Monday, November 30, 2009

Give it Away Now

Dearest Readers,

I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday. It's the start of a new week and though I like to live one day at a time (to the best of my ability) it's beginning to feel a lot (more) like Christmas.

The lights are up, the music is playing in the stores, the countdown is on.

I can actually get into the Christmas spirit. It's not about the shopping for me at all but that feeling of excitement that can only be felt around this time of year.

Not everyone feels it. I know a woman who associates Christmas with the death of her father and being drunk for many years and so ruining it for her kid. I heard her say, "I'm sure everybody hates Christmas." That's how much she hated it. So much that she believed everyone else did, too.

And no doubt the homeless living in this city and others have no love for this time of year. And the incarcerated. This season is about togetherness and connectedness with family and friends and anyone who is in a situation where this is impossible acutely feels the loss of it and therefore is not happy about the advent of the holidays.

I'm going to be staying home this year. I've decided not to travel to be with my family and so it'll be just me and the cat. I've got lots of friends with whom I can spend the time and so I'll do that but I'm also going to nest and enjoy the solitude.

Since I have no obligations I'm also looking to where I can be of service. How can I help? How can I give away some of the "spirit" I'm feeling? What can I do to share the love and hope in my life with others who feel they have none? This is my prayer.

Inspiring Message of the Day: As the holiday season approaches I will look for opportunities to be of service to others. I will share the spirit of the season by giving of myself when I am called to do so.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Play for Keeps

Dearest Readers,

It's Saturday. I love Saturdays. I think it has to be my favourite day of the week. I'm self-employed so Saturday is a work day for me but I'm choosing to work. M-F I feel like I have to work because everyone else does, too. The work I do on Saturdays feels like fun.

Because I'm doing fun things on Saturdays in between the work tasks. I'm watching You Tube and e-shopping. And I stay in my PJ's until I have to go out, if I do. I'm playing.

That's what Saturday is. It's Play Day.

When I was a kid growing up in Toronto (after we left the Yukon) there was an actual day at the end of the school year called Play Day. I think I looked forward to that day from just about the first school day in September. It was a beacon of light at the end of a long tunnel of lessons.

Play Day took place at a location we called the Reservoir, just near the famous Casa Loma. We'd all traipse up there from our little school in Rosedale and play games all day. There were water-balloon fights and three-legged races, races with an egg held on a teaspoon, and races in burlap sacs. Lots of races!

It was always sunny, the beginning of summer days to come. There were vats of that orange McDonald's drink that's not quite pop but not quite juice either. It was glorious.

So I usually waken on Saturdays with that orange-McDonald's-drink feeling. I would never ingest that stuff today but the memory of it is enough to make a girl go out and find a friend, tie our outside legs together and run in three-legged style across an open field.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Do something FUN today. A kid's game. Something that evokes the feeling of childhood freedom and innocent times. Make it a Play Day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Connect. Only Connect."

Dearest Readers,

The title of today's post comes from a quote by the great author E.M. Forster, writer of brilliant novels like "A Passage to India" and "Howard's End". The reason for the quote? Read on.

One of the many things I've learned on the healing path is that I can start my day over again at any time during the course of said day.

This news was a revelation to me, a gal who could carry her bad moods into next week and hold on to resentments for years. I didn't know about letting go. I didn't know about starting over. Every moment a new opportunity to begin again? Wow. What a concept.

Well, I've started my day over about 14 times already and it's only 9 o'clock.

It began with waking up later than I'd planned. The barfing-jump-on-my-stomach cat-alarm-clock took the day off so I woke up at 7:30 instead of 6:30. If you'd ever have told me that there'd be a time in my life when getting up at 7:30 a.m. would be "sleeping in" I'd not have believed you.

"You can start your day over, Celia. Start it now."

The next thing was realizing how tired I actually am. Bone tired. So that got the fear flowing because I've got a full day planned.

"Start your day over, Celia. Start it now."

But... that's really it. Other than waking up late and feeling tired, things are just fine. There's nothing wrong. I didn't break a dish, spill the milk, step in it, or experience any other minor catastrophe that would necessitate the "start your day over" practice. I simply woke up late and I'm tired.

"Start your day over, Celia. Start it now."

So I'm starting over in this moment by using today's blog for me. I need inspiring. And you know what's going to inspire me? YOU.

I happened to meet another reader yesterday and she took the time to tell me she's been following and enjoying and feeling inspired by the posts. Her comments made me so happy I cannot tell you.

Just knowing you're all out there fills me with such appreciation and joyfulness. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to connect with all of you each day. It's enough to turn any grey day into sunshine.

So that's where the Forster quote comes in. My energy is low but connecting with you, Dearest Readers, is the springboard I need to live the day fully and passionately. So thank you for being there.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Knowing I am not alone in the world alters my being. Connecting with others uplifts the spirits and heals the heart.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Every Cloud...

Dearest Readers,

There's nothing like waking up to the sound of a hairball making its way up a cat's gullet at 5:30 a.m. Probably a good thing. I would have ignored the alarm clock.

Instead, I woke up like a shot to push the cat off the bed so he wouldn't barf up the hairball on the comforter. He kindly did his business on the floor and I got out of bed.

If everything happens for a reason then that cat exists to get me out of bed.

Does everything happen for a reason?

Recently, I was working with a group of young women on a show they're creating about safe sex. We were sitting in a sharing circle, which started our day of activities, and I asked them each to answer me two things: what did she fear and in what did she have faith?

We went around the circle and most were very open about the fear part. Some were as open about the faith answer but many of them couldn't come up with anything at all.

One gal said she believed everything happens for a reason and at the end of the discussion I asked how many others believed this as well. Some put up their hands, others didn't. One was particularly vocal about why she absolutely didn't believe this to be true.

I'm not sure if I believe it myself. I subscribe to something similar but it may be described in a slightly different way. I believe that some purpose can be drawn from everything that happens; something positive can always be found from the seemingly negative.

Every cloud has a silver lining? Yes, I think that's right.

