Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Make it sunny and bright

Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching? Dennis and Wendy Mannering
Springtime in this city at the foot of the Rockies is a time of black and brown and grey. This year, it includes a whole bunch of white. In a world where scientists and environmentalists worry about global warming, we're being doused with a big chill. Go figure.

Yet, colour smiles everywhere if I change my glasses and let go of grumbling about what I cannot change, and focus instead over what I have influence upon -- me!

The weather outside is yicky, and keeping the fire inside burning bright is tricky, when I lose sight of what I want, and focus instead on what I don't want -- more snow!

Can't change the weather. I can change my attitude.

Yesterday, I had to bar a client from the art studio at the shelter where I work. On the weekend, he'd participated in a verbal judo contest with another client in the art studio. Even after the other client had walked away, he had continued to curse and swear, telling anyone within twenty feet of him what was wrong with the other guy and how he was going to right the wrong with his angry outbursts. To make matters worse, a staff member was taking a tour through the studio and heard the entire altercation.

I didn't want to do it. Bar him. I had worked with this client over several months in an attempt to take his focus off, as he calls it, 'defending' the little guy. In his mind, what he's doing is standing up for 'truth and justice'. In my view, he's blaming everyone else for his actions and not being accountable for himself.

Yesterday, as we talked about what had gone wrong on Sunday he kept repeating. "But he started it. He had no right to say what he did."

"We're not talking about his actions right now,"I told him. "He came forward to the staff member immediately after the altercation and acknowledged where he was out of line. He's taken ownership of his 100% in the situation. We're here to talk about yours."

"But I didn't do anything wrong," he wailed. "I was just standing up for the other guys. He talked down about their art and was making fools of them."

"The other guys had no issue with what he said," I told him. "They took it in the manner with which it was delivered. As a joke. They chose to let it go."

"But what he said was wrong."

"That may be so, but it doesn't account for your response."

"Well what else was I supposed to do," he asked. "Nobody else would stand up for themselves. I had to do it for them."

When my daughters were young, I went to great lengths to differentiate between behaviour and person. "Your behaviour can be changed. Who you are as a human being is a miracle of life, a gift, a beautiful being. That can never change. Your behaviour is what we're talking about here. What could you have done differently?"

Sometimes, when they did something inappropriate, or threw a tantrum, one of them would cry, "But I can't help myself."

And I would respond. "If you can't help yourself, who can?"

Nobody is powerful enough to help you if you are unwilling to help yourself first.

For the client yesterday, what keeps him stuck in his place, is his belief there is no other way to bring truth and justice into the world than by screaming and yelling and fighting.

"I'm not doing this for me," he said. "I'm doing it for them."

And what is that getting you? I asked him. They're still up in the studio painting. You're here. No longer able to use the space.

He didn't have an answer other than to say, "It's always the same. Somebody else causes the problem and I get blamed. Nobody listens to me."

When he left the office I cried. One of my coworkers who had sat in on the meeting told me. "You can't help him if he doesn't want to see the truth about what he's doing. You're not that powerful."

No. I'm not.

But if wishes were horses, I'd wish for him a mighty white stallion to carry him away from the angst of believing he is powerless to change himself.

Last night, C.C. took another client, the man who went through Choices in February, to a Flames hockey game. When he got home, he was excited. "What a great guy," he said. "His excitement at being at the game was infectious. I had a wonderful evening."

Earlier in the day when he told me he was looking for someone to go to the game with him, I asked if he would consider taking T. He quickly responded. "Absolutely. That would be fun."

"I fall in love with you a little bit more every day," I told him.

T. is changing his attitude. He's claiming his power to make a difference in his life by focusing on what he wants more of, and letting go of what doesn't work.

For today, I can't choose the weather, I can choose my attitude. Make it sunny and bright. Make it a brilliant reflection of what I want more of in my life. Let me smile through adversity and skip through travails. Let me be the beacon of light only I can be when I live up to my best and shine bright! Let my attitude be contagious.

The question is: Is your attitude worth catching?

Monday, March 30, 2009

One direction. One step. One answer.

Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it. Salvador Dali
I have always thought there was a perfect way of being me. I told myself, 'the problem with me is, I'm just not doing it right. There must be an answer." And so I kept searching for the perfect answer to being me, struggled to meet the criteria of being 'the perfect me'.

It was and is, a great journey. In giving up the need to 'be perfect', I give into the truth of being me. I am perfectly human in all my imperfections. Right now. In this moment. Exactly the way I am.

Last year, while at Super Choices, Thelma Box, the founder of Choices, said to me after I had asked a question, "I experience you as a woman who will never find an answer good enough for her."

What a powerful and restorative insight.

I wanted the perfect answer as to why I was the way I was. I wanted the perfect answer to 'make it all better'.

There is no perfect answer. Just as there is no perfect path to where I want to be. There is only this moment, this path upon which I journey with grace and ease, and sometimes angst and trepidation.

Some time ago, in one of my journeys into self-discovery through therapy, I said to my psychiatrist, "Okay. I get that I'm an experiential learner, but did I have to take such a torturous path to get here? I like where I'm at, but did I have to make it so difficult?"

"There were a thousand paths you could have taken," he replied. "This just happens to be the one you took. End of subject. There is no good, bad or indifferent about your path. It is simply the path you chose to bring you to where you are today."

The path I chose.


Did I really choose an abusive relationship to get here?

Well, if I'm 100% accountable for me, myself and I, I am 100% accountable for the choices I made that brought me here.

Which brings me full-circle. I could not know what I did not know. I could not see what I did not know was there to see.

The choices I made that lead me into that relationship were based on faulty wiring, mis-information and deception. I could not know it until I opened my senses to the truth screaming at me in my face -- I didn't know such pain before that relationship with him. I had never been so desperate I wanted to die. I had never believed I was worth nothing other than the abuse he was dumping on me.

An abuser is like a poison. They fill our minds with mis-belief and we, their willing acolytes, drink of their poison, believing they hold the truth to 'perfect love'.

There is nothing perfectly loving about abuse.

But, we buy into the mis-information, and keep searching for the return of their perfect love -- which was the decpetion in the first place. In denial that what they are doing is hurting us, we begin to believe it is our fault the perfect love of that first encounter is possible to reclaim, if only...

If only we weren't so short, so fat, so thin, so stupid, so naive, so smart, so talkative, so inquisitive, so....

If only we weren't who we are. If only we could be the perfect someone they are looking for, that someone they told us we were when the rosy dawn of happily ever after first appeared upon the horizon of their promise to love us forever and a day.

And so, in our fear that we will never be the perfect someone they are seeking, we fear being perfectly us. We buy into the myth that if we could be the perfect love they seek, our love, our lives, our selves would be the perfection of happily-ever-after in their arms.

Ain't no such thing as perfect love.

Love is.

It is our interpretation of the human condition of love that trips us up. There is only our imperfect interpretation of what we think it is.

And when we're with someone who lives and deceives and abuses, chasing after perfect love becomes perfectly abominable -- and we lose the game as we become a reflection of what we seek.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once quipped, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."

I was once afraid of losing what I perceived to be, a perfect love.

In giving up my fear of losing it, I have gained a universe of love unending. I have opened myself up to the greatest truth of loving myself for all I'm worth.

In love, I am exactly where I am meant to be in this moment. Everything I have done has brought me here. It is my choice what I do next. There is no perfect step. No perfect answer. No perfect direction.

There are only the choices I make, the steps I take, the direction I choose to go. In my stepping fearlessly into the void of not knowing the perfect answer I surrender and fall in love. Over and over again.

In love, there is only one direction, one step, one answer. To continue to fall in love with all of me and the world around me, moment by moment, step by step.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of seeking the perfect moment, the perfect answer and fall in love with yourself, over and over again?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Turning up for me.

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met. Dwight Lyman Moody
Snow covers the ground in a blanket of wintry white, and I wonder and I wonder, oh where oh where has spring time gone? Perhaps we should start calling it, Sprinter, or maybe Wring.

Weather aside, the temperature inside is cozy. I sit at my desk and survey the wonderland outside. Snow sugars the branches of the pine tree. The hedge is coated white, birds twitter from branch to branch.

Yesterday morning, I gave The Passion Test to clients, staff and friends at the shelter where I work.

Once again, I am in awe of the human spirit to compel each of us to claim our light and shine bright!

As we worked through the test, a lively conversation took place around 'self-sabotage'. One of the participants, a friend and fellow coach from Choices, said, "I'm always sabotaging myself. What's with that?" she asked.

A client piped up. "Me too. I don't like it."

"Then stop doing it," I replied.

"But why do I do it?" they both chimed in. Heads around the table nodded. "Yeah, why do we do it?" someone else asked.

"Why is the sky blue?" "Why do birds fly?" "Why does water flow?" I asked.

Why is the question that keeps us stuck in inaction. Why let's us off the hook of doing.

