Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Words: a weapon of mass destruction

One great use of words is to hide our thoughts. Voltaire
It was one of those comments that once spoken seem to gather clarity, sparkle with truth and enlightenment. To hang in the air like radioactive fallout, peppering my being with their veracity and depth of meaning.

I was at dinner with three beautiful women friends when I uttered the words. We were laughing and sharing as only four wise crones can do. We share the same decade on our calendar of life and we enjoy shared experiences in a coach's circle. We all four love life. Love its intricacies. It mysteries and its unexpected moments of clarity and feeling.

Like this one.

"I have always used words, not to get my way, but to talk sense out of what's going on around me," I told my friends after one had shared a story of gaining understanding of another through something they had said.

I heard the words, felt their leap into the air around me and knew -- there is a truth here worth grasping. "It's as if I believe there are perfect words that will make perfect sense of any nonsense if only I can find the right words to put together."

They were stunning words for me to hear. I watched them float around me and followed the trail back to their beginnings. I was an archaeologist digging for all I was worth in the lessons of the utterance of past words.

As a child, my older sister, by two years, was sweet and kind and gentle and caring. She was the middle girl. The one who is often overlooked between the son and the eldest daughter and the youngest, me, who was always into something, doing something, being something she was not supposed to.

Our parents fought. Lots. It was hard on my sister's gentle heart. Hard to understand. Hard to grasp.

And, because I didn't like to admit I was scared, ever, I used to sit with her in the dark of our room where she had crawled from her bed into mine, the covers a tent around our heads and tell her stories that would make her laugh, make us forget our fear. My words, my story-telling words, carried us far away from that place where loud voices yelled into the night. They were our conduit to safety.

Growing up, I treated her as the younger sister. Grown up, I make sure I tell people she is 'the older sister'. She still carries that beautiful sweetness, that innocence, that gentle heart into the world. I still want to protect her, be the older sister -- just not in physical appearance. It's important not to let time wear me down faster in the eyes of the world!

Last night, as I said what I did about words, I realized, I'm still doing it. Still trying to use words to carry me away from fear. Still using words to make sense where I perceive nonsense reigns. To make others see, I have clearer vision.

When I was a child, my mother threatened all sorts of deeds that never made sense. Not because she was an awful mother. She wasn't. She was sweet and gentle, beautiful, caring, kind. And, she was scared and confused and worried. Four young children. A foreign land. Never enough money. A husband who was away most of the time, far away and when he was home, a house that had to be silent to not disturb his peace of mind, to not cause him to erupt into anger that my mother never understood. Anger that sent we four kids into wide-eyed silence, and a certain stillness that only those who are so far out of their depth would recognize and believe, to move would ensure certain drowning.

Words were my bastion.

My father loved words.

I learned to love them too. Words were the only way I knew I could reach him. And so, I used them freely. Words were what I used to make sense of the world around me. A world that was at times magical. At times terrifying. Words opened doors to communication. Words were also fraught with peril. Should I misuse a word, ridicule awaited. I learned to use my words wisely.

My mother sometimes, in a fit of despair we would later learn had a medical word attached to it, would sometimes threaten to kill herself. A knife held to her breast, we children would cry and and huddle together, and comfort each other all the while praying and hoping and feeling lost. What could we do?

Words came to my rescue.

Words make sense of the unbelievable. Words make sense of nonsense. Words connect. Words will talk her out of it.

I believed there was a perfect word that would soothe her. A perfect sentence that would connect her to the power of love all around. I believed I could take her sadness away with words. I could ease her pain with the right consonants mixed with vowels dotted with punctuation that would connect to her in such a way she would 'see' her vision was impaired, and all she needed to do was drop the knife and embrace the truth all around her.

I believed in words.

Still do.

"My mother and I still don't have a great relationship," I told my friends last night. "I've always believed it was because I hadn't yet found the right words to connect to her. And so, instead of just listening, of just being there for her where she's at, I keep trying to find the right words to paint a picture of the beauty of the world I see that will take her away from the darkness of the world I perceive her to see. I use my words to 'help' her see more clearly she's wrong to look at the world the way she does!"

It was one of those clear moments where my eyes opened to the truth. I may have 20/20 vision. I don't have the power nor the words to 'make' anyone see the world the way I see it. I have been using my words to make my mother see what I see and I have run out of words because what my mother needs is the one thing she doesn't have a lot of -- time. My time, my presence, my being present for her.

My mother sees the beauty of the world around her as only she can see it. She is sweet and gentle, kind of heart and giving and she is irrasicble, challenging, confusing to me too. She is who she is. My mother. The woman who gave me life. She doesn't need my words slicing into her peace of mind. She doesn't need my words searing her heart with their desire to cut through to the 'truth'.

She needs Love. In all its unconditional and unlimited beauty.

Truth is, there are no perfect words in love. There's only Love.

And in Love, there's only that space where words are not necessary to make sense of who we are, of our connection. For me, words become the clothes line upon which I hang meaning and sometimes, I get strung up in trying to make sense of someone else's meaning because I'm not listening to what is written on their hearts.

Words will not connect me to my mother. Words keep us distant. The only sensible thing to do is leave the clothes to dry in the sun as I open up my mind and listen with a loving heart to what my mother has to share.

I'm learning. My words are the weapon, not the medicine, when I use them to cut through to someone else's heart. When I recognize the value of my words, and let them go lovingly into the world, I no longer have to protect myself with words, I simply have to be present in my heart. For in my heart, I am always safe when I breathe into that space where there are no words, only Love.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Liberty's Gaze

You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free. Clarence Darrow

She didn't know her own strength. She'd never been tested. Never been put up against man's nature to tear things down.

No one knew what would happen when the winds of advertsity blew. When the gales howled. When the hurricanes ripped through the foundations of her belief. Give me your tired, your poor...

No one knew the measure of her strength under pressure of another's assertions he knew best, that his truth was the righteous belief of mankind's salvation.

No one knew.

And, when the winds came, as they often do, they howled and careened around her body, pummeling her righteous stance to not be swayed. To hold fast. To be strong. The winds screamed like a thousand banshees roaring through desert sands, a storm of idealogies cast upon the winds, swirling around her, rising up into a hailstorm of dissent, rising up with hatred and condemnation, fear and loathing. A typhoon of evolutionary calamity in the making of war that would never know peace until quietened in an oasis of calm at the sheer strength of her steadfast gaze through time. ...Give me... Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore...

The winds roared and she stood strong and true as she stands strong and true today. True to the foundation upon which she was built, a symbol of friendship, freedom and peace, this lady of liberty. This lady of the strength to hold fast the belief of nations and the dream of all mankind. Liberty for all. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me...

Hers is the strength of a dream woven into the fabric of their collective nationhood aspiring for equality, justice, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness for all mankind. A nation of people who stand true in their belief in the rightness of all men to worship from their own separate pew. The strength of a nation that stands true to the right of all men, women and children, where ever on earth they may stand to rise up and be heard, be seen and be free. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Inscribed inside the base of the Statues of Liberty in New York harbour, Swan Ally Island in the Seine River in Paris and Paris' Luxembourg Gardens. The lines are found in a sonnet (thank you nAncY at Poem's & Prayers for connecting me to the source) The New Colossus written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

This entry is part of today's Blog Carnival over at Bridget Chumbley's place One Word at a Time. The word prompt for today is "strength" -- and I didn't know what I would write until this came out. I didn't know the strength of my belief in the power of a symbol!

To immerse yourself in wonder, click on over to Blog Carnival at Bridget's place, and be prepared to be amazed!

The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

You are Here.

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning. ~Ivy Baker Priest
Ellie and I hiked in the woods yesterday. Along the banks of the Elbow River, through trees and lush undergrowth. The sun was hot. The air still. The sky clear blue above us.

I walked. Ellie gamboled by my side. She doesn't like being leashed but we were in a Provincial Park and dogs must be on leash. It protects wildlife and flora, the sign said. I suppose it's true though the thought wandered through my mind as lazily as a leaf floating by on the river, "Who cleans up after the wildlife?" as I heeded the signs to 'clean up after your dog' and stooped to pick up evidence of Ellie's healthy digestive system at work.

We walked for a couple of hours. The quiet of the woods a soothing balm to my city spirit. I followed trails at random, forking left, then right. There were maps posted at every branch of the trail, I was sure I couldn't get lost.

I was wrong.

I can always get lost.

But the river's on my right. To get back to the car I just need to turn around and walk with it on my left.

But the river had forked and split in two. It was on both sides. I stood in front of a map posted on a wooden trail sign and tried to puzzle out its meaning. "They should mark which way the water flows," I thought as I stared at the Gold Star that meant, "You are Here". I knew where I was, I just didn't know where I was in context to where I wanted to go.

