Archive | January, 2015

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 45: From Grief to Gratitude While Visiting Hollywood

28 Jan

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 45: From Grief to Gratitude While Visiting Hollywood.

IMG_8180

Angst on an Airplane:  Recently I flew to Hollywood for Christmas.  From my flight from Vancouver to LA, and into the first couple of days of my trip, I was riddled with the stress of my job, and the anxiety of a couple of personal matters.  I felt emotionally consumed by worry, and felt unable to escape some of it, even by leaving home to do so.   No matter how hard I tried, I was not able to shift out of my work gear, and into my holiday mode which I had been looking forward to for several weeks.  I found myself reviewing many of the negatives like a silent picture show in my mind.

Fortunately, I have incredible travel angels, and I landed in the world’s most interesting bed and breakfast called The Hollywood B and B.  It was filled with fascinating relics and art from all over the world.  The theme of most of this boutique inn was vintage America.  Anything and everything that tied into American film, music and art was residing somewhere on a table, wall or available space in this historical home.  This was an exceptional hoarders’ paradise because everything truly was beautiful, not only to the hoarding hosts, but to their guests.

Shifting Emotional Gears:  It took me awhile to recognize the signs of worry, distress, depression and exhaustion, but eventually I surrendered to it through rest and recovery.  It had been a difficult fall at work grappling with a traumatized school district just coming out of a strike, and where I was learning the ropes in a new organization on multiple levels.  As well, I was starting to feel some homesickness for my friends and family in Calgary.  Despite having many positive things happening in BC with work, new social connections and hobbies, I was not feeling very happy about my circumstances.  No matter how I looked at everything, it kept leading me back to this sense of loss and failure, even though I knew that logically, this was not the case.

After a couple of days of ruminating, I chose to go out.  I started exploring Hollywood Boulevard; Sunset Boulevard; The Griffin Observatory; The Getty Museum; the LA County Museum of Art; the Norton Simon Art Gallery; Pasadena; Santa Monica, and the surrounding area down to Malibu.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this, as I was learning to drive the six lanes of traffic, I started to shift gears from grief to gratitude.

Serendipity Works Its Magic:  When I first arrived at 2 in the morning, I switched on the light of my “Maverick Room” (likely called this because there were two decorated cow skulls on the wall which some might call artwork). I  figured out how to turn on the satellite television and the first thing that came on was a program about “fear”.  At first it didn’t seem to be very profound, but I found it odd that of all 886 channels, the one program that kept coming up was talking about this topic of fear that I was vividly experiencing at that very moment in time.  The people on this channel appeared to be experts on this topic, and the quote that stood out for me in their dialogue (and then became my mantra for the next few days of my holiday), was this:  “If you give faith to fear, you give yourself to the enemy.  If you give your faith to God, you give yourself back to yourself.”  It was a profound starting point of other little “signs” that good things would be happening on this holiday.

The Maze:  What I also started doing was counting my blessings, and I realized that there were many of them.  I realized that part of my dilemma was this idea of turning 50 years old in the new year.  As the days of the holiday counted down to 2015, I was feeling my mortality.

When I was looking out from the Getty Museum overlooking Beverly Hills, I realized a few things.  I had more to be grateful for than I would ever to be sorry about.  As well, I marvelled at the key life events that had happened over the last fifty years that had turned me into the person that I had become.  Most of these life events involved people supporting me and helping to launch me into new and important directions.

From this vantage point at the top of the Getty, I could look down and see exactly the right way to go through this beautiful foliage maze.  It was a bit like life.  When you are right in the middle of it, you cannot see which way to go.  However, when you stand back, you can see it all very differently.  I decided then and there that I was going to acknowledge the 50 people who had most impacted my life over my lifetime.

My Top 50 People:  Who would my top 50 people be?  I had so many people to be thankful for, but I decided that I would narrow it down to the key change agents in my life journey.  These were people who had made a substantial shift in me physically, emotionally, intellectually, and/or spiritually.  My family automatically came to mind…then my doctors who had operated on my feet, knees and shoulder (so that I could move easily)…and then my mentors who had helped nominate and support me through my career–all of this started to come into focus.