Action engages attention. What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life.

When I ask myself questions that keep my mind spinning in circles, my attention is on spinning the answers to fit the question. Because I'm stuck in my mind, circling the wagons around what I know, often avoiding 'truth' riding in with a whoop of freedom, I keep coming up with the same old answer, "I don't know". In I don't know land, I find myself repeating myself again and again, mirroring my words with actions of ineffectiveness.

When I let go of the 'why' and focus on 'what'. What do I want. What kind of person do I want to be. What's the right thing to do, my mind quits spinning incessantly as I engage in doing the right thing to create more of what I want in life.

One of the trainees yesterday, a talented artist and musician, spoke about having been named in some pretty famous company as an artist many years ago.

"And then I got scared," he said.

"Scared of what?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "Maybe success."

"What if what you were really scared of was turning up. For yourself. For your talent. Your art. For those who admired you. Counted on you. Looked up to you. What if turning up was not your habit and so, you turned down, once again, the opportunity to shine."

He scrunched up his face. "I gotta quit doing that don't I?"

"Yup. And only you can stop it. At this moment in time, the why is irrelevant. Just stop it. Choose differently. Choose in favour of your passions. Choose in favour of 'life'."

What I find most inspiring about the class is I learn so much. I see myself in other people's stories. I see myself reflected in their angst, their fears, their dismay.

And I get to let it go and turn up for me.

I get to stake my claim on greatness. Stake my right to live this one wild and passionate life fearlessly in love with me. All of me.

In listening to their stories, I learn and I get to grow.

For today, in whatever you do, choose in favour of having more of what you want in life. If your mind is telling you, oh don't bother to clean out that cupboard. Or don't meditate. Don't bother to make that phone call, or write that letter, or apologize for something stupid you did last night. Stop listening!

Start tuning into what's good for you. Start firing up your imagination and letting loose your greatness.

Only you can stop beating yourself up for past events. Only you can stop circling your mind, looking for different answers in your head.

Life is happening outside your mind. It's out here in the universe of possibilities. Get moving. Get cracking. And, get living it up!

For today, in whatever you do, turn up for the best of you!

The question is: Are you willing to let go of the 'why' and tune into the 'what'? Are you willing to do what's best for you today?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Doing nothing. Being everthing

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. Zen Proverb
I didn't get to write here this morning. I was teaching, The Passion Test, at the shelter where I work and was out of the house early to get set up. When I came home, my daughter, Liseanne was working in my office, working with her study group on a project they have due Monday.

I took a nap.

Nurturing the spirit requires time out from doing. When I experience being, without any need to do, I nurture myself and create harmony in my inner being. When I return to doing, I am empowered from calmness and peace within.

I wish for you a day of doing nothing but taking care of everything within so that you can be without stress and anxiety.

Live quietly in the moment of being at peace with everything within and around you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Soothing Voice of Love.

There is always a choice to be made: We can listen to the voice of love or the voice of the ego. Gerald Jampolsky, MD

As part of, This is My City, a project run by the city of Calgary, the shelter where I work opened its doors last December to provide a space for a group of actors to write/rehearse a play on homelessness. The objective was to give them an in situ experience upon which to build a play that would increase awareness on the human condition while experiencing homelessness. Masks played a vital role in the production and they brought in a mask maker to teach them, as well as clients, how to make a mask.

Yesterday, I received the link to a short documentary on one of our mask-making clients. You can watch it here: The Invisible Project.

After I saw it, I went in search of Tom, the man being interviewed. He dropped out of the art program around Christmas time because he felt the other artists were not respecting his work. Yesterday, he sat in my office and watched it, his eyes filled with tears. I could see the pride settling upon his body. He knew he did a good job. He knew he spoke well.

I told him we'd love to see him back in the art studio and he hesitated.

"I don't know," he said. "I miss it but nobody wants me there."

"Is that true?" I asked him.

"Well, they didn't welcome me back very much last time I went in," he replied.

"What if it isn't about their welcome versus your desire to be someplace you enjoy?"

"Do you think they'd let me come back?" he asked.

"It isn't about them letting you back. It's about whether or not you want to come back and participate."

He paused awhile, picked at a thread on the sleeve of his sweater. "I don't know. I don't think they like me."

Ah, the fragile ego of the artist.

It is a recurring theme I witness all over the shelter -- and in my life. We encounter discord and take it to heart. Except, it isn't really our 'heart' that responds or holds onto the discord, it's our ego.

In my life, there are countless times when my ego counselled my heart to harden up, to take offence, to tuck itself back into its shell and be on guard. In the past, those times were much more frequent than the times my heart has lovingly counselled my mind to be still, to breathe, to open up and step to the other side of anger/discord/ disagreement. To not take ownership of someone else's words, actions or feelings. In those times, my ego counselled me to hold onto what someone else had said or done as 'truth'. To bite into it and keep chewing on it as if, the more I chewed the more it would make sense to me, or give me meaning.

As I have moved beyond my limiting belief that other people determine my worth or value or even what happens in my life, I have opened my heart up to possibility. To love. To my 'Self', that Divine essence within and all around me that yearns for harmony and has the power to create it.

In my opening, I create more of what I want in my life. Peace. Love. Harmony. Abundance. Respect. Integrity. Trust.

In my opening, my heart centers my ego in love, balancing every choice with the truth: I am 100% accountable for everything that is happening in my life. I allow everything that is happening in my life to lift me up or pull me down. It is my choice.

The question is: Are your choices lifting you up today? Are you soothing your ego with the voice of love?

PS: The space you see the mask making taking place in, is the Wild Rose Studio at the shelter.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A flip of the coin.

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
This morning, I had to be on-air with a radio station at a home of a family who were entered to win a contest. If they guessed the coin toss right, they won $3,000. If they lost, we cleared all the food out of their kitchen cupboards and donated it to the shelter where I work.

The woman guessed tails. The announcer flipped the coin and heads appeared on the toss.

The little five year old daughter stood in the kitchen and cried, "Are they going to take my Froot Loops?"

I reassured her, "No. We don't want anything that's open."

The morning started with a problem -- how to honour the spirit of the contest, yet not leave this family with the challenge of re-stocking their cupboards.
In the end, it was a win/win for everyone. While the family didn't win $3,000 they did receive a substantial amount of gift certificates to a grocery store, as did the shelter. We judiciously culled dry goods from her cupboards and added a few items to the hamper she'd already put together as a donation. She ended up with a clean fridge and freezer and re-organized kitchen cupboards -- not bad for a situation where she could have ended up with empty shelves and pockets.

Last night, I had to meet with our musicians group here at the shelter to talk about some of the personality conflicts that are causing stress. Personality, ego, hurt feelings, conflict have interrupted the harmony of what can be when the focus is on 'what' we're doing versus, 'how' we're doing it.

As we went around the table with each musician telling each of the other five individuals at the table, "What I appreciate about you.." I was struck by the power of intention to create more of what we want in our lives when we quit focussing on how little we have in our lives.

For the musicians, their focus has been on all that is wrong amongst them. By shifting the question to "What's working", "What's right", or "What I appreciate", the perceived problems diminished beneath the harmony created in voices rising up to talk about possibilities and change and gratitude.

Problems are opportunities to move forward, to get going, to get up and step out of where I'm at. To look for ideas beyond my limited beliefs of what's wrong as I work on what can I do to create space for all that is right, all that can be.

Last night, six individuals let go of a problem and grasped the notion of creating possibility.

This morning, a family lost a coin flip and we flipped the loss into a win for everyone.

If you've got a problem you're facing, don't use the same thinking that drove you into the corner with the idea it will get you out of where you're at.

Open your mind, open your heart and drive your thinking about the problem to the other side of possibility. Let your dreams open you up to doing it different, being different. Let gratitude expand in your heart so that you can appreciate the problem as the opportunity to create new thoughts, new ideas, new happenings in your life.

The question is: Are you closing down possibility with limited beliefs about what is possible in your life? Or, are you opening up to new opportunity by limiting your belief in what you can't do and opening up to all you can achieve when you turn a problem on it's head and look at it from the flip side?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leaning into love.

Having a problem simply means you can’t see the solution. But someone else can often see the solution clearly. Rob McPhillips
Yesterday my daughters and I had coffee with a friend who went through Choices a couple of months ago. He's a big, burly guy. Big hearted. Big mind. Big possibilities.

We chatted and laughed and told stories on ourselves and at one point, he asked, "How do I let go of that stuff from when I was a kid? From all those hurts?" He held one of his hands in front of him, giant palm facing up. "I know I dropped lots of it at Choices, but how do I keep dropping it when it keeps popping up in my mind" he asked, shaking his hand like a dog drying itself off.

Liseanne, my youngest daughter, is 21. She's vibrant and caring and very wise. She leaned towards him from where she sat across the table. "Don't think about forgetting the stuff," she said. "Just say, 'I forgive them'. Again and again and again. Whenever you think of something painful, immediately replace the thought with the idea, I forgive them."