I turned my body around to read the map facing the opposite direction. It didn't make much difference. The river still meandered on either side of the place marked, "You are Here" and I still didn't know which way the river should flow and this particular point on the trail was completely engulfed in towering firs. I couldn't see the river anyway. I could only hear it like a distant fog horn calling through the mists of my confusion.

Where the heck is here in relation to where I left my car? I wondered.

Another hiker rounded the bend. His arms swung purposefully. His stride was long and confident.

Ellie, happy to see another human tugged at her leash. She barked. The man picked up his pace. "Good morning" he called as he gave us a wide berth and took the left fork in the path.

"Excuse me," I called to his quickly retreating back.

He slowed. Turned back to face me.

"I wonder if you could give me a little direction please?"

He walked back towards us. Tail wagging furiously, Ellie eagerly lunged towards him. Whining and shivering as she always does when someone 'stops' to pet her. He obliged. Rubbed her ears. Called her a good dog. She lapped it up.

"I parked at the west end of the park. If I take this trail," and I pointed to the opposite fork in the path than he had taken, "will that take me back to the parking lot?"

"Hell no," he laughed. "That's east. You gotta go that way. That's west."

I didn't want to tell him that 'that way' was the way I'd just come.

I smiled. "West? That way? When did they move it?"

He smiled back. Gave Ellie one more pat on the head and said, "They didn't." And with a wave of one hand he set off again.

I wanted to call after him, "It was just a joke!" I didn't want him telling the story over dinner that night about the ditsy woman hiker who thought they moved 'the west'.

And he was right. They hadn't moved the west. It was me who had lost her direction. After another hour or so, Ellie and I found the west parking lot. My car was still there. Everything was as I had left it.

The difference was in my perspective. I was never lost. Just walking in the wrong direction. It sometimes happens in life. We get turned around. Upside down. Inside out. Our eyes are looking the wrong way. Our mind is looking for the trail back to where we belong, only to discover we're looking in the wrong direction, away from our destination.

And then, a stranger comes along. Or a friend. And in the simple act of pointing us in the right direction, we find ourselves exactly where we are. We find our sense of direction and set out on the right path home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A morning prayer

A morning prayer
May this day open out like a flower in the morning light.
May this day unfold like a leaf into the promise of spring.
May sun-kissed moments bless you,
may God's breath whisper in your heart,
You are Love. You are the Beloved.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Saturday rant.

I'm late. I have an excuse! Honest.

Actually, I have several.

My excuse building began at 3am. Next door is a house where we have not yet been able to determine how many people live in it. I do know some of the occupants are musicians because, in the past, they have tended to play loud and raucous rock music, in particular, drums, throughout the day. As one of the tenants told me after I knocked on the door and suggested they might want to invest in sound-proofing, "We are conscious of not playing after 10pm."

Hmmmm..... true. But, I should be able to sit in my office and not feel the walls shake because of the sound of drumming emanating from their abode.

It took a call to Bylaw to finally get them to do something about the noise.

And then, this morning at 3am I awoke to the sound of laughter and loud voices chattering up a storm on their deck. It's not that we're wall to wall. We have a large lot, it's just that at 3am noise travels and their deck is raised and noise rises and even with the bedroom window closed -- which I was forced to do, the noise was as if they were sitting right outside my window.

I lost it at one point. Stormed out the back door, into the yard and yelled across the fence into the night. "Excuse me. You need to be quiet."

They were quiet. For awhile. Until 5:30 am when I awoke again to their voices laughing and chattering. Who could have known that Margaretta's taste better in the middle of the night?

I shifted to the living room sofa. It helped. A bit. But I was still ticked.

So ticked I was tempted to get the lawn mower out at 8am and mow the grass right along the fence line...

but I didn't.

I chose instead to breathe.

I had an online course to listen to this morning and I didn't want to pollute my mind with angry thoughts of how I could get back at 'the neighbours' by disturbing their sleep. They finally called it quits at 7am!

Not to say I haven't had my share of backyard parties over the years. But I don't believe I've ever kept them going all night long!


So, this blog is late because at 7 I finally moved back to bed and decided to catch a few more winks before getting up to listen in on my course.

And I'm glad I did because "Feminine Power" is awesome!

And wouldn't you know it. Feminine Power is about creating harmony and peace and all things 'unseen' in our world.

Which means...

letting go of anger.

But I'll have to think up some way to create opportunity for my neighbours to become more aware of their responsibility to create harmony in our neighbourhood.

I'm thinking maybe hammering at 7am might work.


Oh no. that's a little too tit for tat. And anyway, there are no bedroom windows on this side of their house! (see I've checked it out).

Maybe I'll just let Ellie out early and encourage her to bark herself silly at the crack of dawn....

Or, maybe I'll buy a Harley and rev it up in the drive early in the morning, every morning...

Or, maybe I'll take a breath. And a nap. and just accept, to create harmony I need to find harmonious options.

Oh, and pray, it was a one time aberration. I'm sure they won't do it again! Right?

here's hoping.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Love, that many splendored thing.

There is no remedy for love but to love more. Thoreau

It was stated in the movie I watched last night. "Love isn't a feeling. It's an ability." Twice in fact. Once by a minor character. The next time by the star, Steve Carell in, "Dan in Real Life".

Hmmm. I wonder if the writer wrote that first line and thought, 'ohhh, it's so good, I'd better give it to the main character too! 'Cause people might miss it when it comes from the mouth of a twelve year old' -- one of Steve Carell's daughters in the film.

It is a good line.

And then I wondered, what does that mean?

Because, totally, love is a feeling. I mean, I've felt it. I've felt the pitter patter of the heartbeat turning into a drumbeat pounding kind of love of another. That place where the thought that to live without this person engulfs you in despair.

And, I've felt the deep abiding love I feel for my daughters. That love where I want nothing from them, only that they be safe, never fearful, never hurt, never disappointed, never uncertain -- you know, that unrealistic place where if I could I'd put them in a bubble and never let, 'life' in all its complexities, touch them and because I love them, I know I can't and so I don't even attempt to try.

Okay, so maybe I have tried just a little bit, but, reality is -- love can't be felt from within a bubble. Love needs life's dipsidoodles to be experienced completely. To be known wholly. And because I love them, I want them to experience love in all its many dimensions. And sometimes, love hurts -- it's not about our ability 'to love', it's about our capacity to stand In Love when our heart is breaking -- open.

The Greeks recognized the complexity of love. They had four words for it -- spiritual love, agape, love of family, storge, friendship kind of love, philia, and the ooohhh, baby I get so hot and bothered when I'm with you kind of love for another, eros.

Love is a many splendored thing -- not to mention complex.

And while it is a feeling, it is also an ability. The ability to stretch our thinking, not to mention our heart muscles, to encompass more than just ourselves, our fears, our needs and wants.

It's the ability to put yourself second, to not think of 'me, me, me' but rather, to embrace 'the other' without expectation of me, me, me getting something in return.

My daughters taught me what it means to be able to love -- without fear limiting my ability to love unconditionally. They've taught me how to engage my ability to let go of my wants and needs and desires to fall into that place where what is best for them must take precedence over what I want. Because, being able to love them means allowing them room to grow without my fears and wants and needs shadowing their every move.

Love is an ability -- and sometimes, my ability to love is limited by my ability to 'see' the other as separate and whole, perfectly perfect in all their human imperfections, just like me.

I learn every moment about my capacity to Love -- without fear, without restraint, without needing to know I am loved in return -- when I let go of needing love and fall into Love without needing to know where I am in Love.

I stand In Love. There is no where else I'd rather be.

Because Love is -- in every action I take, every word I speak, every thought I think when I let go of believing I need to 'do' to 'have'.

There's nothing to be had in loving. Love is that which pays enormous dividends when I love without need for a return on my investment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Collaborative music

Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is.

H. Jackson Browne

Imagine, the day is winding down, dusk beckons in the long shadows. I am driving west, into the foothills. The road unfurls before me. A ribbon of concrete serpenting through the foothills. Miles and miles of green meadows and fields fan out to the edges of tree encased hills on either side of the highway, dotted with grazing horses and calves gamboling amidst the herds. It is a bucolic scene of life at the foot of the Rockies unfolding in time and space. I drive through a rain shower. Into sun spotted clearing. Through rain shower. Into sun spotted clearing.

The city falls away behind me. I breathe deeply of the tranquility and beauty. Billowy clouds fill the sky where the mountains play hide and seek amongst the mists.

My destination. The Banff Centre where I am to participate in what the invitation calls, "A unique experience. sitting among a string quartet while the musicians are rehearsing and performing, you experience a team working together from within."

I have no preconceived notions. No idea what to expect. The experience can't help but be unique. I've never been part of a string quartet transitioning "from dissonance to resonance".

I am not to be disappointed.

