Decide

It is just before 5 a.m. and there is a ghostly bird whistling somewhere outside in the dark. I am not able to identify a bird by its call. Some, like the chickadee, are obvious. I got to know the sound of a baby coot because there was one living on the nearby lake and it peeped incessantly. The bird I’m hearing now could be a wood pigeon or an owl. Its sound is almost a cry, somewhere between a hoot and a coo. A hoo.

I was awake at three, possibly because of jet lag, having arrived back in the UK after 3 weeks in Canada. But it’s been a few days now so it is more likely the mind unable to fall back to sleep after being woken to go and relieve the bladder. I was dreaming of giant crocodiles and Steve Irwin, bless his Crocodile Hunter heart.

The mind is also being kept awake by its desire to ruminate further on a major life decision. The decision has been made but how it loves to go over and over the details! I employed all meditation techniques to no avail. Finally I got up to write.

Making decisions at the best of times let alone major life ones is never easy for the recovering perfectionist. I once stood in the linen section of a giant store trying to decide which sheets to buy. I was probably there for an hour before I left empty-handed. If I struggle to decide whether the cotton-striped or the plain flannel are right for me you can imagine what happens when I have something really important to discern. Total mental chaos leading to eventual paralysis.

I have gotten better. There is hope. Change is possible. And yet I still seem to have to go through a certain amount of turmoil before I actually decide what to do. Sticking with the decision is also difficult. Depending on the level of impact on others I can experience all kinds of guilt and shame and remorse. Ridiculous but true.

So I’ve made a major life decision. I’ve decided to move back to Canada after 19 months abroad, leaving the community I’ve been living in and the job I’ve been working at. It is the right thing to do and yet the fear comes at me in myriad ways threatening to pull me back and keep me down. I need every resource at my disposal to remain steadfast in the peace that came with the final decision. Because believing the doubt does not bring peace. It just sets me back in indecision. And indecision is really just another form of control.

Control is the perfectionist’s drug of choice. Getting off it is a lifetime journey of letting go practiced one decision at a time. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your view, Life itself is the rehab centre. We’re given countless opportunities each day to release the fear and trust in the Unknown. Like the bird singing in the dark trusting day will come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Despite my fear of making a mistake I will stick to my decision. I will surrender perfectionism and let go of trying to get it right. I will practice trusting the Unknown.

Become like a Child

Yesterday I went for a bike ride to the seaside. It was a blue-sky day and the sun was giving off gorgeous heat. The wind was up and whenever I turned east I had to ride hard against it. I’m living near Dover, in the UK, and the coastline is made up of the famous White Cliffs, which jut out of the sea with magnificent sharpness, their top-edges carpeted with soft, green grass.

As you come inland the topography continues to undulate making for hilly roads. I was beginning to get hot riding up and down the steep streets and I noticed my mind had jumped ahead to my arrival at the beach, my ride home and the refreshments I would have when I got back. My trip to the sea was over before it had begun. Everything in front of me now, the cheek-by-jowl housing typical of English towns, the leaves flashing silver as they danced in the breeze, the puffs of white cloud drifting over Dover Castle in the distance, was invisible. I was missing it all.

The good news is this: I noticed.

I actually became aware that I wasn’t where I was. I realized I was not in reality and had bought in to the fantasy in my head and been seduced by it. With this awareness I could change.

Bringing myself back to the present I felt my body riding the bike. I remembered suddenly what it felt like to be a kid riding my bicycle on a hot summer day. Would I have been thinking about the future when I was seven years old? Maybe. More likely I would have been seeing the world around me, being with it as it happened.

I passed a sleeping white cat curled up on a concrete block. It looked so warm and so content I could actually feel its interior pleasure. If a cat is allowed to curl up and sleep away the afternoon why aren’t we, too?

I rode on, feeling the breath in my lungs and my heart working hard as pedaled. I sensed the wind kissing my face cooling the sweat on my forehead. I heard the rocks pop under the tires as I neared the the sea.

The beach was empty save for two young fisherman and a couple playing in the waves. I found my spot and parked the bike marveling at the way the sun was hitting the cliffs making them glimmer the brightest white imaginable. I lay down and curled up like a cat. Deep rest. Body settling into smooth stones heated warm from the late-summer day. Diamonds on the water. France at the other side. Whispers of prayer to give thanks.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I realize that I have engaged with my thoughts so as to disappear from the reality before me I will remember what it feels like to be a child and experience the wonder of my existence as it unfolds.

