Feeling Expansive Inside the Gift of My Growing Gratitude Practice.

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, a holiday tradition we Canucks celebrate every second Monday in October. My first thought upon rising was of the crazy, chaotic Thanksgiving meals that were a part of my old life. I felt grateful that I’m no longer caught up in that pressure and pretense, of how things look and the stress of trying to be perfect. I’m so happy to be living my life of authentic simplicity.

Thanksgiving in our villa on Salwa, 2018

What I do miss about holiday celebrations is my family and friends back home. Love is the greatest gift of all, but with Covid travel restrictions, I haven’t left Riyadh once in 2020. I take comfort in the knowledge that they are all engaged in their own traditions. I can trust in the process of life, that everything is occurring as it should. I may not be with them in our physical forms, but they are in my heart and my spirit, always.

I find myself going deeper into my awareness of what an incredible gift my life is. How blessed I am. I won the love lottery when I found Mister, and everything else is extra. I’m so full up with joy inside our love, there is no space for complaining or wanting more. I accept, with gratitude, what I have. I cherish the flow of a relationship built on open and honest communication and the trust that builds. Every day I appreciate being loved for exactly who I am and for loving him as he is, without judgment or criticism. It isn’t something I have to work at or compromise to feel. After almost nine years together, I still find myself thinking, pinch me, I’m dreaming.

As it is, there are so many layers of gratitude piled on top of the foundation we’ve built together. Big and small; there’s no need to measure. My heart expands every day Lola is still with me. How she still gets so excited to chase her ball for treats every morning and follows me around everywhere I go in our villa. It expands when I look out the office window as I write, greeted by the vision of green leaves and red flowers in the desert. It lights up when I’m at the kitchen sink, preparing gorgeous food, and I see our beautiful palm tree, home to all kinds of bird species who chirp merrily, cozy in their nests built inside strong fronds. I appreciate our space.

I’m over the moon with gratitude for the home Mister and I built together in Panama. I miss it. This year of no travel because of covid has been hard on that front too. But how lovely to have a place to miss? And to be able to relax in the knowledge it is being well cared for by our property management team. We will return, of this I am certain. Having things to look forward to, I’m realizing, is yet another aspect of a daily gratitude practice. 

This year, my gratitude cup is overflowing for the shifts in my dream-to-be-a-writer journey. I’m thankful for the serendipity that started with a chance conversation on the shopping bus with my friend Danielle. I told her I’d finished my first rough draft of my manuscript for The Healing and she shared her family friend’s contact information. Anne O’Connell, of O/C Publishing liked my query sample and we began a partnership. Having her as a mentor has been a huge gift. I’ve grown so much as a writer and regardless of the outcome, I’m proud of what I’ve created.

The plan is to launch The Healing in April of 2021, with the dream of a cross-Canada book tour. But with things as they are with covid, I may need to shift gears. I’m okay with whatever manifests, though, because I trust in the process of life. And I’m often wrong about timings. One thing I know, it will happen, sometime in the future.

I’m excited about my life. I’m jazzed about my future. I feel incredibly fortunate and full of hope. Even with all my challenges, of estranged relationships, my health and of course, covid. I wouldn’t want to change a thing, because I know that even the things that bring me the most grief are the lessons my soul needs to learn.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday or feel gratitude as a daily practice, whether you go big with huge social gatherings or small, with a few people you love, I encourage you to embrace being thankful. Turn your perspective to others, count your blessings and lift your spirits doing whatever it is in this life that lights you up.

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving

To quote from one of my favourites, Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste… Speak your truth quietly and clearly… Be yourself… Nurture strength of spirit… With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

So yeah, I’m feeling expansive inside the gift of my growing gratitude practice.

Feeling Fed Up with Negative News, Inspired to Share Uplifting Life Lessons

I sat down at my computer to write a blog after receiving some positive feedback from a reader. Liz wrote, “I’ve just discovered your blog and have been loving the opportunity to see expat life in Salwa through your eyes.” Her comment had me leaning towards writing another ex-pat piece, perhaps an update on life here in the time of Covid. But to be honest, life here is pretty much ‘same old’ and I’m feeling tired of Covid.

I turned on the television and watched a few segments on BBC and CNN, hoping to find something in the latest headlines to ignite my muse, but it was just more of the same repeated stories covering Covid, racial tensions, the US election in November, Trump’s latest hair-brained tweet…

I felt deflated, ready to abandon my task and return to the flow of writing my next novel. But a voice inside encouraged me not to give up. Seemingly out of nowhere, I recalled how enthusiastic I felt after reading and studying The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with my good friend Carol. The seed of inspiration was planted.

For those of you not familiar with this little gem of a novel, The Alchemist is a simple text packed full of wisdom and life lessons, as told through the life adventures of the main character, Santiago. For the purpose of this platform, I’ve chosen a few of my favourites lines to elaborate upon.

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should live their lives, but none about their own. 

This feels for me like one of the huge issues around social media. People use social media platforms to lecture others on the right way to be. The right thoughts, beliefs, routines, habits, political affiliations, diet, way to be in relationship, way to support their cause… the list is endless. And if you dare disagree, you are at best un-liked and at worst, personally attacked.

A good example is the silence is violence slogan that is a popular off-shoot of the Black Lives Matter protests. I’m not a protester. I choose to express my opinions through storytelling and conversation. But that by no means is an indicator that I don’t support racial equality. I am an advocate for equality on all levels; gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion. I demonstrate that value through my actions and words, in how I treat others. Gandhi protested through the medium of silence and is revered worldwide as an example. Silence isn’t violence. You get to choose how to live your own life and how to speak your truth.

The language of love is the purest language of the world. (paraphrased)

Storytelling and conversations might be positive mediums to demonstrate support, but the language of love is even more potent. I can use my privilege of being born in a free country, to loving parents, with free, quality education and boundless opportunities to shine my light and be a force of loving support to others. The language of love is pure because it isn’t diluted with miscommunications fraught inside language and culture. It’s something you feel, and in feeling, you know it in your heart to be truth.

True love never keeps you from pursuing your dreams or becoming your authentic self. It never judges or criticizes. Love is the motivation that pushes us to strive and striving makes us better. As each of us improves ourselves, the world becomes a better place. As Gandhi so famously said, “Be the change you wish to see the world.” Be love, and you will never be misunderstood. You won’t have to convince anyone of your good intentions if you be the love that exists inside you.

