Sunday, 31 August 2014

Leap of Faith

I remember when I was younger (much younger), we would go up to a local swimming hole and jump off the rocks into the water.

Perspective is everything when attempting to dive into the unknown. I recall the rocks seeming not so high when viewed from the bottom and seeming to be much higher when viewed from the top. The perception was different. From the bottom, my eyes were five feet closer to the edge. From the top, my eyes were five feet further from the edge and the water below. From the perspective of my mind, the rock cliff had gained ten feet just by viewing it from the top instead of the bottom.

The first time I jumped, I remember the hesitation I felt; not knowing if there were rocks or logs below, worrying about how to hit the water, not really trusting my buddy who jumped before me and wondering what kind of wild creature was awaiting me in the dark pool.

I jumped anyway.

Sometimes, when the risk is taken into account, it’s best to just jump. A leap of faith can be one of the more difficult things for us to do. Whether standing on the edge of a cliff or changing careers or moving to a new place or meeting new people, the reaction is similar; hearts start pounding, breath gets shallower, hands get clammy and the mind races in all directions trying to assess the risk. Its when fight or flight reactions are in full force.

Most of the risk we perceive is in our heads.

As we grow older and gain life experience, we start to see things that aren’t there. These things may have happened at another time and place with different circumstances and people yet they seem real now. It’s one of the tricks of the mind. Neurons will fire that have no business firing under the current conditions. Our past catches up with us in the form of manufactured events which have not happened.

And I’m the king of making shit up that never happens.

I remember how much more confident I felt after jumping off the cliff. I was young… perhaps I simply didn’t know better… and I think I was braver then. From the perspective of a boy, I thought I would live forever. I thought it didn’t matter much what I did, it was all recoverable. From the perspective of an adult, things have happened and there is history and the time seems shorter. It feels (to me) like there isn’t as much time to negotiate pot-holes and pylons and make up for what might be a mistake. There is pressure to follow the correct path… to make the correct decision… to take the correct fork in the road.

And sometimes bringing the bravery of the child back to us is all we need to take a leap of faith into the unknown.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mountain Man

There are days I think I would just as soon become a mountain man, pitch a tent a hundred miles back in the bush, eat berries and tree bark, dance around a fire naked on full moons and grow a big old grey beard I can throw over my shoulder. You know… one of those days when everything seems to cheese grate your nerves.

It would be peaceful in the woods, no?

I remember a story I read several years ago about a monk who was looking for peace yet couldn’t seem to quite get it.

The monk asked his mentor about his trouble finding peace and the mentor said, “Go up the mountain. There is a cave at the end of the path. Stay there for a year meditating every day. You will find peace and harmony.”

The monk set off the next morning and within the day he had reached the cave. He set about finding food and building a fire, then began meditating. His life was simple. He chopped wood, gathered food, carried water and meditated. After a year he felt peaceful and in harmony with everything. He returned to the sanctuary. His mentor met with him and remarked how he seemed at peace. The young monk said he felt great yet he had been a bit lonely. “Ah. Now then,” said his mentor, “Go to the city for a week. Meditate every day. Then return here.”

The monk did as he was told. When he returned a week later, he was frazzled. He felt like he had lost all he gained the year before. The mentor sat him down once again. “It is very easy to find peace and harmony when no-one else is around to interrupt your focus. But real life is lived amongst others. We are social creatures. After a year on the mountain, you know what peace and harmony feel like. Just feel it. You will know true mastery of peace and harmony when you can focus yourself while those around you run amok.”

Perhaps a hundred miles is a bit far. The beard sounds cool though.

I have heard it said that finding balance is the key to a peaceful life. I tend to disagree. I believe harmony is a much better state to reach toward. Seeking balance is a goal seldom achieved. Life throws curve balls into the mix on a daily basis. How does one achieve (and then maintain) balance when the boss suddenly needs overtime, one of the kids ingests a couple of Legos and it’s off to the hospital, the cat gets out of the house, dinner burns, there’s a power outage and you have to have a report done for tomorrow, your spouse invites his boss for dinner… tonight, etc.

Seeking balance is not a bad thing. Expecting to get it and maintain it is a short path to insanity.

It’s much better to be harmonious. Harmony is taking whatever the world throws at you and dealing with it calmly. Harmony is taking time to be in nature when you can. Harmony is being able to feel the grass on your toes and smell the pine trees in the forest even while typing a blog post late at night. Harmony is when the world hands you lemons and you make lemonade.

Harmony is taking the notes of life and mixing them into song.