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”.

Wait Here Before X-ing

Dearest Readers,

(Aside: Forgive yesterday’s post. Because I committed to blogging six days a week for one full year I sometimes let myself get away with the absolute minimum in order to meet the goal. Unfortunately that can mean asking you to accept slapdash inspiration on days when time is an issue!)

Yesterday as I was driving back from Keno City I hit a bird. Not a small bird but big, grouse-like creature. Big enough to make a sound when the impact hit. Big enough to feel.

Actually, I should say the grouse (or ptarmigan) hit me. It flew out from the side of the road and straight across into the truck. Wham! I looked into the rearview mirror and saw a poof of feathers fly up and then the body of the bird roll and bounce out from under the vehicle. Awful.

“What should I do?” I thought. “Stop?”

By the time I had answered that question I was a long way down the road. So obviously the answer was “no”. I didn’t stop. Was that callous of me? Some might say, “Don’t be ridiculous. It’s a bird.” Others might be horrified. “You could have at least pulled over and moved the poor thing to the ditch, Celia!”

Later on down the road a bunny rabbit ran out from the side of the road just as I passed it. There was another vehicle right behind me and the fast little thing made it to the other side just a hair (I couldn’t resist) ahead of the speeding wheels of the other car. There were no other vehicles on the road. Why had that rabbit chosen to go right then? When the risk was highest? Here come two cars in a row. Go now!

And why had the grouse flown into the truck?

This reminds me of the times in my own life when I’ve thrown myself into situations without thought or careful discernment. I’ll just fling myself into this thing right now because I just have to go now and SMACK!

Painful consequences. “Oh why did I have to do that?”

Much improvement has been made, believe me. I take ridiculous amounts of time to make decisions now. But that time-taking determination has been borne out of getting a whallop one too many times. Look before you cross the road. Look both ways. Now look again. All clear? Are you sure? Okay. You can go.

Who knows why animals feel compelled to throw themselves into oncoming traffic. I know why I’ve done it. Impatience. Fear of not getting what I want. Sometimes it is more compulsive. I’m driven by a self-destructive force and am powerless to make a healthy choice. Whatever the reason the outcome is never fun and there is rarely goodness to come from such behaviour.

How to trust that waiting is the right thing to do? How to trust that Higher Guidance?

Practice. Practice waiting and seeing. Practice allowing Higher Guidance to have the reins. Practice watching the unfoldment of events (in the situation you’ve let go of) and then bear witness to the results. When things work out better than we could have ever planned we will gain new trust in the Wisdom of Waiting.

Only then can we really fly.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Even though I want to fly NOW I will wait and see if the skies are clear before I take off. I will begin to trust that by doing so I will be given the wings to soar.

(By the way, tomorrow I will be leading a Cultivate Your Courage Teleclass and I hope that some of you will join me.)

Lost and Found

Dearest Readers,

Good news! I am now blogging from a brand-new (used) 13″ MacBook and she’s an absolutely lovely little thing. The brilliant team at Meadia Solutions also managed to recover the contents of the hard drive off the iBook I lost last week.

All together now: Hallelujah!

This means that the 16 pages of GITA that I had painstakingly excavated from the Ether is intact. I don’t have to start from scratch. I was prepared to do that. I knew the chances of recovery were slim and that I may well have had to go back to the beginning. I was steeling myself for the results of the “operation” with a combination of gritted teeth and total surrender.

The surrendered part of me even began to be excited by the idea of having to start all over again. It felt like an opportunity to free fall. The gritted-teeth part of me, however, was not so excited about beginning anew. This idea felt more like having to climb Mount Everest. So you can imagine how thankful I am that those 16 pages are still in existence.

It was interesting to see the different reactions in people to the dilemma. One guy, a journalist friend, said, “Hey, I’ve lost stuff and the new draft was actually way better. A clean slate can do wonders for the piece.” His reaction helped bring on the excitement.

But another guy, a computer technician, grabbed his heart and practically fainted. He understands the importance of backing things up and for him it meant a monumental loss. His mock-heart-attack made me very glad I got the work back.

Last week, when I was in no man’s land, waiting for clarity on how to proceed after the laptop got cooked, I had tea with a fellow artist. During our discussion we spoke of all the challenges and the joys of creating and striving and persevering in our craft. When we parted she said something to me that hit me with such a weight that I had to write it down.

From my little notebook I now give you her gem:

“Let’s get together again and share about the desperately courageous act of trying to create.”

