Friday, February 27, 2009

Living the new normal

To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there. Kofi Annan
We were in the recording studio again yesterday. As we sat around, chatting, listening to the performers who had come in to support the project, one of the musicians from the shelter said, "The hard part about doing this is going back to the second floor and being part of that chaos."

Another musician chimed in. "Yeah. It's so tough to be in that place where everyone is depressed. It used to feel so normal. Now, it feels the opposite."

"I was just talking about that last night with one of the floor staff," the first guy answered. "She was telling me that normal becomes what I get used to. And after awhile, I get used to that chaos as being normal, and then, my will to change it starts to ebb away. My choices all start to support the normal I'm accepting as being what I've got. And nothing is what I've got."

It was an inspiring afternoon. When we left the studio around 6:30, I drove the musicians back to the shelter. "Whew. At least we can go right up to our floor without having to spend time on second," one of the guys sighed as we pulled into the driveway.

The second floor is the 'day area' at the shelter. It is a place where clients can hang out. Sit at a table. Read a book. Chat. Play cards. Do nothing.

It is a safe place. Warm. In from the elements. It is also a place where 'nothing' happens because those who are there have little to do. They have begun to accept 'nothingness' as a state of being in their lives. Having nothing has become their new normal.

In a place where resources are continually stretched, where staff to client ratios range from 1:50 to upwards of 1:100, there are few extra resources to devote to finding ways to inspire people to 'do something'.

And yet, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Lao Tzu, philosopher and founder of Taoism wrote, "Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing."

There is always a place for 'doing nothing'. For quietly sitting in meditation, letting your mind wander in fields of wildflowers under clear blue skies. There is always a time for stepping back, sitting it out and letting the game pass by without you in it.

In the world of homelessness, however, those times yawn into tomorrow. Those times for doing nothing become the very time when you need to be doing something, anything, to change where you're at, to grow wings, to sprout ideas, to leap into action.

In the normal of a shelter, doing nothing becomes the end of doing anything.

Doing nothing keeps you stuck in believing there is nothing you can do. That where you're at is where you're destined to always be. That who you are is nobody but the nobody you appear to be through the homelessness that has infected your thinking.

I read somewere that 'we are always one choice away from making our next choice.' In homelessness, the choices made are always built upon the choice that began as an impossibiliy, being homeless, and grew into reality, being homeless. When normal becomes the thing you fear the most, changing away from what you know becomes a distant horizon. Choices become limited by the reality of where you're at.

On the second floor of the shelter, there is time to do nothing, and little opportunity to find the will to do something about the nothingness in each person's life.

The art program. The various learning opportunities we present, the writing workshops and even the video production, are all opportunities for something to take birth.

How do we keep the energy flowing? How do we encourage people to think beyond the limits of the nothingness of their environment, to see the possibilities of life beyond homelessness?

There is a bigger idea here. A thought that is taking seed. A dream that is quietly being born. I can feel it. Sense it. Shimmering at the edges of my consciousness. Glimmering in the glow of a dawn rising.

Now is the time for me to do nothing. To let the idea take seed. To let it ground itself in my subconscious mind so it can expand with the possibilities pushing at my consciousness, leaping forward into expression. This is not about 'doing nothing'. It is about letting 'the universe', that collective consciousness to which all things are connected to all things, have the time and space to breathe.

That's my question for today. What's something that can be done to change nothing into something? Can you see it?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spirited music

Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. Unknown
It was a powerful moment. Six clients of the shelter where I work, huddled over their instruments, playing together, working together, exploring together the silence between the notes, the beat within the beat.

They sat behind a wall of glass. Headsets perched upon their heads. Instruments coddled against their chests. Lips pressed close to microphones. A drummer. Guitarists. Harmonica. Vocalist.

On the other side of the enormous window, a sound engineer sat in front of a panel of knobs and dials, lights and meters, listening carefully to each note, tuning, and adjusting, beating his foot in time, nodding his head to the beat. We sat behind him, comfortable in our padded chairs, sipping coffee, laughing, talking, listening, watching.

We were at The Beach under the tutelage of Lanny Williams, one of Canada's foremost recording engineers. He's offered up his space, time, talents and staff to help us create a music video, part of which will become a series of TV ads in support of the shelter. As part of the process, we are also doing on camera interviews of everyone involved to create a mini-documentary of the creation behind the creation of the video.

It was powerful stuff. Moving. Inspiring. Humbling.

It was community in motion. A community of sound, of music, of creative spirits soaring.

In the documentary I am the interviewer. I ask the questions. People respond. At one point, I asked one of the musicians, "What does this song, Stand By Me, mean to you."

He swallowed. Paused. Said, "I used to be homeless. Then I came to the shelter. Now I have a place to call home for as long as I need it. It's there that I've met people who are willing to stand by me. To help me out. To help me up. We all gotta stand by each other if we're going to change the world."

When we stand together for what we believe in, we create a world of difference. For me, for the shelter where I work, we believe building kinder communities is integral to changing the face of homelessness and the faces in our communities. We believe that treating everyone with respect, regardless of their socio economic position, makes a difference in each of our lives.

Giving is receiving.

When I treat someone with respect, I give them space to be who they are, where they are, without forcing them to change to fit my ideas of where they should be. In return, I receive the gift of trust.

What we do at the shelter is founded on the belief that building trust with each individual requires time, space and compassion. It requires our actively listening to what someone is saying, and not saying, about where they're at. It actively involves us in holding a 'space' for someone to find themselves without fear that we will condemn them for where they've been, what they've done, how they've fallen.

We may not agree with where someone's at. We don't condemn them for being there. We hold the space open so they can find their balance, their sense of direction to figure out where they want to go, when they're ready.

At the shelter, clients can sleep under our roof when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Regardless of their state, we ask that they follow the rules of conduct. We respect that being inebriated is the choice they are making, at this time. Given the right time and circumstances, they may eventually make a different choice. All we can do is turn up and support them, as best we can, as they work towards finding themselves where ever they're at.

Yesterday in the recording studio, I witnessed six men find themselves in the middle of having fun, of being 'somebodies' in a world where generally they are treated as nobodies. In one of the interviews, one person said, "We're not nobody. We're human beings. Just like the rest of the world."

Each of the musicians who played and sang yesterday have an addiction. Each of them is doing work at either maintaining their sobriety or trying to find it. Each of them turned up sober for the recording, and has turned up sober for every single practice during the past few weeks.

In turning up for the music, they are beginning to treat themselves with respect. Beginning to trust themselves to do the work they need to do to claim their unique gifts.

And in turning up to support each other, they are building friendships. They are building trust. They are building a powerful song that will touch hearts and open minds. They are doing what it takes to make a difference.

It was a powerful afternoon yesterday. Powerful. Inspiring. Humbling.

I am in awe.

The question is: What do you turn up for in your life? The music, or your fears?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Polishing up my perceptions

We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs. Kenneth Clark
Yesterday I gave a presentation on homelessness to a group of police officers who work in the inner city where the shelter is located. One of the officers told me that he had only moved into this district a couple of months ago. Prior to that, he was working in a suburb of about 250,000 residents. "I dealt regularly with about 150 of those residents," he said. "They were the ones who repeatedly caused problems. The only difference with them and downtown is they had fancy houses and used more expensive drugs."

For him, those 150 individuals became the yard stick against which he measured every resident in the community. "I became jaded by the 150," he said.

I asked the group of about 20 officers if becoming a police officer was about 'service'. They agreed it was integral to their call to duty. "When you became officers, did you agree to give residents in certain socio-economic groups service and not others? Did you commit to treating some citizens with dignity and respect and not others?" They all shook their head no. The truth is, they committed to treating every citizen fairly with dignity and respect.

"It is the same for us at the shelter," I said. "We are committed to treating everyone who comes through our doors with dignity and respect. To greet them where they're at, and to provide them service appropriate to their current reality. If they walk in drunk, they are invited to sleep on the first floor in the Intox area. If they are sober, they are welcomed to sleep on the third floor in the emergency sleeping area."

It is possible to become jaded. But the reality is, when we become jaded, we are not performing our jobs to the best of our abilities.

At the end of the presentation, one officer came up and asked if he could chat with me. "I want to give you kudos," he said.

I thought he meant about my presentation. "How nice," I replied. "Thank you."

"About C." And he named the client who had been at Choices the week before. "I was a trainee in the room when he went through. Good work. It really was inspiring to see the change in him."

In my work I have become somewhat jaded about police officers. Just as they stereotype those of us who work in the social sector, and just as they stereotype homeless citizens, I too am guilty of stereotyping them.

