Saturday, January 31, 2009

A big stretch!

Off to a late start this morning -- workshop to go to, house a disaster -- and I'm heading out the door.

You have no idea how scary that is!

WE celebrated Lele's 21st last night in grand fashion. Family and friends gathered to toast the guest of honour -- and I went to bed as the 'youngun's' carried on into the wee hours. I awoke to a house filled with glasses, dirty plates and mayhem.

And I'm leaving it.

Not my normal style! I like to get it cleaned up, My Way. I like it done as soon as I get up.

Today, I am walking out the door -- and not apologizing! Not thinking, I should stay home and clean up. I should do it all myself.

Whew! Watch me stretch!

And breathe.

And know -- it will be what it will be when I come home. As long as I trust myself enough to not be anxious all day about what I'm coming home to. As long as I trust, I'm okay.

Have an awesome day!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Lele!

Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time. Jean Paul Richter

Today is my youngest daughter, Liseanne's, 21st birthday. Twenty-one years ago today, she burst into the world, a bundle of energy, her eyes wide open, looking for where the action is. Twenty-one years after her joyous arrival, she's still a bundle of energy, still looking for where the action is, and if there isn't any happening, she'll create it!

Witty, intelligent, kind, Lele, as we call her at home, has a caring heart, a curious mind, and a searching spirit. At 21, she is a wise soul, forever seeing what other's can't see, forever stepping where other's are afraid to go. Always caring for those who no longer care about themselves or need encouragement to find their way again.

When Lele was a little girl, she always wanted to know what was behind 'that door'. What's that mean? A curious child (in more ways than one!), she constantly challenged me with questions about everything. Sometimes Lele would ask a question I didn't have the answer to. I'd make up the most ridiculous answer I could and she would laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Lele loves stories. Hearing them and creating them. One of my favourites that she created was about 'the littlest dinosaur in the world'. Smaller than a sparrow's egg, Lele had found the egg in the garden. She brought it into the house and warmed and nurtured it until it hatched and out popped a miniature dinosaur. I remember sitting on her bed, listening to her tell me the story as she danced around her bedroom, one moment being the dinosaur, the other a fearful predator. The littlest dinosaur didn't believe it could take care of itself. Lele taught him how.

She loves to dance. Her favourite was to have me pick her up and spin and spin and spin and spin. She loved music and song and clapping loud and stomping her feet hard. She is an enthusiastic audience of one and a believer in giving it her all, throwing herself into the dance and moving beyond the music into that place where hearts pound joyously and spirits soar freely.

Lele believed in the Law of Attraction long before the Secret made it 'au courant'. When she was about six, she wanted a piano. As a single mom and a freelance writer, a piano was not in my budget. I tried to gently tell her that 'it wasn't going to appear' under the Christmas tree, but Lele had other ideas. One day, I watched her as she moved through the living room, intently measuring out spaces along the wall.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Trying to figure out where the piano's going to go," she replied, her small feet carefully stepping out the paces.

"And which piano's that?"

She stopped pacing. Turned and smiled at me. "The one we're getting for Christmas."

A week later, while typing up the School newsletter which I did every second week for the girls' school, there was an item in the Parents' Corner: Wanted. A home for a piano for one year.

A family were going away for a year, putting everything in storage but didn't want to put their piano away.

It was the first call I made that day.

The piano arrived a week later.

Throughout her life Lele has surprised us with her ability to see what isn't visible to the eye, hear the notes beneath the notes, and feel the tears behind the words and actions of others. She will hold fast to a thought or an idea, never letting go like a tensile cable holding onto a bridge. And then, in the same breath, she will release a rigid position, embrace a new idea, push aside a limiting belief and spread her wings to see how high she can fly.

She loves to 'play silly', to dance in public spaces, to laugh and sing (okay, we encourage her to dance more), to create stories that will lift flagging spirits and to share her love fearlessly -- and she loves to make the world laugh with her!

One day, while the three of us were eating in a restaurant in downtown Calgary with one of their girlfriends, Lele created a neck piece and a new hat out of serviettes. We left the restaurant with Lele proudly wearing her masterpiece. As she walked down the avenue, she could have been strutting the catwalk of a high fashion runway in Paris. Her confidence and sense of fun are inspiring. Our laughter had us doubled over as cars drove by honking their horns, their drivers laughing with us -- or possibly at us! But Lele didn't care. She wanted to make the world 'feel good'.

Lele never gives up. Fiercely loyal, she never lets go of a friend and never gives into despair. She is a soaring spirit, a loving heart and a forgiving soul. She looks out for those who cannot look out for themselves and lifts up those who have forgotten they have wings.

She is, a beautiful young woman of great spirit. She is my daughter. And I am very, very proud of her.

As a mother, Lele makes my heart sing. I am always in awe of the bond between her and her sister, Alexis. They are both fiercely loyal, always caring, always loving. "We are each others best friend," they attest, and then argue over who loves the other most -- "If you let me borrow that blue sweater I'll let you love me more," says clever Lele. They can fight like any sibling, but they will always make-up, always understand and care about how the other feels. And even in the depths of their anger, they know, there is no one in the world they love more than each other. No one they count on more than each other.

My life is blessed because of this young woman who soars so gently through my days, reminding me that hearts are to be touched with loving hands and minds opened with caring words and gentle voices.

Lele and her sister, mother and aunties! January 29, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The shame of it all

Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment. Ralph Marston

Last night, at Project Forward (a course I teach at the shelter where I work) I told the class a story about a young soldier returning from Afghanistan who called his parents to say, "I'm coming home." Joyfully, his parents accepted the news and started making plans for their sons return. Just before returning home, their son called back and asked them if it was okay if he brought a friend with him. "He has no family and he was seriously wounded. He has no legs and is confined to a wheelchair."

His parents hemmed and hawed. We can help him find a place, they said, but having to care for a cripple is beyond the level of our ability. We won't have the time to commit. It will be too much for your mother.

The son said he understood, and told them he'd be home in a few days. A few days later the parents received a visit from the military police. Their son had committed suicide. "Did you know he was wounded and lost his legs," they asked the shocked parents.

I asked the class what that story meant to them.

One man replied, "He let his shame kill him. He was so ashamed of his wound, he couldn't tell his parents what had happened. I know how he feels. My family doesn't know where I am. I can't tell them."

"Are you ashamed of where you are?" I asked him.

"I'm ashamed that I'm here. Yeah. I'm ashamed of the things that happened that got me here," he said.

"You're here, taking this course. You turn up every Wednesday night. You do your homework. That takes courage. Will carrying shame get you more or less of what you want?"

He laughed. "Less. But, look what I did that brought me here. It was so stupid."

"Yup. The things I did that brought me down were stupid too. Carrying the shame, though, only keeps me mired in feelings of being less than. And, it's a good way of avoiding taking responsibility for what I did. Because it keeps me from loving myself exactly the way I am, warts and all. And if I can't love myself as I am, then I am denying part of myself."

The young soldier could not accept what had happened to him. In his inability to accept that, he could not tell his parents the truth. I don't know what was going on in his mind (it is a story though so I can imagine!). In my imaginings, I think he felt that if he was testing his parents on whether or not they could love him as an amputee. Perhaps the son was looking for an excuse to kill himself because he couldn't live as an amputee. By testing his parents, he gave himself the out he was looking for. Looking through his eyes of judgement, "I am less than a man", he ended his life in shame.

For the client at the shelter, shame of being where he's at, not wanting to tell the people who love him is equally as debilitating.

When I could say, "I am broken", without judging myself as 'wanting, less than, stupid, blind, etc., I gave myself the power to start healing from where I was at without fear of how other people saw me. As long as I held onto the notion that it was shameful to tell people how broken I was for fear that they might judge me as 'wanting, less than, stupid, blind, etc.,, I was withholding from myself the very thing I needed to heal -- the truth.

Once I accepted the truth, I could accept other people's offers to help me. I was broken. I didn't know how to put myself back together. I needed help.

There is no shame in falling. The shame comes when we lie on the ground and wallow in self-pity, fear and denial and refuse to see there are those who would help us get back up again.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of your shame and claim your reality today and love yourself exactly the way you are? Are you willing to accept help when it's needed?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beyond my knowing

As long as you live, keep learning how to live. Seneca
I read a book long ago that promised to give me the secret of living life to its fullest. If you read no other book, it said, read this one and you will have the answers to living life at a ten every day.

I read that book, and then another, and another. I listened to tapes. Went to therapy and breath work, yoga and meditation, and still I kept thinking, I don't know how to live.

I was living every day, but nothing was changing.

Nothing changes until I change my thinking. And nothing changes my thinking like thinking different thoughts.

