. She didn't like it there. Didn't like the rules. The structure. The not being able to not take her drugs because she was tired of taking them. She had to comply. To conform. To fit in. She didn't like fitting in. Had never found a place where she felt she did, fit in. She wanted to throw fits. And she did. And always we kept accepting her. Supporting her. Finding ways to work with her.

She was irascible. Difficult. Ornery. She'd just as soon swear a blue streak as say Hello. She'd just as soon tell you where to go in vivid colourful language as ask 'how's your day going?'.

But still we accepted her. Treated her with dignity and respect. There was no place else for her to go where she could be herself, and so she stayed. Year after year. Seven years in total.

Sometimes, she'd disappear for a few weeks. The frontline staff knew she was on a 'jaunt'. She'd told staff many times of her propensity to 'get up and wander'. And she did. To the Greyhound Bus Depot pushing her walker in front of her. Onto a bus that would take her to where ever her money ran out. She got to know the shelter system across Canada. Got to know which one's let her have her way. Which one's had too many rules about where to sit or eat or even be. Sometimes, when she ended up in a town without a shelter, and if she had no money for a motel room, she'd convince the police to let her spend the night in jail. And always, they'd call the shelter 'back home' and she would find herself back on a bus, headed west or east or north or south, back to the shelter where she'd started out her journey.

And then, her health started to fail. Diabetes. Cancer. The daily cigarettes and alcohol and sugar laden coffees taking their toll. Her health failed and her mood became more and more irascible. Staff struggled to keep her safe as she fought against every word, every gesture of care.

Hospital visits became more and more frequent and so did the calls insisting she be returned to the shelter. We can't help her here, the hospital would say and we would insist, but that's your job. And still she would return to the shelter. Why not? It was a place with fewer rules than most institutions. It was a place where she felt she belonged and where she felt some comfort being herself.

As her days grew shorter we moved her into an apartment of her own. She didn't like it. She was lonely. Apart. Frustrated. And she settled in. Found her rythym. Found her place. And still she struggled.

I want to go to Halifax, she said. She had no family out there. No one to call on to help her. But, in one of her Greyhound Bus journeys, she'd ended up on the east coast and enjoyed the city, the smell of the ocean, the seagulls cawing.

We struggled to find a way to send her east. To help her get to where she wanted to go, but always, her mental health and physical health got in the way.

And then, we found the way and bought her a ticket, a plane ticket this time, to get to where she wanted to go. We talked about a staff to join her on the journey. We knew the airlines would never understand her difficult behaviour. We knew she needed someone to guide her on her way.

But, before she could board the plane, she fell ill for the last time and entered hospital with little hope of ever being released. And, on February 7, 2010 death came knocking and took Evelyn home to where, as she once wrote in a poem, "God watches over me in love."

I share with you a poem by this woman who passed away at age 73, leaving behind a legacy of words none of us who knew her and cared for her and accepted her as she was, expected.


Searching, floundering
days of pain
and nights of loneliness...
Am I different?
Reaching for a hand to hold
Longing for better days and
Peaceful nights

Those dear close friends
who know all about me
And still love me,
keep me from dying
And help me to keep going

My values
of love, of peace
of truth...

And their sharing and caring
keep me trying, day by day.

Farewell Evelyn. May you rest peacefully in God's loving embrace.


Friday, March 26, 2010

He just liked his beer

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity. Gilda Radner
We gathered in the multi-purpose room on the sixth floor of the shelter where I work. Outside the large floor to ceiling window, the river flowed, gun-metal grey in the misty light. The room was dim and quiet. Music played in the background. Sarah McClaughlin. I will remember you.

We were there, all thirty something of us, to celebrate the lives of four people who had passed away. The departed ranged in age from 35 to 73. Clients of the shelter, their deaths do not go unnoticed.

Tom, a longtime shelter client, was 54. He liked to sit under the bridge of the overpass leading into downtown and drink his beer. His cronies were in attendance. One started to sob when Tom's picture appeared on the screen. "Yeah Tom." he called out to the room. "You're my buddy Tom. I miss ya!"

They were an unruly bunch, these cronies of Tom. Unruly and loud and funny and sad and full of the life they lead. The air smelled of beer and unwashed bodies. They sported beards and dirty finger nails. Unruly hair and cuts and bruises. A black eye here. A scrape across the nose there.

Pastor Rob, who was officiating, asked the crowd, does anyone want to share a few words about Tom? A staff member from Intox stood and walked to the podium. Tom's cronies cheered him on. "Yeah Danny! How's it goin' man?" They chatted amongst themselves, loud enough for everyone to hear.

"That Danny. He's a good one."

"Hey Danny. D'ya know I stash my beer in the back of your truck before I come into the building?"

I watch Danny's face grow red. A sheepish grin appears. I wonder if he knows and just doesn't say anything? I think he does. I smile. Unwitting co-conspirators.

Danny shares a story of Tom and one of the cronies cries louder. "That Tom. Good man. I miss you!" one calls out.

More staff rise and speak of this man who spent his days shuffling from beer depot to bottle depot. Sitting on river banks. Hanging out. Hanging on to what little he had like a terrier hanging onto an idea of a rabbit scurrying down the hole.

Pastor Rob invites a few more words from friends. The friend who has cried says, "I can't get up there and talk about my friend. I'll cry." And he stands and moves to the podium. He's a bit unsteady on his feet. But he makes it to the front without incidence. He grabs the mic. Leans against the podium for support.

"Me and Tom go way back," he says. "He could be a mean sod. But me and Tom. We always got along. I remember a time..." and he goes on to tell a hilarious story of Tom's wily nature, always evading 'the law'.

"I know them officers thought we were up to know good," he says of a time the friends were sitting on the river bank, beneath the underpass, beer in hand, hopes of a quiet retreat dashed as two police officers approached. "But we're not bad men," he states firmly. "We just like our beer." Pause. He nods his head. One large hand grips the podium. "We're not bad men. We just want a quiet place to be in peace." Pause. "Tom's found it. I'll see him next in heaven and in the meantime," he glances at the screen where Tom's face smiles mischievously, "I'm gonna miss you!"

It was a celebration of people and stories. A celebration of lives lived away from loved one's but surrounded, none the less, by a community that cares. By friendship and support. And no judgement. Stories of hope lost and sometimes found sitting on a riverbank with a friend who wasn't a bad man, he just liked his beer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Better than where I've been

If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.

Chinese Proverb

"Where are you going?" the young boy asked the man.
"I don't know." The man replied.
"Then why are you going there?" asked the young boy.
The man paused. Looked around. "I'm just following the path," he replied. "Seeing where it leads."
"But what if it leads you somewhere you don't want to go?"
"I'll figure that out when I get there," the man replied.
And the boy fell silent and the man walked on to who knows where.

At the shelter where I work, there are hundreds of men and women living in a place they never imagined possible, following a path they never thought would lead them into homelessness. A path that, despite their best efforts to not get there, took them there anywhere.

Best efforts. We all want to believe we're doing our best -- and when our best leads us somewhere we don't want to go, we tell ourselves, our best isn't good enough, and fall into the trap of believing, this is where we want to be, need to be, should be, have no other answer than to just be there 'cause there is no where else we can see to be.