This officer reminded me that my stereotyping limits my ability to create more of what works in my life. It inhibits my capacity to create opportunities for change, for possibilities to open up, for me to live passionately on purpose, touching hearts and opening minds.

The gift of that officers experience is that in witnessing C. move from his 'stuck' to open position, he saw the caring heart beneath the wounded man. In his awareness of what happened with C., he can see the possibilities for other homeless citizens to shift and move away from stuck into open hearted living. To move away from that place where the past is the mud they're flailing about in, helplessly clawing at air as they sink deeper into the quagmire of their perceived helplessness. In his expanded perceptions, the past is simply the path the people he serves took to get to today. To a place where they are, no matter how haltingly and tentatively, taking positive steps to open up and live life in the fire, on fire, fired up with possibility. In his witnessing C.'s journey, he can share a different story with his fellow officers. He can move them from their jaded view into a more open minded perspective where possibility exists and hope lives.

I have been buying into the myth that I work in an 'us and them' kind of world. I don't. Unless I make it so.

My passion is to create a world where possibility exists, where lives light up to the beauty and truth of the human spirit soaring free.

Stuck in jaded thinking, I am putting my attention on what I do not want to create -- and living the contradiction in discord with my passion.

Opening up to possibility, I put my attention where I want to create more of everything that works when I live in harmony with my passionate resolve to be the best me I can be, creating opportunities for the world around me to shine at its best.

The question is: Are you buying into jaded perspectives in some corner of our world? Are you willing to polish up your thinking, dust off your perspectives and open up to the wonder of human spirits searching for a fresh view all around you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Start Right Now

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,"You owe Me."
Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky. Hafiz
A beautiful friend sent me this poem from Hafiz. Even after all this time, his words endure. Add value, create light, create joy.

Time is a continuum we travel. Time is all we have to measure our progress through space. Yet, time is very subjective. A man made creation to put a value on our journey.

There was a time when I believed I would never know happiness again. Today, happiness imbues my being with a spirit of joy.

There was a time when I didn't want to live. Today, I live each moment filled with the joy of being alive. Of having this moment to fill with passion and love.

And, there was a time when I did not believe I could fill a blank screen every morning with anything worth writing. Today, I am writing my 650th blog. I could not have known when I began this process how valuable it would become in my life. How much a part of my morning it would be. How many people would make me part of their daily routine.

There is so much I do not know when I begin a new beginning. So much I do not know when I awaken to my day. Which is why, knowing my values, beliefs, principles is so important. Without them, the unknown unfolding in my day could pull me off course, could distract me from my purpose, could distance me from my passions.

On Saturday, when I was teaching The Passion Test course, one of the attendees said, "I'd feel more comfortable answering the question, "When my life is ideal I want to be...."

"What is it about the statement, 'When my life is ideal I am...' that bothers you?" I asked him.

"Well, I'm not what I want to be. I would like to be that way, know I need to be that way for my life to be idea. But I'm not that way right now," he replied.

"What would you like to be?"

"Oh, well. forgiving. I'd like to be forgiving of myself and others."

"What if you claim that desire now. What if you start right now to be a forgiving man?"

"But I don't know if I can do it."

"Start right now."

"Be forgiving."

"Yes. Start right now. Write down, 'when my life is ideal I am living with forgiveness in my heart, or however the words fit for you. However you write them, start right now."

Action engages attention.
When I focus on being forgiving, I take my focus off being unforgiving.
When I take action to create forgiveness in my life, my attention moves away from what I don't want in my life, onto what I do want in my life.
I don't know what the result of being forgiving will be. I do know that it is what I want more of in my life.
This morning I awoke and did not know what I would write. I opened my email and found a lovely Hafiz poem from a beautiful woman. The words align with my passions, my values, my beliefs. I wanted to share the poem with you. I wanted the poem to inspire my writing this morning.
All it took was the action to create the opportunity for the words to flow.
Start right now. Whatever it is you want in your life, to change, to create, to build, to dream, Start right now.
The question is: Are you willing to claim what it is you want in you life? Are you willing to start right now?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Seize the day

Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it. Irving
Ellie and I went for a wonderful walk yesterday with a girlfriend. We wandered along winding trails through the woods, along the shore of the river where ice still blocks the water's flow. Tiny chickadees flittered amongst the trees and sunlight filtered through the barren branches casting filigree shadows upon the snow.

We chatted and laughed, shared stories and ideas about what it takes to live life on the other side of our comfort zones. We fixed the woes of the world, fixed the lives of those we love, and even managed to fix a few broken hearts as we talked! Just kidding! We're not that powerful.

What we are powerful enough to do is 'cease the day'. Make the most of the moment. Live fearlessly in the now.

At one point, while we were walking, my girlfriend told me about a hot yoga class she's been taking. "I think I might have pushed myself too far," she said. "My muscles really hurt for the next few days. I think I need to be more careful. Not do it so hard."

When I came home I had to put my feet up. I have 'bad' feet. They don't like to walk far. Don't enjoy strenuous exercise. I'm working with my chiropractor and doctor to remedy the situation -- but after walking, they are always sore and need tender loving care.

But the pain isn't harmful.

And that's the thing. I could have stayed home and not gone for the walk. But I would have missed a wonderful opportunity to spend time with someone I love, give Ellie the walk she needed and deserved. I would have missed the beautiful sunshine. The glorious fresh air. I would have missed so much if I had focused on thinking about how my feet would hurt afterwards. Walking doesn't damage my feet, it just results in transient pain -- staying home, doing nothing also causes transient pain. It's just created on a different threshold.

When I use unused muscles, I hurt. But the pain isn't harmful. It's healthful. It's simply my muscles way of saying, "Hey. Don't remember those moves. It hurts to change."

Like life. We stretch outside our comfort zone and feel the fear of change. It's not harmful. Just a reminder that we've never been this way before, or it's been a long time since we travelled this path. When we push into the pain and move through it, we transcend it.

We had a beautiful walk yesterday. Talked and laughed. Watched Ellie snuff the grasses, toss up snoutfuls of snow as she eagerly investigated every inch of pathway.

It was 10% what we were doing and 90% how we were enjoying the day, eachother's company and the world around us.

When I got home, my feet were sore. They made up 10% of what was going on for me. The rest was made up of the joy I felt having spent a glorious afternoon with a friend, enjoying the world around me. After a busy couple of weeks, I needed that time to refresh. I needed those hours of pure delight in the sunshine.

Later, because I needed to keep my feet up, I got to watch the Academy Awards with both my daughters and C.C. -- another joyful evening spent with people I love. Earlier, I picked up Alexis from the subway, we stopped and bought a bottle of champagne to toast the creative excellence of the night. We curled up together in front of the TV and spent a wonderful evening talking and laughing and sharing in the brilliance of those living their passions. It was 10% about what was happening on the TV screen in front of us, and 90% about sharing time together, enjoying each others company.

The question is: Are you focusing all your attention worrying about what life presents? Or, do you put your focus on how you create value out of life's happenings by putting your attention on your intention to create your best day yet?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Come Dance With Me

Not the God of names, Nor the God of don'ts, Nor the God who ever does anything weird, But the God who only knows four words, And keeps repeating them, saying, Come dance with me." Hafiz, Sufi poet
We were eleven people in the boardroom. A couple of friends had graciously asked if they could come and support me in my first presentation of The Passion Test. The other attendees were clients of the shelter where I work plus one staff member. One of the attendees was a man, I'd never met before. Another client had suggested he come and take part.

As we worked through the program, talking about passions and desires, and life and yearning, one of the attendees said, after I had described The Passion Test as, "The effortless path to discovering your destiny", "I don't like the word destiny. I know we all have one, but destiny sounds too big, too forced. We've got too much invested in that word. It makes me uncomfortable."

"What's a word that would feel more comfortable for you?" I asked him.

"End," he promptly replied. "We've all got an end in our lives."

"Okay. Then whenever I say 'destiny', you change it in your mind to 'end'. Would that work for you?"

He laughed. "Sure. As long as you know I'm not using the word destiny."

Awhile later, another client, after reading one of the handouts said, "I notice they use the word 'love' five times on this page. How do they define 'love'?"

"How do you define 'love'?" I asked him.

"Oh, you mean they mean to be ambiguous. They want me to define it?"

"Would you rather work according to someone else's definition or your own?"

"Mine," he said, a big smile spreading across his face. "I can do that."

It was a magical morning. My audience was supportive. Willing to be there to help me. Willing to be there to help themselves.

Reciprocity in motion.

Giving is receiving.

