Saturday, October 31, 2009

Love Love Love

I started this blog little over a month ago for a few reasons:

One, the cat woke me up at an ungodly hour and, fuming mad, I said a little prayer to help me not to strangle him; Two, I had just seen Julie & Julia, which enlightened me to the idea that a blog could be inspiring; Three, I heard a quiet, little voice from within saying, "Get up and start a blog."

I've been posting every single day (except Sundays) since then and there are currently 5 followers and an unknown number of other readers.

The idea behind the blog is simple: Inspire me, inspire you.

The feeling I get upon waking, in anticipation of writing something, as well how I feel after I post, plus comments I've received from readers, confirm the purpose of the blog as being fulfilled.

So far, so good.

Though I'd be lying if I told you I didn't get anxious about posting. "What am I going to write about? What the heck am I supposed to say to inspire people today?"

This goes against everything I teach when I lead writing workshops: We never have to think of an idea. All we have to do is stay open and let the idea come through us.

So here is what is coming through:

I am in Port Hope, Ontario, to visit my maternal grandparents. My grandfather, who is in his mid-nineties, is bed-ridden, which I did not know until I arrived last night. My grandmother is diabetic and chronically depressed. They still live in their own home and have (at the moment) 24-hour care.

When I go there today I will sit with them and I will be a listener. I will be of support in whatever way I can. I will be present with them in the spirit of unconditional love.

Believe me, there is a lot that I could say to them. I could tell them what I think about their parenting skills, I could give them advice about spiritual healing, I could suggest many changes they could make in order to feel better.

But this is not my job. These things are none of my business.

My only job is to love them. And to be a loving presence in their lives. For one day.

Not easy. But right.

And thank you for reading this message, by the way. Knowing you are out there keeps me going.

Inspiring Message of the Day: It's easy to tell other people how we think they ought to be living. The more difficult path is to simply be a loving presence. By taking the path of unconditional love I bring peace to the situation and to my own heart.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Toronto the Good

Today is my last day in Toronto. I'm heading an hour east to spend a couple of days in Port Hope, where I lived from 2001 to 2004. My mother's family is there and a few good friends. I'm looking forward to visiting another ex-home.

I live in a small town and when I come to the Big City (this could be anywhere, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto) I like to take advantage of all it has to offer. I have done this in spades this past week. I'm officially overstimulated.

It's been a week of listening to endless sirens wailing. I heard a terrible story about a young man who was beaten and then run over and killed. I've listened to lots of fearful talk about H1N1 and seen people wearing surgical masks for protection. I saw a someone lying in a sleeping bag on a busy corner and I watched a man having an animated conversation with an imaginary person. His jeans were filthy and did not fit him and his hair was matted and wild.

I went to the theatre, twice. I saw a couple of brilliant films that made me weep. I took photographs of the sun glinting off the new Crystal at the ROM and the RBC building downtown. I ate vegan in Kensington Market, Thai at a home in the Annex and Japanese at College and Yonge. I connected with friends and family and I people-watched on subways, buses and streetcars.

This is an amazing city. There is so much going on all the time. It is constantly buzzing with human energy. I've had to take a few naps.

I met a woman yesterday who is really struggling in her life right now. She was full of pain. I am about to go and visit my friend who has breast cancer. My friends' daughter-in-law and grandson both have swine flu.

There are 2.48 million stories taking place simultaneously right here in the city. Another 3 million stories in the GTA. There are 25,000 people in Whitehorse, where I live. The contrast is stunning.

This past week has been more than just a trip I took to go to a wedding and do some business. It has brought me a deeper appreciation of all that I have and all that I am. I'm so alive today. I have perfect health. I am living a life of adventure and freedom. The words "thank-you" just don't cut it. But thank-you.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Travel can awaken us to ourselves and to the lives of others. Take a trip and see life anew.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I went back to high school yesterday. I have nightmares about high school. Not that it was such a bad experience but the dreams are most often about me being back there at the age I am now. This is what makes it a nightmare.

"I thought I graduated," I'm thinking as the dream unfolds. Usually I've got a math exam and I haven't studied for it at all. Or I'm late for class and I can't believe I have to be there. "Am I not done with this part of my life??"

It's a terrible feeling. I suppose it's because I'm having to do something over again, something I already completed; I'm having to repeat an experience that was challenging for me.

But being back in high school yesterday was actually really inspiring.

The first thing I saw when I walked through the doors was my name painted on the wall in gold letters underneath the words "Ontario Scholars." A miracle. I had to work really hard to get good marks after failing Gym in Grade 9 and getting asked to leave my first high school because of too many absences.

After we all stood for O Canada, I spent the next couple of hours with the students in the very same theatre where I'd directed a play for the first time at age 17. I read them one of the plays I've written and we talked about acting and writing and where to go after high school is over. Their dreams of being professional actors and dancers and musicians shone from their eager, young faces.

When the reading was done and it was time for me to leave, I looked outside at the "smoking section" where we used to hang out before, after and between classes and smoke cigarettes and I saw an empty yard. Times have changed.

On my way back downtown, on the same bus I took every morning all those years ago, I reflected upon my own success as a writer/performer. Twenty years ago our drama teacher had looked around the classroom and said, "Statistics tell us that only two of you are going to make it."

In that moment, I'd sworn to myself that I would be one of those two. And 20 years later I am. Not because I'm rich and famous but because I'm a working artist. I'm still at it. I didn't give up. I persevered. What a feeling!

Inspiring Message of the Day: "If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying. "Here comes number seventy-one!" Richard M. Devos

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Carpe Diem

It's early folks. Don't ever believe the time it says I posted the blog, for it seems to be wrong no matter what time zone I'm in, but it's the crack of dawn nonetheless.

I'm heading out to the high school from which I graduated to read some of my work to the students and to talk about what it is like to live as a professional theatre artist. I haven't been there for 20 years.