Last night, we had a celebration for the team of artists and administrators who worked so hard throughout the past year on This is My City. We were about 15 people chatting and laughing and reminiscing about the events of the This is My City project -- and talking about how we could build a sustainable project that would keep the energy and momentum alive. We mapped out a few key steps that must be taken to ensure an 'entity' is created that will keep the principles and objectives of the project alive, and we talked about what next steps need to be taken to engage the artists, the agencies, and the people in the project.

It was an exciting and stimulating evening. And at the end, we all felt like we'd taken a huge step towards where we want to go with the project.

A path was lit and we the light carriers committed to illuminating it for others to follow, to join in, to get engaged.

"Why are we doing this?" asked one of the artists. A client of the shelter. A man of quiet purpose who struggles to find his sobriety.

"We built a foundation over the past year," replied the woman who conceived of the project two years ago and who's city department shepherded it through the past year. "And, we've shown that there is value in doing this. In keeping this alive."

Heads nodded around the table.

"Yeah. We know the power of engaging people who are homeless in the arts. We proved it. We just need to keep it happening," said another artist.

"We need to ensure there is the opportunity to make money," said one of the artists. A man who's commitment to his art has lead him out of homelessness back to a place of his own.

"But that isn't the underlying purpose of the project," said another. "The primary purpose of This is My City is to bring artists on both sides of the street together by paving the way for them to engage with each other and make art happen."

We know where we want to go. We know what we need to do to get there. We have a path. It is lit.

"Who will answer the phone?" asked an artist, a long-time client of the shelter.

We laughed. "The phone doesn't even exist yet," someone replied. "Right now we need to focus on the what and let the how's unfold as we move forward."

Focus on the what and don't get engaged in worrying about the 'hows'.

The 'What' is -- what we are working towards. The 'How' are -- the steps we take upon the path.

And, no matter how long or short our steps, as long as we know where we're going -- building an organization that will act as the catalyst to create opportunities along with the funding for people from every walk of life, every side of the street, to engage in the creative process of making change happen through the arts, the how will unfold with each step we take.

As long as we know where we're going, each step will take us closer to where we want to be.

Why are you taking this path? the young boy asked the man.

Because it's the one I'm on, the man replied.

How did you get here?

By following the path, said the man.

But the signpost reads, Road to Hell, said the boy. Is that where you want to go?

The man stopped. Looked at the sign. Shrugged his shoulders. It must be wrong, he replied. 'Cause anywhere is better than where I've been.

We know where we are headed -- into action. Keeping alive the possibility of engaging community artists with individuals and the agencies involved in homelessness so that art can happen and lives can change through its happening. And in that process, minds expand, hearts open and community is built.

We know the path we are on is leading us in the right direction. We've followed the signposts and none of them read, Road to Hell.

We're on the, Road to Possibility. And, on this road we know there will be hows to discern and ways to uncover. But regardless of the bumps and hurdles, the missteps and detours taken, we're on the right path and going for it. What a great way to be engaged in the journey of life, what a great path to be on together!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moved to celebrate

Blessed be the quiet of this morning.
Blessed be my coffee warm and toasty in my brand new mug.
Blessed be the flicker of my candle flame
the smell of jasmine rising from its warmth
the light, shadows dancing, upon the alabaster heart on my desk
Blessed be this day.

Blessed are the sparrows twittering in the tree
Blessed are their sweet voices
Blessed are the man and boy walking along the street
beer in hand challenging anyone to try and 'stop me'
Blessed are the lost and lonely
the connected and joyful
Blessed are the many and the few
who stumble and fall and rise up to walk again
into the dark night of their soul's awakening.

In the Lectio Divina course I am taking over this Lenten Period through Abby of the Arts, the facilitator, Christine Valters Paintner, asks the question this morning,"Do you feel moved to celebrate the God who is glorious and transcendent or the intimate God revealed in quiet moments?"

In my heart there lives the intimate God of quiet moments. The Divine essence of all that is holy and scared and wondrous in my inner world. It is the God of flowing rivers, of deep seas and quiet days where the wind whispers gently through cornfields and city streets alike. It is the God of deep thinking, of deep feeling, of deep faith unshaken by the toings and froings of the common day.

In my eyes lives the glorious and transcendent Being who spreads sunrise across the horizon. The God who fills the skyline with mountains that lay in razor back clarity, sprawled out across the western skyscape in their immovable majesty. They were once molehills rising up into fulfilment of a Plan to which only God knows its purpose. A Plan of grand design to fill our world with the wonder of mountain glaciers and pools of sparkling water. To create valleys and forests and snow-capped peaks where to stand upon their apex means to step that much closer to God and know the fragility of our human journey and its temporary state of being.

I cannot speak to rocks nor how the mountains formed. I can speak to God's mystery surrounding me with wonder and awe in the peaks and valleys of my human journey into myself.

I can speak to the deep, deep sinking into myself as I unravel the mystery of who I am meant to be when I let go of being anyone other than myself.

And I can speak to the wonder of being me. A unique human being amongst six billion fellow inhabitants of this tiny ball spinning through space and time, part of a constellation of planets orbiting the sun. A planet of souls struggling to divine the spiritual essence of being human -- in all our sorrow and joy, tears and laugher. In all our transcendence of life on planet earth.

This is a mighty world we live in and its mystery is found in quiet moments and in glorious times. Its mystical wonders are experienced with eyes shut or eyes wide open to the amazing grace of being alive in this time when the world is awash in light and darkness. When tears ebb and heartache flows. When tears abate and hearts break open in Love.

Its majesty is found in the killing of a man on the other side of the globe and the birthing of a child right next door. Its mystery is felt in war and in peace. In troubled waters and in calm.

Its beauty is found in gentle sunrise slipping over the horizon unseen by human eye and in glorious sunsets bruising the western sky in indigo and purple. It is felt in that place where blood flows in rivers of tears in Africa or into the vein of a junkie huddled in an alley of downtown Calgary.

His beauty is not of this world we have created. His beauty is of that other-world. That time and space where man awakens to the mystery and wonder of being human without the need to destroy all that is mysterical and mysterious in our being alive.

This is a magnificent world and we its inhabitants bear witness to its majesty when we rise up and celebrate all that is wondrous and magical and mysterious about being our most magnificent selves in a world of majesty and wonder.

Today is a day to celebrate. To celebrate the God of intimate moments here on planet earth and the God who is transcendant and glorious, who creates the majesty of our lives lived in human wonder of being alive in this special time and place where we can be our most magnificent selves.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I have a dog. A golden Retriever. Her name is Ellie and she is faithful. We got her almost nine years ago when she was just a wee puppy, squirming around, trying desperately to get as close as possible to our heartbeat. Wanting to be as snug as possible in that space where there was no separation between where I ended and she began.

We've never been apart. At least not for any period of time. Even when I was going through that dark space of a relationship that was killing me, Ellie was beside me. She watched me. Kept her eyes on me throughout the yelling and screaming and tears and fears and crawling into darkened closets where I would sit and scrape the skin off my wrists just to see if there really was blood flowing in my veins. Just to see if I was alive.

