Sunday, May 1, 2016

Elusive Progress

When I was a student of  the Japanese martial art Aiki Jujitsu I was  a terrible student for many many months.
I was slower learning than the other students, and the harder I tried, the more angry I got with myself when I couldn't learn the techniques or keep pace with the moves we were learning in class.

My sparring partner was often Udeziah Hasiki, a brown belt who was the most fluid and adept practitioner in our class. Ude could see my frustration and how my self doubt and criticism affected me. One night, when I we'd practiced a complex set of moves which I hadn't quite gotten right I was exasperated with myself. The soft spoken man held my shoulders, "Mahrtee," he said solemnly. "You ARE i m p r o v i n g. But you, you cahn not see the improvement because you are in the meedle of eet so you cahn not see eet, but we," he touched his chest, "We cahn see eet." He held my gaze to be sure I took in his words.

I could have thrown my arms around Udi. It was one of the wisest and most sensitive things anyone ever said to me.

Ude ended up having to drop out of the dojo because of work and family issues. After years of training hard I went on to earn my black belt. When our Sensei tied that belt around my waist, I had tears in my eyes and  heart for Ude. Without him cheering on my spirit when it did not know it's own strength and its own gains, I would not have received such an honour. I would have defeated myself first and not achieved one of the things of which I most proud.

So to you who  struggles to see their own gain, or power, or strength, I say, "You are in the middle of the improvement. You can not see it because you are in the middle of it. But we, we can see it."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Who am I without You?

Enjoyed an enlightening walk and talk with my pal Maegan yesterday. She's a psychologist, the mom of one of my favourite kiddos, and a great, intuitive listener. Earlier, she had adroitly observed me cleaning up after arranging some flowers for a friend in anticipation that my life partner, Dave, would not appreciate the flowers or the mess.

She pointed out that while some accommodation of others' needs is an important part of relating, one can over do it. And I, it seemed was over-accommodating. I was paying so much attention to what my partner needs/needed, that I reduced myself in the process. Hmmm, that would explain the sadness I had been experiencing. The resistance and friction with myself, and that whiff of resentment toward my sweetie.

"What's the antidote?" I asked Maegan.
"Knowing what you want." Silence from me, then the  effervescence of awareness bubbling up from my red shoes to my curly haired head. Ahhhhh. THAT explains a lot.
"You're probably stifling your creativity so that you don't mess up your house." said the divine Miss M. Of course! THAT'S IT. I have so many projects in my head but nowhere for the creative kaboom to happen without making a shambles of the home Dave and I share. He likes it tidy. So do I but I guess...

Other people's messes are always messier than our own. Or feel less tolerable to live with anyhow.

I've had a  day to reflect, and having spent a great coffee chat with my new friend, Justin, I would reshape that awareness to say, I haven't embodied what I want. My body knows that it wants to move and conjure, but the rest of me is being just too accommodating. Time to make a workshop space in the garage. Girl Cave here I come!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Facebook today I stumbled on a force of nature: Andrea Balt. Thank you Michelle Kiist for introducing me to her! I was drawn by this quote--I mean who can resist the word "weirdness":

I was then lured in by 11 Super Powers You Didn't Know You Had. #2 spoke to me and I want to work it into a collage for my office wall so that my coachees will see it behind me during our sessions:

"2. The Power of Choice. You don’t work for anyone other than your higher self. Other hierarchies are just imitation. Slavery begins in the mind and it consists in choosing to believe that you have no choice. Choice is the on/off button of our power. Every second of our life is really, just a choice to live it one way or another. There is no ultimate reality. We choose that reality time after time, based on one belief or another, which we also have the power to choose or un-choose.
The molten lava at the heart of life is nothing but raw energy. It’s up to us the way we let it burn us." Andrea Balt.
Wow. That's a good mini manifesto! Choose consciously.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My nephew, who received his drivers license last year, just gave the speech of a lifetime. It was delivered to his fellow upper-classmates at Appleby College, but really, its wisdom has a place in any classroom or boardroom. Just substitute, "this place" or "your life" any time he says Appleby and see if I'm not right.

You don't have to be a proud aunt to cry at the simple beauty of this message do you?
Ok, maybe you do, but lemme tell you I'm so proud of the person he has become. Now, when you open the door, say "Hi" and introduce yourself. The world will feel a whole lot friendlier.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lens of Mindfulness--Photography Wabi Sabi

Just listened to podcast with photographer, Freeman Patterson, talking about his shifting belief in god when at divinity school, "Everyone supported you. Everyone left you alone. Just like a good relationship--distance and intimacy. Somehow my whole sense of God changed from  an authoritarian figure to one of sustained love."

"Being deeply and profoundly concerned about meaning. A non-religious person grabs a beer and watches 16 reality shows. In other words -- escaping life not confronting it. If you are not engaged, life cannot have any depth it seems. It's being engaged. Really engaged."

Opera singer, Rebecca Haas, is an avid photographer.
Contemplative photography helped her to discover how
"Taking a picture is a chance to align the eye, the mind and the heart."

Through photography, where seeing is valued more than gadgetry, reminds us of the value of, "Seeing things just how they are, not how we want them to be.
Tune in and pay attention rather than not notice. Go deeper." 

