Keep on Truckin’

Inspiring Message of the Day: Life is like exercising. When in the middle of it, when we start to get tired we think, “I can’t go on.” This is a trick of the mind! Instead say, “I am willing to go on. I am willing to move forward!” Then let the Power of Forward Movement carry you ahead. It will!

Help

Inspiring Message of the Day: One of the most difficult things to do is to ask for help. Somewhere along the way we began to believe it was better to “go it alone”. But help is available, in more ways than one. Asking for help when we need it, whether from a Divine or Human Source, will swiftly bring it on!

The Five-Minute Rule

Inspiring Message of the Day: We think we don’t have time to do things. But we do have five minutes. Today I will do something for five minutes that I think I don’t have time to do.

Joy

Dearest Readers,

I often blog when I am struggling and need to reach out, to connect, to remind myself that I am not alone. I don’t often post when things are going swimmingly and I am living a life I love and cultivating joy.

Currently, I am in such a place. It is wonderful when the inner work pays off and we get to experience the absolute glory of being alive.

Thank you all for being a part of this journey. I send you love and encouragement to keep moving forward with Guidance.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I do the deep work of cultivating courage and when I put my healing first I will be rewarded with experiences of true Peace and Love.

Willing to Live

Dearest Readers,

This post is for you if you are feeling overwhelmed, run down by life, paralyzed by fear, stuck in a rut, cynical, helpless, hopeless. I would like you to know that you are not alone.

Before I go on, I would like to preface what I am about to say by telling you that I have a great life. I am young, healthy, talented, loved, and pretty cute. AND I struggle with anxiety and fear. So despite the fact that I have enormous amounts of abundance and opportunities for joy in my life I go to bed some nights and wake up some days in cold, naked, fear.

Last night was one of those nights and this morning was one of those mornings.

When I went to bed last night I told myself that when the cat pounced on me at 5:30 the next day I would not go back to bed after getting up to feed him. I would do the morning routine and embrace the day. I was determined because I knew that if I didn’t, if I let the fear plague me it would end up driving the bus of my day and I would sink deeper into the mire.

So this morning at 5:30 a.m., right on schedule, “Pounce!” The cat jumped on me and began his mournful sing-song to waken me. Guess what? I ignored him. I pulled the covers over my head and stuck a finger in my ear.

Fear: 1, Celia: 0

Now because I am aware of my shortcomings, because I am aware that I rebel against my Highest Good, because I well know that I get in my own way more often than I care to admit, I did not stop there. I did not let the fear win.

Despite myself, I began to ask for help. Buried under those covers with a finger in my ear listening to the cat cry for his breakfast I began to pray like a motherlover.

“I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. It’s too much. Please help me. Please forgive me. Please give me the strength and courage to pull my covers off and sit up and get up and feed the cat and start the morning routine and live the day. I don’t want to because I’m afraid but I’m willing. Give me the courage, please, I need strength, please help me.”

I kept on like that for some time. I just kept on. Then out came the finger. Off came the covers. I sat up. I got up. I fed the cat. I splashed water on my face and drank water. Life-giving water. I felt relief.

Celia:1, Fear: 0

I began the morning routine, entering into deeper prayer and meditation. I did a yoga practice. I WENT FOR A JOG. IN THE RAIN. When I got back I picked raspberries from the bush in our yard for breakfast.

Miracles all.

Somewhere around the five-minute mark into the jog (those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning will be most impressed for I began hauling myself up an outdoor staircase two years ago to build cardio activity into my life and nearly had a heart attack) I began to feel better. The fear began to lift and I could feel my energy changing. Hallelujah.

For a person who is gripped by fear or anxiety the most difficult thing in the world to do is to get up off the proverbial couch. And yet it is the absolute solution to the problem. We must get up off the couch and step into our lives for the fear to lift, for things to change, for the miracle of thankfulness to overtake the dread. And yet how? How do we do that when we are paralyzed?

