The Grid

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I never saw the grid before. I never thought of it, or even dreamt of anything like it, but over time a sensation began to grown within me that shaped itself into a belief in an underlying structure or connection between all things, all matter.

This is what I call here the grid, but it is just a name, and it is much more than that. It is our connection to one another, the pathway for feelings to flow from one person to the next, the way through which you receive tingles or sensations about people physically distant from you. How can you explain thinking about someone just before they call, or sensing that you should get in touch with a friend just when it was critical to do so?

What we know about physics now has validated what we previously thought was magic. In Arthur C Clarke’s own words:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

There was a time when we believed the world was flat, the earth was the centre of the galaxy, and the universe was made up of only what we could see. Now we know that our universe contains less than 5% of what we have on earth: stuff, matter, things we can see and experiment on. Less than 5%! The rest of the universe is roughly 68% dark energy and 27% dark matter, both of which we do not yet understand. Wow. See the Planck Mission from NASA.

Could this dark energy really be the field of connection we experience all around us? It’s only ‘dark’ because we don’t yet understand it.

I was walking a path to one of my favourite places and part of the gravel had washed away in the rain to reveal a geotextile grid beneath it. It reminded me of the idea of a grid; something that connects us all together with the earth and one being, with other humans, with animals and plants and even the rocks and lava below us.

This was the path I was on…

…and when I looked down I saw the grid.

When people talk about the fabric of the universe, what do they mean by ‘fabric’?

I believe there is something that connects us; I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the energy from bad people before they commit a crime (on a poor friend). I’ve felt the attraction to people I’ve just met that lingers for days. There is something out there that emanates even between you and I, and we don’t have to see it to believe it.

Something else that we don’t see, but can understand is the power of ‘the word’. It is one of the most powerful ways we ‘use’ the energy to bring in to being, or manifest, change, conflict, or love. Consider if someone curses at you. Does your energy shift? Does it impact you and your thoughts in a particular manner? If you put someone down, does it not impact both you and the person and perhaps several others around you? And vice versa, when we praise and encourage others or even our self, doe we not sense energy? Are we not buoyed by it? What is it that we are buoyed within?

If our words hold power to manifest change, then our thoughts are precursors to this power. What we think, fear, or dream, draws upon this dark mysterious energy to bring about that which is thought.  Consider this:

As you think, so shall you be.

When I stop to consider my thoughts, I wonder where they come from? Perhaps my beliefs. If my beliefs were established before I became aware of any alternative, then I would have used them to form my thoughts, biased toward the belief I hold. If that is the way of thought and speech, then everything that everyone says is biased to a way of thinking they were taught before they ever had a say in whether or not they chose to believe in it.

This is why it takes so long for us to change our patterns of behaviour.

The grid is the nexxus we can not see, and can only feel on a very deep level, if we can tune in, if we are connected to our sensations beyond the five society has told us we have. We have many, many more, and they are all related to that which we do not see.

NASA and many physicists are on the trail to discover the secrets of the universe that have not yet yielded to our enquiry, but it’s starting to look more like magic than it ever has before. Perhaps this energy field, this force, to use the Star wars figure of speech, is just that. After all, what is magic but unexplained reality?

In my exploration of this grid, or underlying structure that connects all of us together, I can now look more compassionately at others as a part of me. If we are one, as is so often the phrase used to allow us to acknowledge the damage to the earth and start thinking sustainably, as if we are one being, then you are a part of me and I am a part of you.

We may have come from some other location, a different mother for sure, but I ask this: does the bark think it is separate from the tree?

Is a tree just what we see above the ground? What of the root system that attaches to all the other trees? where does one tree end and another begin? The notion of a fabric of space also conveys the idea of togetherness in Nature. And if so in Nature, how are we to consider our self separate from it? And if we are not separate, then how are we connected?

As with many of my ideas, articles and thoughts, it leaves me asking more questions, but along with those, I feel a deeper sense of understanding, even though I may not know specifically about, I ‘feel’ closer to you, to my friends and neighbours and all the environment that I surround myself with every day; even these humble walls around me.

May you feel a sensation of connectedness when you explore the fabric of your universe.

The True Self

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When we match, overlap, or otherwise align our mind (what we think), body (what we say), and spirit (what we feel) we are unstoppable, unerring, forces of Nature/The Universe/Creation that can take us to the summit of all that makes us whole. Why then do we continue to mislead, edit, delete, or otherwise stay embroiled in our own head, fearful of the outcome, of what people will think, or feeling the complete and utter shame of something we did, witnessed, or are complicit in?

Well, I think those things right there speak volumes about why we don’t say what we feel, don’t share what we did, can’t become truly one with our true self; limiting our ability to sync our heart and soul with our actions and our words.

Fear is a Lie

But such a truthful lie that it hooks the very fabric or what we hold as reality, for it comes from within us, as if we are betraying our very self. Betrayer! You know what hurts me, and you use that so cleverly, so manipulatively, to keep me from talking.

You have likely heard countless sayings for what FEAR means, but here is a song that includes many more.

Don’t you ever feel like just shouting what your…untruth/lie/compromise is, even when next to the very person that lie involves, or who we might think it would break their heart? Doesn’t it just want to jump right out of your skin and escape the very essence of you? I hear it, shouting, screaming in my mind sometimes, and at other times I can’t hear it because I have drowned it out, or distanced myself from it, but it is always there.

Shame is a self inflicted wound that we constantly reopen.

It keeps us entangled in a world that shrinks, isolates, and eventually strangles us into nonexistence. If we do not associate with anyone with whom we feel might evoke the shame we hide inside, we can survive right? What is survival at that rate? What are we living for?

Shame is a shadow warning us of the worst possible outcome, but it can only survive off of a weak sense of self worth. It is strongest in the weakest of us, and the weakest sense of us strengthens it.

I recently shared a truth about my life with some very close friends of mine and colleagues. I had fear and shame to blame for why it took me 15 years to come to terms, to finally say what my heart has been shouting at me for years.