T. sat back in his chair and stared at her. "What if I'm not ready to forgive them?" he asked.

"What if you quit thinking about being ready, and think about what you want more of in your life?" I asked.

Alexis, whose heart overflows in a continuous river of love, chimed in from where she sat at the table across from me. "I too have a hard time forgiving. I get a hard shell around my heart sometimes because I want to protect it. So, rather than thinking of forgiveness, I start with thinking about as my mom calls it, 'softening my heart'. Whenever I feel that fissure of anger erupt about someone else, I take a breath and fall into my softening heart."

When we'd first met for coffee, T. was anxious and upset. He lives in an environment that is not very supportive of the changes he's experienced since going through Choices. Due to his current circumstances, however, he needs to remain where he's at for a bit longer. He talked about how angry and anxious he is about being there. "There's no way I can 'fix' the problem of the people around me," he said.

Before we left him at the coffee shop last night, his mood had lifted. "I know what I'll do tonight," he said and listed off three things he could do to keep himself feeling positive and strong. "It's not about them," he said. "It's about me. The choices I make and where I focus my attention."

Stuck in the darkness of the problem, T. couldn't see his way clear to his power. Feeding off the energy of three people who love him, T. turned his focus away from what felt impossible, to the possibilities we could see in falling in love with himself all over again.

It wasn't that we had the answers for him. We simply stood by him as he leaned into our love. In feeling our support, he caught his breath and found the space to refocus his thinking from the darkness to the light. In feeling our love, in breathing deeply into his own power, hope had room to leap in and lend a hand.

Through seeing the 'problem' as not being the other people, but rather where he was placing his attention, T. came up with his own solution to stop giving into what was causing him pain. By sharing his fears, he surrendered and fell in love. With courage in hand, he fell into that mystical place where all things are possible, as long as we don't give up on loving ourselves for all we're worth.

It was a powerful lesson in what happens when we quit getting in our own way and simply let people love us where ever we're at. As they hold a place for us to find ourselves again, we connect with our courage, breathe deeply and move away from fear into the love of being where we want to be.

The question is: Are you closing yourself off from love or leaning into the support of those who love you? Are you shutting yourself off in fearing the problem, or opening yourself up to the help others have to offer in helping you find a solution?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Living up to my values

Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin. There's nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task. William James
When I was a little girl, my father used to make promises with the best intention of keeping them. Life, circumstances, often his anger, would intervene and the promises would be broken.

As an adult, I know he didn't intend for those broken promises to haunt me. I know he was doing the best he could with what he knew. But those broken promises set up a pattern of inner dialogue that interfered with my keeping my promises to myself. You know, those promises about what I'll DO. BE. HAVE in my life when I keep my promises to be the best that I can be in this moment of freedom.

When I took The Passion Test, I realized I have a couple of things in my life about which I'm passionate, but not putting any attention on. One of the big ones is writing. I have another book I started, but I'm not giving it the attention it deserves. What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life. If I'm not putting my attention on writing -- where is it going?

Well.... I have a list of items that distract me. Like pouring water through a sieve, spending time on them does not get me more of what I want in my life. They leech my time away. Things like, watching TV. Playing solitaire on the computer. Flipping through magazines.

Time is energy and I'm putting my energy on things that do not create beauty, value nor happiness in my life.

Beyond passions, however, I have promises I've made to myself and to others.

One of those is completing my daughter, Liseanne's, 21st birthday book. I have all the letters compiled, the pictures chosen, but I haven't put them into her book. And I promised I would.

Keeping promises, especially to our children, is vital their happiness and our well-being.

Keeping my promises makes me a woman of integrity. Not keeping my promises, undermines my values, including my integrity.

I am a Wonderful Woman of Worth -- a real WWOW!

Living up to my promises keeps me living up to my beliefs, my values, my principles.

Time to quit procrastinating and get doing!

I deserve the best that I can be. The world needs me to be my best.

The question is: Are you giving the world the best of you? Are you living up to your promises and keeping yourself stepping in the light of your values?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Starry, starry night. (a story)

Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed he could touch the stars. If only...

Every night he would climb out his bedroom window and crawl up onto the roof of his house. While the world slept below him, he would lie on his back and gaze up into the night time sky, memorizing the positions of all the stars, dreaming of one day flying to the moon, of soaring amongst the celestial beauty above.

One night, his mother came to his room and found him missing from his bed. Not realizing he was on the roof, she became frantic. She woke up his father, crying fearfully. They called the police. They called their neighbours. A search party was organized.

Meanwhile, the little boy lay on the roof, lost in wonder of the stars above. He didn't hear their frantic calls. Didn't know that they were searching for him. He knew only that he was safe amongst the wonder of the nighttime sky, dreaming of one day exploring the universe above him, of building a space ship and flying beyond his wildest imaginings of life here on earth.

As he always did after an hour of star-gazing, the little boy climbed quietly back down from the roof into his bedroom. But this night, he found his mother sitting on his bed, clutching his teddy bear. Tears streamed down her face. Her body shook with sobs.

The little boy saw his mother and did not understand why she was crying. He ran to her, touched her arm and asked, "Mummy, what's wrong?"

The mother, stunned to hear her son's voice, opened her eyes and saw him standing before her. Relief washed over her. He was safe. She grabbed him and clung to him tightly. As she held him in her arms, she called out to her husband who was downstairs talking to the police, organizing a search party, "He's here. He's here."

Everyone raced up the stairs. The little boy heard the pounding of their footsteps, felt the tremor of the floor as they raced into the room.

His father burst through the door, strode over to him and angrily demanded, "Where were you? Don't you know you frightened your mother to death?"

The little boy was confused. Who were all these people? Why were the police there? Why were they all standing in front of him, arms crossed against their chests?

In a tiny voice he replied, "I was on the roof." He hesitated and then whispered tentatively. "Counting stars."

His father was angry. "You're a bad boy," he yelled. "How dare you cause such terror in our hearts. You will never go on the roof again."

The little boy stood his ground. "I'm going to be an astronaut. I'm going to fly amongst the stars."

The father shouted back. "Quit your foolish dreaming. You can't eat stardust. You will be a coal miner, just like me. Just like my father before me."

And so, a dream was lost. The father put bars on the boy's window. The boy put his dream of one day being an astronaut away.

Years passed. The little boy became a man. He worked in the coalmine. Just like his father. He had a wife. A little cottage and a family of his own. A son and a daughter.

Like his father, he was stern. Distant. Uncompromisable. Like his father, he loved his wife and children but never told them. When asked if he had dreams, he would reply, "Dreaming doesn't put food on the table. Dreams are as impossible as flying amongst the stars. It will never happen."

They were happy, in a strict kind of way. There was food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. No one spoke of love. No one spoke of the stars above.

One night, the father walked past his son's room on his way to bed. Out of the corner of his eye, through the open door, he saw the tiny figure of his son slipping out the bedroom window. Fearful that his son might be hurt, he raced across the room, and grabbed his son just as he was about to slip over the sill and onto the roof.

"What are you doing?" he bellowed as he pulled his son back into the safety of the room.

The little boy, not used to being held in his father's arms, burrowed into his chest, snuggled his head against his shoulder and whispered, "Counting stars."

The father stood still. He felt his son's heart beating against his chest. Felt the softness of his arms around his neck. With his son in his arms, he looked out the bedroom window to the darkness of night. Stars glittered in the sky above. The world slept below.

"Counting stars." he whispered. And then he repeated it. "Counting stars."

The little boy nodded his head. "I do it every night," he said proudly. "One day I'm going to be an astronaut. I'm going to build a spaceship and fly to the moon!"

"No you're not," the father began and stopped. As he reached out to close the window, he caught a glimpse of himself holding his son in the reflection of the glass. His eyes misted up at the sight of the tiny figure held in his massive arms.

His son, squirmed in his arms and leaned his body towards the window. "Look dad!" he exclaimed. "A comet."

The father turned his head and looked up into the stars above as a streak of light soared across the inky black sky. He closed his eyes and took a breath. When he opened them, he looked down into his son's eyes and saw the starry wonder of his dream reflected back at him.

His heart softened. He smiled. And pushed the window open. "I don't want you to get hurt son. It's okay to go on the roof at night as long as you promise to take me with you."

The boy's blue eyes opened wide. "Really?" he asked in a tiny whisper. "You'll go with me?"

Holding his son safely in his arms, the father stepped through the window onto the roof. "When I was a little boy, I used to climb out my bedroom window so I could count stars," he said. He looked up into the night sky. "I forgot how many stars there are," he whispered his son clutched tightly in his arms. "Can you tell me how many you've counted?"

The boy pointed up and started to count. "Two thousand and twenty-three. Two thousand and twenty-four. Two...." and his father's voice joined in. "thousand and twenty-five..."

