Wednesday, September 30, 2009

gimme shelter....

How does someone living in the land of plenty end up living in squalor down by the river? How does a human being grow up only to be discarded, abandoned, invisible and forgotten? I took these photos of a small outdoor nesting place for a few homeless people in the city of Fredericton. Located down by the edge of the Saint John River, so close to the Delta Hotel that you could shoot your spit and it would most likely hit the bricks. Haves and Have Not's residing as neighbours. The Have Not's know it. The Haves are oblivious. The neighbour on the other side? The Lieutenant Governor's mansion. Nice......

The area is referred to by government and community organizations, and the media as "tent city." Its hardly a city when you compare it to the excessively enormous shanty towns and makeshift communities under overpasses in larger centres. But, it is what it is....a home for the homeless, the transients......the human beings who have either chosen to live outside rather than in, or who cannot and will not abide by the rules of the local Shelters.

If you were walking quickly, or biking leisurely along this portion of the Trans Canada trail, chances are you wouldn't notice the hidden pathways leading to small clearings where human beings have congregated. Summer fauna overlaps the entrances and keeps the secrets behind the leaves...... sort of. Attention has been given to the handful of homeless people by a locally formed committee that was set up to "deal" with the issue. Deemed as dangerous and unsafe due to mental illness, addictions, lawlessness, there is an urgency to rectify the "problem" by finding alternative living arrangements.

There are some who want to use strong tactics to get these "filthy dirty addicts..." out of the city altogether. Put them on a bus.... move them to another town. Get rid of the problem. Quick and clean...resolve the issue by pushing it on. This "approach" reeks of impatience and disregard. No time or interest in finding out why another human being has fallen so far down and away from "functioning in the community" or being "self-sufficiently independent," these strongarmed bureaucrats see them as an issue that needs to be managed. No time to be curious or to see how beneficial it would be to connect in some way with these Tent people in order to learn WHY and WHAT HAPPENED...... They probably spend more time discussing what colour their new office furniture is going to be than truly caring enough to take the time to understand the individual human beings who have fallen.

There are others who sit across from the strongarm types who are quick to say...... Give them housing. They bark out their politics to anyone who will listen .... the issue is not enough affordable housing. The government doesn't have enough affordable housing!! Oh yeah, if only we had a place to park them that would solve the problem, now wouldn't it? hmmmmm......... no. It's not that simple. It also isn't that simple just to pour money into a bottomless pit with no foundation either. Housing doesn't make a home.

If we had all the money in the world, would the issue of homelessness be solved?

Homelessness is a symptom of a much larger systemic problem where one social service department or agency works in a silo providing their goods, while another offers up another package of goods and no one communicates effectively. Communities don't get off scot free either. Its not just a "problem" for the public sector to manage! Everyone plays a role because it isn't an "issue" that has to be solved. It's not a "problem" that has an easy fix answer like some math equation.

A person living on the streets, or down by the river, or in a tent in the woods, on a park bench, in a car, under a bridge, may have a handful of people whom they receive some form of assistance from. Social assistance, food, methadone, addictions counselling, shelter options, medical assistance. Sadly, not one of those helping frontline people have the capacity within the confines of their job description to fully assist this human being. Why? Time. Work constraints. Designated roles and responsibilities don't allow for it. Lack of genuine political will. Lack of financial resources. Community fear. Bias.

So, the perpetual problem continues...... and every now and then when the neighbourhood raises their ire, or when the Queen comes to town the issue of homelessness hits the front page of the local newspaper. Then, it dies down.......... becomes invisible and the human being Have Not's are lost beyond the margins, away from any attention.

Autumn is now here...... and the nights are colder.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soulspace part three..... a summoning to prayer

If you're interested and haven't read the story I've been writing about a place named Soulspace which overlooked the Greenbelt Festival site?

Part one is here

Part two is here.....

I happily post this piece on the 4th anniversary of starting this blog. WOOO HOOO!

Soulspace part three: A Summoning to Prayer.

"The heart is the place where beauty arrives; here is where it can be felt, recognized and shared. If there was no heart, beauty could never reach us. Through the heart, beauty can pervade every cell of the body and fill us. To use a word that feels like it sounds: this is the thrill of beauty through us. Perhaps this is why we sometimes feel the absence of beauty in our lives; we have allowed the prism to become dull and darkened; though the light is near, it cannot enter to have its inlay of beauty diffused. Sometimes absence is merely arrested appearance. Compassion and attention keep the prism clear so that beauty may illuminate our life. Prayer of course is the supreme way we lift our limited selves towards the light, and ask it to shine into us. "
John O'Donohue,
Beauty, The Invisible Embrace.

Little by little, the books and articles I have been reading and the interviews I have listened to about faith, spirituality, and human behaviour over the past four years are being synthesized. Changes in my perspective on how I want to live my life have profoundly impacted the way I see outwardly and the manner with which I explore inwardly. Writing on concepts and ideas triggered by what I've read has helped this process considerably. Discussing them with people in my life, especially my husband whose knowledge of religion and history and his personal religious beliefs far exceeds my own, has helped me digest it beyond simple comprehension and has helped my confidence grow ... a confidence that propels me to seek out more, to step into new, to question it fully, to feed my excitement about walking into the wild where answers are open for interpretation.

Instead of having doubt stop me from exploring, it is now just a component of healthy perambulations into the world of believing in God. Doubt is needed, just as much as certainty, just as much as infinite curiosity.
Of the authors who have touched my ever hungry heart and head, John O'Donohue has been my chosen guide. His intricately woven poetic prose with all its layered meaning quenches, refreshes, surprises, acknowledges, teaches, affirms, blesses. Throughout my 4 days of attending the Greenbelt Festival, I truly felt his presence and I thought long and hard about the lessons I had learned from him. It both saddened me knowing I would have to wait to meet him beyond this world and made me smile knowing how profoundly he had emotionally and spiritually moved many people who were attending the same festival. In fact it was because of two very special people in my life whom I met through blogging who also encouraged me over the past two and a half years to join them at Greenbelt to drink all that it can offer, that I even learned about John O'Donohue in the first place. (I'm smiling now just thinking about them. I always smile thinking about them. Beautiful human beings they are, they are. :) )

Soulspace seemed perfectly constructed to deeply feel this Irishman's gifts. Perhaps this is why I was struck so quickly with a burst of emotions when I first entered the room set aside for contemplative quiet time. When I opened the door and stepped into Soulspace, the reason behind my "need" to attend Greenbelt flooded me extraordinarily. When I stood at the window and looked out at the tents, the people, the movement and the green rolling hills in the background, I was floored by its beauty, by a sense of the miraculous, by a feeling that Father O would've loved this Soulspace. His words filled me..... his descriptions I had read over and over (always deepening my own understanding of what Beauty is) were within reach. The possibility of "lifting my own limited self "was there at my fingertips.... all in the wanting.

Other guides who have reawakened me were there too in my thoughts. When I found myself sitting down to rest in that place called Soulspace, unsure of what to do next, I was pleasantly surprised that the words I had read on prayer written by Father Anthony de Mello spoke to me. It was de Mello's book Awareness which kickstarted this part of my journey in the first place, and gave this blog it's name and theme. He woke me up with his irreverent reverence. I've always thought O'Donohue and de Mello would've enjoyed each other's company. Their passion, their intelligence, and their desire to poke and prod, to interact with God with infinite curiosity and a confidence to be themselves seemed similar in many ways. Sadly, they both died suddenly and way too soon for those of us here on earth. Perhaps they have crossed paths in Heaven, eh? I'd like to think so......