Although I used the shame and fear as curtains to withdraw from even as I spoke, what I witnessed was nothing more than mercy, compassion, empathy, and non-judgement…the opposite of what I had been telling myself I would encounter! If I had known this was the case, I would have spoken up so much earlier.

After an hour talking with just the right person, I felt clear of the dark cloud that usually hung over even the whisper of the truth. I felt relieved. I even felt a tingle of excitement at what this might mean for me. I had done it! I had told one person what was real in my life after years of torment, or wanting to tell someone, and being unable because my fear or my shame was greater than my inner scream.

Why did it take so long for me to discover that this release was so incredibly freeing? Why oh why did I wait so long? Because I grew up with a very deep sense of what I should be like. What I shouldn’t do, and what was wrong and what was right. But most of all I was weak inside. I could not summon the personal strength to say my truth and own it, and that breaking through to the real synchronous true world was my right in life. I was so weak, that my self worth was absorbed in the inner conflict of my mind every day. I had no more energy, no more room, for the truth to come out.

Our inner struggles take what is a finite daily amount of willpower and grinds it down until we submit, every single day. What we may not recognize is that there are things that actually give us more energy and power in the day. Sharing a truth actually empowers us, and feeds the sense of worth we hold inside. It strengthens our bond to our self image and gives us power that we can share with our Will.

My path to the truth is personal to me and I share it with those I care about and that care about me. It’s not something to boast about, nor is it something that defines who I am. It is however a direction I desire to travel, a part of me that I will incorporate in to my life. Simply put, living in the freedom of a truly sympathetic existence is challenging, but incredible fulfilling and this is what I want to experience.

The feelings every day since I awoke to the reality that fear and shame held me captive in my own mind, a prison of my own making, have been exceptional, surprising, and remind me of the joy I used to experience when I was much younger.

Combined with exceptional people that I have surrounded myself with, and reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, are the makings of a shift in my life toward greater synchronicity, inner peace, and unmitigated joy!

Not being a person that has lots of friends, but the ones I have are amazing, I am enjoying new people in my life as I open up about what is real and meaningful to me.

My fear was a real lie and it held my tongue. My shame was even greater and fixed my mind on the monster within. But both were shattered the moment I uttered the truth.

I literally feel my body coming together, the energy within me increasing in harmony and frequency, the uncluttering of my mind, and opening the virtual windows to let the fresh air in.

Day by day my living truth provides me with a perspective of abundance, a wealth of new caring people, and a path that is exciting and somewhat unknown. Sometimes we shift our lives so dramatically in one direction that we find it difficult to see the next step. That’s okay. I relish the step I am on and look forward to what lies ahead when it appears. This mindset allows me to stay in the present moment, aware of how my body is reacting and what I may need. Slowing life down like this allows awareness in, which is our companion on our journey to the true self.

I share this account for all of you that harbour any untruth, any inner monster that is screaming to be let lose. Our time is so limited and we don’t know what the next minute holds, let alone day. What life are you leading and what life do you want to lead? Free yourself from the bondage of your mind by finding one person who will be your compassionate listener and unburden your self. Practice creating inner strength if you need to develop a sense of self that is strong enough to open up and be vulnerable. That is courage. That is strength.

The message here is to reveal the truth you know you have inside you, no matter what it is, no matter why you held on to it. It may have served a purpose once, but ask yourself if that reason exists today. Living a life that is clean, sober, spiritually aligned, personally liberating, whatever your truth is for you, is so incredibly rewarding. For me, it takes me back to the joy I felt as a child; that simple yet powerful sensation of accomplishment, bravery, or personal value.

If you have nobody in your life, please connect with me. In over a decade of shouldering a weight, I can empathize with what that means and what it can do after such a long time. I can tell you that what our mind tells us is is in no way a reflection of who we really are inside. The fact that there is a conflict within us is proof! I smile at that notion because we never think about at the time do we? All we can see and sense if conflict, but alas, if there were no conflict, what sense of future could we hope for? Conflict is our saviour and our spark of reconciliation of self.

I couldn’t have done this had it not been for the kind gesture of a person extending their hand and asking if I was okay. Depression can be a symptom of us living a life that is not aligned with our inner truth. Find someone to talk to. Seek out a willing ear. There are many resources around my city of Victoria (Google: Community resources in Victoria) and wherever you may live but the greatest resource I could ever ask for is a caring and compassionate person to share my true self with.

Gratitude and Inner Peace to all who seek to live a life of harmony with their True Self!

The Benefits of Nesting/Cocooning

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I don’t know about you, but I had one heck of a hibernation period this winter. I mean, it was COLD and dark, and wet and we got quite a bit of snow. We don’t usually get much of any, and if we do it goes quickly. I’d say we had three months of potential snow an almost any day. Wow, that was a loooong cold snap.

I spent a lot of time in my home, watching movies or reading books, or writing, and didn’t venture outside very much at all. I suspect that is what it’s like elsewhere where snow is an annual concern, but this winter hit me harder than usual. However, I came out of that time more productive, feeling more positive, and with greater direction that I ever had prior. Let’s look at some reasons why that might be.

Having a lot of time to relax, ponder, dwell, and otherwise entertain yourself can be quite productive. That’s counter-intuitive to most of us when we first hear it because it’s not ‘doing’ much of anything.

But, what it allowed me to do is find a direction that I felt passionate about for my own reasons. It can give us some much needed down time to grapple with some deep questions that we may not have had the time to deal with previously. While in our preferred environment, when we might otherwise be doing a multitude of activities, we can spend more time thinking about our life’s direction, which can progress us along our desired path in life.

The couch or nest that we make for ourself can be very soothing, promoting what we feel is a safe environment from which to ply our thoughts toward things we might find fanciful, new, exciting, foolhardy, or scary. It can give us time to talk to friends and family that are supportive of deep conversation and meaningful exploration. It can also help us cope with any winter blahs, stress at work, and other pressing issues that may be bothering us during that time.

