Demystifying Death

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When we speak or write about death, images immediately flood your mind of caskets, funerals, flowers, candles, a lifeless body, perhaps gruesomeness, and loss.  But that view is short-sighted and narrow.  It is personal, as it relates to us, and we want to deny it as much as possible.  In doing so, we lose the essence and magic of rebirth, and the wonders that are contained in the immediate events that follow, including our own transformation.

Naturally our own mortal death is not something to be sought, so I am writing about when e encounter death or any sort, and from a desire to illuminate the many aspects of death and rebirth that we must undergo in our journey,and some others where a holistic attitude about the cycle of life can assist us.

I’m speaking of the non-literal death,the ones that lead to transformations, both physical and in our paradigms.  There are so many aspects of living that require death, of one sort or another, that if we continue to avoid them simply because they are painful, we can miss the majesty of what happens next. We can become locked in a state, or stage, of life that we need to grow out of in order to mature. Let’s start by looking at some simple symbols of death.

Symbolism

XskullThere may come to you a symbol of death like the skull and crossbones when he thought comes to you. Pretty standard stuff.  But, what you may not know, is that this symbol was used in ancient times not to ward you off, or scare you, but to provide reflection upon life. Richard Cassaro writes that “is a reminder of the temporary nature of human life, and the inevitability of death.”

Richard continues to write that it evolved in the Middle Ages to a Latin expression: Memento Mori. This means ‘Remember that you are mortal’. In doing so, we can live fully. We also see the Latin expression of Memento Vivre to reflect the similar phrase from the opposite perspective, meaning ‘Remember to Live’.

tumblr_mso69wktqq1sty79do1_500So, the symbol that we may now associate with death was actually used to provide us with a perspective of life.  Now, that’s something different.  Let’s now look at life from the very beginning.

Death In Life

In giving birth, are we not transformed?  Living comfortably in the belly of our mother, our lungs have never touched dry air, living instead in fluid until that time.  We are transformed in traumatic fashion from a water baby to that of an air breathing baby in truly a different universe.  Every single aspect of self has changed! This transformation can be seen as a death of the previous way of living, and a rebirth to a new manner of life.  This, naturally, is not the only transformation we undergo throughout our life cycle.

In youth, we learn and obey as we develop our mind, until there comes a time when the desire to do for ourselves begins to rule us.  We are unruly, rebellious, and must experience the ‘whys’ of life for our self.  This youthful obedience gives way to exploration for the fortunate some, but for many they are forced to adulthood suddenly, through rite of passage, or circumstance.  This shift is a death of innocence and the birth of adulthood.

When children leave the bosom of their protective mother to become a man, or independent woman, they strike off on a journey of their own making. Whether they like it or not, they must say goodbye to their former selves in order to expand in to the person they are inside: their true identity.  Casting off the clothing and protective nature of their parents is a universal stage of life tradition that many cultures provide ceremonies for: the Jewish Bar Mitzvah, Buddhist boys initiated to temples as monks, Christian Confirmation, and so on.

proof-of-life-after-death-4When we look at the symbolic reference of death in his manner, not as mortal death, but as transformation from one stage to another, it becomes more comfortable to discuss.  It is at that stage of acceptance that we start to discover a host of transformations in our own life, and in the life outside of us, in nature, that we begin to see and understand the cycle of life.

Life Cycles In Nature

In the forest, a fire is often seen as detrimental, certainly toward human life, and the animals caught within it, but for the ecosystem, it is actually quite beneficial. Fires reduce the accumulation of dry debris that store the fire’s energy potential and often to not harm the mature trees.  They release nutrients into the soil that cause a bloom of new life. Ponderosa Pine seeds are one example of a forest species that has adapted favourably to post fire conditions.  New growth increases the greenhouse gas uptake.

The suppression of fires has led to the increase in the stockpile of forest floor material, which  in turn creates a great blaze when it does catch fire, injuring all trees in it’s wake. Similarly, in our human existence, when we hold on to the past and do not move forward in our own stages of life, we create greater potential for mental suffering.

The caterpillar to butterfly is the very symbol of transformation that we are all aware of, but there are many other insects and life forms that undergo similar shifts of existence.  The silkworm to moth, tadpoles and frogs, to that of the salmon.

The mortal shells of plant and animal bodies and shells return to the soil from which they came to furnish the next generation with their essence and their nutrients. That cycle, when we see it happen in its entirety, indicates that there is a purpose for the changes we encounter.  In order not to get drawn in to the stage of death, unable to break over to the other side of the experience, we need to soften our gaze and become open to the new.

Death Awakens New Life

When death is the focus of something that is part of a cycle, we lose the whole of the process and shrink our minds to but a fraction, in fear.  Acceptance of the process in its fullness, and appreciation for the blessing nature that occurs at the moment after death, is an affirmation of process of nature.  It widens our perspective and allows us to see beyond the mere act of death to that which lies beyond.

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude”
-Thornton Wilde
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Paradigm shifts are a death cycle that awaken a new world to us.  We shift mentally when we realise a new way of thinking.  The rapture at understanding a brand new concept gives life to a new world that we just sprang in to.  We can no longer think the way we used to given the awareness of the new knowledge we possess.

Similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Once they ate the forbidden fruit, they we cast out.  They learned of duality in the world and could no longer think they way they used to.  The old selves were dead to them, and they had shifted into a new world, a new universe of existence.

When we learn something new, does it not transform us?  In this transformation, how are we changed?  By small amounts surely in the typical nature of our development, highlighted at times by more meaningful ‘ah-ha’ moments, but on the whole, our transformation may go largely unnoticed.

This is where myths and stories about living life come in handy.  They help us define our life in terms of the history of existence of the community in which we define our self with.  The rituals that are enacted relate to the myths and stories of our community, and are done so for a reason: to help us transform, to assist us with guilt, to give us a higher perspective, and to change our way of thinking or consciousness; our paradigm.

Humans chakrasThe death and rebirth stories can be seen to signify other shifts, like the way we transform away from the monkey brain, or animal instincts, to a higher consciousness. The Buddhist Chakras that lay along your spine start at the base, with the most base of instincts rising to the cosmic consciousness at the skull. This ranges from base instincts to enlightenment is purposeful in the alignment of our body. Those that achieve the awakening of consciousness can no longer go back to sleep; they die to the old self and need to build upon the new self in a rebirth.

The Wisdom in Stories

Today’s popular society has an aversion toward death, and it is easily seen in the way we avert our attention away from it in all the aspects that it happens within the stages of our own life.  It is unavoidable, yet we distance ourself from it.  We desire to prolong our life, for men to prolong their youth, for women to remain young, holding on the the image of something that will fade,regardless of what we do, no matter what we may want.  This creates suffering, particularly in those that measure themselves by the ruler of others.

If we could bring stories of wisdom back in to our lives that are there to give help us in the journey of life, we might be better able to cope with these death and life cycles we struggle with in many parts of our life.

life deathMyths and rituals, as Joseph Campbell talks about them from the far reaches of the entire planet, have very similar meanings.  They give us a perspective on death that allows us to move forward and continue our personal growth with the knowledge that the universe is one, that we are all connected, that death is but a phase of life, and that we need not fear that which society has not accepted.

Take a moment and discover the beautiful stories about the life cycle.  For any that have seen the Lion King, you may recall the beautiful song that was sung: The Circle of Life.  Here we see the birth of Simba.  In the Lion King we also see the death of Mufasa, Simba’s father.  Why did they kill off such a regal character?  I believe they did so because we have all been touched by death of a loved one, within our family or not.

We can become lost to it, wander in the turmoil it causes us, but for the rest of the people that are involved in the effect of the death, life goes on, and if we let the death change us to a mournful person incapable of transforming, it creates a greater loss than even the initial event.  In the movie, Simba ultimately transforms to a leader himself, assisting the greater good of his pride and thwarting the evil Scar.

So, the lesson is this: if we let death take us over, we also die and accentuate the effect of death.  If we learn from the event, accept it and revere the remaining life, we can grow from it.

One path moves us away from life, the other draws us closer.