One of the clients in attendance was the man who had gone through Choices the week before. He is on fire. In the fire. Fired up about living, loving and laughing. He had said to me the day before, "I know everything's not 'healed.' I know there's still more to uncover. I know I'll still go through rough patches. It doesn't matter. No one can stop me from being me, except me. And I'm not going to do that. I don't want to go back to where I was."

In the class, he wrote out his top five passions on his Passion Card, folded the card up carefully and slid it into his wallet. "Cool. Now I've got something to focus on every day." he said.

We danced yesterday. Together and apart. Alone and as one. We danced and spread our wings and strutted our stuff and got down to it. We learned new steps, got in sync, stepped out, moved into the groove of being outside our comfort zones.

We danced and the universe kept spinning and we kept moving and turning and growing and learning.

We danced, and became one with all that is Divine in the world around us.

The question is: Are you willing to answer the invitation to Dance?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Passion and life every day

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. Henry David Thoreau
Going confidently was never my issue. Knowing my dreams.... ahhh, now that's another matter.

This morning, I am presenting my first course on, The Passion Test. Some clients, a few friends and I will be gathering together in the boardroom to walk through the process of identifying our top five passions. We'll create Passion Cards, to keep our dreams at the forefront of my minds and markers to keep us on the path of moving confidently towards bringing our passions to light and life in our lives.

I'm excited about this morning. Looking forward to the day's unfolding. I'm confident that everyone will get something out of the session. Confident I will be able to present to them what I know about discovering my passions, and the importance of identifying them to create lives where we experience more joy and fulfillment.

I am passionate about doing this. Passionate about inspiring people to live their best life yet.

And, with every moment that I live, breathe, speak, do things that enliven my passions, I am reinforcing my knowledge and expanding my understanding of the impact being clear on my passions has on my life.

I'm looking forward to an exciting morning.

And then, C.C. and I are taking a very dear friend and her husband out for a birthday celebration.

Three of my passions lived vibrantly in one day -- inspiring people, loving my partner, spending quality time with those I love -- oh, and did I mention the fourth? Writing!

Every morning, I live my passion of writing. Here, at the keyboard. Every morning I stretch my creative muscle, dig into my creative core and bring my passion to life.

I am blessed.

The question is: Are you clear on your passions? Are you living them every day?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deep Listening

Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh. A.A. Milne

He did it! He read his piece with grace and dignity in the play. It was superb.

From beginning to end, Director Ian Prinsloo's adaptation of Maxim Gorky's, The Lower Depths, stung with its stark reality and honesty.

There were no professional actors. No marquee names. Just a cast of homeless shelter residents mixed together with a couple of people who have moved from the shelter to self-housing, people who work in the sector and a couple of academics.

It was inspiring. Moving. Sad, touching, uplifting. Humbling.

It was in its attempt to not be anything other than a group of 'amateurs' working together on a piece of theatre that the performance touched hearts.

The actors read their scripts as they performed selected texts from the play. And then, intermittently, they each read their 'reflections' on the section of the play they had chosen to perform. Their scripts became part of their character, a prop meant to illuminate their character's role. It was not distracting, nor forced. It was organic to the process of the play's unfolding.

In each performer's reflection was the beauty of the human spirit soaring. In their reflections the truths of their personal journeys were reflected in their tears, their fears, their hesitations. The pauses. The heartfelt expression of the pain and the joy they have felt on this journey of life.

In Ian's opening address he talked about theatre being a space for 'deep listening'. The actors had worked for three months on this piece. Worked and shared and grown and learned and deepened their understanding of themselves and each other. Through deep listening, they felt the essence at the heart of the words, the beat within the heart of spirits calling each of them to step out and up onto the stage to claim their unique gifts, to claim their right to be centre stage, to express their wisdom of the heart, fearlessly and effortlessly.

Watching the performers last night, I was in awe of how powerful and strong they had become as a group. Of how supportive and appreciative they were of each other. They were bonded. A group of diverse individuals with diverse backgrounds who came together to create this piece of theatre that touched hearts and made a difference in each of our lives.

And in their reflections, in their words that soared up from within their deep listening, they revealed the beauty and the sorrow of what touches our lives, our spirits, our souls. Of what limits us and expands us into the moment of flight.

Ian had invited each of us in the audience to sink into deep listening. To open up wholeheartedly to the truth the actors were about to reveal, about themselves, and about our human condition.

In my sinking into that sacred space, I felt my heart opening up, expanding, breathing. In my opening, I received the gifts of healing, peace, and awe.

If twelve individuals from such diverse circumstances and backgrounds can come together to create such beauty, then all things are possible in this world.

As Margaret Mead suggested, "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

There was change in the air last night. Lasting. Inspiring. Compelling. I feel it within me this morning. As I sink into meditation, into that sacred space of deep listening within me, I awaken to the beauty of my human condition, that condition where we are one through all things being connected.

The question is: Are you willing to sink into the sacred space of deep listening where the sound of your hearts beating in time is all you hear? Are you willing to open up to the truth of your human condition calling you to connect to someone else's heart shyly peeking out from beneath the snows of winter?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Which of these is diminished?

I am never upset for the reason I think. Lesson 5, A Course In Miracles
Yesterday, I gave a talk at a conference on homelessness. My talk was about the art program I started and how it has become a place of beauty and possibility.

As part of the conference, the artists have been invited to display their works. Yesterday morning I drove one of the artists up to the University where the conference is being held. He is also involved in a play that is being performed this evening and was anxious about an incident that happened with the director.

"I don't know if I want to read my reflections on my role in the play. We're supposed to do it at the end of our piece but I'm so upset," he told me.

"What was your purpose in writing your reflections?" I asked him.

"I wanted to reach people's hearts with what is true for me in homelessness," he replied.

"And has that changed?"

"No. But..."

I interrupted him. "What would you do without that thought?" I asked.

"I'd read my piece."

"So, it's not what happened that's keeping you from speaking up. It's your thoughts."

As I dropped him off at the University he said, "Thanks. It helped talking it out."

Later, as I was walking to the room where I was giving my presentation, I stopped to chat with him in the foyer of the room where the art show is being held.

"Do you want to read what I wrote for the play?" he asked me.

"I'd be honoured."

I read his words and felt tears rise. Heart-driven. Heart-felt. Heart-breaking.

"The world would lose an opportunity to awaken if you choose not to read these words," I told him as I handed him back his journal.

And for one moment, I felt like the world stopped spinning. The sun fell down and a hero rose up.

Tears formed in his eyes.

Quickly, he stuffed the journal back into his bag. Pushed his emotions down, choked back his tears. He shrugged his shoulders. Straightened his spine. "I'm okay," he quickly responded when I touched his shoulder.

I am never upset for the reason I think.

"Can I read what you wrote at the end as part of my presentation?" I asked him.

"Of course," he replied, without hesitation. And in that moment I saw a vulnerable spirit spreading his wings. He was not upset because of what happened, he was upset because he was afraid of sharing his vulnerable soul with those who might see him as he fears they see him, as he feared the director saw him in the moment of their upset, as he fears he is.

I share his words with you.

"I am a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend. I am an artist, a musician, a wood worker.

I laugh. I cry. I hurt.

Which of these is diminished because I am homeless?

I don't know if he'll read his reflections this evening. I do know that in embracing his words, I am richer. I am wiser.

The question is: Ask yourself, who am I? -- I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend. A writer. An artist. A human being. I laugh. I cry. I hurt. -- Which of these is diminished because I am not homeless?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It just is.

If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn round and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. Michael Jordan
When I run into a wall, it's because I wasn't looking where I was going in the moment of taking my next step. I was focused on orchestrating the outcome of what I was doing, as opposed to being committed to living what I was doing in the moment.

Running into a roadblock is a sign I need to step back, take a breath, or two, and be in the space of 'not having the answer' of not being in control of the outcome. Ultimately, it isn't the 'how' that makes my dreams come true, it's the what.

What is my intention? Where is my attention?

Action engages attention.

When I was in the angst of awakening from an abusive relationship, I wanted to keep asking, "How could he have done what he did? How could he lie to me?"

Reality is, he did. Asking questions related to what he did, didn't change what he did -- and it didn't give me anymore clarity because, my power isn't in figuring out someone else's mind, it's in being present in my mind, connecting to where I'm at, what I'm doing. Thinking about him kept me stuck. Asking myself questions that freed me from being stuck in confusion were imperative.

I knew I couldn't stay mired in the angst of my pain. I couldn't stay stuck in the turmoil of the past. I had to breathe. Deeply. And ask myself, "What do I want for me now? What's Important Now? What step can I take in this moment that will create healing for me?"

