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 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 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.

 

Feeling Hopeful; Digging for Light in the Darkness with my Daughter in Goa, India

A few weeks ago I received a message from my daughter, asking me if I would consider coming to spend time with her in Goa, to hold and behold her. She had been living at an ashram and had decided to leave earlier than intended due to difficult experiences with her teacher. That is her story to tell. My story is about how my heart called me to be with her. I said yes.

 

 

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My daughter, Tamara Dawn

 

Stepping for the first time onto an Air India vessel was like stepping backwards in time several decades. Thin, faded retro carpet. Stained, damaged, upholstery. I took comfort in the silver lining that I was seated at the front of economy (extra leg-room) and the plane wasn’t booked to capacity (extra two empty seats beside me). My smoky-screened personal entertainment system was dysfunctional; with no power what-so-ever, but the cheery attendant happily moved me to the vacant seat directly adjacent on the opposite window.

I watched the movie Arrival, an interesting feature based in the future. It addressed the current movement of fear-based policy and politics that have humankind cocooning into their separateness, building walls around their countries, making choices from fear, misunderstanding, mistrust, and ineffective communication. The message of the movie was that for the planet to survive it is imperative that people focus their energy on building a global community.

I peered out my window as I approached the massive, sprawling city of Mumbai; a combination of the usual city spires and domestic architecture, as well as a heart-wrenching number of horrific slums, the aluminum structures propped precariously against one another in row upon row of human degradation. Tears flowed down my cheeks at the inhumanity of it all.

I’d worn my abaya throughout the flight, taking some solace of comfort in it’s protection. I felt vulnerable, a woman travelling alone in a patriarchal social milieu. But the heat and humidity were radiating in the arrivals terminal and so I removed my abaya and slid it into my carry-on. I quickly realized that in Indian culture women generally dress more conservatively than Canadian women. Clad in colourful, gauzy saris, they would never show their shoulders in public as I was, although curiously, they weren’t averse to having their tummies or mid-backs revealed. Interesting to observe, the nuances of culture.

I had six hours to wait in the Mumbai airport before boarding an even sketchier plane to Goa. As I boarded I couldn’t help but think of Airplane Disaster episodes I’d watched with Mister, where the investigations led to discoveries of faulty old parts in old planes. I pushed the negative thoughts from my mind, settled into my shabby seat, cranky with lack of sleep and intense air conditioning blasting down on me, to doze in and out until landing just over an hour later.

I collected my bag from the luggage carousel in the tiny airport and found my way outside the terminal where I spotted my beautiful daughter waiting for me, looking like a contrasting vision of vulnerability and fire. The hot wind blew a welcoming kiss across my skin and I felt alive with the hum of India as I embraced my daughter tenderly, ready to shower her with all the force of my motherly love.

It was dark, so all I could discern of Goa was the coloured twinkly lights and the smell of curry and waste and the sound of horns beeping, dogs barking, and chickens squawking as our taxi driver navigated the narrow dusty roads to Tamara’s apartment. We each carried one of my cases up the narrow winding steps, through the creaky iron gates. It was past midnight and as we’d connected on the hour and half drive, we flopped into bed, the fan purring above us.

Suddenly, it stopped. The fan died. The heat fell on us like a heavy wool blanket, suffocating and thick. Sleepily, Tamara informed me, yes, the power goes out sometimes. What to do? I thought perhaps I couldn’t breathe. I managed somehow to stay calm and keep breathing and when the fan started up briefly I lit up with joyful enthusiasm, pulling the sifted air deeply into my lungs, only to have it stop again as suddenly as it began. I fell asleep, despite myself, and awoke much later to discover the fan back on and felt the kind of gratitude only absence can induce.

Waking to a new day, I was present to my mission of loving, supporting, and being there for my daughter. We went about the task of preparing food and talked easily together, as well as with her roommate. Then we gathered our bags and left with the intention of viewing retreat options in the vicinity. Tamara had rented a scooter, and while she drove quite skillfully, I was tense with the lack of helmets and the crowded narrow roads and the hazards of wild dogs and cows appearing out of nowhere to dart dangerously across our path.

Our first stop was a quaint little set-up of white canvas casitas situated right on the beach. In hindsight, I wish I would have just trusted Tamara and said yes, but I was still unfamiliar with India, still transitioning, and I wasn’t ready to make a commitment without checking out a few more options. We decided to walk along the quiet little stretch of beach that sparkled in the sun just steps from the resort. We plunked ourselves down in the hot sand to let the sun soak it’s healing magic into our skin. Worried about my possessions, I declined joining Tamara for a dip in the salty blue-gray waters of the Indian ocean, preferring instead to sit in peaceful solitude.

