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 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 Called to Action, Ready to Speak Up for Women’s Equality and be a Feminist

Thursday, March 08, 2018 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is the Time is Now.

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Around the world events are being run by women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, political parties and media. In London they are celebrating women in Technology; in Alberta the focus is on influential women. Brisbane is hosting a fun run while Melbourne’s theme is 1000 Women, 1000 Futures. In Vancouver they are presenting Making the Case for Women’s Equality: Reframing a Hyper-Sexualized and Pornographic Culture. In Ontario they are hosting a Shefights amateur Mathai event; in Dubai there is a women’s Art Expo and in Nigeria the main event features Fashion Business. The possibilities to get involved are myriad, with something to inspire everyone.

The Women’s March movement has shown endurance from its inception, with more than 120,000 protestors gathering in New York City advocating for causes from reproductive freedom to immigrant’s rights. According to a statement made in Vox on January 20, 2018, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Movements like #MeToo and #PressforProgress are calls to action to end patriarchy and support gender parity.

The lack of gender parity in education is one of the most important situations that needs to be addressed. It continues to be a significant factor in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, Africa, and Afghanistan, to name a few. In a powerful Ted Talk titled, To Learn is To be Free, Shameem Akhtar advocates for change in opportunities for education in Pakistan. Shameen is a trailblazer for a woman’s right to an education in her community. Posing as a boy to receive her own education, her success planted the seeds of change for other women and girls.

 

Global Sisterhood is a movement of women devoted to transforming themselves and transforming the world together. Their vision is one of a world where women respect, trust, and uplift each other.

You don’t have to join a movement to make a difference though. You can start right now, by making a conscious choice to empower the women in your community. You can notice when you think or speak judging statements and reframe them, choosing to practice compassion and empathy instead.

Currently I’m reading Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara. One of the activities in the work book was to explore female role models in your life with the goal of identifying their qualities that inspire you. My list was long, but my top three were Oprah, Margaret Atwood, and Brene Brown. Oprah for her awareness and commitment to make a difference, Margaret for the power of her voice in the written word, and Brene for her willingness to be vulnerable and address social issues. It is my wish to embody those attributes in my commitment to myself and to making change in the world.

Living as an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed incredible change since my arrival in May of 2015, and progress for women is no exception. In October 2017 King Salman decreed women would be allowed to drive, to be effective in June 2018. Women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study or make complaints. There are more women in the workforce. Recently I read an article where a religious cleric advocated that women should no longer be required to wear abayas; that it should be a choice.

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Choice, freedom, and equality are the central themes of feminism. Unfortunately, the ideology of feminism has been given a bad reputation. Some men who feel threatened by women reclaiming their power would have you believe that all feminists are lesbian man-haters, but these ridiculous statements are merely smokescreens to distract men and women from creating real and honest change. Writer and self-proclaimed feminist, Ngozi Adichie, speaks passionately in her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. She urges us all to be begin to dream about and plan for a better world, where men and women all take a stand for equality and women no longer need to shrink themselves to feed a man’s ego.

 

It isn’t only women who suffer from the restraints of a patriarchal legacy. Men suffer too. They are driven to be hard, macho, insensitive and unfeeling. They are told not to cry and to buck up. Men need to be given the space to embrace their fullness as human beings. They are so much more than the genetic result of the y chromosome.

As for me, I feel called to contribute using the talents and gifts I have been given. I choose to be a positive advocate for change by using my most powerful tool, which is my voice. I choose to speak my truth, to be open and honest in my conversations. I will continue to write my blogs and write my books. I will not tone myself down to make other people more comfortable.

I choose to change the world by changing mine. To quote Maya Angelou, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” I may not be a young girl, but I’ve still got some ass-kicking left in me.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to action, ready to speak up for women’s equality and be a feminist.

Feeling Devastated, Wanting to Speak Up About How to Identify and Recognize Predators

I woke up sometime after midnight. Hot. Anxious. I checked my phone and there was a message: We need you.”