Ok, where was I.....? Father de Mello had simplified prayer and de-mystified the process for me by suggesting that prayer was stillness and meditation. It was about learning to breathe calmly. It was about listening to everything around you, allowing it to blend into your own thoughts. It was about allowing your thoughts to come and go while you learned to think with your heart. Praying wasn't always about reciting rote words. It didn't have to happen sitting with your head bowed in a pew. Hands don't have to be clasped. Heads can be bowed or not. It could happen anywhere, and would be just as powerful if you take the time to stop, be still and breathe. In and out. In and out. In and out.

I followed his direction and did exactly that. I let my body find its natural resting place. Given how much it needed rest, it was easy to comply.... so much easier than in past attempts. When your body is unable to keep up the defensive shield....the mask, when you simply cannot help but feel vulnerable, the prism of self leaves openings for the light to get in. "There are cracks in everything, " Leonard Cohen sings..... "that's how the light gets in."

My eyes closed, my body slackened. I held the little heart shaped sandstone I had chosen before I entered Soulspace in my left hand and felt its presence. For some reason that stone held within its rough make up a connection to purpose. Somehow the little chosen touchstone represented me and all of my complications. As much as I was entering into a relaxed zone I had never gone emotionally, spiritually, physically, the stone reminded me of me. It lay in my hand, scratching my consciousness. I couldn't help but lose my focus on the summoning to prayer because of its scratchiness.

Another piece of absorbed learning however soon altered the path of my thinking, away from feeling that the sandstone would interfere with any attempt at prayer. I was rescued by Frederick Buechner, an American clergyman, whose thoughts and words on this subject have continued to reach me like finding a brightly coloured welcome mat in front of an open door to a place I want to enter and become familiar with. His thought-full and believable description of what a prayer is also filtered into my thoughts as I sat growing more and more comfortable in my own "soulspace." He wrote:

"Everybody prays whether [you think] of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else's pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their own way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to something even more familiar than yourself and even more strange than the world."

I smiled to myself while revisiting this passage now internalized as a permission slip to go on with life knowing I was someone who prayed and that prayer was LIVING life emotionally and expressively. Prayer is a good thing and not a foreign mystery others employed on Sunday mornings in little white churches. It is not something to be in awe of, or to be afraid of. It is not something to be dismissed as a crazy ritual separated from the rest of living and doing. We don't have to behave like worshipping lemmings to receive its holy medicine. All we need to do is to be open to being awake and responsive to the world around us. All we need to do is open the door to our own heart.... aha.... aha ....

in and out
in and out
in and out
the door creaked opened
my shoulders and neck offered up its tension......
I entered into a thin air space

light, airy, refreshed with oxygenated insight
It happened ...... as naturally as inhaling air.....

I began to hear a choir softly singing a repetitive hymn. The alluring somewhat familiar sound seemed to come from the floor in front of me like a soothing spa I could fall into. A repetitive beat of drumming moved in to accompany the choir. At times the two forms of music seemed separate, like i was hearing it from different ears and at other times, it had blended into one like a flowing harmony.......quiet, soft, inviting me to enter into it. Strangely, I hadn't heard the music until I had silenced the noise inside me.

I thought of Father de Mello's be open to the sounds around you and to allow them to merge in with your breathing. For once, it seemed like a natural process. As my breathing became softer like I was falling asleep, my whole body stooped forward, my head tilted down. Currents of worries and tension, of stressful adrenaline and fatigue stopped circling inside me. The constrictions swimming through me which had caused my energy to feel depleted loosened its grip and I could literally feel the baggage I had been carrying around (some of it for a very long time) started to drop off me through my hands. The river water dropped out of my fingertips......

I pictured this letting go process as water coming from little tributaries flowing into a larger river of its own unfolding. The choir continued. The drumming accompanied. I was beginning to sit in the oneness of the sound on a raft going down a lazy river flow. In and out In and out In and out....
Unwelcome noises startled me a couple of times as I tried to stay on the raft. A little boy who was standing at the window overlooking the glorious vista down below and outward began asking his father questions in a loud voice. At first I was irritated. It felt like an invasion and I could sense my thoughts were being pulled into my irritation. Determined not to lose "the moment," I tried to block the noise. I tried to ignore it. When that didn't work I was reminded again of Father de Mello's suggestion and changed my thinking. Within seconds, I began to hear the little boy's voice as innocence and not as an irritant. Soon, his inquisitiveness filtered in, blending into hymnal choir. His voice became part of the drumming.

It was amazing! Once I realized how easy it was to fold the soul scratchy noises into my meditation, I was able to continue doing so. I had started with a feeling that I was being summoned to prayer, but some time during that experience, I had become empowered to do the summoning. The openness to it rather than the blocking of it had turned me into a relaxed compliant vessel.

Thoughts came to visit but only stayed for a short time and then moved on....down the river. Feelings came to visit but only stayed for a short time and then moved on.....down the river.....

in and out
in and out
in and out........
my breathing seemed lightly automatic and I stayed aware of it

Suddenly, my whole body quickened tight when I realized no one knew where I was. Not one important person in my life, both at home and at the festival knew where I was! Initially it left me fearfully vulnerable. I had lost touch. I was all alone. There was no where to hide. No one was coming to my rescue if I needed them to. I wasn't in a place either where I could be reached if they needed me. Isn't this how I had always defined myself? Isn't this the sustenance which fed my ego..... this sense of always being needed?? Surely someone must be looking for me. Someone must need me I thought. A strong pull to put a halt to this personal prayer moment gripped me.

Again, de Mello's advice soothed me..... let go of the thinking.... there is no urgency needing my attention and more importantly, let go of my ego... my sense of importance for once and just be. It helped to know that the two women I connected with at a talk on Empathy in a tent called Hebron earlier, who originally told me about Soulspace.... the same two women who serendiptously greeted me at the entrance to this sacred room just minutes before were most likely sitting where I had found them. They knew I was in here. They had embraced me like a sister and pointed me in the right direction.

I softened..... returning back to the sound of the choir, the beat of the drumming..... My learning was there too, visited by guides who had taught me through their own words, their own learning. God was there too. No, I didn't hear Him. No, I didn't see Him. I just knew because as quickly as my ego anxieties were alert, they left me floating on the raft. Safe.

work, life conflicts, uncertainties, tangled love, chaotic mishaps, self doubts..... toxic thoughts and complicated feelings which clog the tributaries of souls including my own began to loosen. Stillness arrived.......stillness like I have never felt before found me. Time slipped away from me. As I sat within the otherworld's timelessness, I seemed to find myself outside of the blur of everyday life. It lost meaning and my experience in the blended integration I felt meditating illuminated the boundaries around me. I no longer heard the noises, or felt the movement of others. The sound of the choir and the drumming wove in and out of my awareness. I found a comfort I had never touched upon before.

In the midst of this stillness, the slow shallow in and out of air, I was tapped with a realization that I had somehow opened my left hand, allowing the rough heartshaped sandstone drop to the floor. Given how symbolic it had become, this disturbed me enough to open my eyes. I looked down at my hand and saw that it was still closed and yet I couldn't feel the stone scratching the palm of my hand. It was the strangest feeling. I opened my hand to find it still there, and this realization that the feeling of the stone had also blended into me. It was all that I needed to travel beyond the threshold of visibility.