To heal, I had to get clear on my needs. My dreams. My passions.
In the first throes of awakening from that relationship I had three core needs: To heal my broken heart. To heal my broken relationship with my daughters and to help them heal.

To heal, I had to accept reality as it was today. Grounded in reality, I opened up possibility to create a better reality tomorrow. To heal, I had to ask for what I wanted -- and open myself up to receiving all I wanted, and anything better.

In Byron Katie's, Loving What Is, she writes, "A thought is harmless unless we believe in it. It is not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts that causes suffering."

When I believe the world is full of lack, is out to get me, that life is a grind, I am suffering from what I believe.

Reality is: The Universe doesn't care. It just is. The Universe is Bliss.

When I attach to the thought, "Life's not fair", I become mired in my belief that whatever happens to me, it isn't fair.

Fair has nothing to do with it.

My beliefs do. And my beliefs come from my thoughts -- to which I've attached an outcome.

I believe the Universe is a place of abundance. Of unbounded bliss. I block my flow into the Universe when I attach myself to the belief -- it may be full of bliss, but not for me.

Remember, the Universe doesn't care. It just is.

Unlike Santa, the Universe doesn't keep a list of my rights and wrongs, balancing out the equation of my life on a scale of divine justice.

The Universe doesn't care.

I need to care. About what I do. What I believe. What I say, think, feel, put into action.

I need to care about me enough to be. do. have the life of my dreams. That's my job.

The question is: What are you doing about your job today? Are you caring enough about you to create beauty all around you with every thought, word, deed?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All of this and everything better

Curving into myself I create again and again. Bhagavad Gita
My life expands or contracts, depending upon my state of mind. Everything that happens in my world is dependent upon how expanded or contracted I am.

When I am breathing freely, my mind angst free, my thoughts open and willing to explore all that is before me, I am 'in the flow'. Flowing freely. Flowing into life as a wonderful adventure.

When I am contracted. My breath shallow, my mind riddled with fear, my thoughts rotating around all that is wrong, all that is lacking in my life, I am 'out of tune', out of step. Out of sync with my passions and the adventure of my life time, I limit the adventure of my lifetime.

One of the most powerful thoughts from The Passion Test weekend was the realization that, "What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life."

What I focus on I am creating.

If I am focused on 'lack', thoughts of lack grow stronger.

What I fear, I create.

For example, if I fear bills at the end of the month, thoughts of bills coming at the end of the month take up a lot of my mindspace -- limiting the time I have to think of more positive, creative, powerful ways to create opportunities for abundance.

I fear not having enough energy to get the job done. Thoughts of my lack of energy keep me from getting the job done, draining me of energy I could have expended towards getting the job done with the energy I have.

When I am focused on abundance, thoughts of expansion, of growth, of opportunity in my life grow stronger.

What I love, I create.

I love writing. Thoughts of writing keep my attention on what I love to do. What I love to do makes me happy. I create the time to do what makes me happy and create writing that makes me happier -- and fulfill on my passion of 'touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free'!

I love C.C. Thoughts of my love for C.C. keep me focused on everything about him that pleases me. My pleasure in his presence creates more opportunities for me to express my love. When I express my love, he feels loved. When he knows he's loved, he focuses on his love for me which builds my confidence in love. When I am confident in his love, I am full of joy, giving freely of my love.

It is a wonderful circle of creativity, of creation.

I am either contracting or expanding.

We are continually in search of a state of homeostasis. There is no 'standing still'. I am either moving towards lack or into abundance. I am energy. Where I focus my energy is up to me. It is my choice.

Everything is connected to everything.

I am connected to my thoughts. My thoughts are connected to my words. My words to my actions. My actions to my habits. My habits create the path upon which I experience the world around me. How I experience the world around me is connected to my thoughts, and so it goes.

Today, I choose to expand into this moment. Into the wonder and joy of living life on the other side of my comfort zone. That place where abundance reigns. Where bliss expands each moment into my best moment yet! Where you experience, all of this and everything better.

The question is: Where are you focusing your attention? Are you contracting into all that is wrong. Into your fears and anxiety? Or, are you expanding out, breathing into all that is possible when you focus on your strength, beauty, gifts and abundance?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Passion Test

Whenever you are faced with a choice, decision or opportunity, choose in favour of your passions. Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood, The Passion Test
 Wow!  I am a woman of many words, but this morning, my heart is overflowing and the words  to describe the feelings coursing through my body escape me. I breathe.

Bliss. Blessed. Bountiful.


Bliss Blessed and Bountiful.

It is a simple test -- it is not a test you can fail, or get wrong, or make a mistake on. The Passion Test.  Where Choices helped me clarify my purpose, The Passion Test is the tool to clarify my passions so that I can live my life on purpose.

It is all about clarity -- A statement I heard continuously throughout the past three days was, When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life, but only to the extent you are clear.

What I want will appear -- but only to the extent I am clear.

It was an interesting thought -- I am clear, really, well, almost, oh, ok, sort of. 

Reality was, I was not clear. I had not investigated what my passions truly are to hone them down to a list I can clearly see and claim. I had not written my 5 top passions down. I had not kept my attention on my passions.

Intention. Attention. No Tension.

Consciously create the intention to focus on my passions.

Keep my attention on my passions.

Let go. Don't focus on the 'how', focus on the WHAT. What do I want. What is my next step -- right now.

As Brian Willis of Winning Mind Training suggests -- ask myself my W.I.N.  What's important now?  Right now. Not tomorrow, or next year or next week. Right now.

It was a glorious three days. Amazing people. Congruent. Filled with integrity. Love. Joy.

It was a time for expansion. For opening up to the possibilities of my life when I let go of fear and joyously claim my passions. My right to live this one wild and precious life fearlessly in love.

One of the things I found amazingly powerful was that I had taken the test in the book, The Passion Test and identified my top five. As I took the test on the first day of the workshop, I clarified even more deeply what they truly are. Having someone guide me through the process opened me up to investigating deeper what it is that inspires me through my passions.

I recommend it. Take the test. Buy the book. Find a facilitator who can guide you through it. Email me if you don't know of someone. I'm sure I can find a name of someone in your area. You can do it online at The Passion Test. An outcome from this weekend was I received my Facilitator's certificate to give the test, so I can guide you through it too.

It's worth it. You're worth it.

The question is:  Are you clear on what you want in your life? Are you focusing your attention on creating more of what you want, more of what works?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Which one will I feed?

A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most. As told by George Bernard Shaw

Yesterday, I drove a client to the hotel where Choices is being held this week. I had written Choices management last week to ask if they would be willing to have this man experience Choices. "Yes," she replied. "We will."

This is no small deal. Choices is not without costs. This man is not without 'issues', some of which need to be dealt with on a legal level.

It is the first time I approached Choices management with such a request. Needless to say, everyday I encounter individuals at the shelter where I work who I know would thrive/benefit from the Choices experience. They deserve the opportunity to discover their most amazing selves.

I have always held off asking. I believe one of the greatest challenges of working in an environment like I do is to NOT step in and try to fix someone else's life, to NOT step in and 'give' them the answers, present them with a way out when they are still diggin their way into where ever they're at.

It is vital to provide people a hand up. But first, they must get to that place where looking for help is integral to their journey towards wellness. As one of the students said in the self-esteem class I was teaching yesterday, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

I don't have anyone else's answers.

As I drove Greg* to the hotel yesterday he asked me, "Why are you doing this for me? I don't get it. Nobody does anything for nothing."

"Because you asked for help," I told him. "You told me you are tired of feeling the way you do about yourself. You're tired of hating yourself. I don't know any better place than Choices to help you fall in love with who you are, all of you. I don't know any better place that will give you the tools to keep falling in love with yourself every day. That will keep you on the path you want to walk to be a man of integrity."

He was silent for a moment. I could feel him looking at me. Watching my face to see if I was serious. Was I for real.

"You know I could hate you for this?"

"Believe me, for the first couple of days, you probably will hate me. It's hard work Greg. You are going to dig down into yourself and expose your most vulnerable places. To get to where you want to be, you have to be willing to be vulnerable with yourself, to lovingly tell yourself the truth about yourself. To create a new path, you've got to be willing to look at your old path and say, I forgive myself."

He sighed. "I still don't get why you're doing this for me."

"What if focusing on 'the why' is just part of your habitual behaviour that lets you off the hook of feeling what you're feeling?"

"I hate feelings," he said. "They always make me cry."

