Invest

I am sure you are familiar with the saying, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it”. If I have discovered anything in the last eight years of living in this beloved and quirky city, it is that. It can be so easy to compare our lives to the potential life we could have “over there”.

There is a difference between leaving a place or job etc, in order that you may run “towards” something, rather than to run “away” from it. Might be something worth asking ourselves when we are considering our decisions.

As I prepare to move cities for the next couple of years, I am so aware of how fast time is moving and how my emotions surrounding this change sneak up on me in very unexpected ways. There is this oscillation that takes place between pulling the one’s closest to me, closer; while wanting to self-protect and pull away in order to soften the blow of their absence. I find the practice of investing especially difficult when I know things are changing, when I know relationships will look differently than they do now. When I know the more I invest, the more I will love, and the more I run the risk of being wounded. And yet, somehow, it is worth it every single damn time.

It’s a choice. It is always a choice, investing in the people around us and in the places we live and work. It can be tempting to numb out and just move through our lives and relationships without connection, without letting each other in. More than ever have I felt this temptation. But, the more we risk the investment, the more we open to the love that is always there, and available in new forms and ready to be received, if I let it.

“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

George Saunders

Life will always throw things at us, tempting us to close up and invest only in the “safe” ways. Don’t get me wrong, there are boundaries to be had and set, and we cannot and should not invest in everything and everyone. But, who and what we choose to invest in is what makes life rich and full of meaning.

So, let us do so without fear of rejection, without the fear of failing, or the fear of being let down. Because reality is, we will feel those things from time to time. But, continually saying yes to investing, reaps a wellspring of love and friendship that no fear can measure up to.

Stay open. Stay soft. Stay present.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Refresh

The month of March is the beginning of Spring, and lately it has felt very appropriate. It has also held the beginning of Lent, for those of you who follow the church calendar. This time in life has felt like a “reset” in a lot of ways for me; and I think the beginning of a new season mixed with a Lenten practice has aided in that reset.

The last couple of weeks, I have reflected on how much of a gift it has been that I tore my ACL back in January. I had no idea what these last few months would hold in them, and the space that would be needed to process and how much I would need to make room within myself for others. For lack of better words, I really have felt refreshed, and reoriented towards what really matters. I think oftentimes those two things go hand in hand.

Refresh“to provide new vigor and energy; to make fresh again; reinvigorate or cheer (a person, the mind or spirit), to freshen in appearance and colour.”

Everything in our lives are invitations. Everything. Invitations into greater union with ourselves, the Divine and each other. I really don’t think we are meant to live in frenetic and disconnected ways. We are ALLOWED to flourish, to slow down, to say “no” more in order to say a fuller “yes” to the things and people we are being called to.

I have found rhythms and rituals to be a grounding force in life; the way for me to be refreshed and reoriented. The list is a mixture of very basic human needs, with a hint of my own personal preferences. Maybe this is just a reminder for you to look at these areas and see what might be lacking, and thus your body is craving:

  1. Sleep – my Mum always used to say I am a different human when I don’t get my sleep. It’s the TRUTH. A nap or a good nights sleep has helped me in ways nothing else can.
  2. Eating well and snacking often – I love food, plain and simple. I love preparing meals. And I realized, I need to make space to grocery shop and actually take time to prepare and enjoy good food; for myself and when with people.
  3. Exercise or moving my body – this is essential. Get out of your head and into your body. I need to get outside and into nature. Surrounding myself with trees, forests, lakes and fresh air does wonders. Care a little more for your body, and give her the time of day.

My preferences:

  1. Contemplative practice – I need my contemplative practice. every. single. day. Usually this is time and space carved out in the morning and before I go to bed, to sit, quiet my mind and connect to my deeper self and to God. It grounds me, and opens me up more fully to the world.
  2. Fun – Believe it or not, this is something I have had to re-learn. To ENJOY and PLAY through life. My internal world can be quite serious and intense, and so, going dancing, grabbing a beer with friends,  watching the Office or Queer Eye, playing sports or board games are CRUCIAL for me.
  3. Travel – I need to explore! Seeing new places and getting away from my familiar surroundings provide a rest that is unlike anything else.
  4. Writing – this is the air I breathe. Writing has always been the way for me to process, express and discern things in life. How do you best do that?
  5. One on One’s – I have learnt, that having one on one time with friends or family is one of the most life giving things to me. I am a social introvert. I love to be with people, but preferably one on one, where real soul connection and vulnerability can happen. Maybe for you it is larger groups, parties, singing karaoke. Whatever it is, make it a priority.