And in the darkness and in my pain, she would always remind me I was alive and needed to keep living. I would cling to her fur and feel her heartbeat next to mine, her warm breath against my cheek and I would know I was not alone. Ellie was always there with me.

She was my ballast. My support. My confidant. My solace.

I was always sure of Ellie being there. Always sure of her love.

I never quite felt that way about God. He was just a bit too far removed for me. A picture in a book when I was a child. A man in white robes with long flowing hair. A being with large hands that held the world gently in their cupped embrace but whose stern countenance I feared. Whose harsh words I cowered away from. I didn't trust God.

It frightened me when they told me God was always with me. It scared me when they said He walked with me through forests and valleys, desert plains and city streets. They told me he had always been there, even when I didn't see him. Even when I didn't believe he was there. Even when I chose to deny his presence. They told me he was always there.

I didn't always believe them. Why should I? They lied about so many things. They must be lying about this too.

Show me, I would reply. I can't see him how do I know he's there?

I could see the boogie man. He lurked in darkened corners. Behind closed doors. He yelled and screamed and did things to hurt me.

And God didn't stop him. And he and God were related.

How could there be a God if he didn't do anything about the things that hurt me?

And then, one day I awoke and saw there was a sky above. It was clear blue spread out forever and a day. I walked beneath that sky and wondered, where did I go? How did I get so lost? Where have I been?

I didn't know the answer. I couldn't see what had happened to me. I just knew I'd lost all hope of ever being free. I knew I would die. I knew the end was coming soon. And I didn't care.

And I told myself God didn't care either.

And then, a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and I was given the gift of my life.

I went to church that first Sunday after the man who would have killed me if he'd only had a little more time was arrested. I went to church even though I didn't believe God knew I was there. Even though I didn't believe he cared.

"You look like you could use a friend," the pastor said to me.

I didn't need a friend, I told him. I needed help. I needed a sign that God hadn't turned his back on me in my hour of need.

I remember the pastor's face. He had gentle eyes. Kind eyes. And a smile. It wasn't big or even all that friendly. It was just a smile that said, 'we're all in this together. There's nothing to fear and no need to hide."

I was tired of hiding out and so, when the pastor smiled I opened my mind a little bit and let the warmth of his welcoming words into my heart. Just a little bit. But just a little bit was all he needed. "God never turned his back on you Louise. Even when you walked away and hid. He never turned his back. He kept holding out the miracle of his Love waiting for you to open up to the possibility that He was always there." I remember he paused before asking. "What if..."

It was the 'what if...' that got me.

What if the friend I needed was someone who would never judge me. Never let me go. Never turn his back. What if no matter what I did, he would always love me. Always hold me in his embrace and cherish me as a miracle of Love. What if His faithfulness was all I needed and to feel it all I needed was a little faith to guide me away from the darkness and into the light of Love?

I have a wonderful dog and she is faithful. I never question her faithfulness. I know she loves me.

I have faith but I have not always been filled with faithfulness. I've often abused myself, the one's I love. I've often abused my faith. I've disregarded it. Dissected it. Ignored it. I've struggled to stand comfortably in faith, letting go of my disbelief that there is a God. I usurp my faithfulness with my constant challenging of His way, asking why does he let bad things happen even when I know, it's not Him, it's we humans acting out.

I still muddle through it. My faith. Searching for where faith ends and the leap begins. Searching for that space where my faith falls into that place where all there is is nothing else but faith. That place where God extends himself beyond the limits of my thinking into the realm of my being a child of God, perfectly human in all my human imperfections.

I have a faith steeped in fear and sorrow, love and joy. I just don't have many words to define it. I just don't trust myself to speak of it in biblical terms. Or in terms of Christianity. And in my faith is the trust that no matter how I speak of my faith, God knows, I believe in Love.

In Love all things are possible. In Love, God is present whether I have faith in his presence or not. He is always there and all I have to do to have faith is to believe in Love.

I believe in Love. I believe in the power of Love to heal, to soothe, to restore and redeem and bless me with His amazing grace.

And at the end of that place where the leap begins, what if... the only thing I need to know about faith is right before me? What if... the only thing I need to question is nothing.

There was a time when Ellie and I would sit in darkened closets and fear the light. God sat with us. He was ever present. Even when my eyes were closed.

What if He knew everything I needed to learn about Him was through the touch of a beautiful canine friend whose warm faithfulness held me up when I was falling down?

What if God didn't care if I questioned Him because all that really matters is He has never questioned who I am -- the divine expression of His amazing grace living this one wild and passionate life perfectly human in all my being who I am.

It's Blog Carnival Tuesday, a biweekly online event open to anyone willing to write on a word prompt -- This week's is "faithfulness". Hosted by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time, and Peter Pollock of Rediscovering the Church, you can go here for a wonderful journey reading all of the contributions posted throughout the day.

Light of heart

Depression moods lead, almost invariably, to accidents. But, when they occur, our mood changes again, since the accident shows we can draw the world in our wake, and that we still retain some degree of power even when our spirits are low. A series of accidents creates a positively light-hearted state, out of consideration for this strange power. Jean Baudrillard
There is a saying at Choices, "Don't take yourself so seriously", that always reminds me to lighten up, let go, let it be and just be light.

I need to remind myself not to take myself so seriously sometimes because I can get lost in the minutiae of asking myself so many questions -- what if I... why did I.... how come I.... why don't I... let me see.... how about I.... -- I don't see or feel or hear or acknowledge -- I have the answers right inside of me.

In my nattering around my head, wondering about 'me, myself and I', I turn my light inward and become self-absorbed in my own light. Which means, I create darkness all around me. Lost inside, the light within me becomes so narrow I lose sight of, as my friend Brian Willis at Winning Mind Training calls it, What's Important Now -- W.I.N.

What's my W.I.N.?

The WIN in introspection is I understand myself more -- I understand how I operate in the world, why I do the things I do. The challenge is always, to balance introspection with my doing in the world all I can to be all I am meant to be. Lost in thought, I am not doing, anything, about being all I am meant to be.

It was a wonderful week. A week of growth and insight. A week to connect. To deepen my appreciation of who I am when I am being all I am meant to be. A week to embrace who I am when being all I am meant creates more of what I want living it up in the rapture of now.

And now, to enter this week light of heart I give myself permission to not take myself so seriously. To accept I am my best when my being light of heart illuminates my path with love. Today, I shall walk fearlessly in the rapture of now creating peace and joy all around me.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soul Dances (a poem)

My Choices experience this week has been one of deepening recognition of the wonder of the human being to overcome, to embrace, to open up to the beauty of the human spirit when we let our wounds open us up to the miracle of our life flowing freely in Love.

Soul Dances

Souls shake
searching for that space
where the past
no longer grates
upon the heart ache
of voices yearning
to speak

Souls quake
seeking that place
where unrest finds
a place
to rest
by heart ache
breaking open
tears yearning
to flow

Souls connect
feeling their way
of the dark
dark winter
of their soul journey
into the light
of loving

Souls dance
leaping with joy
onto the path
of spirits rising
in a heartfelt song
of hearts
beating freely
in Love.