Reminds me of Sensei talking about going into the pain when I got injured. He guided me to I enter in to find the centre of the pain and explore what started it, rather than try to close off from the pain. usually, the pain went away or greatly diminished, or became part of me instead of my focus.

Engaging in the Wabi Sabi of our lives--taking in our world unvarnished, unpolished. As it is. Without judgement. Unconditional, sustained love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Today, I got up, made potatoes and eggs, and crawled back into bed. I listened to Tapestry on CBC. The show called , "Wherever you go, there you are(n't)." Since I'd returned home to Canmore precisely one week ago from 16 months in Ontario I've been wondering, "How do I change based on where I live? How does my sense of place affect my happiness? My feeling of belonging or mattering?"

The short answer, is not the where I am that matters so much as how my sense of self in space changes how open I am to noticing love. Being in love.

When I notice my Place, I notice my Self. And when I hear my Self, I am more open to everyone and everything.

Standout moments this week:

I paced across an outdoor courtyard in downtown Calgary, a glassed-encased, office-tower warren  of sidewalks holding back growling vehicles. Through my earbud, I sheltered my friend CC from the buzz. She was in Ontario. I in Alberta. We met in a virtual, warm salon of our own conjuring somewhere in space. Our conversation strung together tassels of everyday worries and activities into fringes of hope which trimmed our souls' longings and provide comfort.

My commute home became a road less travelled when I took the old highway. Audio recording of mystic, Paulo Coelho's Brida bathed my ears and mind. Down the snowy road, wild ponies stepped onto the asphalt as if to say, "Proceed with Caution: there's wild in the domestic, and domestic in the wild".

Yesterday, I skated on Lake Louise with my pal Sly, her son and her dog. That grounded me in the grey vastness that is the Rockies. Skating is my FAVOURITE winter sport and I smiled so hard my teeth got really cold and my crows feet etched more deeply.

Later, I partied with friends at a cozy cafe who were all there to help me celebrate my return "home". My friend's band played great tunes. It all warmed me to my core.

What is "home" exactly? Where the heart is? Not so simple as my heart is scattered in pieces throughout the globe. Or to borrow from John Donne, "Gold to airy thinness beat." The flakes of my love are pounded to a fine lustre  which connects me to those I care about. The veil of connection stretched back in time and beyond death--thin, but sturdy and unbreakable.

And then there was the dream that entered my sleep just after dawn today. Someone from my long-ago-past stepped in for a moment of comfort. He seemed so forlorn that the feeling lingers long after awakening like smoke from an extinguished candle. I am there with you. Always, there.

A Facebook birthday greeting to a distant friend yielded the most  incredibly rich reply. When he read my note he coincidentally was wearing the same fleece jacket he'd worn when we met nearly a decade ago. He wrote, "As I wear this same garment, I am a different person inside the same sleeves. Life experience has reminded me more of who I have always been inside from the moment I arrived on this planet. "

That seems like a great ending to my blog and beginning to my day here "at home" in the mountains, prairies, foothills and rivers of my life. Answers arrived on the wings of a sweater, in the eyes of a pony, the smoke of dream, the breath of conversation, and the glide of a blade across ice. Wow. It was a good week.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


"Much of education is oriented toward making a living instead of making a life." Dr. Roger Walsh. 

In his wonderful TEDxUniversityofNevada talk "Hackschooling Makes Me Happy." Logan La Plante introduces the happiness research of Dr. Walsh. (It's worth watching the 13 minutes video--especially with your kids). 

"When I grow up, I want to be happy." Logan says, and presents Dr. Walsh's 8 key TLC's or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes as the user guide.

  1. Exercise
  2. Diet and Nutrition
  3. Time in Nature
  4. Relationships
  5. Relaxation and stress management
  6. Recreation
  7. Religious or Spiritual Involvement
  8. Service to Others or Contribution

So many of us are oriented toward making a living instead of making a life. In the juggling of priorities, the happiness ball keeps falling on the ground and rolling under the couch where it lies forgotten--along with dust bunnies and stale popcorn. 

What if juggling priorities is the wrong way of going about being happy? What if leading a happy life is more like making (and eating) a really good picnic in which there are the most delicious ingredients eaten in good company in a gorgeous, quiet setting? 

We tend to think This or That, rather than This AND That. I can make money or be home with my kids. I can work hard or have good relationships. But maybe the key is to blend or stack. "How can I do this and that and that and this? How can I build a good career and be happy and work with people I like and get outside during the day and contribute and pray and have fun?".

In healthy lives and companies, there is evidence of people blending what makes them happy into their work lives. There are walking and running groups where coworkers run through parkland at lunch. Or meal-shares where colleagues take turns bringing healthy lunches for each other. "Cone of silence" drinks where concerns are shared and worked through. Yoga classes, massage, meditation groups or sleep pods for de-stressing. Mentoring, volunteerism and fundraising campaigns build relationships and spirits while in service to others. Some, like the Mustard Seed combine TLC's by making delicious food in service to the homeless.

Hmm. You don't have to change things up too much to make life just a bit better. 

To help shift my thinking and doing, I'll make myself a report card using the 8 TLC's as headings and post it here when I'm done. At the start of each week, I'll look at where I'm feeding my happiness on all 8 fronts, then report back in to myself at the end of the week. Maybe I will get my boyfriend, and my mom and dad to do it with me? Want to join me? Who can you bring along on your lifestyle hack?