Within 24 hours I was on a plane.

As it turned out, we all needed each other.  A family secret was uncovered that had us all instantly and thoroughly plunged deep into the darkness, having to somehow wade through the horrifying details. I can’t be more forthcoming; it is still too raw, too unresolved. It was and is the single most agonizing time of my life.

The feelings. An anvil of heaviness, of guilt and shame, sitting on my chest, crushing my heart. My mind exploding in agony, trying to reconcile what I thought was my life with what is. My spirit, crushed, with the shame, anger, grief, regret and despair. These are only a few. They stay with me, my first thoughts upon rising, my last before sleep. They even haunt my dreams.

Despite everything, or perhaps because of, I was blown away by the integrity, courage, and solidarity of my family. I know that in time there will be healing. I don’t know if there will ever be any earthly justice. But I do know that each when the time is right I’m ready to speak my truth, go to battle, and be a warrior in the fight to bring down the patriarchal legacies of abuse and power.

I took inspiration from Oprah’s Golden Globe speech where she addressed a myriad of issues. She talked about the media’s insatiable dedication to uncover the truth and expose corruption and injustice. She called out to the tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. She spoke about the MeToo movement.

 

The words that Oprah spoke which impacted me the most were, “What I know for sure: speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” When Oprah concluded that “their time is up,” and that survivors overcome because they have an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning even during their darkest nights, I took solace. Oprah proclaimed, “A new day is on the horizon,” and that “we will fight for a time when nobody has to say ‘me too’ again.”

I wrote about my own MeToo story in my blog, Feeling Anything but Shocked, Compelled to Action by the MeToo Movement.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in The Women Who Run with the Wolves about the archetype of the wild woman, of our feminine instinctive nature and the Life/Death/Life force. She identifies the wild woman as the one who thunders after injustice and maintains that the remedies for repair are contained in stories.

Estes writes about the natural predator, the most deceitful and powerful fugitive. She tells the story of Bluebeard, the dark man, the innate predator, who fools the naïve woman with his false charm. He is filled with a heartless pursuit of the light of others and to restrain him it is necessary for women to remain in possession of all of their instinctual powers.

Many women have lived the Bluebeard tale, including me. They enter into relationships while they are still naïve or are have injured instincts and they choose someone who is destructive to their lives. They are determined to cure that person with love. My bluebeard even tried to warn me once, admitting he cared for no one but himself, but I refused to believe his confession, thinking I could love him into rekindling the light I imagined still lived inside him.

Predators desire superiority and power over others. It is unfortunately the harsh reality that all beings – young and old, male and female – must learn that predators exist and look to understand the predator so that they are not vulnerable out of naiveté, inexperience or foolishness.

Clarissa states, “when a woman is attempting to avoid the facts of her own devastation her night dreams are likely to shout out warnings.” This was true for me. When I was first dating my Bluebeard, I had a vision of a wolf coming to my window. I didn’t know at the time what the wolf signified in my own psyche; I discovered much later, in therapy, that the wolf represented the sexual predator of my childhood. I didn’t have the teachings. I didn’t trust my intuition. I was vulnerable.

In, The Women Who Run with the Wolves, Estes describes how to retrieve and restore intuition:

  • Expose yourself to the shadows and navigate the dark
  • Be your authentic self, even if it causes you to be exiled by many others
  • Feed your intuition by listening to your heart
  • Respect great power and recognize your power as a woman
  • Live and learn
  • Honour your cycles
  • Learn fine discrimination and discernment
  • Observe and learn about the Life/Death/Life cycles
  • Trust that some things belong to God
  • Refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies, opinions, thoughts and values

In our society, we do the opposite. Instead of educating our girls we train them to be nice and ‘make pretty’, which causes them to override their intuitions. This must end now. We need to dismantle the predators by maintaining our intuitions and instincts and resisting the predator’s seductions. We also need to learn to recognize the predators who live amongst us.