I'll never forget one of the first times I began to see this belief system in action. I was living in Edmonton at the time, in pretty dire circumstances, but it was also a time of awakening to the idea that Greater Purpose may be found in the things that challenge us.

It was late winter/early spring in 1997. The apartment in which I was living had no furniture and a small TV with no cable. I would come home from the Chinese restaurant where I was working and watch the National and go to bed. (The longer story would fill a novel.)

At that time, the Red River in Manitoba was flooding. People were losing their homes. It was terrible to witness. I remember thinking how unjust the world was, how unforgiving and cruel.

One of the worst things a person can imagine is losing a home and all her belongings but as I watched this drama unfold on that little box I saw that this circumstance might not be the worst thing after all.

The CBC was talking to the people who were affected by the disaster and do you know what they were saying?

They were saying things like, "This flood has brought people together like never before." Or, "It has shown us that we're a community and that we can work together." "There are neighbours helping each other that haven't spoken in years."

The Great Mystery. We simply do not know. But how we perceive things is up to us. This is where we do have power. We have the power to see the positive in the negative. This is how we change the world.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When something "bad" happens I will use it as an opportunity to seek out the good. I will look for the silver lining.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Believe in Something

Dearest Readers,

"I've decided that I'm going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it 'til the end of your days."

That's Martin Luther King Jr. speaking about his faith.

Yesterday I blogged about my own faith and later in the day as I reflected upon the post I wondered how many readers might be put off by this. Talking about a Higher Power is a deeply personal subject and not one that every person likes to explore or even hear about.

But Dr. King's words came to me this morning and they validated my efforts. How necessary it is to be true to oneself!

Now Dr. King believed so passionately in his God and his God's message of love and justice that he died for it. Am I willing to die for what I believe? Am I willing stand up for it until the end of my days?

The idea terrifies me. It goes right to the heart of my fear. But I am willing to say, "yes". If I have to, I will lay down my life for a truth that I believe in. Why? Because I would rather die than hide behind my fear. I am assured that there is great purpose in such action. Those who have done so have changed the world.

This brings to mind the suicide-bombers. Aren't they, too, doing as such? It could be argued that they are. But the message is hate and therefore unjustifiable and indefensible.

I do fear alienating some readers with talk of faith and Higher Guidance. I do want everyone to like me. I am a people-pleaser. But I'm learning to let go of caring what others think of me. I've learned there is little satisfaction in seeking approval from others. It's never enough and it brings me no peace.

Peace comes for me when I walk through that fear of being judged and I say, "This is what I believe. And I believe it with all of my heart. And you do not have to believe what I believe. We can believe different things. I will respect your beliefs and I ask that you respect mine."

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated for his beliefs. His death was a knife to the heart of hope. But not if we carry on for him, not if we live out his message of Love and Justice. Not if we take a stand, challenge the fear and believe in something deeply enough that we, too, are willing to die for it.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I will continue to contemplate what it means to believe in something so deeply that I would die for it. I will continue to pray for the willingness to have that kind of courage.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Woodpecker Faith

Yesterday I saw a woodpecker. A woodpecker. In Whitehorse, Yukon. North of the 60th Parallel. In November. -14 C.

It wasn't so much the phenomenon of seeing such a bird in this climate so late in the year that put the gigantic smile on my face as it was the symbol of the bird itself.

There are certain signs and symbols that I like to see as proof that the Life Force Energy of the Universe is working with me, guiding me and showing me Itself, and the woodpecker is one of them.

It started with my seeing a woodpecker a number of years ago when I was living in a small town east of Toronto. I was walking home one day and came across a staggering amount of wood chips covering the sidewalk and the grass around it. I looked up to see this gigantic bird pecking the tree at a mile a minute causing the wood chips to fly in all directions.

I started to laugh out loud. Have you ever seen a woodpecker doing its thing up close? They hammer their heads against solid wood at the speed of lightening and with incredible force. No wonder Woody the Woodpecker was created as an entertaining cartoon. This is one hilarious bird.

In that moment, I was filled with a real happiness. My laughter lifted me upward, past the woodpecker in the tree, ever higher to a place of such knowing, such faith. The truest kind of peace overcame me and I felt a deep love for all things, a connectedness with all time, and a profound oneness with the Great Mystery.

And because of this episode of spiritual awakening, for ever after, when I would see a woodpecker or hear one, I would be returned to this state of knowing, of being in the experience of a Higher Love.

So yesterday, in this northern clime, temperatures well below freezing, blustery snow whipping drifts up the sides of buildings and streets, I see this creature that has come to symbolize this Power. I see it flying to a telephone pole and jamming its beak into the wood, looking for food.

And the joy that I felt. I cannot rightly describe it. My smile was electrifying, you should have seen it. Because once again I was reminded that all things merge into Oneness and the Universe is a Living Energy that knows us.

Don't you just love a Power that works through woodpeckers? This Power of coincidence, of serendipity, of unity of time, place, thing, symbol, word. This Power is in us and we are of this Power.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Look for the symbols that speak to you of a Higher Power working in your life. What are they? Observe when and how they return to you. Use them as proof of Higher Guidance and opportunities for gratitude and joy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Run for Your Life

Dearest Readers,

Yoga is pretty much my only form of exercise. I don't own a vehicle so I do a lot of walking and bike riding (when the weather is fair) but I don't go to the gym and I'm not a jogger.

Despite yoga's immense benefits it does not really get my heart rate going fast enough or long enough to be considered a cardiovascular exercise and I have been told by various doctors that I ought to engage in some kind of work-out that gets my heart pumping.

Whitehorse has super hiking trails and so I often go for mini-hikes and use the hills and cliffs as a way to get more "cardio". And they tire me out. I recently ran straight up a cliff to catch a sunset and was so out of breath when I got to the top that I thought I might collapse.

This came as a shock to me. I like to think I'm in great shape. I may be flexible enough to bend my body in half but my heart and lungs are sorely in need of some serious action.