There is a story from Africa that goes, Every morning a gazelle wakes up with one thought on its mind, today it will have to outrun the fastest lion or be killed. And every morning, a lion awakens to its truth, it will have to outrun the slowest gazelle or starve to death. It doesn't matter if you are the delicate doe-eyed gazelle or the fearless lion warrior, when the sun comes up, you'd better be running. Author Unknown

That lion and gazelle are locked into thinking about their survival. It is what distinguishes us from them -- our thinking no longer has to focus on survival -- our thinking can focus on living life freely. The odds of our surviving today, are pretty high. Yet, often we greet the day like it's a battle to be fought from the trenches of our limiting beliefs. We hunker down into our positions. Stake out our turf, line up our arsenal of well-worn, well-oiled weaponry and get down to the business of winning the war on the day -- and forget all about living it fearlessly free of our comfort zones.

What if.... we were to change our thinking?

What if... we open our eyes in the morning and exclaim, "Wow! It's a brand new day! A day filled with limitless opportunities to learn new ideas, to meet new people, to encounter new situations. It's a day to make brilliant mistakes that will open the door to limitless opportunities to grow. What a wonderful day this is!"

Alexander Graham Bell, a man who made brilliant mistakes that led to one of mankind's greatest inventions, said, "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."

Hunkered down in the land of limiting beliefs, we do not see that when we open our eyes we have the choice of seeing the world as a land of opportunity, or a warzone.

The choice is always ours.

Mine is to awaken to my morning asking myself the question that will catapult me out of complacency into inspired thinking and adventure, "What limiting belief can I blow up today?"

Yesterday, I woke up believing that because I was lacking sleep, my day would be filled with ennui and drudgery. I changed my thinking, blew up that limiting belief, and leaped into a day of wonder and joy.

Today, I woke up believing the world will be filled with wonder and joy. Already, the day is meeting my expectations. I received an email from a beautiful woman asking me a question that got my mind exploring 'what is love'. My response set me free of another limiting belief and opened the door to possibility. I didn't know I felt those things until I explored my thinking -- and questioned my knowing of what was true for me.

The question is: Are you limiting your thinking to what you know? Are you willing to let go of what you know to explore the world of wonder and joy beyond your knowing?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The power within

People are like sticks of dynamite; the power's on the inside but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit. Author unknown
I don't always live at a ten. In fact, ten is a sometimes reality. Often, I'm at a seven or an eight, doing my best, knowing there's more to come.

And that's the thing. No matter 'where' I'm at, it's up to me to be the best I can be where ever I am.

Last night the phone rang just before eleven. I was drifting into sleep. Floating on that cloud of peacefulness that descends just before sleep envelopes me in its dreamy proposition.


I awoke.

At midnight, I got up to read. About 1:30 I finally went back to bed.

This morning, I'm a 4. Groggy. Sleepy. I awoke and rolled over, willing myself to fall back to sleep. I drifted in and out of slumber for awhile and finally realized, I must arise. Morning will not await. Time will not stop just because I'm tired. The day doesn't change because of my fatigue. I make change happen because of the energy I put into my day.

Today is not a day to leap tall buildings, I tell myself. It's going to be a long day. I think about the evening. Going to bed early. How will I make it through the day.

Stop! My thinking is making me tired. I may not feel like I'm at 10, it is still a good day nonetheless. It is the only day I have to live.

It's up to me to find the fuse that will light my fire, ignite my power -- at what ever level it is.

Some days, I'm not a 10. No matter where I'm at, it's up to me to pour myself into my day, ignite my creativity and get going, living my day where ever I'm at, being the best at being me.
Remember the one degree? Water will not boil at 211 degrees. It takes one degree to make it boil. And with that one degree, water boils, steam happens, engines are fired and things are put in motion.

I'm many degrees from my boiling point. Gotta get huffing. My day awaits and I must find the energy to stoke the flames of my imagination, fire up my engine and get moving.

I pick up a different pair of glasses. Being tired is just a state of mind. How I move through the day is up to me. I have the power to be whatever I choose. I have the power to change my state of being, to move my thinking away from feeling tired, to being excited about my day.

I imagine myself as a stick of dynamite, set to explode into the morning. I see myself as a spark, a filament in a light bulb. All I need to do is leap into my day. I flip the switch.

My morning explodes with possibilities. My day breaks with a bang! Wow! What a wonderful day to be alive. What an amazing day to be me!

The question is: Do you let tiredness, ennui, low energy dictate your state of being? Do you accept tired as the way to live? Are you willing to light the fuse on your imagination and explode into your day?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Defying Gravity

Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars. Frederick Langbridge
The story goes that two men lay in a hospital room. The one closest to the window, sat in his bed, day by day, telling the other man, who could only lay flat on his back and not move, what he saw outside the window. Passing parades, flowering trees, dogs running in the park.

Day after day, each day passed the same. The one man told the other the wonders he saw outside the window.

Then, one morning, the man by the window was silent. The nurses came. The doctors arrived. They took the other man's body away. He had died in his sleep.

As soon as it was deemed polite, the other man asked to be moved to the window bed. He wanted to see for himself the wonderful world his roommate had described for so long. He lay there, flat on his back for awhile, until finally, he could not resist, he maneuvered his body into a sitting position. He looked out the window and saw, a brick wall.

He called for the nurse. How can this be? he asked. He described such beauty and joy outside the window.

Perhaps he described what gave him joy. she replied. He couldn't see outside the window. He was blind. (Author unknown)

What we see in life is filtered through our perceptions. The stars above twinkle. Their light shimmers in the night sky. Some of those stars are dead before their light reaches earth. We cannot tell the difference. We dream upon them, gaze at the wonder of the night time sky and let our imaginations soar. It doesn't matter how far the star is from our earth, we see its light and are reassured by the enormity and wonder of space.

When I was a kid, I loved the Hall of Mirrors at the fair. I loved walking along the glassy walls, my body distorted into a thousand shapes and pieces. Where ever I looked, I had a different shape, my head was to the side, my arms distended. Looking into the mirrors, I could not see, me, the source as I see me in my mind's eye, I could only see my reflected image distorted.

In life, what we see is the reflection of what we expect to see. On a snowy day, I expect to see snow on the ground -- white. After weeks of snow, I don't observe 'the snow', I see the world as it is. Were I to wake up one morning and see orange snow -- I'd be surprised. My expectation every morning is that the snow will be white -- until it melts away that is and then I'm very happy to see the green grass again!

Sometimes, living in this northern clime, a freak snowstorm will blow in and cover Summer grass with winter's blanket. Snow is not a pretty sight in those months. Snow is unexpected and unwelcome.

So much of my life is dependent upon my expectations that what I see fits the picture, the calendar, the timeframe, the parameters of what I expect to see, of what others tell me I see. Like the man in the hospital bed, I see the world through the stories I hear about the world beyond the limits of my sight. For that man, lying there for months, listening to the other man's stories, there was great joy in believing what he said. When he saw the 'truth', he had a choice. To be angry, to feel like a fool, or, to close his eyes, accept the gift of the other man's 'sight', and imagine the world as he was told it was, not as it appeared outside the window.

Stretching my eyes beyond the limits of my sight, I open myself up to the possibility of seeing beyond the expected, the norm, the anticipated view. Opening myself up to wonder, I open myself up to life beyond the walls of comfort, the zones of reality that I tread every day in my journey from A to B. I can look at a brick wall, or I can imagine myself soaring above the earth, flying free.

I 'know' I don't have wings to fly. But in my mind I am capable of soaring. In my mind's eye, I can picture myself leaping. I can imagine the wind catching me, lifting me up as I glide in space, free to explore the universe beyond.

When I leap, will I fall, or will I soar?

I'll never know until I see beyond the confines of my limiting beliefs the possibilities of space where I defy gravity.

The question is: Have you tested gravity? Have you defied your limiting beliefs today?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hope lives.

The Dream:

I am in a theatre style room. I know the process we're engaged in is a "Choices" one. The purpose is to find the day hope died for each of us. We sit in the seats, the facilitators invite each one of us up, one by one, to act out the event they describe to us. The facilitators know what's going on. We don't. As each person comes up on stage, they are given a set of instructions about where to go on the stage, but as they try to get to that spot, the facilitators group together, keep blocking his or her path. Where ever she moves, they crowd around her, not letting her break through.

I don't like the feeling of not being part of the people who 'know'. The one's who have the answers, so I sneak onto the stage and try to insert myself amongst the facilitators and those who have completed the game. But, I'm caught and am sent back to my seat in the theatre amongst the others who have not yet gone through the game.

I sit in the audience and watch. I can feel anxiety rising in me. I don't want to be hemmed in. I don't want to play the game and find, The Day Hope Died. One of the coaches comes to sit with me. I recognize her. She's a woman from work. She smiles and says, "How are you doing?"

"Ok," I reply. "This looks interesting." I feign boredom. Ease.

"Yeah," she says. She points to the people on stage. They're huddled together in small groups, talking, looking out of their huddle at those of us sitting in the audience. "They're talking about you," she says.

I laugh. "No they're not."

"How do you know?"

I laugh again. Nervously. "Of course they're not."

Another person is about to begin the game. As they walk up onto the stage, a group of para-military dressed men rise up from the shadows at the bottom of the stage. Their eyes are hard. Their look mean and angry. They are the new 'blockers'. They will keep each of us from getting to our goals.

I start to cry. The men look angry. Mean. I don't want to play the game.

I wake up.