People live their lives for the future, but the answers are in the present, if you pay attention. 

Mister has said often, how you live your life in the present becomes your future. If you delay your goals, if you don’t make time for what matters in the now, it will never come to be. So many people put all their energy into their work to reach a goal of success and ignore their family and friends in the process. When they arrive at their goal, they find they are alone and miserable, without anyone to witness them in their achievement. 

Others put off opportunities for self-growth and education for some distant point in the future. They avoid the discomfort of challenges and procrastinate. Every step you take now leads to your future, whether you can see it or not. The challenge is to discover that optimal balance of pushing yourself to be your best while accepting your limitations with grace. It isn’t easy, but the secret is to create a healthy routine of hard work, rest and connection with loved ones in the now; in each new moment, every day.

I love Oprah’s wisdom, that your life is whispering to you, if you just pay attention. If you don’t pay attention, the whisper turns into a shout. It gets louder and louder until it erupts into a crisis. The practice of mindfulness, of being aware of, and listening to your intuition, can lessen the drama. Feel your feelings and act on them. Even the little things matter. The small decisions add up to create your life and the person that you become.

When you make a decision that aligns with your heart, you feel at peace.

Mister and I came to this realization a while back. We recognized that when we were struggling between several choices, the decisions that had us feeling light had positive consequences, while the decisions that felt heavy manifested negativity. We use this simple measuring technique all the time when weighing a difficult decision, and it has never steered us in the wrong direction. 

To bring this point into focus, I’ll share a few examples. When I was out of work and spending my savings, I was worried I would blow it all away if I didn’t accept a job offer. My fear had me choose a teaching position that didn’t feel good. The work environment felt heavy. The work load felt heavy. The learning curve felt heavy. But I didn’t trust in life and I took the job and the stress ended up creating serious health problems for me.

More recently, I was struggling with the decision of whether I should travel to the UK for an opportunity for holistic treatment. My medical doctor here on Salwa had told me there was nothing more he could do for me. It seemed ludicrous at first, to invest so much time and money towards my wellness, but doing nothing felt heavy. Mister encouraged me to go, and the treatment I received from Carole Windross at her Body Clinic was phenomenal. I left the UK and returned home bubbling over with joy and optimism.

The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.

I believe this fundamental principle is operating in many facets of our lives, and at present, the negative news around Covid has created extreme fear. That fear is manifesting in a myriad of ways, including anger and intolerance towards anyone who doesn’t follow the same guidelines around how to best manage the risk of contagion. It’s crazy for anyone to think they know the right way, if there ever is such a thing. The virus is new. Even the medical and scientific community continually change their advice. 

Different countries have vastly differing protocols, from a zero-tolerance eradication point of view in Australia to a do nothing, herd immunity perspective in Sweden. In Canada, the attitudes differ province to province, but the main theology lies somewhere in the middle, with a goal of reducing cases but also opening the economy by encouraging mask wearing and social distancing. All are only choices with no proof as to their efficacy. To hurl insults at one another for disagreeing is disrespectful and unhelpful.

Most people see the world as threatening and so it becomes so.

This life lesson speaks to the power of your belief system. In Louise Hay’s self-help book, You Can Heal Your Life, she goes so far as to postulate that everything in your life is a manifestation of your thoughts. I’m not convinced that everything that comes into my life is by my own power, but I agree that your thoughts influence your actions and in the law of attraction. To quote Henry Ford: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Sometimes we wish certain things didn’t happen, not realizing how each event is connected to the next. It’s impossible to have only good experiences in your life, but it is possible to transform the difficult experiences by learning from them. It isn’t always about goals and outcomes, although having clear goals helps to keep us on track with our intentions. The process, the things we experience along the way that we didn’t anticipate, bring opportunities for self-growth too.

A great podcast to check out is Not Your Average Operator. Mike, Raf, and Paul, along with some of their guests, discuss a huge range of issues, but one of my favourite episodes was Episode #10: Limiting Self Beliefs. Together they came up with an extensive list of ways to overcome limiting beliefs, including looking at the bigger picture, surrounding yourself with a tribe of supportive peers and mentors, and learning how to be comfortable with discomfort.

Everything that happens once can never happen again, but everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time. (Old Arab proverb) 

If this proverb is true, I suppose we should all be preparing for a third world pandemic. In 1918 there was the Spanish flu, and now, in 2020, we have Covid-19. Will it be another hundred years or is it just around the corner? None of us know the future, but to me, this proverb speaks to the importance of recognizing patterns in your life and preparing for them. That doesn’t mean obsessing. It goes back to awareness, of paying attention to the lessons that keep coming up for you in your life and doing the work they are guiding you to engage in, to become the person you are meant to be and reach your highest purpose. 

So yeah, I’m feeling fed up with negative news, inspired to share uplifting life lessons.

*Note to my readers: musingsofanemotionalcreature.com website will soon be under construction. It is about to be transformed to an author website, in anticipation of the launch of my novel, The Healing, in partnership with O/C Publishing in April 2021.

**Blogs will still be composed and posted under a sub-heading in the new format.

Feeling Motivated, Ready to Empower Myself to Achieve my Goals

I was feeling in a bit of a slump, impatient that my goals were not manifesting in the way or the time I envisioned, when I happened upon a Goalcast compilation- “The Top 5 Speeches That Will Set You Up for Success.” After watching, I discovered I had morphed from feeling burdened by the heaviness to feeling incredibly uplifted. It was that powerful. I shared it with Mister and he felt it too. So, I’m writing this blog to share the love with my readers.

 

 

  1. Count Your Blessings by Rudy Francisco

Rudy is a poet, and his passion provided the perfect opening. His message was about surviving the hard things in life, about not giving up and focusing on your blessings. He gave examples of people who had survived incredible hardships and challenged us to do the same, to be grateful for the lives we have been given and to lift ourselves up. “You are still alive – so act like it.”

My daily gratitude practice is one of the tools I use to help me stay on track, especially during the difficult times. I have discovered that when I stay focused on my blessings and gifts, when I stay present to the abundance in my life, the positivity grows. Feeling gratitude is one of the things that motivates me to do my best and to pull myself up when I’m down.