The idea that nesting or wrapping yourself up in a cocoon is wasteful might come from the notion that if we aren’t doing something we aren’t making any progress. I believe the benefits of cocooning behaviour comes under the 7th habit “Sharpen Your Saw”  as Steven R. Covey conveys in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. We get a chance to rethink important aspects of our life to make sure we are moving in the right direction, and aren’t simply moving or doing because we fear stopping could be unproductive.

There are now more options available to the nest dweller, like movies, home shopping, excellent technology for working from home, and delivery of goods. The trend of consumers has been to create highly personal places to spend time in that have all the needs and wants included. These sanctuaries are refuges from the hustle and bustle of daily life as well as any stresses that come up in life. A 2014 Consumer Reports (US) article reported that there has been an increase in spending of 29% on TV repair and what were once luxuries (Coffee and premium cable) are now necessities.

Some have gone to the extreme in providing not only an atmosphere of cocooning, but suspended…with others. The Australian reported that New York’s Crunch Gym now has a new workout called Antigravity Cocooning. Go figure. It’s a blissful experience one can associate with deep relaxed meditation and you can do it in several different ‘nest’ arrangements alone or with others. Locally Float House has containers that promote floating in highly saline water for a similar effect.

These types of expenditures can get pricey, which is likely why many people are simply designing, to the best of their ability, their own nest or cocoon at home. We realize we don’t need so much space, so many rooms, or thousands of square feet of ‘living space. Thus the Tiny Home trend.

Personally, this is one of the first seasons that I really used my home as a nesting ground, and it allowed me to really think about some big questions in life. I came away with a greater appreciation for my life’s direction and a new focus on what really matter to me right now in my life.

This experience drove me to appreciate even more the down time we create, whether it’s meditating, reading, communing in Nature, or simply satisfying our desire to be wrapped in comfort, akin to our human beginnings in a sanctuary of our own making.

May your nesting time enhance your life when and where you need it!

Tap Into The Power of Belief

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Here I was at the gym thanking my muscles for remembering they used to be amazing and lean and that they were working so well after such a time away. I was thinking of muscle memory and it got me thinking…is that right? Is that all it is?

It’s as if something outside of my control, a memory in my body, recalls something I did long ago and re-conforms to that previous pattern, output, or state. If our cells are constantly renewing themselves and within seven years our entire body has new cells, just where is this memory retained?

Hmm. I have to admit I was a bit stumped at that.

I started to question that muscle memory was all that was happening.

What if there was something else at work here? My workouts were becoming surprisingly easier after just a short time at the gym. My heart rate is as low as it used to be when I considered myself in shape when I pushed the workout. My legs automatically ran the bike at the old speed as well. Why was I progressing so quickly?

Granted I was eating perfectly (for my body) and getting tons of rest, but I didn’t think that could, by itself, be responsible for the gains I was seeing. Then a thought started to come to me. What if our belief in muscle memory has something to do with it. What does it mean to believe in something outside ourself? Whether it be muscle memory or something else?

Could it be that our belief in an innate state of our body, one that is seemingly outside our mental control, is what contributes to a hyper acceleration of gains, no matter what we are doing: playing sports or an instrument, competing, speaking in public, and so on?

Can belief in our own self, whether we rationalize it from the chemical make-up of our cells and their memory, or the genetic ability of how we were born, or the hereditary genes of generations of performers, be the key to unlocking a potential so vast and untapped in many of us?

Simply put, is our belief in our ability actually more of a determinant in our actual ability than genes, genetics, or previous history, or any other determinant? Or even just as meaningful a factor? If you believe that you are, not just that you can, or that you will be, but that you ARE inherently amazing at something, will you be?

Dr. Joe Dispenza firmly believes in this hypothesis that if you picture yourself as already attaining that which you desire, and really feeling with al your senses that you already have it, it will come to you. He calls this the Quantum Law and here is a snippet about how the way we think attributes to the way we progress. This is a very similar concept. Our belief in an aspect of our self can be looked at as very similar to a sense of gratitude that it exists within us.

He isn’t the only one to see the magic of the universe that way.

When I adjusted my thought about my muscles and their ‘memory’, what I was really doing was believing that my body, regardless of how I felt or thought, had the ability to be amazing. I believed that all I had to do was show up at the gym and my previous state would show up.

In other words, I had complete faith that my body would become what it once was if I simply put in the time, and it would somehow manifest. I had complete faith in the process, built on the belief that my body had muscle memory. I was empowering my unfettered ability to be anything I desired.

Whoa. That’s pretty cool.

I say unfettered because when we simply rest within our mind cognitive abilities, we can dismiss the power of the subconscious.

That’s an edge over a competitor. That’s a step forward in a timeline, a special place we tap into to bring forth what we truly desire. I’m not just talking about going to the gym here. Think about it. Dwell here a moment.

Let’s dissect that a bit. I believed something that is not tangible to me. I can’t hold it or touch it or even see it, but I believed it nonetheless. Why would I do such a thing? There are many reasons we believe something, but for me I was likely told this by someone I admired, or trusted, or expressed some type of authoritative view to me. Or maybe it has been experienced by so many people who also believe in this phenomena that it is a popular conception.

Belief in the intangible. Belief in an ability we believe we possess. Now, this isn’t like flying, it is simply an enhancement of current abilities or the learning curve let’s say.

I wonder, if we can extrapolate this to anything, if we could envision ourselves actually being good at something we are not presently comfortable with, if it would be significant.

As I write this visions of elite athletes come to mind, but they envision perfection. What about public speakers? Perhaps we could believe we embody a calm nature, a clear mind so that everything we desire to say springs forth. Wouldn’t that be nice!

This concept is not large is stature, but it is intrinsically significant in acknowledging the slight difference between belief in what we are capable of and what we attribute to external factors. I’d like to think then that no matter who you are, no matter what your ‘muscle memory’ for any task, that if you 1) envision yourself having that ability, and 2) believe that you already have it, right now, it can accelerate your potential beyond your past experiences.