Death is simply an extreme of the range of change that occurs in our everyday life. If we can welcome change, we can accept death, knowing that just beyond it is life of a sort that can bless us with greater understanding and personal growth.  As in all transformations, this takes time to assimilate in to our life.  The more we are accepting of change and of the cycle of life, the easier the transformation will become.  This is the power of the myth stories, and ritual acts, that can impart the wisdom to us and ease the journey.

Funerals are a ritual.  They provide an act that we say goodbye to the past and awaken to a new life, but without a wise story that threads death and life together, we can stumble in our weariness and grief.

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure”
– J. K. Rowling

From death comes new life. We die to our water baby in birth and become an air baby, then we die to our childhood and become an adult, then our children leave us and we die to the parental focus and are reborn with a new focus, only to go through the final stage of life with a mortal death.  Who knows what lies beyond that final curtain.  What we can sense though all of the other lessons of the cycle of life is that it is for sure a transformation.

If we can learn one thing from all of the previous cycles in life,personally and in nature, we can see that there is always life after death.  There is something there. We can rest assured that even though we can not see the visible nature of the transformation, something occurs.  The energy leaves the body and must go somewhere, for it may not vanish given the laws of physics.

Death is Life

Death is not the end as we currently may view it, but simply a door to the new quantum of growth; a rebirth, if you will, to a new frame of reference.  Below is an image of the Buddha Circle, representing the repetition of life and death as a cycle.

buddhist circleIf you find yourself in the grips of a death, I hope you can start to take some comfort that although we may not see the transformation that lay beyond the immediate, there is goodness, new life, and a greater sense of self even just over the horizon.  Life, surely as all the tales in all the cultures around the world indicates, does spring from death, in one way or another, and we need only understand the cycles that we grapple with in our own journey to understand this.

Aside from the personal trauma that we know so well, there is another side to death, and it is life, rebirth, and wisdom.

Day 365

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Tick.

Tock.

Time is like the continuum of life.

It contains, within it, a full spectrum of birth and death, but they become polar opposites in the stillness of a moment; where life is truly lived, and time simply disappears.

When, is a measure of the difference between now and another moment.

Now, can never be measured.

The First Post

My very first post was 364 days ago.  I am on the last day of exactly one year of thinking, and writing, about heroes in our culture, heroes in society, and the underlying hero that lives within our soul or spirit.  In that first post I wrote that this was “my attempt to manifest a Hero in 365 days.”

I think it is only proper to reflect upon the meaning of the purpose of this blog on the last day, and see whether I achieved a measure of success.  Here are some of my thoughts:

We all struggle in life.  The struggle we endure is manifested both in the outer world in which we interact physically, and the inner world of our minds.  The journey we start in order to overcome the obstacles in our life are very similar to the cycles in the hero’s journey; well described by Joseph Campbell.

The Hero’s Journey

They represent this struggle in the form of an adventure, where we ultimately return with special knowledge/elixir/cure over the adversary/issue/obstacle to share with others.

It can be represented across so many different types of instances or struggles: creating a new business, the changes of adulthood, overcoming a physical illness, finding the answer to a problem, becoming enlightened, and so on.

Whether we actually find a mentor to take us on the journey, or use our inner mentor, find guidance in the universe, or a spirit we hold dear, the result bears an uncanny resemblance to this cycle.  The take away for me, is this: when we triumph over a problem, big or small, we are adding systematically to the Hero Quotient (HQ) inside of us.  This tally of wins, or measure of triumphs, is important to dwell upon, and celebrate, because they form the foundation for the sense of heroic power within each and every one of us.

We need to celebrate our HQ because it reminds us of the power we have over our enemies, even if they aren’t physical, even if they are elements within our self.  The mindset of a hero, where the power to continue in the face of adversity, or the unknown, comes from within, can make all the difference when we face the uncertainty in our path.  When we start to believe in our ability to persevere, we are calling upon this inner strength of triumph; this gives us our confidence in life to surmount these challenges and I feel it is imperative to develop this in everyone.

My Journey

I was jobless for 30 days before starting this blog, and didn’t have any idea of how to balance that fact with a new relationship and my family.  I could have succumbed to the despair many people experience in those types of situations, but I found a way to press on.  One of the many facets of my new relationship that assisted me, was my girlfriend’s ability to foster growth within me.  She gently guided me to a place of calm self introspection, where I began to make changes in my life that were in better alignment with the ultimate goals in my life. The result was a career opportunity teaching young minds at a local college.  Triumph!  And now that I have successfully finished teaching three classes, I love it.  Double triumph!

Throughout the year, the strains and stresses the universe gave me, provided many learning opportunities, as they do for most of us, if we look at them in this light. And although it held feelings of great loss, financial pressure, and personal pain, it also encapsulated moments of supreme beauty, family ties, wondrous nature, self exploration, joy, bliss, deep conversations, fun, and play.

My Muse

I am extremely grateful to my girlfriend.  I call her my muse.  She supplied my mind with much to think about, ponder, and chew on, for she inspires me with her wisdom, courage, and strength.  She introduced meditation to me in the form of the popular Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day series, the first of which I heard was Perfect Health.  It took me on a journey outside of my issues and let me see the world through different lens or perspectives.  It also gave my brain time to process the many issues it was dealing with at the time.  Meditation settled me, and gave me a tool that developed my sense of perspective.

Then we both read Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, and that was a great teaser on the power of our mind.  Our discussions broached many subjects from habits, to addictions, to family roles, and ties to past events.  I am convinced that the vast majority in our society are addicted to something, co-depend someone, and wear Egoic masks to conceal our true identity, which we never spend enough time getting to know.

In that first post, I felt a sense of ‘lack’ within myself.  I felt as if I had failed in achieving my life’s goals.  I sincerely needed to create, or discover, my confidence once again.  I am happy to suggest to you, that I feel very different today.  As a matter of fact, I had forgotten about how I was really feeling back then, until just now when I reread that passage.  That makes me smile.

Awakening to the Power Within

I feel more in control.  I feel more broadly appreciative of life, of other people, and very peaceful.  I still lose the calm, however, and I act and react like any other unconscious person, when I don’t contribute to my self care program in a thoughtful manner.  Last night my girlfriend and I both handed out care packages to the needy and I felt a tremendous amount of sincere appreciation from the people that it touched.I felt like I was, in a small way, a real hero.  In this respect, I do think this blog has awakened the sense of the hero within, which I would call a measure of success.

I have made a step in the right direction and I feel my HQ has risen.  Throughout my other 97 posts I believe I have uncovered some very simple questions we can ask ourself in life.  I delivered my thoughts as musings, and gave you a taste of the lessons I learned along the way.  I won’t summarize them all here and now, because that will be the task of writing them all in book form.  My next quest.

I hope you have found some inspiration along the way.  I know that if we just take the time to think about, ponder, and meditate on what it is that we want in our life, we can make it happen.  We can manifest the dream-like life we all desire if we ‘put our minds to it’.

What Time Holds

When we were young, we were different.  Our bodies were different, our personalities were different, and even the cells in our bodies were completely different.  We change every day, every moment, and it’s mostly imperceptible to us. Changes in others, or within us, often trigger changes in the relationships we hold, even the very close ones.  Sometimes we don’t want the relationships to change and others times we romanticize the past in order keep things from changing, but we need to let go of the past in order to embrace the present.  Always being open to what is, takes courage, mental flexibility and a keen sense of detachment from the meaning we give it, which are our stories.

What we might not realise is that the changes we bring about in ourselves sometimes necessitate changes in others.  Our relationships with them undergo changes, like an elastic band between two fingers, where we try to flex only one finger and both fingers end up feeling the stress.   The very nature of relationship is the ‘relation’ it creates; always relative to who we are.

One of the most pervasive questions I have ever come across is this:

Who are you?

Two follow-up questions I like to ask are:

  1. Do you know what your passion is?
  2. What steps have you taken to realize your passion?

These worldly quests are on my plate, my next ‘to do’ list if you will.  They are not simple to answer, and may take on several different answers as I mature.

As I change, no doubt my relationships with the people around me will change too. I have to be willing to surrender those old ties, and appreciate the new ways I might connect with loved ones, friends and family.  It’s all very exciting!