"Then be prepared to feel your feelings for the next couple of days."

"Now I'm scared."

"It's okay. So am I. My fear is in my expectations of you and my ego's place that says, I want him to be a shining star. I want him to impress everyone so they'll be impressed by me. Truth is, the next few days will be what they will be. You will do what you will do. I need to let go of my expectations and trust in the process, trust in the miracles that I know happen at Choices every time."

"Miracles? They happen?"

"Yup. The Choices training room is the only place I've ever been where Love is tangible. You can feel it in the air. You can taste it. See it on every face. Miracles happen every day at Choices."

I got him to the hotel. He checked in. Had a couple of smokes and said, "Okay. I'm ready. Let's go do this."

I left him and talked to a girlfriend (wise and beautiful!) on the phone.

I told her of my fears. My worry. My anxiety. I am more nervous about having Greg in the training than I've ever been with having someone close to me go through. I know him less. I have less 'connection' with him, and yet, I am more scared.

"What's that about?" I asked her.

She laughed. Bold. Vibrant. "Let it go," she said. "It will be what it will be. Let it go and let it be."

Ego. That little tiny, minuscule quadrant of my brain that thinks it is all important. That everything that happens in the world is a reflection of its state of being.

I am not so powerful as to control the world. I am not so powerful that the world revolves around my ego.

I am powerful enough to be in control of me. To be one with my world -- regardless of my ego's pressing need to hold onto a fleeting sense of control. I am powerul enough to know, I am okay. Greg's journey is his journey. I do not control it. The outcome of his experience is not a reflection of where I'm at in mine. Of who I am on mine. It is his journey.

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'."

Which one will I feed?

The dog of self-doubt, self-aggrandizement and worry. Or the dog of compassion. The dog who loves unconditionally without fear of judgement or rejection.

The choice is mine. To worry about how Greg is doing. What Greg is doing. To fall into the trap that says, 'I should have known better'. The trap that sets him up and me up for failure.

Or, To let go and let God. To trust in the process I know Choices to be. To trust the people I know are in that room making it possible for miracles to appear in everyone's lives by the simple fact that they are standing there, arms and minds and hearts wide open in love.

The choice is mine.

I choose to trust. I choose to walk my path filled with the wonder and joy of my experience and knowing. I am doing my best. I trust others to be responsible for their best.

The question is: Are you willing to trust others to be responsible for doing their best? Are you willing to let go of your expectations to give others room to meet their own expectations?

I am off to Toronto today to take a course -- The Passion Test Facilitator Training. I will have my laptop -- but may not have the opportunity to write here.

If not -- I'll be back online Tuesday, February 17. Have a wonderful Valentine's. May love resonate in every fibre of your being, setting you free to be your most magnificent self.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My eyes on the ball keep me seeing only the ball

What we search for is the one that sees. St. Francis of Assissi
Years ago, while I was locked in a relationship that was killing me, I met with a woman who told me that in this world, there are those who seek. You are a seeker, she said.

At the time, I wondered at her perceptions. When we met, I didn't tell her what was really happening in my life. I only told her what I wanted her to believe was going on.

In the course of that 4 year 9 month relationship with Conrad, my reality shifted along with my perceptions of life. As I went from being a vibrant, trusting, loving woman, to a shell of a human being who believed she was only worthy of the pain and turmoil of that relationship, my perceptions of the world around me shifted. Where once I saw the world through eyes of wonder, my reality became, I saw the world through eyes filled with sorrow, angst and pain.

My perceptions of the world were predicated upon the degree to which I accepted the truth of what was happening to me as my truth. And in that relationship, I perceived what he was doing to be the truth I sought.

What does it matter today?

Nothing, other than the value I seek to place upon the learning rather than the experience.

What matters today is that I seek to find value from that experience. To create value from what I learned to be true for me -- then and now.

What matters today is that I perceive the world to be a place of wonder, in a universe of possibility creating a life of joy in which I live fearlessly in love with me, myself and I and the world around me.

I am my perceptions. Nothing else matters -- unless I open myself up to see more than what I choose to perceive to be happening in the world around me.

The following link is for a short video clip on awareness. It's also a great illustration of what happens when we live by the adage "keep your eye on the ball".

When I was in that relationship, I kept all my senses on what he was doing, saying, being. I kept my eyes on his hands deftly moving the cards around, trying to keep track of what he told me to watch -- and missed what was going on around me. Eventually, I lost sight of the world around me and lost my sense of sight, taste, hearing, smell and feeling. All I 'knew' to be real was the pain I was enduring. Sure, there were moments of joy, especially where my daughters were concerned, but I constantly pushed them back from my awareness.

The memories of my daughters' beauty and joy, their moments of wonder existed, but I kept them on a separate plane from the events that were unfolding in my life with Conrad. I did not want them to be tarnished by the reality of his abuse.

In accepting that the relationship with Conrad was viewed through a skewed perception that was not real, I can reclaim the memories of my daughters' joy through that period unimpaired by the painful memories of 'what Conrad did'.

It's all in my perceptions.

My perceptions are all that matter in creating the life of my dreams. I cannot change the past. I can change how I view it today. When I rewind that period of time, I take my eyes off watching 'what Conrad did' and focus on seeing the beauty and the joy of the people who matter most to me -- no matter the weather, they were always there. Are always there. They are all that matter.

Everything I see is created in a screen at the back of my brain by light entering my eyes and being transformed into images created in my brain.

What I see is not necessarily reality. It is what my brain perceives.

What I see inside my memory, is also not necessarily reality. It is what my mind perceives. I choose to perceive the beauty, the love, the joy of having two miraculous daughters. I choose to keep my eyes on their wonder, and fill my thoughts with love.

I get to choose my reality. And today, I choose my reality to be filled with love, joy, possibility and the gift of freedom.

The question is: Whose ball are you watching? Are you limiting your vision to what you perceive to be someone else's truth playing out in your mind, or, are you creating your truth through experiencing the wonder of the world beyond your imagination?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spirited movement

Only in uncertainty are we naked and alive. Peter Gabriel
Yesterday, a client came to me at the shelter where I work and asked me to help him with a passage in a play he's working on. The play will be performed next week at a conference by a cast of individuals experiencing homelessness as well as those working in the sector, or simply interested in taking part.

Watching Chuck* rehearse for this play for the past three months has been inspiring. When he first spoke to me about it, he said, "I don't know if I want to do it. It's a big commitment. Three months."

"What if you just go for the first meeting and then decide if you'll go back for the next one?" I asked him.

He went for the first and has been committed to being at every one of the sessions. It isn't just the play that has touched him. It is the director's commitment to creating a safe place for each actor to speak of themselves without fear that has moved him most.

Yesterday, when he came to me, he said, "I need to rewrite this paragraph to have meaning for me. I was wondering if you would be able to help me."

The passage he wanted to re-write was about 'truth'.

"What he [the playwright] is saying is that sometimes, truth hurts and if it does, don't speak it." he said as we discussed the passage.

"If I am speaking my truth in love, I cannot hurt others. My truth is not about my observations of them, or what I see to be true for someone else, it is about what is true for me."

Chuck paused for a moment, and asked. "But if you think I'm having a bad hair day and tell me, aren't you speaking the truth and hurting me?"

"If I think you're having a bad hair day, that's just a judgement or observation made by me about you through my eyes. That's not truth. It's my opinion. If you ask me what I think of your hair, I can tell you what is true for me, what I observe, but if you don't ask, I don't have the right to tell you. You may love your hair that day. If you feel insecure about it, you will ask me for my opinion -- that's your truth."

Chuck laughed. "In the passage my character is saying to another person, 'you have nothing. Good people always have something.' Isn't he telling the other character the truth? You are a bad person?"

"What if your character is actually telling his truth. He believes if he has nothing, he must be a bad person because he's done something to lose it all? What if he is translating the circumstances of his life to create a truth he can live with?"

"You mean like me. I'm homeless. I have nothing. Therefore I must be bad."

"Is that your truth?"

He paused. Took a breath. His body relaxed into the chair where he sat across from my desk. "What if it's not true?" he whispered. "What if the mistakes I've made don't make me a bad person, they just led me to being homeless?"

Good question.

What if I didn't judge myself by my mistakes, but rather learned from them? What if I didn't condemn myself for my mistakes, but used them as the learning ground upon which I grew?

For many, homelessness has been a process of letting go of everything in their lives to find themselves with nothing. For many of the people at the shelter, the process of becoming homeless led them to condemn themselves for the things they've done to create the turmoil in their lives. And in their condemnation, they hold themselves pinioned to the backdrop of their past. Immobile. Immovable. Irredeemable. Like a butterfly on a mat. Beautiful throughout eternity, but never free to fly again.