When I was about 11 years old, we moved from Canada back to France. As our plane was banking to land at the airport in Metz, I looked out the window and saw tidy farmers fields laid out like a patchwork quilt. The land looked serene. Calm. I remember thinking, I must remember this moment. I had lots of penpals around the world and quickly jotted off a note to a pal in Australia.

A driver met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel. On the way, he told my father stories about the uprisings in Algeria, and the unrest on French streets. I remember the story he told of a group of Algerian activists walking into a restaurant, opening fire and killing several patrons. I sat in the back seat of the car, scared. frightened. Confused. As we drove through the city, we saw soldiers on every corner. Guns slung over their shoulders. Mean, scowly looks on their faces.

That night in our hotel I woke crying. My mother asked me what was wrong and I told her, I don't want to live in France. I want to go back to Canada.

My father woke up. He was angry with me for crying about such a stupid thing. Be quiet. Quit being a baby. Your imagination is running wild. You're not going to get killed.

My fear of my father's anger was greater than my fear of being shot by a random stranger. I shut up. And, I quit writing to my penpals. I didn't dare speak or write about my fear again.

When I awoke from my dream this morning, that vignette popped into my mind. If I had played the game in my dream, I know it would have been, The Day Hope Died.

Forty years later, I awaken to the truth. I didn't die by a gunshot from an angry Algerian in France. I wasn't the victim of a random, drive-by shooting caused by displaced citizens angry with the treatment of their government. No one is blocking me from making my dreams come true, unless I let them.

Hope lives.

I am free.

I am blessed.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Irrepressible me.

GO to the people
LIVE among the people
LEARN from them
LOVE them.
START with what they know,
BUILD on what they have.
But of the BEST leaders,
When their TASK is accomplished,
Their WORK is done,
The PEOPLE will remark,
Chinese Proverb

Yesterday, the Premier of Alberta came to the shelter where I work to present a cheque for $7 million. The monies are to be spent on acquiring an apartment building for affordable housing. It was a joyous occasion, a special event that staff, clients and dignitaries attended. Behind the Premier, easels with art works created by shelter artists were on display. At one point, our Exec. Dir. presented the Premier with an oil painting by one of our artists. A beautiful prairie wheatfield -- a wheatfield to remind the Premier of his roots, his pioneer spirit.

At the end of the event, as the Exec Dir., made a few closing comments and asked for final questions, one of the attendees asked, "Can you tell us more about the art on display?"

The Exec Dir., looked around and said, "Louise?"

I was standing to his right, along the windows on one side of the room. I wasn't prepared to speak that day, my mind was engaged in making sure the event went smoothly. Startled by his question, I replied, "What?"

Ah, the elegance and eloquence of me living in the moment can be stunning.

He smiled, motioned for me to come to the podium. "Louise should tell you about the program. It's her baby," he told the audience.

That is the sign of a superb leader. He could have taken the time, stood in the limelight with all the TV cameras and reporters, and talked about Instead, he stepped out of the limelight and passed the microphone to me.

The reality is, we have done it ourselves, all of us. The Exec Dir. the other Directors, the staff who support us and applaud us, the clients who support and applaud us, the media, the public who come out to our shows, the artists who come and give workshops. We have done it ourselves.

Later, I chatted with a couple of clients who came to hear the Premier. One of the clients attends Project Forward on Wednesday nights. He was telling another client about how much the program has helped him. "You should apply to come," he told the other man. "It's really helped me find the courage to speak. I'm learning a lot."

I was surprised. And pleased. It is rewarding to know the program is being well received. It is rewarding to hear him encourage someone else to come.

I thanked him for his support and he replied. "Seriously. I never talked before." He laughed. "Now, I'm getting over my fear."

"What are you afraid of?" I asked.

"That I'll say something stupid." he replied.

I laughed. "You mean like answering, "Whatttt?" in front of a room full of people, a room filled with TV cameras and reporters?"

He laughed harder. "Yup!"

"So, now you don't have to fear it. I did it. I'm still standing."

He smiled. "That's our Louise," he replied. "Irrepressible."

"If I can do it and laugh at myself, so can you."

He paused. Thought for a moment. Nodded his head. "Yes. I can."

The question is: Are you willing to step into your fear and be who you are? An irrepressible human being laughing at the wonder of your silly human foibles imbued with the magnificence of you?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A lesson in compassion

I run an art program at the shelter where I work. It is client supervised, which means there is no staff on duty, clients oversee day to day activities and the other clients. It is a beautiful space. Large windows over-look the river valley six stories below. Soft music plays. Artists intent upon their work hunch over tables. Paintings line the walls. Masks. Sculptures. The area is awash in creativity.

And the human condition.

Three of the artists have been with the program since its inception. The others, come and go. Drifting in and out of the space like tumbleweed along a path. Homelessness is not a constant condition in their lives. It is an affliction that arrives like a winter flu, passing through only to return another season.

Recently, a couple of the artists have experienced some success and acclaim for their works. For some of the others, this has given rise to self-doubt and a need to 'act out' their anger.

Which, has resulted in disgruntled clients and whispered innuendos erupting all over the building, as those who perceive themselves to be 'less than' attempt to even the playing field.

Which, has resulted in a flow of people in and out of my office airing their views on all that's wrong with everyone else.

Mostly, I work on focusing the complainants attention on what's happening in their lives. What are they doing, what do they want, how do they plan on making it happen for themselves. Mostly, I am able to stay out of the fray of 'he said, I said', and keep the focus on the purpose of the art program, and its value in someone's life.

Yesterday, I was not so successful. Last week I met with one of the clients (I'll call him Albert) whom just before Christmas, had packed up his art and left the studio because, 'nobody cares'. We met last week to talk about his concerns and what he needed to do to work through them. When I asked him, "What does Albert" need?", he replied, "To come back to the studio and work." I told him he was welcome to do that and reminded him that everyone in the studio is responsible for how it works. There was no value in pointing fingers at others and blaming them for all that was wrong. There was a great deal of value in being part of the energy and creativity of the studio -- and his energy and creativity, like everyone else's has great value.

He didn't make it back. Over the period while he was gone, his workspace had been taken over by another client. "But it's my table," he cried when told the other artist didn't want to give up that particular table (rightly so) and left before ever sitting down again.

Tuesday, he asked if we could meet. I told him sometime next week, but yesterday, after yet another client asking me what was wrong with the art studio and why wasn't I helping Albert, my frustration got the better of me.

I spoke with the Day Supervisor, he is responsible for everything that goes on in the building during the time he is on duty, and asked if he would meet with Albert and me. "Albert is gossiping with everyone and inciting discord. I want to ensure we meet and talk about what's up and not up and what he needs to do to change."

I'd had a busy week. The Premier of the province is coming to the shelter today and there's much to be done to get everything ready. Media were hounding me for details, media were calling about another issue.

I'm a busy lady. I don't have time for this messy stuff! (Look at me, I'm important!)

So, in my mind was this voice saying [in reference to the art studio and the requests I was getting for meetings to arbitrate discord], "I don't have time for these petty arguments. Why can't people just get along? yada yada yada."

By the time it came to a head yesterday (another artist threatened to quit. One artist said this, the other didn't like that) I was way off track and looking to create discord, not harmony.

When the supervisor and I met with Albert, I asked him, "Ok, tell me what happened between the time we met Friday and you said you wanted to come back to the studio and your decision to not come back."

I could have saved myself the breath and him the need to answer. Armed with my discord, I wasn't really looking to hear him, I was waiting to get the opportunity to tell him why I was so angry, and why he was to blame and what he needed to do to 'get real'.

And that's when I learned my lesson.

Albert is a big man. In his early 40s, his baby face belies his age. He's been a client at the shelter for 2 years, struggled with his addiction and has been clean and sober for 6 months. "They acted like it didn't matter to them if I came back or not," he cried.

Tears started to roll down his cheeks.

And there went my hissy fit. My anger had no place in the conversation. I needed to be open to the possibilities of healing. The conversation wasn't about right and wrong. It was about the human condition.

I listened to the compassion in the Supervisor's voice as he spoke to Albert. "And that really hurt your feelings didn't it?"

Albert nodded his head. "I just wanted them to care."

Albert and I share a common ground. I want the clients to care about the studio. To care there's a place where they can come and spend quiet time away from the daily ruckus of the shelter. I want them to care.

I can't make them do anything. All I can do is hold the space for them to find their path to caring for themselves. To wanting to give themselves the gift of time and space to explore their possibilities.

I can't make anyone care about anything. I can care enough to be open and caring in how I move through my day.

It was a lesson in compassion. It is a much more powerful emotion than anger.

Anger closes the door to possibility. Compassion opens up the conversation to healing, to growth, to harmony.

The question is: Are you avoiding finding a common ground by holding onto anger and shutting the door on possibility? Are you caring more about being right, than creating harmony in your life?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What I allow.

To know when to be generous and when to be firm -- this is wisdom. Elbert Hubbard
Last night I taught at Project Forward at the shelter where I work. Project Forward is fundamentally a financial management course, my role is to provide the life-skills component to help the individuals in the class build positive habits around their money, and their lives. Because it's January, we are focusing on goals. Creating them. Setting them. Planning for them.