Which brings me back to my story, my truth. I was absolutely and completely shocked that I did not recognize my predator. But in the time since my discovery I have become educated. First of all, predators who prey on children are most likely a male in your family. We’ve done a great job teaching about ‘stranger danger’ and warning our children about men in vehicles offering candy. But that is a myth. Child predators gain access to their victims by carefully constructing facades that fool us into trusting them. They are master manipulators and cunning concealers.

Predators by the very nature of their sickness should be identified as sociopaths. They possess a clear disregard for the feelings of others and have the ability to lie in order to achieve their goals. When they do something wrong they accept no responsibility but instead they blame others or circumstances. They are often delusional to the point they believe their lies are truth. They lack emotional empathy and are great at charming people. They understand human weakness (and who more vulnerable than a child) and exploit it maximally. They use diversion tactics as smoke screens. They think they are superior. They are selfish, needy, and often highly intelligent.

If someone you know demonstrates several of these tendencies, you should consider them red flags. An appropriate response would be to cut them out of your life completely, but at the very least you should do some investigating.

I ignored the red flags. I fell for the manipulations and lies. He offered evidence of his true character in a drunken confession, but I toned it down and tried to bury it. I was sickened and disgusted. I wanted to leave. But I was afraid. I sought counselling and was advised that it wasn’t appropriate to condemn him for a disclosure that was a thought, not an action. And it is something I will forever regret.

I felt ashamed that I was duped, but as I dug into the issue of child predators I discovered that it isn’t just us who are naïve and trusting who get fooled. In fact, lawyers and judges in our legal system make these errors in judgement too. A devastating example is the recent case reported in the news in Victoria, Canada.

A judge ordered shared custody despite reported violence and sexual abuse and now two little girls are dead. Andrew Berry, the father, filed for shared custody. The mother, Sarah Cotton, fought against him in Supreme Court for five days before the judge declared, “this is not a case where family violence is a significant factor,” and proceeded to grant shared custody. This decision was made despite knowing that Andrew Berry had a previous restraining order and two investigations by the Ministry of Children and Family Development for inappropriate touching.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/father-charged-with-two-counts-of-second-degree-murder-in-deaths-of-bc-sisters/article37490258/

A complete opposite conviction was ordered in the case of the judge who, disgusted with his abuse of power and privilege, sentenced Larry Nassar for up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts.

As I endeavoured to identify the predators amongst us I conducted a search on Ted, one of my favourite forums. I found an interesting talk by Pamela Meyer titled, How to Spot a Liar that gave me a few more tips to add to my growing file. Apparently, when giving a statement, liars will use more formal language than usual, will use distancing language such as that woman (think Bill Clinton) or the boy, the child, and they use qualifying language like, in all candor. Liars sometimes have body language slips like freezing their upper bodies. You can fake a smile with your lips, but not your eyes, so if their smile doesn’t reach their eyes, it is likely inauthentic. And there is often a discrepancy between their words and actions.

 

Of course, these again, are only red flags, not proof. But as in the markers for sociopaths, if someone in your family or circle of friends displays these lying tendencies, it is worthwhile to at least conduct an investigation.

Brene Brown is one of my role models who speaks the truth even when it is uncomfortable. On Super Soul Sunday she spoke out about sexual abuse and shame. She stated that victims keep sexual abuse a secret from a feeling of shame, but secrecy, silence and judgment allow the abuse to continue. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she talks about facing the challenging social injustices of our time with, “a strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

 

So yeah, I’m feeling devastated, wanting to speak up about how to identify and recognize predators.

Feeling Curious, Wondering How Shifting from Me to We Might Impact Humanity

My last blog was about learning to trust in the truth of my authentic self. Now I’m switching gears, making a total one eighty. Because my awareness of my own truth has drawn me into exploring how my purpose contributes to the big picture of human destiny.

I refuse to buy into the doom and gloom predictions of the naysayers who claim that humankind is not evolving. Frustrated with current challenges, it is all too easy to become nostalgic for the good old days. In my opinion, going backwards is never the way forward. We need to learn from history while at the same time forging ahead into a bright new future.