That episode up the cliffs reminded me of a movie I'd seen in grade school on physical fitness. (God, we loved it when we got to watch movies in the classroom! The sound of the projector in the dark, permission to rest head on desk, a break from the monotony of lessons...)

This particular film was based on the true story of a man with a family and a good job who suffered from depression and wished to kill himself.

The man gets the bright idea that he's going to do the deed by giving himself a heart attack. He decides he will run himself to death. Not your typical route to suicide but there you have it.

So we see the dramatization of the man waking up in the middle of the night and going outside to run. He runs and runs and runs until he collapses. But as he lies on the grass preparing to die his exhaustion goes away and he recovers.

So he gets up and goes home vowing to do the same thing the next night. And the next night he runs again until he collapses. But again he doesn't die. You can probably guess what happens.

He repeats this "suicide attempt" every night until he finds he is able to run for longer and longer periods of time. He gets faster. He loses weight. And his depression disappears. He no longer wants to die.

So when I climb a hill and reach the top and find myself so out of breath I think I might puke I tell myself, "If you do this more often, this will change."

And so I've made a commitment to go on one cardio-cliff-climbing excursion a week. It's not a lot but it's a start.

Inspiring Message of the Day: The more we do something the easier it becomes. Something new may feel like a punishment but we are adaptable and the activity will eventually have its rewards.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Babe

Dearest Readers,

Every Christmas my mother gives me and my sisters something called the "Chicago Datebook." It's a handy little agenda whose beginning pages are filled with information about the city of Chicago, including maps of the transit systems, the suburbs and the downtown core; attractions, sport and entertainment guides and airport information.

I have never used these tips. Even when I've gone to visit my parents in that fair city the Datebook has never been referred to when we're making our plans.

The rest of the agenda is the usual monthly and weekly breakdowns and I must admit I don't use these either, at least not in the usual way. I already have a month-at-a-glance agenda that I'm quite attached to and every year for the last 10 years I have felt an odd excitement about starting a new one of these booklets.

I do, however, use the Chicago Datebook in another way. I use it as a scratch pad, for taking notes at conferences, jotting down numbers for monthly finances, scheduling workshop details etc. For these things, it is a great assistant.

But it means I am never working on the page of which date it happens to be. Sometimes I'll be scribbling something and notice that I'm in July and it is actually October, which is fine, unless I happen to need the date for something and my own agenda is not handy so find myself having to flip through months of pages to figure it out.

The Datebook, being all things that it is, also has an inspiring quote each week. Because I'm not using the book in its proper context I rarely look at the quote. This is a shame because I could be saving myself tons of time by simply passing it on to you folks each day without having to come up with my own!

Last week I happened to glance at the top of the page (August in November) and see this little piece of advice from Babe Ruth:

"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way."

I remembered this quote yesterday when I received news from a funding body that I'd passed the first round of adjudication, or the "creative hurdle", as they call it.

The project for which I applied for this funding is one that I nearly gave up on. Two different funding proposals had already been rejected and I had begun to think that maybe this was a sign to let it go.

But then I would get another message, intuitive or otherwise, to continue. So I would keep doing the footwork, doing my best to let go of expectations and simply follow the guidance I felt I was receiving.

If I had let the fear striking out be my guide, I'd never be in the position I'm in now, which is to potentially receive money to pay myself, keep the project afloat and take it to the next level.

So despite my fear of rejection, I stepped up to the plate one more time and hit the ball. It's still in the air and it could be a homer.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Mother, if you're reading this, I'll take a 2010 Chicago Datebook for Christmas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In the Flow

Dearest Readers,

Does being "in the right place at the right time" only happen sometimes? Or are we always there, exactly where we are supposed to be, every single moment?

I prefer to believe the latter. I like the idea that my life is unfolding according to a Higher Plan and that as it unfolds, the Life Force Energy of the Universe is adjusting, like the automatic pilot, to whatever direction I happen to take.

When I allow this theory to work in my life I am in the Flow. When I get in the way, force my hand, make fear-based decisions, I've stepped out of the Flow and things go awry. But even then, I do not have to fear, because the Universe will still adjust, and give me another opportunity to step into alignment with its Wisdom, Grace or Guidance.

Sometimes, however, the fact that I am in the right place at the right time is just so magnificently obvious that I am floored and deeply humbled by the Great Power That Makes it All Happen. (All of Those Words Deserve Capital Letters, Dontcha Think?)


I need to hire someone to record a group of musicians. I am given a name and I happen to know the man. I had already been thinking about working with him in some capacity!

I don't call him. I intuitively trust that he's the person for the job but I hold off because someone mentions another name and I am now unsure.

At a café, I run into the man who was initially suggested to me and, being used to working in tandem with the Universe, I see this as my opportunity to mention the job. He tells me his friend, a recording engineer, is in town and that the two of them can help.

We set up a meeting but my friend can't be there. I meet the new man alone. He is leaving the day after we plan to record. He has all the equipment we need with him. He has the expertise and the desire to do the job.

In other words, he's a frickin' angel.

So I'm sitting there speaking with this angel and thinking, "I did not do this. I didn't have to DO anything to make this happen!"

I simply had to show up in my life, trust my intuition, and take action when the opportunity presented itself to me.

Whenever I have a big project that could easily overwhelm me or send me into fear-mode my mantra is this:

This project is not mine. I am the Assistant. The Great Director is running the show.

And my prayer is this:

Show me what to do.

And then I suit up and show up for the adventure of my life, allowing it to unfold, trusting Guidance, and letting go of my need to control things myself.

I do not do this perfectly. I do it to the best of my ability, which changes from day to day.

To keep the process in flux, I remember to give thanks for all the gifts that are my life and for the opportunity to be of service.

Inspiring Message of the Day: If you don't like your job, become an Assistant to the Universe. It's the best gig you'll ever get.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rest in the Moment

Dearest Readers,

I was saying to a friend the other day that the time between my birthday in September to Christmas in December always goes by at lightening speed. It feels like the fastest time of the year.

