Reflections on Freedom of Choice, Speech and Opinion

Bring on the May flowers! From the time we left Houston, there was a marked and noticeable change in both temperature and season. The further north we drove, the season of spring showed it’s beautiful head, lagging in its completeness (compared to Texas) as we wound our way through to Illinois. The temperatures had dropped tremendously (feeling almost like winter at times) but it felt good to experience such a metamorphosis, reminiscent of seasonal changes that I’ve somewhat missed in the deep south. I certainly don’t yearn for the blustery and penetrating coldness of winter, but for the most part, I love the Seasons we weather in Canada.

As with any new adventure, if I’m open to possibility and awareness, the outcome could potentially be beyond anything I could ever recognize through daily living. Such was the case when slaDE and I agreed to attend our friend Barbie June’s evening of prayer and live worship at Christ Community Church in St Charles, Illinois. I never imagined the 2 hours to be like that of a rock concert. The ‘band / choir’ (aka Ignite) had all the makings of JC superstars, with a light show, speakers to blow your socks off (I desperately wanted earplugs) and a multimedia display flashing bright strobe lights and words of worship across 2 giant screens. I’m a spiritual person deep down in my beliefs, but religion of one specific name doesn’t resonate deeply. Rather, it’s the principles and ideologies of certain philosophies that remain my stronghold, my spirituality. Born and raised as a strict Catholic, any current thoughts of attending a church service per se (other than a wedding, baptism or funeral) has me flinching and running for cover. As an adult, it’s just not my cup of tea. The service at Barb’s church was kind of cool. I really enjoyed the music. Yet I still am reticent about such public devotional displays that seem somewhat hypnotically unwavering and righteous in their worship. The religious principles of kindness, sincerity, honesty and love sit well with me. Blind faith and devotion, not so much. And then I question, how many people will be offended by my public expression of religious beliefs?

Today, Osama Bin Laden was purportedly killed by a Navy Seals secret operative that left me debating the sanctity of human life. I, in my heart of hearts, believe that an eye for an eye (aka rationalizing revenge) is not the way to live our lives. Both the ecstatic celebration of death and violence, and the spewing of hatred in the name of fighting evil, regardless of the wrongs committed, seems so tragically wrong, on so many levels, in my opinion. Even the vindicated death of Osama which was intended to protect future innocent victims.

I posted a partial quote from Martin Luther King Jr. on my Facebook page that stirred many an emotion, from the gambits of fear and scepticism to excitement over Bin Laden’s death. Regardless of the opinions expressed, the beauty of this platform and the interweb rests highly on the ability to freely speak ones truth. Yet, comments ran amuck and emotions stretched to many levels. What I wonder is … why can’t my beliefs (whether religious, political or environmental) just be that …. my beliefs, without threatening the readers convictions? Why must we exist in such an either / or society? For example, can’t I express supreme sadness at the manner in which people are celebrating a human being’s death without being labeled as a betrayer or traitor of American values? It’s all a rather convoluted onslaught of emotional and sudden upheaval over news of a terrorist that personified incredible depths of pain for the families and friends of 9/11 victims. I certainly don’t want to appear insensitive to the pain nor the healing felt by many. This certainly isn’t my goal in expressing my sentiments online. I feel intensely for those who have experienced the torment of overpowering loss. I also understand that through the broadcast of Bin Laden’s death, a huge weight has been lifted from America’s shoulders, hopefully allowing for closure in the process, healing the hearts of many. It is through this desire to live in love that I pray for world peace whilst also honouring those who are left to mourn and those that serve their countries in the name of freedom. I pray that the spiritual and personal beliefs that we own as humans can be expressly unencumbered without fear of reprisal or acts of violence, in the name of freedom. I want to live authentically, speak fearlessly and love unconditionally through these changing times. It is by only experiencing peace within and through ourselves, that we can bring it forward in to the world.

There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

The enigma of Happiness: Eckhart Tolle on finding a Happier YOU!

happiness and the butterflyThe 10 powerful insights listed below from Eckhart Tolle really leave me feeling inspired at the perfection of my life, in this very moment. No such thing as the labels of ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. What is, is. The choices I make with each breath that I take breed the outcome from moment to moment of how I relate to myself and the world and circumstances around me. From what Eckhart proposes, happiness is always innately there, within me. Happiness is something you can synthesize
… it is a choice. And ironically, it is my choice on whether to accept that reality or not! Sometimes, a very difficult concept to grasp in the midst of turmoil and pain. But nevertheless a consciousness which could potentially lead me down the road to ending all suffering. Positive food for thought. Synthesis. Growth. Love = happiness = superfood!