I will continue to post my thoughts and lessons as they occur to me, because this is now a part of my life.  It may twist and turn through various subjects, but ultimately, I am on a Hero’s Journey, and I want to be able to tell you about what I see on the other side!

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Stay tuned, and in the present moment.  I think I hear the call to adventure!

A Toast To You Swan Lake Trumpeters

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Shout out #3 is all about mastering the art and science of toasting, making toasts, hosting, emceeing, speaking, greeting, engaging, inspiring, connecting, reading the audience, emoting, giving feedback, evaluating, leading, playing, evoking, and generally building up your inner strength of character so you give yourself the gift of a voice that can be heard by people other than yourself.  If you haven’t yet guessed, it is all about Toastmasters.

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It started when I had a couple of television interviews at work and I found myself…gasping…for…air during the interviews when I let the sentence runintothenextone.  ~Breathe.  I needed to find a course, or educate myself somehow, on how to overcome this stress response.  I wanted to be able to perform on camera as well as I envisioned I could.

Well, after looking around at available courses, a friend suggested I look at Toastmasters International.  Apparently, they can help you in these types of situations, and I learned that they can do a lot more.

I looked in to it, and behold, it sounded fantastic!  It charged very little to be a part of a club ( I would guess about $10-15/month for most clubs in my area) and it enabled you to work at your own pace, while reaping the benefits of listening to other people speak and be evaluated all at once.  Holy smokes!  How was this possible?  Some courses that were offered on public speaking were a couple thousand dollars and lasted a week or a weekend, with no follow up.

I could go to these groups after work, or before work, but travelling by bus meant I would spend a lot of time in transit, literally.  I then had an idea.  What about starting my own Toastmasters club?

Looking in to that idea started to make sense.  I worked for a large enough company with about 300 employees in one building.  I needed 20 people to sign up to officially charter the club, so I sent around an investigative email to explore the idea with staff.  I received enough positive emails that I started the push, and even though we weren’t official, we started meeting right away with those that took interest.

It took a full year to get the 20 people required to pay the dues and become founding members, and the Swan Lake Trumpeters Toastmaster Club was born!  With it’s policy of maintaining approximately 50% staff and 50% public members, it had an excellent mix of people that diversified the speaking topics.

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I participated in the group at several levels and I have to tell you, it gave me confidence to speak to groups, gave me courage to try new things, gave me skills needed to lead others, and gave me a chance to practice my skill in the real world where I and others emceed many local community events!

I owe a lot of my outward talent to the exercises I did in Toastmasters.  I finally finished my ten speeches in my Speech manual, and then my Leadership manual, to become what is know as a Competent Communicator and a Competent Leader and I now use all those skills in attempting to engage, inspire, and lead young, and not so young, minds in college education.

Truly, Toastmasters is for everyone.  It is a safe environment to speak for the very first time.  The encouraging advice and evaluations it gives new members gently persuades you to explore what you can do to improve your next speaking part and praises you for your courageous decision to speak up.

If you have ever thought that you wanted to perform better at work, speak more eloquently, be able to say your piece, be heard for your insights, talk to strangers, increase your sales, or simply improve relationships with other people, Toastmasters does that, and it can do it for you.  It simply works because it works simply, by building on fundamental building blocks, until you start flowing easier and easier.

The ongoing nature of Toastmasters, with it’s weekly, or biweekly meeting schedule, means that you can make significant progress with simple measurable steps.  And if you desire to put more energy in, and become involved in meeting roles, and/or executive roles, you can blossom as far as you desire!

Toastmasters broadened my skill set, and changed my life.  I feel competent enough to share how I feel with the most important person in my life, and many other people I am in contact with every day.  By spending the necessary time on my own self improvement, I have emboldened others to speak up as well.  I have elevated my relationship by actively listening, and I can succinctly give a response that takes in to account the other person’s reaction and feelings.

I love my Swan Lake Toastmasters, and now that I have changed careers, and there is a Toastmasters club where I now work, I will continue my never-ending journey of self improvement by joining that club, the First Canadian Toastmasters Club at Camosun College.

I hope I have impressed upon those reading this article that these clubs are very gentle on newcomers.  And if you go to one meeting and it doesn’t resonate with you, try another.  They are all slightly different in their flavour, and it may take a few visits with different clubs, as a non paying guest (so don’t worry about cash up front when you are just checking it out) ,to see which one fits you best.

If you really want to increase your performance by leaps and bounds, take in a few months of Toastmasters to get the hang of what it’s all about, then go to a Toastmasters Conference.  Here is a link to the next conference in the Spring of 2015 for District 21, which is for our area in British Columbia.  It is in Victoria this year!  No reason not to attend since you need not pay for accommodations if you live nearby of have friends in the area to crash with!  It will blow you away, and you will come back from the weekend event with significant gains in all areas of your speechcraft!  They are such a super deal at about $200 for a ticket that includes your meals!  But look, it’s $139 right now with the early bird deal!  You get to listen to world class speakers, and go to education sessions all day long! You can’t beat that bang for your buck anywhere on earth.

Do it!  It’s good for you, and what’s good for you is good for everyone you connect with.

The Gift of Exasperation

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This article #2 in a series of shout-outs to the things that have helped me in my journey of change.

I was living my life in an unconscious state, unable to see reality before I was inspired.  I was feeling lazy, fat, sick and tired, and I was desperate for a change.

I didn’t know at the time if watching movies was affecting my food choice, or if eating poorly was slowly making me more lazy, and drew me to becoming less active, and I started watching more movies.  Either way, it doesn’t matter: I was less active and I was watching a lot of movies on the couch.

I had felt this for some time but I didn’t believe in diets, and I had been very lax in exercise, so I was really feeling the burden of my body at the time.  I literally was exasperated and desperate for some relief.

Inspiration finally came to me on January 1st.  It was a cold, rainy day, and I was sitting on my cozy couch watching a movie; no surprise there, for people who know me, as I love movies.  But this particular movie struck the proverbial chord with me. The movie was “Hungry for Change.”  Considering my food choices to date, it just made sense.

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If you have Netflix, here is the link for you in Canada.

I can still recall the feeling I got from watching it.  It gave me hope that if I could simply add one healthy item into my basket when I shopped, it would gradually grow in to two healthy items, and I would eventually shift away from the junk I was currently craving.  I call that the ‘Universal Method’, because it can relate to anything we want to change.

This idea of gradually squeezing out the bad food was wonderful, and the documentary showed how other countries ate, it it was vastly different that the way I was eating.  I knew that I needed to start making smarter choices and this movie took my desire and provoked and action.

I felt like everyone does when they go on a new diet, or try something new: excited and focussed.  I got my next groceries focussing on the healthy components, and I started doing something that I never thought I would ever do: writing.  As a matter of fact, I never thought much about it at all.

I wanted to document the changes I might encounter while changing my diet.  This is what I wrote on Day One:

It’s 3:50am on day one (January 2013) and I am satisfied with this introduction, excited about the prospect of writing this book and for the rest of my life, which I plan to change one element at a time.  You will be coming along, seeing my journey as I make my way through each chapter and ultimately in the place I envision at the end.  Now I can sleep, and I feel like I will sleep soundly tonight.  There is much to be done.

When I started writing, I found that my ideas for a better life started growing.  I started eating better and my mind kept expanding.  In a few months I had carved out the basic components for eight chapters on how I could change my life, and what areas I could achieve this.  I wrote it in such a way that anyone reading it could do the same.

write-bleed-e1354300066951I was quite shocked at how I took to writing.  The comment from Mr. Hemingway pretty much sums it up. All I tend to do is sit here and my thoughts are connected to my fingertips and literally what I think falls out to the keyboard.  each of these posts as a matter of fact probably take me an hour and a half per 1000 words to write, which means I have spent about….calculating…lots of hours pressing keys with my mind.

Anyway, I felt this connection to something that spawned a sort of awareness within.  It wasn’t quite consciousness as I know it today, but it was a place where I could reflect on how I felt and write it down so I could see what I was feeling at different times.  It also provided me with a clear trend of a project.  I have this character flaw that I don’t complete projects.  Mostly it’s because I get bored and move to the next.  I can see how it will play out after a certain point, and if I can see that far, the creativity loses it’s flavour.  I am drawn to solving problems and issues because it fosters creativity.  But, progressing along a project to it’s end also has it’s advantages and it is character building.  I am still continuing to develop that trait.