Together, father and son lay on their backs on the roof gazing up at the blanket of night spread out before them.

And the stars shone brighter than they had ever shone before.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greatness rising

Stop asking what's wrong with you. What if what's wrong with you is actually what's right with you? Laura Naughton
Every night before I go to sleep I write a list of at least five things for which I am grateful. One item, which I write every night but doesn't count as one of my 'five' is: I am grateful for being me.

I wouldn't want to be anyone else.

Not because someone else is wrong. Nope. I wouldn't want to be someone else because being me is the best place for me to learn how to be more of me.

I've come a long way.

There have been times in my life when I have wanted to be someone else. Or at least, to have traits and characteristics of someone else. Perhaps someone taller. Someone with a size six shoe, or someone with a sweeter voice, a more eloquent pen, or simply someone who is more self-assured.

What's wrong with me is what is right with me.

Wrong and right are simply judgement words. Remove the judgement and I'm ok, just the way I am.

I love to dance. Now, I don't dance like Dame Margot Fonteyn or Martha Graham. I will probably never be on a world-class stage, applauded by millions. But I still love to dance. And I can still dance out-loud, with full body motion, just for the love of it.

I love to ask questions. There are those who will tell you -- I ask too many questions. Does that make me wrong? Nope. It's just part of me. My questions are how I learn about other people. How I learn about me and the world around me. As long as I am asking from a loving heart, my questions will not cause pain or harm. As long as I am asking to understand, not to judge, my integrity remains in tact, and I am in balance.

It all depends on my state of being.

When I am insecure, what I do, who I am being reflects my inner being. My lack of accepting myself exactly the way I am and not loving myself for all I'm worth, will create friction in the world around me.

When I am In Love. Standing firmly in the glow of wonder that emanates from my inner knowing of loving myself exactly the way I am, I create a world of wonder. When I am In Love, love is what I reflect to the world. In Love, right and wrong take a back seat to authenticity and congruity. In love, love is all there is. In love, all things are possible, including loving myself exactly the way I am.

Doesn't mean I don't have traits that don't work for me anymore. I still do. In love, those traits take are overshadowed by what does work for me. What I put my attention on grows stronger in m life.

When I focus on acting with integrity in all things, integrity becomes what I focus on. Answering the question, what's the right thing to do in a given situation, becomes easy. The right thing is what will fill me with the sense of being a woman of integrity. As I strengthen my memory muscle, being a woman of integrity becomes my second nature.

When I focus on asking, what's wrong with me, I put my attention on what I don't want in my life. And what I don't want steals the show as I become tangled up in the curtains of self-doubt, self-denigration and confusion.

I don't want to be confused. I want to be a woman of worth.

So much more powerful to focus on what I want, on what is right with me rather than what is wrong.

The power is in where I put my attention.

So, here's a challenge for you today.

Divide a sheet of paper with a line down the middle. On the left side of the page, Write: I am... Underneath, quickly write a list of five things you consider 'wrong' with you today.

Take a deep breath.

On the right side of the page, Write, I am.... and underneath, write a list of who you are when you aren't considering yourself to be the five things on the other side of the page. For example, if you wrote: I am... slow to learn new ideas, on the left side of the page, on the right side, your answer could be: I am... persistent. When learning new ideas I never give up.

For every negative, write the positive.

Once you've made your list, focus on the right side of the page for the rest of your day. Whenever one of the 'negative' thoughts comes slithering in, banish it with a laugh and a shake of your head and read out loud the positive. If you're feeling particularly brave, give your whole body a shake so that you can 'shake the sillies out'.

Focusing on the negative doesn't serve any purpose other than to make us feel 'bad' about ourselves. And feeling bad will not get anyone more of what they want in life.

Go ahead, give it a try. And if your first thought is, "I don't do this kind of thing", or "I don't have time", write at the top of your list on the left side, I make excuses for myself (or whatever fits you). And on the right side, write: I am courageous. I am willing to excuse myself for being hesitant by letting go of my fear and giving myself the chance to try something new (or whatever fits you).

Negative or positive -- they are both judgements. Getting out of the way of our own judgements makes room for us to be all we're meant to be, without fear that who we are is less than who we could be if only....

If only, the sky were green and birds couldn't fly.

If only, water didn't flow and the earth were square.

If only...

Nothing wrong with who we are. It's our thinking that gets in the way of our greatness.

Do a great thing today. Give yourself the chance to take a look at your thinking without judging who you are.

The question is: Are you willing to give yourself a chance to feel your greatness rising from the inside out?

PS. Thanks CW for the quote. Love it! You add sunshine to my day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Which is most important?

Just because you make a mistake doesn't mean you are a mistake. Georgette Mosbacher
A friend and I were talking the other day about 'mistakes' we've made and their impact on our lives. One of the first times I met her, she had approached me and stated that she couldn't understand how I had done what I had done when I deserted my daughters and fled with the man who was abusing me.

"I have the same thought sometimes too," I laughingly told her. "I look at that woman who was me and wonder, What on earth was she smoking?"

Truth is, I did what I did. That woman was me. I can't change what she did. I can love her for all I'm worth today and hold her tenderly in my mind. She was abused. She was in pain. She was very very emotionally ill.

My friend wondered how my daughters and I put it into perspective with who we are today. How did we heal?

"None of our healing could begin until I acknowledged what I'd done." I told her. Until I was willing to face the truth, and love myself for who I was in that moment, healing could not happen. At least not healing that was based on truth and honesty, dignity and grace.

At this time, six years ago, I was living a life of pain and angst. Every moment filled with the dread of knowing my life was a lie and I was subjugating myself to the man who had created the biggest lie of all, I was only worthy of his love.

Six years ago, my daughters didn't know if I was alive or dead. They didn't know where I was. They waited every day for the police to come and tell them my body had been found.

And then, a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and I was set free. I had my life back. I had the opportunity to heal.

To heal, I had to face the truth. I had done many, many things to hurt the people I love most in my life.

I wanted/needed their forgiveness.

I had to forgive myself first.

To forgive myself I had to acknowledge what I'd done -- no but's about it. I couldn't say, I forgive myself for X but Y was not my fault. Forgiveness isn't about 'fault'. Forgiveness is about acknowledging the wrong and being 100% accountable for my role in it -- without the 'but it wasn't my fault' addendum.

Six years ago I deserted my daughters. Six years ago, I returned.

Which is most important?

For me, being here. Living my life with grace and dignity, moving through each moment with ease, filling my life with beauty, truth, honesty, trust and integrity is way more important than the mistakes I made that took me so far from my path.

In healing, walking this path joyfully in love with all of me, the woman who made the mistakes, and the woman who has the courage to stand up and be counted for all she's worth today, is what makes the difference in my life. It is what creates the joy in my life today.

If I were to hide from the truth of what I did, I would be denying myself, and my daughters, and those I love the gift of healing, the grace of forgiveness and the joy of love.

The question is: Are you focusing on the mistakes, trying to avoid being accountable for your role in what has happened in your life? Or, are you opening up to the truth of what you've done, or said, or been that hurt you and the one's you love? Are you joyfully loving yourself enough to give yourself the grace of forgiveness?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The universe is. I am

Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him. Napoleon Bonaparte
I have spent a lifetime attempting to pummel my world into shape. To beat into submission errant thoughts that would keep me from attaining everything I wanted in life.

And in my brute force attack of having the life I wanted, I lost the very thing I was searching for. Inner peace.

The universe doesn't care. It is.

The universe is everything and all. It resonates at the highest frequency, eternal. Ever-lasting.

It's me, the mortal, emanator of the negative vibration, spelling out the myths of my lack on this material plane, that holds me back from bliss, that keeps me falling into dismay, that keeps me stepping out into discord.

The universe doesn't care. It just is.

And in its 'just thereness' the universe waits for no man, but is there for all to attain the harmonic vibration that puts us on a different plane, that puts us in sync with the universe -- we only have to care enough to not care about what's going on on this earthly plane, to get there.

So often, we step through life bemoaning its unfairness, deriding its inability to 'get in line', to turn up for us in a way other than the way it's turning up.

Reality is, the universe doesn't care how we turn up. It is always filled with all we want, all we need, all we desire -- it's waiting (or not) for us to awaken to the truth of our divinity. The universe is always going on about its business. It doesn't care if we awaken to its beauty, or not, it simply is being the Divine essence of all things beautiful filled with limitless possibility of life eternal, life divinely beyond the earthly realm of our imaginings.

When I let go of caring about what other's think, about the unfairness of the world, about the trials and tribulations of my daily existence, and tune into the divine essence of my being, I align myself with the wonders of the world around me. In my alignment, life takes on a rosy hue never before realized by me.

It isn't about material possessions or having the biggest title ever imagined. It is about inner peace that sees the beauty in this moment, living it up for all I'm worth without measuring what's missing against the scale of all that I've achieved, or not.