 

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Mister & Me, one of my biggest blessings

 

2. Change the World by William McRaven

McRaven is a member of the Navy Seals who starts his speech by making the simple suggestion of making your bed every day. His premise is that if you set the intention of completing that task, it will lead to the next and the next task, creating a small sense of pride. He laughed as he conceded, that even if you had a miserable day, at least at the end of it, you achieved that one bit of success. He stressed that the little things matter, the power of hope, and the difference of one person. “Nothing matters but your will to succeed and to never, ever give up.”

Sometimes I get so caught up in the big picture of my long- term goals and dreams, I forget that the pathway is made up of all the little steps along the way. I’ve been dreaming so long of being an international bestselling author, to not even have one book published at the age of fifty -three was feeling like a huge failure. But I have taken steps. I have had successes. I started this blog. I published four articles for DQ Magazine. And even though I haven’t found a publisher or editor for the three books I have written, I wrote them. Those are accomplishments to be proud of and McRaven is right – I’ll never give up.

 

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3. Inspire. Empower. By Inky Johnson

That is the catchy title of the third segment. This one was a tear-jerker. Yet somehow, I didn’t feel pity for Inky, who suffered from a hugely debilitating injury at the beginning of his professional football career. Instead, I was blown away by his commitment to himself and the process of living his best life. The main message was “don’t let a circumstance or situation define your life.”

Seeing someone whose physical challenges far exceed my own had the power to have me stop feeling sorry for myself. I’d been feeling frustrated with a frozen shoulder and injured hip-lower back and thigh that happened back in January. I still haven’t fully recovered. I was feeling overwhelmed by an oral health problem that doctors haven’t been able to diagnose and treat. But when I listened to Inky’s kick-ass attitude, I knew I had to buckle down and give it everything I’ve got, regardless of the challenges.

 

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4. Redefine Yourself by Rock Thomas

This one had me tearing up too. It was emotional, watching Rock recall the pain of his childhood, where nothing he ever did was good enough for his father. He didn’t gloss over it, but he found the silver lining. You see, in his quest for approval from his father, he developed a phenomenal work ethic. Through the support of his mentor, who he gives credit for transforming his life, Rock was able to rise above the trauma of his youth and create a new identity of himself. He learned how to reprogram his brain to see himself in a new way through work with daily affirmations. His bottom line: “how you describe yourself is a powerful force. I am…”

I don’t get to my mat or my altar every day. But I go there often to sit in silence. I meditate. I pray. I repeat daily affirmations that are positive and uplifting, that focus on wellness and that acknowledge my gifts and talents. I speak my intentions as though they’ve already happened, using I am. After listening to Redefine Yourself, it is clear I still have more work to do, and I’m taking my inspiration from Rock who said, “say it a thousand times a day or more.” I’m going to up my affirmation game, starting now.

 

I shall not live in vain

I shall not live in vain

 

5. Change the World by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold has five rules that he attributes as his secret to success. The first is to find your vision and follow it. The second is to never think small, but instead, shoot for the stars. The third rule is to ignore the naysayers. The fourth rule is to work your ass off. And finally, number five: don’t just take, give back. In his speech Schwarzenegger gives examples from his life of how these rules motivated him. He was only fifteen years old, living in Austria, when he decided he wanted to become Mr. Universe and star in American films in Hollywood. Everything he did supported his vision and he, like William McRaven, never gave up.

I have to admit, none of these rules were new for me, but certain nuances in Arnold’s story caught my attention. I know my vision and I even created a vision board. But I’ve struggled with thinking big. Some small voice in my head is the strongest naysayer of all, the voice that asks what right do I have to dream of being a New York Times bestselling author? The voice that tells me to be realistic. And while I’ve certainly put in a great many hours towards achieving my goal, I can’t honestly say I’ve worked my ass off. I don’t train for five hours a day.

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my vision board

When the video was over I sat in silence for a while. I found myself wondering, what’s stopping me? I haven’t quite discovered the answers, but I’m working at it. I’m making my bed. I’m exercising every day. I’m writing every day. I’m taking the steps, pushing myself each day to do a little more than the day before. And I’m never, ever, going to give up.

So yeah, I’m feeling motivated, ready to empower myself to achieve my goals.

 

 

 

 

Feeling Called to be Courageous Through the Practice of Vulnerability

Last week I watched Brene Brown’s much-anticipated event, the Netflix presentation of The Call to CourageIt ignited my inspiration. I feel not only called to be courageous, but called to live big, to get into the arena, and embrace vulnerability even more than I ever have before.

 

I’ve been a fan of Brene Brown’s for several years now. I’ve read many of her books and watched her Ted Talks. In the process, I have discovered a great deal about shame and vulnerability and courage. Brene is a gifted storyteller that has a knack for taking academic research and language and transforming it in a way that hits you in your heart. You feel the truth of it. She artfully weaves in humour and sadness, sharing real-life stories of trauma and resilience with integrity and passion.

I was impacted in so many ways, I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll just dive in.

Brene shares how devastating it was after her Ted Talk on vulnerability went global. While the accolades were many, the criticism she received felt overwhelming. She was in a rough space, but then she describes how she had this “total God moment,” after reading a quote by Theodore Roosevelt.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives vigilantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

That was the moment when she chose to live in the arena, to have the courage to be vulnerable. Because the thing is, you can’t speak up without discomfort. If you’re not in the arena getting your asked kicked, she’s isn’t interested in your criticism. And neither am I.

Vulnerability is the key to whole-hearted loving.” I am so jazzed about being in full-on, authentic connection. I learned at a very young age how being vulnerable was a key part of creating the space for others to trust being open and honest with me. Loving whole-heartedly has brought me more joy and bliss in my life than anything else. In fact, creating deep, meaningful relationships is my life purpose.

“You have to be vulnerable to be brave.” In all honesty, I have never considered myself to be a brave person. I’m just doing what feels natural for me. When I listen to Brene, though, I get it. Being vulnerable creates the opportunity for deep love, joy and a sense of belonging. But it also opens the door for heartache. The pay-off has just always felt greater for me than the risk.