This writing gave a me a place to say what I needed to say, just to myself.  That’s all I needed to take the first step in recognising I needed to do this.  in doing so, I started to seek out ways of changing my habits, and I started questioning the things I was doing that were slowing my progress; like driving to and from work, which was a 20 minute walk away.  So I sold my car.

It wasn’t that of a decision: the clutch blew out and that was going to cost me more than the car was worth.  I was able to sell it to my mechanic friend who fixed it up for his daughter: win-win.  You know, I look back on some of these events in my life with the view of synchronicity and it just makes sense!  I wanted a healthier life and I knew that I was driving too much: so the universe said: here you go, Bam!

Some are carrots and others are sticks.  The car was a stick and the movie was a carrot and it started me on a clear path.  It was just a baby step, and it did not completely transform me, but it got me to a place where I was open to change.  I was able to start the conversation with myself about taking serious steps to making it happen. If I didn’t take the bait and start this journey at that time, I would still be living the life that so many other people live: tired and unhappy, looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

There are so many ways that we can become inspired.  Sometimes, it just happens at the right time.  I heard once that it takes seven exposures to one particular element for a person to even notice it, which is why the tenet of advertising is repetition.  It’s no wonder given the exposure to advertisements that the average person has today, even if you don’t watch TV.

This reminds me of another element I changed: I gave up cable TV.  I was so bothered by the increased noise level, the sporadic light shows to catch my attention, and the general lack of creativity in advertising that I opted out entirely. I really only watched documentaries, the Nature channel and other educational type shows to stimulate my brain, but I would occasionally watch popular shows as well.  I found it just wasn’t worth it and my life has become calm at home.

One side effect of this is being near a TV when I am out at a restaurant, or at someone’s home, if it is on.  My eye is literally drawn to it, and I need to reign them in with conscious effort to looking away.  Just be warned, if you attempt to do this and try to have a conversation with someone and not look at the TV.

In looking back, you can say that my journey started by giving some things up that I knew were bad for me.  They bothered me, and I was sensitive enough to how that made me feel that I was able to do something positive that made my life healthier.

I am still doing that today, and I feel that this journey I am on, and so many other people are on, is a life long journey, and every step I make in improving it is worth it.  I am embodying the Universal Method, adding positive elements to my life, one step at a time.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, even in the midst of what some may call an addiction, as certainly sitting and watching something for hours on end can become, and it was for me.

great-book-of-amberOnce I removed cable, and my car, I started seeing life from a brand new angle. While walking to work I would notice things about the area I had never seen before.  I would gaze in wonder about the beauty that I lived within.  I truly am blessed to live in such a beautiful place.  I also read more and love it again as I used to do.  Right now, I have chosen to reread the very first book I read when I started to read for fun.  It is the Amber series by Roger Zelazny and it is great fun ready the fantasy again.

Exasperation’s cure is inspiration.  Wherever you find it, in a dream, watching a movie, in the bathroom, at a restaurant, take it and run with it. When you put the intention out there to make a change, it comes true.  By ‘out there’ I mean to the universe, the energy that connects us all together.  I believe that there is some underlying connection between all of us and I can not name it.  It may not come to us in the manner that we expect, and in fact, if it did, it we would have seen it long ago.  The fact that it comes to us in a way we do not expect it to means that the universe has found a way to affect change in your life and whatever happened to you to make a change is proof.

It is said that the universe is multi-dimensional, and with every decision we make we step into one dimension or another, like a rotating door. It waits for us to decide, then rotates to provide us with the appropriate dimension.  Know that in making a new decision in life, especially when you have no ides what your next step will be, that what you need is already been sent to you.  You are attracting it by the very essence of desiring it; by giving it your fullest attention.

The mere fact that I am still writing, and a I have written the entire year on one positive theme that has enhanced my life, is something that I cherish.  I still find it hard to complete projects, but this is one area of my life I was able to maintain and complete, and I am proud of myself for doing so.

I hope that you can find inspiration for whatever change you may desire in life. Perhaps you are desperate for change in some area of your life.  Find peace that this is the perfect time to affect change.  It means that you are ready to undergo meaningful transformation!

It certainly has changed my life for the better, and if you have managed to make a change in your life, leave me a comment and share what it was, and what inspired you to make a change.tumblr_static_hungry-for-change-dvd

My First Journey

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Something was missing in my life.  I was struggling to find meaning and to be happy, and I was a very happy go lucky kind of guy.  Nothing much phased me and I usually found happiness in the small things in life, but at this time in my life, about six or seven years ago, I just didn’t feel that any more.

Looking back, it was easy to see why, I was working, watching movies, even volunteering at events, all looking for outside stimuli to play a part in my happiness. At home, alone, I felt powerless to change any aspect of my life, and I was really trying hard, in the areas that I looked, to feel inspired, to follow a passion, or a dream.  Nothing was speaking to me.

It was a typical Winter day in February when I decided to walk a park trail.  It wasn’t for any personal reason, but rather to understand the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles at conflict points; where trails crossed roads.  This would help my understanding in transportation engineering at work; that was my goal. What happened next was an experience that took me from being a ‘bystander’ in my own life, where I looked for experiences that I could latch on to that would take my life somewhere great, to that of the ‘experiencer’ of life, which was a giant shift in how I felt about my life.

Prior to that point I had really lived in a man made environment.  I drove my car to work every day and to events or even to shop just a block away.  It was easier, and my body was showing signs of the easy life I had bestowed upon it.  I was lazy and fat.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I has set foot outside and stood close to a tree, even though they grown in abundance all around me in my neighbourhood.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As I stood at the start of the very first trail of a park that was elevated from the shore, I walked up a few steps.  I couldn’t see where the trail was going, but I assumed it would carry on to a summit or plateau and carry on to the shore below.  As I rose on each step it became clear that there was a viewing platform that I could see the water below from.  The rocky, tree laden, terrain below was quite steep, so I walked to the end of the platform and looked out.  I guessed this was a far as it would take me.

???????????????????????????????It was a nice place to see for sure, but nothing earth shattering.  I didn’t feel anything spectacular at that point even, it was just a nice view.  I stood for a few minutes and took in the sights, then I was done, and started heading back to my car.  I was feeling slightly ‘off’ as to why I chose this particular park, as there was no trail crossing to observe.  Why did I come here? Maybe just for a view of the land.  I had not been out to this remote part of town for several years, and it could have been longer than that in my employment duties.  Perhaps I just wanted to see the lay of the land before I really started, I really can’t recall.

???????????????????????????????Then I spied it.  A rough, side shoot of a trail off the platform that paralleled a home and led down to the rocky, brush covered slope.  Was this some private path the home owner made to enjoy the back yard? Was I allowed to walk on it? Should I? I glanced around and since nobody was looking, so, I jumped down the couple of feet to the path and started my journey downward.

Some steps, a narrow path, and at once I was passing the house on my right.  The wind was catching my jacket and I could smell faint wisps of salt in the air from the shore far below.  This was interesting to be sure.

???????????????????????????????A few more steps and I was passing tall brush that extended over my head.  It blocked most of the view now to the house above as I wound underneath it, further toward my goal of the shore below.

???????????????????????????????What’s this?  A soccer boot strung on a branch?  So, a few people do follow this path…I felt better about being down there.  A couple different paths to choose from even.  I decide to take one that parallels the shore and is gentler to follow down.  I spy a bridge that mounts a crevice between two round rock peaks.  I picture it in my head as a rounded, quite elaborate bridge, and now when I see it, it looks plain.  That just tells you how joyous my brain was at the time; it enhanced my memory to show how much it meant.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Wonder starts to creep in my brain and I feel a slight smile creep across my mouth, unknowingly at first.  It broadens as I scout a trail that I think might lead me more directly toward the rocky shore below.  I hear the crashing of the waves in grand fashion as I pass a huge Arbutus tree.  It seems long, and strong, and proud of what it has achieved this close to the shore.  Most trees are diminutive that I have seen this close to a sea shore, perhaps something to do with the salt environment.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Engulfed in ferns around my legs, I finally escape to put boot to stone about ten feet above the frothing sea waters that enjoy whipping their watery frames against two boundaries: the hard stone at the shore’s edge and the air above.  The waves would crash against the immovable object and explode in to the more forgiving air above them, only to appeal to gravity to direct all droplets back home once again in one great push and pull motion.  Hypnotic.