This is more than just picturing it. You have to believe it with all your mind and body. Embody the presence of it so that it simply is a part of you. I bet if we all practiced this before our feet hit the floor in the morning there would be some pretty empowered people out there!

Let’s acknowledge the power within our self to be what we desire. After all, if we are the accumulation of thoughts (script) and feelings (behaviours), let’s starting acting the part.

What do you believe?

I challenge anyone reading this to do this for one week and document the noticeable acceleration in gains, no matter what they are pursuing, toward a goal they are actively pursuing or even putting their attention to. Please let me know if this works for you.

Be The Lightning Rod

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Close eyes. Breathe in.

I have often thought of my desire to be on stage, or in front of a class, or in a group teaching others about aspects of life that I have uncovered from the teachings of the many practitioners of self development, conscious living, and creative exploration. Then I get this self doubt saying “Who am I do say anything about life when I don’t have everything together my self?”

Then I answer back “Who am I not to be the conduit for others, even if I am not presently portraying it?” I have still learned it. I still see the value in it. It may take years to get there, but must I wait until perfection strikes? I may never get to that place.

Then I had a flash of inspiration. I saw a lightning storm on a program I was watching, and the idea of conduit came back to me. What people need is not perfection, they simply need someone to stand up and present ideas worth spreading, as TED Talks likes to say. They simply need a lightning rod from which ideas and concepts flow for there to be value.

So many of us are afraid to stand up, to sacrifice our self for the good of others. To stand up and take on the fear and self doubt and in spite of all that say ‘hello, I have an idea. I want to share something with you.’

This concept of being that conduit allows me to be perfectly imperfect, and share my difficulty in being everything I admire about life, but sharing it nevertheless!

If anyone ever waited for perfection to happen before they stood up and proclaimed anything, we would still be sitting in a cave, I’m sure of it.

Hallelujah, that we can be our true self and share what it means to us! I am so glad this thought arose and has eased some of my doubt about being the person I one day wish to be, or more accurately, be in the profession I one day wish to pursue.

We need more conduits out there to say “I have an idea, a revelation, or a lesson learned that I would like to share with you. Would you like to listen, dialogue, or participate?”

Breathe out. Open eyes.

Smile.

What is Life?

I crave connection between my spirit, my inner dwelling of emotion and thought, and between myself and those I interact with. I sidestep small talk. I walk away from gossip.

“What is life?” is a question I constantly seek answers to.

I don’t have answers, but I do feel it. I don’t know the right way, but I can sense what fills me up. I can’t think my way through this as if it were an equation to solve, but with just enough courage to face the unknown, I just might attract what my heart desires.

Connection.

Authenticity.

Genuineness.

I want to see what is truth, but there are times I have a hard time being truthful about my own life.

I seek authentic kinship with others, but at times, lack the transparency to be authentic with my own feelings.

I know I might die any day. I know I have no control over many factors in life, but there are days I do nothing to change my circumstance, and others when I rail against it.

I have decades of conditioning to unwrap, agreements to break, beliefs to dissolve, and I keep finding more, and more, and more that I need to face.

Once we begin to look within our own self, our own carcass of a vessel that contains everything our teachers put inside, we might find that a lot of it stinks. When we clean one area, another oily slick emerges to foul our sense of self.

You would think after yearsof cleaning and clearing, and awareness, and acceptance that it can get tiring, and grind a person down to oblivion. But damn if our brain doesn’t laugh! Utter nonsense, laughter, and awkward moments abound that make my spirit swell with self compassion and silly notions of how truly ridiculous I used to be, and how I love that aspect of me. I was unconscious to the Nth degree, concerned with self and image, and I felt it all slipping away.

At the time I wondered: Who do I turn to? Who can I share my inner despair and fear, and unknowingness with? I am supposed to be strong, so how do I confess my weakness? Surely with no one that looks up to me.

Sincere, deep, honest conversation finally came to me. It saved me in as much as it uncovered much more within me. It revealed an upwelling of inner strength. Did I always have it and merely forgotten it, or was it a byproduct of becoming real?

There are times when I harken back and desire the early years, of cutting grass all day long, of planning weekend activities, of worrying about what kind of tires to by on my ride. But those days, while I lived them, were full of more stress than I dare to recall, I simply don’t hold on to those memories. So reaching for them now is a manufactured ghost of fantasy past.

Taking time to realize where I derive the most pleasure, the most of what fills my heart and spirit is a great lesson. It is time well spent, and it takes time, I tell myself. I must be patient.

Just when I think I made some progress, more dirt crumbles from the corner. That is the way of it. Our own inner work may never be finished, and would I ever want it so? Maybe for a day, but not any longer, for my lessons might cease.

I learn from my past, and what I desire now. I love the authenticity with which I can grapple with my past actions and my awareness of self. When everything works, I attempt to show my new self to others, to be more comforting, to be more compassionate, and listen more deeply to their story. I am constantly evolving.

I’ll still laugh at silly shit, my brain will still see the lighter side of life, the other meaning, the sly third sensation, and thank goodness for this, or my existence might be taken too seriously!

When I think back a few years about where I was, and how far I have come, I know it is small from one respect, and huge from another. I am happy to know my sense of humour does not diminish with awareness, and I am grateful to have met so many genuine, loving, caring people that stood with me when I needed them, and let me stand with them in their need.

colquitz 087As I look forward to 2017, I have grand expectations, but mostly I look to welcome life into my heart, welcome my imperfections, and welcome your humanness. What awaits me is what I challenge myself with, and I know with all certainty, that I am ready to stand up, to reveal more of my voice and passion, and seek to share it with any that are attracted to authentic life. What are you ready for?

What is life? It is being okay with your self that is okay with you seeking your own authentic answers to what lay deep inside. What a grand adventure! A never-ending grand adventure!

May our laughter never fade from our life’s quest.

We Crave Connection, So Let’s Connect!