Vulnerability is the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” This is the part that I struggle with; controlling the outcome. It has been the nemesis in my entire letting go journey. Especially when it comes to my kids. I know they are adults. I know they are capable, wise and resilient. Still, I intervene and advise when it isn’t my place. I worry that the path they are on could possibly lead to an unfavourable outcome. It turns out it not only takes courage to let yourself be vulnerable; it takes courage to allow the people you love to do the same.

In a Call to Courage Brene Brown posits that time is our big, precious, un-renewable resource. I have to agree, because it is only after a precious moment is gone that we feel the weight of what we didn’t accomplish. The truth is, sometimes we rock it out of the park, living our lives with energy and enthusiasm and accomplishing great things. At other times we are shut down, emotionally or physically, mentally or spiritually, and time seems to just slip by. And it’s all good. Our best has to be good enough, no matter what that looks like. When you get knocked down in the arena of life, you need some recovery time. The important thing is to get back in.

According to Brene, one of the magical sentences that can help you to deconstruct the obstacles in communication and relationship is, “the story I’m telling myself is…” We all have stories we have created that get in the way of seeing one another and being seen, a critical component of vulnerability. For example, when our partner or friend or colleague is tuning us out, instead of being curious and asking why, we tend to make assumptions based on our stories that it is something about us. Usually it is not. We have to be brave enough to question.

Practicing gratitude is a powerful tool towards joyful living. Pausing to be grateful for the ordinary moments fuels joy, love and a sense of belonging. When we are grateful for the gifts we have been bestowed, we develop healthy self-esteem and we don’t have to look outside ourselves or change ourselves. In fact, if you’re changing who you are, you aren’t achieving belonging, you’re just trying to fit in.

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Many movements have been springing up recently that are supporting this courage to be vulnerable, to speak up in the face of discomfort. The #Me Too movement opened the door for millions of people, mostly women, to tell their stories of abuse. They stepped into the arena. Their bravery has incited criticism from those privileged enough to feel uncomfortable. But the tough conversations have to be had. Change is never easy.

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We, as a global community, need to excavate the myths that get in the way of progress and change. We need to elect brave leaders who are committed to equality and boot out those who are corrupt, greedy, and unethical. We have to be willing to make mistakes and to say the wrong thing. We have to get into the arena. We have to speak up.

As for me, I’m feeling affirmed in my vulnerability journey, ready to continue being open and honest with my heart and my mind. I’m feeling grateful for my life, especially for my Mister, who creates space for me to be my authentic self and loves me unconditionally, who not only supports me to be vulnerable, but embraces it. I’m inspired to continuing risking rejection, submitting my queries to agents and dreaming of being a published writer. I’m going to speak my truth through the platform of my writing.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to be courageous through the practice of vulnerability.

Feeling the Impact of Shining and Sharing my Light and Love with the World

My muse was dry. I figured that perhaps after forty blog posts I’d covered everything I wanted to say. Then I glanced at my calendar and noticed that it is Random Acts of Kindness week. I never knew there was an official acknowledgment of the valuable art of practicing random acts of kindness and suddenly my muse was nourished, ready to write a fresh blog.

Upon googling my topic, a plethora of interesting sites and images came to my attention. I checked out several videos on YouTube before choosing this simple clip from Scoop to share with my readers.

 

I reflected about my own experiences. In September, my good friend Kim sent me a photo challenge and it was so much fun and so gratifying I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of creating monthly challenges for myself. October was a yoga challenge followed by a daily ten- minute meditation challenge in November. But the one that gave the most back was in December, when I chose to challenge myself to send daily loving-kindness messages.

I was only a few days into it when I recognized that while I was sending daily loving-kindness to one person each day, each person I reached out to gave a loving kindness message back to me. By mid-month I’d received so many affirmations, good-wishes and kind-hearted sentiments my cup was literally overflowing. I felt energized and joyful in a way I hadn’t experienced with any of my other challenges. It confirmed what I already knew; that love is the medicine, our healer, our purpose, our path.

I went back to my computer and watched Ted Talks and more YouTube videos, searching for more examples to share. There was plenty of great material worth sharing, but nothing seemed to express the feeling I was hoping to emote. Feeling stuck again, I took a break, hitching Lola to her leash to walk in the fresh air where I hoped to find inspiration. As I walked, a memory I’d long since forgotten came to me and with it, the beginning of a poem.

I haven’t written any poetry for some time now, but this is what seemed to flow with divine grace from my mind to my pen.

I see a homeless man as I’m strolling down the street,

His clothes are dusty, ratty shoes upon his feet.

My gut reaction is to turn away my eyes

But for some reason I smile instead and we are both surprised.

His mouth turns from an “oh” to a tentative smile

And suddenly I’m asking if he’ll watch my dog a while.

His smile becomes a grin as he gives Lola a tender pat

And I tell him it won’t be too long before I am back.

 

Inside the bookstore I thumb through rows and rows of books,

Every story in my head urging me to go and have a look.

I choose instead to trust my heart

For it gave me the intuition to have faith from the start.

After I pay for the book I desire to buy

I go outside where on his lap Lola lies.

This man I don’t know is grinning from ear to ear

And it almost makes me heart break; I shed a single tear.

 

I realize all the stories in my head

Conceived from ignorance and fear; instead

I’m seeing past the judgment he must be mentally ill

Or a crack-head or an addict to some crazy little pill.

I see a man like any other who happens to be down on his luck

And I ask him if I can pay him, even though it isn’t much.

He thanks me and then he tells me Lola has made his day

And I think, it is oft the little things that help to ease the way.

 

 

So yeah, I’m feeling the impact of shining and sharing my light and love with the world.

Feeling Grateful on Canadian Thanksgiving for the Gift of Every Moment

In Canada we’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, expressing gratitude for the harvest and other blessings, since 1879. Typically, traditions involve family feasts with a roasted turkey as the main attraction, as well as an abundance of other dishes such as mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing and ending with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

As a self-proclaimed Foodie and a person who loves to cook, I look forward to this autumnal festival. I also appreciate the opportunity to express gratitude for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me.

As an ex-pat living in Saudi Arabia, I have participated in large pot-luck dinners with our friends in the Canadian community and have hosted more intimate dinners as well. This year Mister and I decided to tone down on the preparations and focus on the gratitude, creating a romantic Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. We toasted our love and appreciation for one another, which for us is the greatest gift of all.