Life gets hard, and it gets busy. We need to make space for ourselves to be refreshed, and to refuel in the ways that are specific to us. Stop apologizing for needing a night in and cancelling plans. Stop apologizing for being yourself, and knowing when you have reached your limits and need to change things up a bit for you to be more at ease in this world.

How are you in need of a reset? How do you best feel refreshed? What is one thing you can implement this week to feel a little more connected to you? 

A Blessing from John O’ Donohue

“When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.”

 

 

Acceptance

Acceptance is hard. Plain and simple. It can feel passive, or like giving up. It can feel like weakness, and resignation. But it can also feel like freedom. It can feel like walking through life with a spaciousness inside, the kind you get when you take a giant exhale from the deepest part of your belly. Acceptance and strength are not mutually exclusive. I think real strength, an inner strength, comes from a place of acceptance.

The last two and a half months started off this new year in ways I did not anticipate. And I am sure there are people who feel similar. I am starting to come to terms with this more. Things happen so out of our control that we either spin and spiral into the abyss of confusion and despair, or lean into the invitation from love that all of these things belong in the grand scheme of things. If you’re like me, you will oscillate between the two: despair and hope, fight and acceptance, until something just gives and you are able to receive life as it is, moving forward with a little more compassion and openness.

Acceptance doesn’t mean shrugging our shoulders at what life throws at us. It’s not indifference or repression or numbing out. I think true acceptance is feeling the losses, grappling with the injustices and tragedies. It is going through grief in all of its rawness, and then coming through it because we’ve allowed love to kiss the wound.

Acceptance kind of just happens to us, in its own time. We do the work, we sort through our grief; which can look a lot like fighting and bargaining, anger, visceral reactions in the body, random outbursts of tears. However it plays out in our lives, we must let ourselves feel our way through it. And then, it’s as if our days begin to feel a bit more normal, and we slowly feel like we are at home in our own bodies again. But it takes time, and a lot of permission to lay low and go gently through life.

I am not sure what it is for you, what sorts of things you find yourself grappling with or the circumstances you find just too difficult to accept; I only know that which I feel within myself. But may you wake today going gently on yourself. Giving yourself permission to go at your own pace, opening yourself to love so that you may feel her kiss your wound, and nudge you towards a place of acceptance.

A poem for you by Robert Frost 

“When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, ‘Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night be too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'”

Bennacht by John O’ Donohue 

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Moving Forward

Paulo Coelho wrote, from his best-selling book The Alchemist, “When you can’t go back, you only have to worry about the best way of moving forward.” Something we all must come to reckon with. Whether we have left a home, a geographical place, a specific season of life, a relationship, a job, a way of seeing or being in the world; eventually these things become a memory and experience of the past. If we are going to grow, expand and evolve into the spacious, and creative people we are meant to become, we must move forward from them.

Often times, moving forward implies that we also must leave things behind, which is why I think moving forward in the ways we are invited to requires a great deal of courage. Moving forward doesn’t mean we don’t bring along all those experiences that shaped us into the new beginnings we are entering, because we do; for better or for worse. There is a circular nature to life, and all things belong and bleed into each other. These experiences have marked us, and they have been holding places for us along the way. But they won’t sustain us forever; we have outgrown them, and we must go on.

As I entered this new year, I couldn’t shake this feeling of real change that is going to take place. And I don’t just think that’s solely for me. A real moving forward from what was, and bravely walking into unknown territory, for many of us. As I think about this forward motion in my life, I think about the things I am being invited to leave behind, and let go of. And sometimes those things in and of themselves leave us, without much of our choosing. Like deaths, illness, people, jobs, etc. However, there is a ritual of letting go and leaving behind all that has been, in order to fully move into the new internal and exterior places that are presenting themselves to us.

What do you need to let go of and leave behind? Are there things you feel you need to actively leave in the past? 

What things have been maybe taken from you that you are being invited into leaving behind a little more in this season? How can you be more gracious with yourself in the letting go process? 

What things do you feel you are being invited into, in order for you to move forward in your life? Are there specific goals, dreams and desires you have within yourself that you want to bring more into your daily life; into reality?