As I was considering this list of names, I went into the gift shop, and there on the gift shop stand was a postcard of the very maze that I had just been looking out over.  It seemed to represent the maze of my life.   I decided to buy all of them!   When the shop owner carefully counted them out, there were exactly 50 cards which matched the exact number of my gratitude mission.  I spent the next few days jotting down names and making decisions about who I would write, and what I would say in each card.  Then, while I sat each evening in the dim light of the bed and breakfast while listening to some lovely guitar music and sipping hot ginger tea, I began to write.

Re-focussing:  No longer was I thinking about my worries and challenges.  I was thinking about my life in technicolor gratitude.  Important memories were coming back to me, and I was making some significant revelations.  I was connecting the dots.  Had these people not entered in my life at key times, my life could be very different than it is presently.  My good fortune in life was a result of a series of spiritual interventions of key people along the way.  In each letter, I decided to include a quote by one of my favourite authors, Marianne Williamson who I have been reading recently because as I am in the mid-life that she so graciously refers to as The Age of Miracles (2008):

It takes a decade to understand the basic nature of spiritual principles, another decade while the ego tries to eat you alive, another decade while you try to wrestle it to the ground, and finally you begin to walk more or less in the light.  Anyone who thinks a spiritual path is easy probably hasn’t been walking one…In A Course in Miracles, light is defined as “understanding.” What a beautiful thought, that to see the light is to understand. (p. 28)

I was starting to understand on this trip to Hollywood where people’s dreams came true, that my bright lights were coming from within.  Perhaps it was fed by the music from the wonderful music of the singer Olita Adams that I heard on New Year’s Eve at the famous Catalina Jazz Club, or it was the riveting comedians at the Laugh Factory that snapped me back into happiness; I’m not sure.  However, I have a feeling that what helped me to get my bearings most was travelling.  Again, by finding another vantage point from which to see my life maze, and to know that there was an entrance, a path and an exit, I felt reassured.  It was just a matter of taking the time to appreciate that everything was going to be alright because everything had already been alright.

Happy New Year 2015

IMG_8272

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 45: From Grief to Gratitude While Visiting Hollywood

28 Jan

IMG_8180

Angst on an Airplane:  Recently I flew to Hollywood for Christmas.  From my flight from Vancouver to LA, and into the first couple of days of my trip, I was riddled with the stress of my job, and the anxiety of a couple of personal matters.  I felt emotionally consumed by worry, and felt unable to escape some of it, even by leaving home to do so.   No matter how hard I tried, I was not able to shift out of my work gear, and into my holiday mode which I had been looking forward to for several weeks.  I found myself reviewing many of the negatives like a silent picture show in my mind.

Fortunately, I have incredible travel angels, and I landed in the world’s most interesting bed and breakfast called The Hollywood B and B.  It was filled with fascinating relics and art from all over the world.  The theme of most of this boutique inn was vintage America.  Anything and everything that tied into American film, music and art was residing somewhere on a table, wall or available space in this historical home.  This was an exceptional hoarders’ paradise because everything truly was beautiful, not only to the hoarding hosts, but to their guests.

Shifting Emotional Gears:  It took me awhile to recognize the signs of worry, distress, depression and exhaustion, but eventually I surrendered to it through rest and recovery.  It had been a difficult fall at work grappling with a traumatized school district just coming out of a strike, and where I was learning the ropes in a new organization on multiple levels.  As well, I was starting to feel some homesickness for my friends and family in Calgary.  Despite having many positive things happening in BC with work, new social connections and hobbies, I was not feeling very happy about my circumstances.  No matter how I looked at everything, it kept leading me back to this sense of loss and failure, even though I knew that logically, this was not the case.

After a couple of days of ruminating, I chose to go out.  I started exploring Hollywood Boulevard; Sunset Boulevard; The Griffin Observatory; The Getty Museum; the LA County Museum of Art; the Norton Simon Art Gallery; Pasadena; Santa Monica, and the surrounding area down to Malibu.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this, as I was learning to drive the six lanes of traffic, I started to shift gears from grief to gratitude.