Ask. Ask for the strength and courage. Beg for it if you have to. It will come. It. Will. Come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I am willing to live despite my fear. I am willing to move forward with love in my heart. I’m terrified of what lies ahead and life feels too big for me to handle. But I’m willing because I trust the shift will come and when it does I will be returned to thankfulness and inner peace, which is my true state of being.

Love the One You’re With

Dearest Readers,

How much time do you spend wishing someone you love would change? Just a little bit. Or a lot. If he/she would only do this differently or do things the way I do them. He/she would be so much better that way! Or so much better off. Wouldn’t they? According to me they would. Because I know best. I know what he/she needs to do.

For most of my life I’ve lived with this Voice of Judgment in my head. It’s been a long haul to rid myself of it and still it comes back, like an old friend (or a bad rash), trying to drive the bus of my life, trying to dictate my relationships with others.

What I know from past experience is that this particular part of me gets fired up not because I’m an unkind and judgmental person but because I am feeling unsafe or vulnerable in some way. This part of me has been my protector, my defense against intimacy, my excuse to remain an outsider, different and therefore superior.

So I usually need some self-care first. Send reassurance to this part of myself. Take gentle and kind actions. Self-love and self-forgiveness are in order. And then I need to remember that just as I am not perfect neither is anyone else. And as I walk this Healing Path and gain the kind of humility required to own and accept my humanity I start to become a part of my fellow humans rather than apart from.

A friend of mine is currently struggling with a situation and my temptation is to tell this person what to do. Because I know what’s best, see? I know the answer and this person should do what I think is right. Right? Wrong. So how do I deal with this? What do I do with the temptation to control, to judge, to dictate?

A quote by Thomas Merton, a great writer and a monk of the last century, has been my steadfast guide:

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.”

Isn’t that beautiful? And juste. I just love it. It’s been so helpful to me. Let someone be exactly who he is. Let her be herself. If I try to change him to fit me that means I’ll only love him when he becomes more like I am! Ridiculous. And so true.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t make helpful suggestions to her if she is struggling. I can offer him support and encouragement. I can provide her with experience, strength and hope. I can respond to him with compassion while pointing out alternative routes. But I cannot do any of this if my motivation is to “twist” or control or change. It’s not my job.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My job as a friend is to let my friends and loved ones be exactly who they are. I will trust that the path each person is on is exactly the right path and I will let Higher Guidance do the steering.

Shame Culture

Dearest Readers,

On the morning of Thursday, June 16th I arrived in Vancouver for meetings regarding the latest creative project I’m working on. It was a beautiful sunny day but a cloud was hanging over the city. The night before, riots had rocked the downtown core after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.

Everywhere I went people were talking about what had happened. Most were disgusted, some were saddened, all seemed to be in shock. The city itself felt like it was steeped in shame.

When I walked by the storefronts that had been destroyed and looted by the ones who lost control I saw something I did not expect to see. People had gathered together to clean up. Scores of young and old were picking up garbage, sweeping up glass and scrubbing the black soot from the fires off the sides of buildings. Vancouverites were washing the dirt of anger clean away.

The boards that had been erected where window glass had been smashed were now covered in a new kind of graffiti. Words of love and encouragement, apologies and remorseful reflections, poems of positivity and sonnets of strength. “We love you Vancouver.” “The Canucks came in second. How awesome is that?” “We’re sorry.”

As I walked by the scene I was struck by a wonderful sense of hope. How powerful is the Human Spirit’s desire for good, for order, for right action and right thinking!

Yesterday, on my way back home after a weekend program at the Naramata Centre, I passed through Vancity again. This time the news headlines announced “One million photos turned in to the police.” People were continuing their efforts at trying to restore justice to the chaos of what had happened.

One young man had come forward, turned himself in, and issued a public apology. Instead of honouring him for doing that, he and his family were being threatened. They fled the city, fearing injury or death. The young man’s lawyer made a comment that the same mob mentality that created the riots was now unfolding in the realm of social media, where people were now vilifying this kid and his earlier actions. His shame was not enough. “Shame him further!”