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You are enough, you have everything it takes to survive in this world, including all of your issues. We are awesome like that.  But, when it feels like more than we can handle, when it feels daunting and scary, sad and lonely, we forget about our own resources, our own awesomeness, and when that happens, our world begins to shrink. It is at this time, in particular, than a friend’s ear, soft shoulder, or hand in ours, can be the most comforting, most rewarding, experience that we recall for years to come.

The ear hears many sounds and, I think, feels many vibrations beyond those we can rationalize as sound, which is why I believe deeply in listening to what people say. Just like our ears, I know our eyes take in much more than our brains can visualize into an image. There is so much to take in, however, that we can become masters at deflection, avoidance, and short-sightedness in order to calm our own living world.

When we meet, what do you say? “Hi” usually followed by “How are ya?” That’s how it is in my social circle and culture, and it is so common, that we hardly wait for an answer, or our answer is so routine that we unconsciously answer “Fine” with a fake smile before we have even had time to process that question. We mask it up so well, and depending on the social circumstance, it may not be deemed appropriate to divulge what we are actually feeling or thinking. For most of us, this can get close to 100% of the time.

And so we push it deeper inside our brains, which pushes that thought into our body, and chemicals are created that create a feeling, sometimes in the pit of our stomachs, or our diaphragm, or our heads. It eludes us until it demands our attention, and sometimes we just don’t know why.

This is why it is so monumentally powerful when a person actually hears your answer to “Hi, how are you?”. If you say “Busy, it’s been a busy week” and they get curious by asking “Oh? How so?” That can almost catch you off guard! We aren’t used to people listening to us. We aren’t used to providing real answers to social or polite questions. What does this say about our society?

What does this day about what we get used to? We are all walking around with plenty of armour on, which protects us from getting close to everyone we come in to contact with. To a degree, this is a necessity, but we have to remember we are wearing it! I often don’t take my armour off, and I offer less to those around me because of it.

In this evening’s class to be a volunteer counsellor, the topic of suicide was raised. I thought how much we interact with others, and how many people hardly ever, if at all, are heard, are listened to, are seen, or even acknowledged in our society. And I’m not just talking about the disenfranchised cultures and minorities, but regular people like our neighbours, that guy you sit across to at work, your spouse, your son or daughter. Do we spend enough time to ask them, with genuine curiosity, “How are you doing today?” or “How are you feeling?” We live so much of our lives in our head, on the computer, on our phones, texting, that our world is like a surreal matrix, void of touch. I mean touch as in physical, emotional, and spiritual.

It’s easy to slip unnoticed by so many people, and it is specially relevant right now, as we head into yet another frenzy of holiday experience. It can be seen from those that have no family, like they don’t belong. Where do we get the kind of connection we need as a person if not from our family? If we don’t cultivate friendships?

One of the best aspects of my previous job was fielding complaints from the public. I never took their complaint personally, which helped me acknowledge their view, and often I felt what they were feeling, and I was able to see their point of view, and after that was accomplished, I’ll tell you, it didn’t really matter if any action came from the phone call. I could already feel a palpable release of tension in their voice. That says something. If we could simply be the sounding board for one other human being, we may never know the difference it makes, but isn’t that beautiful?

We could actually save a person’s life simply by listening, interacting, really ‘seeing’ someone for the first time.Listening, seeing, acknowledging, witnessing, empathizing, sharing, times, stories, events, anything…is enough.

Share the essence of you with the essence of another and you will be rewarded.

???????????????????????????????If they ever speak to you about a darkness, about leaving this world, about checking our or suicide, please refer them to a counselling service, a friend, and stay with them. Listen to them and offer the best medicine of all: your genuine time with them. We can not make anyone live, nor can we make anyone die, but we can explore reasons for living, connections to this world, and maybe, give someone hope where they simply forgot it.

Remind the world why we are human: we crave connection. So connect with someone today. It may not be your life you save, but I bet both will change with every new connection.

These acts of genuine kindness and compassion are indelible in those that received them from another. That shows their power, their gift of connecting people to the very core of their existence. That is enough. You are more than enough to share with any other human being.

Share the gift of time this holiday season and you will have shared what no billionaire can possibly buy, nor what any heart could genuinely deny.

The Gift of What Is

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The world is a sad, fearful, wasteland of drugs, war, racism, and greed and we are pawns in an unchanging, ruled society by the few people who control everything.

Or is it?

By all accounts, that’s what I hear almost every day. That’s what I see on the news. That’s what I hear people talking about, and you’d think I could have become adjusted to it by now. I was adjusted. I used to watch TV after work, and look forward to the weekend to let loose, but after many years is begins to lose it’s appeal.

I spent several years of my life wanting to escape from that opening paragraph, and being successful to a degree. Problem was, I escaped from everything, my friends, my family, and most importantly, myself.

Then something happened. Something changed. I couldn’t tolerate listening to it anymore. I couldn’t stand it. I hated hearing how the world was going to hell and we had no say in it. Then, one day, I was given a gift. Not a real material gift, but a gift of understanding that I had the real power in this life. It just came to me: I was the person that got to choose what my world was, not anyone else. It was my choice.

img_4607I chose to stop believing in that world view, because it wasn’t my world view.

I chose to eliminate the voice of fear and greed and hatred by turning off the news. I got rid of television. I stopped watching the news. I stopped reading the newspaper’s first section, and when people at work talked about the world, or gossip, I left or I turned away, and gently thought to myself ‘I know there is more out there’.

I knew, from somewhere deep inside, there was another world, that was kind, was full of love, and giving, and fun! This was the world I was born into. This was the world I lived in when I was a child, and I explored, and learned, and shared, and laughed.

I didn’t create this world, that seems so cold and isolating and indifferent. But, I didn’t do anything about it either. I’ve spent the last few years searching for a way out. Looking within. Examining my beliefs and my personal agreements, and I’ve decided that it’s time to get rid of my fear. It’s time to wash away my prejudices and my judgements and see things as clearly as possible. And in this light, I will hope for only one thing: to see what is.