According to Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, the key to facing the future is to move from focusing on self to considering others. In his Ted talk, “How We Can Face the Future Without Fear, Sacks addresses three components of this shift: relationship, identity and responsibility.

 

When we get to know people who are not like us we grow in our understanding of what it means to be human. Sacks believes in the power of sharing our stories, extolling the view that a strong identity of ourselves as part of a community is what allows us to not feel threatened by the ideas and values of others. He urges us to take responsibility, quoting powerfully, “We, the people.”

The far-right dreams of a golden age that never existed and the far-left dreams of a utopia that will never be; a divided society misses out on the powerful opportunity to work together towards creating a reality that most likely lies somewhere in-between.

While sitting in the modest and excessively air-conditioned lounge in the Panama City airport, Mister and I had the pleasure of making just such an acquaintance; with an “other.” The fellow in question struck up a conversation with us that was incredibly interesting. An American hailing originally from conservative Vermont, currently living in liberal San Diego, and sharing our passion for Panama, his ideas defied stereotypes of Americans, particularly in this age of Trump leadership and divided politics.

The American was also a scientist and globalist. He shared informed opinions on a wide range of topics, from new experiments involving correcting diseased DNA to the lack of integrity, among other qualities, demonstrated by President Trump. Listening to his enthusiastic vision of a future where resources are shared globally, I couldn’t help but wonder if the current state of political corruption might be the catalyst that has people from all nations join forces to create a better future.

What constitutes a better future is a matter of opinion, but viewing Robert Waldinger’s Ted Talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” leads us in the same direction, from me to us. In a 75- year study of adult development conducted by Harvard University the conclusion they reached was that good quality, close relationships keep us happier and healthier.  It wasn’t money, fame, hard-work, or education. It wasn’t success of self, but success in sustaining strong connections with others.

 

The Truth Inside of You is an inspiring news feed I follow and recently I viewed two great posts. The first featured a Denmark advertisement for diversity that demonstrated the power of dismantling our labels to discover what we all have in common and then work together to achieve.

 

 

The second post documented how a boy’s perception of his father changed when he learned how much his father sacrificed of himself to make a difference in the lives of sick children. Putting the happiness of others before his own brought a richness to his father’s life that his son never appreciated until after his father passed away, which unfortunately is so often the case. We take for granted the relationships we have until we lose them.

 

Chatting with my daughter the other night, our conversation typically dynamic and philosophical, she casually mentioned that Craig Kielburger, a Canadian social activist, humanitarian and inspirational speaker, was on the same plane as her. I couldn’t help but be present to the synchronicity and excitedly told her that I was currently writing a blog about exactly what Craig and his brother, Marc, stand for.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are cofounders of a social enterprise that includes the We Movement, We Charity, Me to We, and We Day. Beginning at the age of twelve, these men were drawn to change the world by empowering kids to help kids. They set about investing in young people internationally and through their leadership have grown their not for profit organization into a vast global enterprise. Their message is that every person’s contribution is an impact that leaves a legacy.

https://www.metowe.com/speakers-bureau/craig-kielburger/

One of the inspirational visionaries that Craig and Marc give credit to is Oprah. Regardless of your opinion of her, there can be no doubt as to the impact she has made on the world through her works, charities, and enlightened journalism. In a powerful speech on Goalcast, Oprah furthers this idea of legacy, stating powerfully that “your legacy is every life you’ve touched.”

 

When I wrote about trying to discover my dharma, I postulated how my mandate to create meaningful relationships by encouraging and supporting others might be my purpose. It would seem that my legacy just might be exactly that – every life I’ve touched.

Some of us, like Oprah and the Kielburger brothers, touch millions of people with their vision, inspiring people all over the globe. Others, like myself, touch only a few. The number doesn’t really matter. We all have a different path to follow. We must trust in our journey and move our focus from ourselves to others. We, the people, can work together to achieve a common goal of a happier, healthier, future for all of us.

