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Beach Buddha With a Side of Fry Sauce

Tneversaidthathis weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the lake to enjoy a fresh fish dinner, drink Mackie’s famous Orangade, and dunk my fries in their special fry sauce.  Instead,  I got caught up in a whirlwind of worries.

In the moment, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky,the lake calmly offering refreshment, and soaring seagulls, my meditation training came back to me in a snap. This moment is it. It’s all we’ve got.

To be present right here, right now, holding all of our fears and worries, all the while appreciating how fortunate we are to have what we do, now that my sweet peaches, is the art of living.

Holding hope and loss at the same time seems paradoxical, but it’s the essence of the human mystery. I don’t preach this from living a blessed life. Loss is not a stranger in my life. Loss is a ruthless teacher and a sneaky sonnuvabitch.

Anxiety is the residue that gets left over when loss finally packs its oversized bag and leaves.

So often we associate  loss with death, and forget about all of the other losses; home, love, jobs, and hope.

Hope. Yah, that’s a tough one. Loss often packs a good one-two punch, with a kick to the groin – it always blesses us more than once in a very short period of time, leaving us feeling vulnerable, fearful, numb and hopeless.

With each loss we lose hope in the story of our lives; what we hope to do with our loved ones, how we hope to grow old and with whom or that old wounds may somehow heal with reconciliation.

As a young adult I suffered major losses. Journeying with someone I love as they experience new losses in the shadow of my own,  I began to wonder whether it was easier as a young woman than it is now.

But it’s not about easier or more difficult. It’s about different. Different as in; as we age we process loss much differently in the lengthening shadow of our own mortality. With each loss, our perception is that time offers us less opportunity to recover. Perception is the key word here. Loss can cause despair, and on the other hand it can be used as an opportunity to start fresh, put new building blocks in place (think Lego – it was my favourite toy when I was a kid), and write a new story.

Within the period of a few months, loss has snuggled up in our home, poured itself a drink, put its stinky feet up on the coffee table, and helped itself to an unfair portion of our sanity. It’s like the dreaded overseas relative come to stay for an unknown period of time. To celebrate the arrival of our special guest, my anxiety dressed itself up, rolled out the red carpet and said,  “Welcome, what can I get you? My sleep? A cozy blanket of  pathetic weeping perhaps, or how about some home-cooked fear”?

Despite my anxiety, I am aware of my blessings; my child, my love, my friendships, my life as I know it.

As the Buddha at the beach reminded me, it’s not impossible to hold hope and fear. It’s best just to let them both gently go and appreciate the moments as they are.

Wishing you the presence to practice letting go, being present, and keeping love and hope alive in your heart.

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Things As They Are & Why I Keep Trying

be waterMost of us live with some low-level hum of anxiety buzzing around inside our minds. It accelerates our need to establish order all the while turning our brains into a three-ring circus overseen by an insane ring-master.

In most cases, a couple of shots of bourbon, a long hot bath and a good sleep can reset our anxiety pendulum. During more turbulent times, anxiety can make us wish that we could tear off the pendulum, and take a swing at anyone who gets in the way of trying to sort out the mess in our minds.

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with wonderfully joyful situations and I’ve been challenged by the dark things that haunt us all.

Sound familiar?I’m sure it does, the human condition is a universal suffering.  Many times I’ve been tempted to shut down, stop smiling, stop waking up and believing that it’s a beautiful day, and just generally stop being a nice person.

When the world doesn’t fit how we think it should be, anxiety wedges its foot in the door of our psyche, and pries it open;

The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller.

Black and white is so damn easy. Adulthood makes you realize that grey is the new black – that life and everything we thought we knew about it is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of what-if’s. Grey, please help us love you!

This middle way involves no hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security…Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong.

Beliefs about how things should be versus the way that they are, are terrific ways to make yourself believe there is only one way that is good enough, acceptable, and worth getting out of bed for. But that’s what kills our joy, that bullshit idea that life as it is isn’t good enough, that we’re not good enough.

What if we could really practice this;

Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live. This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves throughout our lives to open further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more. We’ll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to this practice, as we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us. Something will shift permanently in us.  Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we’ll begin to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to us.