Don't ask me how long I sat there after that. I have no idea. Don't ask me what I thought, or how I felt. I don't know. It didn't matter. As much as my senses were clearly in tune, they had turned inward and became a guide to visiting my own holy soulspace.

in and out
shallow light breathing
in and out
beyond awareness

beyond loneliness

beyond difficult complications.

I stayed there in a bubble of timelessness.
My senses thrilled by the radiant opening of beauty.

Eventually, a new breath rhythm caught in my throat, which triggered me to open my eyes. My first sense was one of refreshed restfulness. It was like I had slept for a four hours. I looked around and no one looked familiar. There was a man sitting beside me quietly praying. He was inches away from touching me and I had never felt his presence. The bright green sweater was so starkly illuminating, it almost startled me.... how could I have not felt his presence when he was sitting so close glowing in GREEN?

As much as I was refreshed, I was also a little discombobulated. I didn't know what to do next. I knew I didn't feel like entering into the crowds down below. I felt raw like I had been cleansed and scrubbed too much .... I was too shiny or something. After gathering my balance again, I walked towards the exit and saw a pile of stones carefully placed by the human beings who visited before me, creating a cairn. I knew I wanted to place my little piece of sandstone somewhere on it. So, I squatted down and looked over the growing sculpture. There was a much larger rock which had been broken in half and left halfway up standing like a precipice ledge. I placed my stone on the ledge ........... not at the bottom of the cairn, and not at the very top.... halfway up. Perfect for me.

I opened the exit door and stepped out a different atmosphere. The two women, my new friends had moved on. This saddened me because I wanted to thank them... to tell them how meaningful Soulspace had been for me too. I wanted to describe to them how it had "filled my boots..." I wanted to describe how alive and refreshed and alert I was feeling. I wanted to connect with two people who would intimately understand the transformational feelings I was stunned by. But they had moved on. It forced me to figure out what had just happened on my own. In retrospect, this was what needed to happen. As difficult as it seemed, my aloneness was an important component to how the day continued to unfold.

There was no one to share my experience with.... to talk it out so as to understand it more fully. I felt lonely but determined to find a bench out of the way of the flow of people to jot down my initial thoughts and feelings in my journal. It was important to try to capture this transformational experience.

What had been clearly evident as soon as I had opened my eyes is that much of what I had allowed to drop out of my fingertips cleared the way to making a few personal decisions. I had known for a long time I had let go of a few conflicts that I had allowed to hover for far too long. Some of what I had resolved surprised me completely. Given that I had no conscious plans or intentions to address these personal issues, they found me as I sat blended into the middle of the sound of the choir and the drumming.......

I walked away from Soulspace, quickly found a bench away from the crowded pathway and began scribbling like a crazy woman. Thoughts, feelings, phrases, names, little details that would come in handy where captured in a spreeeeeeee....... I filled two pages in a matter of minutes as I remained quiet and contained., unwilling to break open to the "real world." It was at that point when I heard my name out loud for the first time since early that morning. It pulled me right out of a deeply focused tunnel, from the same place where I go when I'm in the writing zone.

Hi Dana....
Someone who knew me......???

I looked up to see the smiling face of an angel named Alison whom I was just getting to know through the friends I had gone to Greenbelt to meet. I had driven to the Greenbelt site with her from the hotel that morning, which seemed like years before and I hadn't seen her since then. Her timing was impeccable, like she had arrived by the guiding Hand of God when I needed someone to ground me again.

From the outside I'm sure I appeared to be the same, though I did have my head down scribbling away on a bench in the middle of nowhere! She asked me how I was, how my day had gone. As soon as I tried to open my mouth, the rush of emotion flurried through me as I stunningly had a smiling meltdown trying to explain to her what I had just experienced. I'm sure I made her uncomfortable. I mean how does one handle the erupting emotions of a 40 something woman who has just experienced something personally profound? I burbled and stammered and tried my best to find the words to describe how beautiful it was to have experienced meditative prayer, but it was a stumbling attempt at something I knew I needed more time to churn through. Alison the angel did exactly what I needed. She gave me a hug. She sat with me until I pulled myself together. She let me spill out in all directions. Thank you beautiful Alison. Your unconditional kindness was a blessing.

We spoke for a short while, as I gathered myself up for the next event. I thanked her for being at the right place at the right time. We wished each other well knowing we would both be back at the hotel later that night sitting by the bar debriefing with the others. Off she went to capture the festival through the lens of her camera. Off I went to take in the much anticipated talk by Pete Rollins whom I had met informally the night before, who had left me intrigued! Turned out, he was another Irishman filled with magnetic brilliance that shone out of him in thought provoking irreverent reverence. But, that's another story I'll save for another post.

It's been four weeks since my visit to Soulspace and I'm still processing what happened and how it impacted me. Some were automatic changes. For example, the confidence I had lost while trying to cope while working in a toxic environment for so long finally returned. I no longer feel the residuals of that experience and I can see this clearly in the way I am approaching my job as a counsellor at the Community College and as an Instructor teaching an evening course at the University. I'm juggling both jobs right now along with another counselling gig and I'm completely in my element. The second guessing is gone. My wings are fully open, in flight.

I have reshuffled the focus on a few commitments in my life... some I've let go of, some I've recommited to. As well, for the past year I had a strong desire to pursue a new career with the vision of becoming a Minister. Strangely, this seemingly transformative experience which you'd think would've reinforced this move had the opposite effect. I realized I have no interest in working within the bureaucratic confines of any formal religion. I've had more than my share of clipped wing functioning. These decisions, recommitments, changes were revealed to me as soon as I "returned" from the meditation and opened my eyes. Who knew that was going to happen???? It's all a big whopping relief.

More than a couple of spooky moments followed the Soulspace experience. It's like serendipity has been placed on Speed! One after another, after another!! The latest one happened last night as I was in the middle of trying to find the words for this piece to describe the choir and the drumming sounds. A friend sent me a link to a Youtube video of some music he had described to me earlier in the day. Beautiful haunting music. I listened to it, enjoying the feelings it provoked in me, and the thoughts it generated. When I finished listening, I looked at the Youtube sidebar to see if there was another song I could listen to. and chose the top selection. All of a sudden, the music filled my room with familiarity. For, unbeknownst to my friend, he had indirectly sent me the choir song I had focused on while I sat in the room called Soulspace. All of a sudden, I was reunited with a piece of music that had moved me into the thinness of time where beauty illuminates..... where God dwells. SPOOKY!

Coincidences don't exist.....

I never again saw the two women I had originally met in a tent called Hebron at a talk on Empathy. In fact, I don't even remember their names. It was like we power touched one another, walked a few important steps together and then moved on. I may never see them again ... this is most likely but who knows? Wilder things have happened in this global village. But, the impact on this pilgrim astounds me still. I wish them well.......... and send out a cosmic kiss across the starry sky to wherever they live.

Soulspace..... it truly did lift my limited self toward a beautiful light and taught me how to breathe in a new and profound way.

ps..... here is the link to the beautiful music which I finally heard when I was able to silence the noise inside me....

Saturday, September 26, 2009


For my James, dancing like no one's watching in the streets of Barcelona... with love xx

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the grace of soulfriend love.....

Early morning light, Bath Abbey, UK
August, 2009

Reassuring is how I feel when I stop to observe the gentle interaction between the two mourning doves who live nearby. Their appearance is in no way ostentatious like the blue jays or the bright yellow finches who also call my neighbourhood home. A feather coat of soft slate grey holds no pretensions. Instead mourning doves have an understated elegance, and a silent confidence. Their graceful symmetry rests between them. Their attention remains on one another.