Friday, March 19, 2010

compassion is...

Friday morning of choices. A big day after a short night and fast sleep.

I leave you this morning with food for thought on Compassion.


See you tomorrow.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Choices -- coaching and WOW!

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. Beverly Sills
I am coaching at Choices this week. Five days of being 'on purpose'. Of being part of this incredible, magical, amazing journey of my lifetime lived in the power of WOW!

On Wednesday morning, when the coaches arrive, we spend the morning with Thelma Box, Choices founder and facilitator for the seminar. Over the course of the morning we learn more about our responsibilities during the week. Our purpose. Our role in lighting up the world and being part of "changing the world one heart at a time", Thelma's purpose in having created the program twenty-six years ago.

It's always a reflective time. A time of deep sharing and learning. A time to open up. To speak up. To give voice to all that connects us, makes us great, inspires us.

For the 'newbie' coaches, there's always a sense of 'worry'. I remember the first time I coached my biggest fear was -- I'm going to destroy someone's life by saying or doing the wrong thing.

I'm not that powerful.

And, in the Choices room our job is not to provide answers or to give advice. As a coach, my job is to listen. To listen to what the trainees say and to create a space for individuals to share what is on their hearts and then, to guide them through the processes so that they can find their own answers.

As Thelma always reminds the group, "I don't have your answers. I just have some questions to help you find your answers to the degree that you are willing to ask yourself the tough questions."

This morning, as we chatted in the coaches circle about how our lives have changed through our Choices experiences, Joe Davies, Thelma Box's son-in-law commented on something he'd learned about how the tools we learn at Choices are good in good times, but in the tough times, they're really amazing. He shared a tough time he and his family had had and told about how knowing the tools helped them cope.

I listened and suddenly it hit me -- one of the greatest values I have received through being involved in the Choices training program.

I grew up in a very unpredictable and dysfunctional family environment. As a child, I do not recall felling safe. As an adult, I realized that one of the things I had wanted to do for my daughters was to create a safe environment for them -- and then, I did exactly the opposite. I created my childhood environment -- different scenarios, different people, but through my daughter's teen years, they did not feel safe. How could they? Their mother was disappearing before their eyes into an abusive relationship that even they weren't aware of the depth of its impact upon me.

When I walked into the Choices training room as a trainee four years ago, I thought I'd healed my wounds. And, I felt I was doing a good job of helping the girls heal theirs.

I didn't know what I didn't know.

Through being involved in Choices, through the three of us going through the seminar and then coaching several times together and separately, the wounds I couldn't see began to heal.

When my daughters were teenagers, I created an unsafe environment for them.

Post that traumatic period, we have created a safe and loving space for the three of us to heal, to grow and to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level than ever before.

It was quite a WOW moment for me. To realize that what I did through the Conrad relationship created an unsafe environment for my daughters. It had a certain familiarity for me -- and it was exactly the opposite of what I wanted for them.

That was then. This is now.

Now, I am in awe of the healing we've grown through. I am in awe of my daughters courage and strength and love and compassion and, I am in awe of how we've healed.

Through the gift of sharing this amazing journey together, we have been given the gift of a relationship that is deeper, more loving, more caring than I could ever have imagined.

I have broken the cycle of my past and created a safe place for all of us to live and love and be exactly who we are meant to be when we live fearlessly and passionately in the rapture of now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Be well in God's embrace

I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three. Author Unknown
I read the quote above this morning and tears started to flow. I am always in awe of my emotions. Those I believe have healed. Have flowed freely forever more and have dried into gentle spirits rising in joy within me. And then, they flow again. Flow me into that place where sweet memory lies waiting to embrace me in the nectar of its healing grace.

My brother is no longer of this world. He passed away, along with his wife, on this day twelve years ago.

I remember when I got the call. I was driving back from the airport with S.Y. We had been in Toronto for a few days, taking in the shows and sights and sounds of the 'big city'. We'd flown back a day early as the weather had turned cold and miserable and S.Y. had wanted to get home. Driving home from the airport I called my ex-husband to say hello to my daughters who had gone to stay with him while I was away.

"I'm so sorry to hear about George and Ros," he said as soon as he heard my voice.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Has no one contacted you?"

"No. We just got off a flight. We came home a day early." I could feel the fissure of anxiety rising from my stomach into my heart. "What's happened?"

There was a pause. A moment that felt too long. "They had a car accident."

"Oh." I didn't want to ask the next question. I was afraid of the answer. "Are they okay?"

He said it in one breath. Like he didn't want to hold onto the truth any longer and had to get it out and over with and be done with it. "They're dead."

I remember screaming. Throwing the phone onto the floor of the car. I remember saying, "No. No. It can't be."

And it was. It could be because it was true.

My brother was gone. His wife was gone. My two nieces in one moment of fate became orphans.

It was not an easy time. Our father had passed away just the year before and there had been much dissent amongst the siblings as to how to best support our mother.

It was not an easy time.

Time doesn't heal wounds.

Forgiveness heals.

Compassion heals.

Love heals.

All time does is give us as long as we need to move through the grieving, the sorrow, the regrets and anger so that we can come to that place where all we have left to hold onto is Love.

I remember telling my nieces at their parents' funeral, "You parents wouldn't have wanted you to be left with this anger. They would only have wanted you to be embraced in love."

How naive and blind of me.

They could not hear me. Immersed in the sorrow and pain of their enormous loss, love had no place to rest easily until they moved with time through their anger and regret and confusion and loss.

And yet, it is Love that has supported them and carried them throughout these twelve years. It is Love that has surrounded them through this time as they have come to grips with a new world reality they had not been prepared to meet. A reality they could never have been prepared to embrace.

I don't have much contact with my nieces since that day twelve years ago. Anger. Pain. Fear. Uncertainty have all played a role in keeping us apart.

For me, my own journey separated me from reaching out. It was that same year, 1998 that I met Conrad, the man who promised to love me 'til death do us part and was working hard on making our parting a reality when he was arrested almost five years later.

Today, I miss my brother. Not in spite of his flaws, but rather, because of them. He was four years older than me and as a child, he was my hero. The only son in a house where at times, I believed the sun rose and set on the son. He was dark and handsome. Funny. Articulate. Clever. He loved to laugh. To make people feel good. To make them feel invited into his world -- a world of sunshine and dark clouds storming all in one.

My brother loved music. His favourite game was to play a few notes of a tune and ask, "Who is that?"

I never won that game. I don't know if it's because the notes he played were too short, or if I just wasn't attuned to connecting the dots so quickly. I never won that game but he sure had fun playing it with me.

There was so much lost time with my brother and me. As adults, I feared his drinking. Feared what happened to him and where he went when he consumed the stuff that gave his temper reign. That gave cruel words and harsh eruptions room to spread between us.

I didn't know how to deal with my pain in our relationship and so, avoided dealing with it all together.

I never found the words to tell my brother how much I loved him. How much I wanted to have a relationship with him where I didn't fear his words. I never got to tell him I was sorry for having hurt him. For having walked away when he needed me most.