There is no end goal to harmony. It is simply a state of being. Finding the harmony in your life will set your mind at ease and ultimately have you feeling peaceful. Ultimately, harmony is the knowledge that everything happening in your life is supposed to happen that way and at that time.

Now to start working on that beard.


Monday, 25 August 2014

If I Were…

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

From “Sympathy For The Devil”
The Rolling Stones

If I were the Devil:

  • I would focus on the most powerful nations and find ways to undermine the citizens.
  • I would create chaos in one nation by making it possible for corruption so the citizens did my bidding and overturned the government and tore down walls.
  • I would sell that nation on the idea that the "free will" of other nations was the path to follow so they would become one of "them".
  • In the other most powerful nation I would start with the peaceful beliefs of the majority and begin to undermine those beliefs by pitting groups against other groups.
  • I would whisper in the ears of men and women of all ages that society takes a back seat to the individual.
  • I would whisper some more about the quest for money and use whatever mass media is available to make everyone believe that wealth and things and property and having more stuff solves everything.
  • I would start to get organized from here by convincing authors and artists and film makers that creating works which have little substance, greater graphic detail and more debased human condition would be more appealing to a wider audience thereby making more socially important works seem dull, insipid and uninteresting.
  • I would fill televisions and theaters with more and more and more violence, sexuality, adult situations, cursing and killing until the nation became numb to all death and destruction.
  • I would soon have people believing that those in the capitol or city hall are responsible for all of their troubles.
  • I would ensure their was enough bureaucracy and red tape that nothing would be completed in a timely manner. I would undermine trust by creating more red tape. 
  • I would convince marketers that whatever may be detrimental just needs to be sold harder until whatever will create unhealthy people is sold continuously without interruption.
  • I would ensure laws were enacted for alcohol to remain cheap and freely available so I could keep the masses anesthetized and unable to focus on what was important.
  • I would ensure where alcohol did not work, I would push illegal drugs into every corner I could manage then "legally" drug the rest with prescription pills under the guise of saving them from themselves.
  • I would undermine trust by ensuring morally corrupt leaders were elected.
  • I would create sprawling toxic environments where nature is pushed out. 
  • I would soon have families at war with themselves… neighbourhoods at war with themselves… security forces at war with themselves… nations at war with themselves... individuals at war with themselves.
  • I would lie and create falsified, irrelevant, invisible divisions between sexes, races, colours, sexual preferences… and provide the weapons, drugs, alcohol and low self-esteem perfect for creating wars between my created factions.
  • When the wars take place, I would have mesmerizing, unrelenting media continuously fanning the flames so the citizens would become numb to horror and I could recreate the cycle over and over.
  • In schools I would focus solely on the intellect of young children completely disregarding their emotional well being so they could be drugged and demoralized and more easily led down a path of self destruction and societal uselessness.
  • In no time at all I would have prisons over flowing, destitute city neighbourhoods growing larger, homeless people filling the streets, everyone barring their doors and windows, court systems clogged with petty grievances, a gun in every home for intruders.
  • Soon everyone will be either angered or frightened by someone or some thing.
  • I would continue to convince citizens that things and money were the only thing that would make them happy and in their inebriated, drugged, numb, low self-esteem state of being they would follow like lemmings to the slaughter.
  • I would ensure the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s grows wider by the minute.
  • I would sell hope to the poor by opening government sanctified gambling houses and lottery outlets until the poor were spending all of their money on hope and the rich watched as they raked in the money.
  • I would convince the young that what they see on TV and in theaters was the only way to be happy.
  • Then I would create mass media that crawls into homes and creeps into lives until it takes over. This media would provide everything TV and movies and lewd music do except it is there all the time at the bidding of the user. It would be mesmerizing causing rifts in families, friendships and community. It would take over most lives and I would be sure it was an indoor activity so healthy, life giving outdoor activity and nature would be forgotten.
  • I would finally have all of you alone, locked behind doors in dimly lit rooms without anyone to help you where I can perform my final flourish at my leisure.

If I were the devil, I would attack your mind by making you believe what was bad for you was good and important and exciting… and what was good was boring and passé. I would hard sell the crap and forget about the healthy.
Because... once I have your mind and convince you you need whatever fix you're on, you will sell me your soul for the next hit.


(Paraphrased from Paul Harvey 1965)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Rotten to the Core?