I see in the news this morning that H1N1 has killed a 13-year old boy and last night I learned of the death of my cousin's mother-in-law from cancer. She was not old and she lived a healthy lifestyle. It was fast.

Death is on the front burner today. But it's okay. It's scary but it's okay.

There is a documentary out there called Griefwalker and the protagonist in the film is a man by the name of Stephen Jenkinson, a theologian and leader in the hospice movement who has some radical things to say about death and dying.

I heard him speak in Whitehorse once and his talk has stayed with me. He believes that if we are not acknowledging every single day that we're going to die then we're not really living. He argues that we will only ever know the profound joy of living by truly embracing the grief that accompanies the acceptance of our dying.

I believe he is right. Every day I pray for the courage to live this day fully as though it were my last. It's terrifying to confront death so matter-of-factly but boy does it make life rich.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am truly awake to the fact that I may not get another day to live I can then live more fully, rejoicing and celebrating the fact that I'm alive today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Wheeled Joy

I know that car ads tell us that the automobile will bring us freedom and independence and, to some extent, this is true. But I have found even more freedom and independence recently from the humble bicycle.

Not coincidentally, I attended a recent workshop production of a show about bicycles wherein the performer, Evalyn Parry, presents the audience with stories and songs about the evolution of the bike. Part of the bicycle's history is connected to the women's movement and how it changed us and our attire.

Evalyn and her historical sisters equate riding a bicycle to being free of the constraints of patriarchy and consumerism. Yesterday, I felt that equation most deeply.

As a traveler, I am at the mercy of public transportation and taxis. This is fine, I do well with it and I get to where I need to go. But "at the mercy" means I have to follow bus schedules and wait for cabs and leave extra early for events and do a lot of planning. It's not horrible, it's just energy- and time-consuming.

At the bike show the other night I ran into a friend who works at a fantastic bike shop here in Toronto. They rent bikes and he was adamant about setting me up with a bicycle for the rest of my trip.

The next day I went into the store and he did just that. I am now riding around on a Batavus Bicycle, AKA a "Dutch Bike" and though a heavier bike than most it is a sturdy and safe ride, which sits the rider fully upright. Straight back, legs pumping jauntily, I feel like Mary Poppins with a helmet.

I am now able to leave when I need to leave, get to where I am going for free, and whiz by taxis sitting in traffic. I am free. I am outdoors in the fresh air, getting exercise, enjoying the sights. It's marvelous.

Best of all, I ran into a friend from junior high in the bike shop and we got to reminisce and catch up while our bikes were being serviced. Hail to Curbside Cycle!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Looking for a feeling of freedom and independence? Go for a bike ride!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Taking the Sabbath

I don't blog on Sundays.

I even try not to open my laptop on Sundays, unless it is to watch a movie. No email, no web surfing. I take a break from technology. I don't do it perfectly, believe me, but I really commit to the practice and work it to the best of my ability.

A few years ago I was introduced to the notion of a taking a Sabbath day and I began to integrate the idea into my life. One day of the week where I do no work.

No work! That means if you're a gardener you don't garden. If you're a writer you don't write. It's a day of rest, a day to rejuvenate your spirit. A day to enjoy your life without the burden of do-ing.

Yesterday was a wonderful Sabbath day for me. Not completely restful but absolutely uplifting. I attended a spiritual service in the morning and a post-wedding tea in the afternoon. I went to hear John Irving read/speak at the International Festival of Authors and then I attended my friend Evalyn Parry's workshop performance of her new show Spin at the Hysteria Festival.

I was alone and I was with good friends. I was quiet at times and laughing my head off at others. I didn't need to check my email. I didn't need to be on line, staring at the screen, checking, checking, checking for what? It took me a while to learn that the world wasn't going to stop if I didn't turn on my computer.

It's a new day today. It's Monday. I'm on-line and I have a full morning of business. But I am spiritually prepared for the day and for the week because I took a Sabbath day yesterday. I highly recommend the practice.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Taking one day a week to let go of work, of do-ing, of checking email and being plugged in, is a form of deep self-care. It allows us to recharge our spiritual batteries and see the world anew.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ce-le-brate Good Times, Come On!

Since I am on the road and do not have the cat waking me up at 5 a.m. I am posting these blogs a little later than usual. I'm also feeling a bit jet-lagged. Three hours is not a huge time change but if you believe that it takes as many days to recover I'm only on Day 2.

My friend is getting married today. I blogged about her a while back. She's the gal who was more interested in taking stock of her emotional process than her guest list. Two other friends of mine are turning 40 today. It's a big day.

I am not yet 40 and I have never been married. I'm imagining what it would be like to be my girlfriend, the one who is getting hitched, right now, this morning, a few hours before she says "I do."

I'd be freaking out!

Well, maybe not. Maybe I'd be cool as a cucumber, ready to seal the deal, commit for life, tie those two loose ends into a knot.

No, I'd be freaking out.

I've been proposed to twice in my life. Once by a man in a bar in Dawson City and once by I man I truly loved and had a strong desire to marry.

Neither one worked out.

My mother, who has been married to my father for 41 years, raised me and my three sisters to be fiercely independent. She actually warned us against getting married for as long as the four of us can remember.

"It's a patriarchal custom meant to secure property and wealth," she'd tell us.

All four of us are now in our early-to-late-thirties. None of us are married. But the first one of us will be by next year.

We've come a long way, baby.

Today is a grey day. It's not ideal for a wedding. Or a birthday party. But I will celebrate with my friends these rites of passage despite the gloomy atmosphere. The birds are still singing. I can hear them through the window, open just a crack.

Inspiring Message of the Day: This is a wondrous life. There are so many possibilities. What is worth celebrating? Find something and rejoice in it. Look beyond the grey into the fullness of be-ing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tell Me A Story

It's a wild and woolly day here in Toronto. The wind is whipping the leaves off the trees and grey skies blanket the city. I'm glad to be back.