The universe doesn't care if I am Chief Pooh-bah of all things important, or Grunt Underdog of all things irrelevant. The universe is -- it's up to me to care enough about me to let go of striving to have it all 'out there' when all I ever need is here, inside of me, awaiting to awaken to the brilliance of my being at peace with who I am. In my acceptance of who I am is the gift of love for all of me in this moment. In love, I awaken to the power to create the world of my dreams.

The universe is. My awakening to its magnificence is up to me.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of what you think, or what other's think of you, to be all you are in this moment of your existence? Can you let go of measuring your world against all that is wrong, or all that you lack to fall in love with your life today exactly the way it is?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No quick fix.

"We are all connected."
I had an early morning appearance on a local TV station -- for which I was late. The producers and staff were gracious and kind. No problem, they said. We can make it work.

And they did.

While waiting I chatted with a local 'personality'. A pediatrician who regularly appears on their breakfast show. We talked about change and life and growth and money and problems and how money can't fix all problems. "Look at Obama," he said. "He knows there's no quick fix. But do people really hear him?"

No quick fix.

In this city, nestled at the foot of the Rockies, the Provincial Government has just promised $3.3 billion dollars to 'fix' the problem of homelessness, once and for all. Their ten year plan to end homelessness dovetails with the countless plans across North America focused on ending what is a deeply seated social ill.

The promise of ending it presents a misconception. We want to believe it can happen. We want to believe it will. We want to believe it's possible.

It is -- but only if we also end, addictions, family abuse, violence, and a host of economic contributors such as displacement of the poor through gentrification of neighbourhoods and the tearing down of existing housing stock.

Sure, we can build affordable housing -- but do we change the social mores that dictate it's acceptable to tear down existing stock without any accountability, without any resulting change to our desire to build bigger and better. How do we change the belief that 'progress' is measured in glass buildings soaring to the sky without any consideration for the impact of our desire to 'grow-up' upon those who have no where else to go on the ground below?

As the doctor and I talked, we agreed -- something's gotta change -- and it's not all about money.

As a society -- our accountability is in how we treat all mankind. We are all connected.

Money only goes so far. How do we change our social conscience? How do we honour our connection without dishonouring ourselves?

These are free flow thoughts -- any commentary is most welcome!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A pain in the back.

Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention. Jim Rohn
I had a list of things I wanted to get done around the house yesterday. I didn't get any of them completed. I awoke with a twinge in my back that erupted into a stabbing pain the moment I coughed. Bed beckoned and I retreated from the day.

Which was not all bad. Between a pill to ease the pain and copious amounts of tea, I spent my day napping and reading, napping and reading. Not particularly productive -- but back pain is like that. It demands my full attention -- not because I want to. Every move must be calculated with care and attention. Every move must be deliberate. To not put my attention on how I move my back will result in serious pain -- and I don't like pain!

Lying in bed has the potential to be filled with conflict. The list of Things to Do awaits. It's not getting done. One side of my mind scurries around whispering incentives to get going, get up, get moving. The other side hammers the whisperer into silence with entreaties to 'Relax. It's okay. You'll get it done later."

In my mind, chores had better get done while I think of them because -- well, they tend to be last on my list. When they make it to the top, I'd best respond without hesitation because later is always too late in my mind. If I don't get it done now, the momentum will be lost, the mission aborted, the goal forgotten.

My chores didn't get done yesterday. Not much got done actually other than my resting for a day in bed.

Not all bad. I gave myself the gift of my attention yesterday. My back still hurts. I'm still moving slowly -- but it didn't get worse! And now, I'm off to the chiropractor for some relief. As I told my friend C who seriously hurt her back in a car accident a few weeks ago, "It's sympathy pain for you my friend! I just wanted to let you know I understand what you're going through."

The question is: Can you give yourself your full attention, in sickness and in health? Can you hear your bodies need for tender loving care, even when you don't feel like giving it to yourself?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Building Bridges

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. Indira Gandhi
Communication is a powerful bridge that connects us to the people with whom we are building relationship. The bridge will only be as strong as our willingness and capacity to stand with soft hearts and open minds in the presence of another.

There are so many instances in my life where I can see how my impoverished communication skills built weak links with someone else. Where my inability to understand another's needs, wants, desires, weakened the sturdiness of the bridge between us.

I'm learning! It's the greatest part of being human. Our ability to learn and grow and adapt and incorporate new information, insight, learning.

Ain't it grand to be us!

The other day, one of the gentlemen who comes to a course I teach at the shelter where I work, came into my office and said, "You know that stuff you're always talking about our childhoods and how until we're conscious of how we repeat childhood behaviours in our adult lives we'll keep doing it?"

"Yes?" I said.

"Well, it's so true." He stood in the doorway, his mouth set in a straight line, his head bobbing up and down.

I invited him to come in and sit down. "How's it true for you?" I asked.

"Oh. In so many ways." He pulled a small piece of white paper from his back pocket. "See this?" He didn't wait for me to answer. "This is my card from that Passion Test thing we took with you. My top passion is my daughter and granddaughter. Being a good dad and granddad. If I'm keeping myself stuck here it's because I'm still doing stuff that keeps me here. And that's all stuff that's not good for me. It's stuff from the past. I gotta unlearn the past."

"That's pretty insightful," I replied. "Tell me more."

"Well, I figure my bad behaviour is attached to that little boy who used to get beat up by his dad. If I can quit beating up that little boy, I'll be on the road to getting out of here," he paused. Smiled. "And staying out of here."

I love watching miracles unfold before my eyes.

What a wonderful gift to hear this man's truth spoken with such clarity and passion. What a gift to be a witness to his awakening.

To be honoured with someone's truth, to witness their heart's opening, their willingness to be vulnerable is a sacred trust. To honour that trust, is the journey of my lifetime.

The question is: Can you stop for a moment, take a breath and ask, What kind of bridge am I building? Do I honour truth by building upon a foundation of sacred trust?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Angels leave no footprints

Deep heart listening and speaking your truth generates an exhilarating "heart talk" frequency. "Heart talk" is care in action and builds friendship. As you learn to see everyone as your friend, and not as an enemy, you release judgments. Just keep your heart open to them as you speak your truth. Sara Paddison, Hidden Power of the Heart
I had a late lunch yesterday with a wonderful friend who challenged me with another question -- I love questions! They give me an opportunity to search the world of thoughts and enrich my knowing with deeper thinking.

Let's play a game, she said. What are two things about me that are positives but perhaps you think I don't know, and what's one thing you see as a negative?

We played the game with each other's characteristics, and then switched it to ourselves -- so that we were 'telling on ourselves'.

What became quickly apparent was the fact that no matter how well I know myself -- I can still learn and grow when I listen with a loving heart and open mind.

I have a tendency to disconnect. To be present in a conversation and then, with little warning, to tune out. I've become much more adept at tempering that trait -- it's not particularly appealing, attractive nor acceptable to me. When I am engaged in conversation, I want to be present. I want to focus on the person with whom I'm speaking. I do not want them to feel like I have 'checked out', am not interested, or simply not listening. I want to be involved.

The challenge is, when I'm listening, my thinking will become engaged in the process before someone is finished talking -- and thus I disengage from active listening to fall into the trap of thinking about what they're saying, sometimes even before they've finished saying it.

Hearing my friend identify this trait was very helpful for me. My daughters often comment that I am 'not listening'. C.C. has mentioned the same thing too.

It's time for me to listen up!

It isn't that this trait makes me a 'bad person'. It simply means, I've got room to grow. And I like growth, particularly inner growth. (And not just because it's not apparent on my hips!) Inner growth enriches me. Deepens my understanding of who I am and how lightly, or heavily, I am treading in the world.

An angel leaves no footprints.

To tread a meaningful life, means to leave heartbeats not footprints, in the lives of those I encounter.

Not listening attentively, leaves footprints of disregard on other people's hearts.

My desire is to touch hearts with gentle words and kind regard.

Paying attention to what others say, listening with an open mind and soft heart means tuning my thinking into their words and feeling my way into their heart, keeping my mind quiet in silent homage to the gift of their sharing their truth.

I have to thank my friend yesterday. She gave me a welcome reminder to stop and breathe and reconnect with what is important to me.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

To touch hearts and open minds, I must first open my ears and listen to the beating of their hearts.

Within each heart beats the secret of our desires. When I sit in silent surrender to hearing the beat beneath the story someone is sharing with me, I am honoured with the whisper of their beauty flowing through their words, their tears, their joy, their fears. When I listen in stillness I am open to the flowing of their heart's desire to be heard.

Thanks C! The gift of you in my life awakens me to the wonder of living in this moment for all I'm worth, embracing with love and compassion the human imperfection of my journey.

The question is: Can you stop your mind for a moment and hear someone else's heart beat over the roar of your own thinking?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Good question!