What is can not be described by anyone because it would be coloured by their lens.

What is is not anything I can describe to you for the same reason.

When I can see what is, I will no longer fear lending my hand to a stranger. I will hold that door open no matter who you appear to be, and give you the change in my pocket.

When I see what is, I will hear you, I mean really listen to your words, and I will stop you when I hear gossip, and say “that’s not okay”.

I’ll strive to speak up, and say what I believe when my gut tells me something isn’t right. I am a unique individual, with an experience nobody else has shared, and when I have something to say, it will be meaningful and genuine and true, at that moment.

That’s the key, right? We can get caught in the struggle to always be the same person our entire lives, but we have to realize we are changing every day. With new experiences, and new learning opportunities how could we ever stay the same? I choose to embrace the multifaceted, ever changing, sensitive, and sometimes shy, and sometimes bold side of me. What I say will be what I believe, and I will have peace between what my gut is feeling and what’s on my mind.

When I can see what is, I can let go of my own insecurities and strive to love myself more. One of the things I’ve learned is that we can get lost looking for the love of our life, and still feel like something is missing. Until we can feel that love from within, our romances will continue to be as hollow as fast food: seemly filling until an hour later, leaving us craving for more, then disgusted, then swearing it off, then seeing it again and craving a taste.

When I can see what is, I can rest. I can sit with myself, with nothing but the hum of my fridge, or the sound of traffic, or the whispers of a warm breeze echoing the sound of willow wisps and crows caws. When I can sit with my self, I can really listen to you. And in listening I can really see you. Then I can then really interact with you.

What I choose to see, is something that isn’t news. It isn’t print-worthy. It’s not sellable. It is, however, more fulfilling, and satisfying that anything I will ever see on television, in a newspaper, or in an advertisement. You can’t purchase it, you can’t trade for it, and you certainly can’t lead a genuine life without it. That’s why it doesn’t matter who rules the world, when you control which world you see.

There may be people who want you to believe you are powerless, that you have no say, that you don’t matter, and they want you to keep consuming, and fearing your neighbour. They may even want you to keep doing that until you die, with your pet on your lap, in front of your TV.

So turn off the news. Take a stroll after dinner in the wind and rain. Grab a friend and go for a coffee or juice. Write a story and share it with your friends. Who knows what the future holds for you. You might even change your career for something ultimately fulfilling.

This is a life worth living. Living is for relating to others. For new experiences that challenge the way we think, and remind us that we are all real people, with real insecurities and real judgements, and prejudices, and flaws. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

When we take a stand against the collective view of the world, and decide for ourselves what we want to believe in, the world shifts. It changes in the slightest, most magnificent of ways, just for us.

When we choose to embrace what is, and see the world like we used to see it, when we were much younger than we are today, we can see the joy again, the laughter comes to us, and that rainy day is just another excuse for gumboots and puddle jumping.

My life is about choice: my choice.

It’s your world too.

My Personal Journey with HeroWork

Helping to bring a project full circle from inception to fruition, which happened just yesterday for the Rainbow Kitchen, one that exists simply to help others, is an extraordinary feeling. My latest involvement in a project helps feed 150 people every day, 36,000 meals a year, and it feeds not just their belly, but their social connections, self worth and an essence of spirit. That’s the ‘Radical Renovation’ of the Rainbow Kitchen through the actions of community, driven by HeroWork. Its like a modern day barn-raising, if you can visualize a community of volunteers coming to help fix one building.

But what has it done for me, personally?

I want to bring you back to how I first heard about HeroWork, because I feel as though I was directed to it, and I know, after talking with many of the people involved, that others feel the same way.

I was on a personal mission to write this blog about the meaning of heroism in everyday life, when I ran across a local organization that rebuilds charities in such a way that it caught my eye. It was HeroWork, naturally, and I mentioned it in this earlier post in December 2014. Lending a helping hand, sharing a smile, or simply acknowledging someone creates a lightness of being that brightens this world. It just does, and when many of us get together and do it, the light gets brighter.

The second time I was impacted by HeroWork was when I saw Paul Latour tell his inspiring tale of how it evolved out of an act of giving; by helping a neighbour with MS deal with their yard work. Pretty humble beginnings that have flourished and grown every year to the completion of the latest renovation that is estimated at $500k over three weekends with hundreds of volunteers. This takes the total tally to $1.8M in the Victoria area. Amazing, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get back to the final crossroad where I decided to become involved.

The third time I heard about HeroWork was when a friend of mine told me they were renovating Citizen’s Counselling Centre where she worked. Now, I don’t always ‘get it’ when something is trying to grab my attention, but I saw clearly that in less than 10 months I was being directed to become a volunteer and work on that building. I signed up to volunteer on the very first day and I was a grunt worker that carried out lots of broken up concrete, sand down some doors and various other odd jobs. I felt like I was part of something bigger than just myself, something that made a difference. Isn’t that what we want out of our lives? We want to matter, and this involvement accelerates the process of making a tangible difference in your very own community.

That was it: I was hooked. Over the next few weeks I became instrumental in the fundraising campaign by organizing the silent auction items through a team of gifted volunteers. Such a stark change from absolutely zero knowledge to becoming passionately involved. Life can take some serious corners, and when we see them coming it’s all the better.

After that event was over, I had to focus on my day job of teaching and I didn’t get to become involved until about 8 months later when Paul Latour asked how things were going. The preparation steps were starting to get underway for the next project and I was asked to come in and see if there was a position that suited me.

I had just finished my teaching contract and the timing was right to get involved once more. After reviewing the potential positions, I was thinking quietly to myself that I like talking to people, so perhaps something on the Neighbourhood Liaison Team would be a good fit. Paul started to ask me what I thought, and as I was sorting out what I thought, a most beautiful moment happened.

As if time stands still, I almost feel as if the light in my brain got brighter and Paul indicated with his finger on the outlaid brochure of potential positions, pointing to one particular spot: Project Manager: he saw me as one of the three event managers outside of the renovation.