The airport taxi took me along a familiar route and memories from my Toronto life came back to me as we drove through the dark, passing various landmarks I'd known in my younger days.

My early years were spent in the Yukon but Toronto is where I grew up. Here is where I left childhood and became an adolescent. I then left adolescence and became a young woman when I moved back to Whitehorse at the age of 18.

Tonight I'm telling a story at the Festival of Oral Literatures - FOOL (, a new storytelling festival organized by an artist friend I know. The story is a stylized tale about a little girl whose innocence is ripped away after she moves from a small town in the far north to a big city in the south east.

It's an autobiographical piece. When I was 7 years old, just turning 8, I was sexually molested in a ravine near the elementary school I attended. It was the lunch hour jogging program and I was with one other girl. Somehow we'd gotten separated from the pack. My family and I had only been in Toronto about a month.

You may be shocked to read this. It's not a secret. I'm open about this part of my life. It's been a long road of healing and every time I think I'm free of the shame that comes with this kind of abuse I discover yet another layer to discard. And so I do the inner work and find an even deeper sense of freedom. But it's been a lot of inner work!

The story I will tell tonight is about moving from darkness to light, from shame to acceptance, from blame to gratitude. It's a privilege to share this part of my life in this way and I'm excited to have a new audience. The listening, too, is part of the healing.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When we share our burdens, they are halved. When we listen, we invite transformation. The exchange is often sacred.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Toronto Bound

Today I set forth on a travel adventure, heading "Down South, Back East" to the Big City of Toronto.

I spent ten years of my youth in Toronto and a couple of years in my 30's living just outside of it, commuting into the city for work and play, and I find great comfort there.

Lots of people do not like the place but I still love Toronto with all of my heart. It no longer feels like home but rather like an old friend I can return to who will take me in and entertain me for as long as I wish to stay.

I will also spend a few days in Port Hope, a little town about an hour east of TO. That's where I lived for two and a half years after leaving Montreal and before moving back to the Yukon. My mother's family lives there and I still have close friends in the region. It, too, will be a homecoming of sorts, and I am looking forward to re-connecting with folks.

Travel, as I have mentioned before on this blog, can be an anxiety-inducing experience. The loss of routine is challenging. We're out of our comfort-zone, we have to rely on other people, we have to get inside large metal tubes that fly through the sky. My prayer life becomes very rich when I travel!

I once wrote an article about walking through fear and in it I described my experience of being on an airplane and being terrified to die. My only recourse was total surrender. I let go of my life. I accepted that it was time for me to go. I said good-bye to all I knew and loved (sobbing as quietly as I could so as not to alarm the person beside me) and I actually grieved my own death.

It was a life-altering experience.

What was most amazing is that out of this came a desire to be of use. As my fear fell away I found myself asking for the courage to help someone else. The removal of my self-centred terror brought a genuine willingness to be of service.

To know that I could take action against fear by serving the greater good of my fellow passengers was a revelation. That sense of purpose I discovered, and not just on planes but in everyday life, can truly free us of our fear.

Of course, we didn't crash and I've since been on dozens of other flights. But the experience has stayed with me and whenever I'm on a flight and get scared we're not going to make it I re-visit this healing process. It works on the ground, too!

Today's Inspiring Message of the Day was sent to me by a friend. It's lovely.

“…When you travel

A new silence

Goes with you,

And if you listen,

You will hear

What your heart would

Love to say.”

“…A journey can become a sacred thing:

Make sure, before you go,

To take the time

To bless your going forth,

To free your heart of ballast

So that the compass of your soul

Might direct you toward

The territories of spirit

Where you will discover

More of your hidden life,

And the urgencies

That deserve to claim you.”

~ excerpt from John O’Donohue's “For the Traveler”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hair Today

I buzzed off all of my hair yesterday. Well, I didn't do it, Stacey the hair stylist did it for me. It's not the first time I've done it, either. I took some clippers to my hair about nine years ago and experienced the radical change, both on the inside and the outside, that can come with such a drastic move.

Though the word "drastic" conjures up images of measures taken in extreme situations it really means "likely to have a strong effect" and that is exactly what occurs when a woman has a #1 buzz cut.

The cut I sport today is not a #1. Stacey did a very careful job with scissors and though she did use a little device that made a buzzing noise the resulting effect is more of a #4.

Here is the breakdown of lengths and corresponding blades, taken from Wikipedia, FYI:
  • #0 or bareblade (shortest)
  • #1 (3 mm)
  • #2 (6 mm)
  • #3 (9 mm)
  • #4 (12 mm)
  • #5 (15 mm)
  • #6 (19 mm)
Yes, my hair is now 12 mm long. And boy does it feel good.

I remember experiencing this feeling the first time I took the plunge and went this short. It's freedom, pure and simple. Freedom from hassle, freedom from vanity, freedom from hair in the sink, on the sweater, in the food. It's a joy.

It's also intense. It's not easy to be a woman with a buzz cut. People have very strong reactions. I was having coffee with an ex-lover back when I had the #1 and he told me flat out, "I can't look at you."

The Globe & Mail even went so far as to publish an article featuring a couple of high-profile women who've gone the Sinéad O'Connor route of late. The piece talked about how empowering it is for a woman to have a shaved head but how the style ultimately challenges people's expectations of what femininity is supposed to look like.

Funnily enough, I feel more feminine with this cut than the one I had previous, which was still very short but long enough on top to spike up or comb down. I felt really masculine with that cut. I felt like a guy.

Now, with no hair, man, I feel like a woman.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Despite the fact that I think my attractiveness has something to do with how I look, I am mistaken. We are not our hair. Our light comes from within. Shine your beautiful light!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trusting Guidance

I recently said to a friend, "All will be well," to which she responded, "That presumes that all is not well right now."