My heart is vulnerable and hurting now. I’m struggling to practice all of the wonderfully liberating ideas here. If you are too, I hope that we can keep this in mind;

If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable.  As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others – what and whom we can work with, and how – becomes wider.

Wishing you the kind of anxiety that can either be solved with a shot of bourbon, a hot soak, and a good sleep, or the ability to cradle your own being in kindness so gentle that it carries you through to a way of living that makes you feel fully alive.

All quotes are taken directly from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

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Fear: Friend or Foe?

fearful-dog-hidingFear is a fickle, fickle bitch lady.  Like that annoying, inappropriate extrovert at the party,fear pushes us into dark, uncomfortable corners, and often brings out  equivalently dark emotions.

Let’s not mince words: Fear is an asshole of the grandest kind.

But you know what Buddhists say about our challenges right? They say they are our opportunity to practice and to become better people: more patient, kind, understanding, and dare I be gauche and say, zen?

Fear comes and goes in my life, kinda like that extra twenty pounds that sneaks up every now and again. During times of bounty and joy, fear can’t be found anywhere. It’s curled up napping in a corner of the basement next to the grungy, old patio lanterns and cobweb blessed bowling shoes.

During these times, we often forget that fear, loneliness, uncertainty, anger, and all of those other not-so-pretty emotions take up equal residence in our psyches.

Not until we stumble, suffer a loss, or come nose to nose with the not-so-nice stuff about ourselves that fear wakes up, takes a leisurely stretch, yawns, and wanders through the parlour of our minds with pubes poking through its ripped and soiled gotchies. Ah yes, FEAR; the ugly, unkempt brother to confidence.

A few years ago I was completely frozen by fear. Self-doubt strung such a heavy curtain across my life that I felt like I was literally paralyzed. I didn’t like a lot of things about my life, and as it turned out, sitting alone, frozen in fear, I didn’t like quite a number of  things about myself.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being vulnerable, and yet allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the only way to receive true love. Not the roses and horse-drawn-carriage-ride kind of love. No, the kind of love that sees the light at the end of the tunnel for you and drags you to it when you are temporarily blinded and paralyzed…usually by fear.

So, as a fiery woman of strong-female-fiery-Irish descent, my natural reaction to fear is anger. I’m a fighter not a fligher. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but it’s a thing, and it’s my thing, and I’ve grown to accept and own it. Le sigh….

As a quasi-buddhist-agnostic-lapsed-protestant-catholic-ritual-lover, I know that fear is a grand teacher. I know that breathing, being in the moment, and my practice as a Buddhist have taught me that all things, even that fickle bitch lady, Fear can be kind in the end.

Fear has taught me most of the qualities that make me a good person, but they’ve been hard lessons, and they’ve been painful, dark, depressing and scary as hell.

One day I had a frank conversation with my dear cousin, the Magnificent Mr. M. He encouraged me to really think of what exactly I was afraid of.  As it turns out, my deepest fear was essentially (jobless, homeless, loveless) being vulnerable, dependent on the kindness of others

But then I realized, that being able to be kind and loving to others is what makes me the happiest. Face it, I’m just too lazy to be a miserable twat. What that means is, if being able to be kind is a gift to me, allowing others to care for me also satisfies a deep human need for connection and giving. Giving and receiving love and support is an alchemy of spirit that we should never deny.

Huh??? That’s the double-edged sword of life though isn’t it? It’s so cliche, but it’s so true; Great love requires great risk…

…and what else is there but love my darlings? Really, what else is there?

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2014: The List

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."  ~Walt Disney~
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
~Walt Disney~

Last year I had a total of three items on my 2013 To-Do-List.

Two of them were within my control, and I’ve checked those off. The third….let’s just say it’s a little more…it’s going to have to be an addendum to the 2014 list.

So far there are two items on my 2014 list, and the 2013 addendum of course. But I’m working on that one, making an effort to keep my mind and heart open to all possibilities.

Of the two items on the 2014 list, I will share only one of them with you my darlings. That’s right, it’s a lady’s prerogative to keep some things to herself and herself alone.