We were 30 or so invited guests. A sprinkling of one or two musicians. The rest, music lovers. music indifferents. We weren't there to 'appreciate' the music. We were there to gain "valuable insights into building the collaborative and innovative capacity of your team."

We sat in a circle around the quartet, our chairs close enough to read the music. To hear the twang of the bow as it crosses the strings of the cello. To feel the electric energy of the musicians as they moved through each bar of the 5th movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131.

It was fun. Entertaining. Interesting. Inspiring. Exciting. And yes, a unique experience.

Jeremy Gershfeld, the founder of the Quartet Approach, deftly lead the process, highlighting how his energy affects the groups' simply by his very human condition of mood, temperament, personality, preconceived notions, stereotypes he holds -- they share, the questions he asks and the way he asks them -- their responses, their input, their unique perspectives.

He began with the cellist. Stop. He said after a couple of bars. I don't like your tempo. Make it faster.

The second violinist's eyes widened. Her back straightened.

What's going on here, he asked? Did anyone see her response?

She's upset, replied a woman who sat across from the first violinist. You spoke too harshly. Too abruptly.

Jeremy turned to the second violinist. "Is that true? Did my tone upset you?"

The second violinist hesitated. Swallowed. "You shut her down. You didn't need to do that."

The cellist piped up. "I don't care. These are my notes. I get to play them at my tempo."

Collaboration blew past in a flurry of discordant notes.

Can you see how my temperament stops the flow?

He turns to the violist. What is the issue here?

You're interested in the technical aspects of the piece, of getting it right and she's interested in the essence of it. She wants to be with the music, at its heart.

Emotion, Jeremy inserts. Am I understanding you correctly? She wants to feel the emotion?

We, the audience who was not the audience but part of the process, sat and watched in rapt wonder as the four musicians dipped and bowed and played through each bar, each stanza. We participated through observation, through our energy lending credence to the impact of their playing.

And through it all, Jeremy would stop and ask, "Did anyone see what happened? Do you see how my tone affects her playing? How do we connect? How do we communicate? How do we collaborate?"

It was a fascinating evening of learning mixed with beautiful music, observation and wonder.

I sat in the concert hall and watched and listened and closed my eyes and let the music sink into me and when I opened them, I looked up through the huge windows that encompassed one wall framing the majesty and beauty of the granite rock waiting outside the door through time eternal. The sky had cleared. Blue light encompassed grey rock. I felt my spirit soar.

Music does that.

It transports. It lifts me up. It energizes me and soothes me and carries me into that place within where I am not the seeker nor the sought after. I am not lost needing to be found. I am nowhere but where I am. I am the One. One with the One in the moment of my seeking that which can never be sought because it was never lost, never gone. I am found in the moment of being.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gotta run!

Slept in.

Running late.

Much to do.

Oh boo hoo!

No time to blog

What a nog

Gotta run

So here's some fun....

another RSA Animate video for your enlightenment and entertainment!

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the joy of now.

Change your thoughts. Change your life. Louise Hay
In Colors Personality Testing, I am primary colours, Green/Blue. A thinker and a feeler.

A trait of my two primary colours is that I have a tendency (okay it's more than a tendency, it's a habit) to look back -- Worst case scenario -- The green never forgets. The blue never forgives.

I have learned the value and blessing of forgiveness. I struggle with forgetting.

There are lessons to be learned in the past I tell myself -- the operative word being 'in', not 'from' the past. The 'in' keeps me immersed. It keeps me trolling the canals of memory searching for offal lying below the surface. It keeps me believing, there's still some gem of wisdom I haven't discerned from the past's journey. It keeps me building my case for 'why'. Why I feel the way I do today. Why I need to.... dance, sing, cry, bemoan. Laugh, leap, waddle, crawl.

Mix a large dose of heartfelt blue into the mix and you'll find me heartsick on the edge of the pond fearful of stepping into the waters as I justify my case for protecting my heart to keep me safe from drowning.


This weekend, Thelma Box, founder of Choices, adventures of a lifetime, asked the question: If you didn't bring the past into your choices today what would you do?

At the time, she was asking the question of an individual who was at the 'fed-up' point with a relationship. If you didn't have the past would you want to be in relationship with this person today?

When the individual answered, "Yes," Thelma smiled and replied, "Then what's stopping you from being in relationship with them without the past present in today?"

Stop doing that.

Stop dragging the past into this moment to justify why you feel the way you feel and start living your true feelings today.

If it's not about reliving the past, what is keeping you mulling over, again and again, all the transgressions of the past?

Relationship requires trust. Unconditional trust. Someone does something to hurt you. Forgive them and trust them. Someone cheats. Forgive them and trust them. If you can't trust them -- you are setting both of you up to repeat the same mistake again. Because in your lack of trust, you undermine your ability to trust and their ability to act in trustworthy ways.

A tough pill for me to swallow when trust is an issue for me.


Trust that someone will hurt me and I will hurt them -- not intentionally. But simply because we are human.

Trust that I will forgive -- and forget.

Trust that I am strong enough, confident enough, big enough, loving and compassionate and caring and giving enough to forgive -- and forget.

I have learned a lot in my journey -- the challenge is, I keep thinking there's still something I've missed in the past that I was supposed to learn today.

Truth is -- there's lots to learn today when I let go of looking at the past as holding the keys to my experience in this moment. Does it matter why I don't trust. Or does it matter more that I chose to trust in this moment to experience the other as trustworthy and myself as trusting.

My beliefs create my experience today. And when I believe I have to find my answers in the past, I limit my experience today to those things that make sense to me based on past experience.


My daughter Alexis told me yesterday about her experience this past weekend at a program called, The Forum. "We're all just living out the decisions of a pissed off five-year-old," she told me. "Think about it. Pissed off five-year-olds are running our world."

She's on fire. Coming clean on past behaviour so she can create a life worth living today, exactly the way she is. Amazing. Magnificent. On fire.

I'm with her.

My answers do not lie in the past -- well actually, the answers in the past do lie in my today because they don't fit me anymore. They don't sit well in my peace of mind and are continually disrupting my joy in being present in this moment right now. They are the lie. And I've had enough of lies that won't lie quietly in the past.

Sure, the past has lots of lessons I have learned that I can share. But finding more lessons from the past only keeps me backwards focused. And being backwards focused only keeps me facing the wrong direction as I walk carefully into today for fear I might fall backwards or trip over something in my path that I can't see because I'm looking backwards!

I want to leap for joy into this moment, unencumbered by the weighty matters of my past.

And I can only do that when I stand in wide-eyed awe at the magnificence of this moment spread out before me as I let go of holding onto nothing but the joy of being me.

The question is: What's keeping you from leaping?

Monday, June 21, 2010

All is well.

Let us never waste a wish. Let us lie, skin to
skin, beneath the jeweled stars, mouths open,
to swallow their falling magic. . . Karla K. Morton

Deeper than words, wider than thought, my spirit light shines brightest when I know gratitude, embrace love, dwell in compassion.

My spirit is the essence of me. That pure space that shimmers like clarified water, the perception of imperfection evaporating with every breath. That sacred space where I am one with what is, at one with all that is, breathing deeply into the moment that is without ego or need or want or desire fearfully pulling me away from what is.

It is my desire to create something that isn't out of what is that creates unhappiness in my life. It is my need to create it my way, to see you as not you but as how I want you to be and finding you wanting, that creates discord.

The circumstances of my life, whether it is the slow driver in front of me, or the lack of response from a co-worker, or the loud response of someone I love, do not cause my distress. It is my response to the slow driver, my reaction to my co-worker, my judgements of the one I love that create my unhappiness.

When I release myself from judgement to sink into gratitude I open my heart to wild-eyed wonder infusing my being with loving compassion. In awe, I let go of pushing back against the way things are as I surrender and fall into Love with the way things are -- beautiful, complete, absolutely astonishing in all their messy, mixed up, messed up being.

I live with a man who is searching for his path to self-love and acceptance.

Your path does not please me I tell him as I slide into judgement. Your path hurts me. Causes me pain.

And he pushes back. Reeling against my judgement, he loses ground, falling away from where he was going to find himself once again in that place where turmoil clouds his thinking.

The way things are is the way they are. No meaning. No aught to be's. Just the way they are.

In my resistance, I create my unhappiness as I let go of compassion and lean into ego.

It was a good weekend for me. A weekend filled with grace. With compassion. With learning and growing. With Love.

I found myself again on the other side of the door sealing my heart. I found myself and slipped out of that place where I hold on tightly to the case I build to justify my discord.

I choose my path.

I choose my state of being.

Regardless of what is happening in the world around me, it is my judgements that rub against my peace of mind, causing my heart to ache in wanting for the way I believe things aught to be because that's the way I tell myself they need to be for me to be happy.