And I love these concepts from the book Living Values Activities for Children 8-14: “When I have love and peace inside, happiness just comes ….. Lasting happiness is a state of contentment within ….. When my words express ‘give flowers instead of thorns’, I create a happier world”.

Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle

1. Don’t seek happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness. Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is rather than making up stories about it.

2. The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, “I am ruined” is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. “I have 50 cents left in my bank account” is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering.

3. See if you can catch the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment it complains about something, and recognize it for what it is: the voice of the ego, no more than a thought. Whenever you notice that voice, you will also realize that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it. In fact, you are the awareness that is aware of the voice. In the background, there is the awareness. In the foreground, there is the voice, the thinker. In this way you are becoming free of the ego, free of the unobserved mind.

4. Wherever you look, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence for the reality of time—a rotting apple, your face in the bathroom mirror compared with your face in a photo taken 30 years ago—yet you never find any direct evidence, you never experience time itself. You only ever experience the present moment.

5. Why do anxiety, stress, or negativity arise? Because you turned away from the present moment. And why did you do that? You thought something else was more important. One small error, one misperception, creates a world of suffering.

6. People believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness. They don’t realize that what happens is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly. They look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn’t have or as deficient because of something that has not happened but should have. And so they miss the deeper perfection that is inherent in life itself, a perfection that lies beyond what is happening or not happening. Accept the present moment and find the perfection that is untouched by time.

7. The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.

8. Equating the physical body with “I,” the body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die, always leads to suffering. To refrain from identifying with the body doesn’t mean that you no longer care for it. If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can appreciate those attributes—while they last. You can also improve the body’s condition through nutrition and exercise. If you don’t equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact, as the body begins to weaken, the light of consciousness can shine more easily.

9. You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge.

10. If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.

Have you smiled today??!

The pursuit of happiness and mental clarity

In 1936, Dorothea Brande’s recorded these twelve mental exercises. It all comes down the point that we control our brain, our actions, our words.
This article was posted in the Huffington Post.

1. Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.
2. Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.
3. Write a letter without using the words I, me, mine, my.
4. Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.
5. Write a letter in a “successful” or placid tone. No misstatements, no lying. Look for aspects or activities that can be honestly reported that way.
6. Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.
7. Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.
8. Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.
9. Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.
10. Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.
11. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.
12. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.

Connecting with the Homeless

It was my 3rd Friday off this past weekend and I relished knowing that this was ME time. A time to relax, feel inspired and expressive. A time to catch up on items longstanding through the week and a time to potentially catch up on sleep. But what made this weekend so exciting and special was the time that I set aside for an incredibly worthwhile project … Homeless Connect (HC2) at the City Hall, downtown Calgary. HC is a city initiative at attempting to end homelessness by the year 2010. Noble and lofty goals indeed. Having lived here for the past 2 years, witnessing the dire circumstances of many people (50% of whom have jobs) who just can’t afford to house themselves, I see the mass difficulties that the city faces. The occupancy rate in Calgary is extremely high, and with the price of accommodation through the roof, trying to come up with first & last months rent + a security deposit is an impossible task for many, considering that the Landlords here in Alberta seem to have all the rights over tenants; it seems like the proverbial 1-way street in the way of rights and legalities favouring the home owners. But that’s another story ….

sKYflowerSI have always enjoyed volunteering, giving of myself to another without anything expected in return. And in every circumstance that I’ve donated to such causes, I often get back more than I actually give. This however is not about who comes out ahead. Rather it’s about giving of myself and offering a hand up (rather than a handout) to those in need. Feeling so blessed in my life with the world falling into place in every sense of the word, I have everything plus my love and time to give. One could say that I am ‘overflowing’. To this extent, I jumped at the chance at helping out with this quarterly event (the 2nd of its kind – I was unable to make the first, last Spring).

