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.


Anonymous said...

I made this decision this week, to spread my wings and fly....returning to Ontario to live and reconnect with family.

I am leaving the end of February.

Would love to get together for tea or visit before leaving Calgary.

Email me at to let me know when a visit works for you :)


Sarah M said...

Thank you again Louise. I experience you as a very brave woman, willing to bare your soul to all of us willing to read about it. You have taken a very powerful myth about eagles and presented the truth in a way that is even more powerful. You have blessed me today. Your words very often make me stop to think and today is no exception, today I need to re-evaluate what I am doing, how I am doing and WHY I am doing it. Am I living up to the myth that eagles must destroy themselves to live, or am I facing the truth that to survive I must know who I am and be unwilling to compromise my core values and identity.

God bless you today. Sure wish I watched early morning TV - it would have been nice to see you in your interview. :)

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Sarah -- What a beautiful voice you have. The eagle having to destroy itself to live -- very powerful imagery. Thank you!