Well, yes and no.

In the realm of the Spirit, all is well all the time. There is no illness, no suffering, no violence. There is only the perfect Life Force Energy of the Universe.

Here on the earthly plane, we have these things called illness, suffering and violence. They are real to us. But are they real? Spirit says no. They are an illusion.

There is a lot of reading to be done on the subject of the real and the not real. Marianne Williamson, Ernest Holmes, Florence Scovill Shinn, Emmett Fox, Caroline Myss and many others all have something to say about this subject. Some of it will twist your brain around. Not all of it is helpful but all of it is interesting.

I have found that I need to take what works for me and leave the rest. Years ago I read Louise Hay and I started doing affirmations and found that instead of feeling abundant I was trying to force myself to be abundant. I ended up in control-mode and had no peace. If I got a cold it was my fault and I wasn't doing enough to think healthy thoughts.

It made me crazy.

Years later I discovered a new piece: affirmations are powerful but not if we don't have the belief system to back them up. If I'm affirming "I'm worthy" ten thousand times a day but I still have an old belief system that tells me I'm a piece of sh%$ then I need to clear that belief system out before an affirmation can do its work.

I need help to do that. I can't change my thinking all by myself. My mind is a dangerous neighbourhood -- I don't go in there alone.

I have a team of people I rely on to help me sort out which voices to listen to and I need their steadfast guidance. I receive Higher Guidance through intuition but other people can often be the ground on which intuition walks.

Gather a support team around you: coaches, sponsors, mentors, spiritual directors. Use your support team to find out what works for you, what brings you the most peace. You deserve it!

Inspiring Message of the Day: It helps to read inspiring material written by great teachers but I need to find out what works for me. It must bring me peace.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dance Dance Wherever You May Be

A few nights ago I attended a Dance Gathering. A Dance Gathering is exactly what it sounds like: the coming together of persons for the sole purpose of dancing. The outcome is often a form of Ecstatic dance, which is also known as trance dance, "a unique spiritual experience with roots in Shamanism."

It's blissful.

My love of dance goes back a long way. When I was a very young girl my mother gave me a book called A Very Young Dancer. It was about a ten-year-old student at the School of American Ballet in New York preparing for her role in the ballet "The Nutcracker."

I had dreams of being that girl. I even called up the Ontario School of Ballet one day and inquired about auditions. I never pursued the dream. Somehow I knew I'd never make it as a dancer. Or I was too scared to try.

Today social dancing is probably my most favourite thing in the world to do. I love it to pieces. I have a gal pal who also loves to get down and boogie and we were talking recently about the dearth of opportunities in this city to social dance in a sober environment. Dancing in bars is fine but it's a last resort for the non-drinker.

So she and I were brainstorming ideas and we ended up discussing the possibility of renting a space, advertising the event and inviting anyone and everyone who wished to come. The iMac would be the DJ and we'd just get down.

Exactly three weeks to the day, such an evening took place. Only she and I had nothing to do with it.

I had seen a notice on a community listserv for an upcoming Dance Gathering and immediately forwarded it to my friend with the simple message "Ask and we shall receive."

We both showed up and danced our hearts out. It was ecstatic dancing at its best. A roomful of people shaking the booty and feeling the love.

My friend had come in late and so it was only after it was all over that we hugged and began to laugh together. It was no joke: we knew we had manifested this night.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Sometimes when you desire something with enough passion and commitment the Universe will move mountains to make it happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hamlet Saves the Day

I just finished reading my friend Leanne Coppen's blog on living with breast cancer and it brought to mind a quote that I dearly love from the play Hamlet, by you-know-who.

The quote comes from the Dane himself in Act I, Scene V. Hamlet's friend Horatio has just made a comment about the strange circumstances surrounding the events of the evening, namely Hamlet's behaviour and the Ghost of Hamlet's father showing up at the castle.

In response to Horatio's confusion, Hamlet says:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

(I have also seen it written as "there are more things between heaven and earth", which I like better.)

I often think of this quote when things in this world seem, as Horatio put it, just too "wondrous strange" for words. Leanne's recent blog mentions Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, who wrestled crocodiles but was killed by a stingray and if that is not wondrous strange I don't know what is.

I especially love the quote because it allows room for so many mysteries. I can dream up anything, imagine anything and everything, but there will still be more. There will still be things for which I don't have the answers. My thinking is limited!

I'm okay with that today. Because despite the fact that I am a person who likes to have all the answers I have come to accept that which lies far beyond my ability to know stuff. This is the realm of the Spirit. And the realm of the Spirit is limitless, boundless, and wondrous strange.

My philosophy about the way things are just doesn't cut it. What I see and what I know (or what I think I know) is just a tiny little piece of the larger puzzle. There is so much more than I can imagine, so much more to the experience of life than what I can make of it.

Isn't that marvelous? Isn't that mystifying?

Perhaps it's not. Perhaps it's terrifying for some. For me, it's like a balm. A healing balm.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When life has become boring old life, drudgery, slogging, dragging life, find something, anything, to restore your sense of wonder. Embrace the mystery!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Speed of Life

I've blogged before about STOPPING when I am running ahead of myself and back in that frenzy of trying to get stuff done. I'd like to expand the analogy further.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday and when she asked how I was doing I said, "I'm on FAST FORWARD and I'm doing my best to get back to PLAY."

It was one of those statements that just comes out without any real thought but somehow manages to nail the experience perfectly.

Being on PLAY means allowing my life to unfold, moment by moment, without leaping ahead to see what's going to happen next. Since actually knowing what is going to happen is impossible (for most of us), being on PLAY is really the only way of being that makes sense. I can actually only ever be on PLAY. It's the thinking mind that tells me differently.