Mourning doves find peaceful tranquility in their lifelong relationship with one another. Their own unique song from the heart, a gentle coo distinctively different to the sensibilities of other doves, is lost on the limited human ear. We can't hear their signature sound....the one that originally pulls the pair together into heart comfort. Their song connects them. Their lifelong love completes them. Soulfriend love. Its the kind of love we all yearn for.

What a miracle that is. In the vast symphony of nature two doves somehow manage to tune into one another, forsaking all others. I can't imagine this is a random happening. There is a silent guidance of two cupped hands helping this lifelong love along. God's hands.

What a miracle it is when two people who are meant for one another somehow manage to tune in to a special harmony together as well. You see it in their hand holding comfort ... in the quick glances, somehow synchronized even if they are across a busy room from one another ..... and in the knowing nod.

You hear it in the gentleness of their voices, in the concern of their questions, in the genuine interest when they meet after a long day apart. You hear it in the stillness of the spirit of their silence. You feel it in the air around them which somehow sends waves of calm love outward to everyone around them. You sense it in the harmony that surrounds them like an eternal band of soft warm light. You sense it in the recognition that this love grows beyond time as we know it. Always present.....

Soulfriend love is so very special and wonderful to be in its presence because it always makes you smile. It always warms your heart. It always makes a day feel that much brighter because it's a harmony ringing in hope. A graceful symmetry rests between them. There is a predestined feel to the love of two people who are meant for one another, and a magical oneness that God surely had a hand in.

Joyful, hopeful..........lovely. Eternally felt. Reassuringly so.

** for you Eric, with love xx **

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

wired bunny warning....

wired bunny art, Bath, UK
it totally creeped me out.....

Soft and gentle on the outside. But on the inside? Even bunnies can be hardwired and wound tight. Overbreeding is the culprit. Keep the desired carrot hidden away in a protective pouch! You risk having your extremities chomped by her sharp teeth. Tick her off and you'll be flurried by her furious fur frenzy!! And when the fur flies off leaving the bunny naked? There's no telling what will happen next.

If I were you? Dont fall for that sweet little phoney facade. I'd not be patting the bunny anytime soon, even if you feel it may be safe. EVEN if you think you can manage her temperament. I'm warning you... somewhere along the excessive breeding, the bunny lost her marbles in the middle of a carrot eating orgy.

hmmm.....I wonder if this idea could be turned into a twisted animated series?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

unfolding as it should.

Fatigue may get the most of me before I can push publish tonight but I find blogging to be a great way to reflect, refresh and reframe the day. Especially if it is a brain stretching, bone bending, heart tugging, active listening, talk chattering jam packed kind of day. My workday began at 8 am and ended at 9 pm. I think I ate lunch. I know I drank tea. I think I walked the dog.

Counselling, teaching, coaching, presenting
information sharing, crisis intervention,
appointment booking, emailing
reacting, preventing, responding,
wondering about the strange man who gives me weird looks like he doesn't know what to make of me.
I shared a poem about what its like to sit on the other side of the desk.
I quoted a beautiful piece by John O'Donohue
I introduced a class to Jean Vanier.
The most important lesson I imparted today? The kindest thing you can do for someone is to listen to their stories.
Listen with open eyes, ears and heart.....
I didn't get through my to do list. I'm proud that I even made a to do list. I realize I have too many balls to juggle that I must write out a list or the tasks go right out of my mind and out the window.
Becoming Human......
Praying Naked......
Search for Meaning
Shoeless Joe.
choices are all one can choose for you.
no one can change your behaviour.
no one MAKES you feel something.
You choose
You choose....

I'm falling asleep.........there's no stopping me.....

5 words to describe how I am, where I am.........who I am....


dancing like no one's can if you want......

I am loving all the work I'm involved in. I am SO happy to be. I am SO happy to be Counselling at the College, even if it knocks the energy right out of my socks. Tonight, while driving home after teaching my night class (lovin' that one too) I listened to The Philosopher's Stone by Van Morrison.......stunning song. I fell into the harmonica which always sounds best during night driving.

the stars are out in full regalia.....
I walked my dog under the milky way.....

I'm off to dreamland....any moment........

Monday, September 21, 2009


"Ultimately, it is the soul that makes the face beautiful. Each face is its own landscape and is quietly vibrant with the invisible textures of memory, story, dream, need, want and gift that make up the beauty of the individual life. This is also the grace that love brings into one's life. As the soul can render the face luminous so too can love turn up the hidden light within a person's life. Love changes the way we see ourselves and others. We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose. When we say from our heart to someone: "You are beautiful," it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur and grace of their spirit."
John O'Donohue, Beauty, The Invisible Embrace.

You may have tried your best to conceal your own beauty even from yourself. But it quietly whispered your spirit hymn when you let your guard down....when you took a breath and rested. You didn't think anyone would notice.

I saw it. I heard it too..... I was paying attention. In that moment when I blurted out that you were beautiful? I was responding to the grace I felt from your spirit. I was responding to your poetry.

**the photo of my daughter and her friend was taken by my daughter. I absolutely love it.**

Sunday, September 20, 2009

soulspace part two, looking out.....

This is a very rough attempt at capturing an inner experience into words. Part One is here.

The story wrote itself this morning and it came out of me very differently than I had anticipated! It's more detailed. I didn't get to the place in the story I expected to. I guess I am learning to digest and dwell more slowly..... finding patience in the spaces between the words, between the moments.

Obviously it has been churning away in my head, and I have verbally described it to my husband and to a few friends only to be overwhelmed by a rush of feelings. I have wrestled with sharing this beyond the people whom I normally share this stuff with, but there is a strong compulsion to give it a whirl.... why? I see it as an integral part of any book that will eventually rise out of me. I'm excited as I grapple how to integrate it with previous writings..... and how this one moment seems to be a golden thread that weaves in and out my learning.

This story may be uniquely decorated in a personal way, but the underlying spirituality of it is one many can relate to. It is also one that many would like to experience. So, I share it in its rough first draft, as it is, with some trepidation (because I am only guessing that others can relate., so it feels like a risk...) and with this quote shared by both my emerald friend Pip and my harbour friend Paul. It had always resonated with me because we all FEEL this way when we tentatively and fearfully step out of our selves... when we hold out our hand hoping a new friend will shake it with a genuine sense of fellowship. A sense of love and belonging, of unconditional positive affirmation is a universal yearning.

Why am I afraid to tell you who I am
because if I tell you who I am

and you don't like who I am,

that is all I have.


Part two of Soulspace.....

I can't tell you how difficult it has been to find the right the words. I want to describe how cosmically moving it was to arrive at the top of the stairs leading to the room called Soulspace to discover the two women who had originally told me about it earlier that day. I'm at a loss! The timing was impeccable! I'm totally convinced that our re-encounter was meant to be in a pre-destined way. What else could it have been??

I had been wandering around the Greenbelt Festival site for a few hours tired and aimless. I could easily have motioned myself to go there at any time. But, for some reason, it took getting to a place where I felt all alone in my exhaustion to finally point myself upwards ...... to the fifth floor of the Cheltenham Racecourse grandstand. WOW.
I had absolutely no idea I would ever see them again, let alone find them sitting outside of Soulspace contemplatively looking out the window together.