I don't think it's possible to be rotten to the core. Misguided perhaps... but not rotten.
I was awakened last night by a mob of teenagers hanging out on the corner… clearly drinking… yelling to be heard over other yellers in the group… some were driving… not thinking about consequence. My biggest concerns were strewn beer cans and the males marking territory on a lamp post and nearby houses.
When I was a teen, I didn’t think about consequence much either.
If the teens had known their core values, would they have made different decisions? Would the young girls have packed into a truck with more people than seat belts and a drinking driver? Would the young boys have whizzed wobbly-legged on a light post in front of the girls? Hormones do most of the thinking in teenagers and I do remember it takes a lot of effort to not bend to peer pressure. (I wasn't very successful.)
Perhaps their fate is exactly as it was happening. Who knows?
All I know is… for me… knowing my Core Values helps me make much better decisions.
So… how did I find my Core Values? Well… they weren’t lost in the first place. I’ve always had them. All I needed was to remember what they are and re-member with who I am. It’s the answer to why I do things. Because I want to is not the answer to why. Why do I want to is the real question. What value does this bring to me?
Why is it all this coaching-touchy-feely-living life authentically stuff seems to go on and on and on about living life authentically with your values? It seems to be a broken record. I sure as hell didn’t want to dig into my own crap and sift through the refuse of broken promises (to myself and others) to figure any of this out. It hurt too much. Right?
Not so much. It’s not that it was easy to look at decisions I had made and why. It wasn't. It was sometimes painful and sometimes shameful... even if I didn't share it with others. I avoided thinking about certain events in my life because it made me feel bad or guilty. But… but… BUT… I felt world’s better knowing why I did stuff afterward. And judging by the few hundred people I have personally seen and helped go through the same exercises, not one… not a single one… regretted the process and coming out the other side knowing why they did stuff.
Will the teens regret what they did last night? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on whether they are aligned with their values.
It is impossible to feel guilt if your actions are in alignment with your values.
Thankfully, I fell right back to sleep.

** For a start about redicovering your core values, see the attached link: Core Values

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Yes I Am and No I’m Not

“I am who I am and if you don’t like it, you can leave.”
I used to live by this credo. It also used to stick in my craw that there was something not quite right about living this way. How can I stay static when all around me is change? When I first started kindergarten, my life changed. When I graduated from public school, my life changed. When I went to high school, my life changed. When I liked the cute strawberry blonde, my life changed.
First job? Life change.
New job? Life change.
Marriage? Kids? First house? Breaking up… making up… trying something new… visiting a foreign country? All life changing.
Staying static is not an option.
Trying to remain in a place and time where I believe I was happiest is the same as being stuck. It’s me trying to remain the same as I was then because nothing since has made me happy. What a sad way to be. When I look back at that time I seem to be stuck in, it’s not so much that I liked being there. The reason I am stuck there is because I have unresolved issues that came up at that time and place. My brain has decided not to move until those issues are resolved.
What if that time and place was thirty years ago? Do I really want to be the same now as I was when I was eighteen?
The problem I began to have with “I am who I am” was it gave me an excuse to stay stuck and behave any way I chose, damn the torpedoes. I could do what I wanted without regard to anyone around me and when they protested, I simply said, “Well, that’s who I am… get over it.” I finally realised that meant i was unwilling to look at the reasons I do what I do. (Not all of things I do need to inspected... just the stuff that gets in my way of living my life with integrity.)
The problem with "I am who I am" is definition.
It took me a long time to realize that what I do is not who I am. I can be a ditch digger or president of a company. I can be a home body or a party child. I can be a naturalist or not. None of those define who I am. How I perform what I do is a reflection of who I am. Even then, they may only be a reflection of who I am or they may be something I do because of circumstance (I need a job to pay the bills and will take whatever comes along).
My Core Values are who I am.
The statement “I am who I am” can be an evasion of what I am here to learn. One of the “golden rules” of being honoured with a life on this planet at this time under these circumstances is to learn stuff. I learn stuff by placing the things I do against the benchmark of my Core Values. I find my Core Values by figuring out how smoothly my life moves along. If my life is in constant turmoil or I feel out of place (uncomfortable, lost, anxious, etc), there’s a very good chance I’m trying to live against those values. Worse, I’m probably trying to live my life with someone else’s values.
The key is knowing my own values.
It’s amazing how smoothly life goes when I know my Core Values and live life according to those standards. As an example, one of my core values is “influence”. Deep down where it matters, I want to have an influence on other people... whether that be a single person, a group or society as a whole. There are a lot of ways to be influential. I could rob banks. I could run for political office. I could commit hate crimes. I could write a blog. I could blow up buildings. I could strip mine a forest. I could be an actor, writer, artist or comedian.
But… which one of those things bump up against some other Core Values I have… goodwill, simplicity, vitality and sincerity?
In order to feel good about whatever I am doing, what I am doing must not violate any of my Core Values. In order to learn what I like and don’t like about myself, I need to decide what fits with my Core Values.
I am who I am is a perfectly acceptable statement when I am living according to my Core Values. It is not acceptable when it becomes an excuse for destructive behaviour (self or otherwise). For the record, all self-destructive behaviour has an effect on someone around you whether you choose to believe it or not. It is, therefore, not truly "self-destructive". Eventually it has an effect on those closest to me.
Confident people live by their core values.
I’ll write about how to figure out Core Values tomorrow.
Because I am who I am.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Man Oh Man