“What?!” I quietly breathed to myself. I’m sure my eyes widened slightly, but not wanting to give away both my feeling of inadequacy and my thought of potential, I sat for what felt like many minutes. I’m sure it was just half a second, but I said out loud “Oh, yeah. I can do that,” then ended off with a smile that may have shown off some false bravado mixed with a dash of panic.

Although I had led projects of similar financial value before, it was with large government agencies and many professionals to assist me if I ever needed help, and I also was an expert in my field. I was jumping in to something that I was simply passionate about, without having the experience of what it actually meant.

Over the next few days I felt that in this role I just might be over my head. But at the same time, while I felt challenged to fulfill a role I did not feel particularly prepared for, I also didn’t want to shake the confidence Paul Latour saw in me. That feeling of knowing someone you admire greatly has confidence in yourself, is so vastly comforting, and so incredibly powerful.

I started leading two teams in the project, and liaising with the other two project managers. Time flew by and I was both nervous and excited, trying my hardest to perfect meetings and inspire action and connection.

Paul shared with me that meetings are not just a time to get answers, they are also a time to connect with teammates. This is done though being genuine, asking questions, and sharing stories, like “What brought you to HeroWork?” which is one of my favourite questions.

I dealt with personnel conflicts, and issues that I alone could not solve, but what I realized is that I was partnered with people that have been through many projects before, and they had all the answers I needed. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, I merely needed to be present, ask questions, and allow everyone else to do their part.

I learned to ask “What does that look like?” when presented with an issue, and be specific in details around logistics, because during the event, knowing when, for how many, and what options are available on the food service team will determine if certain people can eat the food we spent the summer preparing for delivery.

My teams were food and volunteers, and dealing with significantly different teams and personalities was exciting and educating. But, there was a common thread that was present throughout the entire preparation phase, and the event: we are all there to do our best in making a difference for others. It is such a giving environment! We were a diverse mix of people that started to create a community of common purpose.

One of the startling things I learned was how different people operate in a planning environment versus the real event. Some people I hardly knew, and thought weren’t really processing the planning of the event ended up being stars, shining brightly due to their particular “can do” attitude and on-site leadership ability. This startling realization reaffirms how each of us learn differently. Some through simple paperwork and discussion, others through role-play, and acting out live scenarios; which I find are great for those complex decision-making environments.

There have been times when I sat down after one of the ‘rush’ times on the site and simply smiled at the energy of my teams. Smiling, encouraging, and willing, even amid the chaos of arrival time of the waves of volunteers. When problems arose, they were handled with curiosity and genuinely seeking amends and corrective action. It was beautiful to be able to take in those moments of gratitude during the event.

I learned so much during the first weekend, especially from my veteran team mates, that it came full circle from planning to doing. The wisdom that comes from those that have been there, and done all of the jobs before I ever got involved was so extremely valuable!

Now starts the iterative phase of documenting the process for improvement on the next project. But, getting back to the original question: what has it done for me, personally? It has:

  1. given me an appreciation for the complexity of the renovation
  2. broadened my understanding of the entire HeroWork role
  3. expanded my comprehension of the impact of this work in the community
  4. given me more skills negotiating people
  5. helped my project related skill base
  6. brought me closer to all of my team members as real people with whom we all share a common underlying goal
  7. sent me home each night after a day at the event with tangible evidence of the difference we strive to make every day
  8. made me happy to get out of bed at 5am to be on site at 6:30am to start the renovation day
  9. expanded my family of people I care about
  10. given my efforts greater meaning in this world, and though my actions, my life. I know my life is achieving more.

Together We Achieve More [TEAM] and HeroWork is all about teams, which are just small communities. Like it says on the back of some of the volunteer shirts, “It takes a community to rebuild one“, and I feel like I just spent the summer helping to create a community of likeminded individuals work singleminded on a project that brings such lightness into this part of the neighbourhood.

I envy the landscaping as it is desirable to visit the location, but there is so much that nobody will ever see about the project, like all of the electrical work, the plumbing, the crawlspace work, the roofing, and everything that is hidden behind the last closed door, wall, floor or ceiling. Isn’t this like getting to know the spirit within people?

I know so many more people now. I appreciate the time and effort I contribute to these types of projects and my life has greater meaning. I feel better about what I do during my time, and I am confident that my light shines brighter having risen to the challenge of Mr. Latour’s level of confidence in me.

I owe much to leaders who see in us what potential we have and ask for one step toward it. Often we are too close to see our own potential, so we need these people in our lives. I am so glad the universe brought Paul Latour in to my life so that he could challenge me, and I could make a difference. Now there are many of us, through this latest project at the Rainbow Kitchen, that can share the light around our own communities and together brighten this place we live in.

I liken the difference HeroWork makes to a pebble in a pond, that ripples out from the tangible legacy we leave at each charitable location that is renovated. The pebble is tossed high in the air by every person that gets involved in the project initially, then the ripples of the pebble as it plunges into the pond are felt as each person is impacted by the new facility.

One by one each person feels the difference this project made, and that will go on for many years to come, impacting thousands of people through our complex social interactions. Every time I interact with another person I will strive to remember, this is a ripple moment. What I say and how I respond can direct the feeling of this moment in many different ways.

I am a different person: more enriched, with more connections, having made a greater impact on more people than ever before, and I am grateful for every single second of it.

Hoo-Haa!

[a chant from those that know it]

Heroic Work Feeds Us

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What do I mean by heroic work?

Work that serves to lift up those around you: that’s one way to be heroic.

When you become involved in an organization that serves others, it does something to you: it feeds something inside us. There is a part of me, that I think exists in everyone, that lights up when we lend a helping hand.

This is what drives us to grasp another’s hand, to hold the door open, or to ask if others are okay, and it feeds an essential need, deep inside the core of our being. Being a part of any uplifting work feeds us in many ways, but before I get in to that, I want to give you some context.

herowork-logoSome of you may know that I volunteer for a charity called HeroWork. I first found out about this charity through my blog writing, and some searching for heroic ideas to write about in my own hometown.