This is silly. Time doesn't move any faster during certain months any more than it moves slower during others. It just seems this way. What makes it seem this way I do not know.

What I do know is that I'm buying into it and it's making me a little crazy. I feel the days zooming by and my head is often in Christmas, and then January and then February...

It is a constant practice to bring myself back into my body and into my life as it is happening right now. When I am on track spiritually I'm good about remembering to do this myself. When I am not, it usually takes something happening like a slip-and-fall accident or biting my tongue when I'm eating to bring me back.

Since I like to avoid those two-by-four-over-the-head moments as much as possible I do my best to nurture my spiritual condition each day so I can stay here.

Some of you may know that I'm working on a project for the Olympics. There is a "countdown" happening, you may have seen/heard it, and it is especially prevalent in Vancouver. When I was there recently I kept seeing electronic signs and little headlines in newspapers saying, "So-and-so number of days left!"

Someone said they'd now reached the 100 day mark and then what felt like 2 days later I heard on the radio "88 more days." I don't know which is right and I'm not going to find out. I do not want to know, thank you very much! I'm working on one day at a time here, if you don't mind!

What is this obsession we have with living in the future?

I have a theory. If we are present in our lives we have to feel our feelings. We have to connect to the truth of our reality, which is that we are going to die one day. So the temptation is to get out of the present and go somewhere else: tomorrow, the weekend, Christmas, the first day of the Olympics, next summer. Just not here.

A stretch? I don't think so. I know that if I rest in the moment, be here now, I have to feel my fear. And I'd rather not do that so away I go. But if I come back, if I breathe into my heart, if I let go of all time but the present, I am living.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My goal today is to practice returning to the here and now. This is where my life is! I can rest here knowing that the days ahead will come. Until then, I'm going to celebrate the now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If I Only Had a Brain

Dearest Readers,

Time is very tight this morning so a short blog it will be.

An article in the Saturday Globe has me now feeling wonder, awe, amazement and all good words that mean "holy moly".

Brain surgeons no longer have to saw open a human skull to perform certain kinds of surgery. They can now feed an instrument, called a micro-catheter, which is about the thickness of a single human hair, through a blood vessel to seal off an aneurysm and save a patient's life.

The technology is astonishing! Not only am I stunned by the neurologist's ability to perform this feat of medical wizardry but by the person who actually invented and built such a device.

Inspiring Message for the Day: We can do anything! We really can. If we refuse our limitations and let our imaginations take us higher there is no telling what can happen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm a Big Job

Dearest Readers,

(Thank you to those of you who joined as followers after yesterday's blog.)

Last night I was speaking with a friend who has had some health issues in the past but is now much improved. She has been working very hard in the last couple of years on getting her physical well-being back and she is now able to do certain things that she previously couldn't do.

She talked about looking forward to getting back to work one day in the future and not for the reason that one might think. She was anticipating being able to have a real answer to the question, "So what are you doing these days?" There is such a stigma attached to not having a job and she feels it acutely whenever she is asked about "work".

I encouraged her to think of her life as her work. "The next time you're asked that question," I said, "Simply say, "My life is a full time job.""

Because looking after ourselves really is a full time job. Self-care takes time and energy. There was a time in my life when I didn't even know what self-care was! Though I do not do it perfectly I do my best to make self-care my top priority. I have to. Without it I'm no good to anyone.

Self-care involves putting my Self first. People may mistake this for selfishness but there is a big difference.

This computer's dictionary defines selfishness as "a lack of consideration for others; to be chiefly concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

It does not even have a definition for self-care., however, describes self-care in this way: "care of the self without medical or other professional consultation."

Not exactly what I'm talking about.

Self-care is about taking care of our needs first so that we may be of maximum service in the world. It's about looking after our inner life so that our outer life can thrive.

It takes commitment and vigilance. Taking time to pray and meditate, making sure I get enough rest and exercise, working with the team that keeps me on track (coach, mentor, spiritual director, support groups), clearing out Old BS's (Old Belief Systems) and practicing new behaviours, letting go of control issues, facing fears etc.

This is deep work and it's not easy. I said to another friend with whom I was sharing on the same subject, "I'm a big job!" and she laughed so hard she had to write it down and post it on her cork board.

I do all of this work because it enriches my life. I do it because when I put my Self first everything else becomes first class.

With self-care being my full-time job, my "work" as a writer/performer becomes the service I do to give back for the great gift of my life. It's the Christmas bonus all year round.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I put my Self first, everything else flows from that. I don't have to "work" as hard when I am working on making self-care my number one priority.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Person is an Island

Dearest Readers,

I'd like to start off today's blog by inviting you to become an official "follower." I spoke to a woman yesterday who told me she'd been reading the blog but wanted make sure she'd informed me of this fact before she posted a comment. She didn't want to be seen as "lurking".

I wonder how many other people feel this way? If you are reading the blog on a regular basis, please don't be embarrassed about posting a comment or becoming a follower. I would love to know who you are. It inspires me to see your little pictures up there, even if there is an empty frame.

Speaking of an empty frame, I have posted my picture on the blog today as a way of practicing what I preach. Anonymity is great, I'm a big fan of it. But sometimes we need to open the door to being a little bit more "public" about ourselves to create a deeper feeling of community.

Believe it or not, I'm an isolator. I always have been. I'd rather be by myself and hiding from the world. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense for a person who lives much of her life in the public eye but there you go. Fear is not logical.

And my desire to isolate most certainly comes from fear. I don't want to be vulnerable, hurt, or rejected. By putting myself out there as a writer/performer I'm doing the thing I think I cannot do. I'm walking through my fear. I'm refusing to give the fear the power to control my life.

When I look at the reasons behind the fear I discover an old belief system. "I'll be safe if I protect myself from other people. If people find out who I am they won't like me."

Old belief system. Old BS.

So how do we squash the Old BS? We practice new behaviour. In my case, opening up to people, getting involved in community activities, inviting people to join me for events to which I'd normally go alone. Posting my photograph on the blog. Scary stuff!