I saw a guy freaking out.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of a department store, he was screaming at the top of his lungs and pacing back and forth as if a caged animal. Worse, his wife and five or six year old daughter were the target of the tirade. The fear on their faces spoke volumes. Eventually he stormed off in a huff, his wife and daughter following meekly behind.
What has happened to men? Not all men, yet there is a certain childishness inherent in the “modern man”. (Not to be confused with child-like, which is actually pretty cool.)

What happened to rites of passage?
Women have always had and will always have rites of passage. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what those rites are and that there are two in a woman’s lifetime… one in their teens and another at middle age. The first signals a time to grow up and become an “adult”. At least, an adult in the cognizant faculties department. The second signals a time of reshaping their thoughts more toward the world rather than the family. Women after menopause are a force to be reckoned with when they get a cause in their heads!
It’s pretty awesome to witness.
Men have lost their rites. In ancient times, a man went from boyhood to manhood by hunting game, going off alone into the wilderness, performing tasks of bravery or other “manly” tasks. Always at the end was taking part in a ceremony in front of the whole village or town so they would recognize the boy had become a man. From then on, the "new" men were treated differently and expectations of them were different. They had an obligation to contribute to their community in a meaningful way.
In this day and age of modern convenience and immediate expectations, we have lost the rite of passage from boy to man.
With that loss, we have created a society of largely childish thinking boys in larger clothing. It has affected us in our relationships with pretty much everything. Our relationships with man-toys seems more important than with our families and friends. We seem to become men when we get our driver's license or have our first drink or get our first job or get married.
It's all very vague.
There's no actual rite or ceremony. One day it just seems to be a muddled, confusing expectation from society at large and the boy is left thinking, "Um... okay... sure... I guess that means... um...".
There's no line in the sand.
I think a rite of passage needs to return; a moment in time when a boy becomes a man and his responsibility to family, community and self shifts to more important issues. I’m not sure we can send everyone out on a hunting quest. We’re already in deep ka-ka as far as wildlife is concerned. I’m pretty sure sending all the 15 year olds into the wilderness on a vision quest at the same time isn’t so great either. There’s enough of them they would likely all meet up and a Lord of the Flies would ensue.
Some sort of ritual has to happen though. Along with it, an oath needs to be cited. Something like…
As I pass from boy to man, I promise to honour and respect all life. I promise to treat others as I would like to be treated. I shall contribute to community and the welfare of others with whatever gifts I have to offer. I shall live my live with integrity, honesty, compassion, empathy, purpose and responsibility. I shall hold no-one above or below me regardless of race, creed, colour, sex or personal orientation. I shall protect my family and encourage them to become whatever they wish to become. I shall conduct myself in a manner that befits being a man.
At this point, those who are with us during the ceremony perform some sort of ritual where they acknowledge the new man. Maybe they all punch the guy in the arm or something.
Of course, we could all just mandate that all boys who are becoming men publicly recite the lyrics from Neil Diamond’s Hell Yeah

"I hear you wondering out loud
Are you ever gonna make it?
Will you ever work it out?
Will you ever take a chance
And just believe you can?

Hell yeah you will
You're gonna be okay
And you might get lost
But then you'll find a way
Don't go alone
Can't be afraid
Hell yeah
This life is here and it's made for livin'
And love's a gift that's made for givin'
You give it all away and have it still
And Hell yeah you will"

Hell yeah... that should do it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Showing Up