There is a woman I greatly admire called Sister Helen Prejean. Her experience as an activist against the death penalty was dramatized in a film by Tim Robbins called "Dead Man Walking" with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The film was based on the book, which she wrote, and it's a very deep study on forgiveness and unconditional love. I read the book and was so moved by her account, so altered by her argument that I actually started thinking about following in her footsteps and becoming a nun.

Crazy, I know. A playwright who becomes a nun. Stranger things have happened.

It was my admiration for Sister Helen that prompted me to buy a book (the name of which I have forgotten and a quick search on the subject ended up in a dead end) containing a number of interviews with women of faith.

In Sister Helen's interview she said something that has not only stayed with me since, and it's been years, but I use often in a prayerful way:

Thank you for helping me to never leap ahead of Grace. Thank you for helping me to instead follow quietly with the gentleness of your Spirit.

That's being on PLAY. Following quietly, not leaping ahead, letting the moments unfold at the speed of life.

It is not easy to move at the speed of life but I can practice this way of being every time I remember to do so.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am on FAST FORWARD I can press STOP or PAUSE and then press PLAY. I can follow the Grace of being alive with quiet, gentleness and awe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


May all things move and be
moved in me
and know and be known in me
May all Creation
dance for joy within me.

~ Chinook Psalter ~

I had to look up the word "Psalter". It means "book of psalms". And the Chinook are a Native American tribe from the Oregon region. Though I could not find an actual book there are certainly a number of psalms to be found in a quick search, all worth a read.

A friend sent me this psalm the other day and I printed it out and pasted it in front of me on the desk. It's particularly helpful for the person (me) who has, since she was a little girl, wished to be known by the world.

There is great comfort in a prayer that affirms that I may know all things and all things may be known in me through Creation's joyful dance. It sure takes the pressure off!

Inspiring Message of the Day: When fear arises from the need to be known I can rest in the solace of the Great Knowing. Creation is always dancing for joy within us and we are always and forever known, on the deepest level, by its sustaining Power.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Ray of Sunshine

My plate is really full right now. I'm super busy with a number of projects on the go that I need to manage and stay on top of so the job(s) gets done. It's very easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed during this kind of activity and I do.

I do not enjoy the work that I do when I go into stress mode. What's the point in working if I'm not having a good time? Am I not supposed to be enjoying my life? I'm self-employed, which means, one could argue, that I am deliberately choosing to be overwhelmed!

Often I am. I think I need to be busy because if I'm not busy then it must mean I'm lazy. It's this kind of thinking that led to an attack of shingles a few years ago.

Shingles are of the same virus as the chicken pox and herpes. The virus lives dormant in the nervous system. People who are elderly, who have compromised immune systems or who are under an unusual amount of stress get shingles.

I'm young ("Relatively", says the doctor -- guess that's what happens after you peak at 35) and my immune system is good so I guess I fall into the last category... STRESS!

Once I learned that shingles can come back I made a promise to myself to let go of my need to PUSH myself to ridiculous limits and I've been pretty vigilant about that ever since. I have not had another eruption of the painful blisters.

BUT I'm not perfect and I still end up hitting the wall sometimes, though never as hard as the last time. We do get better!

When I feel like I'm heading for that place of overwhelm I know what I need to do: STOP.

Just stop. In the moment, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, just stop. Stop and breathe. Stop and let go. Stop and re-focus on what is important. Being here, now. Being in my life. Enjoying my life. Stop, remember this and return with strength.

There is a film called "Sunshine" with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz about the fate of a Hungarian Jewish family throughout the 20th century. It's an epic picture, made in the late 90's and almost 3 hours long. I remember few details. One, however, sticks in my mind.

The matriarch of the family, played by Jennifer Ehle, is a formidable woman and one who refuses, unlike her children, to hide her Jewishness. The last line of the film is given to her, in a voice-over by Fiennes. He tells us that his mother knew the secret to life and because of that, her own life was rich and full and she lived without shame or regret.

She knew how to breathe freely.

I often remember this line when I am madly running around trying to get things done, thinking that the key to life is accomplishing stuff and being recognized for it.

No, that is not it at all.

Inspiring Message of the Day: The secret to life is breathing freely. That is all I have to do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Song of Gandhi

I woke up tired and cranky this morning. I have a full day of business ahead and I was sorely tempted to go back to bed and not deal with any of it. Instead, I sought to understand what it was that is really bothering me and I prayed for guidance.

Then I saw Gandhi.

As I bent down to pet the cat (avoiding this blog) I saw Gandhi's face on the cover of a British magazine called Resurgence, his eyes cast downward in perfect humility.

I opened the magazine and read:

"Gandhi inspired so many because he practiced what he preached: he lived the change he wanted to see in the world and his message was none other than his life itself. He was an honest seeker of truth, a fearless defender of the weak, and an uncompromising practitioner of nonviolence."

Well, that is a tough act to follow. How did he do this? Didn't Gandhi have challenging days? He was, after all, human.

A quick search for "gandhi's faith in god" and I find this quote:

"When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow."

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the central stories in the sacred Hindu text of the Mahabharata, an epic Sanskrit poem from ancient India. I studied this text when I took the Yoga Teacher's Training Course at the Sivananda ashram in the Bahamas in 2003. Bhagavad Gita translates as Song of God.

So let's do as Gandhi did, shall we?

Randomly chosen, here is Verse 7 of Chapter 6, The Science of Self-Realization:

"The being who has conquered the mind, transcending the dualities of cold, heat, happiness, distress, honour and dishonour, is firmly established with the Ultimate Consciousness within."

How do I conquer the mind? How do I transcend cold? Heat? Happiness etc.?

By accepting that the Ultimate Consciousness within is, in fact, the only reality. And this reality, I firmly believe, is Love. Everything else is an illusion. Everything else is a projection of the mind.