Serendipity Works Its Magic:  When I first arrived at 2 in the morning, I switched on the light of my “Maverick Room” (likely called this because there were two decorated cow skulls on the wall which some might call artwork). I  figured out how to turn on the satellite television and the first thing that came on was a program about “fear”.  At first it didn’t seem to be very profound, but I found it odd that of all 886 channels, the one program that kept coming up was talking about this topic of fear that I was vividly experiencing at that very moment in time.  The people on this channel appeared to be experts on this topic, and the quote that stood out for me in their dialogue (and then became my mantra for the next few days of my holiday), was this:  “If you give faith to fear, you give yourself to the enemy.  If you give your faith to God, you give yourself back to yourself.”  It was a profound starting point of other little “signs” that good things would be happening on this holiday.

The Maze:  What I also started doing was counting my blessings, and I realized that there were many of them.  I realized that part of my dilemma was this idea of turning 50 years old in the new year.  As the days of the holiday counted down to 2015, I was feeling my mortality.

When I was looking out from the Getty Museum overlooking Beverly Hills, I realized a few things.  I had more to be grateful for than I would ever to be sorry about.  As well, I marvelled at the key life events that had happened over the last fifty years that had turned me into the person that I had become.  Most of these life events involved people supporting me and helping to launch me into new and important directions.

From this vantage point at the top of the Getty, I could look down and see exactly the right way to go through this beautiful foliage maze.  It was a bit like life.  When you are right in the middle of it, you cannot see which way to go.  However, when you stand back, you can see it all very differently.  I decided then and there that I was going to acknowledge the 50 people who had most impacted my life over my lifetime.

My Top 50 People:  Who would my top 50 people be?  I had so many people to be thankful for, but I decided that I would narrow it down to the key change agents in my life journey.  These were people who had made a substantial shift in me physically, emotionally, intellectually, and/or spiritually.  My family automatically came to mind…then my doctors who had operated on my feet, knees and shoulder (so that I could move easily)…and then my mentors who had helped nominate and support me through my career–all of this started to come into focus.

As I was considering this list of names, I went into the gift shop, and there on the gift shop stand was a postcard of the very maze that I had just been looking out over.  It seemed to represent the maze of my life.   I decided to buy all of them!   When the shop owner carefully counted them out, there were exactly 50 cards which matched the exact number of my gratitude mission.  I spent the next few days jotting down names and making decisions about who I would write, and what I would say in each card.  Then, while I sat each evening in the dim light of the bed and breakfast while listening to some lovely guitar music and sipping hot ginger tea, I began to write.

Re-focussing:  No longer was I thinking about my worries and challenges.  I was thinking about my life in technicolor gratitude.  Important memories were coming back to me, and I was making some significant revelations.  I was connecting the dots.  Had these people not entered in my life at key times, my life could be very different than it is presently.  My good fortune in life was a result of a series of spiritual interventions of key people along the way.  In each letter, I decided to include a quote by one of my favourite authors, Marianne Williamson who I have been reading recently because as I am in the mid-life that she so graciously refers to as The Age of Miracles (2008):

It takes a decade to understand the basic nature of spiritual principles, another decade while the ego tries to eat you alive, another decade while you try to wrestle it to the ground, and finally you begin to walk more or less in the light.  Anyone who thinks a spiritual path is easy probably hasn’t been walking one…In A Course in Miracles, light is defined as “understanding.” What a beautiful thought, that to see the light is to understand. (p. 28)

I was starting to understand on this trip to Hollywood where people’s dreams came true, that my bright lights were coming from within.  Perhaps it was fed by the music from the wonderful music of the singer Olita Adams that I heard on New Year’s Eve at the famous Catalina Jazz Club, or it was the riveting comedians at the Laugh Factory that snapped me back into happiness; I’m not sure.  However, I have a feeling that what helped me to get my bearings most was travelling.  Again, by finding another vantage point from which to see my life maze, and to know that there was an entrance, a path and an exit, I felt reassured.  It was just a matter of taking the time to appreciate that everything was going to be alright because everything had already been alright.

Happy New Year 2015

IMG_8272

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You’re going the wrong way!

3 Jan

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You're going the wrong way!.

IMG_8297

Looking up:  Have you ever been driving along happily (or unhappily), in a zone of quiet (or frantic) windshield contemplation, and you look up, and realize that suddenly, nothing looks familiar?  In fact, you are lost, and it is slowly dawning on you that you are not only going the wrong way, but you have landed somewhere where you don’t recognize anything or anyone, nor yourself in this habitat.