 

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Canadian Thanksgiving in our villa 2017

 

Counting your blessings and making space to acknowledge gratitude can be a rewarding experience that turns your perspective outward, onto others. It has to the potential to lift your spirits and have you feeling the grace of God at work in the world.

I use gratitude as a tool for discerning what my goals, values and intentions are and I create vision boards as a visual inspiration. I discovered this powerful ritual when I first watched The Secret, back in 2007, and have been making vision boards as part of my positivity practice ever since.

 

 

 

My vision board is a visual representation that shows clearly what matters most in my life. It reflects how much I value family, friends, and relationships, especially my partnership with Mister. It also focuses on my passion for writing and my goals of moving to Panama, learning to speak Spanish, and opening a restaurant. Interestingly, the word gratitude is featured prominently.

 

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my current  vision board

 

I’m a writer and a keeper of journals and I’ve been using the Sacred Journey Daily Journal for your Soul by Cheryl Thiele for many years now. Expressing gratitude is a part of each month’s exercises, along with affirmations, opportunities and goals.

I’ve seen people posting gratitude challenges on social media and how those challenges have the power to lift them up, creating feelings of joy and happiness.

There are several Ted Talks on the theme of gratitude. In his presentation, “Want to be happy? Be Grateful,”David Steindl-Rast posits that choosing to live a life of gratitude has the power to change the world. He argues that living in awareness that each moment is a gift is the opportunity and key to our happiness. He also suggests that even our greatest difficulties have the opportunity for us to experience gratitude by learning something through the challenge of overcoming them. His method for living gratefully is: stop (or at least slow down), look (open your heart) and go (take action).

 

 

There are also a multitude of books on the subject of gratitude. Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul by Robert Emmons and Joanna Hill, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank you Changed my Life by John Kralik and Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, are a few I’ve discovered. Google books about gratitude and you’ll be sure to find something that intrigues you.

You Tube has a long list of songs about gratitude including Kelly Clarkson’s Thankful, Celine Dion’s Thank You and Alanis Morissette’s gritty version, Thank U, my personal favouriteTake a listen and see what resonates with you in your list of things to be grateful for.

Actions speak louder than words, or so they say. For me, the most powerful experience of how gratitude has the ability to transform has been in witnessing how Mister engages with everyone he meets. Whether he is speaking to loved ones or with perfect strangers, he thanks them for their every effort. He thanks me, every single day, for everything, big or small that I do, never taking even the smallest thing for granted. His actions inspire me to be more mindful and I find myself emulating his example of expressing gratitude more often.

Ghandi urged us to be the change we want to see in the world. I believe that practicing gratitude daily, in every moment, is one way of being the change.

So yeah, I’m feeling grateful on Canadian Thanksgiving for the gift of every moment.

Feeling Blissfully in the Flow, In Panama with my Mister

After departing Victoria and a brief lay-over in Toronto, Mister and I were heading to Panama on Air Canada Rouge, a stripped-down airline service where everything from alcohol to food to movies is not only limited, but costly. We’d flown with them before, though, and knew the drill, so at least I had purchased a gluten free sandwich at a kiosk prior to boarding. We also had an iPad, fully charged, with the Air Canada App installed and a splitter so we could enjoy watching a movie together.

Lucky for us it wasn’t a full plane and the extra seat in our row remained vacant when the boarding completed announcement was made. What would have been a cramped and uncomfortable space became bearable. We settled in, watched a well-done documentary titled There’s No Free Lunch, rested and read and soon we were landing.

Peering out the tiny window, my gaze was drawn to the sun peeking out of the clouds and illuminating the impressive coastline dotted with shiny skyscrapers and the sparkling ocean. I could see the forest spreading out in all directions from the city, shade upon shade of green, and I felt excited that I was about to get reacquainted with Panama. I love Panama.

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Panama City Harbour

 

We were staying the first three days in the city, at a condo in the Amador Causeway we’d rented from our friends at Patty’s Casitas. Patty and her husband Rudy greeted us warmly at the buildings entrance and helped us load our massive amount of luggage onto the lift.

The condo was beautifully appointed and pristinely clean, just like the units we’d rented from them in the past in Casco Viejo. They’d left a complimentary bottle of wine so we opened it and toasted our arrival over a glass.

After unpacking our things and freshening up we walked over to a local restaurant Patty had recommended, La Fabrica. We were able to communicate sufficiently to our Spanish speaking server and I ordered the Salmon Marrakesh that was full of flavour and textures. The ambience was friendly, welcoming and relaxing and as we sat under the canopy of a star-filled night we felt content.

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La Fabrica

Our first day started early as we were being picked up by a driver arranged by our lawyer who was taking us to apply for our cedulas, the national identity cards in Panama. We met two Australians in the line-up and engaged in interesting conversations on topics from politics and economics to humanity and health, making the two and half hours fly by quickly.

After our business was taken care of we decided to celebrate our success over lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in the city, La Fragatta. The architecture and interior design created the experience of being on a high-end cruise ship. The well-dressed waiter, who spoke not a word of English, greeted us with professionalism and warmth and directed us to a cozy booth.

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La Fragatta

Mister took the liberty of ordering us a bottle of Catena Malbec, una botella vino tinto por favor. We glanced at the menu, but we were both eying two of the appetizers we’d chosen at our last visit. The cheese plate featured a variety of sharp, tangy cheeses, including a luxurious manchego that was my favourite. The grilled vegetable platter consisted of a variety of delicious delicacies, seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Friday turned out to be Fabulous Friday, as Friday’s often are. We slept in. We took a long stroll along the causeway. We shopped for window coverings, a phenomenal experience with the expertise of Susana at Nostalgia Designs. We refreshed over a light lunch at Paul’s and then did some more house shopping, buying a gorgeous gray leather sectional and stunning floor-length mirror.

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Mister & Me on the Amador Causeway

Back at our condo we indulged in Happy Hour, which turned into happy, happy hour. Feeling like cats and canaries and the day wasn’t even over!