HeroWork essentially renovates charitable institutions, but in a modern barn raising fashion that are called “Radical Renovations”. With the entire community getting involved, from the trades, to the food providers, and everyone in between that prepares the event, it is a team effort. They only last a few weeks, and the event is bookended by very public and engaging opening ceremonies, complete with a march on to the site, and closing ceremonies that give us the “Big Reveal” about the new look.

The inception of HeroWork is a most fascinating tale. Please read about it on the HeroWork website from Paul Latour, the Executive Director and person behind the charity.

During the most recent opening ceremonies, the march to the site consisted of a police escort, a 16 piece military band, and all of the volunteers that were slated to start the careful dismantling of the site that evening. Watching the procession walk the seven or so blocks to the site, with a bouncing “LOVE” ball pushed from one portion of the parade to another, was a marvel to see and hear. As the marching band reached the site and the crowd parted for them, everyone was brought to the stage. It was a delight to see!

From that point on, the event started reshaping the physical building and grounds of the site, but what keeps coming back to me is something that was shared during a team building exercise we all had as volunteers on the project, and it came from the recipients of the project renovations.

To hear the story, as told from the service providers that HeroWork helps, was another jolt that underscored the reason I became involved, and it broadened my perspective, and gave greater understanding about what these charities mean to the persons they serve, and HeroWorks role in all of this.

rk-logoTo the layperson, the recipient of the latest project, The Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt, BC, which is run off the side of the Esquimalt United Church, the name may indicate that they simply feed the community, and indeed, they do that. What is not immediately apparent, is the other more subtle, but no less important, functions they serve.

People seek assistance when they clearly need it, and going to the Rainbow Kitchen for food is something that many people do on a daily basis; after all it serves 36,000 meals a year. If you were like me, you probably thought the clients were those that may be homeless, struggling with huge obstacles to overcome in life, and happy to receive any assistance they could find.

Not so true, and this is perhaps a stereotype that is perpetuated by those who simply are not educated on the matter, like I was. You simply don’t know, what you don’t know. Becoming involved in this project taught me more about the fundamental needs of not just the disenfranchised, but also the broader base of people that the kitchen provides for. Seniors that are home poor and can’t afford proper food also visit the kitchen, but let’s consider the average person in Canada.

With the reality and burden of the Canadian debt load, a sudden change in employment status can leave us faced with real world challenges of finding shelter, never mind food. If you are a family provider, your issues just expanded exponentially. Do you have enough savings to last a couple months with no income? What if you lost your job due to an illness or accident outside of work? Could you survive without services such as this?

Many single parents, seniors, or otherwise challenged adults are simply a couple paycheques away from homelessness, and may look to supplementing nourishment through these facilities before it becomes a survival reality. The Rainbow Kitchen feeds their bodies.

But aside from serving a variety of people, they serve a variety of functions. The Rainbow Kitchen, and places like it, don’t just give them food to survive, they also provide a place to meet other people; it’s a social atmosphere.

A senior who may otherwise be sitting at home eating toast and drinking tea, alone, can come and visit with other people that become associates, and eventually friends over time. The tireless staff greet them with smiles and a cheery attitude that can buoy their spirits on a rough day.

The people who have been there for years welcome the new people, and a mixture of simple ‘hellos’ and long stories create a buzz or word sounds melding with those that are happy simply to feel food in their mouths and help clear their mind. The Rainbow Kitchen feeds the heart of those that come in.

It literally creates community within a neighbourhood, as deep and complex as any planned neighbourhood with respect to the relationships that are formed.

Going from a well-loved establishment, to one that exudes a freshness, crisp lines, brilliant paint, and a smell of newly hewn wood, there exists perhaps a growing sense of pride for the physical environment with which the patrons will experience after the Radical Renovation that HeroWork leaves behind. This legacy, of not just paint and wood and appliances, but also that of lovingly decorated facades, signage, and other embellishments, are lovingly created specifically for each targeted site. They enrich the newness of the renovations with the heart of the original, and I hope it serves to indicate to those that use the facility of their worthiness.

The fact that this building and physical form was demonstrably and significantly upgraded, refreshed, and rebuilt with an eye to sustainability, lower maintenance costs, and a beautiful look, must indicate to the patron the value of the site, and the service it provides. Ultimately the worth transfers to the user.

We absorb the environment we are in, be it our friends, our career, the natural environment,or built. If it is ugly to us, we treat it that way, but if we see the value in it, we start to develop and exchange that value within us as well. HeroWork feeds the spirit of the users.

The end product is simply a newer building and grounds. It’s a physical thing, with nothing more to it to the uninitiated or uneducated. It has a dollar value and a different look than it did before, but there is so much more that is transformed.

Work that serves to uplift others is heroic. It feeds us; our bodies, our minds, and our spirit as human beings that are hard-wired to help one another. In targeting other charities that benefit from the Radical Renovations, HeroWork helps organizations like the Rainbow Kitchen feed a broad base of local people; each one in need of nourishment of one kind or another. A place for food, social interactions, and always a warm welcome, it serves a deeper connection many seldom get to witness.

By the time a few weeks are over, and the renovation is complete, the HeroWork volunteers will have all gone their separate ways, returning to their typical lives. But the lasting legacy of what they were able to accomplish in that short time frame will impact the hundreds of people, and thousands of days, of feeding a community.

To find out more about HeroWork or the Rainbow Kitchen, follow their link, or to get involved in some heroic volunteer organizations, type “I want to volunteer” in your favourite search engine. Here is one such link that I found in doing so: Volunteer Canada.

Hungry for change? Feed your mind, body, and spirit by volunteering. HeroWork still needs your help too.

I hope you will join me, and the entire community, October 2nd at 4pm for the “Big Reveal” of the legacy that will be the brand new Rainbow Kitchen!