Between our two life intersections, I hadn't had another meaningful conversation with another human being. I had been silent. My voice was directed inside as I observed the activity all around me. I had walked the grounds taking in the flow all the while thinking of a quote by Rabbi Abraham Heschel who wrote about taking part in the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama with Martin Luther King. He described the march as worship.... his legs were praying. No words, just walk.....ACTION.

It was such a powerful image when I had first read of his involvement in the Civil Rights movement the very idea that we have the capacity to pray.... to connect in this way broke open the narrow minded view I had of the hand clasped, eyes closed version. Every step we take can be living in prayer.

I had foot-pounded out pictures in my head of my family, and of some of my friends....wondering where they were, what they were doing, how things were going with their day, which was 5 hours much younger than the one I was experiencing. I had picked away at a few niggling concerns, but never made anyone else privy to them. Its not often you have time alone when you have no reason to hear your own voice out loud while absorbing the activity unfolding all around you. It wasn't a peaceful easy thing to do either. I found it difficult but also needed. It took energy not to run away and hide.

I wasn't clear as to the underlying purpose of making this personal pilgrimmage happen besides having the opportunity to meet up with a few special bloggie kindreds to connect live and in person and to see for myself, to experience this festival which . Something told me, however, that the difficult feelings of being alone, surrounded by people drifting by ..... with a sense of being in the margins despite the crowds was an integral part of why I made this trip happen.

The warm welcome I received from my two new friends was both grounding and uplifting. When they turned me around and gently pushed me to the door with instructions to take my time..... to fill my boots...... I was crammed full of an empathic light so strong I could feel it vibrating on my skin. It really was a moment meant to happen.

No one else in the WHOLE world knew where I was except these lovely ladies. This thought felt both liberating and a wee bit frightening at the same time, but I had them "watching my back," so to speak..... they were looking over me.

Beside the door was a pile of stones in all shapes and textures. The note accompanying it indicated that you were to choose one of the stones to place on a growing cairn inside the room. Normally, my eye gravitates to stones that have a shine to them, that feel soft to touch, that have a hint of colour to them. Instead, I honed in on one made of sandstone. Somewhat heart shaped with a tiny piece missing off the side, it seemed like the perfect one for me. I picked it up, opened the door, stepped in and was literally hit with a flooding of emotions. Don't ask me why.

Whomever said.....Life doesn't consist of the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away hit the nail on the head! There wasn't anything tangible or visible to my naked eyes that prompted me to feel so strongly. The only way I can describe it is that my own open energy responded to the warm comfort I found floating in the atmosphere. It took my breath away and left me gulping a shudder of awe. Or was it an ahhhhh?

I bolted to the washroom to pull myself together. I mean really! Get a grip!! I hadn't even stepped fully into the place and I was a basket case. Deep breaths, deep breaths....... and back out I went again to explore this venue, which on any other weekend was most likely the press area for Steeplechase races. However, on the weekend of the Greenbelt Festival, it was a space to fall into, body and soul. I was ready to fall..........

I slowly ambled around as quietly as I could so not to disturb the others who had sought their own solace in the still comfort. There were little alcoves set up for meditation, writing, and praying. Off to the side individuals were speaking quietly one on one with Ministers. When I reached the front of the room, I was left absolutely gobsmacked by the view that ran the length of the room. Windows, reaching up to the ceiling in large panels opened up the room onto a vista of dramatic cloudy skies which framed the green rolling hills and the Festival tents below.

If you build it, they will come ....... in droves. It was BEAUTIFUL! I could see it ALL from my bird's eye view, and knew that every single individual down below held many life stories, which held many reasons why they were THERE. People moved along the paths connecting the venues like a flow of buzzing hues. Camper tents in every shade dotted the outskirts. It reminded me of a coat of many colours, a quilted shawl created by the people who loved this place.... this happening. Their tent tapestry tucked around the perimeter of the festival seemed to give it a sense of security.

Were they all looking for answers? Maybe. Seeking a sense of belonging? Perhaps. Feeling lost? Wrestling with secrets? Sharing their stories? Filling their boots? Yes. Everyone was there to fill their own unique boots in their own unique way as they intersected, interacted, contemplated, meditated, sang out loud, prayed quietly, as they shared a meal, met new people, embraced old friends, filled their heads and hearts ..... as they immersed themselves in a community of their own creation.

Open-hearted joyous passion within the coat of many colours was unfolding that Saturday afternoon. It was all there to view...... My head was swimming as I looked out......

I stood there watching this life play unfolding for a long time (I think it was .... I had lost all track of time actually) until I felt this pull to sit down in one of the empty chairs facing the windows. 5 days of travel away from the security of my family and home, living on 3 hours of sleep a night, feeding on zippy nervous energy and excitement, I was bone tired vulnerable.

As soon as I sat down, my eyes closed. I took in a deep breath, exhaled and began to focus on my breathing. It was all I seemed to have the strength to do. Strangely, my body found a comfortable position automatically..... my back against the comfort of the back of the chair, my arms open resting on the arms of the chair, my legs slightly open with my sore feet flat on the ground. It just happened....... The only physical discomfort I felt was the rough heart shaped stone against the palm of my closed left hand which felt dry and grainy. My symbolic little stone scratched and kept me in the here and now, as Father Henri Nouwen described, "Living in the Spirit....."

"If we could just be, for a few minutes each day, fully where we are, we would indeed discover that we are not alone and that the One who is with us wants only one thing: to give us love."

I realized that my settling into my own soul space was happening as naturally as a crawling into my own safe bed. Depleted, I began to find a rhythm. Depleted, I opened up to a discovery that I was never alone. All day long, I was not alone.....

more to come............. :)

And the point is...............???

Goofy homework assignment completed...... written by Mr. Twisted Sense of Humour. Typed by his Absurdist mother.

Wanted: Dead or Alive
........for stealing the last chocolate chip cookie
Age: 12
Height: Short for a tall person
Weight: None of your business
Religion: The Toronto Maple Leafs Holy Church of Hockey.

His hair is the colour of the bark on a maple tree. His eyes are as blue as the berries that grow in his Great Uncle Max’s fields. His nose, located in the middle of his face is round like a looney. When he smiles, large craters form in the middle of his cheeks.

His family are notoriously late for dinner. His sister is sometimes seen on the stage pretending to be someone else. His hilarious father known for his knowledge of music and rhythm but lack of singing skills is also known for stealing chocolate chip cookies. His mother, once the organized person in the family has become obsessed with blogging and taking photos of people’s legs.

They all love hockey ….. except his sister.
They all love The Simpsons …. except his mother
They all love fiddle music …. except his father.
None of them like liver, smells or roadkill.
All of them love beachcombing for buried treasure and bits of rotting seaweed.

You may find Max shooting hoops or playing road hockey with his friends, listening to his I-Pod, practising guitar, (insert a mother rolling her eyes....yeah, lots of guitar practising going on here!!) watching 30 Rock on TV, or tossing the tennis ball for his beloved dog, Lily. However, you will most likely find Max planning his GREAT ESCAPE to Costa Rica as a notorious member of the CISV delegation. Psssst……Departure date is December 26th. If you don’t find him before then, you can arrest him at the airport before he embarks on his month long adventure. He will be wearing a navy blue hoodie with the words “All You Need is Love” written on the front.

If homework can't make you laugh, then what's the point of it???