How can this be, you ask?  You researched the trip; followed the map; read the signs, invested some money; but somehow, you are not in the place where you had anticipated being.  Instead, you are somewhere else and it does not feel right.  It even feels a bit dangerous.  It is late.  It is not easy to turn around.  Your fuel tank is running on close to empty, and there isn’t an open gas station to be found.  However, you decide that turning around is your best option.   This place is not what you had hoped, and you are disappointed that you had invested time and money in getting here.

When this epiphany has happened to me recently (as I feel a crossroads in my own life), lines from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles ring in my head with Steve Martin and John Candy providing some levity to what I know is a disappointing situation:

Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way…”

Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

Or, from the Twilight Zone, “Where is everybody?”

All of these lines of confused travellers bear witness to the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one that has found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time even after taking a leap of faith with the best of intentions, and hoping that this dream would play out just as I had anticipated.

How does this happen?  The Dalai Lama in his book The Middle Way:  Faith Grounded in Reason (2014) points out that when we “grasp at self-hood and self existence” we have the potential of finding a very unenlightened existence at some point in the journey.  We realize that what we were hoping for in this harmonious, happily-ever-after dream, did not “penetrate our true mode of being” (p. 19).  He explains that the “direct antidote to the self-grasping mind as well as its associated mental factors is insight into selflessness.  Therefore, it is on the basis of realizing selflessness that we attain true liberation” (p. 16).

What this means for me is that I have to be very clear about who I am so that I can best understand what I have to offer the world, and what to expect from it in return.  Sometimes we fixate on wanting a certain picture of how things will end up.  We manifest them, but in doing so, it has the potential of missing a key ingredient of who we truly are in the picture.  For example, some of us slave everyday to afford our vision, or do things or continue breathing life into a dream that is not necessarily in our best interests.  The dream lacks the raison d’être of all dreams…finding our calling and the flow within that calling.  Finding our vocation is not always an easy journey, as most spiritual journeys are not easy, but it should not be perpetually difficult with obstacle after obstacle thrown in our way.

When everyday is an uphill battle, or swimming against the stream of people with different goals and value systems; or where you have to prove yourself over and over again, just to make a little bit of progress, you know you are in the wrong place with the wrong people.  Therefore, the dream needs to be revised.  And that is okay, because who leads a perfectly well-executed plan the first time around, or even the 500th time around?  Unfortunately, most people don’t try anything new for fear of making mistakes.  A new expression I learned on this trip is a nice one:  “Feeding fear is feeding the enemy.  Feeding faith is feeding your true self.”  Therefore, we have to live in faith, even where our faith may lead us to places that scare us (Chodran).

I come back to the quote from the movie The Lunchbox that says that “sometimes the wrong train takes us to the right station”, and we have to have faith that this is the case.  Sometimes life’s departures from the expected have less to do with our failings, and sometimes to do with external variables that the universe plays out randomly.  The universe knows.  Therefore, sometimes, the courage and the learning that goes with the effort is worth the experience.  It helps us to know more clearly where we want to go–need to go next.  Knowing when to turn around and find another route is part of growing up and figuring things out because we learn from life’s mishaps and periods of isolation and loss, just as we do from finding ourselves in the right places for those blessed fleeting moments in time.

Travelling Teaches Me Much:  There is something about the fluidity of travelling that shows me more about life than any other experience that I attempt.  Travelling relies so much on chance and a faith that whatever we plan (or don’t plan) will turn out to be a great experience.  If we go in to travelling with any higher expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.  How wonderful if I can learn to transfer this philosophy more to my everyday life and become less attached to it, and dependent on so much of what I do for a living to afford the things that I surround myself to call it a safe, secure and successful life (attachments).

On each trip, I get lost, lose something, meet someone, learn something, inquire about something that I didn’t know about before, risk a little, and find joy in small experiences.  I always grow from my experiences.   However, every so often, I look up, and say to myself, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”   I don’t feel safe.  I don’t like the vibe, the people, the smell…all of it, and I move on.  This is not a waste of time to realize this after you have invested time getting to these locations.  It is, instead, insight, and wisdom to realize that it is time to move on.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You’re going the wrong way!

3 Jan

IMG_8297

Looking up:  Have you ever been driving along happily (or unhappily), in a zone of quiet (or frantic) windshield contemplation, and you look up, and realize that suddenly, nothing looks familiar?  In fact, you are lost, and it is slowly dawning on you that you are not only going the wrong way, but you have landed somewhere where you don’t recognize anything or anyone, nor yourself in this habitat.