My brother felt my judgements of his life. I carried my silent retreat close to my heart, fanning the flames of bitterness and regret.

We were like that back then. We never spoke of what lay heavy in our hearts. We never spoke with honesty about our disagreements. I never told him how worried I was about his drinking. Never told him how much I loved him and missed him. I never told him how I feared one day his drinking would take him from me forever.

And then forever came and I was unprepared.

I miss my brother today.

I love my brother today.

Today I am prepared to say, I love you George. There is nothing you ever did that could stop me loving you. You are my brother. A part of me. A part of my heart forever more. We are connected through eternity. And though we never had the time on this earthly plain to speak of Love, through loving you I have found the grace of forgiveness. Through loving you I have found my path back home to my heart.

Be of gentle spirit, bro. Be well in God's embrace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

They need us still

...underneath the beauty was a rift
in the heart of the land was a rift
and the rift in the land reached the rift in our heart
and we lost our
people and the land... Michele Voltaire Marcelin
My friend Maureen, over at Writing without Paper, has written a blog today about Haiti. and included three powerful sites to visit. The one is Michele Voltaire Marcelin's site -- Born in Port-au-Prince, this poet, spoken word performer, actress, novelist, and painter writes eloquently and provocatively of Haiti. She is a "must visit"

The country needs us still, Maureen writes. And it does. I watched the video clip she included and was moved by the stoicism on the faces of the people. And then, by the guns. Not moved. But confused. Earthquake. Sorrow. Devastation. Despair. Guns.

I wonder how a people so downtrodden, so impoverished can find peace after nature's fury with guns surrounding them.

Yesterday, there was a shooting here in Calgary.

I can remember a time when a shooting was unheard of. If one occurred, it hit front page news. Water cooler talk circled around and around the thought, "How can that happen here?"

The shooting didn't make the front page today. But then, neither did Haiti. I search the paper and find not a mention of the island country still so torn up by an earthquake. Still so disheveled children shower in the water sprinkling from a giant tanker truck while women carry buckets of water to and fro.

An avalanche where two men died and dozens were buried is still headline news. It takes two whole pages. And still no mention of Haiti.

Unlike the victims of Haiti's earthquake, the death toll from this act of nature could have been avoided. The Avalanche Danger warning was extreme. Fresh new snow on an unstable base created 'the perfect storm'. The snowmobilers chose to ignore the warnings. And people died.

The children and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles, the people of Haiti had no such luxury. To be here or not to be here?

Where else could they go?

For the shooters whose fifteen minutes of fame did not hit the front page -- They were known to each other, the news report said. This was not a random act.

Not a random act of man.

But then, the earthquake was not a random act of nature. It was a premeditated grating of two tectonic plates. Mighty. Fierce. Immutable.

The forces have been building. Over time. Over eons. Moving. Edging close together. Rubbing up against eachother. Tightening. Grasping.

The forces have been building.

And then they hit.

A not so random act of nature whose devastation seems random in the wake of its destruction. A wall stands here. A man lies dead over there. But not there. A child cries. And over there, a mother weeps, her child silenced forever more.

Who will bear witness if we take our eyes off the plight of an island nation, lying in the sun, its heart burning up, despair and destitution searing the lives of those left standing in the dust?

This was not a random act of man. This was not a shooter with a gun choosing to pull the trigger. This was not a wanton disregard of warnings in a perfect storm. The avalanche was man triggered. The snow load was there. The perfect conditions for an avalanche. Warm sun. South facing slope. Unstable base. Heavy top load of fresh, movable snow. Add weight. Noise. Machinery. It was man's presence that released nature's load bearing down upon a mountainside in a cacophony of sound and wind and ice and nature's fury sweeping everything and everyone in its path under the force of its descent. Nature heeded the call.

Will we heed the call of Haiti? Nature against man has turned around to man against nature. We can help. We can make a difference. We can continue to pay witness to the devastation. We can continue to pay witness to a people's need.

Haiti needs us still, Maureen writes.

Let us not forget. The children and mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, the people of Haiti need us still.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bold and Risky

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things. Ray Bradbury

We arrived at RiverRock Studio, my car piled with paints and canvases and food and.... wine -- ah the ubiquituous "in Vino Veritas".

The other three women were already ensconsed. This was their final week of a two week painting retreat.
What an exciting space to enter. The city far behind us. Daytime cares evaporated and we leaped into the chaos and excitement in one breath.
Canvases covered in paint and collage and sprayed on foam insulation scraped and painted and dripped on covered every ledge. It was a visual feast, an immediate jump off, leap and get immersed.

I set up my paints and brushes and canvases at my table and looked out into the forest. Little snow remained to cover the grown. The world outsize was into late winter dullness. Inside, the world was abuzz with creative forces filling the air in high density.

R.Z., seeing my hesitation as I looked at the blank surface of my canvas said, "Don't think. Just do. The motto for this retreat is: Bold and risky."

Bold and risky.

I picked up a brush. Pour bright orange and magenta into a tray and began to paint.

I didn't think. I just did. All weekend long.

I had a blast.

And this morning, I woke up to discover C.C. had changed all the clocks in the house in honour of daylight savings.... except the bedside radio clock.

I'm an hour behind and must run.

While my photos are fuzzy and the colours are not as vibrant as they are in real life (it was late when I got back last night), I share with you my 'productivity meets creativity in bold and risky'.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 2: Poetry Works (2 poems about homelessness)

Day 2: Poetry Works

1. Hard Rock Place

Toothless smiles
yellowed teeth
tobacco stained
a smell
ripe. fetid
dank clothing
like laundry left too
long in the machine

Well worn
ridges creasing eyes
dried out
dried up
used up
taken out

they huddle at the
doorway of that
where entry is gained
when you have nothing
left to gain
from falling any further
upon the hard rock
bottoming out
in the land of plenty
of hard knock stories
breaking down.

2. Gotta git

Gotta go
gotta git
gotta be gitting along
to that place
where I can git
some of that
that's gotten
lettin' go
of desperation.

Gunna. Gotta
Gunna. Gotta
one more hit
one more toke
before I quit.

Just one.
One more
Gotta git
one more hit.
Just this one
and then

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poetry Works (a poem - homelessness)

yesterday morning I wrote in my journal -- I shall spend this weekend painting. I need to immerse myself in paint. Throw myself against a canvas and watch paint splash riotously against the surface of my creativity coming alive.

Later, as I left an appointment and was driving to the office (I have hands free), my girlfriend U. called and asked, "Do you want to come out to the RiverRock Studio and paint all weekend?"


So, I'm off this morning to splash in paint and colour and texture and tone and feeling the freedom of letting the creative urge push me around on a white canvas.


I've made this a Poetry Works Weekend...

Today and tomorrow I'll share some homeless inspired poetry and then, I'll see you Monday to share my wonderings through the weekend!


1. Turning Up Empty

Leaves Fall
Scatter to the wind
I fall
a leaf
left behind
in autumn's passing.

waiting for
to stop
arms reach
hands turn up
I get up
and leave
the ground
where no one
saw me falling.