So early Saturday morning, I followed the same schedule of readiness, as if it were a normal workday, and made my way downtown, with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. I didn’t really know what to expect, beyond the unexpected. So to arrive and discover that I was offering my cre8tive services to the Arts and Culture (‘This Is My City’ initiative) booth left me giddy and happy at the possibilities that would unveil themselves. Basically “This Is My City” offered an enticing artist trading card workshop where anyone who was interested could cre8te their own powerful piece of art, on 2 x 3 inch cardstock. This initiative was sponsored by the Arts and Culture Department of the City of Calgary.

I discovered that, at first, most people were leery and skeptical of particpating, saying that they lacked experience and / or any artistic skill … the desire really didn’t hit them that day, nor did they often feel inspired in the harsh world they exist in, every single day. This doesn’t lend itself to invoking a sudden yearning to paint / sketch / cre8te. The homeless people who came to this event were in search of help, resources and connection, rather than offering to participate on this type of ‘frivolous’ level. Art seemed to be the last thing on their minds. Trying to convince people that a spontaneous artist existed within each of us, regardless of the experience, was a difficult, awkward and hard sell.

With the mindset that inspiration is a far better leader than coercion or bribery (why can’t politicians grasp this concept?), I sat down for 4 hours and literally explored, divulging my soul through many a mixed media, and played! Given every sort of cre8tive material imaginable, I painted with acrylics, and drew with chalk, oil pastels, markers, pencil crayons and glitter. I collaged with magazine photos and art paper. I wrote poetry and weaved it into a colourful song on paper. There was no end to my non-digital cre8tivity! And oh how I loved the freedom to express, on such a pure, non-demanding level. Who knew that I would find such joy and gratitude in today’s event? I haven’t been this free to cre8te (with such a plethora of materials) since I was probably in kindergarten. And with my earnest attempts to be as colourful and flamboyant as I could be with no holds barred in my art, people started to enquire, inquisitive about this young girl focused so intently on having fun. I felt like a child given the permission to run rampant with my imagination. And all the tools were provided to express my outlet. And slowly, slowly, people came to sit down and speak with me. Opening up about their childhood dreams, their cre8tive pasts, their addictions which often hampered any possibility of cre8tive expression. And with a little coaxing, I managed to inspire the uninspired into weaving their story on to paper. The art and colour which emerged was incredibly beautiful. The stories, the music, the cre8tivity inspired was an artistic masterpiece which burned itself deep into my soul. The images below are some of the art that was inspired and produced.

words of the homeless

words of the homeless

The impact made on me can be expressed with a few sentences:
“Every Man, Woman or Child, regardless of race, religion, colour or financial status has a heart bursting to be explored, expressed and admired. Art is the pathway and mirror to the soul. And we are all beautiful, with our own story to tell. The possibilities and variability’s are endless, boundless. We are all unique, in need of the freedom of expression, and we are all worthy.”

  • Live artfully.
  • DreAm beautifully.
  • Live blissfully.

Explore, find joy, breathe deeply and savour. Now go cre8te and explore your heart in the vast expanse of life’s colour.

How To Survive The Year

Harold's Planet
I just HAD to post this wonderful ‘Harold’s Planet‘ cartoon … after picking myself off the floor, laughing hysterically!

Just last week I clocked in my one year anniversary working for the Calgary Health Region. Prior to my full-time job here in Calgary, I’d been freelancing as a Web Designer / Videographer / Parachute Packer for the past 14 some odd years and living a life full of personal whim at my own pace, my own hours, and with no one to tell me when to take vacation. This comic TRULY hit home! I miss my old life of the perpetual holiday …. Soon enough, though, we’ll be on the road, guiding and directing our own path through life, Airstream in tow. I’m excited and can’t wait 🙂

September 11th … thoughts on Peace

Inner Peace

Not just any day to be conscious of the world around us, but a day to remember those who lost their lives 6 years ago in the falling of the World Trade Center.

World peaceI like this quote best from my brilliant skydiving friend Brian … in it, I feel, he expresses a view on how to move forward past the pain of history’s memories into a place where personal responsibility and ownership can potentially create a sanctuary of peace within, reflecting harmony in our world without …

A message to the people of Earth:
We are bound in our journey;
from fear into fearless compassion.
Let us not contract into a shadowy version of who we could be,
but expand outward into unlimited possibility.

We must let go of the trauma
and return to a state of peace.
Only then will we win the war against terror
that wages within our hearts.

We can put out the fire.
Brian Germain

VIn their own way, the Beatles conveyed it succinctly and righteously.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need!