During the conversation around goals, one of the attendees said, "But I don't know what I really want."

I walked up to the whiteboard and wrote down a question. "What do you want more of in your life?"

Quickly he responded, "Peace. Stability."

Another student added in. "Security. Integrity."

"Honesty. Trust." added another.

"What are the things you're doing now that undermine having these things in your life?" I asked.

The first student who responded, I'll call him Cliff, jumped in quickly. "Everything!" He paused. "Well, not everything. I am working part-time. That is giving me a lot of stability. But take for example yesterday. Somebody asked to borrow a pack of cigarettes and I gave it to him. He's promised to pay me back."


"Well.... I want to believe him, but..." He grinned sheepishly. "He hasn't paid me back the pack I lent him last week nor the money he owes me."

"So, you didn't really lend them to him. You gave them to him."

"Well, no. I want him to pay me back."

"Do you believe he will?"

He paused. Squirmed in his seat. "No."

"Who's got the problem?"

Pause. "I do."

"And what's the problem?"

"But if I don't lend him the cigs when he knows I've got them, he went to the store with me when I bought them, then he'll be mad at me. I like his friendship."

"Which is greater?" I asked. "Your fear of his being mad at you or your desire for peace and stability in your life? Will giving away the money you've worked hard to earn, the money that's vital to your moving away from here, get you more of what you want in your life or less?"

"But, I want to be friends with him. How can I do that if I don't help him out?"

"Does letting him borrow from you knowing you don't expect him to pay you back help him out?" I pointed to the words on the board. "Not one of you said you want more money in your life. Now, I know you do. You need money to get out of living here [in the shelter]. You need financial security to move on with your lives. But what underlies it are these things. Peace. Stability. Trust. Those are the things you want. Do you think your friend wants those things too?"

"Yeah. I know he does. That's why he's working to get out of here."

"So, in giving him permission to act without integrity in his relationship with you, who wins?"

"But, how do I say no?"

One of the students jumped in quickly with, "Just say, No. Don't talk about it. Just say, No. You don't have to be rude, but you do need to say it."

Just say No.

Cliff* pondered his suggestion. His body squirmed in his seat. He tapped his pencil against the boardroom table. "That's really hard."

"What if you turned around the equation. Remember at the beginning I asked, Who has the problem?"

"Yeah." He took a breath. Tapped his pencil against his forehead. "I do."

"And who has the power to find the answers that work for him?"

He nodded his head. "I do."

I pointed again to the list of things people in the room wanted more of in their lives. "What if you didn't look at it as saying 'no', but thought of it as saying yes to the things you want more of in your life? What will give you more peace and stability in your life?"

"Learning how to be responsible around money. Saving it. Getting a place of my own." Cliff replied.

"If you lend someone money, knowing you won't get it back, are you being responsible?"


"Your choice. Keep doing what you've always done and get what you've always got, or do something different. Start treating yourself with integrity. Start giving yourself the chance to create the life you want by being true to you."

"But it's so hard."

"Which hurts more? Beating yourself down or lifting yourself up?

It was a great lesson for me. Helping others is not noble when I bring myself down, when I deplete my resources or undermine my integrity. When I give other people permission to act without integrity in my life, I am acting without integrity. I am not being 100% accountable for me.

The question is: Are you undermining your integrity by telling yourself that you must give to others what you do not have to give? Are you willing to act with integrity by telling yourself the truth about what you're doing by allowing others to act without integrity in your life?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Star gazing

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent Van Gogh
The koi, when placed in a fishbowl will grow to about three inches. If in a pond, it will grow to eighteen inches. In a lake, the koi will grow to almost three feet. The koi adapts to its environment, limiting its physical growth to accommodate the area in which it has to swim.

In life, we adapt our dreams, our perspective, our thinking to accommodate our world around us. We tell ourselves, I'm happy with where I'm at, as we adapt to accepting where we're at as the only place we can be. If we grow up in an environment of narrow thinking, we adapt our thinking to the limits of our environment. Change is inevitable, but we buck the call of freedom as we cling to what we know.

To grow beyond the familiar, we must open our minds to possibility, open our hearts to fear and let our courage carry us into action. All it takes to change is conscious thought, action, courage and a commitment to spread our wings beyond the confines of our habitat. It takes getting over our 'why bother' thinking. The thinking that keeps us stuck in accepting the world the way it is. In buying into the myth, it's the way it's always been, I am not powerful enough to change it.

In uncertain times, one thing is certain, everything will change.

In Dr. Eldon Taylor's book, Choices and Illusions, he tells the story of an eagle who grew up amongst chickens. This eagle believed it was a chicken. Believed it was the best chicken it could be. Never attempted to stretch her wings, never tested the boundaries of her environment. One day, another eagle saw it amongst the chickens and tried to talk it into breaking free. "No way," said the eagle. "I'm a chicken." Eventually, the eagle who thought she was a chicken, fooled the free eagle into letting her get past him so she could run back to the chicken coop and be safe. Back amongst her chicken family, she extolled them with her cunning ability to outsmart the eagle. Everyone cheered her and told her how smart and brave she was. She believed them. She believed her own story.

Dr. Taylor calls it, chicken yard thinking. Believing the limitations put upon us by others. Believing the limitations we carry in our minds about how far we can stretch, how high we can fly. Believing the messages we received about how small we are, how weak, how stupid. How we are not strong enough, tall enough, smart enough, good enough. How we cannot change.

To live a life of majestic grace we must stretch our wings beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone. We must open our minds to the wonder of that ethereal place where imagination reigns, where we have the power to become all that we ever imagined.

Two thousand years ago, no one could have predicted the world was round. Five hundred years ago, no one could have predicted that man could leave this planet and fly to the moon and hang amongst the stars. One hundred years ago, no one could have predicted that the Internet would connect the world, inspiring millions upon millions of people to share their ideas, their stories, their hope, strength and encouragement via an invisible web of data spinning around the globe.

Yet, it is possible. All it took was the imagination of man and his willingness to explore beyond the confines of her thinking.

We cannot imagine what is possible in the future. We can imagine that life will change. The world will evolve and we will no longer be part of the human race at some point in our journey.

No one can predict how long they have on this earth. Everyone knows how long they've been on this earth. In this moment, all we have is the time given to us right now to create a life worth living. When we drop the yardstick of the past, letting go of measuring all that happened to get us here against all that we have endured to get here, we free ourselves to leap into this moment, unencumbered by the limitations of the past. We free ourselves to swim beyond the confines of our fishbowl, out into the open seas of expectation, of adventure, of life beyond our wildest dreams. We let go of measuring our journey against where we came from, and free ourselves to leap freely into going where ever our dreams will lead us. We free ourselves to gaze at stars and dream.

The question is: Are you swimming in a pond, awash in fear, never testing the boundaries of your limiting beliefs? Are you holding yourself safe in the place you know, for fear you might gaze upon the stars and set yourself free to live your wildest dreams?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Can Fly

Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin. K.O. Eckland, "Footprints On Clouds"
Yesterday, 120 people gathered to Dare to Soar. The speakers were powerful, the energy in the room charged. And, in the end, everyone went away feeling like they'd learned something, that they had touched and been touched by the magic, the wonder of being human and alive.

At the conference, Jesse Willis gave his first presentation ever. He was powerful, to the point and inspiring. A key I took away form Jesse's presentation was, do it now. Do not say you'll start (the diet, to quit smoking, writing...) tomorrow. Do it now. His message helped when I stepped up to the buffet table for lunch and had to decide between... sandwich bun or salad. "Do it now." I chose salad. If I'm to lose this 20 lbs that hangs around with the persistence of a 2 year old asking for 'more candy', then I must embrace, "Do it now."

Brian Willis in his opening comments suggested everyone 'Celebrate what is good' at the beginning of every meeting. Tuesday morning is the Directors' meeting at the shelter where I work. It's a great opportunity to put into practise the 'Celebrate' philosophy. Rather than talk first about all the things that need doing, weren't done or were not done well, the idea is to start with the things that need to be celebrated -- and mistakes are included in the celebration. What if... rather than starting with what went wrong, we changed the perspective to, here's an opportunity to celebrate growth. Let's look at what happened as a great chance to learn. Wouldn't that change the perspective and the energy around mistakes?

My mistakes yesterday were a great chance to learn. Before the day even began I learned two very important things. 1) I can sleep in. 2) Alarm clocks need to be switched on to work! Imagine my surprise when I awoke an hour after I had intended! C.C. reminded me as I was tearing around the house, getting ready -- You can't change the fact you slept in. Breathe.

More importantly, I got to encounter a deeply buried 'tape' that plays in my head around being on stage. When I was a young girl, I loved being on stage. I was in school plays and concerts, loved entertaining people, moving them with my talents. Unfortunately, my memories around the response of my family to my participation in those events is not supportive. My mother had a fear of any of us being 'conceited'. I don't remember them coming to the events (though they probably did). I do remember the criticism of me and the admonitions to 'not think I'm so great'.