2. Nowhere

Hunched shoulders
a huddled back
from blows
of indifference
hurled at men
of the street
cornered desperation
where alleys meet
dead ended in
but dreams
into shuffling feet
running on empty.

A hand extended
help me please
no one hears
no one stops
no one reaches
a hand
a greasy coin
a smile.

Part of the landscape
of the street
they stand
where they were meant to be
waiting for a direction
a sign
an idea
of where they can go.

They move on
to nowhere but
the street
from where they came.

3. The Holy Mary Solution

Holy Mary
pray for me
Save me
and He answered
Bless you my child
I will carry you in your desperation
but no one was listening.

eyes vacant
he cried
Save me
this place that never stops
make it stop
make it change
make it happen

the same
No Divine intervention
falling into the lap
of plenty
of empty hands
and faces
lined with defeat
worn out
worn down
out worn dreams.

Holy Mary
Mother of God
can't you see
I'm dying
on a corner
my pocket
with no one
reaching back.

I had dreams
where did they go?
I had wishes
no candles lit for me.
Mother of God
can't you see?
I'm lost
in the dark winter
of my soul
and cannot feel
the light
of Divine intervention.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Red light. Green light.

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson

I left the office late last night as I had a meeting until 8pm. As I drove west along a main downtown avenue, I thanked the 'powers that be' for the synchronisation of the lights. With each block I traversed, the next set of lights turned green.

"Yippeee!" clear sailing I thought and then out of the corner of my eye saw the car beside me slam on his brakes as he came to an intersection. Without hesitation, I too slammed on my brakes and wondered, "What the?"

A man was crossing against the light. Oblivious, or quite conscious, of the traffic he was tying up, he sauntered across the avenue, eyes straight ahead, head bobbing to a tune on an unseen music machine tucked inside a pocket. The only visible clue to the source of the bobbing head was the thin thread of white wires running from both sides of his head into his jacket.

Ticked to have my traffic flow interrupted, I waited impatiently for him to safely exit the crosswalk -- where he shouldn't have been until the WALK light turned green -- ya know!

The world runs smoothly when everyone obeys the civil conduct rules of society. Red light STOP. Green light GO. Drive in the right lane (left if you're in the UK). Take down escalators to go Down. Up to go Up. Don't park in handicap spots. Don't litter.

Simple rules create simple pleasures and life flows effortlessly in the joy of being in tune with the world around me.

Everyday, there are Red lights to obey and and Green lights to give us the go-ahead. When we ignore them, chaos ensues.

It's the thing about civil society. We don't think about obeying the simple rules. We just do.

Which is what got me thinking about some of the bigger rules we try to disobey under the guise of 'experimenting' -- and the chaos that creates in our lives.

Tell the truth. Sure -- as long as the truth doesn't get me into trouble. Or is that an experiment in creativity?

Be kind to your neighbour. Sure -- as long as they're kind to me and if I happen to have a party and want to play my music loud -- well, don't bug me okay? Or is that an experiment in flexing my muscles and standing up for my rights?

Pay your taxes. Sure -- but if I happen to find a loophole or a place where I can skimp.... who's to know? Or is that an experiment in creative accounting

The challenge is always... We know.

We know where we're experimenting with the 'do wrong' side of the ledger. We know when we've undermined our human worth with unworthy thoughts, actions, words and deeds.

We know.

Like the man crossing illegally in the crosswalk. His life is probably a continuing saga of going against the flow of life. Constantly coming up against traffic going in the wrong direction. Now, there are probably 1,001 reasons why he felt entitled to cross at his choosing -- he does get marks for at least doing 'bad' in the crosswalk, not Jay-walking --- but the reality is -- the reasons have no import in the act of 'doing bad'. It is the act that leaves a mark. I can't know what they are -- I can assume he probably does and... on some level, doesn't care. And if his thinking/doing is causing craziness in my life, I have to take action to not work on his thinking, but to work on what I'm doing to create harmony in my own life.

And, sometimes, we really do have to trust in the process of the universe unfolding for everyone in their own time, at their own pace, at their own need and level of creation. And let them go and let our experimenting with our kinesthetic powers to affect their thinking go too!

As I meditated this morning I thought of my own, 'act outs'. Those moments where I willfully choose not to do the right thing, and opt, for whatever reason, to not return a phone call, not turn up when I said I would or simply not do something I promised to do.

It doesn't matter to the recipient why I didn't do, what matters to them is that I am not there, not turning up, not responding. They don't see my disregard as an experiment with a time and motion study. They see it as hurtful. And in my wilful disregard for doing the right thing, I create the wrong kind of feeling and energy in my world.

Internally, I have to spend way more energy justifying my actions, or pushing thoughts of my inner discord aside. In my negative self-talk I struggle to turn positive, I undermine my peace of mind.

Externally, I am creating a ripple I don't want to be part of -- and then have to spend energy justifying to myself why it's okay to not be doing the right thing.

It's never okay to not do the right thing.

It's never okay inside of me, and outside of me, to create discord in my world.

Regardless of my reason for being disrespectful, disorganized, disengaged -- I am creating an effect in the world I don't want to have. It's energy I don't want to experiment with.

I don't need to experiment with the little things, the simple things that create flow in my life. I don't need to experiment with how fast I can drive through an amber about to turn red. What I want to experiment with is how well can I adapt to the changes in the speed of traffic in and through my life. How well can I embrace change -- without disrupting my peace of mind. How well can I respond to Red lights. My challenge is not to follow the arrows blindly, but to make choices that ensure I don't detour into dead end alleys leading me far from the safety of my heart.

Me, I want to live in harmony. I want to move with grace and ease on my journey of life lived in the flow of green lights guiding me safely through my day. I want to live passionately from my heart, knowing, no matter the chaos I encounter, I am safe when I Do the Right Thing to create a world of harmony and beauty all around me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Being Me.

I’m Mad As Hell, And I Won’t Take It Anymore! Howard Beal in Network (1976)
Okay, so colour me jaded but I'm feeling a little like pulling a Howard Beale and yelling from my bedroom window, "Enough already!"

Really, do I need another secret formula for success? Or the path to actualizing some ancient 'monk who only wore purple's' rite to making my dreams materialize out of thin air?

So, yeah, colour me jaded but I am a little sceptical that this next email that's just entered my email box will deliver me the goods, the straight and only goods, to having the life I've always dreamed of if I just religiously practice these never-before revealed five steps that I will learn if I just sign up for this 150 day online course and pay a gazillion dollars. I mean really, there must be a-gazillion website offerings -- okay so maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit (wonder if there's a website to cure me of that flaw?) to help me become more focused, successful, attentive, passionate, driven, inspired, soul-full, and soul-driven and just downright human.

Enough already.

Whew. There. Rant over.

But really....

I am a devourer of the 'learn how to...' offerings that drop into my Inbox everyday with the clarity of the sages offering up oracles peppered with projections of future happenings to goat offering, self-sacrificing devoted acolytes of long ago. Like, I LUV this stuff.

And even I am getting tired.