I breathe and let go of judgement as I ease myself gratefully into the waters of life flowing all around me.

There is no turmoil when I let the water flow without resistance. The tide ebbs in. The tide ebbs out. And I am at one with the tide washing over and through and in and around and under and above and below and beyond me.

All is well with my soul. All is at One in my world. I am and this is all I need to be.

Thank you Maureen at Writing without Paper for the introduction to Karla K. Morton and her stunning poetry.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Letting go to Let God.

Some think it's holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it's letting go. Sylvia Robinson
My eldest daughter told me a story last night about a mother and daughter in the store where she works. The little five year oldish daughter picked out a purple headband and happily showed it to her mother. The mother frowned.

"I told you. Only pink. Put that back. It won't match your outfit."

Disappointed, the little girl replaced the purple headband and chose a pink one.

Again, the mother frowned, grabbed the offending pink headband and put it back. "Not that shade. It's ugly."

Thank you mum, my daughter said, for letting us pick our own clothes. For letting us wear what we felt inspired to wear, even when it didn't match. For letting us know we're beautiful because of who we are, not what we wear.

It is the joke in our family. When the girls were small my rule was, as long as you are dressed appropriately for the weather, you are welcome to choose your clothes. And that included for those special photographs. My youngest daughter once piped up as we were laughing about some of the wild outfits they sometimes assembled, "You mean all those photographs of us in all those mismatched outfits we have no one to blame but ourselves?"

"Do you know you're an amazing mother?" my daughter asked me last night.

I could feel the tension in my heart melt.

"I made a decision today," she continued. "I realized that I've often seen your support as pressure. From now on I choose to accept your support for what it is. Love."

I don't feel like an amazing mother right now. I feel kind of helpless.

It hit me last night. I'm coaching at Choices this weekend, the personal development program both my daughters and I took four years ago and in which we all three love to coach and which the three of us are scheduled to coach together in September. As I sat in the room with sixty other people who have come back for their final weekend of the 9 day training and watched them laugh and chatter, I felt out of sorts. Off balance.

At one point, I had set out to 'change my state' by engaging in the activities with 'gusto'. Normally, when high energy is required, I am Ms High Energy. I have always been blessed with lots and lots of energy and can let it flow at will. But last night, I felt awkward. Self-conscious. As if, some part of my mind was saying, "How can you be so light and positive when Liseanne is so far away and struggling?"

Liseanne and I had chatted earlier in the day. The 'diagnosis' is hitting her and she was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Thousands of miles away, I am helpless to do anything other than listen and share my strength and hope and calmness and love. All I can do is pray.

And that's where I realized I am challenged.

Prayers are vital. I love that so many people have come forward with prayers and support. You make me feel very, very blessed. My challenge is, I like to be in control. I don't like, Letting go and Letting God.

I realized that last night.

I want to be 'doing' something. Anything. To make it all better.

And all I can do is pray.

It is a lesson in humility. A gift of Faith.

And I struggle to embrace it.

As I told my youngest daughter on the phone earlier in the day when we had chatted. "I want to take this from you honey. I want to take it away and make it mine. And I can't. I can't make it go away. I can't make it something else. I can't make it part of my body and not yours. I want to. And I can't. All I can do is love you. All I can do is be here when you need me. To let you know how amazing you are. To help you know you have all the courage and strength and power within you to make the right decisions for you, to deal with whatever happens."

I felt out of place last night. Not because I wasn't in the right place but rather, because I am still trying to find my place in all of this.

She has a condition called epilepsy. It isn't who she is. It isn't about her. It is what it is.

As her mother, I want to take it away, or at least take over management of it so she won't feel so afraid, so scared, so alone. I want to carry the burden for her, and I can't.

I can't take it away. I can't carry her burden.

I can surrender my fear, my angst, my confusion and pain and fall, in Love.

I don't have a roadmap for how to be a mother whose daughter gets a diagnosis of a life changing disorder when she is 7,000 miles away. I don't have a script that tells me what to do now, what to say next.

I only have Love.

And a deep and abiding faith that when I let go and Let God, miracles happen.

I'm going to believe in miracles today. In the small little miracle of the dew drops sparkling in the sun, to the bigger kind of miracle of peace of mind in the midst of turmoil. I'm falling into a miracle kind of place right now where I have faith that my daughter is safe. Safe in God's embrace, where ever she is in the world.

I am letting go to Let God and breathing into Love.

She deserves my best and my best is always awakened when I get out of the way and allow God to whisper in her heart, "You are love. You are loved. You are safe."

Friday, June 18, 2010

How I see the world.

The individual epitomizes the universe. Caroline Myss
How I see the world is how the world appears to me.

I heard a lovely story awhile ago from a woman who during the 'winter of her disconnect', as she called it, decided to read the entire list of Booker Prize winners books. It took her four months -- she's a voracious reader, and at the end, decided to go on to the Giller Prize winners. "I liked the Giller's better than the Booker's" she told me.

For this woman, the world was seen through the pages of a series of books that captured her imagination and set her free to explore her emotions and feelings, as well as her world, in a time when she needed something to lean on. Books gave her a place to find her inner knowing. Reading changed her world from a barren landscape to a universe of abundance, filled with story and mystery and love. In her disconnect, she connected through story to what gives life meaning, depth, context. In her disconnect, she connected and found herself on the other side of discontent.

My world got rocked yesterday, in not so good a way, by my daughter's discovery of having epilepsy. "Did I pass it along?" I wondered. "Was there, as some suggest, a 'pre-birth' trauma I don't remember? Did I drop her on her head when she was an infant?"

The did I, could I have, is there... thinking changes my world drastically when I give into its pull to gravitate off the axis of my belief, "We are each and every one of us exactly where we're meant to be in this moment." I can't go looking for 'fault' in me and find my beauty. Because in looking for my culpability in her condition, I am limiting my ability to be present with her exactly where she's at, exactly as she is so she can be free to find her strength, courage and acceptance of what is in her life today where ever she is at.

Reality is, there is no other place for us to be in this moment because this is where we are in this moment.

A friend said to me yesterday, "I wonder if working there [at the homeless shelter] is best for you. Given all that's gone wrong recently in your life, I wonder if that's the right place for you?"

I was a bit surprised. I don't look at anything as having 'gone wrong' in my life. Sure, I'd have liked a different diagnosis for my daughter, I'd have liked Ellie the Wonder dog to not have been sick. I'd have preferred Liseanne not have had a seizure and not have epilepsy and I'd like C.C. to find himself with me in the picture, but I don't see any of it as having gone wrong. I see it as being what it is. Because it is, Life, in all its manifestations. And life is so much more invigorating than the option of not having life!

Life. Full. Vibrant. Sometimes messy. Sometimes confusing. Sometimes surprising and full of adventure and opportunity and moments that take my breath away and moments that break my heart and release my tears. And every moment appearing as an exquisite reflection of how I see the world around me.

At meditation on Wednesday night, the leader invited us to imagine, as only we can in the creative space of our imaginations, that we were walking in a desert. Someone is walking towards you, he said.

I saw me.

I saw me walking towards me. I walked right through me into another me and then another and then another.

The Bhagavad Gita says, "Curving back on myself I create again and again."

Everyone I meet is me. Everyone who meets me is them. We are the same. We are different. We are all of this one planet, walking this one earth, breathing in this same oxygen that gives us life, expelling carbon dioxide that is transformed by the trees and plants and flowers around us into life-giving oxygen all over again, being grounded by the same gravity that holds us here and keeps us walking together on this planet we all share. We are One Planet. One Earth. One World.

Where we differ is in our beliefs and the experiences we create through our beliefs.

The cup is half full. The cup is half empty.

The cup has something to drink in it. Let me enjoy the cup's bounty.

We can only see what is through the beliefs we hold about what is true and real and factual in the world as we see it.

Do I focus on the capacity of the cup to hold liquid or do I focus on experiencing the liquid in the cup, savouring its ability to sustain me, nurture me, nourish me?

My daughter has a challenging diagnosis. She can crumble beneath its weight. Or soar above its perceived limitations and live her life on fire, into the fire that turns all things to carbon that is at the base of our human being.

I can make it all about me or I can create an opportunity for growth and learning and sharing and being connected so that we can grow and learn and share our best, connected through what makes us strong, Love.

C.C. needs to find himself. I can see what he is doing as being about me. About my lack of being 'enough' for him, or I can see it as being about him. I can bemoan what's happening or I can celebrate his journey as he explores what he needs to do to find the self-love that will nurture and nourish and support and strengthen him to be the man he wants to be. The man he is.

I can make it all about me or I can create an opportunity for growth and learning and sharing...

How I see the world is how the world appears to me.

And how I see the world today is as a storied place filled with adventure, with opportunities to learn and grow and share. With moments that captivate my imagination, awaken my senses, give flow to my emotions and set me free to explore what I can do to create beauty in this world of my dreams.