I figured this out late in life when I met The Kid.
I was in the Tim Horton’s drive through yesterday waiting patiently in line to get my customary morning hit of caffeine; a large double double. As I’m waiting there not quite awake, the CBC droning on about some conflict somewhere I will probably avoid and strumming my fingers on the steering wheel, I finally got to the ordering thing-a-ma-hooey and noticed the order amount for the person in front of me… fifty-three dollars, eighty-two cents. Who the hell spends fifty bucks in a drive through!?
I was getting upset at the person in front of me, the person in Tim Horton’s who was idiotic enough to accept an order of that size and the person behind me who suddenly seemed to be snuggling up a little close to my bumper. Really!? Other things began running through my head I could be upset about like its raining and I have to work outside or how the person two Tuesday’s ago cut in line in front of me or…
I started thinking about control.
How much control have I got? The only thing I have control over is me… and even that is suspect at times. Everyone (and every thing) else on the planet has control over themselves and nothing else. I can make myself crazy thinking I can control the behavior of another person. They might listen to what I have to say. They might not.
I remember when I was younger, and really not that many years ago, I would get upset at the actions of someone else at the drop of a chapeau. It took me a long time to realise that ninety-nine percent of the time, the person was not being malicious. They were doing the best they could with what they knew.
What do I know about parenting? I do know that having control over your kids is an illusion. You can teach them and you will never control them. They will still find a way to do what they want to do. (I was pretty damned good at figuring stuff out when I was a kid.) At some point, you have to trust you have taught your children well and cut them loose to make their own decisions.
It seems to me a parent has only two jobs.
One is a job for life and that is… be the person you want your kids to be. I remember hearing, “Do as I say, not as I do.” so many times when I was kid I think it became etched on my forehead. As I matured, I realized that old axiom is about the most idiotic thing anyone could say to their child. Children emulate their parents behaviour… period. You want your kid to be a good person? Be a good person. You want your kid to not waste their life partying? Don’t waste your life partying. You want your kid to have a better life than you had? Show them how to have a better life than you had. You want you kid to love the world? Love the world.
Kids are copy-cats. In their head, you are their hero and they will want to be exactly like their hero.
The second job is a life time job as well. Show up. Show up in your children’s life.
If they’re having difficulties… show up.
If they’re celebrating something… show up.
If you say you are going to be somewhere for your kid… show up.
If your kid is unable to handle a situation… show up.
If they want to travel the world... show up.
If they have made a mistaken decision you don’t like… show up. (And leave the attitude behind. It's not as if you haven't made some real bone-head decisions yourself!)
If you even have a hint they may need help… show up.
The concept is not that difficult to grasp. Show up in your kid’s life. Nothing else you will ever do will show them you love them more. Be a shoulder to lean on. Be their biggest cheerleader. Be their biggest fan. Your role when you took this job was to be there through everything. You decided to have kids. Not the other way around.
Step up and do the right thing for them. You connot control your kids (or anyone else) and you can be there for them while setting an example of the person you would like them to become. After that, it’s up to them.
In the end, there doesn't seem to be a point to getting upset with what others do or don't do. They're likely to do it anyway, with or without your permission. The only thing you can control is how you react. Showing up is a good start. Showing up with understanding and empathy is better.
Okay… I’m off my soapbox.
And I’m still waiting for the lady in front of me in the drive through… while a band of Sherpa load her trunk full of jelly donuts.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday Morning Musings

How do I know I’m real?
This is really weird shit… something from the polished oak ministerial pulpit of the Church of Holy Crap.
It’s a pretty easy question, no? I can feel, taste, see, hear, smell... I must be real. How do I prove it? René Descartes’s set about trying to prove we are real and wrote an entire tome to demonstrate it. He came up with… “I think, therefore I am”. But, if thinking is merely the passing of energy from one synapse to another, what is thought? Is it real?
It gets weirder.
Recent discoveries in quantum physics reveal that atoms, the smallest particle in the universe, aren’t solid at all. They are energy. What does that mean? Atoms aren’t really real. They are waves of energy spinning round and round at such a high rate of speed, the electron’s path around the nucleus isn’t easily penetrated by touch or sight and feels solid.
Err… it only looks real.
If everything in the known universe is made of atoms, and atoms aren’t really real, it follows that nothing is real. So, why can’t I walk through walls? Or, when I fall out of bed, why do I land with a thud rather than pass through the Earth and continue out into space. It might be a pretty cool ride to float out into space and see all the interesting stuff out there… but would it be real?
Back on point.
If everything is made of atoms and atoms aren’t real, then everything I do, see, smell, touch, feel and hear isn’t real either. It’s simply my perception of the energy flowing around me. If all I experience is simply perception of energy, can I change the perception thereby changing the reality?
The simple answer is “yes”.
If we change the perception of events in our lives, our experience changes as well. Nothing is solid. Nothing is fixed in place. Quantum physics shows that nothing is in a fixed state until we perceive it as fixed. If we change our perception, our own energy changes and attracts similar energy and, thus, changes the direction of our life.
Our senses take in four million bits of information about events around us every second. Our brains filter out those bits of information to a mere two thousand manageable bits. That is our reality. Our reality is made up of less than one thousandth of what is really going on around us. What we focus on becomes our reality. Our brains are trained to filter out things it has learned not to pay attention to. We can retrain our brains to focus on different things… and change our reality.
But then, nothing is really real anyway so why does it matter? It matters because it is our perceived experience that determines our life experience, not the other way around.
Our life experience is manufactured by our choice to perceive events in a certain way. We are a collection of our perceptions. Until we view events differently and change the energy patterns (thoughts and feelings), the sum total remains the same. This is where the saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” comes from.
To paraphrase, the axiom might go like this… the definition of insanity is to perceive things the same way and expect a different life experience.
The further we go along the scientific path, the more we seem to understand nothing is real except that our perception makes it so. Therefore, the only thing that might be construed as real is my perception of things and events.
For all I know, none of you are really out there and this whole life event of mine has been manufactured in my own mind. There is nothing behind me until I turn around and observe what I think the energy around me should look like.
I wonder if the responses to this will be real. I guess it depends on how I take them.
I think I need a coffee…
Then I think it’s time to go kayaking and see how I perceive nature.