It's the age-old Goliath meets David -- Me. Little human meets the behemoth of the self-actualization movement. I stand armed with nothing more than my perceptions of who I am peering into the void of their assertions that I can be more than I am if I just..... Given the quantity (and let's not talk about quality) of their offerings, it could make me feel less than, other than, not good enough just knowing I don't know enough to be me!

But wait! I read something about not feeling less than, other than, not good enough. there's a 10 step process to overcome my 'otherness' buried somewhere in my Inbox.

I gotta find me a course on how to organize my Inbox...

Like.... when do I get to the doing? Not the reading, about living it up every day?

Now, there's lots and lots of value in the courses I've taken and the books I've read and the positions I've posed in to attain harmony with the universe around me. I've deepened my senses, walked my talk and kicked butt in the 'getting rid of what doesn't work for me anymore' parade of life.

When am I going to quit looking for the secret formula to walking my talk, kicking butt and getting rid of gunk? When am I going to get out of 'learning more' mode and get into walking tall mode of putting what I've learned into action long enough to give it time to 'take'.

See, that's the thing about enlightenment. There's always more of it. Always more to learn, to embrace, to take in and actualize and conceptualize and spiritualize and do whatever it takes with to create a new world order.

But... and there's always a but in my life of awakened actuality -- I get so busy 'learning', I don't get to the doing.

And what's life without actually doing it, step by step, moment to moment?

So -- given that my computer and cyberland just had a 'moment' and deleted what I'd written already! Oh my, is there a message there? Am I missing some cyber-delivered enlightenment of the disappearing from my screen kind?


Reality is. I get to live this one wild and precious life -- Live it up or down. Live it on the wild side or inside the lines. The choice is mine.

I've got what it takes to be me. I've got all the goods on being the one I am.

All I really need is to quit procrastinating -- wait!!!!! I just got an email about a course telling me it would teach me how to quit procrastinating right now!

yeah -- maybe I need another course. .. Oh dear, I gotta get outta this place. Gotta quit levitating, meditating, writing my insides out before it's too late to give up procrastinating....

Ooops. Not another course on something I already now. The best way to quit procrastinating is....

To take action.

I'm taking action. Getting into my day being the one and only ME!

to quote a wise sage, I am Sam. Sam I am....

I am Me. Me I am.

You go be You. I'll get being ME and ever the twain shall meet in this world of wonder!

Have a happy day Youing!

Be a happy Being the one and only You!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An unpredictable life

It was New Year’s Eve at the small senior’s community where my mother and father lived in Nanaimo. The elderly woman who lived alone in Unit 104 was late for their annual celebration. Elsa* had promised to be there and her no show was concerning. “She’s been feeling blue lately,” my mother told the other residents. “I’d best go check on her and make sure she’s okay.”

My mother went to the door of Unit 104 and rang the doorbell. No answer. She rang again. She and Elsa had exchanged keys some time before ‘just in case’. Nervous, but thinking this was a ‘just in case’ that warranted her using the key, my mother put the key in the lock and opened the door.

She found her friend in the kitchen. She was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had taken her own life.

My mother was devastated. After the police and emergency vehicles left, after a counselor had told her repeatedly there was nothing she could have done, my mother still harboured the secret belief everyone was wrong. There must have been something she could have done to prevent her friend’s final act.

In time, her grief abated until a few months later when my father, her husband of 52 years, had a massive heart attack and crossed over to the ‘other side’. Immediately, memories of her friend’s death invaded. Elsa too had lost her husband. Elsa too felt lost and alone.

Would her life end the same my mother wondered? Would she resort to ending it all because loneliness and despair eroded her sense of well-being?

Fearful. Worried, she asked, “How will I ever cope on my own?” “How will I survive?”

“One day at a time,” my sisters and I told her. “You could not have stopped Elsa’s death, just as you could not have stopped dad’s heart attack. You must live, one day at a time.

For twelve years after my father passed away, my mother continued to live on her own, until one day, a bad fall when she was eighty-five ended her independence. She was sad. Upset. Frightened. How will she cope without her independence? How will she get along within a community of strangers sharing the common term ‘senior’?

For two years now my mother has lived in an assisted living complex. She has her own room complete with TV, computer (she’s an email whizkid), kettle and small fridge. Her meals are shared in the cafeteria. Her daily routine focused around card games, day trips and group activities designed to keep her active, engaged and thriving in her golden years.

She still misses her own apartment, especially her kitchen. She still regrets the loss of independence. But what she doesn’t miss out on is friendship. She has a community at her new living space. A community that looks out for each other. That ensures no one is missed and if they are, someone always checks up on them.

At the DI, we have seniors who cannot afford a place of their own. Often, their needs do not fit the scope and level of care of other agencies. They might have an addiction or mental health issue that makes them unsuitable to be housed elsewhere. Often, we become the agency of last resort, the place they didn’t want to go to that turns out to be the one place they can go to find some dignity and respect in their golden years. It’s a safer environment than the streets. A more welcoming place. It’s a community of people who care for them, in whatever state they’re in. A place that doesn’t judge them on what they wear or how they speak. A place where they find acceptance. It’s a place where they find dignity without losing their self-respect.

One such senior is a man whom I’ll call, Bruce. Bruce had an addiction that was compounded by Type II Diabetes. He was subject to seizures. No one could predict when they might happen. No one could stop their onslaught.

One day Bruce suffered a seizure in the confined space of a washroom. Locked in the grip of a paralyzing rigidity, he fell to the floor. Staff heard him fall and dashed to his aid. EMS was called and when they arrived, they brought with them a ‘ride-along’. An individual from another agency seeking to gain insight into homelessness by shadowing emergency teams on their rounds.

When the individual encountered the scene in the washroom they were appalled. How could this happen?

“There was feces on the walls and floor,” the ‘ride-along’ cried. “It was so wrong. No one should have to suffer the indignity of having a seizure in a homeless shelter washroom?”

Years ago, my mother walked in on a woman who willfully ended her life in the security of her own home. No one was there to stop her. No one was able to prevent her fall.

People have seizures. No one can predict where the seizure will unfold. On the floor of a homeless shelter. In the comfort of your own home. In a public place.

Seizures are not about loss of dignity unless those in attendance judge the situation undignified. Seizures are not statements of the inappropriateness or ‘badness’ of homelessness. Seizures do not pick and choose their demographic. They’re non-discriminatory. They are a medical condition which target those who are housed and those who are un-housed.

No matter where and when the seizure hits, the person under their thrall needs care and attention appropriate to their situation. They need to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how undignified the circumstances of their situation.

Connecting dots from a seizure in a homeless shelter to the belief that no one should ever endure such indignity in their lives, raises the question about what needs to change? Is it our perception of the indignity of homelessness? The wrongness of shelters? Or the inability of the medical community to find a cure that stops, once and for all, anyone ever experiencing a seizure where ever they are in the world.

The question isn’t whether or not having a seizure in a shelter is undignified. Are we willing to treat people with dignity no matter where unfortunate circumstances unfold in their lives.
And that’s what we do at the DI. No matter their circumstances. No matter their condition, under the influence, mentally challenged or suffering a seizure, we treat people with dignity and respect. Even when their seizure hits in a washroom stall.