The exchange entranced me.  Feeling the more exposed force of the wind, I assailed atop one of these stony boundaries to look below at the incessant battle between wind, rock, and water.  The plant life simply went with the flow, kelp moving to a fro, no matter which direction, it cared not.  I tasted the salt more concentrated now, and something was happening to my body.  I could feel it.  It was as if I had, most gently, slipped my hand in to the grip of an energizing power source that fed directly in to my senses.

???????????????????????????????Parks 13Feb2010 092In doing so it awoke years, nay, a century or more of old memories of similar locations I had beheld as a boy. I was starting to feel recharged, energized by some unseen power, by some unseen energy, yet I could feel the pulse within me generating sensations that had long been dormant.

Oh, how I stood in wonder as my realisation was expanding!  Every taste of salt spray upon my lips was a gift, every call from a seagull enjoying the wind play was a song, and every buffet from the wind brought clarity of mind to what was a foggy, dusty, brain.  I was beginning to feel alive!

I cast about for a place to sit and found what can only be described as the perfect seat, a hand built bench made from re-purposed driftwood.  I kindly and gently sat upon it and simply observed.  I watched the beauty; the forces of Nature playing together like children.  I was starting to feel a sense of wonder again.

???????????????????????????????I started to remember all the times I had explored as a child.  That was my existence, out all day until 5pm, then home for a quick dinner, then maybe some more time if the sun was still up.  I loved to wander around forests, and up hills until I could see more, and more, land.  I loved the high spots, which is where I would imagine what it must have been like to hike as real explorers from one high point to the next, though a network of trails the locals might have used.

I eventually made my way back to the top of the trail, where I had made the decision to jump off the beaten path and explore.  I chuckled at that decision, knowing that I was not the one to adhere to the path that so many others walk, I was meant to explore all the other paths and see what they meant to me, and I was so glad I did.

???????????????????????????????Now smiling, I walked up to my car.  As I was rounding to my driver side door, I spied another trail head across the street.  I certainly had time.  This one led to the top of what was a gentle hill, and I was rewarded with quite a nice view of the surrounding area, though blocked by some trees toward the shore I had just come from.

???????????????????????????????I loved it.  I sat upon a bench there and thought, if there are two parks so close to each other right here, maybe there are even more in this small hilltop community.  I went home only after walking through three more parks and came back to discover five more the next day.  I had found something that brought back the spirit I had lost, that connection with Nature.

I has spent so much time looking for something man-made that would fulfil my needs that I had completed blocked out what a walk with Nature would do for my soul, my inner spirit.  It reconnected me to my youth and all the memories I had suppressed about being so close with trees and bushes, and the views from hilltops that I would wonder about, day after day, as a child.

This one weekend in February launched a desire within me to visit every single park within the jurisdiction that I lived.  I had no idea how many parks there were, but if I had just wandered through ten parks in one small area on one weekend, I surely wanted to know what it would be like through the rather large municipality within which I lived.  Saanich, where I lived, and still live, is 11, 214 hectares, which is roughly 43 square miles.  There were about 167 parks when I started my pet project.  It grew to 175, three years later, when I was just finishing.  Along with a few regional and provincial parks in the area, I stepped in to and explored all of them.

Saanich Parks TrailsThis was a calling of mine that led me to fascinating places, some rich with history, I could tell, and many simply being protected for their part in the ecosystem.

What did this mean to me?  I guess that might be a long introduction in to what this all meant, right?  Well, I can tell you, it spawned a desire to take this experience to others, quite literally.  I decided to make the experience multi-sensory and try to capture it for those that could never otherwise step on to a hilltop, or beside a creek, or feel the wind lashed spray of sea water.  My ‘Hike Every Park” idea was spawned.  I have yet to pull all the pieces together, but with about 12,000 photos and over a hundred videos I have a start of what I hope to be a successful bid to take that experience, that reliving of my youth and what currently lay in wait for us to visit, to some of those people that could use an escape, or a stimuli, that can awaken old memories. I hope to attempt a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to initiate just that.

But, aside from the project, and my hopes and dreams for the future of that attempt, it has given me purchase where I thought none existed: inside.  I started to unravel my senses and think about why I had not gone outside, how I could experience nature outside my apartment door, where I could walk and explore, and what else I was missing in my life.  I was cracked open that day, and I thank all the unexplained powers and spirits that we may never know, in taking me there to rediscover this missing link to my self.

I started writing, I started exploring, and I was so open to new experiences that I met the most beautiful, wonderful person of my life, and she lived almost next door to me.

My journey was just beginning.

I Am Inspired

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I am inspired, and I shall remain inspired, by the heroes that made a difference to me over this past year.  For the rest of 2014, I will be highlighting the heroes that I have heard, or read, or saw, that made an impact one way or another on me.  I will wrap up with some research in to the local heroes that continue to inspire so many acts of bravery, kindness, and personal growth in us all.

This blog, and all of the articles since I started writing it, were steps in a personal journey that I was happy to share with whomever wanted to read or listen.  It has been quite a year and I have learned a tremendous amount about myself during that time.

I have listened to Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Joe Dispenza, and read many books like the ones I quote so often from don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements, and Dr. Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain, and so many more!  I have attended the You Can Do It! conference and met many of these global heroes like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Jim Kwik, the learning expert.

I have meditated on issues of self, and external relationships, as I try to understand how I became the person I am, and I have tried, sometimes by trial and error, to cut the ties to behaviours I no longer wish to feed.

Probably the most important, most fruitful of all of my exercises this year has been to discuss all of my multitude, and sometimes consuming, thoughts with my dearest partner.  She has been my sounding board, my mirror, and my counsel through this entire year, and I am grateful for all she brings to my life.  She is the inspiration behind many, even most, of the posts I write.  She is my muse.  She is my inspiring hero, and I desire growth, not just for personal gain or satisfaction, but in order to give her the best a person can be in return.  She deserves a hero too.

Now, I shall begin to look outward and share the inspiration, the heroes, and the people that said, or wrote, or did something that meant something to me and my journey, that I find beneficial to share with all.

Most recently, to me, I discovered that Mr. Denzel Washington made a small speech to a group of actors that was inspiring.  He talked of dreams and how to achieve them.  “Dreams without goals remain dreams and ultimately fuel disappointment,” he said.  He went on to suggest we need discipline and consistency to achieve them.  Amen to that!  Have a look:

denzel

Mr Washington revisits the tenets that I struggle to adhere to even today.  I try to work on myself every day, though I grow tired at times.  I struggle to work on my body, though I may feel weary.  But, when I hear a very successful man, a man I respect, for what he has achieved and for how he is perceived in the media, talk of dedication and discipline, I know there is no easy road to the life I seek.  I know there is pavement to run on, there are trials to overcome, and many hard days ahead before the fruit of my seeds, that I sow now, are realised.  This sets my view squarely forward and reminds me to set the goals that make the steps within reach.

Let’s not forget to celebrate them either!  This short video clip reminds me that if I set achievable goals early, I can feel like I am making progress when it may seem the hardest to initiate change in my life.  I can celebrate them and acknowledge my forward progress.  Like this little girl on America’s funniest Home Videos, this is how I hope it feels!  Have a look:

I did it

Talk about being happy about doing something that we are proud of, that means something personally to us.  It not only makes us happy, but those watching us celebrate as well!

