Something to Inspire

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One of my favourite writers and thought leaders is Dr. Brené Brown. She a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brené has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

She is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brené is also the Founder and CEO of The Daring Way and COURAGEworks – an online learning community that offers eCourses, workshops, and interviews for individuals and organizations ready for braver living, loving, and leading.

I am currently taking her online “Kitchen Sink” course on the gifts of imperfect parenting. I am really enjoying it so far and I look forward to telling you more about my experience of it in the coming weeks.

Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 25 million viewers. It is definitely worth a watch.

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This short piece on the importance of boundaries is very powerful too:

#JoyBlogging

“Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing their potential as a human being.”  

~ Bruce Lee

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The state of the world is pretty overwhelming these days. There is a lot of negativity and fear circulating: both in the news and general talk around the water cooler. There is also so much pain and damage being inflicted daily, on a global scale, by fellow human beings: not only on each other but to animals and the environment. It is heartbreaking and I often feel such a deep sense of helplessness.

I am also barely keeping my head above water in my personal life these days. I work full-time. I am a single mother. I have a student living in my home. I volunteer in my community. I care for my relationships with friends and family members. And…I am trying to make new space for writing and creativity…It is a lot to hold together. My body is currently telling me, through sheer exhaustion, that I cannot sustain this pace – no matter how hard I push myself. As Kate Kerr says: “I can count on my body to know where I am.” And my body is saying: “Slow down baby. Breathe. Simplify.”

In our society, a lot of value is placed on getting things done. There is praise for productivity; and great importance is given to action and the ability to multi-task. As I start to pay closer attention to my own habit of busyness, I am also noticing the discomfort the arises when I am still.  It is a useful and enlightening practice. Speeding up and slowing down – noting the way each feels in the body.

I was talking with a friend about this recently. She put forward a perspective that made me think. She believes in the deep importance (and pervasive undervaluing) of self-care; and she contends that self-regulation and core awareness are radical acts in themselves. With many of us living disembodied and fragmented lives, it disconnects us from knowing our true selves. This ultimately leads to living our lives half asleep, which is of no use to anyone.

The things that most of us aspire for and work so hard to achieve are a reflection the collective values of our society, rather than the authentic calling of our own hearts. The truth is that we are all here, not to fit in and to be like everyone else, but to discover our own unique gifts to share with the world. When you slow down and become still, it is hard to ignore this calling: one that most of us have known clearly since we were very young.

For me, part of reconnecting with my core self is to start paying attention to what gives me joy. What are the things that light my inner fire? What makes me feel alive and connected? I recently started a visual journal on my social media channels to capture these things, under the hashtag #JoyBlogging. I am enjoying this exercise immensely so far. It is a positive daily practice and it is wonderful to see a beautiful tapestry unfolding: one that reflects my true and most authentic self.

As I become clearer on the things that I value and love, I can see what I need to make more space for in my life: the things that make my heart sing. My hope is that by regularly sending out these love notes into the universe, I am not only serving my own internal journey, but I am also doing my own small part to be a force of love and positive energy in the world at large. I would love for you to join me. #JoyBlogging

There is no way out but through

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen

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Over the past ten months, I have become intimate with heartbreak and familiar with loss. My twenty-one year relationship abruptly ended. My beloved dog Maggie died; and two of my close family members are slipping away under the deep waters of dementia. It has been both an exceptionally difficult and a transformative time.

Heartbreak is a visceral experience. Your heart literally feels like it is breaking inside of your chest. It clenches. It aches. Pain manifests itself as tightness in your throat and tension in your shoulders. It pulls down heavily on your ankles and arms. It whispers seductively in your ear: “Lie down. Rest here. Don’t move. Stay still.” It is in these moments that I cling onto the mantra: there is no way out but through.

Through the experience of loss, I have been given the gift of seeing the people and world around me, with new lens. I have experienced the incredible kindness, love and compassion of those around me: my friends, family, work colleagues and community. I have realized that I am not alone. People want to help. They walk the path alongside of me. They will hold me up, when I cannot walk by myself. My biggest challenge is to accept this help and to receive this love: something that is difficult to do when you are used to giving it all away.

I have learned that when a heart breaks, it not only cracks open, it expands. Grief reveals the depth of sadness and it reveals the breadth of love. It will show you the sphere of life, if you let it: birth. death. love. loss. light. dark. All of it interconnected sides of one perfect whole.

Someone once told me: “You cannot selectively numb yourself. When you numb pain you numb joy.” This is so true. I have learned that it is essential to allow space for sadness, grief and anger to come through. It is not only key to healing; it will give you a deeper appreciation of joy and love. I now understand that, despite my deepest fear, allowing these emotions to just be will not swallow me. Feeling these emotions deeply will not cause lasting harm. They will come and then they will go. It is all temporal and transitory. Less resistance equals less suffering.