 

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Tamara enjoying the Indian ocean in Goa

 

 

We talked and walked to a café and ordered mint lemonade and talked some more. We processed together some of the darkness that she experienced at the Ashram, remembering even in that space to also dig for, and acknowledge the light.  I urged her to allow herself to heal from her experience before taking on the responsibility of holding the Guru accountable. It felt like flow and it felt like love and it felt like it was good enough.

Later, we found a restaurant on a different patch of beach where the ocean lapped lazily in ebb and flow along the silky shoreline. We ordered traditional vegetarian Indian cuisine; eggplant and spinach and paneer in flavourful curries with rice and naan. We held hands, then drove back to her apartment, having somehow forgotten in our ebb and flow of connection to look for a retreat. I also forgot my commitment to be supportive and leave behind my own agenda. I allowed myself to be distracted by discomfort and put that into her space. I’m sorry.

The next morning, we hopped back onto her scooter to go investigate retreat options, as originally planned. We viewed the hotel Lalita, Goa’s apparent 5-star facility, but it was booked to capacity. We checked out a whimsical property called Dreamcatcher, but it didn’t have air conditioning. We ended up realizing the first place we’d looked at the day before, Blue Moon, was the perfect compromise and we recognized it was the sanctuary for healing we had been searching for all along.

Our healing journey expanded. Tamara knew of an establishment nearby that offered authentic Ayurvedic massage. I found myself drifting in and out of time and felt gratitude for the gift of deep pressure on my aching muscles. I hoped that Tamara’s body would receive the strength of our Indian masseuse’s talents too. Namascar.

We ate lunch together in an open-air café, drinking chai tea, which I would become slightly addicted to over the next few days. I savoured the crispy rice flour crepe stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes and a grated beet and carrot salad with peanut dressing. Then we gathered our belongings from her apartment and loaded them into a Tuk-tuk taxi to make the short journey to Blue Moon.

Situated at the edge of the forest, where the river and the ocean converge, sits a semi-circle of white canvas tent-style casitas each with a name of a planet, Neelchamp, or Blue Moon as I prefer to call it. With a bit of persistence in our negotiations with Sunil, a very friendly and accommodating member of the staff with excellent English, we booked the Venus, an air conditioned unit with a back-up fan powered by solar energy. The seven huts encircle the modest but attractive restaurant overlooking the ocean, where we consumed most of our meals over the next few days.

 

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Blue Moon, Goa

 

 

We deposited our bags inside our tent. Tamara left to spend some time meditating and practicing asanas by the beach while I indulged in a large glass of Italian red wine and a bottle of icy cold water on our porch, writing in my journal as the cool breeze from the ocean caressed me. Suddenly I felt a tiny pinprick of concern and I decided to go and look for her. I found Tamara sitting cross-legged on the beach, lightly dusted in sand; she was glowing and looked grounded in her centre. I looked in her eyes, smiled broadly, and said simply, Hello … welcome back.

 

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Me writing on our porch

 

 

 

We went for dinner at the restaurant, Earth. Sunil brought us the remainder of the bottle he had opened for me earlier; Tamara commenting leave it to you to find a good wine in India. I ordered Mariana Trench followed by bananas soaked in rum with ice-cream. The tastes and textures tantalized my tongue and I was finally at home in the vibrant, organic experience of India. In that moment, everything in my world felt exactly as it should be, or, rather, even more perfect than I could have hoped for or imagined.

We spent the next few days drenched in rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. We moved in and out of easy flow and challenging stickiness as we processed emotions in the present that triggered memories from the ashes of the past. At one point, watching three crows and a crab, the mysteries of the Universe seemed so simple and my muse was inspired to write a poem; something I hadn’t done in awhile.

At my favourite time of day, the time in-between day and night when the sun and moon converge in the sky and the air embodies a surreal quality, we took our yoga mats to the place where the ocean sand is greeted by a wall of forest. We practiced yoga asanas together, Tamara leading us in a tantric series with a gentle invitation to honour our bodies and relax into each posture with intention. At times, I found myself distracted by the barking of approaching dogs or the scuttling of crabs in the sand or Indian women walking by with their children, their bangles dangling merrily. I felt playful and patient, grounded and light.

 

Tamara on the beach in Goa

Tamara Dawn; namaste

 

 

The sun set on the drama and emotion, offering new beginnings, our relationship as complicated and as simple as the Universe. I prayed, as my brief time with my daughter came to an end, that she would find a way to integrate the lessons while being gentle and loving and supportive to herself inside of her vulnerability. I prayed for the insights she gained to be manifested and multiplied by the multitudes of people faced with similar situations, where vast spiritual teaching is corrupted and misused by Gurus and other people in positions of power. I prayed for my own courage, to let my daughter find her own way, remembering my purpose is to love.

So yeah, I’m feeling hopeful; digging for light in the darkness with my daughter in Goa, India.