How can this be, you ask?  You researched the trip; followed the map; read the signs, invested some money; but somehow, you are not in the place where you had anticipated being.  Instead, you are somewhere else and it does not feel right.  It even feels a bit dangerous.  It is late.  It is not easy to turn around.  Your fuel tank is running on close to empty, and there isn’t an open gas station to be found.  However, you decide that turning around is your best option.   This place is not what you had hoped, and you are disappointed that you had invested time and money in getting here.

When this epiphany has happened to me recently (as I feel a crossroads in my own life), lines from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles ring in my head with Steve Martin and John Candy providing some levity to what I know is a disappointing situation:

Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way…”

Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

Or, from the Twilight Zone, “Where is everybody?”

All of these lines of confused travellers bear witness to the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one that has found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time even after taking a leap of faith with the best of intentions, and hoping that this dream would play out just as I had anticipated.

How does this happen?  The Dalai Lama in his book The Middle Way:  Faith Grounded in Reason (2014) points out that when we “grasp at self-hood and self existence” we have the potential of finding a very unenlightened existence at some point in the journey.  We realize that what we were hoping for in this harmonious, happily-ever-after dream, did not “penetrate our true mode of being” (p. 19).  He explains that the “direct antidote to the self-grasping mind as well as its associated mental factors is insight into selflessness.  Therefore, it is on the basis of realizing selflessness that we attain true liberation” (p. 16).

What this means for me is that I have to be very clear about who I am so that I can best understand what I have to offer the world, and what to expect from it in return.  Sometimes we fixate on wanting a certain picture of how things will end up.  We manifest them, but in doing so, it has the potential of missing a key ingredient of who we truly are in the picture.  For example, some of us slave everyday to afford our vision, or do things or continue breathing life into a dream that is not necessarily in our best interests.  The dream lacks the raison d’être of all dreams…finding our calling and the flow within that calling.  Finding our vocation is not always an easy journey, as most spiritual journeys are not easy, but it should not be perpetually difficult with obstacle after obstacle thrown in our way.

When everyday is an uphill battle, or swimming against the stream of people with different goals and value systems; or where you have to prove yourself over and over again, just to make a little bit of progress, you know you are in the wrong place with the wrong people.  Therefore, the dream needs to be revised.  And that is okay, because who leads a perfectly well-executed plan the first time around, or even the 500th time around?  Unfortunately, most people don’t try anything new for fear of making mistakes.  A new expression I learned on this trip is a nice one:  “Feeding fear is feeding the enemy.  Feeding faith is feeding your true self.”  Therefore, we have to live in faith, even where our faith may lead us to places that scare us (Chodran).

I come back to the quote from the movie The Lunchbox that says that “sometimes the wrong train takes us to the right station”, and we have to have faith that this is the case.  Sometimes life’s departures from the expected have less to do with our failings, and sometimes to do with external variables that the universe plays out randomly.  The universe knows.  Therefore, sometimes, the courage and the learning that goes with the effort is worth the experience.  It helps us to know more clearly where we want to go–need to go next.  Knowing when to turn around and find another route is part of growing up and figuring things out because we learn from life’s mishaps and periods of isolation and loss, just as we do from finding ourselves in the right places for those blessed fleeting moments in time.

Travelling Teaches Me Much:  There is something about the fluidity of travelling that shows me more about life than any other experience that I attempt.  Travelling relies so much on chance and a faith that whatever we plan (or don’t plan) will turn out to be a great experience.  If we go in to travelling with any higher expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.  How wonderful if I can learn to transfer this philosophy more to my everyday life and become less attached to it, and dependent on so much of what I do for a living to afford the things that I surround myself to call it a safe, secure and successful life (attachments).

On each trip, I get lost, lose something, meet someone, learn something, inquire about something that I didn’t know about before, risk a little, and find joy in small experiences.  I always grow from my experiences.   However, every so often, I look up, and say to myself, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”   I don’t feel safe.  I don’t like the vibe, the people, the smell…all of it, and I move on.  This is not a waste of time to realize this after you have invested time getting to these locations.  It is, instead, insight, and wisdom to realize that it is time to move on.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.