Fabulous Friday concluded with a taxi ride into Casco Viejo for a romantic dinner at Grapes. We walked into a cozy space with inviting décor. The tables were dark wood with chairs upholstered in crème leather. The side wall featured an impressive wooden built-in wine fridge. Black chandeliers of intricate design hung from the ceiling, and although not to my taste, suited the space.

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Me & Mister outside Grapes, with a view of downtown Panama

Our server was pleasant and very professional. When he informed us the bottle of wine we’d requested was out of stock, he suggested an alternative, much more expensive Argentinian Malbec. It was one of those wines where the first sip is alluring but with each taste grows more and more pleasing on the palate.

We decided to go all in with three courses. I started with the corvina ceviche, a local favourite dish, whilst Mister savored the trio of tacos. For our mains I chose the stuffed chicken breast in a curry mint sauce that was phenomenal. Mister ordered a filet of beef which he reported to be masterfully seasoned and cooked to perfection. For dessert I had the house made crème caramel which danced silkily over my tongue and Mister chose the chocolate brownie. Throughout the two-hour experience we engaged in fluid conversation, easily moving from light to deep topics and I felt blissfully in the flow.

We’d planned to take Saturday off, but then we received a call from our builder. He was requesting we make a trip into Tech and House, our appliance store. I was feeling a little frustrated, but when we arrived to discover the air conditioning at the shop was down and I had a low blood sugar, a little became a little bit more. It hit the ceiling, though, when an accident on the bridge had traffic backed up in every direction downtown and what should have been a ten- minute taxi ride home became two hours.

The next day we packed up and checked out of our casita. Rudy was driving us to Coronado to view our home for the first time since we left in February. It is difficult to describe how it felt, but I’ll try.

Upon entering the house, Mister and I were both impressed right away with how magnificent our floor tiles looked. Stepping into the office immediately to the left, it was barren, with no murphy bed, desk, or bookshelf installed, as requested. Apparently, their carpenter had been unwell.

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Living & Dining Room of our House

We next viewed the bathroom off the office. The large matte tiles were gorgeous and complemented beautifully by the shiny small black mosaic tiles. The granite and sink both looked amazing. But the window was mounted over the sink instead of the toilet, leaving no space for a vanity mirror. The tempered shower glass doors were not installed and the toilet was taped over; plumbing not yet available.

In the kitchen the cabinets looked gorgeous but there were no knobs or handles. The wine fridge and dishwasher were too tall (even though we’d sent the dimensions long before), requiring them to take off the granite counter. Finally, the fridge wasn’t installed because the builder informed us it was also too large for the space provided.

Appliances became an issue once again when we viewed the laundry room, which quite frankly looked horrible. One could barely open the washer and dryer because the hall was so narrow. The walk-in closet was the final disappointment, resembling more of a cave or dungeon.

We went outside and were pleased to discover the completed pool filled with clear, clean water. As a few flies buzzed around me in the heat, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I was realizing that there was no way we were going to be able to move in to our home in three days with the amount of work still to be done and I could only hope the condo we’d rented for three days at Coronado Bay would be available for seven more.

Feeling our mixed feelings, we drove to the rental, relieved when the owner assured us that we could have the unit for the duration of our visit. We were even more thrilled when we found out that because it was low season and late in the day, it was only going to cost us $900 for ten days for a one- bedroom, two- bathroom condo right on the beach.

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View from our condo balcony

We didn’t have the energy to cook ourselves dinner so we walked over to our favourite restaurant in Coronado, Luna Rosa. The atmosphere was inviting, and the food was, as always, fabulous. It was one of many more to come in following days, and I felt grateful.

Over the next seven days our schedules were filled with meetings with the builders. They were generous in accommodating us and together we came up with creative solutions to the challenges we’d identified.

There was more shopping in the city, a few good work-outs and yoga practices. All of our packages that we’d ordered from Amazon and Wayfair were stacked in the garage and it was like Christmas as we unpacked and revealed the items we’d purchased. Everything from our dishes to wine glasses looked amazing.

Mister and I shared quality time together, taking advantage of the rooftop pool and ocean access that our rental provided. We ate great food and drank beautiful wine.

As the trip came to an end, I found myself in the same frame of mind I’d been in Canada – grateful to be taking on life’s challenges together as team. Bien equipo. I know in my heart that our home will be perfect when it is all done and that we will both love living in our space, in our happy place; Coronado, Panama.

So yeah, I’m feeling blissfully in the flow, in Panama with my Mister.

Feeling Aware of My Ability to Choose to be a Part of the Solution

It seems like everywhere I turn there are stories being shared by people who have survived trauma and it’s no wonder; according to statistics, one in three girls and one in five boys have suffered abuse.

Theo Fleury, a famous ex-NHL player from Canada, spoke on Goalcast in a powerful presentation called Play Your Part. He describes a childhood of neglect and fear, living with addicted parents. He shares his story; that he was raped, repeatedly, by his hockey coach.

Fleury tells how after writing Playing With Fire, at his first book signing in Toronto, he met his first MeToo confidant. He goes on to share how one person turned into over 500,000. He states that trauma is the string that binds us all together and that we have an opportunity to talk with compassion, love, and connection, to have the tough conversations and be a part of the solution.

 

What truly inspired me while listening to Fleury speak was the choice he made when he decided to take the gun out of his mouth. He chose not to punish himself or blame others. He chose to embark on a healing journey. He chose light. He chose life.

Choice. Few things drive me crazier than people who pass off their responsibility by claiming they didn’t have a choice. You always, always, have a choice. Some choices are harder than others. Some take a great deal of strength and courage. But there is always a choice.

In 2007 I was in a similar place as Theo Fleury. I didn’t have a gun in my mouth, but I was contemplating suicide as the only choice. I felt desperate and hopeless. I was in an unhealthy marriage to a controlling, abusive and manipulative man. I had three children. I had debt and a huge mortgage. I was afraid. I didn’t know how to free myself and I definitely couldn’t see the choices I had available.

In the end, I too, chose light. I too, chose life. I walked into the Emergency department of the hospital where I lived, taking the first terrifying step forwards. That step led to being admitted to a short term mental health unit. With the stereotypes our society has towards mental health, that choice wasn’t easy. But with the support of my daughter, and many others, I did it.