Yesterday, as I watched Chuck see himself through a different perspective, I saw a man embracing the truth of the beauty of his spirit. He is not a bad man because he has nothing. He is lost. Perhaps. Alone. Without. Perhaps. But he is not a bad man.

With that truth, his wings began to flutter as his spirit quivered to be set free.

The question is: Do you condemn yourself for your mistakes, or do you use them as the foundation for change, for growth, for healing so you can create a life worthy of your truth?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Angels' kisses

I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free. Michelangelo

Life is a series of sculpting classes. Every carve of the chisel a drive towards setting free the beauty of our birthright, the inherent perfection of our being. Like a block of marble, our lives are under constant discovery, forever working inward to reveal the truth of our magnificence.

When I was a child I loved to work with play-do. To see what I could sculpt from those malleable pieces of clay. Most often, I would create angels. Tiny winged creatures filled with all the possibilities of my quest to fly.

As I matured, I left the play-do behind. And my angels got forgotten.

Somewhere in my thirties, I started to reconnect with my angels. Not the play-do version of my childhood, but rather the ethereal kind. The powerful presence around me that lifted me up, carried me, supported me,protected me where ever I went.

I like angels. They are mystical, magical, wondrous.

And then I met Conrad, the man who lied from hello to good-bye. I cried to my angels throughout that relationship. Pleaded with them to 'make it stop', to make the craziness in my life go away.

I didn't think they were listening. I thought they had gone away. I thought they didn't care.

But they were always there. It was me who was blind and deaf to their presence. It was me who had gone away. It was me who didn't care. It was me who had quit carving.

As Alabama sings, I believe there are angels amongst us. Sent down to us from somewhere up above.

Yesterday, C.C. and I took Ellie for a walk along the river, in an area called, The Weaselhead. Quiet, serene, the sun shone down and birds twittered in the trees. We walked along the snow covered trails as Ellie pranced in front of us. The air was filled with light. It filtered through the leafless branches. Sparkled on the ice covering the river.

At one point, we crossed the frozen river. Beneath us, the ice lay think and silent protecting the waters below. As we slid across, we met a young man. He was dressed in black, skull bones and crosses adorned his hoodie. He looked, awkward. Suspicious. We were far from the main path. There was no one else around.

"What's he doing here I wondered?" as recollections of news reports of dubious characters attacking unsuspecting hikers flickered at lightning speed through my mind.

As we approached, he smiled, held up a hand and said, "Hi. I'm feeding the chickadees. Unsalted sunflower seeds. Watch."

We stood silent as he held his hand, palm upwards, in front of his face. Within moments, a tiny grey and white chickadee darted out from a tree, landed on his hand, grabbed a piece of unsalted sunflower seed and flew off.

The young man smiled.

"They love it," he said.

He didn't look menacing with his palm outstretched, laden with sunflowers seeds, the sun shining upon him. His face beaming with delight.

He looked more like an angel. A being sent to bring joy and laughter into our day.

I know he wasn't an apparition. I know he was a real live human being. But in his presence I was reminded that my perceptions are always filtered through my fears.

I have wandered the woods of the Weaselhead for years by myself with only Ellie as my companion. I have never been hurt. Never been accosted.

It has always been a place of comfort, solace, magic and wonder for me.

Yet, in today's doom and gloom tidings peppered throughout news reports and newspaper clippings, I carried fear with me.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

It was a beautiful day yesterday. And in it, I carved away a little more of my fear that life will be unfair. That life will be filled with turmoil and angst.

I carved away fear and revealed my inner truth, setting myself free to spead my wings.

Life will be filled with what I bring to it. With what I create in it. Life will be my creation. A story of angel's wings spreading wide, protecting me, lifting me up, supporting me as I awaken to the beauty and joy of living in this world of wonder. Arms wide open in love.

The question is: How deft is your chisel? Are you carving today fear and turmoil into your day or are you releasing the joy and wonder that sees the beauty in every moment, open to angels kisses touching your heart?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's all in our perspective

You are the only person on earth who can use your ability. Zig Ziglar
We are putting together a music video with clients at the shelter where I work. The video is going to be used to support the work we do -- and hopefully -- to inspire others to support us in the work we do.

Friday evening I met with a few of the musicians to discuss the process. How's it going? What's happening? What's going well? Not so well?

I had been told that there were some personality issues arising. The space they use to rehearse is on the administration floor, only accessible by card, and, as there are generally no staff on the floor in the evenings, one client needs to be in charge of the access card for the room where they are rehearsing, as well as a radio.

Sometimes, how come he gets to be the leader, thinking can interfere with change happening. Sometimes, being in the role of the leader can disrupt the status quo as the individual attempts to flex their wings without overshadowing someone else.

In a shelter, one of the common denominators is, low self-esteem. Some try to hide it behind bravado. Others behind an addiction or acting out. But it is always there. Why else, the mind asks, would I be in this predicament? I'm worthless.

As clients move from despair towards hope, their self-esteem moves with them. Working on facing the issues that brought them to this place is integral to getting to a new place to be.

During the meeting on Friday, one of the clients said, "Well I want to play with the group but I don't want my face in the video. "

"That's okay," I replied. "You won't need to have it there."

He kept going. "It's not that I'm not grateful to be here or for this place. It's just I don't want to be associated with being homeless. Someday I'll get out of here. Someday, I won't keep using and I'll be playing music professionally again. I don't want people to say, 'He's good. For a homeless guy.' I want my talent to stand on its own merit. I don't want people to know I was here."

Another client piped up. "I'm proud of myself for being here. I was homeless before I got here. Now I'm not. I want people to know that this place is about more than what they see on the street. I want them to know, real people are doing real things here. And, we're not all falling down drunk. I used to be. Now I'm not. I want people to see me in the video and to know I'm proud of who I am."

Each of us is the only person on earth who can us our ability. How we use it is also up to us. And, how we respond to people's responses to how we use our talents and abilities is also up to us.

It's all in our choices.

It's all in our perspective.

For one man, being homeless is filled with shame. For another, it is the road out.

The question is: Are you regretting your choices and holding yourself in the shame of what you've done. Or, are you letting go of shame and creating a pathway to making new and better choices on how to live your life for all you're worth?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Living today for all I'm worth.

Saturday morning. Blue sky. Birds singing. Lazy day.

I struggle to think of something to write. Tell myself, 'not today. I don't have much to say." I take a breathe. I know if I trust in this process, the thought, that one triggering word will ignite my thinking, creating words upon the screen. Trusting in the process, I let my mind breathe.

We went to a movie last night. Taken. Dramatic. Fast paced. Action-packed. And disturbing. Men abducting young women. Forcing them into prostitution. Drugs. Sex. "It wasn't personal. It was just business," says the antagonist. "To me. It's personal," says Liam Neeson, the heroic figure of a father racing the clock to save his daughter.

I sit here in my office in a quiet inner suburb of this city on the plains and wonder, how can that be in the world? Yet, how can poverty of such squalor as portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire exist? How can war crimes and genocide live side by side on the vast plains of Africa where lions range and zebras graze? How can the world be filled with such disparity and contradiction? Beauty and the beast. Raging war and making love. How can it be?

Because it is.

Last week I met with a woman who is going to come into the shelter to put on a writing course. Her story was in a local paper this week. Her father was murdered by an armed robber when she was sixteen. Two years ago, thirty years after the event that ruptured her teenage years, she met the man who shot her father.

She forgave him.

She hopes he has forgiven himself.

What is done, is done. What can be changed is the impact it has on our lives today and on the lives of those we love.

When we forgive ourselves, we give ourselves permission to soar free of the ties that bind us to the turmoil and pain of the past, so that we can live fearlessly in today.

When we forgive another, we severe the ties that connect us to their wrong-doing. Doesn't mean they are not accountable. Just means we are not counting our days measured against the pain of what they did to hurt us.

In forgiving ourselves, we commit to doing better. In forgiving ourselves, we commit to creating stronger, better, healthier relationships.

In forgiving ourselves, we get a second chance.

There are no 'do overs' in life. Only another chance to do the right thing.

Today, my 'do the right thing' is to get some chores done. I cannot stop child abuse, violence and crime around the world. I can keep it from disturbing my peace of mind today by holding on to all that is right in my world and celebrating this day for all I'm worth.

I can create a world of value by creating value in this day, and letting the ripples of what I'm doing echo in the world around me.