So yeah, I’m feeling curious, wondering how shifting from me to we might impact humanity

 

Feeling like I’m Going Around in Circles, Trying to Discover my Dharma

I began this soul-searching quest long before I’d ever heard of the term Dharma, but desperate to discover its existence none-the-less.

My initial query into the realms of living a purposeful life began in my early thirties. I was in a challenging marriage. I had three children. Money was tight. I felt overwhelmed. Watching Oprah one afternoon, the baby asleep, the toddler busy crafting and the eldest at school, folding what seemed like a never-ending flow of laundry, the tiniest of sparks was ignited. Oprah was interviewing Sarah Ban Breathnach and they were discussing the topic her book, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self. Inspired, I bought the book, along with an artist’s sketchbook, a towering pile of glossy magazines, and a fresh package of pencil crayons. I went about digging into my past, trying to resurrect my identity through photos and memories and compilations of artistic endeavours.

I suffered a severe depressive episode in 2007. Despite having made some discoveries and even making some changes in how I lived, I was still trying (and unsuccessfully I may add) to please others. The daily denial of my very identity, as well as unprocessed traumas from the past, left me experiencing thoughts of suicide and hopelessness. During my recovery, the spark I’d identified years earlier expanded. I awakened, again, to the knowledge that I had to make some profound changes. I knew I had to unearth my authentic self once again.

In 2015 my interest piqued again. This time, thankfully, the journey of self-discovery was not triggered by depression. It was activated by a series of life events that had me curious about what path my life would take next. I was in transition, no longer teaching, and yearning to change directions. I was looking for insight into how my talents might manifest into a new career. I picked up a copy of Ken Robinson’s Finding Your Element and began to devour the readings and complete the activities with earnest.

While I appreciated the insights I gained around my aptitudes, attitudes, passions and opportunities, the answer didn’t announce itself to me with dazzling clarity. Frankly, I was still just as muddled up and confused as when I began. It seems that I have been gifted with a plethora of lovely gifts, but none of them stands out as “the one.” I have many talents and interests, dreams and desires, but none seems more pressing or important than another.

So, I carried on as people do, still confused, yet happy enough engaging in a multitude of different tasks. I filled my days with a variety of writing projects I have on the go, household chores, trying out new recipes, exercising, and engaging with family and friends. Then a close friend of mine invited me to join a book study of Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life. I was back on the hamster wheel, running, or perhaps sauntering, in search of my apparent greatness.

From the start, I was irritated by this book, which seemed to hold forth as its premise a promise of being able to discern your dharma if only you look to it. Inspired by the dialogue between Krishna (God) and Arjuna (a human warrior) in the ancient and sacred texts of the Bhagavad Gita, I felt certain that my dharma would finally be revealed to me. But alas, I felt even further confused as the examples held forth of great lives seemed too magnificent and grandiose.

The women in my group felt similarly challenged, finding the examination of the lives of famous artists like Beethoven and Emerson daunting. The flavour was patriarchal, despite the inclusion of women like Susan B. Anthony and Jane Goodall. These women devoted their entire lives to their causes. The important work of raising families and being wives and mothers didn’t seem to be acknowledged. As women, each of us present felt drawn and divided. Laughing, we quoted the song by Meredith Brooks, I’m a Bitch.

 

After reading the first three pillars of dharma, we were gathered together for discussion and Kim shared with us a video by Adam Leipzig titled How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes that was illuminating for her. She found his road-map to finding your purpose useful, while I got derailed with the statement, “What do you feel supremely qualified to teach other people?” I was educated and worked for over twenty years a teacher in a variety of educational settings, but none of my life experiences left me feeling supremely qualified.

 

As it turns out, it isn’t uncommon to find it difficult to discern your own area of supreme qualification. It is often a skill that comes so naturally and easily, the fact that you didn’t need to work your ass off to obtain it obscures it. Sometimes your dharma isn’t so easily identified because it doesn’t manifest as a career or calling, but as a way you live your life. My friends encouraged me to let my feelings, not my thinking, guide me.