John O’ Donohue wrote a Blessing for New Beginnings, and it spoke to me in profound ways a couple of years ago when I was transitioning jobs. It felt risky and like entering unknown territory, but it propelled me forward in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Along with Donohue, the magnificent Mary Oliver writes of the sacredness of ritual and stillness, which I think is the beginning of moving forward to begin with. I had to include her work in this month’s piece, as the world mourns the loss of this precious and fierce soul who left us this week.

May you find the courage within, to move forward into new territory of land and spirit, and leave behind all that has been, remembering it with fondness and gratitude.

For A New Beginning by John O’ Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

 

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

 

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

 

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

 

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

 

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

Today by Mary Oliver

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.

 

 

Expectations.

This new year didn’t begin quite how I expected it to. When the clock turned midnight on December 31st, I danced in the New Year with good friends, with such a hopeful expectation for all this new year would bring. But, I really didn’t expect to end up in a brace and on crutches just a week in.

2018 was a rough one, for many people. But, as I have said before, I really believe and feel within myself, that this past year was a year of foundation laying. It shook up the soul in a way that propels us forward to pursue what we want, who we actually desire to be, and to live in a deep settledness instead of all that frenetic running around internally and externally.

I’ve always wrestled with my expectations, towards myself and for what the world has to offer. These expectations come from my ideals, and it’s both a blessing and curse. I’m an idealist, a romantic and an old soul — a recipe for great imagination and passion, with a side of tremendous disappointment and heartache, if not tempered.

This past week I discovered that I most likely tore my ACL; news I didn’t really anticipate or want to hear. I have been limited to staying mostly in my apartment with the exception of small outings to my little neighbourhood cafe, and trying to not get too stuck in my head (a very real temptation for us introverts!). But, as I sat in my little nook this morning, these words came to me:

“Expectation and Expectancy are different. Your expectations may be shattered, but your expectancy is eternal; untouchable”.

That small little truth gave me a glimpse of hope I haven’t felt really all week. But I really think it’s true. I am not going to lie, the last 48hrs have been really shitty. Almost every insecurity has crept up from the basement and into my living room of existence, and has dwelt there for way too long. I have felt very small, lonely, and weak. But there is this small part of me, I am guessing the eternal part of me, that is determined to let go of my expectations of what I thought this year or next few months were going to look like, and remain open and spacious to this expectancy in the seat of my soul.

I have resolved in myself, that I want to cultivate a sense of expectancy in myself for all this new year might have for me, without clinging to my ideals or ideas of what it ought to look like. The beauty of the eternal truth, that there is Goodness and Love far bigger than our own personal worlds is that everything that happens to us, does not have to be lost to despair. Invitation is always there. An invitation to be opened to a greater love, a greater compassion and greater sense of Self.

I don’t know what all of this will look like, and I would be a fool to think that just because I do believe there will be beauty from this somewhere (insert your own struggle here), that there won’t be days where it will just suck. Because it will.

But, if I have learnt anything already, it is this: Friends and family have quite literally been the hands and flesh of God to me. There are doctors and specialists who care enough to make you a priority when really you are no more important than their next patient. And that not everything can be taken from us. That there is a treasure inside each of us that is untouchable, that is eternal, and that always carries hope.

Whatever spirit and headspace you find yourself in as you’ve entered this new year, may your expectancy for mystery be ever greater than your expectations, and may you begin to touch that small but powerful part of your inner being that is eternally beautiful, good and full of strength.

 

 

Healing.

Healing feels a lot like a tearing open, a seeping out of soul of all that was given, taken, shared and remembered. Healing is painful, probably one of the most painful things we will endure. And though excruciating, for a time, eventually it leads us into deeper experiences of pleasure and poise. It is not something we can rush, skip over, short-cut or bargain with; it must be felt and lived through. Entirely.

I hate that this is true. But it is. Healing is one of those things in life that has no formula, no specific time frame or “life expectancy”. It is a journey that the heart, mind, soul and body must take in order to be well, integrated and more whole from where it was left off.

More than ever, I am convinced that to lean into the healing process is one of the bravest things human beings can do. It is much easier to numb, compartmentalize, escape and distract ourselves from the pain that we have experienced or are experiencing. Now, I do actually think distractions, or needing to compartmentalize things for A TIME can be helpful. It can keep us afloat and remind us that life is more than the ache, grief or loss that has taken place. However, these things are temporary, and only reach us skin deep. Healing, true healing, must reach beyond that and into the very life flow of our person. It must get into our bones. If we don’t go there, it will fester and rot, it will turn into bitterness, cynicism, rage, self-destructive behaviours, and relational disasters. It will rob us of the joy, vitality and peace that we were, and are all, meant to experience in life.