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. Mark Twain
CS posed an interesting question on my blog, The Formula for Life. What makes it so difficult for people (us, I, all) to see what they truly are? Specifically the characters other people see so easily?

My first response was, hmmmm, good question. And then my inquiring mind jumped to, Is it true? Do people (us, I, all) really have difficulty seeing who we truly are? Do others see us as someone other than who we do?

Or, is CS referring to something deeper when she suggests "the characters other people see so easily?

The simple answer to CS's question is: We are all miracles of life. And sometimes, we have difficulty believing in miracles. Accepting that we are miracles can be difficult because we lost the wonder of our birth at birth. Through the growing years, the daily grind of fitting into imperfect families made up of perfectly imperfect human beings finding their way in a perfectly imperfect world, chipped away at our belief in the miracle of who we are -- it never diminished the miracle of us, each and every one of us, but it did inhibit our ability to grasp the magnitude of our beauty, the magnitude of the beauty of those who gave birth to us, and to those who shared our journey through life.

I read somewhere (and I wish I could remember where so that I could reference the source) we all want to believe we are doing our best. No matter our circumstances, we are doing the best we can to 1)change them, 2) accept them, 3) respond to them...

And because we believe we are doing our best, if we are experiencing stress and strain in our lives, then it's hard to acknowledge that doing 'our best' isn't getting us what we want in life. Thus, to accept where we're at, we either have to accept 'our best isn't good enough' -- which then suggests, we're not good enough, or we have to acquiesce and fall into place, giving up the struggle to change where we're at so that we can live with where we're at and not face what we perceive to be the truth (which is actually a lie) that this is all we're worth.

The challenge is always our biases.

We each contain a set of internal biases that inhibit our ability to 'see' ourselves out in the world as others see us -- and others only see us through their own biases as well.

For me, CSs question is very evident in my life, particularly with my daughters. Both my daughters are unique, gifted human beings. One of my daughters happens to be amazingly gifted as a performer. She has suggested that I 'pushed' her into performing arts. I've balked at the idea. I mean really, I want my daughters to be happy, to do what makes them happy, to have the courage to use their unique gifts to create value in their world as only they can. Imagine, (picture me standing with hands on hips, chin thrust forward defiantly) that she would even suggest I am the reason she studied performing arts! She's always wanted to be an actress. Always wanted to be a singer! I didn't make her do it!!!!

What if she's right?

What if my own internal biases where, as a child I was never allowed to dream my dream of being a performer, created a world in which she naturally began to express herself through singing and acting and dancing -- not because it was what she 'wanted' to do, but because I made it possible for her to dream whatever dream she wanted (with a bias towards the performing arts), and she was doing her best to please me?

A powerful question.

I am always looking at you looking at me through my own bias.

You are always looking at me looking at you through your own bias.

Getting clean of my bias isn't about letting go of my unique perspective, it's about accepting, when I see 'you', I see who I need/want to see, not who you see yourself to be.

In every class I teach at the shelter where I work, I ask each participant to close their eyes and for a moment, "Imagine. Imagine you are a magnificent human being. You are all you want to be. You fly. You shine bright. You are a brilliant light."

With their eyes closed, I ask each person to sit as if they truly, truly are that magnificent human being. To breathe in the essence of their brilliance, to shine forth the beauty of their spirits.

And when they open their eyes, I ask them. "Could you feel it? Did you believe it?" And they always say (sometimes hesitantly -- it can be frightening to believe we are beautiful and magnificent), "Yes."

"You are that magnificent human being of your imagining." I tell them. "For that one shining moment you lived your magnificence. Your journey is to live it with your eyes wide open in wonder. If you can imagine it, it is because you are. Your journey is to bring your magnificence into the light of your reality."

For me, it is not that others see me as someone other than who I am. It is that I see myself as someone worthy of my love. I am a magnificent human being. Brilliantly shining.

I see all of us as magnificent human beings. Brilliantly shining.

And the gift I see in each of us is the gift of grace. The gift of being exactly who we are, in love with all of us, exactly the way we are in this moment. Beauty and the beast. Warts and all.

I don't have the answer yet to CSs question. Perhaps it isn't that there is one answer. But many perspectives. Each one unique. Each one a reflection of who we are when we look at someone and see something we believe they don't see. Perhaps that's why it's so important to tell people the wonder we see in them, so that they too can hear their brilliance calling them to shine brightly.

The question is: Do you feel it? Can you taste it? Can you breathe in the brilliance of your magnificence?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The formula for life

When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge. Tuli Kupferberg
Many years ago I worked with a woman who held a Masters in Mathematics. She had two hobbies she was very passionate about, bridge and crocheting. Both, she told me, were founded in mathematics. In fact, she said, life is a series of mathematical equations, everything has a pattern to it, everything has a formula.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

Can my life be reduced to a mathematical equation that demonstrates preferences, predicts choices, prevents catastrophes?

Let's see, what would an equation for my life look like?

Well, not being particularly mathematically inclined I went in search of some ideas on Google. I came up with a few sites that suggested creating a formula based on where I fit in my nuclear family, my hobbies, preferences, etc. Using the various models I found, my life can be distilled into the following equation:

[AF:1/6 nuclear family + 18 (dance, music, writing, art)} *3U (poli sci, Japanese, business admin, film studies, pub relations)^ + 25*(sales/marketing/business/communications/investor relations/writing)^ + and a big OH Dear, I haven't got a clue what all this means! until I get to the really interesting stuff from the here and now *6 (inspirational leadership + transformational management + inspiring brilliance)]^female.

Whew! That's who I am!

Okay, so I'm actually just kidding. My mind doesn't think in equations -- it can however grasp a recipe.

If I were to distill my life into the key ingredients of my success it would look something like this:

Recipe for My Life

Mix in a large bowl shaped like my body. Make sure bowl is capable of expanding to allow for bubbles of joy to froth to the top:

12 years of childhood earnestness .
7 years teenage angst
dollops of tears
whales of laughter
9 years of singledom sprinkled with an attempt (or two) at cohabitation including one false marriage attempt
dollops of tears
whales of laughter
thousands of missteps
thousands of steps in the right direction
yarns of learning
10 years of marriage
mix in equal amounts of bliss, happiness, joy, confusion, angst, fear, sorrow
Two incredible, delightful, amazing, wonderful daughters
mix in equal amounts of bliss, happiness, joy, confusion, angst, fear, sorrow,
repeat process never-ending, mixing in only bliss, happiness, joy
dollops of tears
whales of laughter
thousands of missteps
thousands of steps in the right direction
throw in a few struggles and trials and tribulations
infuse with copious amoutns of successes and achievements, accolades and triumphs
Ensure at all times, whales of laughter, bliss, happiness and joy have room to rise to the top.

Get the picture?

There is no formula to life. Only what I make it, or, as Frank Tyger said..."Your future depends on many things, but mostly yourself."

Life can be unpredictable. Life can be filled with surprises. Some pleasant. Some not.

It isn't life's surprises or its predictability that make the difference in my life. It's me. How I move, grow, change, accept, or deny my way through reality. How I look at right now and say, "This is what is. This is what I'm going to do to deal with what is so that I can create what I want in my life."

It is comforting (maybe) to think that there is a formula that will determine my fate. That my future is pre-set by my destiny written somewhere in a giant scroll held in the hands of God or some other divinity.

For me, what is most comforting is to know that whatever life hands me, I'm capable of dealing with what's before me with joy and laughter. I am able to play the hand I'm dealt, with grace and ease, always surfacing with the truth of who I am, no matter the circumstances I land in -- I am a unique child of God, a wondrous miracle of life, living this one, wild and precious life with passion, fearlessly in love with all I am and all I can be when I let go of being anyone other than me!

See, the only thing predictable in the formula or the recipe for my life is me. And the only one who can predict what I will do or say is me -- and sometimes, I haven't paid attention to what I'm doing and saying. In those instances, I've avoided dealing with reality. Avoided taking responsibility, being accountable for my life. When I've done that, the outcome has been predictable. It's always been a disaster -- a learning experience, but not a very pleasant one at that!

When I turn up, pay attention, speak my truth, and stay unattached to the outcome, I can predict that whatever happens will be a subset of the exciting, unexpected surprises that unfold when the miracle of me meets the miracle of life and sparks fly and eagles soar.

That's the magic of living in the now! That's the magic of living true to me!

The question is: Are you looking for some secret formula that will spell out the equation of your life filled with fractions and fractals that add up to predictability? Or, are you into the magic of living true to you, being the miracle of your own lifetime?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lighten Up!

Normal is someone you don't know very well. Anonymous
I have never liked the idea of being considered 'normal'. Normal seems too confining, restrictive, boring. Perhaps it's my Zodiac, (I am a Sagittarius -- whimsical, passionate, mercurial), or perhaps it's just that there was little that was 'normal' about my childhood. We moved across the Atlantic, lived in four different countries, spoke different languages, both my parents worked, I was the youngest of four and, as my siblings will attest, was spoiled -- I got away with everything, they liked to say.