We treat people with respect because of who they are, fellow human beings sharing this human condition. Are you willing to do the same for your fellow man?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Goodness knows

Goodness knows, said the mouse to the hen, we'd better find a place to hide before then.

Then, said the hen, we'd better get looking.

It was, an unlikely duo. A tiny mouse with one ear lobbed off. A hen without a claw. Their friendship hadn't lasted very long. Only a fortnight or two. They'd met in the most unlikely of circumstances. The mouse, evading a cat, had slid into the henhouse in search of refuge. The hen, the only occupant of the rundown structure that no man had entered for a very long time, had awoken with a shriek when the mouse skidded to a halt against its plumage.

Who goes there? the hen queried, blinking its beady eyes in the dim light of the henhouse.

The mouse, breathless and afraid had squeaked without giving a thought to any danger other than the cat on its tail on the other side of the wall to the henhouse. "Oh please, kind chicken. I am but a little mouse seeking to evade a mighty prowler. A cat. Please, let me hide beneath your feathers."

And so, the unlikely friendship began. The mouse slid beneath the hen's plumage just as the cat leapt into the room, teeth bared, eyes peering into the gloom.

The hen, never one to miss an opportunity to terrorize avian enemies, squawked loudly. Flapped its wings. Shrieked.

The cat, surprised by the sudden appearance of what could only be a birdie banshee, hightailed it out of the henhouse faster than a rooster crowing the dawn on a hot tin roof. The last they saw of the cat he was hightailing it over the moon, never to return. And the hen and the mouse lived in peaceful harmony.

Until that morning.

It was what had the pair so worried. That very morning, a man had entered the space, creaking open the door that hung on one hinge. It's raspy ironwork awoke the duo from a mid-morning nap. The hen had squawked in surprise. The mouse squeaked.

They scurried under an upside down wooden carton and peer out between its slats. Dust fairies danced through the air on pathways of light lit from the opened door. They watched as a pair of shiny black wingtips stepped into the centre of the henhouse, raising the dirt as it entered. It came to the center of the room and stopped. One toe tapped upon the ground. Above the shoes, a pair of grey legs their edge as sharp as a knife stood still. They couldn't see any higher from their hiding place. They didn't dare move.

Behind the shoes, another pair teetered into the space. This pair was bright red. Open-toed. "oohhh," sighed the hen into the mouse's one good ear. "Size 6 Jimmy Chu's." She sighed again. "Nice." she whispered on one long exhale.

The mouse punched the hen in its chicken breast and whispered fiercely back. "What are they saying? What are they saying?"

The hen ruffled a feather. "Shhh. let me listen."

"Goodness," said the size 6 Jimmy Chu's. "This place is dusty." One at a time, the shoes picked themselves off the ground. A simpering dance erupted in the dust covering the ground. One shoe up, quickly drop to the ground, second shoe up, quickly drop to the ground. And again. Same song. Same verse.

A hearty laugh rose out of the body above the shiny black wingtips. The walls shook. The dust fairies froze in space, startled by the loud noise suddenly emanating from the being in their midst.

The mouse and the hen cowered beneath their upturned box. "It will be a good thing we do here Miss Lovely. We'll tear down this mess. Build a condo for all those poor folk living in the gutter and no one will know I stole this land from Farmer Jonz after I buried him at the corner of 52nd and Park. Why, I swear, they'll build a monument for us at Silly Hall."

"Goodness," hissed the mouse to the hen. "I know that fiend. I may only hear out of one ear but I'd recognize that voice even if it weren't my worst nightmare. He's the one who shooed me out of my home over on 49th. He's a devil in disguise. A real 'look-at-me philanthropogust of hot air without a heart. He rips land off poor folk, builds teetering highrises that can't withstand a bad turn of the economy and then, sells them off for millions. He's baaaad."

The hen, busy watching the red size 6 Jimmy Chu's didn't hear her friend's words. "Why, I think I'll just go introduce myself," she said, fluffing up her feathers, preening her beak on the side of the wooden box. "Maybe she'll let me touch my one and only claw to that pretty red bow on the side of her heel."

The mouse squeaked. "No! Listen to me hennie. That pair will eat you alive. There's no goodness in them. It's all a front for raking in the dough."

But hennie wasn't really interested in the mouse's cautionary tale. She wanted to get close to the Jimmy Chu's.

She pushed the mouse away, stepped out from beneath her crate and hopped on her one good claw into the centre of the henhouse.

"Well hello there Jimmy Chu!" she squawked.

The Jimmy Chu's leaped back, tumbled over a box at the side of the room. A shriek pierced the air. The soles of the Jimmy Chu's flew up. Black with beige trim. Nice, thought the hen. Above the shoes, a body fell to the ground. Dust flew up into the air. Dust fairies scurried for cover.

The shiny black wingtips scuffed at the dirt. "What the hell!" the body above the creased grey pants emitted. And with one sweep of a pressed grey pant leg, the toe of the shiny black wingtip connected with the side of the hen and swept her into a pile of crates at the back of the room.

The shiny black wingtips turned to help the fallen Jimmy Chu's. "There there," the now syrupy voice above the pant legs cooed like a fox raiding a henhouse. "It was just some ole' ratty chicken squawking in the henhouse.

"Why I never," squeaked Miss Lovely as she raised herself precariously onto her Jimmy Chu's. "I hope you sent it running."

"Why my lovely Miss Lovely. It ran out of here like a chicken with its head cut off."

The two laughed and laughed. The man looked around the henhouse one last time. "Well we'd best be on our way. Money's a waiting to be made and time's awasting. We gotta go do goodness knows what to pave the way on the money trail! No deed's too low, no bribe too high where my money and me are concerned."

From his hiding place the mouse watched the shiny black wingtips and Jimmy Chu's leave the building.

When the coast was clear, he quickly scurried out from beneath the box and went in search of his friend who lay bruised and battered in a pile of crates.

Goodness knows, he told himself. We'll have to get busy finding a new place to live. Goodness knows, progress will not be stopped and shiny black wing tips will step on anyone to get greenbacks into its greedy paws.

And so, the friends gathered their meagre belongings and set off to find a new refuge in the city. Worried that tomorrow would not be a better day, the hen kept talking a mile a minute. "Why, if I die today it will be worth it to have seen that little red bow on the side of a pair of size 6 Jimmy Chu's."

. "Bird brain," said the mouse to the hen. "Goodness knows, we've gotta get ourselves a plan and warn Silly Hall."

And so the pair set off in search of a way to heel the the relentless onslaught of the shiny black wingtips voracious appetite for taking advantage of them derelict folk in the gutter as he pulled the wool over Silly Hall.

The moral of the story is... There's no goodness in size 6 Jimmy Chu's. There's only a heel too high to climb.

To be continued. Maybe.

The Blog Carnival, a biweekly online event open to anyone, is sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time and Peter Pollock at Rediscovering the Church. Today's one-word prompt is "goodness". Go here for a list of links to all of the contributions. (Thanks Maureen for the para to link to.)