In and amongst all of the changes in my life, I have gained clarity on what I deeply care about: the things that creates inner peace; the actions that offers me joy. I have defined where my boundaries start and where they end; and the more that I clearly understand these things, the brighter my inner fire burns. The easier it is to stay rooted yet pliable while the ground around me shakes.

Something to Inspire

This is one of my favourite quotes (and people) of all time; and it is particularly relevant at this moment in history when there is so much fear and hatred in the political landscape: a very real challenge to democracy and the values we hold close. I use it as a touch point and a reminder to keep my eyes on the glimmer of light, even in the darkest of times.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall, always.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

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TED Talks: My life is my message

I love TED talks. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

I am going to start posting some of my favourite TED talks. I hope you enjoy them. xx

“Most of us do not take up nearly the space the universe intended for us…which is why when you see someone in the full flow of their humanity, it is remarkable.  They are at least a foot bigger, in every direction, than normal human beings; and they shine. They gleam. They glow. It is like they have swallowed the moon.”

~ Caroline McHugh, “The Art of Being Yourself”

Winter Solstice Reflections

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Photo Credit: karinecandicekong.com

 

Winter solstice is the shortest and darkest day of the year. I love this annual event. There is something mystical and magical about it; and it holds a special place in my heart.

The solstice has marked a significant shift in the annual cycle since neolithic times. Astronomical events were often used to guide the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. This is illustrated in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments are  aligned to the sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge).

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Photo credit: Tourism Ireland

 

I have a created my own personal tradition to mark this time of year. Every year on the 21st of December, I wake up early. I light some candles and incense. I sit by the fire to meditate, to think and write. I gain clarity on my deepest aspirations and desires; and I plant my seeds of intention for the year ahead with my words. After a long and dark winter of germination, I imagine these intentions emerging again with the light and luminosity of the summer solstice in June.

Celebrating the changing of the seasons and the coming of the light, connects me to the cycles of our planet: orbiting the sun in this vast universe. I remember that I am made up of the same material as stars; and I have an important part to play in sharing out love and light. I just need to follow my path, led by the draw of my inner compass and truth. I know that they will not steer me wrong.

Maggie Mae

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My beautiful friend, Maggie Mae, died on Thursday. She was a thirty pound, liver and white Brittany spaniel. I called her my “fur baby”; and she would have celebrated her thirteenth birthday on January 1st, 2017.

This little soul arrived in my life not long after I was first married: full of dreams, playing house, and feathering my nest. When that soft little puppy bounded into our home, I had my first taste of sleepless nights, random peeing and general loss of personal freedom. I also experienced a new kind of endless devotion, love and joy: all wrapped in one wiggling package. All of this genuinely helped to prepare me for the arrival of my “human baby” seven years later.

Maggie loved to go on adventure walks with me, until this August, when her little body could no longer carry her up the mountain. Her nose was amazing and she experienced the world through her incredible sense of smell. She was fascinated with birds and she loved to swim: especially in the lake and ocean. I often thought she was going to drown, as she relentlessly chased after a duck or a seagull. She considered herself to be an adept fisher-woman, spending hours pacing the water’s edge, certain she was about to catch the big one.

She welcomed me every day with a happy squeak, a smile and a vibrating tail. Smile! Who knew a dog could smile? I didn’t – until Maggie. Her right lip would lift up, exposing a lopsided toothy grin. It was an expression of pure joy and it was beautiful.

Maggie followed close beside me throughout the house as I folded laundry, tidied toys, and loaded the dishwasher. She stuck close to my heels, tags jingling, always ready to help clean up fallen crusts or crumbs. And when we finished our evening chores, she would happily put herself to bed: curling up into a warm ball close against my legs.

Maggie comforted me when I cried. She never let me down and she was the most loyal friend that I have ever had.  She loved me unconditionally, as I did her. I will deeply miss her and she will always live on in my heart.

Something to Inspire

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“Today, if you’re confronting an issue for the ten thousandth time, or feeling that your life is going nowhere, or panicking over how little you’ve achieved, stop and breathe. You’re not falling behind on some linear race through time. You’re walking the labyrinth of life. Yes, you’re meant to move forward, but almost never in a straight line. Yes, there’s an element of achievement, of beginning and ending, but those are minor compared to the element of being here now. In the moments you stop trying to conquer the labyrinth of life and simply inhabit it, you’ll realize it was designed to hold you safe as you explore what feels dangerous. You’ll see that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be, meandering along a crooked path that is meant to lead you not onward, but inward.” ~ Martha Beck

Making Memories

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I love fall; the hues of red, orange and yellow leaves: the crisp air and re-emergence of warm jackets and woolen hats. I enjoy the playfulness of Halloween and the quick ball change into holiday sparkle: colourful lights illuminating dark neighborhoods and parkways.