But as a result of these changes I have expanded my experience to include so many wonderful things, this little blog being just one of them.

So if you're afraid of being seen, you're not alone. Click "Follow" and let us know who you are. Be a part of an Inspiring Community!

Inspiring Message of the Day: We need each other. When we support one another our lives grow richer and more complete.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Say A Little Prayer

I've blogged before about prayer being a powerful tool for personal change but I find the subject endlessly inspiring, which suits well the primary purpose of this blog. So keep an open mind because it's going to come up a lot!

I heard a great story once from a man who had major reservations about praying. He was not a religious man and he thought if he prayed it would mean he'd have to become a Bible Thumper.

Part of his story was about the woman who taught him how to pray. She showed him that prayer doesn't have to be connected with religiosity. It can simply be a request followed by an expression of gratitude.

This man was having a very bad time in his life. The woman suggested to him that he go to the window each morning upon rising, open it up, stick his head outside and yell, "HELP!"

She then went on to suggest that before turning in at night, he return to the window, open it back up, stick his head out once more and yell, "THANKS!"

The man said that the more he asked for help, the more he received it, in untold ways, and the deeper and more truthful his thanks became.

Love this story! It shows not only that we do not necessarily have to believe in anything to begin to use prayer as a tool but that even a process as rudimentary as this man's can be effective.

I always say, "I don't know how prayer works, I just know it does."

A while back a gentle reader posted the following comment after a post that mentioned prayer:

"... Prayer gives you conviction and a new perspective in life..."

So true! I've heard it said that prayer isn't for the one being prayed to, it's for the one saying the prayer.

The same reader also commented on the idea that people generally resort to all sorts of problem-solving rather than using prayer as a tool to work things out. This was certainly my own experience before I began yelling out the proverbial window.

I was always trying to figure it out. Whatever "it" was. I still try to do that.

But I have learned that there is nothing more effective than asking daily for help and guidance. When I pray for solutions to problems, when I pray for courage, acceptance, forgiveness, whatever, it comes to me.

And then I stick my head out the window and yell my thanks.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I do not have to figure everything out by myself. If I ask for help today I will receive it in untold ways.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I'm in the middle of a 2-day video shoot for a project I'm working on for the 2010 Olympics and I'd like to use this blog today to express my gratitude.

I and a 3-person crew drove around Whitehorse yesterday interviewing Yukoners of all different ages and cultural backgrounds about what it means for them to live in this magnificent place. It was a mild day, thanks weather gods, and the sun even came out in the afternoon, giving us warmth and great lighting options. All went very smoothly.

One of the people I interviewed was a First Nations Elder, a man who is greatly respected by his own people as well as the larger community. He grew up in a small northern village where traditional ways are still practiced and though he likes Whitehorse he says living here makes him lazy.

"I can pick up the phone and someone will bring food to my house," he said, chuckling. For a man who grew up living off the land, the "Delivery" option was a luxury that deprived him of exercise and outdoor activity.

When I asked him to sum up his experience of living in the Yukon in one word he said, "Gratitude."

According to the dictionary on this computer, "gratitude" means "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness."

To show appreciation for kindness and to return kindness.

The kindness I experienced yesterday was extraordinary. So many people willing, despite their reservations about being in front of a camera, to give. In turn, I was able to give back through kindness by being patient, enjoying their presence and encouraging their individual answers.

What gifts! The words "thank-you" fall short.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am full of readiness to show my appreciation for kindness and to return it, the gift of gratitude enriches my life. Thankfulness breeds joy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Walk Through the Fear

I have a full day of shooting ahead. No, I'm not going on a duck hunt, I'm creating a video about the Yukon for the 2010 Olympics and we're filming a segment today.

I've got a small crew assembled and we're heading out into the urban landscape to talk to Yukoners of all ages and races about why they live in this magnificent place. It's going to be an adventure.

Trouble is, I have woken up feeling extremely exhausted. My energy is very low.

Now, this could be because I am, in fact, tired. Although I have been averaging between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, I have been waking up at five and putting in long, full days. I've been resting during the day, taking cat naps if and when necessary but it's been a marathon week.

My low energy could also be due to fear. Fear baffles me. How is it possible that I can have a crackerjack team that is well prepared for the day, a track record of successful shoots behind me, and a deep, abiding faith in the loving and supportive energy of the Universe and still feel fear?

It makes absolutely no sense.

So I have stopped trying to figure it out. I simply say a little prayer and walk through it. I do not let it stop me. I say, "Yes, open the door." (See the blog post entitled Into the Mystic, dated 9/29/09)

I'm feeling better already. Another amazing tool: share your fear. It reduces it, removes its power, returns us to a calm and steady sureness, readies us to move forward.

There are a few really great acronyms for the word fear:

False Evidence Appearing Real. I like this one because it addresses the baffling nature of fear, as I just described it. It makes no sense that I would be afraid of something known to me but there it is anyway. I'm anxious. Why? This little phrase answers the question. My fear is a false interpretation of the way things are. There is actually nothing to fear. I'm creating it and I can, just as easily, let it go.

F$%& Everything And Run. This is generally what fear makes us wish we could do. It's too much! It's easier to retreat. Let the fear win. Give up. But no...

Face Everything And Rest. Rest in the truth. The truth is, I am okay. No matter what, no matter where, I am okay. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

My favourite quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt and those of you who know me, know it: We must do the thing we think we cannot do.

So I'm going to do that today, trusting that everything will unfold exactly as it should. I'm feeling the fear and doing it anyway. (Thank you Susan Jeffers for the best title of a book ever.) I'm going forth with strength, continuing to cultivate my courage one day at a time.

Guess what? My energy is back. Thanks, readers!

Inspiring Message for the Day: Share your fear. Remove its power. Ask for courage and step into the adventure of your life!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All We Are Saying...

It is Remembrance Day in Canada today, Veteran's Day in the US. In many countries around the world, today's slogan is "Lest We Forget."

"Lest" means "for fear that".

For fear that we forget... what?