Yesterday was the first time I gave my "Victor not Victim" presentation with someone close to me in the room. I was nervous. Self-conscious. Wary. -- I had to get over myself so that I could live on purpose and be present in the room, be present at the podium and give it my 100% -- even though C.C. and my daughter Alexis were there.

Yesterday, I identified my inner self-critic and its desire to hold me down, to keep me from daring to soar.

What a gift!

Within me is this sibilant whisper that slithers along the edges of my consciousness teasing me with its exhortations to 'not get too big for my britches', to not step up to the Mic and share my experience, strength and wisdom fearlessly. Yesterday I heard its hissing voice, its seductive cry to hold back, step away from greatness and stay in the shadows.

Yesterday, I ignored it.

Yesterday I claimed my right to be at centre stage of my own life, fearlessly sharing my truth.

It was powerful for me. At one point, as I heard the little voice of self-doubt whispering, I turned to it and said, "Oh look, My insecurities are awake. I see you." As soon as I identified what was ailing me and shone my light on their 'truth' (which is simply my ego looking for reassurance), my insecurities stepped back and gave me room to breathe. It isn't that I don't have insecurities, it is that I have the courage to step through them, to name them and to acknowledge that letting them hold me back will not get me more of what I want in my life or more of what I want to create in my world around me. Letting them keep me from flying will only ground me in sadness.

I have a dream. Yesterday, I gave my dream wings.

I can fly.

The question is: Are you listening to the inner voice of self-doubt, reminding you of childhood exhortations to limit your joy? Are you willing to step fearlessly onto centre stage of your life and claim your greatness, your wonder, your joy by being your most amazing self?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dare to Soar

Quick post. Off to a one day conference, Dare to Soare, where I am presenting.

So, for a change, I've decided to post something I read that I found to be profound.

Click this link to read Dan Gilbert's blog on Compassionate Commercialism. He's the author of Stumbling on Happiness and a professor of psychology at Harvard.

And, I'm posting in my powerpoint presentation (I Hope -- as technology and I are having an argument today.) for the conference. Okay -- that didn't work! I'll write about the presentation and experience on Tuesday!

Talk to you tomorrow!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Within the boundary of my freedom

'Tis nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. William Shakespeare
In an attempt to measure happiness, Dr. Dan Gilbert and his team of associates provided six university students with the option of keeping one of two photos they had taken and mounted in beautiful frames. Half the students could choose, and have four days to change their minds and take the other one. The other half chose and could never change their minds.

Intuitively, we think the group that had the option of changing their choice would be happiest. I can think about it for a few days, and change if I want. The option to change would, supposedly, made me happier.

In fact, the group who had no choice to change their choice, were happiest with the choice they made.

Gilbert goes on to explain why having the choice to change our mind makes people miserable.
  1. We have regret and anticipated regret in the choice we made and the choice we didn't make.
  2. We keep weighing the opportunity cost of changing our mind, or what would have happened had we made the other choice.
  3. Our expectations escalate as we consider the options -- which choice will make me happiest?
  4. We blame themselves for not making the right choice if we are not happy with the choice we made -- I should have chosen the other photo. I would have been happier.

Ultimately, we rationalize our choice and live with it when we don't have the option to change our minds.

It's no wonder we can be so unhappy with the choices we make in life!

Which got me thinking about the choice to be 'happy'. To have a positive outlook. To see 'the brighter side of life'.

Living the life of my dreams is predicated upon the belief that -- I know what the life of my dreams looks like. It's the life I'm living right now, satisfied that I am living my most in this moment, being my most, right now.

When I spend too much time thinking about what is my most, I fall into cognitive dissonance, that state of angst ridden being where my choices contradict my actions as I stand paralysed in indecision, wondering what I should be doing.

In life, some things are better than others. We always have choice. But, too much choice can make us miserable.

When I consider living the life of my dreams, I accept that what I am doing right now, is exactly what I need/want to be doing right now. If I didn't, I'd have to think about the 'other' things I could be doing right now - and thus, feel the dissatisfaction with what I am doing as I try to figure out what other things I could be doing -- and becoming angst ridden over making a choice to do one of them. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

When I consider the statement, I can be anything I want to be -- I need to put boundaries on what I can be if I want to ensure I don't become paralyzed with the fear of what choice do I make? What do I want to be?

I want to be free, doesn't mean living a life free of moral responsibility, lawful living and justice. It means, the freedom mans to own my own destiny -- within moral reason and lawfulness. To act in accordance with my values, beliefs, principles -- within the context of the society in which I live, its laws and social mores.

Whew! That's a whole lot of constraints on freedom.

But, just as Gilbert proved in his experiment on synthetic happiness, putting boundaries on my freedom actually does make me happier. As he says, we should have preferences, we all need boundaries. When our ambition is bounded, we work joyfully. When it is unbounded, we lie and cheat and manipulate to get what we want. When are fear is bounded, we are prudent, cautious, thoughtful. When fear is unbounded, we are reckless and cowardly.

The question is: Are you making yourself unhappy thinking about the choice you should have made, versus living with the choice you did make? Are you using your unhappiness with the choice you made as the excuse that keeps you paralysed in fear of changing your mind?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The breath of love

No man was ever so completely skilled in the conduct of life, as not to receive new information from age and experience. Johnathon Swift
I was on an early breakfast show with a local television station this morning to talk about the conference I'm speaking at on Monday, Dare to Soar. Normally, at 6am, I'm seated in front of my desk at home, sipping my coffee, contemplating what I'm about to write. This morning, I was out the door, in my car and driving along darkened roads on my way to the TV station.

Driving is different at that time of the morning. Darkness blankets the sky. Traffic is light. Streetlight spills onto the road in pools of iridescence glistening on the wet pavement. Sleepy pedestrians stand alone at bus stops, bundled up against the chilly morning air. Tail lights glow red far in front of me. There is little to impede my progress along quiet streets awaiting the morning's rush yet to come.

I see the world differently when I move out of my morning chair to greet the day 'out there' rather than inside, cocooned in my office, secure in my routine.

A shift in perspective is always a good thing.

Last night, as I worked on my presentation for Monday, I watched a video clip about the decision an eagle must make if it is to survive the effects of flying free for 40+ years. The clip showed a bald eagle sitting on a tree of a branch. Its beak is hooked, its talons withered, its feathers clumped together. Around the age of 35 to 40, the video clip says, the eagle must make a decision. With its beak no longer able to pick up prey, its talons no longer able to grasp small rodents and its wings no longer able to beat freely, it must decide to live or die. To live, it must retreat to a mountain top and beat its beak against the rock until its beak comes off. It must pull out each of its talons and tear out every feather to give its body time to heal and replace its beak and talons and feathers. The process can take up to five months, but once it's completed, the eagle is free to soar anew.

Wow! I thought. I didn't know that about eagles!

I had a moment of disbelief. How can this be true? I love eagles and would have thought I'd know this about them. But I found two different presentations about the eagles decision and decided to go with it -- the analogy worked for my presentation. Just goes to show, my mind said, I can always learn something new.

What a great analogy for life. What a great story to tell at the beginning of my presentation. Like the eagle, at some point in our lives we must make a decision. To live freely or to keep walking amongst the living, breathing dead, our hearts and minds blocked from feeling the wind calling us to spread our wings and soar above the angst ridden past, gliding effortlessly on the gentle breath of love.

To live freely, we must let go of what does not work in our lives. We must let go of the past if we are to leap into today, unburdened by old hurts and memories and habits that inhibit our ability to live life for all we're worth, passionately, fearlessly, freely.

Cool. I started to search for eagle pictures to include in my presentation. As I searched I read more information about eagles and their life cycles. The average eagle lives for 30 to 35 years, one source said. Odd, the video clip said an eagle can live to 75 years if it chooses to go through the five month period where it must sit in isolation and restore itself.

Hmmm, something's
not right. I dug deeper. Under Myths and Legends about Eagles I found mention of the belief that eagles retreat into isolation, pluck out feathers, break off beaks and tear out talons. Not true, the source said. If eagles were to do that, they'd die of starvation.

And that's when the relevance of the eagle video really drove itself home. I'd seen the information. Accepted it as fact (It is on the Internet you know. There were two different videos by different people, it must be real). And, I adapted it to fit my needs -- I needed a powerful story to tell at the beginning of my presentation, I love analogies and this one even fit the image of the conference -- an eagle soaring.

In the course of my research, however, I discovered the truth and learned something new -- not just about eagles. I learned the importance of measuring the information I find against reality.

The truth will always set me free.

Once upon a time, I believed a man was Prince Charming. I believed he was true. I believed he was 'the real McCoy'. Information kept coming to me that contradicted my belief, and I kept ignoring the information, kept ignoring my disbelief, my thoughts of, 'he's too good to be true'. I kept investing in the story and kept pushing away my disbelief and the information before me.

Eventually, I isolated myself. I began to tear off every part of me that did not fit 'the story'. I began to rip away my values, beliefs, principles, so that I could fit the values, beliefs, principles he told me were true and real.