Why? What gives us the right to shame another person? To decide how much shame a person has to feel before he is forgiven?

As a person who has spent years recovering from shame-based thinking I am more and more appalled by its negative repercussions on our culture. I would go so far as to say we are a shame-based culture. “Shame on you.” “You ought to be ashamed.” Our individual shame keeps us imprisoned in harsh self-judgment and judgment of others. Our collective shame keeps us isolated from our fellows, segregated from other cultures, prejudiced and fearful of the unknown.

How can we respond with compassion to those who have acted in harmful and destructive ways? How can we practice forgiveness when someone says they are sorry? How can we employ acceptance and tolerance when we encounter human behaviour that frightens us? How can we seek to understand rather than be understood?

When we point our finger at a fellow human being we must look down at our own hand and see that there are three fingers pointing back in our direction. We have all done things for which we are ashamed. This means we do not have the right to shame another.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My desire for a perfect world with perfect people is so big that it makes me see others as small. Help me to recognize that we are broken people and that we all need healing. Help me to respond with compassion.

Home Run

Dearest Readers,

A cousin of mine recently dug up some old home movies and sent a DVD copy my way. My immediate family didn’t have a video camera so I haven’t ever seen any live footage of myself from my childhood. Pictures, yes. Moving pictures, no.

So there I was, no longer a child but not yet a teenager, captured on video and suddenly brought to life on the computer screen. All I’ve ever had of those days are memories that play out in the recesses of my mind. Now they were before me, vivid and tangible. The year was 1983.

The clip I saw was a family baseball game at my grandparents farm.  After the novelty wore off (seeing the past come to life is pretty cool) I found the footage difficult to watch. There before me was the girl I used to be. And it wasn’t pretty.

I pushed my youngest sister aside when she tried to help me play catcher. I refused my other young sister’s pitches because they weren’t up to my standards. I yelled at the other players to run faster. I vied for attention when hit by a ball. All in all, it was rather excruciating.

My immediate response was to go into shame. What a bad kid I was. What a bully. What a bossy pants. What a self-absorbed sore-loser. Look how I ruined the game for everyone!

This has been a pattern in my life. Beating myself up. The sick pleasure it provides is quite baffling but it makes some sense. The inner perfectionist gets to say, “See? You are no good after all.” Painful but understandable. The wounded wound. The hurt hurt.

Being on the Healing Path means I must be willing to change that pattern of thinking. I don’t get to indulge in self-brutality. I need to flip it. I need to change the behaviour.

That night I wrote in my journal: “Could I have mercy on that little girl? Could I love her with all of my heart? She was doing her best. She didn’t have emotional tools. She didn’t have real living skills. She’d experienced sexual trauma only a few short years before. It was not her fault she behaved that way. Those were her survival mechanisms. She was who she was at that time. Love her. Forgive her. Accept her. Be gentle with her.”

And this is what I must do.

The most amazing part about the healing process is finding out that there is still more to heal. This amazes me! I’ve done so much work! How can I still be holding myself hostage for my past behaviour?

I believe it is because we, as humans, are the walking wounded. No matter what our individual wounding is we carry it with us all our lives. And we heal by degrees. We heal in layers. One comes off and another one lies beneath.

This can feel discouraging but, in fact, it is the opposite. It encourages me to remember I am not perfect and I’m not expected to do any of this perfectly. I simply have to do it degree by degree, layer by layer, one step at a time.

Now that’s worth watching.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I will continue to forgive myself. For who I am today, for who I was yesterday and for who I will become tomorrow. I will say it now, “I forgive you for being human.”

Pull the Trigger

Dearest Readers,

Yesterday I went out to visit a friend who lives about 45 minutes away to celebrate a milestone in her life. We went for a cross-country ski on the frozen lake that is her front yard while the bright sun hung in the sky behind us illuminating the mountains to an almost impossible white.