I breathe in. I breathe in love. I exhale, I breathe out love and joy and peace. The air I breathe becomes part of the world around me. We are all connected.

Today, I'm worth a day of joy. A day of loving freedom. A day of wonder.

The question is: Are you living today for all you're worth?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Awake and living

Wisdom is to the soul what health is to the body. César Vichard de Saint-Réal
When I was a little girl my father used to cite a Chinese Proverb that to this day still resonates with me:

He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is willing. Teach him.
He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep. Awaken him.
He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise. Follow him.

I've been falling into the 'asleep' category, not that I don't know I know what I know, but rather, I've been trying to avoid what I know. To stay asleep so that I could coast through my life, skirting certain issues so that I could fain ignorance.

Don't get me wrong. These aren't all about life and death. They're the little pieces life is made of. Those everyday issues that pepper my plate, over-spicing my palate, making it difficult to digest 'other people's actions'.

I was talking to a girlfriend last night about a young woman who is currently living with her while going to school. "I thought if I could just demonstrate acceptance, kindness, caring, she would be different."

"Different than?" I asked.

"Who she is," she replied.

We both laughed. "Oh right. Just like we thought we could change our husbands into who we wanted them to be. Change the cat into a dog. Change the world into a planet full of tiny smurfs laughing and singing through the day. That kind of different." I replied.

See, I know I do not have the power to change people. I still try.

I am awake. But I am still dreaming.

In my life, there is only one person I have the power to change. Me.

In my life, change happens when I let go of rigidly held views that believe the world should operate according to my dictates. I mean, really, don't they know they'd be so much happier if they did it my way?

Ahh, if my way were the way for everyone...

But, but, but... It's not that I want everyone to do it my way. I just want those I love to do it my way.

And therein lies my problem.

My way only works for me -- and sometimes even there it doesn't work all that well.

This past week has been filled with angst and turmoil. Feuding. Lying. Petty quarrals. Cheating. Babies arriving on the shelter's doorstep, having to be apprehended by social services. Clients losing ground. Staff losing hope.

It has been a week filled with the stuff that life is made of whether I work in a shelter or not.

And I have been balking at its unfolding.

I've been pushing against the flow, ebbing into the need, the desire, the want to make it go my way. Without the drama. Without the constant ups and downs. "Can't we all just get along?"

Reality is. Life happens even when I'm trying to stop the happenings. I can't stop the happenings in other people's lives. I can only stop them from having a 'happening' kind of effect on me.

And this week, I've been buying into the drama.

It's actually not the drama I've been balking. I've been running up against my fear of the drama. My fear of its hold upon me. My fear that I might become addicted to the constant turmoil and angst of working at a shelter, surrounded by people whose lives are in more upheaval than mine.

My fear has kept me from claiming my peace of mind this week.

I fear: That I might become so accustomed to the drama I can't live without it.

I fear: That the drama is why I love doing what I do.

I fear: The drama is what I do best.

I fear: What I do is not about the people I serve. It's about my own self-serving needs to feel needed, wanted, good about myself.

My fears are making me sick.

What I fear, I create.

Time to awaken to my fear and pour my heart wisdom into it.

Time to let go. To surrender and fall in love.

The world around me is filled with drama. I am not the drama. The drama is not me.

What do I want more of in my life? Peace of mind.

Will holding onto the drama, falling into its lure create more of what I want, or less of what I want?


My responsibility is to create more of what I want in my life. That's my job. My accountability factor.

I love what I do. I love my job at the shelter. Love the feeling of making a difference it provides me. Love the realization that what I do does make a difference. Where I get caught up in the drama, however, is in thinking I have the answers to make someone else's life better.

I don't.

I might think I do. But that's just my ego flexing its muscle.

Reality is -- we all have our own answers, even when we're sleeping.

This past week, my fear of not having the answers has driven me over the edge of reason. I've been edgy. Short-tempered. Opinionated. Frustrated.

Not healthy. Not the 'more' I want in my life.

I can make a difference.

By being different. By being my own true self. By falling in love with my life. Living this one wild and precious life passionately and fearlessly, and letting others be who they are in theirs.

I can share my wisdom. Share my light. But I cannot create the path for someone else to follow. I can only illuminate my path, and let my light spill into theirs, when they're willing, if they're willing, if they want.

At work, the difference I make is not focused on individual lives. It's focused on creating awareness in our communities around homelessness and poverty. Around the impact addictions and family violence and abuse and mental illness have on people. My work is about telling the stories of the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles who are real people experiencing the unreal world of homelessness.

My job is about 'the people'. It's not about changing them. It's about telling the stories to create openings for change to happen.

I've been fearing my job this week. Thinking it was bigger than I could do. Thinking I needed to be bigger than I am. Thinking I needed to have all the answers.

The truth is, my peace of mind doesn't come with having all the answers. It comes when I am open to all the questions without claiming I know the answers for anyone, other than myself.

The question is: Are you awake and dreaming. Or, are you awake and living your best?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When I know better. I do better.

The problem in my life and other people's lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it. Peter Drucker

Yesterday was a tough day.

At Christmas, a client had requested a trip home on his 'Christmas WishList'. "I haven't seen my kids in several years," he told me. "I need to go home and start over again. I need to rebuild my life away from here."

When my daughters heard his story, they had stepped up and said, "We want to help. We'll pay for his ticket." I was pretty proud of them and while I didn't tell the client who had offered to help, I was delighted to be able to tell him, "You're going home."

"Give me a couple of weeks to earn some money to take home with me," he said.

"No problem," I replied. "Just let me know when you're ready and we'll get it organized."

In the intervening weeks, someone came to me and said, "You know he's running away from something."

"Is there anyone here who isn't?" I asked.

"Yeah, but if you help him run away, you could be in trouble."

Concerned, I called Bob* into my office. "Before we make the arrangements," I asked him, "I need to be sure there's no unfinished business here that needs to be taken care of. Is there anything I should know about?"

I watched his face carefully. He didn't blink. But there was a momentary freezing of his eyes, as if a light had suddenly pierced his pupil and frozen it, for just a second, just one quick moment. He didn't blink. He didn't take a breath. He shook his head and replied, "No. Nothing. Of course not."

I had no proof that he was lying. I had asked. He had denied. But there was something in his response that bothered me. I thought he was lying but, I couldn't tell him what I thought I knew without other ramifications.

I checked with front line staff to see if anyone had heard about issues Bob might be facing. No one knew anything about it. They all agreed, "He's a good guy." "I feel for Bob," one staff replied. "He really misses his kids. He's worth helping." "No way Bob would lie. He's been on the up and up since he got sober," another told me. "He's been working hard on his sobriety. It's been eight months since he was high," a supervisor said and completed his assessment with what everyone had told me. "He's a good guy." Several staff even offered to chip in for his ticket because he had impressed them with his willingness to grow and work towards changing his life.

The news for Bob kept getting better. An outside organization came forward with the offer to provide Bob a free ticket home. The money my daughters and others had raised to buy the ticket could go towards funding his new beginning when he got to where he was going. Bob had also chipped in by finding odd jobs and yesterday he came to me and said, "I'm ready to go home. I've saved up enough money. How soon can I go?"

"As soon as we can arrange the ticket," I told him. "But first, we need to do a background check so that I can assure the organization providing your ticket that everything's set to go."

And that's when the circumstances in his life became a problem limiting his actions.

That's when Bob had to step forward with the truth.

Why do good guys lie? Why do any of us lie?

To avoid the truth. To avoid the pain of being found out. Being thought of in ways we don't want to think about ourselves. To avoid being hurt. To avoid hurting someone. To avoid facing the consequences of our actions. To avoid turning up. Because we are afraid. Because we can...

We know lying is the wrong thing to do. We lie anyway.

We know procrastinating is the wrong thing to do. We procrastinate anyway.

We know what we need to do. We do the opposite anyway.

We know the right thing to do. We choose not to do it.

We are 100% responsible for our choices.

It was a good lesson for me. When I first met with Bob to ask him if there were reasons he couldn't go, I could have asked him to complete the background check then. But, because I had asked him the question, and he had responded with a vehement 'no, there's nothing stopping me', I had hesitated to do the right thing. I didn't want to offend him. I didn't want to undermine his sense of self-worth by asking for proof he was telling me the truth.

In the end, my hesitation cost me peace of mind and helped create angst in a situation that didn't need it.

Doing the right thing often requires doing the difficult thing. One of my patterns is to avoid confrontation. I didn't want to have a confrontation with Bob. I wanted to believe him, even when I was pretty sure he was lying. To find the truth, I went about gathering information in the hopes I'd get my answer, without ever having to confront Bob with what I believed to be the truth.

