A Sign

A song played at the end of last week’s episode of This is Us. The lyrics stirred up something from deep inside me, like I’m talking on the level of my soul.

I grabbed my phone and quickly opened the Shazam app. The result came up in about 2.3 seconds: 42 by Mumford & Sons from the band’s 2018 album Delta.

I did a slight double take when I noticed the song was called 42.
Well, that’s very interesting, I thought…

I hit the button to purchase the song on Apple Music without hesitation. And I’ve pretty much been listening to it on repeat ever since.

As much as I love a nice melody or sweet harmony, the soulful strum of an acoustic guitar, the unexpected twist of a bridge, or the dynamic rise of a full orchestral crescendo (special thanks to my college Music Appreciation class for this knowledge and terminology), it’s usually the lyrics, or the message a song imparts, that evoke emotion and make it memorable, keeping me coming back for more.

I’m actually kind of obsessed with song lyrics. Case in point: I recently told a friend how I constantly think in lyrics, like pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. My husband and I have entire conversations in song lyrics, both by text and in person in a call and response fashion. AND I have a secret dream about writing song lyrics. Oops, I guess the cat’s out of the bag now and it’s really not a secret anymore.

The words are layered over chords played on an organ, as the song begins with a feeling reminiscent of a church hymn…
“Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make? And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?

Building…
“I was so sure, oh, of it all. And what if I need you in my darkest hour?”

Fear. Uncertainty. Isolation. I have been marinating in all the feelings, and it often feels like a certain type of darkness. So many questions plague my mind, yet so few answers have appeared.

An electric guitar is layered in over the baseline and back beat…
“And what if it turns out there is no other?”

I’ve been doubting myself again lately, in all the majorly important ways, and then I this song comes along, so unexpectedly, as the punctuation mark at the end of my most favourite TV show. Really, the only show I watch religiously each week. And it feels a bit like a hug from an old friend, as if it was played specifically for me.

Quieter, with guitar strings plucked to a staccato beat…
“If this is our last hope, we would see a sign, oh, we would see a sign.”

I’ve scoured the Internet, and I cannot find any indication of why the song is titled 42.

My mind trails off, as I think about how I am building a new foundation—one that’s based on a strong sense of my truest self. As I process and grow through my challenges, I continue to learn I am wise and wonderful and capable of anything I want to do. And I am doing everything in my power to integrate this knowledge into my way of being.

Yet, I find myself needing to learn and relearn these truths. Repeatedly teaching myself as I attempt to believe—fully and completely—in all that I am. I remind myself that I am everything I need, and that all of the answers to my own questions are already within me. I also know that as I follow this path—my yellow brick road to freedom and peace—I will continue to stumble, and to forget, from time to time.

I suppose it’s quite normal, really, for those of us who identify as seekers to look for answers, validation, and signs beyond ourselves. I believe it’s our humanity that makes it so. We are wired for connection to other humans, after all; we are literally programmed to seek out others to whom we can relate and with whom we can share this human experience. It’s a fundamental part of our existence. Through all the joy and the pain, we just need to feel like we’re not doing this life all alone.

Louder again (mezzo forte)…
“If this is our time now
we wanna see a sign, oh,
we would see a sign…”

I am exactly 42 years old (and two months plus a handful of days, if you want to get technical), and dare I say, albeit strange, this song is a very timely reminder. It’s a sign so simple and obvious that I could have easily missed it had I not been paying attention.

It is a true beacon of hope. A clear signal of inspiration. A symbolic guiding light, if you will, giving me the courage and strength I need to continue on.

Everything has been building to this precise moment. It’s a sign that, in spite of how I’ve been feeling, I am not alone. I know I am loved and supported. Life is giving me what I need in each and every moment, and everything is working out for me exactly as it should.

THIS IS MY TIME.

I thank the universe for this message of gentle reassurance, delivered in the best possible way, at the perfect time for me to hear, all while lovingly wrapped in the beautiful poetry of the special lyrics of this song.

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This is also a sign. Clever, isn’t it? Found while on vacation in Paia Town, Maui in 2017.

And, for what it’s worth, I also strongly believe this isn’t just about me. I feel compelled to share this story with you, for the universe works in strange and mysterious ways, and just in case you may also be looking for a sign of hope or reassurance, too.

So let me do a quick recap just in case you might have missed it:
You are strong enough to get through anything life throws your way.
And you are enough, period. Exactly as you are.

xo

Do you believe in signs from the universe? I’d love to hear from you!

Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make?
And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?
I was so sure, oh, of it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
If this is our last hope
We would see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
Well I’ve been running from the ashes we left
Forgiveness begs for itself but how can I forget
When there’s a stain on it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
We had it all
If this is our time now
We wanna see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
So give us a sign
I need some guiding light
Children of darkness, oh
Songwriters: Benjamin Walter David Lovett / Edward James Milton Dwane / Marcus Oliver Johnstone Mumford / Winston Aubrey Aladar Marshall

Remembering What Women Have Always Known

The women who were our ancestors knew so many things that many modern western women seem to have forgotten.

I’m not talking about how they knew how to wash clothes by hand, turn wheat into flour to make bread, or how to spin raw cotton into yarn.

Rather, they knew and understood deep truths about being a woman that are rich and profound, and often as dark and complex as the intricate beings we are.

They knew, as women, our similarities are always far greater than any of our differences.

They knew we are influenced by previous lifetimes of struggle and strife, the effects of which run deep in our blood, as they continue to be passed from one generation to the next.

They knew how our hearts are all connected through the invisible web of our lives, the silken threads of which are formed out of our unparalleled capacity to love.

They knew women are prone to carrying our wounds, insecurities, and secret desires from the cradle to the grave. And because they knew this, they also knew we must nurture and listen to each other, providing the support and encouragement necessary to help each other voice these heavy burdens that we carry in our hearts.

They always knew the darkness of a woman’s womb is a powerfully creative force, and regardless of whether a woman procreates or not, simply by her presence in the world she will in her lifetime give birth to new light.

Above all else, they knew women are always stronger, both individually and collectively, when we commune with each other, allowing our collective wisdom to guide us in the spirit of love, compassion, and sisterhood.

They knew these truths in their secret circles, their covens, and their Red Tents. Their quilting bees and coffee klatches.

I posted this on Facebook the other day:

girlgangWhile the above post was more of the cheeky, lighthearted variety, the underlying message is really quite serious, and it does a great job of encapsulating a feeling that has been growing stronger inside of me for quite some time: there’s nothing I’d love more than to see women supporting other women, aggressively, wholeheartedly, and with so much passion, fervor, and gusto it’s as if their lives depend on it.

Because they kinda do. Well, at the least the future and fate of humanity does. And, yes, I do realize how extreme that sounds, but please bear with me.

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The tidewater of the ‘me too’ and ‘time’s up’ movements have rippled out to where I stand; the temperature has changed and the water is no longer still. These movements have struck a chord in my soul. As a deeply feeling human being, I see so much pain and hurt perpetuated among women, and I cannot help but feel a storm of empathy and compassion brewing inside me for our shared plight.

How could I listen to Oprah Winfrey’s Cecil B. de Mille Award acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes and not be moved by it? How could you not feel anything after watching Kesha’s bold and brave performance of her song ‘Praying’ along with a host of other top female music artists standing behind her at last night’s Golden Globes? I cannot, and I sincerely hope many others are feeling the same way.

It pains me to see how so many women seem to have forgotten our shared connection, as if the knowing of our need for each other was nothing more than a stain that has been scrubbed out of their consciousness in this life.

I am saddened by women viewing each other as competition and allowing themselves to be consumed by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and anger. It’s absolutely atrocious how some women can be so catty and downright malicious toward other women for whatever petty reasons they deem justifiable and appropriate.

Instead of standing in support and solidarity beside our sisters—being there for each other in our darkest hours to remind one another, that no matter what happens to us in our lives, we are enough—we judge each other harshly and pull away to insulate ourselves from the discomfort of someone else’s suffering.

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It’s time for women to come together again, through both our happiness and our sorrows, to help celebrate each other’s successes, and to lift each other up out of the depths of despair. The world needs this, and we as women need this more than ever.

Though it seems at the moment some of us are deeply divided by our perceived individuality and fierce independence, let us remember the truth of where we came from. Let us remember and heed the wisdom of the women who have walked this path before us. Let us remember and return to the truth of our shared sisterhood, and take comfort knowing none of us need to walk this journey alone.

It costs us nothing, except for our time and a little compassion.

What we receive in return—the deep connection of belonging to a tribe of our beautiful sisters, and the unconditional love and support that result from it—are immeasurable gifts. These are the gifts that will bring healing and hope to the world in these seemingly grim times.

In September 2009 at the Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama called himself a feminist and proclaimed western women will save the world.

I’ve never really thought of myself that way, but I suppose maybe I am a feminist, too? Because I believe with all of my heart that we as women can save the world, and we will do it by first coming together to help and save each other.

helenkellerquote

Brisk Walk

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, I bundled myself up in warm layers and ventured outside, no specific destination in mind. Just the intention to get outside and go for a walk.