How atrocious war is. How many die. How many are wounded. How war destroys the very core of a nation, its culture, the will of its people.

Today is a holiday. We are supposed to be taking this day off to remember these things. Why? For fear that we forget them.

But how can we "forget" them when we are still at war? We haven't stopped fighting each other long enough to forget anything. We haven't stopped starting new wars. We are still at war, here, there, everywhere.

Sometimes when I see clips of different male species attacking each other full force in the animal world I think that fighting really is just a part of our nature and that it can't be avoided. Even ants battle each other!

But human beings have Reason. We have the ability to discern. We have the capacity to forgive. What is our excuse?

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their bed-in in Montreal in 1969 and Lennon was asked how he expected countries and politicians to stop war he simply said, "Declare Peace."

Declare Peace! Can you imagine? It's so simple it's ridiculous. What if we declared Peace in Afghanistan? In Iraq? What would happen?

There is a saying: "What isn't tried won't work."

We will never know unless we try it.

Part of me believes that our endless warring with one another is simply a reflection of our massive inner conflict. How many of us have peace in our own lives? Is it possible for a country to Declare Peace when its own people have no sense of what it means to have inner peace?

These are big questions and I do not have the answers. I do know that having peace of mind or peace in my heart does not come easily. It involves letting go of expectations, practicing non-judgment of others, and forgiving my enemies.

It's a heck of a lot of work. But I still strive for it. I am doing my best to live out these principles today. Why? Pure joy. Having peace makes life worth living.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Striving for inner peace is to have a great purpose. Perhaps if we Declare Peace in our own lives the dream of World Peace can become a reality.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Foxy Lady

I moved back to the Yukon five years ago for many different reasons but the biggest one is that I feel most at home here. I've lived in a lot of different cities and towns all across Canada and in Europe but when I come back to Whitehorse I feel like my skin fits.

The next biggest reason is the land. We're surrounded by majestic mountains on all sides and that not only means we get to look at beautiful views it means we get to see wildlife on a regular basis.

Last night I arrived home and picked up the cat to give him a snuggle. As I was petting him in my arms I looked out the kitchen window. I hadn't closed the blinds before I'd gone out and the pitch black yard suddenly became illuminated by the porch light, which is activated by a motion detector.

There, on the snow in front of my window was a bright-red, bushy-tailed fox. He did a little spin, perhaps confused by suddenly being in the spotlight, and then took off, trotting down the sidewalk and into the cut-through on the other side of this building.

This past weekend, I went for one of my usual walks, which takes me along the Yukon river, up a bank of low lying cliffs and along a trail bordering the airport and overlooking the downtown core. I saw a big bird sitting on one of the streetlamps lining the road that runs parallel to the river for a stretch.

I knew it was a bald eagle. It was too big to be a raven and I thought I could see a white head. As I got closer it lifted its head and turned to look toward the river. Yes, an eagle.

As I approached, it did not fly away. Extreme close-up! I was just about underneath the streetlamp before it lifted its wings and swooped down toward the water.

"It's going to dive for fish!" I thought. But as it dove downward I saw 3 ducks bobbing in the river. The eagle flew right over top of them but instead of scooping up one of the tasty birds it flapped its wings and flew on, landing instead on a strip of ice nearby.

It's not like you can't see wildlife in the Big Cities. As a matter of fact, when I was on the streetcar in Toronto recently I overheard a conversation between two young women during which one told the other that she'd seen a fox on her street the night before.

So I can't very well say, "We get foxes and you don't!"

But to look out the window and see foxes and coyotes (often happens) or leave the house and in less than a minute be walking alongside a mighty river where eagles and ducks hang out, well, there's nothing like it.

Inspiring Message of the Day:

The wings of an eagle,
The fine snout of a fox,
Make life worth living
Despite its hard knocks.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Patient Practice

My mother is a great writer. Her novel, written in the eighties about her life in the Yukon, makes me weep every time I read it. For years she wrote a personal column for both the Toronto Star and the Montreal Gazette and she had many fans.

Every so often I'll get a long email from her about the Great Dane she and my father are raising. One of my sisters suggested she start a "dog blog".

Yesterday I helped my mother set up a free blog account, much like this one. It was challenging. Her computer is a dinosaur and my parents live in the sticks outside Chicago, which may or may not have something to do with their Internet connection being as slow as molasses.

I sat patiently on the phone with her as we went through the procedure, step by step. There were lots of hiccups and she almost gave up a few times but we persevered and finally achieved success.

The miracle of this little story is that I was able to stay calm throughout the process and be kind and helpful. Believe me, when I use the word miracle I am not being grandiose.

I used to be the kind of person who would lose my temper in an instant. Lose it.

Example: I'm moving house. I'm trying to get a wicker chair through a door. It's too big. Instead of turning the chair on its side and taking the time to manoeuvre it slowly, which would have surely worked, I pull and I wrench the thing so hard that I shred the edges and, once through the door, whip it across the yard.

That was years ago but a pretty standard illustration of my life-long inability to act in a patient manner.

I haven't just willed my way into becoming a patient person. I've done a heck of a lot of inner work and I have had a great deal of help. Therapy, support groups, spiritual direction. I'm not perfect and I fall short all the time but yesterday I spent an hour on the phone, with my own mother, helping her start a blog and I did so cheerfully and with lots of love in my heart.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Change is possible. We do not have to remain bound to who we think we are. We can let go of old behaviours and practice new ones.

BTW, become a follower of

Saturday, November 7, 2009

An Octopus's Garden

I've never gone deep sea diving. I have a family member who is a diver and her stories from the world below have made me long to try it someday. I have gone snorkeling, which is supposedly a lesser experience but I thought it was fantastic nonetheless.

There is a large flat screen TV in the doctor's office where I go for check-ups and it always plays the same movie, an IMAX feature about underwater life called Deep Sea. As I waited for some test results yesterday I watched some of the film and, as always, was absolutely mesmerized by what I saw. There are creatures living on the ocean floor that will positively blow your mind.