And in the end, my spirit died. Inside. Within me. My being shrivelled up into a tiny ball of pain. I oozed it. Pain seeped out of every pore as I pretended to be 'ok'. To keep myself from falling, I walked a narrow corridor of existence where only his words penetrated my thinking. Only his needs motivated my actions. And in my pain, I became the living, breathing dead.

The truth is, eagles live to about 30 - 35 years of age. If they were to isolate themselves upon a mountaintop and pull out their feathers and talons and break off their beak, they would die.

The truth is, when I accept as fact everything I hear and read, I am isolating myself from learning the truth. I am cutting myself off from discernment. From facing reality and stepping fearlessly into living life on my terms, grounded in my beliefs, my principles, my values.

The question is: Do you believe you need to tear off your talons and rip out your feathers to be able to fly? Are you willing to fly with the information you've got today, confident in the truth of who you are. You are a magnificent human being capable of living this one wild and precious life with wings spread wide, soaring far above the debris of the past, filled with the power to glide effortlessly on the breath of love.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In change there is power

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Alan Cohen

Yesterday, I taught a self-esteem class to clients at the homeless shelter where I work. Twelve men ranging in age from 22 to 45. Carpenter. Truck driver. Plumber. Labourer. All of them felled on the road of life by circumstances they could not imagine, and yet, circumstances they helped create. Circumstances that have become their reality for today.

"I don't like this reality," one of the men said. "It really sucks."

"I can understand that," I replied. "Living in a homeless shelter. Having 1200 roommates, none of whom you chose. No privacy. No ability to make choices about what you do and when you do it. that would really suck." I paused. "And what can you do about it?"

"Get out of here," someone replied.

"That's a great goal. But while you're here. Right now. What can you do?"

"Nothing." One of the older men replied. "Hate it and shut up."

"What if you didn't have to hate it?"

"Like, you'd not hate living here?"

"What if living here [at the shelter] was the best place for me to be in that moment? What if living here was a safe place for me to be? It gave me a chance to catch my breath. To work on my job certificates, like you're all doing. To save money. To regroup. To plan what steps I need to take next."

"I'd still hate it," the same man replied.

"How much energy does it take to hold that hatred in place?" I asked.

He thought for a moment. "A lot. I'm always thinking about it. It makes me angry."

"How much energy would it take to let the hatred go? Rather than waste time and thought on hating what you cannot change in this moment, what if you were to simply accept, Here is where I'm at. Now is not forever. But, in this moment, I need to be here. I accept where I'm at as I do what it takes to move towards where I want to be."

The group sat silently for a moment. "Like, just not be angry?" a younger man asked.

"Is anger getting you more or less of what you want in your life?"

He laughed. "Anger's gotten me into jail. It's never got me more of what I want."

"So, anger isn't working for you?"

"Not even a little bit."

"What if you chose differently?"

"How? I always seem to be making stupid choices."

"Did you choose to come to this course to get job training?"


"Did you ever choose to do this before?"


"What made you make a different choice than sitting on the second floor."

"One of my buddies took the course. He got his certificates and is now working at Fort Mac. He's out of here."

"Was this a stupid choice?"

He laughed. "No. It's going to give me the job certs I need to get a good job so I can get out of here."

"So you made this choice not knowing the outcome but believing that if you did something different, you'd have the tools to make better choices in your life."

He smiled. Big. "Yeah. I guess I did."

"Then maybe it's not the choices you make that are the problem. Maybe it's the story you tell yourself about the choices you make."

I have made a lot of 'stupid' choices in my life. Stupid choices that lead to big and small mistakes. Mostly, those stupid choices were based on my fear of letting go of my story about how I am a victim, weak, incompetent, unable to make decisions, incapable of doing something different, incapable of.....

When I give into my victim story there is always a perpetrator making me the victim. The perpetrator is either 'out there' or inside of me. I cannot be a victim without someone else being blamed for where I'm at.

When I tell myself stupid I am, how weak, incompetent, incapable, I am giving into my fear of never being enough. Of never being able to change, of never having the courage to claim my power and grow up towards the sky.

Sometimes, the simplest choice is the hardest. Letting go of my story. Letting go of my victim's voice that keeps reminding me of why where I'm at is not my fault, moving from my victim's place filled with my limiting belief that dictates I cannot live the life of my dreams -- those are simple choices that I make difficult when I spend my time reminding myself of why I cannot change them.

I can always live the life of my dreams.

It is my choice.

And when I'm not choosing to live the life of my dreams, I am choosing to live in the shadows of freedom, skirting the fire, hiding in the darkness of my fears, blaming the world for not seeing my light flickering in the dark.

The question is: Are you hearing the stories you tell yourself about where you're at in your life? Are you listening to your limiting beliefs?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let it Be

In every decision you make, in every action you take, you either make the world a better place or a worse place. Aman Motwane
In Choices, there is a process that begins with the question, "What do you want more of in your life?" The answer guides the respondent to understanding what they need more of to live the life of their dreams.

For me, the answer has led me to my contract, "I am a fearless woman." Not because I am fearless. In fact, it's the converse. I know fear. Fear has held me back throughout my life. It has kept me stuck in inaction. Kept me silent when I needed to speak up. Kept me running away when I needed to step into what I was facing. Kept me avoiding when I needed to confront.

To live the life of my dreams, I must let go of my fear, step into my courage, do what I avoid, persist where I resist, so that I can create more of what I want in my life and the world around me.

When I look at the world and ask the question, "What does the world need more of?" the answer is very simple. The world does not need more war, more anger, more hatred.

The world needs more joy, harmony, peace, love.

What do I do that contributes to a more harmonious, joyful, peaceful world?

When I hold onto anger, I am contributing my anger to the world.

When I hold onto resentment, I am sending my resentment into the world.

When I hold onto discord, I am creating discord in the world around me.

I want to create a world of love and joy, a place where peace and harmony flow with grace and ease.

I must stay conscious of what I create to ensure I am creating the world of my dreams.

It is really easy to fall back on the belief, 'what I do doesn't make a world of difference.' Truth is, what I do does matter. It does make a difference. Like a butterfly fluttering its wings in South America, when I step out in anger, I create a current of negative energy that expands outwards from me. That current touches the energy of those around me and creates angst where ever it flows.

I am responsible for the energy I send into the world.

What do I want more of in the world today? As Lennon and McCartney sing, "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom. Let it be."

Let it be joyful. Let it be peaceful. Let it be love.

The question is: What kind of a difference are you making in the world around you? Are you letting peace and joy and harmony flow free?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living an uncommon life

It is time we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. Henry David Thoreau
When I was a little girl I dreamt of being a woman. Wise. Sexy. Successful. Looked up to. Admired. Beautiful.

I don't know the exact day I became a woman. Can't tell you the time and place when I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "Good morning woman. Good-bye little girl."

Then again, for a long time, I dragged my little girl with me, letting her out in temper tantrums and wailing tears of fear and shame. For a long time, I resisted becoming a woman because -- women are weak. women cry. women can't do what men do.

Becoming a woman was and is a process. It isn't just about being 'female'. It's about being who I am as a human being of the feminine gender in an adult body.

It's about being me.

For a long time, I didn't 'get it'. I thought if I could do it like a man, I was being a woman. If I could ski as fast, run as far, play as hard, work as much, I would be 'equal'.

Equality is not a gender issue. Equality is about being free to be who I am without fearing that who I am is not good enough.

Think about it, when did you last hear a man say, "I wish I could cry like a woman."

I'm thinking -- never.

Yet, as a woman, I have thought, "I wish I didn't cry like a woman. I wish I had more control of my emotions like men do."

I'm learning differently in the school of life that being in control of my emotions is not the same as suppressing them because I don't know how important they are to me or because they scare me or because they're a sign of my gender and make me unequal to someone else.

Emotions are incredibly important in my life. My emotions are my weather vane. They tell me which direction the wind is blowing, and how hard it is pressing against my past pushing me away from where I'm at and whipping up dust clouds preventing me from seeing where I'm going. My emotions tell me the temperature of what's happening inside me and where I'm at in dealing with whatever is going on in my life. They tell me when I'm avoiding, hiding, overreacting, misinterpreting, misunderstanding, and/or misdirecting the events unfolding in the world around me. And, they tell me when I'm safe, or not.

In the uncommon school of life, I am learning to acknowledge my feelings through my emotions so that they can flow freely -- and appropriately.

As a woman, appropriate sometimes means 'with tears streaming down my face'. Yet, in a business setting tears are generally considered inappropriate. Because I wanted to be a woman who was 'equal' to a man, I didn't like to let my tears out in certain circumstances. It made for rather uncomfortable meetings sometimes. I would want to express my opinion about something that was important to me, and wouldn't. I didn't want to cry in public.

Now, my not wanting to express my opinion was not based on what was important to me, it was always based on my thinking around my emotions and in particular, my tears. -- Tears make men uncomfortable. Tears are not professional. Tears are a sign of weakness...

Tears are words the heart cannot express.