Saturday, September 19, 2009


view from my room,
YMCA hostel, Bath UK

There comes a point when you are willing to risk stepping out of your comfort zone in order to experience something new. Sometimes, when opportunity arises we approach it with one toe dip to test the waters and gradually inch forward until we find ourselves surrounded. Other times, we have no choice but to take a step into the deep end full immersion style. What both methods have in common is the need to feel trust. When it is lacking, the new experience can feel shocking, traumatic even. When trust thrives, both from the inside dressed as confidence and from the outside dressed in compassion, new experiences are so much more enamouring.

Like every human being, the idea of seeking out an experience that has the potential of bursting the emotional control panel automatically sends up red flags of caution. Why is that the case? Why do we think we have to be "in control" all the time? Feelings are messy. Feelings smack of instability. Extreme feelings frighten away any semblance of order. Express too much and you're labelled loopy. Express too little and you're considered cold like steel. Extreme feelings make others squirm while you the "out of control" being zip up inside a coat of guilt and shameful embarrassment.

Intensity of any kind is considered a turn off by many. But tell me, if this is a problem, who owns the problem.... the person who feels with such intensity or the person who is uncomfortable being around the intensity?

Luckily, for many of us imperfect humans we are socially conditioned on how to act, to conform, to "carry" ourselves in various circumstances. Luckily? I guess so..... Sometimes it seems like a huge burden to carry. Sometimes it seems like a whole lot of anal retentive bullshit to try to live within the parameters of what is copesectic. But, we can't go about our lives spilling forth big bubbles of the stuff. We do need to know the rules and know how to read the reasons behind the rolling waves of how we feel. Unpredictability breathes fear in the crowd of well controlled feeling people.

Feeling rules are truly complicated little spitfires and seem to be culturally driven. In my culture, we learn when we are allowed to laugh, cry, show anger, be fearful, express pain. There are specific rules to go by, and we begin to learn these dance steps in infancy. By the time you're the AGE of an adult, you better walk to the beat of the Drummer. Cross the line and you'll be put in your place. Watch out! If you screw it up, you're admonished..... sometimes its a look of disdain ..... other times it is in a form of being ignored or shunned. Its funny how uncomfortable one's emotions can "make" another person "feel" like others are looking at them with judgement.

The problem with these rules is that it only leaves a narrow path to manoeuver when in reality, life experiences go beyond these culturally imposed boundaries on a daily basis. Where do you go when you need to let go of your emotions? Inside your head? Or is there a place you can enter outside of yourself where an ominous sense of safety whispers to you that its alright to just be an emotional being?

The way I see it, when we find a place like this, we have found a sanctuary where acceptance is unconditional..... where love gives permission just to be. It is from this sacred place where we can gather the courage to step into a new experience knowing that discomfort should be a welcome friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

soulspace.....part one....

In a tent called Hebron on Saturday morning, I met two women attending the Greenbelt Festival together. We spoke briefly but somehow managed to step deeply into a place where empathy resides. We understood one another. Good thing since it was empathy we were supposed to be talking about!

One woman openly admitted to how tired she was. Bone tired. Depleted. She felt she had no more empathy to give. As a Pastor, she had given up her last ounce of caring. 7 funerals in quick succession, she oversaw the grief of many. As a wife of a husband who is disabled, she had stretched herself beyond love. Her soul was parched. Her eyes were swimming in unfallen tears, ready to spill down her drawn face.

Her goal in attending a "talk" at Greenbelt on Empathy was to gather information in order to be a better Minister. It was supposed to be a cerebral exercise. Instead, it became a personal need...a heart and soul experience. I said...... "I think you're here to fill your own boots......Put aside your original goal. Spend the weekend filling your own boots.... You know what they say about putting on the oxygen mask on a plane? You put your own on first before you try to help another."

The other woman agreed, and encouraged her friend to look after herself .... to seek what she needed at Greenbelt, not what others may learn from her. Her tears fell..........she smiled. I could sense relief. This caring, giving, strong willed woman was given permission to let go. To soften.

As she softened, I realized why my need to attend Greenbelt was so strong. It was like a lightbulb went on inside my head. I was there to fill my own, I mean wellies... :) Sometimes its easier to see it in others before you can recognize it in yourself. And when you take a step into a conversation beyond the surface chatter, there's a pretty good chance you will glean insight into your own stuff.

Whatever triggers us to a point where we engage heart to heart with someone is more often than not tied to where we are personally. Does that make sense?? In other words, our ability to understand where someone else is emotionally comes from a place of where we are emotionally. Humans mirror one another. We may have very different set of circumstances and struggles, our thinking brains may be wired differently, but we always connect at an emotionally spiritual level because we share the same bag of feelings.

Looking into the teary eyes of this woman, I was touched. I found myself transported to a place to where self awareness sits waiting to be discovered. I could see it happening in her as well. Whoa. One split second look into each others eyes linked us to a place of understanding one another's needs. They were the same..... Strangers.....and then in one brief moment of sharing in a tent called Hebron? Empathy kicked in and took us to a shared nod of knowing. While this was happening in the moment, my thoughts quickly linked to what had been described to me by Pip and Paul as a "Greenbelt moment...." It was one of many that day and it wasn't until I returned home that I saw the synchronicity of them. Kind of spooky really...........but SO affirming.

Then, it was her turn.....she asked me if I had been to Soulspace.

"Soulspace.....? No, I havent....I don't even know what it is."

She described a setting they had found the night before, situated on the fifth level of the Cheltenham Racecourse grandstand. Not only did it offer an amazing view of the whole area.....the valley where the campsites, venues and tents were located and the beautiful rolling hills which surrounded it, it offered a sanctuary....a place to find quiet.

My new friends shared with me how deeply moving it was to walk into Soulspace, tired and dragged out from life knocking the wind out of you, and feeling a sense of sacredness. I could see just how this place had impacted them. Their smiles told me. I could hear it too..... there was a feeling of whispered reverence, of awe in their voices. I learned how emotionally uplifting it was for them in a surprising way when they admitted that it had moved them to tears. Just by describing the setting, I could FEEL the oxygen filling them up with fresh air. They encouraged me to go........ go on up to Soulspace.

We left the Hebron tent together, but quickly said our goodbyes and wished one another well. And for the first time in the two days I had been there, I felt very alone in a sea of people. The crowds had boosted to 20,000 people, and I only knew a handful, all of whom were busy volunteering and connecting with their old Greenbelt friends. I also felt extremely tired. Two "wee hours" gatherings , and a few earlier in the week and my energy felt depleted. I think the combination of being overwhelmed by the fact that when I looked out at everyone passing by I saw unfamiliar faces.... no one I recognized at all..... and the fact that I was tired, I kind of lost my footing at that point. I began to wander, unable to make a decision as to what I wanted to take in next.

I walked....grabbed a tea and a toasted sandwich (comfort food) and continued an seemingly aimless trek, in and out of venues with displays that were thought provoking, disturbing, welcoming, interesting...... I didn't talk to anyone. I could've, but I didn't have the confidence to put myself out there at that particular time. So, I stayed within myself. And what I heard as I wandered was the word...... soulspace. I must've heard it uttered 10 times in the course of two hours....

Soulspace.....people were talking about this place...... whether they had been there or not, I didn't know. But, it was entering the collective awareness of the Festival. The more I heard the word uttered the more it felt mysteriously alluring. Who doesn 't like a good mystery to stir one's curiosity?? But, it also made me skeptical. It was so meaningful to those two women I had met..... what if I went there and I didn't feel the same? Or worse, what if it brought up too many emotions and I would lose any semblance of control I had?