It’s been quite cold in my neck of the woods this past week, which actually made it feel more like a month (some might even argue this past frozen week has felt like a year in and of itself). But the mercury had climbed enough yesterday afternoon to make it humanly possible to go outside, with plenty of extra clothing to pad my flesh against the harsh sting of the cold, of course.

I had been longing to be outside, to breathe the fresh, crisp air into my lungs. And so I walked, putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on my breath, and feeling the steady beat of my heart inside my chest. I walked. At some point, each of my footsteps  naturally and effortlessly synchronized with an inhale or an exhale. I walked in perfect rhythm and harmony with myself, each step a sacred partnership of movement and breath.

Not tiptoeing and not sauntering. Neither crawling nor running.
I walked, briskly and with intention, guided by inspiration and my intuition.

Call it symbolism or metaphor if you like, but I prefer to think of it as my new reality.

Intention – The deliberate approach I am consciously choosing for myself, to be all in for my own life. I like to think of intention as the opposite end of the spectrum from chance and coincidence. Sure, there’s always room for a little spontaneity, but I plan to begin each day with a strong intention to guide me. 

intent

Intuition – Trusting the quiet whispers from my heart and my soul, even when they don’t make sense. I am learning how it really is that simple. Intuition is like a muscle: the more you listen, the more you hear. I am listening.

Inspiration – Allowing the world’s beauty, emotion, and passion to fill my heart so full that I have no choice but to create something just as beautiful myself, as a way to express my gratitude and appreciation for all that is. To live an inspiring and inspiration-filled life, and maybe even to inspire others along the way.

visionboard

Taking in the first few deep breaths of crisp winter air as I walked made my nose run and cheeks rosy, but it also brought warmth and brightness to my soul. And perhaps the most beautiful thing of all is that I really don’t know where any of this is going, or where I’m going. But what’s more important is how, through willingness and an open heart, I’m learning to practice the art of surrender and to trust my journey.

I am grateful for the New Year that is now upon us; for the perspective and the clean slate it affords. Even if all of this is just a silly notion generated by my overactive imagination, it feels real. I am realizing there is an untapped energy source that has been resting dormant inside me. A swirl of ideas are fueling a renewed sense of curiosity, and a zest for experiencing the fullness of life is starting to take shape.

My path is not clear, and I really have no idea where I’m going. I suppose it’s possible, and even quite likely, that I could take a wrong turn. In fact, I could get very lost. I could get it all wrong and make terrible mistakes along the way. I could continue to be paralyzed—stuck in place—frozen by all-consuming fear. Or, I could walk on in spite of the obvious challenges and risks.

I choose to walk forward, one bold step at a time, along with my three faithful companions: intuition, inspiration, and intention.

There’s no way of knowing for sure what this year has in store, but I’m excited to take the walk.

 

What are you excited for in 2018? I’d love to connect with you! Drop me a line and let’s chat about what dreams and schemes you’re cooking up for the future.

 

Good Day

Two geese are meandering in the grass near the shoreline.

Several trees are rooted in place mere feet away from the water’s edge, but one in particular catches my eye. It’s early spring, and like so many of the others, its leaves are just beginning to bloom.

But this tree is different than the others. It’s special. This one is my tree.

branches

I approach, gently placing one hand on its bark; a gesture meaning, “I come in peace”.

My tree looks strong, with five main limbs branching out from its trunk.

I take a few breaths before I slowly begin to move again.

The lowest of the limbs is a little higher than my chest, and looks solid enough to support me.

perch

I scan to see if there’s anyone around, anyone whose disapproving glances may prevent me from accomplishing my secret mission.

Only my friends—the two geese and my tree—are here with me.

I come up with a quick game plan in my head.

Get one foot on top of the low limb and then hoist myself using upper body strength assisted by the two higher limbs? Can’t get my hand position right and not enough leverage. Ironically, the realization takes me back to the challenge of indoor rock climbing, and the frustration that ensued.

With renewed determination, I take a few deep breaths and try again. The geese are honking, and I imagine they’re cheering me on. Alas, both feet end up back at ground level.

I approach from another angle; one hand on each of the higher limbs that ascend almost as straight up as the base of the tree itself, as I use my feet to scale its trunk.

My grip is slipping again, and just when I think I’m not quite strong enough and will have to let go, I get one foot up into the crook of my tree.

I pause for a moment—to catch my breath and figure out what’s next.