When my heart is touched in wholeness, I am open to love and loving. I am alive, sensitive and caring to and of the world around me.

When my heart is blocked, I am blocked. Stuck. Cut-off. I'm in my emotions -- but they are a swirling sea of discord flowing out on a wave of tears. They churn up my peace of mind, disturb my balance, and undermine my well-being.

My tears can heal, or they can be an inappropriate expression of my emotions. When I am feeling wounded, out of esteem, lacking in confidence, frustrated, angry -- I will cry. Generally, I am feeling those things because I do not understand the emotions rising within me. I do not understand the connection of my emotions to the stories I tell myself about what's happened to me in my life and what's happening to me in this moment.

When I cry in frustration and anger, it is not because my emotions are flowing freely. It's because I am stuck in feeling the past rising up in the moment. I am fearing the woman I think I might be. I am fearful that who I was in the past is all I can be in this moment forever more. And in my fear, I am not being the woman I am. Whole. Complete. Balanced. Accepting. At peace with all of me.

My emotions are more than just my tears. My emotions are me. Laughter, softness, gentleness, moments of stillness, moments of peace. Moments of exuberance, of leaps and bounds and cartwheels of joy. Anger. Uncertainty. Guilt. Fear. Humility. Determination. Optimism. Innocence. Hope. Love.

When I acknowledge my feelings, and embrace my emotions I am released from being trapped in my mind. Aware and conscious, I am free to feel my way through living a life of tenderness and joy and passion.

My emotions are me and I am a woman. Different than a man, yet just the same. In the uncommon school of life I am free to be the woman I am. I let go of the common and step fearlessly into an uncommon way of being – at peace with all of me. In love with who I am, just the way I am in all my emotions flowing freely as I feel my way into living an uncommon life.

The question is: Are you willing to feel your emotions without judging yourself for how you express them? Are you courageous enough to become aware of your feelings so you can express yourself in this moment without dragging the past forward?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Love yourself first

Winners don't do different things. They do things differently. Anonymous
It was just a simple suggestion. "When you're angry with yourself. When you feel like you've made a mistake and are chastising yourself, do something different. Don't do it the way you've always done it. Don't get angry and fall into self-defeating games filled with negative self-talk. Just do something different." And she paused. "Love yourself first."

I sat in the circle of coaches listening to Mary Davis, the daughter of Thelma Box, the founder of Choices. She had come to thank the forty coaches in the room for their commitment to the people who come into the Choices training room on Wednesday afternoon not knowing what they will experience, fearful of what they will discover, fearful they won't find what they're looking for.

"Because of you," she said, "the most powerful thing they experience in that room is love. And there is no mistake in love. So no matter what you do that you think is a mistake, or don't do that feels like a mistake, before you get angry with yourself, do something different. Love yourself first."

I sat in that circle and felt an enormous weight lift from my shoulders. It was so simple. So easy. So effortless.

I felt like I had just been handed the holy grail.

Love myself first.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love myself. It has been the journey of my lifetime, getting to this place where I can look in the mirror, look deep into my eyes and say, "I love me. Just the way I am. I am a miracle of life."

But.... And there's always that but. When I mess up by doing something that upsets my peace of mind, I tend to fall into my default position, chastising myself with the words that play in my head whenever I slip out of esteem. They are not words of support or understanding. They tend to be the words that remind me why I am a 'useless piece of flesh', a human being of enormous flawed proportions -- "I should have known better. What is my problem?"

In my angry state, I tell myself all the things I could have done differently. I could have asked first, acted second. I could have found someone else to help me. I could have checked with a supervisor. Asked a co-worker. Turned the first corner, not the second. Poured the tea with my left hand holding the teapot. Stepped left not right. Ducked not stood. Yada. Yada. Yada.

In my mind, I focus on the things I could have done differently, and avoid looking at what I can do that will make a difference. Because, in my mind I am busy repeating my litany of faults, reminding myself that 'I should have known better. If only I hadn't been so stupid as to think I needed to do it my way, when my way wasn't the right way.'

There is always another way of doing something, of doing anything. The universe is filled with limited possibilities. Unfortunately, when I leap into my "oh my gosh, I've just destroyed everything with what I did" thinking, possibilities become limited as I fall into my limiting beliefs, chastising myself for not knowing better, for not doing better, for not listening up and getting it the first time. And in that process, I hurry myself up on the road, finding excuses ffor what I did as I fill my mind with the list of all the things I could have done differently and inflating my ego with promises of things I'll do different, next time.

When I awaken to a mistake I've made, or to a better way of doing what I did, my awakening is often harsh, unruly, unkind to me. I fall into self-criticism as easily as a raindrop falls from the sky. And in my falling, my tears stream as I slip into the belief, "I should have known better. I should have done 'it' differently."

When I'm doing my best, I don't know better, I only know what I'm doing is the best that I can do in that moment. No matter what I'm doing, if I'm doing it with fear pounding in my heart, whatever I'm doing will be based on my fears. If I'm doing it with lack of confidence, whatever I'm doing will be based on my lack of confidence. In those moments, I'm not 'doing it different', I'm doing it the way I always have.

When I do whatever I do with love in my heart, what I do is different, because whatever I'm doing will be based on love. No matter the outcome, love will be the motivating force. In love, no matter what 'things' transpire, I will be safe to explore the possibilities of what I can do to create value, to do it differently on the other side of my comfort zone when I first surrender, and fall in love.

The question is: Are you holding yourself accountable in fear and anger for the things you could have done differently? Or, are you willing to do something different and love yourself first?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Awakening to wonder

You are your choices. Seneca
On Wednesday afternoon at Choices, when trainees walk into the room, they are fearful, curious, awkward, reluctant... Every emotion is visible upon their faces and in their gestures. Their smiles are weak, their eyes wary as they cautiously take their seats amongst a group of 90+ strangers. They believe they are alone and cannot see they are surrounded by people just as afraid as they are and just as unwilling to admit it.

Each person in that room has come to the training with a desire to fix something; them self and their life, or someone else and their life. Sometimes, people come into the room believing there's nothing wrong with them, but because someone they love asked them to come, they came. Sometimes, they resent the person who sent them, sometimes, they accept the love that person extended and sit willingly in their seat, curious about what's next to come, but not really believing there's anything in it that will affect them.

It is impossible to walk out of a Choices training room without being affected, by someone or something that happened in the room. It doesn't matter what perspective someone brings with them, they always leave with more information, more insight, more knowledge about themselves and how they play this game called life.

It doesn't matter how high they rate the happiness in their life, or how deep they name their despair, they always leave with a sense of hope, a sense of possibility that more is possible in their human condition.

It is the power of Choices.

Our lives are filled with choices. We make them every moment. Sometimes our choices are as devastating as to live or die. To eat or starve. To kill or be killed. To love or hate.

Sometimes, they are as simple as to walk or run. To stand or sit. To speak or stay silent. We make choices about what to wear; the gold dress or the blue shirt. The orange tie or the green sweater. We make choices about when to fill up with gas; when the tank is half full or half empty. We choose how we're going to greet the day; with a smile or a groan. And, we choose how we're going to live our lives; with passion or in despair.

Our world is filled with choices and at Choices, each of us is given the opportunity to reflect upon the choices we've made to date and decide -- will I continue to tear myself down or will I choose to build myself up? Will I continue to lash out in anger at everything in my world, or embrace everyone with love? Will I keep holding onto the past or grab onto the possibility of a new tomorrow?

Last night we reached the midway point in the five days of the training. As each person has moved through the processes, listened to the lectures, frozen minds have begun to warm up to possibility. Broken hearts have begun to open up to healing and wounded spirits have begun to unfurl their wings. Anger has ebbed, pain has eased as each individual has begun to awaken to their human condition.

We have the power to change the choices we've made, choices that keep us stuck in living lives of desperation, or pain, or fear and sadness.

We have the power to live the lives of our dreams and in the Choices room, energy is flowing. I can feel it. It is alive. It is life giving. It is contagious. It lights up smiles, it opens eyes in wonder. It creates possibility where hope was lost.

I am blessed. On Wednesday, I stood in a room full of strangers, their minds closed to wonder, their hearts filled with fear. Last night, I stood in a circle of human beings awakening to the wonder of their human condition as they claimed the miracle of their lives.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Breath by breath

What an amazing day. Miracles opening up around me. Hearts breaking open to healing. Minds expanding. Thoughts moving from the past, letting go and surrending into this moment, right now.

Long day, short night. I just wanted to say -- all is well.

The world continues to turn. Life continues to be lived one breath at a time. Moment by moment.

I'll write more on Saturday morning when I have more time.

Blessings to all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who I am

I am coaching at Choices this week -- days come fast, nights fly by quickly. I won't have a lot of time to post but wanted to check in and let you know - all is well. This is one of my most favourite things to do!

Yesterday, as I drove to work I was thinking about what I had written and the thought went through my head -- Who I am is nothing compared to who I become when I let go of being anyone other than who I am.

I started to laugh. And smile and feel light.

What a wonderful thought -- I'm okay being exactly who I am. It isn't a struggle. It isn't a chore. It is me.