The number one item on my 2014 To-Do-List is to……(drum rolllllllll please!)….FUN.

Yes, this year I’m going to have more fun.

Yep. I know, I know. It seems like my life is one day of sunshine and rainbows after the next, but that’s not the case. 2013 saw its fair share of hard work, worries, and sleepless nights.

With a list of just two things and an addendum, I think I can manage a little more fun.

I’m not just talking about your run of the mill, go-to-the-fair-sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-in-the-shower kind of fun.

I’m talking about making the most of every moment and enjoying it. Having more fun at work, with my kiddo, while I tidy the house, and as I make my way through traffic every weekday morning. Now that will be a challenge.

I suppose the more intellectual folks our there may call it mindfulness, being in the moment or some such sophisticated spiritual way of being. I’m just going to call it “fun”.

This may take some later nights, a case of bubbles, and a sprucing up of my business suit inspired wardrobe, but I’m willing to do the work. Besides that darlings, laughter is sexy.

What’s on your list?

 

 

 

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Christmas Countdown

 "I don't care. We'll decorate it and it'll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. " ~Charlie Brown~
“I don’t care. We’ll decorate it and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. “
~Charlie Brown~

Whether you like it or not, it’s that time of year.

I’ve seen countless pithy social media posts whining about holding off on Christmas celebrations until after Remembrance Day.

Pish Posh!

Celebrating anything after Halloween and before Remembrance Day does not minimize the solemn honouring of the men and women who have fought to keep our country free. Rest assured, that on November 11th, I will be not only wearing my poppy, but attending a memorial service.

Note to the cynics out there who are rolling their scrooge-like eyes; I finish my shopping before the end of November. My idea of Christmas is not fighting over parking spots and being elbowed like a pinball through the mall.

As I begin to squirrel away special gifts for my near and dear, and drizzle more rum on the fruitcake, I am giddy with the thought that I might be fortunate enough to celebrate all  of the following between now and the new year;

1) Coffee chats with friends over eggnog lattes, caramel brulee lattes, or even a glass or two of wine.

2) Leisurely shopping to finish up the last few gifts that I need to buy.

3) Writing Christmas cards and receiving Christmas cards.

4) Mistletoes kisses

5) Hearthside humping love-making

6) A toasty shot or two of bourbon or scotch with my writer pals

7) Escaping into the world of Christmas romance novels

8) Baking every kind of cookie you can imagine

9) Outdoor, night-time skating

10) A night-time parade

11) Civic tree-lighting, carol singing and outdoor Christmas markets

12) Our annual visit to the craft show with my mumster

13) The first night admiring the lights on the Christmas tree

14) Donating to my local food bank and  the Salvation Army

15) Christmas afternoon and dinner with my friends

16) Communion on Christmas eve and singing Silent Night by candlelight in the sanctuary

17) Watching my favourite Christmas movies; White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story

18) Hosting dinners and gatherings

19) Listening to Christmas music

20) Always having ‘room for one more’ when it comes to sharing the spirit of the season.

21) Raspberry Schweppes gingerale

22) Hot apple cider

23) The smell of cloves and pine

24) Invitations to parties and dinners

25) Listening to the Christmas story read in our candlelit church

26) Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special

 

……what are you looking forward to this Christmas?

 

 

 

 

 

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Grace; Clothed in Strength & Dignity

"Nude" by Julian Mandel
“Nude” by Julian Mandel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a big ol’Buddhist, I have a rather scholarly knowledge of the bible, which some folks in my home town liked to beat each other over the heads with on Sunday afternoons.

One of my favourite biblical-quotes-almost-always-taken-out-of-context is; Proverbs 31:25 – She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she smiles at the future.

Part of Proverbs 31 is an ‘Ode to a Capable Wife’. Wife schmife. Let’s go with plain old ‘capable woman‘.

We live in a culture rooted in capitalism. The collective ‘we’ praises independence and individuality. We also live in a culture where the number of single parent homes is on the rise, and the majority of single-parent homes are headed by women.