I finished reading the book. I meditated. I prayed. I tried to let it go, claiming, who cares anyway? I’m living my life! I’m happy! But it is next to impossible for me to lie to anyone, let alone myself, and I couldn’t shake this grasping need to know the answer to the question, what is the purpose of my birth?

One evening my Mister and I were scrolling through possible Ted Talks when my eye was drawn to a presentation by Elizabeth Lesser titled, Say Your Truths and Seek Them in Others. She shared, among many poignant stories, a truth that was revealed to her when she was a mid-wife delivering babies; that we’re all born completely unique. At birth, we are certain of our magnificence and shine in our authenticity. Then we are socialized into covering up our differences and attempting to conform. She challenged viewers to uncover their souls, challenge themselves to stay open during painful life situations, and look for the sacred awe.

 

Exploring my feelings, I recognized that what has always held the most meaning for me in my life are connections with people. Not the fluffy exchange of niceties we practice in polite passing, but the powerfully, fully engaged and meaningful sharing of souls. When I looked back on my life, I noticed that the benchmarks I valued weren’t when I graduated from University or started teaching in a new placement or bought a new home. They were all about relationships. When my children were born. When my father died. When I married. When the adoption was granted. And how I felt in all the little moments, when I saw souls bared naked before me, and felt, in return, seen.

And so, I finally arrived, if there is such a thing, at an answer that feels good enough. Kim, you will be happy to know I completed my homework assignment. It’s a little bit late, and I’ll probably even change my mind, but this is my elevator pitch: I create meaningful relationships by encouraging and supporting others to express their authentic thoughts and emotions.

So yeah, I’m feeling like I’ve been going around in circles, trying to discover my dharma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Passionate About the Rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day

 

When I was on Vancouver Island in January I was gifted with the opportunity to attend a Celebrating Your Sacred Divinity Workshop. Led by my talented daughter, Scarlet and her friend, Jayde, it was an intimate gathering held at the Matrea Centre in Duncan. After introductions and making a commitment of confidentiality we were led through a series of experiences and postures. It was empowering and had me feeling grateful and honoured to be a woman.

Then, a few weeks ago, my attention was drawn to a series of posts Scarlet shared on Facebook highlighting the Global Sisterhood synchronized meditation that is taking place today, March 8, 2017. I contacted her to ask more about it and checked out the post in more detail. The objective of the meditation is, “transforming ourselves and transforming the world –  together.” Last year there were over 650 circles in 65 countries world wide. The Global Sisterhood is working to bring women together to transform jealousy, competition, gossip, shame and exclusivity and heal through unity. In the Circle, everyone is equal and sacred.

https://www.facebook.com/Global-Sisterhood-315309372198226/?fref=ts

I decided I wanted to be a part of the collective experience so I asked the women in my book study if they were interested. They agreed, and when I set about determining what the Circle might look like my thoughts were taken back to the first International Women’s Day I participated in. I was teaching in a special education setting for girls with emotional and behavioural challenges. The girls I taught were marginalized; victims of the cycle of mental illness, poverty, and a lack of education. They were often difficult to engage, but not that day.

We began the lesson with a circle. We borrowed one of the Aboriginal Nations customs of smudging to cleanse ourselves and the classroom. We lit candles and held hands and sat in silent communion and support of one another, honouring everyone there. After our brief meditation, I shared a TED Talk on the Smart Board, featuring the powerful Eve Ensler. The title was Embrace Your Inner Girl, and they did just that.

https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=Embrace+Your+Inner+Girl

The girls listened and viewed the presentation with rapt attention, as Eve Ensler described girl’s ability to survive and overcome adversity. Before it finished, they were erupting into a volcano of chatter, joining Eve enthusiastically with their exclamations, “I am an emotional creature,” “You don’t tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave,” and “I love being a girl.” It was a joy to witness these young women come alive with excitement, celebrating their girl cell. They left behind, if only for a moment, their hyped-up sexual grasping for control for something so much more pure and powerful.