That was the beginning of my healing journey. In the hospital I received more support, as well as education and skills. When I was discharged, I advocated for myself. I engaged in intense counselling therapy despite objections from my husband about the financial costs. I engaged in positive relationships. I found meaningful work that I immersed myself in. It took time, but eventually, in 2011, I had the confidence and courage to leave.

At that point I embarked on my grandest of journeys; to discover my authentic self. I drove the epic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver Island and started a new life. I found out who I was and I liked her way more than the mask of me I’d been parading around as. From this place of openness and honesty, I met Mister. I’m currently writing a book about that time in my life called The Healing.

With that one hard choice, of speaking up despite the shame and seeking help, I opened the door to an entire life I never could have imagined. A life that every day, no matter how joyful or challenging it is, I feel gratitude for the blessings of my crazy, beautiful, complicated life.

In her presentation on Ted Talks, The Revolutionary Power of Divine Thought, activist Elif Shafak shares her story. Elif claims that NOW is the time, a vital moment in global activism and sisterhood movements to make change. She urges, “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity.”

 

Life is complex. There are a myriad of social issues including economic, educational, and emotional challenges. There are people making the dark choices of complacency, numbness, isolation, competition, greed, and corruption. In my experience, there are far more people who choose Light. Who choose activism, sensitivity, involvement, generosity, cooperation, balance, and equality.

Equally complex is the relationship of dark and light. They are the polar ends of the same entity. Life and Death are the same thing and both forces live in all of us.

As a modern society of the information age, we have foregone our wisdom in the quest for knowledge. We have exchanged the complex stories of our ancestors that address the complexity of our nature for Disney versions where good and evil are dualities expressed in separate characters. Children are denied the teachings that were layered in fairy tales. We need to tell the scary stories. We have to engage in the tough conversations.

We cling to our life-happiness-positive-good model. We ignore or pretend that darkness-sadness-negativity-evil do not exist. When we do acknowledge evil, it is outside of ourselves, in the other. It is contained within a different religion or country or person. With this head-in-the-sand mentality we don’t learn how to confront the negative forces inside ourselves. We don’t learn how to win the battle in our minds; how to feel, release and then return, by the power of our choice, to our Light.

Darkness may have the power to swallow light, but Light has the power to enlighten. If you ignore the darkness, it doesn’t go away. If you surround yourself with positive people, their light will join with yours and ignite to create a powerful and enduring flame.

What will you choose?

So yeah, I’m feeling aware of my ability to choose to be a part of the solution.

 

Feeling Radical, Ready to Channel my Rage Through the Power of Love

I was feeling overwhelmed, like there is no justice in this world, like I had no control to do anything about it. I sat at my altar and prayed, asking, how do I best serve humanity? As I sat there a memory returned of Mister telling me our highest purpose is to love. And with the perfect synchronicity that is God at work in the world, articles and information on the power of love came flooding into my awareness.

The first, and most impacting, was a Ted Talk by Valeria Kaur, an American civil rights lawyer and activist. Her topic, Three Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage began with a vivid description of her personal labouring process in birthing her son, which she used as a framework for the themes of the fire of pain and the determination to push through.

Kaur described her reaction to 911 and the murder of her uncle in the aftermath. She talked about forgiveness. She spoke about feminism. Referring to a diagram that outlines the expression of revolutionary love towards ourselves, towards the ones we love, and even towards our opponents, she encouraged us to see the wound in the ones who hurt us. She ends with the question, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” and the invitation to breathe and push with a Warrior’s heart and a Saint’s eyes, to be a part of a future waiting to be born.

 

 

I was reading The Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Este and was taken aback when I read the section titled The Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness, central words in the Ted Talk I had just viewed. Pinkola put forth the idea that the release of rage is required and can be a teacher if allowed.

“We can use the light of rage in a positive way, in order to see into places we cannot usually see… We can learn from it and transform it.” Pinkola suggests that once we recognize it, bless it, contain it and release it, rage can impel groups or individuals into dialogue and action towards accountability, progress and improvements.

Later that day I picked up my copy of Warrior Goddess Training and to my delight the next chapter was titled Open Your Heart. Heatherash Amara discusses the healing practice of Metta; the ancient Buddhist meditation of loving kindness. The practice involves visualizing during meditation sending loving kindness to a family member or friend, to an acquaintance, to yourself, and finally, to someone you dislike.

Heatherash also refers to the Hawaiian poem of forgiveness, Ho’oponopono:

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

I first made acquaintance with this simple yet powerful sentiment when I attended Dance Church in Victoria, BC with my daughter. It seems perfect to be reminded of the wisdom in the words of this prayer now.

Praying led me to open my bible. In Matthew it says, “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” and in Mark, “and if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them.”

Toltec wisdom states, “Our true nature is happiness, freedom and love; when we master love, intent and faith we master the dream of our life.” The road to mastering the dream is not easy, but you can begin to change the world by changing your own life, recognizing you have both the choice and the responsibility.

Pema Chodran, a Buddhist monk and spiritual leader, urges us to choose to cultivate love rather than anger. She also postulates that it is necessary to recognize your kinship with others. On the subject of rage, Pema encourages us to use the tools of meditation and loving-kindness to access the tenderness of an awakened heart, to see behind the hardness of rage and not allow it to harden our hearts.

On Super Soul Sunday Oprah talks about making the world a better place by extending yourself in loving kindness with an open heart. Similarly, she advocates that healing the world starts with healing you.

 

Alana Fairchild dedicates in her introduction to the Sacred Rebels, “to those who aren’t afraid to rattle cages… from a place of loving service to the spiritual evolution of humanity… (to) create a world that is fully awakened to love.”

I’m not going to delay any longer. I’m going to start now.

I send loving kindness to someone I love; to my Mister, David.

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You are patient and kind

You tell me it is going to be okay

And somehow it is, inside of your love,

A love more pure and divine than any I’ve known.

 Your love has been the greatest gift of my life.

Your love has taught me love’s power and

Has propelled me to be my best,

To fulfil my purpose, which is as yours; to love.

 I send loving kindness to an acquaintance; to Diane.

I send loving kindness to myself.

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I send loving kindness to someone I dislike; to Nancy.

I send loving kindness to all of humanity; I send loving kindness to you.

So yeah, I’m feeling radical, ready to channel my rage through the power of love.