I look forward to the month of December: making cookies and crafts; festive gatherings; meals shared with friends and family; the winter fair at school; decorating the tree; and singing carols. I deeply value the opportunity to spend quality time with the people I love and with my community: making memories together. For me, it is a season to foster connection and friendship, and to express gratitude.

To keep closer to this intention, I made the decision to move away from gift giving for the adults in my life a few years ago. I now choose two causes close to my heart and I donate the money that I would normally spend on gifts, in their names. I ask them to do the same for me. This year I chose the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Environmental Working Group.

https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

http://www.ewg.org

For the kids in my family, I like to buy hand-made gifts created close to home. We are really lucky to have some fantastic local fairs that run at this time of year in Victoria. One of my favourites is the Owl Fair. It is a carefully curated gathering of Etsy artisans who make beautiful and unique things. When I pick up each piece, I can feel the love and care that has gone into its making. I had a great time exploring the tables today; and I came away with a bag full of treasures for all of the little ones in my life. Each gift makes me smile and I am excited to give them.

https://www.facebook.com/owldesignerfair/

Another highlight for me at this time of year is the celebration the Winter Solstice. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also officially marks the beginning of winter. I like to spend some time reflecting on the year that has passed and the seeds of intention that I would like to plant for the year ahead. It helps to create clarity and focus; and I like the idea of acknowledging the changing of the seasons with this small tradition.

What are your traditions at this time of year? How do you like to make memories with those you love?

Something to Inspire

 

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Photo Credit: Bahman Farzad

 

“Many people experience their true path not as something that happens to them but as the simultaneous loss of self and complete connection with the universe. When the essential self is really in its element, you may be so involved with the work at hand, the people around you, and the things you’re learning that you won’t be aware of yourself as separate from them. This state is the goal of many mystical practices, both in Western religious tradition and in the East. It’s been described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “flow,” by anthropologist Joseph Campbell as “following your bliss.” What do you call it?” ~Martha Beck

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life Were Meant to Live

Walking and Podcasts

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I have started walking during my lunch hour at work. I like this new routine. It feels good to stretch my legs, reset my brain with some fresh air, and spend a little time in nature: if even through an urban lens. I especially love to watch the seasons change through the leaves and trees.

My sister has always encouraged me to explore the wide world of podcasts; she is a big fan and listens to them voraciously throughout her day. I have always liked the idea but never made the time. Walking at lunch is now providing me with the opportunity to try it out as a new hobby.

I am mostly exploring podcasts focussed on creativity and innovation.  A few of my favourites so far are: TED talks; CBC Writer’s & Co.; and Magic Lessons. This week, I listened to interviews with artists and writers like: Glennon Doyle Melton; Elizabeth Gilbert; Sharon Olds; Zadie Smith; and Leonard Cohen. All of these talks have been very inspiring. It is wonderful to listen to people talk about pursuing their passions. Each and every one of them knew what they were born to do. To create. They then pursued this path relentlessly: despite facing much opposition and many odds.

A thread connecting each of their stories is the fact that a creative life is not an easy one. Even the most seasoned artist or musician has experienced years (and sometimes decades) of rejection and disappointment; but they. kept. going. Not for fame and fortune. They are all simply compelled to create their work and then offer it out to the world. And then create more and do the same again.  Over and over and over.  It is such a raw and vulnerable choice to make. To put your innermost thoughts and expressions on paper and then place those new-born thoughts and ideas into a public space for critique and discussion.

And this brings to why I started this blog. I, too, am driven to create. It makes me feel alive and connected.  I enjoy observing the world around me and sharing what I see through the written word. I always have: ever since I was a little girl. When I was seven years old, I wrote and illustrated a book. It was not my first book; but it was my favourite and I was very proud of it.  I worked on it for weeks on end and I then took it into my school library. I asked the librarian to add it to the collection. I wanted my work to sit on those shelves; and I wanted other children to read my book. It was my dream. I wanted to be a writer and create beautiful things with words.  But as the years passed, I stated to waiver. I believed what I heard around me. That is not a career path. Pursue something more stable. Be realistic Lora.

And so I did. I listened to everyone else and I followed many long and circuitous roads. They all led me back here. To this place and this passion. Thirty-four years later, with the same dream beating strong in my chest. So now I must write and stop being afraid of failure. I will write and write and write to see what happens. I will try to create some magic on these pages and to bring people together through my words and my dreams of beauty, love and light.