As don Miguel Ruiz writes in his book, The Four Agreements, the fourth agreement is “Always do your best”.  This video clip off of Donnie McClurkin’s Facebook page is of a Samoan student in class that leads a group to sing and clap in unison in dramatic fashion.  He doesn’t just lead them in song, he inspires their best to those who may be watching, including me.  These Samoan children really know how to do it right!  They celebrate their song to the limit and don’t just sing it, they live it! That is showing the world your best.  Have a look:

samoan

As Dr Joe Dispenza says, if we want to initiate change in our life, we need to start with our environment.  How can we change if our environment keeps us feeling the same as we have always felt, which triggers behaviours that we have always done.  We need to break the chain and do something different, and in order to do so, often a change of environment is a perfect place to start.  Get uncomfortable, go away, change your apartment up to look different.

I’m thinking of a brand new way to set up my apartment right now, so I better get to it!  I want to change my environment so when my brain wants to be equal to my environment, it will have to change with it.  And in that change, I can start to make real progress.

inspirationI wish you all the very best on your own journey, whatever that may be in life. Stay tuned as I highlight many more inspirational moments that were milestones in my most recent journey.  December is going to be a very inspiring month!

To Bend in the Wind

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I was laying in bed last night after setting my alarm and for some reason, as I lay with my cotton sheets covering me, I recalled the same feeling when I was a youth.  I had always liked cotton sheets because I am usually a furnace at night.  My body generates a lot of heat and I need the feel of cool sheets next to me.

It was a nostalgic feeling for sure, and whether it came about because of the time of year, thinking about Christmas, thinking about school, which is now my work, or just the feeling of the sheets, I don’t know.  It was a nice feeling though, like I was fresh once again, having the immense expanse of my future life to look forward to.

I remember the same sensations when I was around 16 and wanting to kick my feet out of my sheets at the end of the bed, which is why I don’t tuck them in any more.  I can’t be ‘trapped’ inside my sheets.  I need freedom.

I like that feeling, that there is so much more to explore, to do, to experience, that every day I can try something a little bit different and explore what change means to me.

Change is a key element of what life is about.  We don’t learn so much about embracing change as perhaps we should.  It seems that most of us are taught to try to control change, to be the master of our destiny, meaning we need to be in control of everything as much as possible.

life-is-change-growth-is-optional-choose-wiselyIt’s a fallacy of course.  We don’t have control over anything except our own selves. Some might say, “but I have control over my car when I drive it.”  To that I would explain that this is only true under ideal conditions.  When the brakes fail, your control diminishes, when another car collides with you, your control is negligible.

Instead of striving to control the externalities of our life, if we spent time and energy understanding ourselves, and getting to know how we react under variable conditions, we could become a very flexible person, one that is stable no matter which way the winds of change are blowing.  Instead of trying to stand upright in the wind, if we let ourself bend, like the trees and plants outside, we will find our harmonious balance, rather than feeling forced and eventually breaking under the pressure.

When I was young, or perhaps younger than I  am now (because I still feel young), change would not phase me.  Change was inevitable.  I would go to my friend’s home and call on him to come out, but he may have already left to go to the school, or the store, or downtown.  There were no mobile phones to check, only home phones, hard lines.  Finding your friend was half the fun!  It was usually through walking around that we would find the group of friends that day or night, or we would make plans to meet at a place and time, though many times that would, get interrupted by those things that never changed: parents and chores.

Kids-doing-choresKids are so flexible to the externalities that happen to them, and maybe you can recall those times yourself. I certainly can.  We moved about every other year, sometimes after just a few months if we couldn’t stand the place.  It made my life as a kid a bit less predictable, but kind of adventurous.  I made friends easily enough and the thought of moving never really mattered to me.

I was pliable, flexible, able to adapt to change.  Why then do I get so stuck in expectations nowadays?  Why do I try to control so much of my life now?  These are worthy questions to ponder if you take some time out of your days to simply sit with your self.

I could use some time to mull over those questions and I will strive to this month.  So much of how we feel is based on expectations and our inability to adapt to change. To conquer those aspects of what is the basic tenet of Life, can be an important leap forward in our progress of becoming more enlightened, more calm and peaceful with life, and focusing more on our own expectations rather than those of others upon us.

I hope this short article will be a catalyst for you to remember your youth, hopefully the pleasant aspects, and how flexible you were to change.  If we can recapture some of that now, bring it forward and live it in the present moment, we might find slightly more peace in our life as the external forces gather around us blowing this way and that.

May you find calm in the wind by bending with it.bamboo-tree-with-two-birds-bends-in-the-wind-yali-shi

Reflections of a Hero

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When I reflect upon this year.  This year of watching and learning about what a hero means to me, what kind of definition I can see, perceive, and discern, I start unravelling what has become a theme in my life.  It’s been an amazing process to learn and discover more than you ever anticipated knowing about one small thing. It always brings me back to me: what do I think, what do I believe, how do I respond to that.  And when it does that to me, I automatically try to think about what that might mean to other people.  If I respond that way automatically, is there a lesson in that?  What do I need to unlearn in order to think and respond differently?  How could others do that?  Find out, do some research, see what others say.  That’s all a part of the unravelling process, and it’s exhilarating!

tom-hussey-reflections-1What I have discovered is that inside of us, and I really think all of us, there is that person that we want to be, there is that person that does the right thing, and has all the answers, and is confident, and we look up to, but we can feel so disengaged from that person in this world.  We simply need to get in touch with that aspect of ourselves and let it out.  We are our own best hero, if we just let it happen.  Its just not easy to do.

I am moved on so many different levels about how our perception really colours our world, and what we define, and how we react, and what we might be able to believe…and how hard it might be to behave differently!  By the time we are seven years old we have so many beliefs from our parents, our school, our social circle and groups, that we take them all on without question.

I think we start questioning after we have lived alone for a time, when we are exploring the world on our own and finding our if what we believed is true. Certainly I started to question where I was heading in life after I had surpassed where I thought I should be in life and was nowhere there.  I had not attained my dreams that I had set as a young boy.  I thought by the age of 25 or 30 I would have the world by the rope, being able to do anything I chose.  That simply did not come to me as I had hoped.  What was I doing wrong?  Why did I not achieve this? What had I done wrong?

Questioning the world got me hooked on questioning everything.  don Miguel Ruiz’s newest book, The Fifth Agreement hails the power of being skeptical.  We can start to doubt everything around us, including ourselves, and that allowed me to look within myself and see where my beliefs had created my own world.

I wanted, and still want, to change the world.  I thought I could do it too, and now I know I can.  I can absolutely change the world, no question.  I have absolutely no doubt at all, because I have learned one very important fact: the world is what I perceive it to be.  As soon as I change my thought, I can change my belief, which changes my behaviour, which triggers a new response, that signals a reinforcement of the original thought, and now my world has changed!  I no longer see it as I did.  One small step at a time, my life changes and so does the world around me.  My interactions grow broader, my judgement decreases, my observations grow deeper, my relationships expand, and my heart is constantly filled with learning and gratitude for all things great and small!

I am in constant awe for the processes that go on about me.  I still fall in to old behaviours, I still get triggered by others, I find it hard to walk the path, but at least I see a path.  I can see my behaviours and I am aware of where I am. Sometimes, it just takes some time to feel them all out, to bring them to the surface so I can read them.  The Experiential Gap, just one way to label this event, is the time it takes from having that emotion or behaviour and noticing it.  And what I find is that it diminishes with each awareness of it.  That is progress!  It is measurable and definable and I can feel good knowing my awareness grows with each teachable moment.  We have all had days when we feel we are full of teachable moments and we pray for an end, but the end does come, and it does when it does, not when we choose.

So much of my learning has been in letting go.  Letting go of beliefs and agreements for sure, but also in my habits and ‘go to’ things that I would dwell in and find comfort for a weary mind.  I am a thinker, a rational architect is what some self diagnostic tool described me as, and I believe it fits well.  I like to problem solve and I love research, so I get very excited when I can learn from something. That’s my way of conquering it; to know it, and to adjust to it.  Letting go of my anticipation of perfection in doing, however, has its challenges, as anyone who has that affliction can attest.  Believe me, the expectation of perfection is an affliction that can harm those around us just as much as it harms us.  We are our own worst critic and we cut to the very core of ourselves when we misstep, hesitate, do not perform as we envision.