Women also happen to be paid statistically less than men for the same work .Even if you’re a starlet. Please see the recent letter to Miley Cyrus from musical legend Sinead O’Connor

You and I may not be mathematicians darling, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize the financial and emotional stress that can affect women who, as my bra-burning sisters before me like to say, ‘have it all’.

Without our network of girlfriends, life would be a lot less tolerable. Proverbs may have expounded on the wonders of a ‘capable woman’, but I think in today’s world, capable translates to grace.

I hate to disappoint you wonderful women out there who think I’m all that and a glass of wine, but I must confess, I too suffer from ‘single-parent-home’ overload on occasion.

Growing up in an environment where money was used as a power and control mechanism,  I have worked hard to not owe anyone anything. I have spent sleepless nights wondering how I will pay this bill or that bill, or make sure there’s enough milk in the fridge.

I have always counted myself very lucky to have not one, but three post-secondary pieces of paper hanging on my wall. I have never, despite sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and a genetic disposition to lunacy, stopped working, and trying to provide for my household.

Despite my work ethic, there have been times when working hard wasn’t enough. Being organized and prepared didn’t stop flu bugs, chicken pocks, pneumonia, torn ligaments, and surgeries.

During those times, my girlfriends have come through. It has always been with great difficulty that I am able to say to someone, “I need your help.” Those are the four most difficult words for me to say. They devastate my pride, and make me feel weak, vulnerable, and indebted to someone else.  But there have been times when I’ve had to do just that.

You will be shocked to know that I was not born with a boatload of natural grace. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe my sweet, delicate flowers.  Life, has an amazing way of giving us what we need, and it has indeed given me a number of challenges.

I like to think that as I age, I meet these challenges with just a little more grace, a little better sense of humor, and a lot more faith.

I believe deeply that if  I maintain my own moral compass through the storms, I will indeed arrive stronger, with more wisdom and grace on the other side.

It was not only my own experience that taught me this, it was the wonderful mentoring of my “Mumster”, and other older, wiser women who had travelled the path before me.

We are all clothed in strength and dignity my  darlings, and if we love one another we shall all smile at the future knowing that we are in good company.

Remember that when you see younger women struggling. Raise them up, help with their practical needs, and be the kind woman whom they strive to become.

Be grace in motion. Be fabulous 😉

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You Can’t Keep Them Away

Heart of Swans
Heart of Swans (Photo credit: Darragh Sherwin)

I’ve had the pleasure of working with women from across the globe; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, you name it.

We may express our faith in different ways, dress differently, and acquiesce to the needs of our partners with varying degrees of grace, but there is one thing about which we all agree.

Pull up a chair sweetheart, and listen very carefully, because this is one lesson every woman needs to learn the first time around.

If a man wants to be with a woman, you can’t keep him away.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about creepy stalking, and dumped lovers walking along the path to peer through your patio doors (yes, this has happened to me).  This kind of behavior deserves a single thump on the testicles with an iron crowbar heated to four-hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. By a guy nicknamed Knuckles.

What we’re talking about here is decent men. The kind of man who is sincere in his courting efforts. A man who knows what he wants, and isn’t afraid of a little challenge. The kind of  man who, by his very existence makes you feel like a woman.

So, if you’re fretting away, wondering whether he is ‘the one’ or not ‘the one’, don’t waste your energy. It’s a simple calculation.

Do you wake to a good morning text and eat your three o’clock office chocolate to a check-in email? Does your phone light up the night with a ‘good-night’ or ‘sweet dreams’ ?  If you can answer all of these, he’s into you. If it’s no, then he’s not.

No, he did not faint from excitement because you texted, emailed or called. No, he is not always busy Friday or Saturday evening with his mother, sister, grandmother, daughter, aunt, or other such poo-ha.

If he’s busy at night, he’ll drop by with a latte at your office during the day. If he’s busy during the day, he won’t miss an opportunity to keep your company during the evening.

Oh, yes, let’s not forget the tingly bits; He holds your hand, kisses you the first chance he gets, and generally thinks you’re the best thing since his five blade razor.

When men want to be in your life, they’re in your life; You can’t keep them away.

Yes sweetie, it’s that simple.