What if Soulspace ended up being some new age thing that didn't sit with my personal beliefs? And did I really want to feel as deeply as they did? It's a vulnerable place to go when you allow yourself to be that open spiritually. I continued to wander and wonder, "stuck in a moment," unwillingly to "go there" with my feelings tucked so gingerly under my skin.

I watched a group drumming.....and was so moved by a young man whose body was impacted by cerebral palsy, whose smile was as wide as JOY can be. His father was holding the drum.... this young man, included in the drumming circle with full love and belonging, banged on his drum as best that he could. Ah..... beautiful..... He reminded me so much of the kids and teens I used to work with at the Rehab centre so many years ago.... he was familiar even though I didnt know him personally.

I moved on...... and found myself lured into the music of Kadialy Kouyate who was performing from the Grandstand stage.... Tired and pulled into the sound I found a spot on the grass off to the side of the stage, and laid down to listen to his beautiful music. Families and groups of friends were all around me. I still felt all alone, but I was relaxed and ready to listen. (It wasn't until that night when Pip and I realized we were both at the same concert and both enjoyed it immensely.... I should've known he wasn't too far away. :) )

The only way I can think of describing where I was emotionally while surrounded by a sea of people was in a place outside of the margins. I chose to be there. I could've easily jumped into a variety of events or a conversation. I could've PUT myself into the middle of fellowship, but I didn't seem to have the energy,. Too many late nights in a row had caught up to me. Strangely, I was alright with that. I kind of knew I should just be..... What was niggling at me was my aversion to finding this Soulspace place. It wasn't until I was so spent (low ebb energy for me kicks in around 3pm most days .... I AM a morning person). that I finally decided to seek out this mysterious place that seemed to be haunting my thinking, that could possibly be a place to really rest. So, around that time, I decided I needed to find a place to close my eyes. I set out to find Soulspace on the top floor of the Grandstand....

5 flights of stairs... I climbed, still unsure as to what I was about to find. or how it would make me FEEL. I was winded by the time I reached the doors to the lobby area and wondering if I really would feel a sense of welcome and respite. However, when I opened the doors my eyes alighted on two familiar women who were sitting with their backs to me looking out the window quietly. They were the only two people in the lobby. I couldn't believe it! There they were!!!

Smiling, I walked up behind them, put my hands on their shoulders lightly and said..............

" You know, I think Heaven is easier to find than Soulspace......"

With that, my two new friends whom I had met in the tent called Hebron leapt to their feet and gave me the most amazing group hug.

"YOU made it! " they said.

One of them said.........."you're our soulsister! How amazing that you arrived here at the same time that we are here too. We just spent an hour sitting quietly in there and it was just the right medicine for our tired souls...."

And the other woman........ the Pastor who admitted earlier in the day that she was drained of all empathy? She put her hands on my arms, turned me around and said.... "Go on in. You will love it. Go on in and fill your boots....."

With that, I tentatively turned towards the door with a full heart connection to these women...... and decided to find out just what this Soulspace was all about.

More to come...... :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

on the cusp....

There's a common held belief that my son was born with an "old soul." Its the only plausible explanation for his way of being and his accumulated knowledge. He must've known a bunch of stuff before he was born into this present life he thrives in. Though he has similar interests to his peers, if he really likes something, Max learns as much as he can about it. He can't get enough sometimes..... his ever churning brain needs food and then some.

I remember when he was a preschooler and had learned a new concept, he wanted to persistently expand on it until he grabbed onto another one. Geography, for example is an area he continues to stretch his knowledge and understanding. He is truly passionate about the whole area of Social Studies. When he first learned about what a country was, he wanted to know more and more about at a time and would get frustrated if he couldn't get his very young brain around the abstract ideas of what cities, towns, capitals, provinces, states and countries were.

Yes, I remember a particularly frustrating conversation in the car once when his Dad, his sister and I were all trying to help him grasp onto what they were. He was 4 years old I think. It would've been easier to explain Piaget's Developmental milestones to argue that he was only at the concrete reasoning stage and to just hold on until his abstract impermanence stage kicked in in a couple of years! OY! Instead, we bought him a world map poster for his room complete with country flags around the perimeter, a globe which has since worn out and a few atlases to glean information from. Now the smart ass quizzes us on countries I didn't even know existed.

His music tastes run the gamut from The Beatles to Beck. His comedy tastes run the gamut too as we try to introduce him to the subtle nuances of Steve Wright and the hilarity of Ricky Gervais. Will Farrell still rules, but political satirist Rick Mercer is a close second. This is all important stuff in our house.....the house that humour built because my Math fiend, my Social Studies wonk, my music loving amateur guitar picker wants to grow up to be a stand up comedian.

And you know what? Despite being the Mom with a bent and biased view of my beautiful son, I think the kid is one of the funniest people I have ever met. His dry sense of humour, quick wit and ability to memorize anything put in front of him (or heard once) may just be the ingredients to a successful jaunt into the world of laffs. His facebook status profiles are legendary. Even my friends want to be his friend in order to get a laugh every day.

So, today is Max's birthday. 12 years old. Part of me can't believe he's on the cusp of being a teen, though if his up and down temperment swings are any indication, he's there! I seem to be able to handle the swings more than the others because..... well, he reminds me of me. Not that I'm as intelligent as he is by a long shot. I mean with the teen moods. The other thing about his emotions? They also come in handy when he wants to tell his family that he loves them. It's automatic, and openly expressed.... at the end of every phone call .... when he's heading out the door in the morning .... when he decides to pop in on a Saturday afternoon to check in during a basketball game.
Most days, Max seems so much older. The other day, my 12 year old who was sitting in the back of the van blurted out to his Dad and I..... "You know what I'm thinking? I'm wondering if life is a just a dream and when you die, you wake up and realize all that you go through isn't real......"

Silence from us.............. I mean how do you offer up a reply to a statement like that? And how many kids think this philosophically and deeply? Before we could reply, Max shivers out loud.....and says.... "OH my God, that hurts to think about. I'm creeping myself out!"

Old soul..... 12 years old.......... may he always stretch the minds of everyone around him. God, I love hangin' with Max.

Monday, September 14, 2009

where do you think i am?

I usually have the ability to write without feeling a sense of wondering how someone is going to react or question what I write about. The words come....I grab them from the air around me .... I add a photo, a quote, a piece of a poem ..... I format it and then I publish it. Once its published, I usually feel like it's finished for now. If it resonates with you in a way that adds a kink into your thoughts, or stirs you in a way that you can relate to what I've written about, I'm pleased. If it doesn't.... well, then I don't hear from you. It's fine either way. What makes me very uncomfortable is when I get the feeling that what I have written is being analyzed as a way to understand me.

Though all of what I have shared on this site is first draft, I haven't returned to many pieces to tweak it in anyway. An idea stews in my head and then finds its way through my fingertips and out into cyberspace. Yes, I own the work. It DEFINITELY has my fingerprints and personality all over it. But, it is only a glimpse of who I am and/or what I'm thinking and feeling and/or sensing and seeing.

There is a personal sense that I am a vessel of some kind, unattached to a specific piece I've posted. This happens only when I am free of second guessing myself...... when I don't have those stupid thoughts about how someone is going to interpret it as what I may be tackling personally. When I can't take a step back from the topic and let the words flow, I get clogged up. Right now, I am clogged up. There are many ideas floating in the abyss of my brain, but heck if I can finish them. Too personal? Maybe. Too intense? Maybe. Too open to bizarre interpretations that perhaps I'm on some kind of radically driven religious journey that for some reason makes you uncomfortable? Stop looking at me. Start looking at yourself.