So much learning.  Always so deep in thought.  I do desire those moments of laughter and levity, and to most people around me you might not ever guess that I am a deep thinker.  I laugh all day long!  Seriously, I remember going on a date, a long time ago, and this girl said “You laugh a lot”.  I never really thought about that.  I guess it’s all relative, right!  No second date.

Most times I have no idea what I want to write about, although there are times when I definitely do.  I love it when something just rolls out of you.  It’s like being channelled, if you can describe that feeling.  I feel a connection to my thoughts as clear as I think them, and I am one with the keyboard, spilling it out on to the screen as it happens in my mind. Such perfection of thought and accomplishment all wrapped up in each sentence.  Not that I am saying any of my thoughts are beautiful, it’s the process that I feel wonderful in; just the ability to write that pleases me.  I feel enraptured. That is a good word right there!

Tonight, I simply couldn’t sleep, and thought I might be able to write.  I knew I had been in a contemplative mindset for a few weeks about the end of the year coming. I had this goal of 100 posts in the year and I am gaining very closely to that goal, this being my 91st post I think?  But more than that goal, which I have let go, saying it will be whatever it will be, I have thought about what I have learned.

This is what I have learned: SO MUCH!

It doesn’t tell you much,  but what I want you to draw from that is the impact it has had on my life that I live every day.  I catch myself constantly seeing the flaws in my behaviour, which I believe is fine if I don’t take that thought and dwell in it.  I have spent many years polishing the version of myself that was oblivious to the outside world, and now, as I embrace my faults, I understand that everything becomes clearer and easier in time.  Patience is a great virtue to draw upon when we fail to meet our expectations and stumble.

A warrior simply gets up and starts the process over again, looking for the weak point in the chain that led to that slip.  Repair the link, and move on.  I strive to be that kind of warrior in my determination against my own beliefs that I had no responsibility in giving myself when I was young.

This quote really sums up what I feel about this process, it’s from Arthur Ashe, a world ranked Number 1 tennis player and humanist:

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

This was the essence for this blog.  Those truly remarkable people in the world that are so unremarkable, so unphased by other people’s perception, so dedicated to their craft, so wonderfully heartfelt, so genuine.  These people that we would pass by without recognizing are the ones that have what it takes to be a hero in the world we live in right now.  We can learn from them, we have to learn from them, so we can evolve to a more enlightened state of mind.

I have learned so much from talking to Peter, my friend that happens to live on the streets that I see around my apartment building.  I love him.  He was talking to my neighbour at the bus stop today in fact, who is mostly blind, and their exchange went like this:

Peter: …when every day is a blur and every moment runs from one to the next, that is not what I consider living, that is not a way to strive.

Neighbour: Yeah, when it’s a blur and one days becomes undistinguishable from the next, there is no living in that.

Neighbour: Thank-you for the conversation Peter, I get some much out of it each time we talk!

Peter: I learn so much from you too!

I had just enough time to say hello and then my bus came.  Oh how I wish I could have stayed and talked more!  How my perception has changed since last year when I could not meet his gaze and the guilt and shame I would find within myself for not doing so.  I love that we call each other by name.  He remains in my heart, not as a homeless ‘professional recycler of goods’ as he calls himself, but as a man, my neighbour, my community member.

I think of my relationship with my girlfriend and how we have become such a strong couple.  I told her when we met that it is only during strife that we understand the true nature of who we are in how we deal with it.  I didn’t think I would be setting up such an eventful year of it, as she lost her ex-husband a few months later, then I lost my job, then she quit her job, and we finally had the most beautiful summer we ever had!  Our learning continues every day and I am blessed and grateful to no end for the love, joy, and teachings we share with one another on our individual journey.

One thing that I have seen is shift in my character.  Before this blog, I was a rather stiff character that you might think was perhaps even angry if you saw me; preoccupied, and unapproachable.  I was always thinking, is all, but my face may have looked that way, as I furrowed my brow and thought through multitudes of information, seeking answers.  That was my job too, so that just accentuated this look even more!

I am much more relaxed all the time and I smile a lot more.  Just today I decided to smile at everyone I passed on the street.  I love that moment when you pass someone walking toward you and they glance at you for that millisecond, then they catch you smiling as their head returns to face front, and they take a second quick look.  A curl emerges on their lips just as I pass them and can’t see any more.  My work here is done!  Yeah, that’s a good feeling.

I am pleased as punch that there are people out there that actually read what I write.  thank-you!  It feeds my soul.  I will be sifting through all my articles at the year end timeline and trying to gather the nuggets of gold that are among the stuff that is just okay and somewhat interesting.  I am fascinated with learning, so if I can summarize it and make it accessible, that will be my goal.  I hope you will stick around as I transform what I wrote into something of notable worth, yet still groovy and fun!

Surely this will not be the end of my journey, I am just started to get the hang of learning now, and the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know.  That’s just a great mindset to be in as we wander the path together don’t you think?

Come with me…the journey has really just begun!

Hero Work Involves All of Us

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I cam across a non profit organisation today while floating around Facebook.  I love inspiring stories, articles of positivism, and pay it forward stories that motivate me.  This particular not-for-profit, NFP, I was surprised to learn was from my own city, and I have never heard of them.

herowork2Isn’t is surprising to learn about new companies, or events, or places that you never knew existed when you start to travel outside your typical places of comfort?  I love learning about new things, places, events, and people that share the vision I have for a better world.

One of the aspects that drew me to this group was their name: Hero Work. Naturally I would feel an affinity toward them, right?  This is what they do:

The HeroWork Society organizes modern-day versions of old-fashioned barn raisings, called Radical Community Renovations. These are fast-paced, leadership-driven renovation events that bring people, communities, and companies together to renew non-profit infrastructure.

In Canada many non-profits and charities have physical assets–neighbourhood halls, shelters, parks, recreation centers, halfway houses, etc.–that are diminished and in need of renewal. Without proper up-to-date buildings they are unable to efficiently deliver their mandates.

The current methods of financing, funding, and maintaining this community infrastructure are insufficient and inadequate. HeroWork will help meet this need by organizing Radical Community Renovations at typically less than 20% of the traditional construction costs.

Bravo!

It takes every single one of us to make a difference in this world.  Is there a talent you have that you can share within someone to make their day brighter?  Can you find a like-minded organisation to share some time with?  What is dear to your heart?  I guarantee that there are people right now in your city wishing that you were with them to share a dream, a thought, or a kindness.

Here’s another example of awesomeness from last night.  My girlfriend and I were out for dinner, enjoying the mild winter and sights of the holiday lights on the trees.  We wanted to ride the Ferris wheel that sits in our city square, nestled next to City Hall.

xmas-ferriswheel-413x432It runs in the evening and rides are just $2.  the event is sponsored or run by our Downtown Victoria Business Association.  It looks like so much fun!  Well, to our mutual chagrin, we started dinner off a bit late trying to find a place that didn’t have a 30 minute wait list.  Finally we found a very nice restaurant at Moxie’s on Yates Street. I have to tell you, on a busy Friday night at about 8pm, it was hard to find such a place that we could walk in and sit down.  Right by the window too. Nice!

The reason I am telling this tale, is because if you are from Victoria, you have to know we have tons of servers, and some are ok at their job, and for most it’s just a job.  Well, we were thrilled to have this young man serve us because he literally was perfect!  He gave us wine tasters to select the one we wanted, and it made a difference in choosing.  He opened a bottle so professionally and recounted his worst ever wine opening from his past.  So much fun!  Such service with a smile and fun interaction.

It was a joy to be there.  He came and refilled the glasses and left us to talk when we were engaged.  Sublime!  I wish I grabbed his name so I could give him personal credit…next time!

Anyway, we had such a good time we missed out on the Ferris wheel ride, but it looks like many got a special ride.  Check this out!

kindnessYYJ

I love it.  Although we missed out, many others received a kindness, and that warms my heart!

kindnessYYJ busIt doesn’t take money either. How about talking to someone on the bus, or sharing your music with the person sitting next to you.  Just engaging someone could light them up like a beautiful Christmas Tree, setting their soul free for a time.  This picture was taken by  a lady watching behind them.  She commented beautifully too:

“To the pretty girl who sat in the front seat of the #10 bus this morning and had a conversation with the down-on-his-luck gentleman sharing the seat, you have a beautiful soul and the patience of a saint. Sharing your music with that man completely made his day. It warmed my heart this morning to see him bopping along to the beat. You’re amazing! From the girl in the seat behind you.”