How do you see the world?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adjusting to what is

Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you're going to do about it. Kathleen Casey Theisen

The call came at 2:08 a.m. I hadn't moved the phone to the bedside table so had to leap from bed, across the room, barely missing the dog who lay sprawled across the floor, strategically placed in my path just in case I was going to the kitchen. I leaped at just the right moment, stretched and grabbed the receiver, hoping I hit the right button in the dark and didn't cut the caller off. I was pretty sure I knew who it was..

Hello, I called anxiously into the phone.

"Hi mommy," my youngest daughters voice echoed down the line. "I know I woke you but I knew you'd want to know what happened when you got up and I'm on my way to Amsterdam to meet Ryan and won't be able to call until much later."

She was right. I did want to know and I didn't care about the time.

"I'm glad you called honey. How did it go?" She had an appointment that morning with the neurologist to get the results of her last EEG.

"I've got epilepsy," she said. Her voice was flat. Missing it's usual light lilt.

I didn't want to say 'sorry'. I wanted to ensure that what ever I said supported her. Acknowledged her. Embraced her.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"Um. Ok. At least I know what it is."

"Yup. And with the knowledge fear of the unknown can leave and we can focus on what is. What else did the doctor say?"

"He gave me some pills. He doesn't want me to take them yet. Not until after my next seizure."

"And what's the likelihood of a 'next'?"

I heard her sigh and ached to reach across the wire to hold her, soothe her, to ease her pain.

"Pretty high."

She's off to Amsterdam. This beautiful young 22 year old woman with bright eyes and a wide smile and a great big adventure of an unwritten future waiting to be explored. Her boyfriend arrives today from Canada. They plan on travelling for 2 months before he returns and she goes off to Ireland to meet up with a girlfriend for two weeks. She'll be back home at the end of August, just in time for fall session at University.

We chatted a bit. She told me more details of what had transpired at the doctor's office. "He gave me copies of my MRI and EEGs so that if I have a seizure while I'm travelling I'll have them with me just in case. Can you phone dad and Alexis and tell them I'll call later."

"Of course honey. Anything else I can do?"

"Not right now. Ashley's the lucky one. If I have another seizure she'll have to put a pill up my butt."

We laughed together. Ashley, her roommate from university will be travelling with her, along with another friend and Ryan.

"I've gotta go mom. I have to catch the bus to the train station in ten minutes and I don't want to miss it."

"Ok honey. Thanks for calling. I'll call your dad and sister and let them know you'll call later."

"Thanks mom. I love you."

"I love you too." Pause. "You're going to be ok, honey. You've got the power to deal with whatever life throws at you."


"I know. It just kinda sucks."

"Yeah. It does."

And we said good-bye.

Ryan will have landed by now. He's calm and level headed and caring. I'm glad he's there.

Though I still wish I were, even though I know, right now, the only reason for me to be there would be to make me feel better, not her. It's not the place for me. She's ok. It's not life-threatening. It's just life-adjusting.

And as my friend Diane wrote yesterday over at Contemplative Photography, Life's not what it's not; it is what it is.

My daughter will be ok. She is ok. Right now. She just needs time to adjust to this news.

She's with people she loves, who love her in return. They'll take her mind off her 'news' and infuse her with joy as she remembers the joy of being herself -- regardless of the diagnosis. I know this to be true. And I am relieved. She doesn't need a mother hen. She needs lightness of being. Laughter. Joy. Fun.

She needs to know nothings changed within who she is and what better way to know that than to be amidst the laughter and joy of youth. To be travelling and seeing new sites. To be exploring the world around you, experiencing an adventure of a lifetime, without judging every step of the journey against the fear of the unknown.

She knows what is. She will make adjustments as necessary. For today, she's alive and well and travelling on a train from Amsterdam back to Vlissingen as she prepares to pack up her apartment and finish off her school year. She'll drop off a suitcase at my cousin's in Paris , spend a few days exploring a city she loves with someone she loves and then set off to explore this great big wide world in wonder and awe of the beauty and mystery and adventure all around her.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Give back.

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. Anthony Robbins
In Double Lives, author, David Heenan interviews 10 outstanding individuals who have switched professions to recreate themselves in another career. Sony Chairman Norio Ohga (an orchestra conductor). Astronaut Sally Ride (previous president of website World Bank president Sir James Wolfensohn (former member of the Australian fencing team). Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen (former doctor who writes medical thrillers).

He investigates what makes them tick. What made them change. What gives them courage. He presents 20 key themes he discovered in his interviews to living a successful life, They include:

Listen to Your Heart
Take one step at a time
Define Success In Your Own Terms
Deliver Daily
Focus, Focus, Focus
Cultivate being a Maverick
Never Stop Learning
Reinvent yourself
Build a Brain Trust (surround yourself with allies and people of wisdom)
Start Now.

"Don't let procrastination, excuses, or regrets steal your dreams," Heenan writes.

On Monday, I interviewed a former client of the homeless shelter where I work who is now living independently in an apartment building we own and working on the maintenance team of the shelter.

I first met Brent at Project Forward, a 12 week financial intelligence and life-skills program I run with an outside volunteer every Tuesday night. Brent, as he would tell me later, didn't want to come to the program.

"I only came to the first session because I figured I had to make it look like I was doing something to change my life if I wanted to move into the apartment building," he said. "And going to the course would look good on my file."

He came to the first session and stayed for the entire 12 weeks. At graduation he approached me and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help with others in the course? I'd like to give back."

Give back.

I want to add it to Heenan's list Give Back.

For Brent, giving back has lead to a sense of fulfillment, a realization he is more than 'just some guy with a job who has no purpose'.

"Are you dreaming again?" I asked him in the interview.

"Oh yeah. I'm dreaming big," he replied. "I've got plans."

He'd quit dreaming for a long time. Quit believing there was more for him in life than the daily drudge. When he'd first encountered homelessness four years ago it was terrifying. "I remember walking away from my apartment. Broken. Scared. I had no idea where I'd sleep that night but I knew of this place (the shelter) and finally, after spending the day walking the streets, came into it that night. I was terrified."

For three years Brent struggled to make sense of his losses and his life. He moved from the Emergency shelter floor to a Transitional floor (a secure bed in a quieter environment with locker space and extra privileges). It was there he stuck, quietly going about his day, doing temp work when he could find it, frittering away what money he earned on cigarettes, gambling, booze and junk food.

"I had no direction. No motivation. No plan," he said.

And then, the prospect of moving out appeared on the horizon and he started to think about what could happen if...

"I began to realize I had to change," he said. "And I discovered the things that had tripped me up in the past didn't have to keep tripping me up in the future if I just gave myself a chance to start learning something new."

Budgeting, money management, lack of planning had all been issues for Brent. He came to Project Forward and started to engage his thinking in the possibilities of life beyond homelessness -- if he gave himself permission to dream, to set goals and to start moving towards them.

He's got dreams. Big ones.

Once upon a time he was homeless. Today, he has an apartment to call home. A job and a plan. Today, he gives back because, "It's the least I can do to repay how much I've been given."

Give back.

Give room for gratitude in your heart and discover ways to grow it where ever you go.

Be curious. Be persistent. Be confident -- you have something to give. It's in you.

For Brent, giving back means turning up every Tuesday night to spend an hour with 'the guys' (and the occasional woman who turns up) talking about his experience of being homeless and now housed. He recently suggested he start running little mini info sessions on our transitional housing floors, "So I can help people get over the fear and their resistance to change," he said.

For all of us, giving back means taking the time to discover what people around us are struggling to do, and what we can do to make what they're doing different, less frightening, less nerve-wracking, more enjoyable, more fulfilling.

Give back.

And fill your heart with gratitude.

You'll be richer for the experience.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Snowmen melting into compassion

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama
It began with a thought drifting into my meditation like the recent snows of May into the promise of spring's surcease of winter. "How many snowflakes does it take to make a snowman?"

Unbidden. Unwelcome, the thought planted itself and grew into a colossal white figure complete with top hat and red scarf, carrot nose and raisin eyes all within a blink of my mind's eye.

"How many snowflakes does it take to make a snowman?"

I mean really. Here I am attempting to connect with Oneness and visions of snowmen float into my head in icy formation. What the Ohm am I thinking about?

There was to be no respite from the thoughts chilling persistence. It was a question seeking missile searching for a heat source.

With crystal like precision, the first question gave rise to the next -- 'cause that's the thing about really good questions, there's always the next one lurking in the wings, waiting for the breath of nonsense to give rise to its vapors.

"If every snowflake is different, when the snowman melts is every drop of water different too?"