This is the great Hindu teaching and though it is difficult to grasp it will free me from my worldly concerns if I continue to seek its deeper meaning.

And this is all I have to do. Seek. Not conquer, not master. Seek. I can practice these things. I don't have to do anything perfectly.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am tired and cranky I can always seek the wisdom of a Great Teacher to comfort me. I will be given the teaching that I need when I ask for it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanks for the Giving

It's Thanksgiving Monday today. Canadian Thanksgiving is very different from American Thanksgiving, which kicks off the holiday shopping season in the United States. Here in Canada it's a quieter affair; a welcome day off for most of the workforce and a time to gather together to eat with family and friends.

Last night I attended a potluck dinner with a crowd of about 20 people I didn't know. My friend, who was turning 31, hosted the "do" in what has to be one of the best located houses in this fair city. Nestled in a well-populated neighbourhood but set apart from all the other houses, it sits atop a little knoll and is surrounded by a forested gully and 360º views of the mountains.

What makes this house truly amazing for me is that it was the childhood home of a man who was my closest playmate for the entire time I lived in the Yukon as a kid. His and my mother were best friends so he and I were constant companions up until my family left when I was seven years old.

Just this past summer my parents came to visit me and we drove to this neighbourhood to have a look at the house. Only we couldn't find it. We kept driving around and around looking for the knoll, trying to figure out where it could be. We were unable to locate it and we gave up, deciding the house must have been torn down.

When my friend invited me to the Thanksgiving/birthday potluck and told me the address I recognized it immediately. She gave me the directions and I realized where I and my parents had gone wrong. There was a sneaky turn-off we had not seen.

Sure enough, when I drove there last night, I missed it again and drove around the neighbourhood in confusion. When I retraced my route I saw the secret road and made my way up the long driveway, experiencing what can only be described as total recall.

The house has changed a great deal so nothing seemed familiar when I walked in. But I went up the stairs and into the bedroom that would have belonged to my young friend. I found what I was looking for: a closet where he and I had pulled down our pants and showed each other our pee-pees. We must have been 4 and 5 years old. Ha!

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving Monday? The passage of time. Funny memories. Coming full circle.

Being brought back to that room gave me the opportunity to pause, to remember that I was once a child, to connect to who I was at that age. I was a girl with her whole life ahead of her, exploring the unknown, daring and fearless. She turned into me. And I am still her, three decades later, alive, awake, astonishing.

Inspiring Message of the Day: All of us were children once: bold, innocent, curious. Life is always giving us opportunities to connect to the past, which, if seen in the right context can make us grateful in the present.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hold On Possibilities Exist

I've just finished reading my friend Leanne Coppen's blog about living with breast cancer (I've written about her before) and her tagline at the bottom of today's post is "hope".

Oh, goody, Hope is one of my favourite topics.

I have a Buddhist friend who likes to say, "No hope, no fear, I am free."

But I like having hope. The above statement, for me, speaks more to the a state of hoping for something, which, indeed, can feel like the opposite of freedom.

I believe Hope is less a state of being than a belief system in and of itself.

Hope is necessary for our survival. Hope gives us a reason to keep on going.

Hope is not about wanting something to happen but about believing in the possibility of anything and everything.

People survive cancer. There is Hope.

Addicts do recover. There is Hope.

Gay rights exist where they didn't before. Hope.

The human race continues to evolve. We're figuring it out as we go along. We get it wrong often but history has shown we eventually get it right. There is hope for the future.

In my angry teenage years I was almost afraid to hope. "We're born, we live, we die, who cares?"

Without hope, I reasoned, I am safe.

This reasoning was born of fear. I was afraid to have hope. If I had hope and something bad happened, then what? Better to have no hope at all.

Can we still believe in Hope when "bad" things happen? We must.

It takes great courage to believe in something as powerful as Hope when things go "wrong". Hope requires Trust.

When things do not go according to how we think they ought, we must remember that the end of the story has not yet been told. Things are working themselves out. H.O.P.E

Hold On Possibilities Exist.

Inspiring Message of the Day: We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teenagers and Sex

Last night I facilitated a workshop for a program called Young Women's Voices, which is propelled by Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services, a non-profit organization that serves Yukon children, youth, adults, and families by promoting healthy relationships within the family, in the workplace and the community.

The young women in the program are aged 15-22 and they're gathering at regular intervals to dance, do arts and crafts, support one another and create a live show, which is where I come in. I was there last night to talk to them about the structure of a play and how to move beyond the fear in order to perform with grace and humility.

By way of introduction, we went around the circle and each gal talked about her history of being on stage, what she was passionate about and her vision for the future. I enjoyed hearing each young woman speak about her hopes and dreams and was struck by the staggering fact that I am now more than twice the age of most of them.

I also asked each young woman to say what she hoped to get out of doing a live show for the public. One of them said, "To get the message across."

When I asked them what their message was going to be they all said, "Safe sex."

Though safe sex was a part of my world when I was young I certainly didn't go out of my way to promote it or even practice it. To witness these gals actively involved in a public awareness campaign for their peers was, to say the least, awe-inspiring.

Times have changed and they haven't. For example, I learned last night that some of our schools still do not even have Sex Ed classes. As one gal said, "They're teaching us about land animals in Asia but not about our own bodies."

These young women have stories about girls they know who get too drunk to care about using a condom or don't even care in the first place, alcohol or no. How do we teach young people to care enough about themselves to protect their very lives?

It's a big question and these gals are on the case.

Inspiring Message of the Day: There are teenagers out there who are passionate about doing the right thing. They are actively engaged in the process of educating their friends about safe sex because they truly care about protecting their bodies and themselves.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rain Rain Come Today

It's currently raining in Whitehorse and the temperature is +1 C, which means the rain is very close to being snow and the streets are probably treacherous.

I could leave the apartment and head out to meet a group of friends for an inspiring lunch-time meeting or I could stay here in my cozies and plug away at my work.