Sure I write about my own experiences, but often I will tackle a topic but place it in the first person so that it may be received by another more resonantly than it would be if it was posted as some kind of lecture. It's a style I'm comfortable with. If I appear to "own it" than it seems to normalize and take the edge off of what may be an emotionally charged topic. Of course there are times when I share a story that is uniquely my own. This happens when my confidence is at its peak, when I don't feel a sense of being "watched" or when I'm not feeling self conscious. Right now, this is how I'm feeling..... and I don't like it.

Sometimes I will start a piece based on a personal experience, but then take it beyond the event I have been involved in. My writing is normally a blend of my life observations, my personal interests that I may be attempting to learn more about, my opinions, and what a friend or an acquaintance has shared with me. Whomever has been reading my stuff for a while knows that there are certain themes which obviously resonate with me. That's only natural. Why would I explore topics that hold no meaning or importance to where I may be at in my journey? I don't believe anyone can completely excuse themselves from what they choose to create. Even if it is a journalistic piece published as a news story, the personality always shines through as do opinions. However, writing is a vehicle for the expression of one's imagination as well as one's truth. Illusions and truth........ now there's a topic!

Blogging is a venue used for many reasons. I originally started this blog as a way to express my political opinions through clarifying lens. I intended to expand my own "awareness" of issues affecting both the community I live in and the world around me, while sharing my thoughts and feelings to perhaps stir another. It quickly morphed into something else, as I opened my head and heart to delving into the human stories of struggles and accomplishments I had accumulated throughout my life.

Soon, it became a vehicle to integrate what I had learned with what I was learning. I found myself in the middle of a spiritual awakening of sorts, one that is both oddly convoluted and not in anyway formalized. Given how FULL I felt of stories and unanchored thoughts (the ones which aren't attached to reality because they had never been formally put into words....) blogging under the title of "awareness" seemed like a good place to park them.

I may seem to be a person without boundaries, willing to share everything stirring inside me. Believe me, I am not. Fiercely independent, I actually have very strong boundaries and only allow a small select few past the line. I am open, but I have a personal side to me that you don't know about. The values I hold on tight to, the ones which I use as a guide .... the same ones which trip me up when I don't feel them coming from another person, are often what I write about. Respect, honesty, integrity, a growing faith in God, independence, equality, life long learning, love .... these are what I believe in. Does that make me different than others? Does writing about these topics make me unbalanced or off kilter from the rest of the world? NO. In fact, they are pretty darn universally held onto. I write on topics that are generally avenues most people are delving into. So, why do I feel like I'm being examined? And why does it bother me so much? Because I am a private person. I only choose to share what I want to. Because it is very large gulf between analyzing the topic and analyzing the writer.

I have been writing a piece I was hoping to share on this site for about a week now. It's long and its personal.... perhaps too revealing and maybe that's what is bothering me too. This may not the venue for it. I don't know yet. I'm too self conscious right now. I'm also thinking that blogging is not where I should be writing because so often what I write about gets misinterpreted by others, or worse, makes them feel uncomfortable about where I may be at.????? It's a weird feeling to think that who I am and what I am sharing is causing others to question my mental health, when in fact I am feeling very much at ease with where I am. To have to justify myself with "I'm fine, really I am" like a mantra is not kosher. To have to justify that the path I am taking is really quite normal and and that the DIScomfort is with the reader and not the writer is not where I want to put my energy.

So, I will hobble along wondering where I am with blogging.... but where I am as a human being? Exactly where I want to be. If you're uncomfortable with that place, then perhaps its a good time to turn it back on yourself and ask why YOU are uncomfortable with it. It's not my issue.

Friday, September 11, 2009

becoming an adult....

Pip in action:
Growth does not reside in a place called comfortable....

Time keeps marching on and i try my hardest to keep up. But honestly, how in the heck did 49 years pass by so quickly? The best we can do is to pack in as much living as possible and savour it to the fullest. Not just the big whopping mind blowing moments, though those tend to stick their necks out most predominantly and become our personal milestones.... but the day to day morning glories too.

This week has been a blur of activity.....from meeting and greeting 200 new students to the College, to sitting down one on one with a few who needed some reassurance during their transition back into the classroom, to kicking off a night course I'm teaching on Crisis Counselling, to organizing my own family and home for the beginning of the school year. There have been trips to the store for school supplies, a meet the teacher night tonight (I'm not impressed let me tell you with the caliber of teachers my son has this year.....but will wait on the final call on that one....) to dealing with incompetent bureaucratic systems to crashing on the couch last night in what was probably the most rivetting and important speech Obama has made since his inauguration. You know you're a tired puppy when you fall asleep sitting up while that guy is speechifying! It has been such a great week!!!

My life is full and i'm very happy. It is frantic at times, but I work best when I'm juggling many things at once. It energizes me and my brain cells. Too much down time and I become a unfocused slug. In the middle of the beautiful melee of living right smack dab in the centre of many fronts, I realized just how content I am. The only word I can use to describe it is "integrated...." That's how I feel. And the only way I managed to get there.... to a place where I'm firing on all cylinders again .... admittedly the first time in years, had all to do with 4 days at a racecourse in Cheltenham when I immersed myself in the Greenbelt festival. The late evening/early morning talks back at the hotel played a huge role in it too.

I knew I needed to get there. I didn't know why. I just knew my "want" had turned into a "need." I knew it was an integral part of whatever journey I am on. There were key "happenings" which I hope to be able to capture in words soon that in all honesty altered my thinking, my feelings.......and placed me on a different axis. A few important decisions were finally made. My outlook now shines from a better angle..... it simply happened after carrying them around for far too long. Enlightening, inspiring, challenging, and fun. It was also difficult. It was in the place of difficult where I grew the most. Not surprising.

Greenbelt was a destination that I thought had a beginning and an end. I was so wrong. The lessons I learned, the reflections I fell into, the moments I stayed right in the long now are a part of who I am and how I am seeing my life and the blur around me. There is a calm.....there is more patience. There is enthusiasm and less fretting. There has been a disconnection from the rubbish I had to endure over the past couple of years.

Pip sometimes asks on his blog..............How old were you when you became an adult? I thought I had already crossed that threshhold. I thought I had passed through the passages while experiencing the big whopping mind blowing moments. It wasn't until I was sitting alone outside of the Performance Cafe on the Saturday night listening to the music inside the tent, that I realized I had become an adult that day. Something clicked when I started to think about where I was physically and spiritually, where I had been, and letting go of where I may end up.

Becoming an adult, I realized was learning to let go of life's control panel, and to find a different kind of comfort in the vulnerable side of difficult. The only way you find that comfort zone is to recognize that letting go..... surrendering ...... can take you to a place where acceptance greets you with a nod. I may have been sitting there all alone, sitting off in the margins thinking about a very special "Greenbelt moment" that I had experienced earlier in the day, watching the Greenbelt world go fact a group of teens disguised as minstrels strolled by, stopped and then spontaneously sang the most movingly upbeat version of Amazing Grace I had ever heard....... there was a feeling of infinite possibility in the night air.

Today........I turn 49. Today, I think I can confidently state that I'm finally an adult. Better late than never eh? Man, that was a long adolescence!