Here are some snapshots:

Something shaped like a human heart and resembling a woman's dress made of ornate red feathers moved through the water by continually bending itself in half, from front to back.

A creature that looked like a cross between and octopus and a starfish crept along the sea bed sucking up its food like a vacuum. It would occasionally bump into little yellow clams that would then frantically swim away by opening and closing their "mouths". At one point the octopus-starfish lifted one of its "arms" to reveal thousands of little legs underneath, which propelled it forward.

A shrimp-like creature with an expressive face that made it look almost human. At one point it reared up on its tail and roared, its jaw a sudden, gaping trap, its multiple arms splaying open, its colours changing from matte to florescent. This thing went from quirky-looking crustacean to menacing disco-predator in a blink.

There was no sound coming from the TV so I watched all of this and more in silence, the underwater camera moving slowly and gracefully through this magical world. By the time I was called in by the doctor I was in a kind of meditative state, full of wonder and awe.

At one point during the film, the amazing fact that all of this was taking place underwater hit me anew. What is a hostile environment for us is a natural environment for these sea animals. Without a breathing apparatus, we die underwater. Likewise, the air we breathe would kill them.

Yes, this is totally obvious. Big deal. We know this. But, no. Isn't it something? Is this not an astonishing truth? Their air is liquid!

Maybe you had to be there...

Inspiring Message of the Day: Nature can provide the deepest inspiration. When I encounter yet another aspect of Nature's portfolio I am reminded that I am a part of the whole, not the whole part.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Compassion in Action

There is a young man I will call Richard who lives on the streets of this fair city, who drinks so much he can barely stand up, whose face is swollen and scarred probably beyond recognition to those who may have known him as a boy.

He is still a boy, really. Though hard living makes him look like he is in his late forties I once heard him say, when he was sober, that he was barely thirty years old.

I often see Richard with another street kid who begs for change using a pregnant belly to justify the asking. For awhile it looked like Richard and this gal were boyfriend and girlfriend. I have seen her with the belly and without it. Whether it was real I cannot tell you.

Yesterday I saw Richard at the mall, staggering along the sidewalk, barely upright. I said a little prayer for him and then went into the store. When I came out he was being held in a tight grip by the mall security guard. I was in a vehicle so I could not hear what they were saying but it looked like the guard was hurting Richard.

I watched to see if this was true, preparing to get out and intervene but then I realized there was something else going on.

Richard was listening to the security guard in the way that only really drunk people can, head down, eyes closed, total concentration. Richard then swung his free arm around the security guard and hugged him, held him in a tight embrace for many seconds.

The security guard took the hug. His eyes darted around, possibly worried that someone might see, but he let Richard hold him and did not pull away.

When they did come apart they stayed close, still gripping and shaking their hands, as if they'd just made a deal. This little dance was repeated three more times. Richard looking like he was being hurt, listening closely to the guard's whispers, lifting his arm and hugging him tight, the security guard receiving the embrace.

At one point they even came apart and Richard threw down the gloves he was holding with dramatic flourish and then wrapped both his arms around the security guard in a full-on bear hug. When they came apart, the guard picked up Richard's gloves for him and handed them back.

It is at this point that I drove away. They were still shaking hands when I pulled out, standing close again, repeating the scenario. I do not know how long they continued to play out this fascinating drama.

What was it all about? I'll never know. But what I saw both disturbed and moved me. The security guard was pulling some kind of a power trip, that much was clear, but he was doing it in such a way that Richard felt the need to thank him for it by hugging him with all the love he had in his drunken heart, which was a whole lot.

Compassion is defined "sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others."

I'm not exactly sure what I witnessed at the mall yesterday but I did see a kind of compassion in that security guard's actions. It was perhaps not perfect but Richard was able to receive it and though he may not even remember what happened, it touched him deeply in the moment.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I have seen compassion in action and it moved me. I will perform an act of compassion today knowing the power it holds.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nature Does it Again

Last night I walked from the downtown core to a nearby neighbourhood to get to a friend's house for whom I am house-sitting. In exchange for checking on her house once a day I get the use of her car. It took me about half an hour.

I do not own a vehicle and though Whitehorse is not a big city it is quite spread-out and getting around without a car is not always easy. Having wheels, especially in winter, is a big help.

After walking in darkness through the snow, the wind whipping my scarf straight behind me, I arrived at the house to find that my friend had neglected to leave me the key to the car. Or, if she did, she left it in a very good hiding place. I could not find it.

I didn't completely lose my sh&%, though I was definitely saying a few swear words as I looked for the key. After searching the house and making a few phone calls, I finally gave up.

Feeling annoyed at having walked all that way for nothing, I decided to take a taxi back to my place. I'd only had 6 hours of sleep the night before and a full 12 days of travel before that. I felt exhausted. And though I'd enjoyed the walk there, trudging back home through the snow was not an option.

As I stood in her driveway waiting for the cab, I said a little prayer for acceptance and my irritation subsided. This was not the end of the world! I breathed in the fresh, cool air. Through the black night I could see the mountains in the distance, looming over the city like giant, shadowy ghosts.

Then I noticed that one of the trees in my friend's yard had sprouted little mounds of snow. I looked more closely. All its leaves were gone, obviously, but the tree was still full of little bunches of berries. With each snowfall, each berry-clump had accumulated its own miniature pile of snow.

When regarded as a whole, the tree looked like it was growing great puffs of cotton.

I smiled. I may even have laughed. It was so silly! This was the cutest tree I'd ever seen.

Just then, a friend walked by. I smiled at him and he smiled back. When he asked what I was doing I didn't bemoan my situation or bad-mouth my friend, I simply told him I was waiting for my ride.

Now, it must be said, for me, that is truly a miracle. Thank you, cotton tree!

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I'm feeling irritable it sure helps find something to make me laugh. Silly things are a good cure for grumpiness.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Re-entry Mode

I arrived back in Whitehorse at 1 a.m. last night/this morning to -10 C and white, white, white. Now I know how people feel who arrive from Down South having never been here. It's a shock to the system after +10 temperatures in Toronto and Vancouver.