For the rest of the afternoon we lounged on her couches, talking and laughing and resting in the quiet peace of the country. We ate a magnificent meal cooked for us by her partner and we celebrated together in the evening with more friends, stories and gifts. I drove back to town in the dark singing out loud to Johnny Cash, Neko Case and Jakob Dylan.

When I got home I entered the bedroom and there on the beautiful, pure, white quilt that covers the bed were two piles of yellow barf. The cat had coughed up a couple of fur balls. I immediately went into despair.

Now because I am devoted to the kind of inner work that demands self-searching I had to ask myself, “What is this really about?” Can it be that a little thing like a stained quilt so easily throws me off kilter? Sends me from joy to hopelessness in the blink of an eye?

No, something else was afoot.

After scrubbing and soaking the quilt I went into the little room (more like a closet) I use to pray and meditate. This was not a sitting-cross-legged matter. I got down into balasana, the Child’s Pose, on my knees and folded to the floor. I began to pray, seeking answers, going deep, investigating my extreme reaction. What was going on with my emotions?

The answer came.

During the evening I had been sharing about something and one of the friends in our circle had laughed at me. I had continued to speak as if his laughter hadn’t affected me but the truth is, it had. And I hadn’t connected to it until this moment.

Why would someone laughing at me trigger such a reaction? Such despair and such complete and utter defeat? Searching back into the memories of my life I discovered the key.

My grandparents had a little farm about an hour outside of Toronto and after we left the Yukon we would often visit them on weekends. My grandfather grew vegetables and for some reason his zucchinis grew to outsize proportions. We all marveled at the size of these green beauties, which would expand to become as large as newborn babes.

As a little girl newly arrived in the big city of Toronto from Whitehorse I thought bringing one of these giant zucchinis to school for show-and-tell would be an excellent idea. Weren’t these anomalies of Nature worth sharing?

When I got up to the front of the classroom to share my excitement with the class, ready to thrill them with the wonder of this earthly gift I was greeted not by awe but by ridicule. They did not look at each other and say, “Wow, that is AMAZING.” They laughed at me. They laughed at me for bringing in such a ridiculous, embarrassing thing.

This was a inner-city school. And by that I do not mean “poor”. I mean downtown, urban, upscale Toronto. I was from somewhere else. I was different. I didn’t live in that neighbourhood. My sister and I walked 45 minutes to get there every morning.  I was weird and the zucchini was weird and the kids were uncomfortable and so they laughed.

I was shocked by their reaction. Stunned, actually. And I’ve shared that story a lot over the years. I’m still good friends with my best girlfriend from those early school days and even she brings up the story for a laugh. But I didn’t know how hurt I’d been and I certainly didn’t know I’d stuffed the hurt away, hidden it inside me in the darkest and most distant of places.

Once I connected to this memory, now an uncovered wound, I was able to connect to the grief and let it flow. This, in turn, helped me to release some deeper grief over the death of my grandmother, whose farm I had so loved as a child. She died last weekend. My grandfather died just 3 months earlier.  Their lives are over and I miss them.

And so today I feel fragile.  I shed a bunch more tears this morning. But I am feeling so thankful that I was able to discover the trigger and the hurt underneath it. This kind of work is not easy but it’s so much more productive than blaming a little cat for having a hairball in the wrong spot.

In my prayer last night I once again thanked the cat, who sometimes feels like an insatiably needy child, for giving me yet another opportunity to know myself a little better and to heal a little bit more of the turbulent past. And thanks to the God of Fur Balls, too.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am triggered by a seemingly mundane occurrence I will take the time to go within and discover the deeper Truth. I will trust that this kind of healing work will bring me the Peace I so desperately need to live well.

Back to the Drawing Board

Dearest Readers,

It’s 3:48 a.m. and I’m in absolute despair. The cat I live with pounced on me at 3 a.m. and woke me up and it has refueled an absolute ton of murderous rage.