Feeling Inspired; Lifting the Weight of the World off my Shoulders by Opening my Heart to Love

I’ve been feeling the heaviness of the destruction, devastation, and darkness in the world. One day I woke up and felt so tired of feeling hopeless. And then the awareness returned to me, that I already knew, but had somehow forgotten. I needed to open my heart to all the love and light in the world. I set about searching and before long it was like an avalanche had been created with that simple intention.

It started with music. I decided to listen to some of my favourite inspirational songs while walking Lola around the compound. As I listened to Michael Buble crooning about a new day and A Great Big World telling me “You’ll be okay,” I felt the truth in the words and a spring returning to my step. I even noticed beauty in the self-described barrenness of the desert, in the vast blue sky. By the time India Arie reminded me, “There’s Hope,” I was beginning to blossom. A shift was occurring, not in the world, but in my perception.

 

I thought about the list of Affirmations I’d posted to our bulletin board and I took it down and read it. I was present to the many gifts and blessings in my life. Beginning with the love of Mister. He is an inspiring man to be in deep partnership with, his solid faith in God and in humankind demonstrated in his daily acts of integrity and character. His love for me has been my constant, his solidity a rock in which together we have built our foundation.

 

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I thought about how fortunate I am to have four beautiful children. The two eldest are already making change in the world with their passion and commitment. Scarlet has created Women’s Sacred Wisdom ritual and retreat to empower women and embrace the feminine. Tamara has developed her own website offering her gifts in massage, yoga, and art. She also continues to post spiritually inspiring blogs on Anuttara Tantra. The two youngest are still discovering their passions, but share their hearts and minds with courageous vulnerability.

I brought into my heart the loving memories of all of my family, those living and those who have passed. I was present to the gift of friendship, with my tribe here in Riyadh, as well as so many others here and back in Canada.

I continued to focus my thoughts on the positive. I made mental lists of the things I appreciate about my community, the country of my birth, and the world around me. By this point I was clear that I needed to allow myself to receive love and support and to put my energy into giving my light and love to others. I collected inspiration from an eclectic array of sources that I will share in the random order that they manifested.

Throughout my life the Bible has been a source of strength and confusion for me. While I can easily accept the basic premises, truths, and commandments, I get hung up on some of the smiting and punishing and judgment that appears, especially in the Old Testament. But, even there, in the very first words of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

I flipped through to the book of Matthew. Verse 28 states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest.” It was so comforting to remember that I could lay down my cross and God would carry it for me.

Matthew goes on to list the commandments, revealing as the greatest, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.” I cried tears as I felt how I’d let my pain separate me from God. I’d been letting the darkness in the world turn me away from feeling love for my neighbour and for myself.

I was ready to “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). I recognized that I don’t have the wisdom to comprehend the complexity of life and death, good and evil. And it’s okay because I can give it to God and relax in my faith.

I had just finished reading Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. She wrote about the power of courage in the face of pain. About having a “strong back, soft front, wild heart.” She encouraged her readers to practice integrity and authenticity and to “believe in and belong to ourselves and to each other.”

I decided to log onto Face Book and scroll through, searching for positive posts. There were so many choices: Now This, mindful.org, The Mighty, Ted.com, Expand Your Consciousness, Good News Network. And of course, one of my favourites, Goalcast.

I chose Randy Pauseh’s lecture, Live the Right Way, to include in this blog, because listening to him speak brought tears to my eyes. He was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer with only months to live. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he was alive with the energy of spreading his message. To live with humility and integrity, to tell the truth, and to apologize sincerely when you are wrong.

Randy asked, “Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore? Tigger’s are energetic, optimistic, curious, enthusiastic, and love to have fun. I knew who I was at my core, even if I’d been traipsing around like a Moping Moper.

 

A few scrolls later I discovered another moving video titled Live Every Moment by Muniba Mazani. She described how she had been at the edge of despair after a devastating car accident left her with a spinal injury. She shared her healing journey of recovery, found partly through the act of painting. She said at some point she made a conscious decision to live her life for herself, and everything shifted after that. It started from within, and she went about making her dreams become reality.

 

I was surprised to find my next Face Book inspiration from an article posted in latimes.com. Featured was the humble and wise Dalai Lama in an article titled We Need an Education of the heart. He stated that to live together as brothers and sisters in peace, we must learn to practice compassion, mindfulness and justice. Furthermore, he postulated this emotional intelligence can be and should be taught as part of a global curriculum.

I set my phone down, and suddenly my feet seemed to literally carry me upstairs to my meditational room. I picked up Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and reviewed them, slowly and mindfully. Practice non-judgment. Wherever you go, whoever you encounter, bring a gift. Bring your choices into conscious awareness. Practice accepting all people, situations, circumstances and events. Release your desires to the Universe, trusting that life will unfold as it should. Allow yourself and the people around you the freedom to be as they are. And lovingly pay attention to the spirit within you. Wise words, but very challenging to practice consistently.

I sat on my pillow and gazed softly at my vision board. My eyes were drawn to the four agreements, which are a part of the Toltec wisdom. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. I hadn’t been following these basic tenets. I hadn’t been practicing love, intent, and faith.

To add another perspective, I thumbed through a pocket book I have with thoughts from the Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron. She begins by explaining that we are all born with bodhichitta, a Sanskrit word meaning noble or awakened heart, and it is this noble heart that heals us from the difficulties we face in life. She offered tools for being connected to our hearts: meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. She also urged us to be kind to ourselves, to recognize our kinship with one another, to rejoice in the smallest of blessings, to have no expectations, and to be kind.

My journey ended with yet another perspective, illustrated beautifully in Louie Schwartzberg’s Ted Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. A photographer, he shares the miracle and beauty of nature through his artful time-lapse photography, along with the wise words of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. As I watched my soul stirred. When he said, live this day as if it was your first and your last, I knew I had to do something different.

 

Clearly, I had all the tools I needed at my disposal. I had to stop complaining, focusing on the negativity, and living in the past. I was already present to my blessings, but I recommitted to keeping a gratitude journal. I knew I had to celebrate the gift of my life and live it. I felt a renewed energy coursing through my veins and sat down in my chair, ready to write.

So yeah, I’m feeling inspired; lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders by opening my heart to love.