Needless to say, peace of mind froze on the wing of my prayers as my meditation practice cavorted off into deeper pondering of life's snowy meaning as quickly as a Tibetan bowl ring dissipating into silence. I was stuck in a blinding snowstorm of thought and lost the trail of my thinking on the original seed of my meditation practice this morning.


Because that was my original intent. To meditate on the word compassion and let the Universe have its way on the landscape of my mind. That vast (and hopefully empty) space where there are no footprints in the snow. And no snowmen on the horizon.

And there I was lost. Bereft. Building snowmen in the sky. Searching for a spring thaw to ease me back to mindfulness.

And then, like King Wencelaus looking out on the feast of Stephen and spying a poor man in the frost so cruel, the Universe took compassion upon my meanderings and drew me to its loving hearth.

Snow melts. The earth is watered. Grass springs up.

That's it! That's compassion.

Giving of one's life to give life to another.

See, that's not that far off from counting snowflakes.

And it definitely brings me full circle back to the source of what gives my life beauty today.


And it is all because of my friend.

She is one of the most loving and compassionate people I know. Once upon a time I hurt her deeply. Betrayed her trust. Abused her friendship. To pay me back, she saved my life.

That's compassion.

She saved my daughters too. Gave my eldest daughter a safe haven when the winds of home grew too fierce for her to withstand their onslaught and I was far away and lost.

Gave a home to a runaway teen whose mother had kicked her out because her sexual sway was too far off the mother's beaten path.

Gave a home to my youngest daughter too when I came back and had nowhere else to be with my girls.

Gave a home to a young European girl here on an exchange when she too could not abide where she had been dictated to be.

And continues to give a home in her heart to those who have lost their way.

That's my friend. Compassionate heart giving without thought of receiving.

I've cried tears with this friend. Buckets full. And together, we've watered the seeds of forgiveness and love in the ocean of her compassionate heart.

Recently, in an email she wrote, "Gee, the pavement feels remarkably comfortable. Just let me lie here and think a bit."

It is what makes her compassion so vital. Her ability to gently laugh at her own predicaments and find the humour in every situation.

Like the time we hid out in her powder room while the man who promised to love me 'til death do us part and was trying to break into her house to finish off what we feared would be the end part of his promise.

"Damn," she whispered as she stood beside me behind the closed door where I lay on the floor peering out beneath the crack to see if he was having any luck getting through her patio door. "If only we'd remembered the playing cards. We could have played Gin Rummy."

Excuse me? There I was lying on the floor worrying about dust bunnies rising up my nose and a mad man breaking down her door and she was thinking about playing cards... I mean really.

And there's that 'in loving compassion' thing again.

Her humour diffused a perilous moment and sent us into gales of laughter. Two grown women hiding out in a powder room from a man who couldn't hold a candle to the power of our thinking and ability to take action that would send him back to where he'd come from, which on that day happened to have been jail.

We laughed about that day in years to come. Laughed and cried and agreed. Love is more powerful than fear. And compassion has the power to soothe an aching heart, not to mention the essential balm to ease a crying jag.

My friend, the one who is currently lying on familiar ground thinking, she has taught me what it means to give without thought of getting.

She has shown me what it means to stand steadfast in the winds of adversity. To stand true to your beliefs and values in the face of betrayal.

She saved my life once. It's time for me to repay the gift and share with her what she gives so freely and effortlessly.

Love and understanding.

Tenderness and care.

Kindness and compassion.

Compassion is today's prompt word over at the Blog Carnival sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time and Peter Pollock of Rediscovering the Church.

To read all the exiting and entertaining and inspiring posts hop on over to Bridget's place. There you'll find a list of links to all of the contributions, posted throughout today and often through to the end of the week.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Courage is part of the adventure

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. Raymond Lindquist
It was just a short email. 'Hey! It's me. I'm doing good. I've just been made shop-foreman. Life isn't perfect but it's sure better than it used to be. A few years ago if you would have told me where I would be today , I would have thought you to be the addict and not me.'

A short note to explain a long road away from prison and addictions and breaking down and busted up and climbing up out of the pit of despair he'd fallen into.

It's been a couple of years since I saw or heard from him. When I last saw him he had moved out of the homeless shelter where I work to a rooming house. Had a job. Had hope. I'd given him an old bicycle to get to it and he was peddling through downtown when he saw me and stopped to say hello and to tell me he was doing okay, still struggling with his addictions but working and taking it one day at a time..

That was two years ago. And now, this email. I was happy, overjoyed, thankful.

"I realized that there is opportunity for every one if you are willing to take a chance," he wrote. "Things are not 100% perfect , probably far from it...But compared to how I was living, well I won't compare because it was two different times with different circumstances."

I'd met him in a class I teach at the shelter. I was teaching what I know and so was he. He was teaching me about honesty and courage and humility. He was 34 and the two years at the shelter were the longest stretch in his life he'd ever been out of juvvie or prison or some kind of institution.

He didn't want to leave the shelter. "I like being institutionalized," he said. "I like the routine and the rules."

"What if... 'out there' is a possibility you just don't know about yet?" I asked him. "What if being in here is just a way to stay 'safe' and keep yourself from experiencing something new?"

He wasn't a 'bad' man. Just lost and angry and beaten down. Foster care. Juvvie. A life of addictions. He struggled to make sense of the nonsense that was his life and kept coming back to the places where he felt comfortable, where he fit in. He kept going back to jail because it was the only path he'd ever been on that kept him from falling down in a world he didn't understand.

He broke the law because it was the only thing he knew how to do. And then, he chose to take the leap. To believe there was something more for him than breaking the law and going to jail. He stepped out of his comfort zone and found himself on the other size of the crazy that had been his life cycle.

And in his choice to act out his courage instead of his fear, he found out, he didn't have to keep doing what he was doing and finding himself back in 'that place' where he never wanted to go again. He found out he could turn up, pay attention and be honest and caring of himself.

He's moved on. Life is better, not '100%' perfect but he's got a job, a place to live and a future he's looking forward to. He's proud of himself, proud of his accomplishments, proud of the fact he's picked himself up and found a path out of homelessness and addiction to being all he's meant to be where he's at today.

There's a lesson in his life for all of us.

Where we've been is nothing compared to where we can go when we let go of believing, where we're at is the only place where we are safe from falling backwards.

There are many directions to fall. Forwards. Backwards. Sideways. Upside down. Right-side up.

We choose our direction when we choose to let go of the familiar walls we lean on to keep ourselves from falling backwards. We choose our direction when we step forward without looking back at where we were, wishing we didn't have to go.

He's gone from the shelter. Gone on to live his life. And I'm happy and thankful and grateful. I'm blessed to be part of his journey and to have him as part of mine. He's given me the gift of knowing courage is just a step in a new direction. Courage is an essential part of this adventure called 'life'.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Passages: 100 boats. 100 people. 100 ways to reach the sea

Even the weather listened to organizer's pleas yesterday when 100 invited guests launched 100 wooden boats into the Bow River for their journey to 'Destination Unknown'.

My boat was No. 98. I chose it from a box of wooden crafts hand-carved and etched by artist Peter Von Tiesenhausen. The 100 boats are the foundation of his Passages project in celebration of the Bow River which the City of Calgary is celebrating this summer to explore the idea -- How does the Bow connect us to our landscape and to each other?" For Peter Von Tiesenhausen, it is a statement about the "connections among life and water cycles, stewardship, consciousness and spirit."

Cradled in two hands, the wooden boat was smooth and silky; earthy, of the earth, earth filled. There's a slight smell of burnt wood, the figure on each boat has been charred, the area around it filled in with a mixture of sediments collected by the artist along the Bow River drainage basin, ground and painted in to outline the figure.

In Peter's artist's statement for Passages, he writes:
"One strand of water stretches unbroken from glacier to sea
to join with that which encircles the earth.
Branches increase the flow
others reduce
Tentacles search into the fields and dissipate
Without water there is no wood.
Wood is the tangible residue of life,
A fibre of stored sunshine and mineral,
Fire is both life and purification,
the figure, both birth and death.
Full cycles.
One hundred boats released by human hands,
destination unknown,
tiny cargoes of silt
to become
field, fish or sea."

It was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday, under sun, along the river, connected to its flow, feeling its pull as my boat sailed out of my hands to land upon the waters and be carried out of sight.

I don't know where my boat will end up. The hope -- it will be find its way to the Hudson's Bay and return to the flow of life.

For more photos on the day and to see the moment when all 100 of us released our boats simultaneously into the river, visit here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Lion named Grrr.

Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. Arnold Glasow
When Liseanne was six she was diagnosed with a spinal condition. It was a label that soothed my aching heart and questing mind to find an answer to the excruciating back pain from which she suffered. It didn't make her, or me, feel better, but it at least gave us a starting point for finding ways to relieve her pain.