I’ve been afraid of heights since I broke my arm falling off a four-foot structure when I was six. It’s interesting how much I changed and how I learned to embody fear on that fateful day…

I’m only about five and a half feet off the ground, but my heart is racing. Part exhilaration, part fear. The exact ratio of the two is unclear.

I walk my feet forward over the lowest limb, very slowly, testing to see if it will hold.

There’s no discernible movement in the limb, so I lower myself into the crook, shifting my weight forward slightly to settle into this perfect resting spot.

Here I am now, grown woman in a tree. Not a care in the world—except for maybe how to get myself back down to the ground. But for now I’ll just stay up here in my tree, enjoying the view for a while.

From my sturdy perch, I look out beyond the thick of branches over the water. My thoughts are consumed by the simplicity of nature. Its sheer existence is breathtakingly beautiful.

Birds are singing to each other in the manner of call and reply. The water is still. Grass on the verge of turning green. Sky above, earth below.

In these precious moments as the trees and shrubs begin to emerge from their winter slumber, there’s a prevailing sense of calm, and a palpable sense of hope for the future.

forwardview

A penny for my thoughts?

Despite my struggles to get here, I feel strong and supported.
I feel as though I’ve come home.
I am at peace.

The auspicious nature of this day far exceeds finding two quarters in the grass on the way back down.

It is neither luck, nor coincidence.

It is all meant to be.

Every detail unfolding exactly as it was written in the grand design of it all:
The geese and the tree. The struggle and the climb. The perspective and the view.

The journey and the destination.

No doubt in my mind I’ve arrived here, in this place, on the wings of an idea called freedom.

I’ve waited a long time to be here and to feel this.

I know there is immeasurable joy to be found in simple pleasures, like riding my bike and climbing my tree. Remembering what it feels like to be a kid.

There’s so much life here, and I finally see I’m part of it.

Now that I’ve found this place, I’ll definitely be back again.

Good day? Yes, I suppose you could say that.

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

A Dreamer Takes Flight

I’ve settled into my spot in 7A. My carry-on bag has been stowed securely under the seat in front of me. I spend the first 60 minutes of the flight from Toronto, Ontario to Oranjestad, Aruba reading 54 pages of Stephen King’s On Writing. Knowing little else of his life other than his notoriety as an author of numerous thriller genre books, I’m quite tickled by King’s keen wit and wry sense of humour. I may have actually chuckled out loud…twice…reading how he caught a terrible case of poison ivy after making the choice to go number two in a forested area and wiping with glossy green leaves.

I’ve put the book away and had water, coffee, and some (plain) plane cookies. Following my in-flight guided meditation, a Ludovico Einaudi piano melody flows through the thin white chord that extends out of the bottom of my phone and then separate into two branches; each one delivering a steady stream of full, rich, sound into the tiny buds in my ears. A soft, plaid flannel wrap is draped across my legs to keep away the airplane draft.

7A is a window seat, directly above the left jet. Looking out the window at 39,000 feet, the trivial details that previously preoccupied my thoughts around the items I forgot to pack (the tally currently stands at hairbrush, razor, and sunscreen) have completely faded away, replaced with seemingly endless blankets off cotton-baton like clouds. The sky clears a little, and my view becomes a haze of solid grey with only a string of clouds formed into a long straight line just beneath the jet. Then all of a sudden the entire sky changes to a sheet of brilliant cyan with not a single cloud in sight. I am mesmerized by the sky’s beauty, in all its changing forms.

I am defying the laws of gravity, floating through the atmosphere. The great expanse of the wide-open sky is my home, at least for the next few hours. I am flying.

This bird’s-eye view of the world has created a shift inside me. My spirit is lifted as high as the elevation at which we’re flying, and my heart is filled with the hope that all things—both great and small—are possible. Left alone with my thoughts, climbing to the top of the universe, I’ve found comfort in a soft blanket of clouds and my own dreams.

I’ve recently set a big dream in motion, speaking aloud the deepest desire of my heart. And I wonder if this is why the sky is unfolding so magically for me today, showing me both the vastness of possibility and the impermanence of everything. The meaning is far greater than I’m currently able to express. Today, the sky represents a new beginning; the start of something so incredible I don’t yet fully understand. Whatever it is, it’s something so remarkable and beautiful and potentially life-changing that I’m not yet able to articulate it in words.

In this moment, I’m no longer thinking about what is or isn’t in my suitcase.

Everything is perfectly simple and simply perfect.

I have my head in the clouds and I’m flying on the wings of my dream.