Friday, 15 August 2014


I look crappy in orange.
While I was out on the job today, I heard a thud at the next intersection. I looked up and a woman was laying in the middle of the intersection, her bicycle strewn across the road in pieces and a small, tan car hovering over her like a predator fixed on prey. I didn’t see the accident though I did see the aftermath.

An elderly man exited the car.
I ran toward the accident. Two others appeared on the scene about the same time. One man started directing traffic, I went to the woman who was, by no surprise, crying and holding her leg. The third man stood by watching… what? I don’t know. The elderly man from the car began picking up pieces of the bicycle. I’m not sure he asked the woman if she was alright.
A few minutes later, EMS people appeared from the nearby casino.
Once EMS arrived, I was no longer needed to comfort the woman. I decided to help direct traffic as I was wearing a bright orange shirt with reflective striped stuff all over it. We do what we can with what tools we have. 
The voyeurs began showing up soon after.
The whole thing made me wonder about decisions. We are the sum total of all the decisions we have made to this point in our life. It dictates our experiences and even dictates how we view those experiences. We choose to choose and in the event we choose not to choose, we have made a choice.
The only way to improve our lives (presuming we want to improve) is to make different choices.
I could have chosen to ignore the accident and continue on my merry way. I could have chosen to be the voyeur as many people in the neighbourhood had chosen. I could have chosen to berate the elderly man. There are other choices I could have made. Mine was to get involved.
I cannot improve myself by standing on the sidelines and watching humanity rumble by like an out of control freight train.
I think it’s important to make decisions that improve who I am. If those choices align with my core values, I will feel good about the decision. If I feel good about the decision, my self confidence will increase. If my self confidence increases, I am more likely to make good core value decisions again in the future.
And the cycle goes on.
The opposite is true, of course. If I make decisions that betray my core values, my self confidence, and self respect, deteriorate. Eventually I make decisions which are not only destructive to me, they become destructive to others and the relationships I have with them. The rut becomes so deep that climbing out seems like a gargantuan task.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I had only one choice when I saw the accident. That would be the choice that aligned with my core values. Help in any capacity I can. Be in the story, not in the audience. Dive into the fray with both feet… and bring compassion with you. Do the best you can with what you know.
It matters not which was the cause of the accident... the woman riding on a sidewalk or the elderly man not paying attention. Both need compassion. From what I could discern, they both made mistaken choices... one riding a bicycle on a sidewalk on the wrong side of the road and the other not paying attention while driving a two thousand pound low speed missile. The looks on both their faces spoke volumes.
I didn’t choke up until the drive home a few minutes later when I remembered the shock on the woman’s face and the vacant, mouth agape stare of the old man. Both of their fates may ride on their next choice.
And I still look like crap in orange.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Lessons in Beaver Hunting

I was out on the water this weekend chasing… well… nothing in particular.
I find, sometimes, the greatest outcomes occur when I simply go without expectation of any particular result. That doesn’t mean I haven’t a goal of sorts. Kayaking this weekend was to relax and reconnect with my inner homo-sapien… whatever the hell that is.