Have a wonder filled day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Weighty matters

People often tell me that motivation doesn't last, and I tell them that bathing doesn't either. That's why I recommend it daily. Zig Ziglar
I am developing a new morning habit -- doing my A Course In Miracles exercise every morning. It doesn't take long -- ten minutes tops. What it does take is the commitment to do it daily.

I am developing a habit of eating healthy foods and not eating foods that hurt me. It doesn't take a lot to do it. What it does take is the commitment to do it.

I have lots of habits. I always floss and brush my teeth before I go to bed. I wash my face. I make coffee every morning. I read the newspaper. I skip breakfast -- gotta change that one! I put make-up on if I'm going to work -- I don't put it on if it's the weekend. I always drive with music on in my car. I write with no music on in my office. I check my email before I start to write in the morning. I check my email before I leave for the office. I recycle. I reuse. I reduce waste.

I have lots of habits.

I have the capacity to develop new habits -- I have the capacity to hold onto habits that don't help me.

Which brings me right back to the habit that causes me the most stress. Thinking about my weight.

It is a weighty matter that weighs heavily on my mind. I think about my weight alot. Wonder about why I hold onto the extra poundage. Why I slip so easily into ignoring what I'm eating so that I can allow myself to eat whatever I want even when I know what I want is not good for me.

I decided to use The Option Method to narrow down my thinking on my weight. To peel back the layers of thought that were keeping me from seeing what was at the core of this weighty matter.

The first question is: What am I unhappy about with my weight?

The thinking: I'm unhappy that I can't seem to lose this 20 lbs that sits on my middle like a ballerina's tutu. It flutters and flops, moving where ever I go. I have formed an attachment to it that irritates me throughout the day. I always feel it. Always know it's there. I dip. It dips. I spin. It spins. I bend. It bends. It is always around me. During the day, an inordinate amount of my thinking is focused on my weight.

Question 2: What is it about having this weight attached to me that makes me unhappy?

The thinking: I feel disappointed in myself that I haven't done anything about it. I look for some deeper meaning as to why I'm keeping it around -- like maybe I'm unhappy with certain aspects of my life and I just don't want to admit it. Or, maybe I am too lazy to do anything about it -- which then suggests I am letting myself down and not living my best yet. Or, maybe it represents an area of me I can self-sabotage in -- and that's not healthy!

Question 3: Why am I unhappy about self-sabotaging myself?

The thinking: Because I have spent a lot of my life self-sabotaging and it's my worst habit. It undermines me. It keeps me from living the life of my dreams. It speaks to thinking I am 'less than'. It holds me back from being and having more than I ever imagined possible in my life. I've been unhappy about my weight my entire life. Even when I was super fit and ran the marathon, I was unhappy about my weight. Maybe being unhappy about my weight is the habit and it has nothing to do with self-sabotage -- just a habitual thinking problem that I developed long ago -- for whatever reason -- and am unwilling or unprepared to let go of now.

Question 4: What am I afraid it would mean if I weren't unhappy about my weight?

The thinking: Hmmm. Well the simple answer is -- I'd be happy about myself if I didn't carry this extra weight. I'd be satisfied. But why does weight determine my happiness with me? There's obviously something deeper here. Something more integral to my personal belief system. Like, what does this weight represent -- but it's not the weight, it's my thinking around my weight. I've always thought I was over-weight no matter what I weighed. The weighty matter is my thinking and that gets back to some deeper sense of self-worth, or lack of self-worth. To not be unhappy about my weight would mean I have to accept myself exactly the way I am, without judging myself in any way. I judge myself constantly about my weight, even when weight isn't the issue.

To not be unhappy with my weight would mean I'm accepting myself exactly the way I am and if I accept myself exactly the way I am, I'm afraid I wouldn't keep wanting to improve, to grow, to change and evolve into my best yet.

Question 5: Why do I believe that?

The thinking: Because within me is this belief that I'm not good enough just the way I am. That if I'm not changing who I am then I am not being a 'good enough' person.

Being not good enough resonates within me. It fires off the warning bells of fear. Alarms clang and I prepare myself to Dive! Dive! Dive!

And so I surface back at the beginning. Back to that place where I began. That place where peace resides and acceptance reigns as I let go of the distraction of thinking about something I'm doing nothing about, thinking about something that keeps me stuck in feeling unhappy with me and my life.

I'm not thinking about my weight. I'm thinking about how I have to change and holding onto the weight gives me a reason to not accept the truth that -- I am perfectly okay just the way I am. I have areas that need improvement. But the core of me, the beautiful, spiritual, unique core of me is okay. Always was. Always will be.

I don't need to change me. I just need to change my thinking.

Change my thinking=Change my day=Change my life.

My weight is not the issue. My thinking I need to constantly change myself is weighing me down. In thinking I must always be changing, I keep myself from knowing the bliss of self-acceptance, just the way I am. And without acceptance, I am constantly looking to change me, myself and the world around me. That can be tiring! I am tired of tiring myself out with dissatisfaction! I am tired of tiring out the world around me with my constant lobbying for change. I am willing to accept myself -- Just the way I am! I am willing to accept the world around me, just the way it is!

Now that feels lighter!

The question is: What's on your mind? What's making you feel unhappy or dissatisfied with who you are, just the way you are? Are you willing to ask yourself the questions?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The fire inside

Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God. A Course In Miracles
I carry with me this morning the joy that came from forgiveness yesterday. A lightness of being. A deeper sense of peace.

I carry with me this morning my past, my dreams, my desires, my fears and trepidations. I carry with me all that I am, all that I have, all that I know, all that I see.

And that which I carry is nothing. The only meaning that it has is the meaning I give it.

I have begun working through A Course In Miracles. It is a course I have wanted to do for many years -- and kept forgetting about, or was too busy to think about. I first heard about it in my thirties when a girlfriend was working through it. It sounded interesting but, I was busy. Living. Doing. Being whatever I was filling my time with at the time.

In December, a woman wrote and told me she had started the course but decided to wait and start it January 1. Hmmm. That sounded like a good idea and then I forgot about it. She wrote me Jan 2 and mentioned it again. It still seemed like a good idea and I decided to do it then. Order it online and start the process.

ACIM is a year long process. I'm excited about it -- and then I remind myself, whatever emotion I vest in my anticipation, means nothing. It is just the meaning I am vesting in it to give it meaning to me.

This morning while I was meditating, thoughts from ACIM drifted through my mind. "Whatever meaning you vest in the past, is your creation. You designated an event good, bad, indifferent. You created its meaning," my inner voice whispered.

Some time ago, there was a survey of individuals living in a senior's lodge. Each individual was asked to answer the question, "What would you do differently if you could live your life over?" A hypothetical question given that they had each come to this place because they could no longer live on their own. No longer be independent. There was no chance of going back to re-write the story of their lives. There was no going back.

With few exceptions, each person answered, "I'd try the things I was afraid to try. Take more risks to make my dreams come true."

I am afraid to ask for what I want. My fear is based on a belief that does not serve me. But, I have invested a lot of time and energy into making that belief true for me. Because I fear asking for what I want, I do not ask for what I want and because I do not ask for what I want, I live with disappointment in not getting what I want.

I am teaching myself to do the things I fear -- I am a fearless woman.

I have a dream -- and I am afraid to take the risk to make my dream come true.

I need to ask for help in making my dream come true and I'm afraid to ask for what I want.

Do you see my conundrum? Do you see the circle of self-defeating behaviours my belief -- asking for what I want is scary -- creates?

I learned to be afraid of asking for what I want when I was a child. It doesn't serve me well as an adult. But, because I've embedded it in my psyche as a 'belief', asking for what I want means I could be disappointed. I could be let down. I could feel hurt -- which means, I avoid asking for what I want and assume the victim's position of "I don't need your help. I'll do it my way and do it anyway."

Except -- I often don't do it anyway. I become discouraged. Frustrated. Deflated because I have no one supporting me on my journey.

Now, going it alone is fine, if you're Tom Hanks living on a deserted island. But, in my real life, this life I'm living right now, going it alone is self-defeating. And while I'm an expert at struggling through it my own way -- just ask my mother. She used to always say to me, "The problem with you Louise is you always have to do it your way." -- going it alone does not get me more of what I want in my life.

It's so much better when I connect into the incredible energy of the world around me and create possibilities that support, love and cherish me. Energy that nurtures my highest intentions, my inner spirit and the world around me.

A new and dear friend shared a quote from The Idiot's Guide to Rumi. "Once the fire is lit inside, there’s no putting it out."

Yesterday, the fire of forgiveness was lit and I opened up to the possibilities of living life without having to do it perfectly.

In my imperfection, I can take the risks I fear to take, try the things I fear trying that will bring me closer to fulfilling my dreams.

With forgiveness at my core, steadily burning up regret and fear, I am inspired to ask for what I want, connect into the collective consciousness of our universe and let myself be supported by the world around me as I aspire to make my dreams come true.

The question is: Will you regret not taking the risks you could have taken to make your dreams come true? Are you willing to risk your happiness because your afraid to make a mistake?