Staying here sounds good.

I was never a big fan of rain. I actually used to say that I hated the rain. Imagine!

I can recall saying those very words to a woman back when I was still living in Montreal. It had been a particularly dreary day and I was feeling inconvenienced by the rain so I was complaining loudly about the drizzle. Her response surprised me.

"I love the rain," she cooed, "Rain makes the grass grow, it nourishes plants and animals, it's life-sustaining and renewing. It's water falling from the sky for us. What a gift rain is!"

I remember thinking, "Bleah. I'm soaking wet and it's grey outside."

But her words began to have an impact. Every time it rained I would remember what she said and over time it slowly dawned on me that she was right. Rain is a life force for all.

She had planted a seed and despite my sour attitude it had grown into a new way of thinking. The negative had become a positive.

Time to get to that meeting!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Try looking at something you don't like in a new way. See the positive aspect and allow yourself to experience the gift it may have to offer you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marry Your Self

I usually blog in the morning but my day was too full so here I am in the evening when the day is done, which makes the "Inspiring Message of the Day" rather redundant.

I'm back in my hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon after a week in BC and there is snow on the mountains and the promise of winter in the air. It's getting c-c-cold but the air is fresh and clean. I'm glad to be home.

I just spoke to a close girlfriend who is getting married in two weeks and I was inspired by how committed she's been to her own well-being during the long the build-up to the big day.

"I can spend all my time focusing on the material details like what I'm wearing, the decorations and the food but I'd much rather look at how I'm affected by this huge rite of passage, what it means for me in my life at this time. Deciding to spend my life with someone has changed my whole world and I've been paying attention to everything that it's bringing up."

It's admirable to see a woman being so mindful of her inner process during such a dramatic time in her life. There is so much scrutiny given to how everything is going to look at a wedding and it's wonderfully refreshing to encounter someone giving thought to how the wedding is making her feel.

Today was a challenging day. Arriving home after traveling is never easy. I call this time "re-entry" and it usually requires that I be extra gentle with myself because there's lots of stress and exhaustion. After a day of "to-do"lists and meetings I was uplifted by my friend's determination to take care of herself in the midst of wedding mania.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Nurture the inner process. Let it take precedence over all else. We deserve to put our individual well-being first. When we do this, everything else will be first class.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time Flies (or Not)

I don't know where I first heard the expression "Time is Elastic" but I use it a lot. I like it. It well describes the phenomenon of what we call time.

Time can fly and drag equally. Time can be both long and short. It can move quickly or slowly. A minute can feel like a second or an hour. An hour can feel like a minute or a day.

It's all about perception.

I once watched a documentary about a reformed bank robber and he talked at length about "stopping time". He could actually slow time down to a stand-still in order to get the job done. He manipulated time to work in his favour by being present.

I've worked with an acting coach who talked about "owning time", which was essentially her way of saying, "be in the moment". We could empower ourselves, she was saying, by being present.

Time flies when we're having fun but it also flies when we're not really present in our lives. I know that when I'm running around trying to get things done I'm not in my life. I trying to get things over with and I'm missing my life all together.

When we are present, when we are really here, now, time will not fly. It will barely move.

As I sit here the clock on the wall ticks away the seconds. If I stop typing and listen to the tick-tick-tick it actually slows down. A watched pot never boils.

I lived most of my life trying to get it over with. When it was Monday I'd be living for Friday. When it was Friday I'd be living in dread of Monday. I'd be living for Christmas when it was still September or living for July in the bleak mid-winter. I was not in my life. I was in my head, future-tripping.

It's taken me years of practice to let go of that way of living and believe me, I don't do it perfectly. But every new day gives me the opportunity to continue practicing being in my life, being in my day, in my body, with my breath. Present.

Animals are great inspiration. A couple of summers ago I was in Keno City, an old mining town in the north of the Yukon, and I and a couple of friends were exploring some of the abandoned, run-down buildings where the miners had once lived.

I found a sunny platform and sat down for a rest. The sun was shining, the fall colours were luminous and the far mountains had fresh snow on their peaks. A Richardson Ground Squirrel (or a gopher to some) popped up from a hole in the decaying floor of what once may have been a kitchen.

He sat very still, the wind blowing his fur, his eyes blinking in the bright sun. He sat and sat and sat. He did not move. I was mesmerized. Was he thinking? If so, what was he thinking? He wasn't being busy, cleaning himself or scratching or eating. He was simply being. For ages!

I often think of that little guy when I'm getting squirrelly. Can I just be? Can I just let go of everything and simply experience what is happening around me without judgment or thought?

It's a great challenge and one that brings me a lot of peace. I can slow time down and enjoy my life. What a concept.

Inspiring Message of the Day: If animals get to simply be all day long, why not us? Maybe we don't have to DO anything. Maybe we just have to BE.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baraka - Thread of Life

I'm now in Vancouver staying at my friends' condo overlooking the marina beside Granville Island. I can see the gorgeous art deco pillars of the Burrard Street bridge and the shiny glass jungle of high-rise condos across the channel.

It's fabulous.

Last night I watched "Baraka", a film made in the early nineties that has no dialogue, only images and an accompanying soundtrack. If you haven't seen it, the summary on the DVD reads:

"Baraka is a transcendent global tour that explores the sights and sounds of the human condition... in 24 countries on six continents."

The word "baraka" is from the Sufi language and it translates to "the thread that weaves life together."

One of the most memorable shots in the film is of a Balinese monkey sitting in a hot spring in the middle of a snowy mountain range. The camera lingers on him for some time and the viewer is treated to a meditation on who he is, who we are and how we are indubitably connected.

One of the things I talk about in a speech I give about having a Higher Purpose and living according to a Higher Plan, is coincidence. (You can watch the speech on You Tube -- Search "Let Go of Your 'But'" and my name.) 