My wish is to share a list of inspiring women, hoping to light up readers with the same kind of passion and excitement that was palpable in my classroom that day. Women still have a long way to go to achieve their full glory and equality with men, but there are remarkable strides being made with courageous women blazing the trail.

My list of women who have been the most influential on me must begin with Oprah. Born into poverty, she has since been ranked the richest African-American and the greatest black philanthropist in American history. When I was a young mother of three, struggling to balance work with raising a family, watching Oprah often lifted my spirits. When I saw her interview Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, I was inspired to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a writer. And then there were all her give-aways, charities and foundations. Mister bought us tickets to hear her speak at a live show in Vancouver in 2013, which has become one of my fondest, bucket list kind of memories.

 

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Meryl Streep is another woman I look up to. In the world of Hollywood, with all the gossip and competitiveness, she is not only outrageously talented, but conducts herself with integrity. I’ve also listened to many speeches made by Michelle Obama. She is another example of a woman who rose above her circumstances through hard work and determination. Women like Princess Diana, Toni Morrison, Mother Theresa, Brene Brown, Emma Watson, Adele and Beyoncé. They have all touched my heart with their passion and commitment to make a difference in the world.

https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=Michelle+Obama

On a personal level, there are many non-famous women who inspire me to be my best and reach my highest purpose. My mom set an example for me, raising me with open and accepting attitudes that were years ahead of her time. She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, was adamant that I could do anything, and loved me unconditionally. My mother-in-law is a woman I respect deeply as well. She is a woman who acts with integrity and discipline and who raised her four boys to be strong, sensitive, and confident men.

My daughters are all amazing women, each with their own special talent and contribution to their community. Scarlet is a social worker who works with passion and determination to empower youth who struggle with addiction. She is a loving, dedicated mom who is always challenging herself to be her best in that most precious and important role. Tamara is an artist who refuses to be identified by a label and is constantly reinventing and rediscovering how to show up authentically in the world. She’s passionate about her role in the collective consciousness of the world and uses her talents as a writer, artist, yogi and spiritualist to make a difference. Kara is a young woman of incredible resilience and intelligence. She is a self-described highly sensitive person who demonstrates deep compassion and empathy for other people.

Then there are my friends. Carol is a Yogi who emulates deep wisdom and a gentle heart. She is an incredibly vibrant, healthy, and beautiful woman who inspires me to embrace being over fifty with grace. Kim is a woman who I look up to for her fierce expression of the Goddess. She is a self-confessed woman of many faces, and it’s hard to decide which expression of herself I am most fond of.  Anne Marie is another woman who dares to be outstanding and doesn’t let anything, including her age, stop her. Newly retired from a brilliant career as a lawyer, she still finds energy to work as a consultant in conflict resolution, practice yoga, and be an integral part of her social community.

Currently, there is a plethora of Women’s Movements working for change in the world. Be Girl is a social enterprise focused on empowering women. NFCC International, based in Nepal, is empowering women and girls and ensuring human rights through support in education and work opportunities. Miss Heard Magazine is a submission-based digital start up magazine created by teen girls for teen girls. There’s U.N. Women, Women for Women International, WOCAN, and Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, just to name a few.

For more inspiration, you can check out TED Talks, which features an array of internationally acclaimed speakers. Some of my favourites include Brene Brown’s: The Power of Vulnerability, an interesting perspective on human connection and our ability to empathize, belong and love. I also found Amy Cuddy’s: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are to be a thought-provoking study on the effects of what she terms power posing. Jill Bolte Taylor’s: My Stroke of Insight is an astonishing story of the many complex functions of the brain.

As Eve Ensler stated so eloquently, women are the key to the world’s healing. Ultimately, the very survival of humanity and the Earth is at stake. Our emotions call us into action and our passions ignite change. The time for the Rising Global Sisterhood is now. The time for women to be regarded with respect, dignity, and equality, is now. The time for women to thrive in roles of leadership is now.

So yeah, I’m feeling passionate about the rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day.