Whump. I don’t know where that hits you but if you’re an artist (or if you avoiding being an artist) it will hit you between the eyes, in the heart, the gut and the groin. Why? Because she nailed it.

It takes courage, desperate courage to create art. Creating is an act of trust. Something is going to come. Moving into that place of trust is often glorious, seldom easy and mostly terrifying. What keeps me going is believing deeply in that old adage about the artist being the instrument. It’s not about me.

So today I will get back to the writing of GITA and I will do so with 16 pages of a draft to support me. But if I didn’t have those 16 pages I would still summon that courage, that desperate courage, and I would begin anew, trusting that the ideas, the characters, the story would be there.

BTW, thanks be to the God of Hard Drives.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today, despite the terror of beginning anew, I will jump in to the act of creation with Courage and Trust.

Let Him Be

Dearest Readers,

If you happen to be spending time in the company of someone who is in a bad mood what do you do? Do you immediately ask her what is the matter? Do you try to compensate for his grumpiness by becoming overly cheery? Do you act like nothing is wrong and behave normally? Maybe you turn sour, too.

No doubt I’ve responded in “all of the above” ways over the course of my life. I’m certainly sensitive enough to venture the question, “Are you okay?” but I’m also anxious enough to turn into a Chatty Cathy in order to lighten the situation. Often I will choose avoidance. It’s the easy way out. Or I’ll take on the negative energy and ‘bang’ I’m in a bad mood also. I’m a good codependent that way.

But I’ve changed. Or, more aptly, I’m constantly changing. Willing to try the new behaviour. Willing to do it differently. Willing to evolve.

I was recently dining with a couple of friends, one of whom was behaving in a most sullen manner. I didn’t feel it was my place to say, “What’s the matter?” although in hindsight I probably could have. My anxiety was rising steadily and I could feel the yakity-yakker itching to get out. I could also feel my anger brewing and foresaw myself joining my friend on his gloomy island of despair.

But I didn’t feel despairing. I felt grounded. So why should I go there? I shouldn’t.

So guess what I did? I breathed, relaxed, and I let go. Let him be. I don’t have to take him on. Let him have his feelings. I don’t have to take them on either. Perhaps his own anxiety is causing him grief. I’ve been there. I’m not there now. I can be present with him in his state without altering my own.

Kind of a miracle. Kind of radical. The temptation to somehow alter the situation was overwhelming. “I’m uncomfortable and I gotta make this different. I can’t handle this I gotta change it.”

No, I don’t. Breathe, relax, let go.

It wasn’t long before this man’s own spirits lifted and the atmosphere changed. Not my doing, folks. I was too busy Be-ing.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will not let another person’s mood alter my own. I will stay grounded in my own Power unswayed by what is happening around me. I will breathe, I will relax and I will let go.

Burn After Reading

Dearest Readers,

When I started this blog last year I told myself I was going to commit to posting six days a week for one year. This morning I went back to the old blog site to check the start date. I had a feeling the one-year anniversary was coming soon.

When I clicked on the first post I saw that it is dated September 21, 2009, later than I’d imagined. When I read the Inspiring Message of the Day I thought, “How apropos.”

Here is what it says:

“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.”

Last week, when I was in New York City hanging out with with my good friend at Bryant Park, the boiling hot tea I’d just purchased got knocked off the table and splashed all over my leg. I’ve been walking around with a second degree burn on my thigh the size and shape of Eurasia ever since.

Reading the above statement is a good reminder. Pain is one of the quickest ways to head into Why ME? territory and believe me, I know how to hold a pity-party and invite all my friends to come. This burn is giving me the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.

How can I use this incident to grow and to be of service? Already it has offered me ample opportunity to practice letting go, an area of spiritual practice where there is always room for improvement. The service part is slightly more challenging as I’m somewhat limited in my physical ability but I am doing my best to be of use to my pregnant sister and her partner in whatever way I am able.

Primarily, the teaching seems to be about mindfulness (watch what I’m doing, be present, be careful) and non-judgment (practice compassion for those who are suffering). If there is a more clear and obvious answer as to why this happened I haven’t been given it yet.

When I was praying and meditating on that very question I heard only this: More will be revealed. I’m trusting that and doing that letting-go-thing while I wait.

Oh, and thank-you burn for the teaching.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will put my money where my mouth is and practice what I preach. I will uphold the faith I have in a Benevolent and Loving Power and trust that I am here to learn, let go and trust.