In the end, Bob revealed the truth, but I had still acted without integrity in my quest to find my answers.

Integrity is very important to me. I am 100% responsible for my actions.

And, I'm 100% responsible for how I act today. For everything I do and say. I can forgive Bob. And, I can forgive myself.

When I know better. I do better.

I know more today than I did yesterday.

Today, I am better for my knowing.

The question is: Where are you not doing what you know is the right thing to do?

*Not his real name. Some details changed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Me and Oprah

I’m mad at myself. I’m embarrassed. I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. Oprah Winfrey
Yup. That's me and Oprah. Bosom buddies on the scales of life. The only difference is, Oprah tries more diets than me. But then, I don't try any diet. I just think about them. I am the Law of Attraction in action when it comes to weighty issues. I think about weight. Weight thinks so much about me, it can't stay away!

What to do. What to do.

There is a Buddhist saying, that goes:

Thoughts become words.
Words become actions.
Actions become habits.

To change a habit, I must start with my thinking. What is it about weight that I am so attracted to? Digging deeper, what is it about my thinking that keeps me stuck on the heavy side of unhealthy?

Being over-weight is a symptom of my unhealthy thinking -- not about my weight, but rather about parts of me that need to be fed a steady diet of self-love, devoid of any trace elements of shame, anger, despair, sadness.

Being over-weight makes me feel sad. It keeps me in that place of feeling, I'm not capable of accomplishing my goals. It keeps me treading the 'I'm a victim' role, limiting my capacity to soar free.

Perhaps the extra weight is my self-sabotage tool to keep me from getting all I want in life, all I'm meant to be.

Perhaps, weight is my addiction. My repetitive behaviour that keeps me stuck in running like a hamster around the wheel of life, forever repeating the same old same old in an attempt to get nowhere other than where I am.

Weight keeps me stuck.

Beneath my thought, I can't lose weight, is another thought. I need this weight to protect me. Ahhh, now I'm getting somewhere.

What am I trying to protect myself from?

And therein lies spiritual growth without the body growing size-by-size with my food for thought!

My weight protects me from being hurt. My weight protects me from letting go of childhood issues that leech the energy from the present.

My weight is a manifestation of what ails me. I'm 30lbs overweight. How does that translate into karmic joy? How much do those pounds deny me? How much do they weigh me down by keeping me from experiencing inner joy?

So, rather than focusing on losing weight, I'm going to focus on healing wounds. On digging deep into my psyche and lovingly smoothing out the areas of distress that are disrupting my experience of joy.

In an article in the Huffington Post, Elaine Liner writes that TV and talk show host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, suggests Oprah must deal with the "chaos" before she can deal with the weight. "Pinsky, who counsels addicts of all stripes," writes Liner, "often says that sexual abuse in childhood can have longlasting repercussions...Not to play armchair shrink, but maybe Oprah's tendency to pack on pounds, even while preaching health and fitness to her audience, is her way of protecting her inner child. She builds a mighty fortress around her feelings, stuffing down the "chaos" with fine food and good wine."

Give me more armchair shrinks who can so succinctly pinpoint what ails me and keeps me growing in size. I need the tools and radical thinking that will convert the energy I put into food into spiritual growth!

In my healing journey, I have healed and grown and soothed my inner child's angst that once led me into the arms of an abuser. Today, my inner child plays in a field of wildflowers, singing songs of joy. But, when I'm acting out, she likes to throw a tantrum, stamp her feet and eat away her fear. Food is my favourite way of soothing the child within. Food is my default tool to handle angst and anxiety, 'less than' thinking and moments of discord. Food is my companion. It is my friend.

ZAP! And there's a thought that needs to be changed! If I am to change the habit of eating away what eats at me from within I need to change the thought that feeds me gobbly gook about my need to eat more than my body's need for energy. Food is not my friend. But, Food is also not the enemy. It's my stinkin' thinkin' around food that is keeping me growing. My stinkin' thinkin' is feeding me a load of crap about what it needs to sate my aching spirit's yearning to be at peace.

My stinkin' thinkin' is keeping me stuck on thinking I need to feed my inner child rib stickin', thigh building comfort foods that will push down the past beneath a load of weighty matter.

My inner child is not looking for nourishment of the tangible kind, she's looking for nourishment of the spirit kind. She's looking to be loved, and held and to feel safe within. And the only way I can do that is to be the most incredible human being I am meant to be without over-feeding myself on stinkin' thinkin'.

Like Oprah, I've been carrying embarrassment about my weight -- more specifically, about my apparent inability to drop the pounds. The pounds are not the issue. My thinking is. My thinking that leads to words that lead to actions that lead to habits that undermine me.

As Louise Hay says, "It's only a thought and a thought can be changed."

My change thought for today is: I am creating peace and harmony for my inner child.

This isn't about food or weighty matters. It's about healing and love and joy.

My joy doesn't come from filling myself with bits and bites of chocolate chip cookies and Hagen Daz ice cream. My joy lives within me. It is my being all I'm meant to be when I am at peace with all I am.

So, bye bye Oprah. I'm getting off the scales and into my running shoes. I'm hitting the gym and burning up the calories and... I'm loving my inner child enough to feed her only what nourishes her and me with love, peace and harmony.

The question is: Where's your stinkin' thinkin' holding you back from being at peace with all you are? Is your inner child stomping her feet in fear, or dancing with joy?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Whereever you go, go with all your heart. Confucious
Yesterday, I mentioned to several of my co-workers my encounter with 'Claire' on Saturday evening. They were delighted, happy, relieved to know she has surfaced and is alive and healing. Debbie, our assistant ED, asked, "Did she say what it was that made her choose to change?"

What makes any of us choose to leave behind the things that hurt us? To change the things we're doing that are causing us pain? To choose life over a living death?

When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim. And when the pain of believing we are worthless becomes too great to bear, we surrender, and fall, in Love.

Like a ping pong ball being forced down into a glass of water, pain rises, over-flowing the container, rushing over our fear, setting us free to feel our spirit calling us to awaken, to gather up our wounded heart and swim away from the place that would have us believe, 'this is all there is'.

There is so much more.

To living. Loving. Being. Experiencing.

There is life. There is Love.

When I was with Conrad, the man who promised to love me 'til death do us part and took the death part way too seriously, I believed the pain of my existence with him was all there was, all I was worth, all I deserved.

And then, the police walked in and set me free and I discovered, I was wrong. That existence was not all there was. There was a world of wonder, of joy, of beauty on the other side of my fear that 'this is all there is'.

On that day in May, 2003, I could not have known what was about to unfold. All I knew was that I had told the Universe I could not take the pain of my existence any longer. And the Universe delivered. For months at the end of that relationship, I kept repeating, "I can't take this anymore." I kept telling myself I was at the end of my rope. I let my fingers slip along the rope, but I couldn't let go. I was hanging on by a thread, I wanted to let go, but my fear of falling was greater than the pain of my existence.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."

Sometimes, all we have to hang on to is a thread. And that thread is all that holds us back from letting go.

In my mind, at the moment of that relationship, letting go meant ceasing to exist. It wasn't that I thought of 'death' as an out. It was that I simply did not want to exist. To be.

I thought if I could just let go, 'it' would all be over. The pain. The sorrow. The fear. The suffering. It would all be gone.

And then, I surrendered and let go and the Universe caught me and I fell, in Love.

And that was my awakening.

The Universe was always there, holding me up, supporting me, Loving me. It was me, causing my pain. The Universe wasn't to blame for where I was at. 'The bad man' wasn't to blame for where I was at. I was responsible for what happened to me. I was responsible for my pain. And it was me holding onto pain. It was the holding on that was the source of my pain. It was a vicious circle. I wanted to believe in the disbelief of that relationship. I wanted to believe it was all true, when it was all part of the Lie. The lie that I am not enough, never good enough, not worthy.

In surrendering, I awoke to the wonder of being enough. Just the way I am. In that very moment of awakening. Bruised and battered. Beaten down and abused. I was enough. For that moment, it was enough, that I continued to breathe. Silently. Quietly. In place. Breathe in. Breathe out. It was enough that I breathed as I began to awaken and expand into the Truth of my being. I am enough.

I am.


In being enough, it is enough that I live this one wild and precious life fearlessly in love with all I am and the world around me.

That is enough for me.

The question is: Are you enough for you? Are you holding onto the idea/notion/belief that you need to be someone other than who you are? That there is something better than being all of you? Are you willingto surrender your fear and fall into Love?