Merriam Webster-Online defines 'normal' as:

2 a: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
3: occurring naturally 'normal immunity'
4 a: of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b: free from mental disorder : sane.

Growing up, I could never figure out what normal was. My home often felt 'insane'. I knew anger and tears were not 'normal'. I just didn't know what was the alternative, given the dynamics of those of us living under the same roof. I'd go to friends homes and observe the dynamics amongst their family members and think -- Oh, this is normal.

Truth is. Nothing was 'normal'. I just didn't know what was going on underneath the shiny patina of being in the company of 'outsiders'.

A 'normal' in my home was, Disagreement EQUALS Rejection. If any of my siblings or I chose to disagree with my father, anger blew in swiftly. If we disagreed with my mother, tears flowed quickly.

As an adult, I know, Disagreement DOES NOT Equal Rejection.

But once upon a time, it was normal for me to believe otherwise.

Which is why, for most of my life, I avoided confrontation at all costs. Or at least, backed out of it when the cost got so high I felt unsafe.

See, that was my contradiction. I seldom accepted the status quo. Always questioned the 'abnormal' in the apparent normality of whatever was going on.

My inquisitiveness inevitably rubbed up against discord.

In the 10th lesson of A Course In Miracles, the meditation is on the phrase. "My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world."

Growing up in a household filled with music and anger, laughter and tears, I began to perceive the world to be a contradiction at all times. Thus, it stood to reason that the world was as I perceived it -- unstable, dichotomous, unpredictable, unsafe. Filled with wonder. Filled with joy. Filled with laughter.

The world is filled with unpredictability and wonder. It's filled with joy and sorrow. It's where I focus my thoughts that makes the difference because, reality is, I perceive the world through my thoughts. What I focus my thoughts on, creates the world as I perceive it.

Which brings me back to the concept that 'normal is someone I don't know very well.'

I never wanted to be considered normal. Never wanted to be thought mundane, trivial, inconsequential.

But I didn't know myself well enough to embrace my uniqueness.

As I mature, as I grow into myself, I am seeing my unique self in the light of my knowing, I am a Child of God. A wondrous being on the journey of her lifetime, living it up for all I'm worth.

I don't have to be normal. I simply have to be me. All of me. I simply have to love myself exactly the way I am, and focus on sharing my unique gifts -- because no one else in the world can share the gifts I have exactly the way I do.

And no one else in the world can share your unique gifts exactly the way you do.

The gift of you and me is to be shared. To be celebrated. To be cherished.

If you perceive the world to be a place that does not want your unique gifts, take a look at your thinking. Are you focusing your thoughts on what you fear? Are you creating the world around you as a mirror of your negative thinking?

Lighten up!

Look up!

Listen up!

You are a unique human being. A wondrous miracle of life created to share your unique gifts as only you can.

Live it up!

The question is: Are you stubbornly searching for a 'normal' that doesn't exist and avoiding being your most incredible self? Are you willing to spread your wings and shine your light as only you can?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Being of infinite wonder

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others. Audrey Hepburn
I work in a sector that is considered one of the 'helping' sectors. We reach out to those who have lost themselves on the street and cannot find their way back without some help. In the course of what we do as a shelter, we need to evaluate what we do in context to individuals -- are we abling or enabling? Are we helping or disenfranchising? Are we lending a hand up or being a hand out?

It is sometimes a delicate balance to determine where 'the line' is drawn, particularly when addictions muddy the waters of self-realization. We don't quantify the 'help' we provide. We don't qualify it by saying, "We'll help you, but not you. You're eligible. You're not." -- until someone wants to access more than just food or shelter. Then there are criteria to be met, and expectations made on behaviour such as sobriety.

This is a pretty big philosophical question. And I don't pretend to have the answers. What I do have is a desire to inspire individuals to find themselves again, where ever they're at, so they can love themselves enough to 'get up', get on, get out of where ever they are stuck -- to whatever degree it is possible for them to do so.

Some days, it's not easy.

Yesterday, I had a talk with one of our supervisors about a client who is extremely gifted. Since awakening to his creative talents, ones he always had, used to use and then put aside as he fell into an alcoholic haze, he has progressively moved closer to sobriety. But still, he falls. On the weekend, he was in the art studio and he was drunk. I had to ask him to leave.

He left without a fuss, but the challenge remains on balancing the benefits of his access to the studio versus the impact his drunken appearance has on the other artists. They are all in recovery of some sort. When someone appears drunk, it triggers them.

I believe triggers are often gifts that can help us grow. When I am 100% accountable for everything I do, say, think and feel, then I cannot target someone else for my bad behaviour. However, having someone blatantly ignore the rules is wrong. Where to 'draw the line'. How do I create harmony? How do I maintain the integrity of the program?

And I have answered my own question as I wrote it out.

Each individual is accountable for their behaviour. When they come to the studio is up to them. The one criteria is, they come sober.

The integrity of the space requires their adherence to this rule.

I am not responsible for the artists. I am responsible for holding the space open for them to explore their creative selves. I am responsible for ensuring the studio is a safe space. As one of the artists described it, "This is a sacred space. We will not do anything to jeopardize our being able to use it."

The artist who said that happens to be the one who appeared drunk.

And so I have my answer. Whether or not we are alcoholics, drug addicts, sober, we are accountable for our actions. Reaching out, in this case, is about, reaching in to touch the spirit of the man, to hold him accountable for his behaviour and to mete out a consequence that does not undermine his progress, but does uphold the integrity of the 'sacred space' which he violates every time he turns up drunk.

It is part of life. I am accountable for how I turn up. When I turn up in my life out of sorts with my environment, I am violating one of my core beliefs.

Life is sacred. Every individual a unique voice filled with gifts only that individual can share.

There are always choices. Towards my passions. Away from my dreams. Every step I take is in a direction I determine.

Anyone can choose to drink. No matter how much I would like someone to stop, it is not up to me to determine that they do. Like abuse, I cannot stop an abuser being an abuser. I can stop abuse happening in my life by standing up for me, turning up in my life filled with the wonder of all I am when I step free of limiting beliefs that would have me believe, abuse is all I deserve.

When someone chooses to drink in a space that is sacred, they are negatively impacting 'the whole'. They are undermining the sacredness of the place and space where beauty is created by those who are willing, no matter how faltering their steps, to step clear of limiting beliefs and explore all that is great about being human.

The question is: Where are you stepping today? Into your belief you are less than you want to be, or into that sacred space where you are a being of infinite wonder?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The time is always right

You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions. Goal setting is often a matter of balancing timing against available resources. Opportunities are easily lost while waiting for perfect conditions. Gary Ryan Blair
Winter has descended once again in a blanket of snow borne in on a frigid north wind. I want to cocoon. To light a fire, curl up with a hot cup of cocoa and disconnect from the world outside to explore some warm clime within. Alas, weather or not I'm ready, the day beckons.

On Saturday, I held The Passion Test at the shelter where I work. Two staff, six clients, a staff member's friend and my daughter ,Alexis, attended. And, once again, I was struck by the similarities we share, no matter our address.

Each person struggled to write down ten things they love to do. "That was hard," said one of the staff members.

A client chimed in, "Yeah. I thought it would be easy."

We worked through the three hours, talking and writing, exploring what it is that makes our lives worthwhile, what it is that makes us feel like we are worthwhile.

One of the clients commented that he loves to write, "But I haven't written in about three years," he said.

"And that's because..." I asked.

"I just don't want to."

"And you don't want to because..."

"Oh, I don't know. I figure one day the time will feel right and I will."

"What if you chose to make the time right, right now?" I asked.

"That would be forcing it," he replied.

Earlier another client had told me he hasn't spoken to his mother in five years. He wants to but, "I'm not ready."

"How will you know when you are ready?" I asked.

Like the man who loved to write, he had no idea.

"What if you simply decide, 'I am ready. This is the right time'? I feel right today."

"That won't work," he replied.


"I don't know," he replied.

And in the end, he did know. He was scared to call, just as the writer was afraid to write.

Using the excuse, the time's not right or I'm not ready, is not unique to those experiencing homelessness. We all do it. Think about the last time you had to do something you didn't want to do -- make a phone call you didn't want to make, break-up with someone, get a chore done you were stalling on. Was one of your excuses, I'm not ready? Time's not right?

We are all connected. What connects those experiencing homelessness to their state of living is not an address, it is their lack of pursuit of what they want more of in their lives.

What connects those who are housed to feeling 'less than' in their lives, is not their address, it is their lack of pursuit of what they want more of in their lives.

On Saturday, listening to the discussion, to the open sharing of what makes us 'happy', of what fulfills us, of what it means to be human, I listened to hope come alive.