As I’m wandering up the canal pictured to the right, I saw a beaver house. There was no need for a dam here. The water was deep, which was good news for me as I could avoid crawling over a barrier of stick, mud and beaver poop.
Some days I just want to avoid the poop.
As I was returning out of the canal, I passed the grey stick and mud house again. I wondered if the beavers were home. I thought of knocking. The door was bit out of reach being under water, though. Suddenly I saw movement ahead out of the corner of my eye and there he was; Beaver. I wasn’t sure if he/ she was a Mrs. or Mr. Since he wasn’t wearing a skirt or high heeled shoes, I went with Mr for my own convenience.
He ducked under water.
With nowhere in particular to go and no-one in particular to see and no particular place to be, I decided to wait to see if he would surface. I think I should have packed a lunch or a meditation tape. Man those little dudes can hold their breath.
I was drifting closer to the stick house when he popped back to the surface. He made several trips back and forth in front of his abode as if protecting it, then finally slipping into the house after I snapped several photos. Deciding not to bother the fella any longer, I continued on my exploration of other waterways.
I was reminded of patience and perseverance after I left the beaver to his normal life.
I wondered how much patience we have in our current societal state. Everything is expected to be instant; instant cereals, instant coffee, we get frustrated in traffic jams, we expect people we know do things for us immediately, we expect instant returns of our text messages, our bosses expect instant results, our computers have to be fast, we carry our phones with us, we expect our kids to instantly be adults... We expect ourselves to be perfect human beings over night. Everything has become a blistering paced nightmare.
Patience is slowing down to a speed our brains, bodies and souls can keep up with.
At the same time, perseverance is part of patience. Beavers don’t build a dam over night. (Well, sometimes they do and we’ll ignore the “eager beavers”.) It takes time for them to build a house, construct a damn, wait for the new pond to fill, wait for the flora and fauna to show up and make a neighbourhood where they can raise their family. The goal they are working toward is specific and the task monumental.
Through all of this, they complete their task over time completely altering the landscape and providing homes for others one stick at a time.
I sometimes think if we could show a little more patience, we would all be healthier. Oh, sure, patience with others is important. What I am talking about is patience with ourselves. Small degrees of course alteration completely change the ending destination. And once that degree of variation has occurred, sticking with it one step at a time will completely change our lives… even if it’s two steps forward and one step back on a slippery, muddy slope on the way out of a bubbling, self-created cesspool.
Sometimes we have to fall off a cliff before we know we've taken the wrong road. The way out is the same way as in... small, patient, persevering steps. It took me years to get there and I expect it to resolve itself overnight? Really? 
Any destination can be reached given enough time. With everyone expecting instant “whatever”, I suspect they miss the best part of the journey… the satisfaction of attaining a goal and knowing the rocks and mountains they had to scrabble over. By slowing down, we might not see everything from a distant, bird’s eye view. Instead we see things up close where we can connect. I know for myself, when i experience the journey, I am much more satisfied when I reach the destination.
Well, me and the beavers.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Trail of Rocks

We are born with nothing… and everything.
Life experience has ups and downs. Whether I am a pauper or a prince, joys show up, setbacks arise and tragedy rears its head.
I like to compare life to a backpack. Imagine this… take all the things that have happened to you over the course of your life… all the traumatic events. Each one of those events is a rock. All the rocks of different sizes, textures and colours made up of all the disappointments as you grew up, all the failed relationships, all the people who died too early, all the teasing or bullying, all the money troubles, all hatred for someone who treated you wrong, all the injustices against you, all the physical impairments, all the bosses who used you, all the times you were ignored… all of it.
Close your eyes and imagine stuffing all those rocks into a backpack... nice and tight.
Now try to lift that bastard.
We all have a backpack of rocks strapped to our backs. Most of us spend our entire lives filling that backpack and carrying it around like some sort of badge of honour as if the more weight we can carry, the better person we will become. Many of us carry a gargantuan bag of rocks around our entire lives only to get to the end brutally bent, broken and disfigured from an age of trying to manage more weight than we have a right to carry. Tell me… how happy would you be to put YOUR backpack down for a day? An hour? Five minutes?
At some point, I had to make the decision whether to start dropping rocks or continue slogging along with the weight digging into my shoulders and impeding my mobility. How do I expect to negotiate my way through myriad life pylons with all this frigging weight strapped to me?
Better I get rid of the weight.
There are only two ways I know to help with the load. The first is to be grateful for all the good things in my life. Being grateful makes me stronger. It reminds me what I really value, what’s important and what I have. More importantly, I like to be grateful for the lessons the trials of life have taught. But then, I like to learn anyway so that’s kind of a no brainer for me.
Gratitude is the quickest way to deal with the load of life. You start to feel better... stronger... almost immediately.
Eventually, I realized I could only become so strong. I was still carrying the damned rocks around! What to do now? Forgiveness.
Forgiveness takes longer. It’s not as if I can make a sweeping statement like, “I forgive all those who have trespassed against me” and tomorrow all will be right with the world. Nuh uh. It takes work. One trespass at a time. Lots of meditation and kayak trips and walking in the woods and beating up stuffed animals. Sometimes the forgiving doesn’t work the first time or it’s a particular person who has a whole lotta trespasses against me. It just takes time to work through.
Journaling helped me a lot. Each day, I would write what I was grateful for that day. Then, if I had a particular rock that seemed to be digging into my back, I would spend some time trying to extricate it. Eventually, I would manage to free it up, get it out of the bag, turn it over in my minds eye and take a good look at it... then drop it to the ground.
We all make mistakes. We all make decisions we wish we hadn’t. At some point I had to understand there are people out there who have made decisions… knowingly or not… that have affected me in some negative way. Those people deserve my forgiveness (even if it’s God). More than that, I deserve to forgive them for my own peace of mind.
A couple of points…
First, most people I was carrying a rock around for weren’t even aware the incident affected me the way it did. (Yes... I was carrying it for them. It's their weight!) Or worse, often I was carrying a rock around for someone I would never see again! Does this make sense?
Second, there’s no need to confront the person. Just forgive them. Sometimes I would do a little ceremony if it was a particularly big rock. Going back to the first point, confronting them will only confuse matters or I might not be able to find them anyway.
As I look behind me now, there aren’t as many rocks along the path. There are fewer people to forgive. Most of the forgiving I do now happens quickly so I haven’t got the rock for long. It's taken quite some time to lighten the load to make it manageable.
Having said that somewhere back there on my trail is one shit-load of rocks.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