It just made me think that no matter who we are, no matter where we live, we can do something for someone else to make their day!  Smile at a stranger, hold the door open for someone, lend a hand, share a kindness, a story, a joke, or simply an ear to a story.  You don’t have to be radical renovators, or sit with the homeless to be a light in this world.  You can be the joy in someone else’s eye by just being you.

We all have it in us to uplift others, so let’s get out there and one more light to the world and make this world a brighter place to live.

 

 

The Power of Stillness

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Doing nothing is a really a choice.  Sometimes I don’t want to decide, and I end up not acting.  That’s a choice.  Inaction, the decision to do nothing, can be seen as weak when we look at it in the context of deciding on what to wear in the morning, but there are circumstances where doing nothing is vastly difficult.

If we are called a name, we want to react.  If we are bullied, we want to fight back.  It connects to an instinctual preservation of self portion of our brain, but if we don’t master our control of it, we won’t be able to evolve into a higher being.

Picture yourself confronted by a person filled with hatred, an angry customer, being baited by your work associate, called names by a bully, blamed erroneously, and feeling the stir of your body as the hackles raise on the back of your neck.  Your pulse quickens, you feel your arm muscles tense and your jaw loses it’s drape.  You begin to swarm your mind with thoughts of rightness or wrongness as you comprehend the situation that can often be thrust upon any of us.

Is our vision of strength purely physical?  Do we marshal energies to do battle with these people?  Are we preparing our rebuttal as they continue to speak, using aggressive body language?  Your body reacts, stirs, fills with emotions, and you want to react, but can you maintain your graceful demeanour?  Can you simply observe, and stay grounded and present? That isn’t the same as doing nothing, because there’s a whole lot happening inside!

When we feel our emotions rise within our bodies, it is so easy to focus in on these feelings.  They give rise to thoughts in our mind, depending on our background, beliefs and experiences.  Our mind can easily run with these thoughts to create more feelings in our body that reinforce our initial reaction, and so the cycle grows in strength.

epictetus

There is another level of awareness we need to breach in order to keep calm, contemplative, and in the moment.  We can’t control the other person, but we do have full control over our body, right?  Do you?  Or do you feel out of control?

It’s easy to lose consciousness, and by that I don’t mean passing out, I mean loosing your ability to stay aware of what you are doing.  You go unconscious and simply react to everything you hear.  This becomes a conflict, purely based on our Ego, and it’s preservation.  Thoughts like: I am right, you are wrong, I don’t deserve this, I am better than this, you are abusive, fill our mind.

miguelruizDon-Miguel-Ruiz-The-Four-Agreements-Book-Cover-originalWhen we take the words of someone else personally, we internalize the argument.  It becomes very hard to step out of it and become aware of our behaviours when we are inside of it, living it, feeling it.  Don Miguel Ruiz wrote about the life of the Toltec’s in his book The Four Agreements, espousing their agreements to live life by.  The second agreement states “Don’t take anything personally”.  If we understand that nobody can actually know us, only about us, because we all have our own perspective on what our life is all about, then we can quite easily understand that they are not saying anything that can be taken personally.  They don’t know us.  How could they?  They are running their own movie in their head about perceptions, beliefs and their own agreements that may be far removed from our own.

It also makes me think of Marshall Rosenberg’s development of the Non Violent Communication process:

  1. Differentiating observation from evaluation, being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
  2. Differentiating feeling from thinking, being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
  3. Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and
  4. Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving).

All of our negative thoughts, reactions, pain, and suffering is ultimately self created. This is a major realization!  No-one makes us feel the way we feel.  We choose the way we feel at every moment, unless we slip into unconscious and we then behave by rote.  What a great thought though, to know that if we stay present that we can choose not to take up the burdensome yoke of poor reaction, of emotive response!  It is our choice.

Our initial thought may be to defend our own thoughts on the matter, to say how we feel, to right the wrong we are hearing, but who does that serve?  Certainly it serves our Egoic self.  If we truly want the other person to see a new perspective, we could always try guiding them.  Asking them questions so they come to the conclusion on their own, never deliberately saying they are wrong.  We are all entitled to our own perceptions, truths, and beliefs.

The poor behaviour of anyone confronting us is not a license to misbehave, and in fact, it is a perfect opportunity to express sympathy, empathy, and acknowledgement.  Can we see their point of view regardless of our own? Certainly we can manage to see differing perspectives.

Eckhhart_Tolle_fronta new earthThe immediate feeling if we do not react to deliberating mocking, taunting, and otherwise engaging behaviour is that we feel small and weak, perhaps even cowardly.  As Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book A New Earth that if you do nothing when confronted by a conflict scenario and allow the self image to remain diminished, feeling it for a few seconds, perhaps taking a deep breath, you may feel the discomfort.  However, after this initial diminishment of the self, of the Ego, there begins to be a sense of space, an expansion.  You can begin to grasp the truth, that no matter what external stimuli is presented to us, our perception of what that means is entirely under our control.  So much so that eventually, with practice, we can stop reacting internally to such encounters.

Through reacting less, we become more.  When initially we feel small, we grown internally to the expansion of awareness within us.  Our beingness, our humanity, our spiritual centre is allowed to embrace the situation from a higher perspective.

He adds that the statement ‘Deny yourself’ from the Bible meant this manner of denying the ego within yourself to allow your essence to shine through.

contemplativeWhen I see someone remain calm in what could be a hostile situation, or simply a conflict of opinion, my respect for them grows.  They become more powerful because they are able to see further than their own reaction.  When we can do that, it allows our mind to function at a higher level.  It sees connections, lessons, past events that are relevant to the issue and stronger arguments ensue.  They seem to have a skill that is hard to achieve.

In doing less, you achieve more.

When there is no reaction issued with your words, a silent power emerges.  If we deny something, or decline and invitation without emotion or defensiveness Eckhart calls this a high quality ‘No’.  It is quietly powerful.  It’s a response, not a reaction.

I can see why too.  When someone says ‘No’ emotionally, I instinctively understand that their emotional state can change easily, and may fluctuate from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ depending on how they feel at the moment.  When there is no emotion, and they indicate an response, I cognitively understand that there will be no fluctuation.  they decided explicitly how to respond and that answer is respected more.

When we find our self pulled in many directions by events outside our control, our thoughts may fall upon those people involved.  Perhaps it is sadness, perhaps frustration, or a relationship that is strained, we can take stock in realising we control how we feel about that.  If we are authentic about the words we speak and can witness our conversations, staying present, we need not suffer.

Viktor-Frankl-quoteIt takes back a measure of control to us to realize we are the masters of how we feel, doesn’t it?  If we feel lousy, we need to only find our feelings, trace them to our mind and uncover why we feel that way.  Once we see the connection, we can let it go.  If we suffer, it’s because we are deciding to.

People with this skill are powerful.  It makes me think of those that have been released from wrongful imprisonment for decades and they return to society unburdened by the emotional connection to their situation.  Those that can detach from the extreme emotions, abrupt situations, and surprises that we all encounter in life tend to be able to see farther, realize that “This too shall pass” and that all we experience is transitory.

When we surrender to the identification with our Ego, with our image of who we are, and simply ‘be’, we can start to manifest the qualities of happiness, bliss, and joy that we desire.  We are in control.

Naturally, these things take time to master.  But if you watch your progress, I bet you will find that the time it takes to become conscious of your reaction will gradually decrease, until one day, you notice your reaction, your inner feeling the moment it appears.  At that time you have achieved a huge goal and can decide your behaviour in situations that demand our full attention.

The next step will be no reaction occurring at all.  I am nowhere near that point, but I continue to strive toward reduced time gaps between a feeling and the awareness of it.  This will eventually lead me to a more productive higher sense of being.

In this time of increased stress of the holiday season, I hope everyone can take a deep breath when confronted by a situation that would typically demand a hasty reaction.  That might just give us the time we need to become and remain aware.

 

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