We can all live the lives of our dreams, it just takes knowing what that dream is, and connecting with our Be. Do. Have.

Be committed to Do what it takes, to Have what I want.

For those in the room on Saturday, that commitment started with identifying what they want more of in their lives.

It started with accepting, the best time to start living a passionate life is, Right Now.

The question is: Are you using excuses to keep you from living the life of your dreams? Are you telling yourself, I'm not ready or the time's not right, to have what I want in life?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Soften your heart

Wonder is music heard in the heart, is voiceless. Rosemary Dobson
I received a link to the rough cut of the song we've been recording for the shelter where I work. It is uplifting. Inspiring. Fun! I played it for C.C. last night, and he was in awe. "That's got commercial value," he said. "It could be a real hit."

Many of the clients heard it and they too were in awe. Wow. Imagine! That's some of us!

I can't share the link here, but you can catch a glimpse of what it's all about in this clip from The Calgary Herald last week.


One of the musicians was in a watercolor workshop held at the shelter yesterday afternoon. At the beginning of the session Richard Boulet, the visiting artist, asked each person to introduce themself and to talk about what art means to them. In his self-introduction he told about his battle with mental health issues. How schizophrenia drove him into homelessness and how in the 90s he was once a client of the shelter. "Art saved me," he told us. "It keeps me on track today."

The musician/artist spoke up. "I've always been passionate about my art," he said. "But now, after being here at the shelter for a few months, after being given the opportunity to experience not only art but music and all the people supporting me, I'm passionate about life. I've never felt passionate about life before. It's pretty exciting."

He too suffers from mental health issues. Bi-polar, he cycles in and out of depression. When he stays on his meds, he's stable, but life lacks the vibrancy he craves. With art and music, life takes on a whole different hue.

I am in awe every day of the power of the creative spirit. I am in awe of its power to awaken the soul to its beauty. Its power to ignite imagination, touch hearts and set spirits free. I wonder at what would be possible if everyone, the whole world over, were to stop fighting their own magnificence and sink into the beauty and wonder at their core. To set their spirits free to soar and create and dance and laugh and sing and be all the wondrous things we can be.

What a different world we would be.

On Thursday night, lying in bed feeling crummy, my eldest daughter called to chat. "I just wanted to tell you mum what a difference 'softening my heart' has made. I was angry with someone and by softening my heart, I no longer feel anger."

It's all about compassion.

She had called the night before to talk about her angry feelings about someone dear to us. "Soften your heart," I counselled. "It is all we can do to help them as they struggle with their inner demons."

Soften your heart.

She wrote an amazing blog about her grammie. A woman of contradictions. Generous yet stingy. Caring yet angry.

It is an amazing piece. A true reflection of my daughters beauty and soul. She is a woman of a soft and loving heart. If you'd like to read it (and it is worth the read says the proud Mama bear) follow this link to wonder! http://alexismcd.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/88/

And, no matter what you do today, soften your heart. Open your senses to the wonder around you and be free of all that would hold you down.

The question is: Are you letting hard-headed attitude keep you from opening up to the wonder and joy of the world around you? Can you soften your heart?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Doin' what needs to be done

Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy. Wayne Gretzky

I have this thing about forms. I hate them. Loathe them. Avoid them. That includes things like the forms I need to fill in to declare my taxes.

Yesterday, while I was lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself, feeling yucky, I got a phone call.

"Hello," I croaked into the phone.

"You owe the government almost ten thousand dollars. And they want their money," the voice said.

"I do?" I stammered. "How on earth can that be? I know I paid the taxes."

Well, it can be because even though I'd paid the taxes I had omitted to file one of the necessary forms to indicate what I'd paid the taxes on. I had all the paperwork compiled. I just hadn't put the information onto the prerequisite form and sent it in.

Within a short period of time, the form was faxed in, the owed monies down to zero. And, because when I paid, I overpaid, they now know how much they owe me.


I could have saved myself the angst had I just filed the right forms at the right time.

But there's that fear thing. That aversion thing. That procrastination thing.

See, I wanted to pay the taxes without having to touch the paperwork. I figured I'd at least get the 'important' part done. But it wasn't just the money that was important. It was keeping the money in order, connecting the dots to where it belonged that mattered.

For me, what mattered most was keeping the angst going -- even though I told myself it was becuase I was afraid of the 'paperwork'. That's my excuse. Truth is, while I tell myself paper work creates angst in my life, the reality is, I am the source of all my angst. My avoidance of paper work created this particular angst. -- I used to be one of those, I work better under pressure kind of students too!

Had I just done what needed doing when I needed to do it, I could have saved myself the angst.

Sometimes, I know what to do as I stubbornly refuse to do it.

Knowing I avoid paperwork is great knowledge for me. When the discomfort arises of filling it in, I can remind myself what a joy it was to have it out of the way this morning.

What we know and what we do are sometimes polar opposites.

I know letting unfiled paperwork hang around my office does not get me more of what I want.

But I did it.

I know the anxiety it creates ('cause when does the government ever give up?) is not worth the turmoil. But I kept putting off filing the papers until tomorrow, that ethereal place where nothing ever happens.

Maria Nemeth writes in, The Energy of Money, "Remember, pain is a great teacher. Knowing who you really are -- what you value and what gives you joy -- can help you face whatever discomfort arises on your journey

This morning, my paper work is filed. I've got a cheque coming back to me, and while my cold still clogs my thinking, my mind is clear -- the details have been taken care of.

This morning, I read my daughter Alexis' blog and felt the warm glow of love permeating my being. What a beautiful woman she is. What a loving heart she shares so graciously.

This morning, while sitting at my desk, looking out the window at the world beyond, I laughed as I watched two giant bunnies, their white coats mottled in anticipation of spring's transformative grace, chase each other around and around in circles as they played tag beneath the sweeping branches of a bush across the street.

This morning, the sun is shining. Snow still covers the ground but spring is awakening just around the corner of tomorrow. It won't procrastinate in its arrival. It will come, like the ebb and flow of the tide, never wasting energy on thinking about what it would rather be doing, how it would rather the world spun. It will come because that's how its energy flows, year after year; day in, day out.

And I am in a positive space to let my energy flow freely. Unburdened by details I haven't taken care of, by forms I haven't filled in, I breathe deeply into the beauty of the morning and greet my day with a loving heart and open arms as I throw my hands up into the air and exclaim, "How fascinating."

I fell into one of my own self-defeating traps. I've been released. I move along my journey joyfully leaping into the freedom to explore all I can be.

The question is: Are you focusing your energy on how you could change the world if only you were in charge? Or, are you putting your attention on creating the life of your dreams and living your reality with a joyful heart and accepting arms?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Under the weather

It's snowy outside and in my head, very foggy.

I've come down with a cold. A cold I've been staving off for many days. It's got the better of me and so, for today, I'm back to bed to coddle myself and nurture my energy. It's the medicine of self-care I need today.

See you tomorrow.

The question is: Are you giving yourself the medicine you need today?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To the wall

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. Sven Goran Eriksson
He wasn't going to do it. He didn't want to. Wasn't ready. Figured he'd wait.

Earlier when we'd first arrived at the recording studio, where we are recording Stand By Me for an advertisement with singers and musicians from the homeless shelter where I work, B. had asked if he could re-record his singing from the previous session. "I know I can do better," he said.

"Sure," the producer replied. "I'm sure we can find some time today to fit you in."

Time opened up and we had the perfect opportunity for him to re-record. "Thanks," said B. "I don't think I'll do it."

I looked at him, surprised. We'd spent fifteen minutes earlier on in the session talking about why he wanted to re-record. Talking about his angst, his disappointment at what he perceived to be a second rate job. "Did you do your best?" I asked him.

"For that moment, yeah. But I know it's not my best. I know I can nail it. I was way too nervous."

And then the opportunity presented itself and he turned it down.

I walked over to where he sat. "What's going on? You wanted to do it again and now you don't?"

"I just don't know if I'm ready," he said. "Now's not a good time."

I smiled. "And how will you know when that good time is unless you step into the moment that's available."

"I'm just not in the mood."

"B., is this fear talking?"

He nodded his head up and down.

"Do you want fear to dictate your life?"

"I'm tired of fear dictating my life," he quickly responded.

"Then kick it out of the way."

He slumped back into the chair. "I can't." he sighed.

"I believe you can," I replied. "I believe you are powerful beyond your imaginings. I believe you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to. I believe in you."

I walked away to do an on-camera interview with one of the performers. Ten minutes later, I looked into the studio and there he was. B. The microphone. Headset on his head. Listening intently to the beat of the song.

He nailed it.

Pushed the notes. Poured his emotions into the music.

He nailed it.

And nailed his fear to the wall.

The question is: Where does fear keep you stuck in self-defeating patterns that limit your experience of life? Where does fear keep you down?