Coincidence means, "a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection."

The key word for me in this definition is "apparent". Apparent means, "clearly visible".

So when I experience coincidence, the reason is not clearly visible. I have to go deeper. I have to refer to the other word that stands out in that definition, which is "remarkable."

Remarkable means "extraordinary", which itself means "outside the normal course of events."

When I arrived in Kamloops this past Friday I took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. As we drove through the dark I listened to a man tell the woman beside him all about his trip to Germany where his family lives and where he was born and raised. I got to know something about him on that night bus and was inspired by his story.

When I arrived at the Kamloops airport on the Sunday to fly to out Vancouver, who do you suppose was the Air Canada agent that checked me in?

Mr. German Shuttle Bus.

Baraka! This man and I did not speak and I did not tell him that I knew the name of his hometown and favorite drink. Seeing him again simply confirmed that the thread that weaves life together is always being spun.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Even the most banal coincidence is remarkable because it confirms that we are a part of something Greater that is guiding us in every single moment of our lives.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

In Kamloops I'll Eat Your Boots

I'm in Kamloops, BC, for a conference and being here reminds me of the Dennis Lee poem "In Kamloops", which contains the line I've chosen as the title for today's blog.

I didn't know where Kamloops was when I was a kid and when that poem was read to me by my parents but I imagined it was somewhere in boot country, where everything was made of boots, or looked like boots.

From what I can see, most of the city is in a valley surrounded by low-rise mountains, which are brown like the desert and look just as dry. But it's beautiful. I really like the way it looks. It doesn't have the lush green of the coastal rain forest nor does it have the rocky magic of the mountains but it's got Dennis Lee and it's got my vote.

Kamloops, visually impressive: check.

For your Inspiring Message of the Day today I'd like you to visit my friend Leanne Coppen's blog. It's her one-year anniversary blogging for Chatelaine about her experience living with breast cancer.

She's a witty, honest scribe and I love her dearly. Check it out:

If for some reason the link doesn't work, Google "Chatelaine", click on Blogs and choose "Living with Breast Cancer."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Look Back in Anger

And what of anger?

I have heard that anger is really fear in disguise. I have heard that depression is unexpressed anger. I have even heard that cancer is rage unreleased.

For many years I believed it was not "spiritual" to be angry. The truth is, we cannot really be living the Spirit as long as we are denying our anger.

I was an angry child. I like to say I was in a bad mood for 27 years. For most of my twenties, when I was trying to be spiritual, I repressed my anger, stuffed it, pretended it wasn't there.

Ten years ago, when I finally got on the healing path, I had to learn first to admit that I was angry and then how to express it in a healthy way.

There is a line from the Gus Van Sant film "Milk" starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, and it keeps coming back to me.

There is a huge crowd of people in the gay Castro District, where "Milk" is mostly set, and those involved in the protest have just experienced what feels like one more terrible injustice.

Milk and his compadres fear a riot. He gets on the bull horn and he says, "I know you're angry..."

And here we expect him to say, "BUT..."

"But it's okay, but don't worry, but it will be alright."

But he doesn't.

Harvey Milk says, "I'M ANGRY!"

And then they walk, together, in anger and in peace, to continue proclaiming their cause.

It's an incredibly moving moment.

I'm writing about anger this morning because I'M ANGRY.

It was a little thing that made me realize I had some unexpressed anger looking to be extracted from my body, just a little thing that wouldn't work properly, a thing that was stuck and I was trying to un-stick it, just a small thing.

The more I tried to make it work, and couldn't, the more frustrated I got.


Okay, boy, wow. Awareness comes first. Then action: time to do something about that!

And I will. I will go within, where the answers lie, I will share with someone who has wisdom about such things, and I will find a way to express the anger and get it out of my body.

Howling in the bush always helps.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My anger is valid. It needs to be expressed in a healthy way. Identifying it, sharing it and then releasing it will bring me back to peace.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Courage 101

The reason the URL address for this blog is called Cultivate Your Courage and why I lead an Inspiring workshop with the same name is not because I am THE MOST COURAGEOUS WOMAN and I am here to teach all of you how to be courageous.

It's because I need to cultivate my own courage everyday to live in this world.

The CYC workshop was originally called Walk Through Your Fear. (You'd be amazed how many people would rather cultivate their courage than walk through their fear!)

Name change aside, the idea for the workshop came to me after a prayer/meditation session. I was seeking guidance around how to generate some income outside of my artistic practice using the gifts and the talents that have been given to me.

What could I do? I could lead a workshop. Okay. What on? What am I a true expert at doing? What do I know well enough that I could teach it?

There it was: I walk through my fear. Every single day. In every situation. I feel the fear and I do it anyway.

Despite the fact that I have the spiritual understanding that there is really nothing to fear, my little human form has a harder time grasping that notion.

Sometimes I wake up in cold, naked fear and I don't know why. I've gone to bed with joy and peace in my heart and when I awaken it's a whole un-brave new world.

This morning I woke up with the fear upon me. Lots of things to feed it: traveling tomorrow, taking cat to the kennel today, beginning of a new month, swine flu blah blah blah.

I did what I always do to cultivate my courage: I prayed.

I heard somewhere that prayer is not for the Power to whom you are praying. It is for you. I agree. When I pray, it is I that am changed.

As I expressed my fear and asked for guidance my heart began to ease, the anxiety began to lift and I was returned to a state of well-being, gratitude and relaxation.

I received the Inner Guidance I needed to live this day fully and passionately, as though it were my last. I remembered that it's not about me, that I am here to be a worker for the Creator.

I don't know how prayer works. I just know it does.

Inspiring Message for the Day: When I speak what is in my heart to the Power that makes the grass grow, the flowers bloom and the wind blow, I receive the strength I need to move forward with joy and fearlessness.