I was working in a neighbourhood today where I spent my first ten years inhabiting this wet/ dry, blue and brown spinning mineral deposit. As I wandered the once familiar streets, I began recalling events I was surprised I could remember at all; the house my father built and where I was born, the second house we lived in, the Wilson’s house with their huge cockatoo, the woman down the street who babysat us and who gave me a big hug today, both of my aunties houses, my best friends houses, the Harrisons where I watched a horror movie when I was ten and my father met me half way home in a snow storm, the lady next door who used to feed us dog biscuits as treats (they weren’t bad actually), the house I broke into when I was nine... a flood of differing experiences.

We moved from the neighbourhood when I was ten. Introducing myself to those whom I knew then was an odd experience. I am 43 years older than the last time I met them and about two and a half feet taller. They seemed mostly the same… a hugger, a somewhat cranky fellow, a police officer. Even the environs had the same optical flavour.

It then occurred to me, aside from my core values, I was not the same. My old inhibitions were gone. I have no issue approaching anyone… president or pauper. I haven’t the same fears I had then. If there was something that wasn’t working for me, I changed it, eliminated it or dated it out to be dealt with when I was ready. I had also experienced things over the past 43 years that made the old neighbourhood look a little off colour from what I remembered.

I then remembered The Wall.

In 1995, I lost everything for the first time. My then wife and I had broken our marriage, I lost my job (or gave it away… I’m not sure) and I was alone and far from home. I was pretty depressed and had all but given up on anything that might amount to a dream. One Tuesday night I received a phone call from a friend inviting me to a meeting. I had no idea what it might be about and, despite some inner doubt, the word yes spewed out of my mouth without a degree of dithering.

Out of that meeting and an initial program came The Wall… a program about finding your comfort zone and making it bigger. It’s about learning to do more than you thought you were capable of. It’s about finding out who you are… what makes you tick. It’s all about coming up against self manufactured walls of resistance and crashing through them.

A lot of changes have come about since that Tuesday night. Once I began to face my fears, I recognized they weren’t as powerful as I had imagined. Spilling one’s guts out in front of a room full of strangers tends to open your boundaries in a hurry… and restore your self confidence just as quickly.

A smart person once said to me, “You have to fall into the darkness before you can appreciate the light”.

Every decision to change comes from wanting to be better today than I was yesterday. It does not mean I’m broken. It does not mean I have to be fixed. It does not mean I am not enough. It means there are things I can do better, greater things I can learn and self confidence I can build on. It all began with one step… one response of “yes”… and deciding to get out of the rut and show up in my own life. What did I learn most? If I put out to the world that which I desire most, the person I save will ultimately be myself.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

The neighbourhood will never look the same because my lenses have permanently changed hue. By the time I return once again, the people may feel the same and I will have grown a bit more... the hue of my lenses will be a little different again…

And that’s a good thing.