She started physio -- "That hurts mummy" was a cry I came to loathe as I sat on the floor with her doing her stretches. The physio sessions weren't bad. they were done in a pool and the coach always made it fun. It also gave her a compassionate perspective.

There was a young girl, slightly older than Liseanne, who was also in the class who had serious arthritis. For her, the simple motion of bending over was a laborious exercise fraught with pain. Liseanne used to stand beside this young girl and help her bend and stretch. It was awesome to watch these two young girls connect through their pain in compassion and, as is always the case with Liseanne, humour. She would make a funny comment and the girl would laugh and then they'd bend. I think Liseanne figured out that if you gotta do something and it hurts but you still gotta do it, you may as well laugh. And laugh she did.

She didn't laugh very much with her MRIs. Every few months we'd arrive at the Radiology section in the basement of the hospital where she was scheduled for her MRI and she would sigh and ask, "I can have ice cream after this, right?"

She didn't like the MRI. I couldn't blame her -- it was scary to many adults let alone a small child. But, like or dislike, she still needed to do it and all I could do was go with her, stand at her feet and hold them as she lay, absolutely still, in the long white chamber of the machine as the pings knocked around her head and frightened her.

I wanted to teach her about courage. About her strength and power. I didn't want her to believe she was 'sick'. I wanted her to know, she had the power to look at herself as whole because, she was (and is) whole.

One day, I created a story for her about a powerful stuffed animal whose courage was legendary. He was a giving animal and whomever carried him also carried his courage -- and with his courage in the child's arms, the child could do anything.

Liseanne fell in love with the idea that a stuffy could be her badge of courage and so we went to a toy store and searched the aisles for the perfect Courage Talisman.

It took a couple of hours. Sometimes, I believe she liked to see just how far she could take me on her quest to test the boundaries of my patience! :)

This day, she sat on the floor of the toy store aisle and pointed to a spot on the shelf where a bear or tiger or some other creature sat. I picked it up and passed it down to her. Bears and alligators. Cats and dogs. Elephants and penguins. Zebras and giraffes. Tigers and lions. Big ones. Little ones. Miniatures. Child-size. She tried them all.

She sat on the floor held the animal in her arms, rocked it, stroked it. "Are you courageous?" she asked each one before getting up to walk up and down the aisle, cuddling the animal against her heart, checking to see if its courage fit.

It was the lion who finally touched her heart. Golden coloured, soft and cuddly, he had a mane of lighter yellow, soft eyes and body. He wasn't very big. Fit against her chest and didn't reach her waist. But he was fearless. Mighty. Courageous.

"I'll call him Grrr," she exclaimed.

Grrr went everywhere with her, including the MRI chamber where, because he had no metal parts his presence was always welcome.

And through it all, I stood at her feet, helpless to stop the pounding noise within the chamber. Helpless to change the pain in her back.

Yesterday morning, I chatted with Lele (her nickname since childhood) and she told me the outcome of her hospital experience. It was afternoon in Vlissingen and she was home. A woman from the International Student's office had picked her up and driven her from Middleburg where the hospital is located back to her apartment. the University, both there and here have been amazing.

The outcome -- There were abnormalities on her EEG. Signs of possible epilepsy. She can't drive for three months but is okay to fly. She's planning on continuing her stay in Europe. She's got two and a half months of travel planned and doesn't want to change any of it.

I wouldn't either.

She is okay. Shaken, but not stirred up. She's handling it all with the grace and equanimity that is her nature.

I have a new nickname, she said.

Oh? What's that?

Well, you know how all my friends call me 'Sleezy Leezy'. They're now calling me, 'Seezy Leezy'. and she laughed.

Funny, I replied. Very funny.

On Monday, she goes back to the hospital for another EEG where, after 24 hours without sleep, they will attempt to induce a seizure.

Don't you have your MRI on Monday, I asked.

They did it today, she told me. She paused. I wish you had been there to hold my feet.

I wish I had been too. I replied.

She is okay. It may not be the outcome she was hoping for -- which would have been more along the lines of 'a freak event with no explanation but hey! freaky things happen', but, she has above all else, her amazing spirit, her optimism and the courage of a lion named Grrr. And, she has her laughter and lightness of being that lights up the world.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Love Drives You Mad

Love drives you mad
from revelation to revelation
through ordeal after ordeal
until humble and broken
you are carried tenderly
into the heart of the rose.
- Jalal-ud-Din Rumi(Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi)

It is hard, when my mind is consumed with thoughts of my daughter and her well-being, to focus on what I need/want/could/should/would be doing if my thoughts were not consumed with my daughter and her well-being. And then I realize -- it is okay. There are no shoulda's, coulda's, woulda's when a mother is heartsick for her baby.

I spoke with Liseanne a couple of times yesterday. At one point we also IMed for awhile and I had to laugh -- once a mother, always a mother.

"Oh, and don't forget to brush your teeth," I wrote.

"I don't have a toothbrush," she quickly typed back.

"Maybe Ashley, (her roommate) can bring it," I responded.

"She is going to. Later."

"How's the hospital treating you?"

"They're very nice."

"How's the food?"

"Not bad. And it's free."

And it's free.

A student's dream. Not bad food and it's free.

"Think I might just stay a few extra days for the free food." she quipped.

"Don't be a naughty girl. Mother's don't like it when their children are in hospital."

"Okay, I promise. I won't stay longer."

"Good girl."

"Wait. Did you just call me a good girl?"


"You must be stressed."

"Nope. Just checking to see if you're paying attention."

"I am."

"Oh my, what have they done with my daughter?"

"Haha. I'm right here."

"I wish you were somehwere else."

"Me too." Pause. "I love you."

"I love you too."

Good girl is a no-no in our house. What's amazing is how the idea of 'good girl' versus 'bad girl' has stuck. When the girls were young I was vehement about not using the phrase, "Good girl".

If you're not a 'good girl' does that mean you're bad, or simply neutral? We are all 'good' at our core. It's our behaviour that can be optional -- but we as human beings are not 'good' nor 'bad'. We are perfect in our human condition.

The girls joked about my insistence of interviewing teachers to find out what words they used to commend the girls on things they'd done well -- there were several pre-schools that were not graced with my daughters presence because the principle responded, "Good girl."

My dog is a "Good girl", I replied. "My daughters are fundamentally good. Please applaud them on their behaviour, but never question their inherent worth and value by phrases such as 'good girl'.

I know. I know. I was a bit of a wild woman... But, the beauty is, both girls understand the difference between behaviour and their worth. Both girls understand the power of words to create our beliefs which create our experiences. And both girls know -- they are magnificent human beings.... who... like all human beings, sometimes indulge in behaviours that are less than optimal!

We can change and adapt behaviours. There is no need to change who we are as human beings. We are perfect.

Liseanne is now out of the hospital and on her way home -- I'm just waiting to chat with her to find out more.

It was a long day yesterday -- and it was a day of clarity, of awakening, of learning, of possibility, of hope, of Love.

I received a call in the afternoon from a woman who runs the International Student's Program at the university here. Some years ago her daughter and my eldest daughter went to school together. We spent some time as 'moms' watching our girls in various activities and along the way, enjoyed each other's company and occasionally shared a social event or glass of wine together too. But, as often happens in the busy-ness of life, we lost touch.

Yesterday, when she saw Liseanne's name on the report that came through from the University in Vlissingen, she phoned to reassure me and to offer her support.

"We've already started the insurance paperwork," she said after establishing our connection. "Liseanne won't have to worry about reimbursement as we'll pay everything from here."

Now that's a relief -- I'd already told Liseanne not to defer any tests or treatments as we'd figure out the insurance issues after the fact. Not having to figure anything out definitely eases the stress level.

We chatted some more and agreed we'd love to reestablish our friendship. "I really enjoyed your company back when we spent time together," she said. "I'd love to reconnect."

"Me too," I told her. "Perhaps this is one of the gifts of this situation."

We laughed and agreed to get together this evening for a visit -- and maybe a glass of wine. :)

There is another gift in this situation. Her daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 12. Since then, through diet, minimum drug intervention and a conscious regimen of well-being, her epilepsy has not manifested itself in seizures or other ill-effects.

While we don't know for sure the cause of Liseanne's seizure, epilepsy is one of the considerations the doctors are taking seriously. Being reassured by someone who's been through it with her daughter definitely helps!

Another gift is the immediate care Liseanne is receiving. Here in Alberta, our health care system is under-siege. If it is not life-threatening, wait lists abound. To have an appointment with a neurologist within two-days is unheard of -- even for those in hospital. To be booked for an MRI within 5 days, for a non life-threatening situation, would be a miracle here.

Liseanne is in a place where she is receiving what she needs, when she needs it -- to be able to live without fear and the pressure of the unknown adding to her stress level.

That's a bit of a miracle in and of itself.