Unfortunately, the only way out, is through. Through the pain, through the confusion, through the tears, through the memories, through forgiveness, and through acceptance. It is the only way.

Yes, I believe time is a great healer. But, I also believe in the rituals that we put in place during that time. A lot of the time, the rituals for me look like this: Watching numerous episodes of Friends and Queer Eye. Hibernating instead of socializing. Crying, crying and crying some more. Writing, praying, and yelling. Enjoying a cigar while staring out into a sky much bigger than myself. Exercise and sports. Asking close friends to come by just to listen. Getting away for a few days to retreat, to be in silence and solitude and to really go into the places of pain. Return, and receive what my life is. Actually practice gratitude, even when I am so resistant to it. Make a list of all the things I have learnt, and the ways I can be more true to myself in this time. Remember self-compassion, and let myself laugh.

What are some of the rituals you find helpful when going through times of pain; or a time of healing? Do you have any? If not, how can you implement one or two things so that you don’t remain in a stagnant place, without hope or joy?

Recently, I was having tea with an old Professor and now dear friend. We were talking about grief and healing and how essential it is to let ourselves really go through it. She told me a story she learnt from the Ojibway tradition about Grandmother Moon. In the Ojibway tradition, Grandmother Moon is responsible for making the tides come in and out. She draws out the tides. And Grandmother moon within each of us is responsible for also drawing out the waters within us. That water is often our tears. Grandmother moon appears as a light in the darkness, and her light calls out the water within us so that we may be healed.

In the Christian tradition, we can find deep comfort in the Paschal mystery. Which is the life, death and resurrection of the Christ. A cycle of deaths, waiting and new life that we experience in the cycles of our lives. Catholic writer and Priest Ronald Rolheiser expresses it like this in his book “The Holy Longing”:

  1. Good Friday – “the loss of life; real death.” (Name your deaths)
  2. Easter Sunday – “the reception of new life” (Claim your births) 
  3. The Forty Days – “a time for readjustment to the new and a grieving of the old.” (Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality).
  4. Ascension – “letting go of the old and letting it bless you; the refusal to cling to it.” (Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing). 
  5. Pentecost – “the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living.”(Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living).

Wherever you find yourself in the journey of healing, remember that your pain won’t be forever. Though time feels slow, and the nights bitter cold, you will soon wake to the warmth of a new day. Though you may be broken, you will be healed. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and may you find that extra bit of courage to lean into the darkness that will too, in time, be a great gift.

A blessing for you as you go:

When Walking With Grief – A prayer from the Common Book of Prayer

“Do not hurry as you walk with grief; it does not help the journey.

Walk slowly, pausing often.

Do not hurry as you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden.

Swiftly forgive, and let Christ speak for you unspoken words.

Unfinished conversation will be resolved in him.

Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.

If it is you, be gentle with yourself.

Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.

Take time; be gentle as you walk with grief.”

Words from a Poet

My friend Staci Lee and I have been collaborating on some of these writing projects. We decided this month to choose one of our favourite poems to share. I always find it a bit difficult to choose favourites. I have favourites for different reasons, and some that speak to me more profoundly during different seasons of life. For this month, I decided on “Sweet Darkness”, by poet David Whyte.

David Whyte’s words are usually soul gripping and moving. But this poem sums up a deep human experience, while asking the reader more of an existential question; propelling them into the mystical landscape of their own soul. He touches on the themes of darkness, aloneness, vitality, letting go and coming to find your own sense of self in the world.

The last eleven months have brought some very significant changes in my life. Changes that have been excruciating at times, and also some of the most life-giving. If I have learnt anything, it has been that letting go, moving forward, saying no, and having some real self-respect has very much been worth the pain. Choosing to say yes to the things and people that actually make you come ALIVE, and no to those that don’t, no to the things that would be “settling” for you, is a lot harder than we think. Listening to our inner voice can often go against cultural norms, or the opinions from family or friends. It can feel like you are stumbling in the dark, alone. And yet, there is a surety that comes from within yourself, when you enter that space, and welcome it. David Whyte’s words remind us of the sweetness of such a time. That in it, we might actually discover a vitality that we could only dream of before.

Sweet Darkness, by David Whyte

“When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.”