You may remember my first post ever. It was September 2009. The cat woke me up and I was so upset, so angry that my only recourse was to pray. The answer I received was, “Blog.”

I’ve been lying in bed praying for help. How is it that a year and a half have gone by since that first awakening and nothing has changed? I’ve done so much work on this relationship (yes, it sounds funny — it’s a cat — but it’s a cat with an anxiety disorder and believe-you-me this little guy has required me to work) in the name of surrender, compassion and unconditional love and still I end up back here? Swearing into the dark with visions of snapping his neck at the forefront of my mind? Horrible. Horrible!

Again, my only recourse is to pray. So I breathe. Inhale Love, exhale Peace. Inhale Faith, exhale fear. I begin to drift off to sleep. Pounce! He’s back. I pet him, scratch his fur. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. He leaves. I can hear him crunching his food in the kitchen. I’m fading. Sleep is close. Pounce!

That’s when the rage comes. My prayer turns to vehemence. What the f$#%? What the F&$%ING F#$% AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? Show me. Help me. Please. Please. Because I am completely and utterly at a loss as to how I am supposed to deal with this.

And then the answer. “Blog.” No. Come on. You’re kidding right?

Perhaps I should explain where the rage is coming from and why it is so pronounced on this particular morning. After all, this is practically a nightly ritual. Most nights it hardly wakes me. I’ve become so used to it that I can now sleep through the cat’s nocturnal exercises. But this night? I happen to be working on a grant.

Yup, a grant. And it’s a big one. The application is due on Tuesday. It’s going to take every ounce of energy I have to get it in on time. I went to bed at 10 p.m. last night so I could get 8 hours of sleep and wake up at 6 a.m. This would give me an early enough start to do a full morning practice (prayer, meditation, yoga) and a full day of work on the grant. Good plan, Celia!

And then the cat ruins my plans. So things have not gone the way I wanted them to go. Bingo. Trigger the control issues. Trigger the rage. And I’ve been on the healing path long enough to know that rage = fear.

So what is the fear? I’m going to be tired. What happens when I’m tired? I get overwhelmed. What happens when I get overwhelmed? I numb out, give up, check out. I recoil from life.

One of the thoughts I had when I was praying after the first “pounce” was this: Celia, if you are this upset when something this small doesn’t go your way how in the world are you going to handle it when something BIG doesn’t go your way? The grant application is for funding for a feature film. It’s BIG. Maybe this little thing is preparation. Maybe I’m being shown how to handle setbacks.

What was that very first Inspiring Message of the Day? What did I learn all those months ago? When something happens to me that I do not like, that feels like cruel and unusual punishment, I will see it as an opportunity for growth. I will use it to change the world, be of service, help others. I will thank the person/place/thing that gave me the lesson, for he/she/it is my greatest teacher.

So now I have to live out this credo. Now. Eighteen months later. I must accept the lesson anew.

Alright. Let’s do it. Something has happened to me that I do not like. It feels like cruel and unusual punishment. But is that what it really is? No, it isn’t. Seriously, I’ve just been woken up by a cat. He’s asking for love and attention. But it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. So what? I’m going to be tired. So take a nap. I don’t have time. I have to finish the grant. Ah, the grant.

The grant represents the film. The film represents something much, much more than anxiety over sleep loss. The film represents a lifelong dream. What if I don’t get the grant and I can’t make the film? Better yet, what if I do get the money? Then what? The film might fail. I might fail. These are the deeper fears. They are the fuel behind the fire of rage. This is why I’m being woken up. To confront my deepest fear of failure.

Sigh.

Okay. Walk the talk. Be of service. Blog and share. Thank the teacher. Thank you, cat.

Now can I please go back to bed? You’re up now. You may as well get a head start on the grant. You’ve got a movie to make, don’t you?

Inspiring Message of the Day: My anger is a defense mechanism for my fear and I am willing to look at my deepest fears today. I am willing to be changed by this awareness of my shortcomings. I am willing to “wake up”.