So, while I have no more news, I do have a greater sense of balance. Liseanne is exactly where she's meant to be -- and, whatever the 'diagnosis', between the medical community and our community of support, she will get through it.

A girlfriend and I were talking yesterday and she said, "I'd tell you she'll be just fine but I know that won't help you."

"Thank you. It's not a reassurance. People telling me, 'she'll be okay' when we don't yet know what the issue is, always feels like a lie."

My girlfriend laughed. "I always forget how you like information first. Me, I'd prefer people just tell me, she'll be okay. I can lean on that belief."

"I can lean on it too," I told her. "But when I don't know what the 'problem' is, I get antsy with the blanket, 'she'll be okay'. It makes me feel as if I'm avoiding reality."

"Ah, yes," my friend quipped. "Reality at all costs."

We laughed and agreed -- whatever this is, Liseanne will be okay. She's got an amazing support group. Some women who are strong and fearless in their support and, above all, people who love her and would move the earth to make room for her beauty and passion to flourish in our world.

This friend was with Alexis when, at 18, she had a lump removed from her breast. It was benign but for awhile, the fear of the unknown shadowed our belief, 'she would be okay'. On the day of Alexis' surgery, we sat in the waiting room of the clinic, my 18 year old daughter and four women who love her dearly, all friends of mine who came to support us.

I remember sitting in that waiting room, surrounded by these powerful and caring women and thinking -- what an amazing circle of love.

We live on a planet that is round, like a ball. A giant circle orbiting through space. We are on one planet, in one space, breathing the same air. No matter where we stand -- we are all connected through the very earth space we share, the human condition into which every single one of us was born. the circumstances of our births may be different. The realities of our lives may vary -- but we cannot get away from the fact, we are all on this same planet, circling through space and time together, breathing the same air and walking in the same atmosphere.

We are all connected -- and in our human condition here on earth is the thread that binds us to one another.

My daughter will be okay. She is okay. Not because she had a seizure and is getting medical attention. She is okay because she is connected through a tie that binds her to my heart that is connected to your heart that is connected to every other heart on this planet -- whether we can see it or not.

She is part of a circle of love that knows no bounds. A life-giving support system that lifts her up, regardless of where she's at, to give her hope, possibility and above all else, Love.

We are all connected -- and it is that connection that makes us so amazing. So awesome. So incredibly magnificent.

Thank you for all the words of encouragement and support. For the prayers and hopes and gentle touches you share so freely.

I know I'm scattered today -- and that's okay. Because I know, there are those who are picking up the slack, filling in the gaps where I am missing my beat. I know, the rhythm of my life is strengthened by the harmony we create when we listen to each other's heart beats and offer our love, support and encouragement so that each of us can keep beating our unique timbre without fearing we will not be heard.

I feel heard. I feel supported. I feel loved. And I thank each of you for your grace and beauty and light on this path. I thank you for carrying me so tenderly into the heart of the rose.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The One within and without.

My blogger friend Glynn over at Faith, Fiction, Friends, is reading God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat. In one of the exercises, L.L. Barkat suggests writing your life out as if you are your garden.

Cool idea, I thought.

I read what Glynn wrote and was in awe. Wow. This is one deep and clear guy.

What does my garden say about me, I wondered.

Ahhhh. Well. first off -- I'm not much of a gardener. Love beautiful gardens but I grew up in a house where gardening was not the norm. Other people did the work and once, when I attempted to pull weeds, the gardening dude asked me to stop -- apparently, the rest of the world can identify weeds from plants without uprooting everything.

Must be why I identify with Dandelions. They just need a really good PR job and the world would see their worth in whole different ways.

I don't have a garden. I have a yard. A big one by inner city standards. And it is grass and trees. What some would call the flower beds have been left to variegated leafy vine heaven. Under the weeping birch a wicker love seat and chair sit, an open invitation to passers-by to come and sit a spell beneath the trees welcoming shade.

In the back yard, chaos edges up against time given over to run wild. We have a team of handsome dudes, and sometimes scantily clad young lasses, who come and move and trim and the rest is pretty well left up to nature. I don't like interfering with nature's course -- and justify the casual look of the backyard with my belief -- the birds and bees like it that way.

What I do have in the backyard is a reflection of my nature. Along one wall of the garage I've put arched wrought iron trellis' with carved leaves where hops serpentine up in leafy frolic. I did plant Iris bulbs and crocus at their bases but the squirrels dug them all up and feasted on them. There's a lion's head fountain and a big metal sun on the wall as well. the fountain spews and the sun smiles and all is well on my wall.

The apple tree is adorned with a glass mermaid sculpture that hangs suspended from one branch and a couple of birdfeeders and tiny wooden bird houses and a couple of my favourite sayings painted on pottery and wood that hang around, casting wisdom amongst the leaves. The whole yard is encompassed in a six ft high hedge and Ellie, the wonder pooch, has the run of it all.

My yard is unpredictable, disorganized, somewhat cluttered in a couple of spaces where the lawn furniture still awaits summer -- one day soon I'm sure! Like summer I live with the motto 'some day soon', I'll get to it.

I'm sure it's a reflection of me. I don't like doing anything I don't do well -- from the get go -- and I don't know enough about gardening to do it well -- and I have enough things demanding my time I don't commit to the yard because.... I'd have to give up something else I love and know how to do -- like write or paint or take Ellie for long walks.

and really, this post isn't about my garden where I feel helpless.

It's about aspects of my life where I feel helpless today. Ellie has been sick for a week and finally, after several hundreds of dollars, too many tests and pokes and prods, she seems to have turned the corner this morning. I was terrified it was cancer -- and didn't want to know -- all in the same breath. She doesn't have cancer -- just something she ate, which given she is a garbage hound, it's amazing she's gotten nine years without getting sick over something she's eaten before!

I didn't go to my meditation group last night though, because Ellie had spent the day alone and I didn't want to leave her for the evening.

And then I discovered why I didn't go.

I got a phone call from my daughter, Liseanne's, boyfriend. Liseanne had tried to call me earlier in the day (I noticed but when I called back there was no answer). She's at school in the Netherlands and we try to talk a few times a week so I wasn't too concerned when I missed her. I had forgotten my cell phone at home so she couldn't have reached me anyway.

When Ryan (the boyfriend) called, I asked him if he was excited. He leaves to meet up with Lele in Amsterdam next week. "Yes, but I have some not so great news.... Lele is in hospital."

Um.... 5,000 miles, a continent and an ocean separate me from my baby and she is in hospital. She had a seizure. They don't know why. They don't know what. They don't really know much.

I have since spoken with the nurse on the ward as well as Liseanne this morning and she is 'okay'. "Don't stress out over what we don't know," she told me after I told her I'd been checking flights and could be there by tomorrow. "There's no need for you to come. I'm okay."


Thing is. she is. Okay. And whatever is going on will be discovered -- with or without me there. And once we know what it is, then I can make decisions. Not before, she reminded me.

She sounded like me. Let's find out what it is before we leap to conclusions or into ill-advised or untimely action -- I'd said those words when she was a five year old and the doctor informed me she had Lupus. I didn't believe him -- and sure enough, once they'd rechecked the results form her tests, it was discovered a decimal point had been put in the wrong place and given them a false reading on paper.

I'd said those words when they told me she had 'syringamyalia' and she kept going for MRIs every few months. I didn't want my child to believe herself to be 'sick'. She might have a condition, but it didn't make her disabled or sick or other than. It was the condition that was unwelcome. She was and is a miraculous human being.

And still I feel helpless.

My garden this morning consoled me. I lay in bed and watched the birds twitter around the feeders. Dip into the copper birdbath that sits beneath the tree. It consoled me to hear the water trickling from the lion's mouth, to watch a bird sit on the fountain's edge and dip into the well.

It consoled me to simply watch nature be what it is without having to be anything other than what it is.

I can't change nature. I can't change whatever is going on within my daughter's brain. What I can change is how I go through my day -- stressed out or accepting of what is, knowing, I have the courage, the strength, the fortitude to deal with whatever comes my way.

And knowing -- my daughter is in good hands. She doesn't need my stressed out calling for reassurance every five minutes. She needs my strength, my courage, my love. She needs me to be calm so that any decisions we make are based on the right thing to do, not a reaction to what isn't going right with me acting out to make something happen to make me feel alright.

And so it is.
the way it is.
the only way it can be
when I let go of fear
and move with grace and ease
into knowing
all is well with my soul
when I am well within me
letting nature run its course
as I run back to the One
who is the One within
and without Me.

I'll be okay, my daughter said.

I know she will.

I breathe and remind myself -- I can't control the world, only how I move within it.

and this is only fear -- and fear is the opportunity to be courageous. It isn't about me. It's about what can I do for my daughter to help her embrace her strength and courage, her beauty and wisdom.