I had a 7 a.m. Toastmasters meeting, which I skipped, and awoke after eight to an apartment with no power. No matter. Make a cold breakfast and go back to bed. Power came back on, hot breakfast and still no sign of the cat. Perhaps 2 weeks with a house sitter cured him of his 5 a.m. alarm clock habit.

I'm officially in re-entry mode, which means for a few days after I return from traveling my energy is low and all I wanna do is nothing. Experience tells me that doing nothing for 3 days is not a cure, it just prolongs the slump.

What works best is finding a balance between work and rest. Do not do too much but take action and keep moving. Stop and take a break when necessary, nap, maybe watch a movie, but maintain a forward momentum.

With the right amount of action and inaction, the body's vital energy will return and I will easily transition back into a regular work schedule.

It's taken me a long time to learn this. I used to book chock-a-block meetings immediately upon my return from a trip thinking I had to make up for being gone. Wrong thing to do! Because I was cranky and tired the meeting wound up being a total write-off OR I'd have to go back and apologize to someone for opening my big mouth when I shouldn't have.

So I'm going to finish this blog, work for a while on my screenplay, take care of some e-business and get back under the covers where the cat is still asleep. He's got the right idea. It's winter out there!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Everything can wait. I'm at my best when I'm rested.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Endings

I'm staying with a woman who is a filmmaker and it's great spending time with her because we can talk about films, one of my favourite subjects.

When my friend asked me about my own film work I told her I've started a new draft of the feature film script I'm writing. She wanted to know what it's about and I gave her my one-sentence pitch:

A woman chooses independence over romantic love.

I only recently came to this conclusion myself. I've been working on this thing for years and I always thought it was about something else and because I didn't really know what that was, I was always writing in circles.

After dinner we watched a movie called Penelope, a little-seen film with Christina Ricci about a young woman who looks like a pig. It's a wonderful story. We all loved it.

When the movie was over, my friend said, "You know what that was about, don't you? A woman who chooses independence over romantic love."

"But she still gets the guy," I said, which was true. After Penelope finds a sense of herself she snags the so-sexy-it-hurts James McAvoy character, who accepts her as she is.

"So you really can have it all," said my friend.

We had decided earlier that day, after talking about the film I'm writing, that you can't have it all. It's one or the other.

But is it? Couldn't a person be really and truly independent and still be in a relationship?

Yes, there are certain compromises one has to make in order to make a relationship work but what about inter-dependence, the idea that two people can be independent together?

The movies rarely show this kind of couple. They show the falling in love, they show the honeymoon stage, they show the fireworks. They don't show the work it takes to stay together.

I would like to see more films that show the work aspect of love. The communication, the negotiation, the compromising, the couples therapy. Reality.

But we don't go to the movies to watch reality. We go to escape. We have a strong desire to believe in the perfect relationship otherwise there would be no such thing as a Hollywood ending.

There's nothing wrong with Hollywood endings. They're fantasies and fantasies make us feel good.

But the films that have stayed with me, the ones that have had the greatest impact are the ones with a realistic endings. I think of Five Easy Pieces, an unforgettable film with Jack Nicholson made in 1970. I won't ruin the ending if you haven't seen it but it's a crusher.

Maybe I will bow to pressure and let the woman and the man stay together in the film I'm writing. After all, Jane Austen gave her characters what she didn't have and look what happened for her.

Regardless, there is one thing I do know: if I desire independence I have to work for it, in or out of a relationship.

Inspiring Message of the Day: The real love I seek is self-love. Without it, no relationship is worth much.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Live and Let Live

Another day, another city. Vancouver, BC. Home of the 2010 Olympics and lately, my second home, because I've been here so often in the last few months.

Last night I went to hear David Sedaris read from his volume of work at the Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts as part of the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, which officially ended last week.

David Sedaris' work was first introduced to me by a gal pal with whom I have been friends for over 30 years. She sent me his book Me Talk Pretty One Day and told me I had to read it and that it would make me laugh out loud. I did and it did.

Even though I really liked the book I also remember finding some of the humour a little too scathing, a little too harsh, for my taste. Borderline offensive, even.

Then I read one of his stories in The New Yorker Magazine called Kookaburra. It, too, made me laugh out loud and I got choked up by the ending, which was quite touching. So when I saw that he'd be reading in Vancouver I decided I'd like to be there, having officially become a fan.

And David Sedaris readers, I discovered last night, really are fans. When I arrived at the box office to pick up my ticket there were throngs of people spilling out on to the street. The 1800+ house was jammed to the hilt and the whole place was buzzing like a bee hive. It felt like a rock concert.

He was great. He's a little shy but that doesn't stop him from being a great speaker. I laughed out loud more than a few times and he even read Kookaburra and I got all choked up by the ending again.

But David Sedaris has a twisted sense of humour. That's one of the reasons he has fans.

Much of what he read was really dark. Again, I would call it borderline offensive. The crowd was laughing uproariously but they were also making uncomfortable sounds, groaning and wincing. It's interesting to hear 1800 people audibly squirm.

Satire is great, black humour is great but I don't know. It just doesn't feel good to laugh at other people's misfortune. I know we need to, sometimes, that was clear last night. But for me, personally, it doesn't feel good.

For example, one of the stories involved a woman in a wheelchair. Black humour is supposedly not discriminatory. It's a particular genre which gives us permission to laugh. But right now I'm staying with a woman who happens to need a scooter to get around and I just didn't feel comfortable laughing at the disabled character.

Other people did. Hard. And you know what? I judged them. "There's something wrong with these people." But not me. I'm morally superior because I'm not laughing.

Here is where I get into trouble.

Just because I like my humour straight up does not give me the right to judge others who like theirs with a twist. When I'm judging, I'm separating myself from the human race. I'm saying, "I'm different" and the truth is, I'm not. I'm just like everybody else.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I will continue to work on accepting others as they are. We do not all have to be the same but we are all equal.