Day of Authenticity

A day of movement, of dance, or maybe a walk.

A yoga class with the perfect adjustments by my teacher.

An afternoon of Authentic Movement with Monique Léger. Words barely express the joy arising, individually and collectively.

Christmas skits at work where I lipsync-danced to “Shake it Off” modified to our work situation. I applied advice I’d recently received:  “err on the side of expression,” and between that and the tutu, it felt good.

There was a time I quit dancing because I couldn’t find a reason for it. Finally, an answer emerged: because we have a body, and it’s built to move, period. My father used to say, “dance to the beat of your own drum.”

Enjoy moving, in your way.

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The Creation of Time

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25 years ago I received an offer of a lifetime. I stood stock still, holding a piece of paper with my future glittering as the sky opened, light beams poured down, and violins played.

My partner said, “Oh, well that’s good for you.” He scowled and walked away, unable to share my bliss.

I stayed up for hours in the night with him, lying in bed in the dark, talking it out, trying to reassure him that I’d still have time for him despite the commitment required. I said I’d be working hard no matter what my work was and I’d make our relationship a priority because it was important, as we both had done up until that point. He was deeply worried I’d become a workaholic like his uncle, and feared he’d be dumped as he’d been by a previous girlfriend when she received a similar career launch. At 3 a.m. we finally let the discussion go after exhausting the topic and ourselves. In the days that followed, his mood remained curmudgeonly and as I continued to fail to reach him, I sought counselling.

“Follow your dreams,” the counsellor said. So I did, and made peace with myself knowing I would be okay to proceed without him.  I didn’t want to lose him but my dream sat in the core of my being.  I forgave myself for not holding myself fully responsible for his unhappiness. Empathy from him was obviously too much to expect.  However, we endured, amazingly well, for 18 more years.

I didn’t create extra time.  Priorities shifted so that something really really important moved slightly ahead of something really important. What felt essential to my wellbeing, my growth as a person, was clear in that moment, and then managing other competing high priorities became the challenge, or the practice. Something rang true and was more indispensable than something else which translated into adjustments in time, attention and focus.

It may seem like we make time.  We can acknowledge priorities that reflect purposeful growth and help us see consistency in our decisions, sometimes after the fact.  From this perspective, time may seem to have meaning.

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You’re Crazy!

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Every day at work my assistant comes into my office and says, “You’re crazy!”  We added that to her job description last summer. The work I’d set out and expected of myself was nuts. When a major project loomed close last month, my writing schedule went to pot. As I get back on track, other projects, and craziness arise, and I have to keep one foot on the brakes.

My present crazy lifestyle may not always be this way. Whether it’s a writing project, an unreliable friend, a child’s needs, volunteer commitments, webs of deception and questionable intentions, another translation, or something else, juggling items on the urgent/important chart is our personal Darwinian dance, iterating around our own evolution, or running on the spot.

Hello?! Really?! Are you kidding? That’s nuts! You’re crazy too!images-1411353513_1624120464493079_46472374_n

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The Flow of Life Al-ways

Is life:

  1. a dual or
  2. nondual process, or
  3. both, or
  4. neither?

Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows.            Nisargadatta Maharaj

The Rabbis taught that one should have two pieces of paper in your pockets, one on each side. One says – the world was created for me. The other says – I am dust and ashes.

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After winning a battle in ancient Greece, the triumphant General would ride home in his chariot. The job of the slave riding with him was to repeat, “You are just a man. You are just a man. You are just a man…”

There was something about Dick, Jane, and Sally that failed RJ’s blog censor.

A travers mon coeur droit passe l’amour d’inspiration; à travers mon coeur gauche passe l’amour d’expression. Entre les deux, ma vie coule.

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Fear Fest

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It’s been said that the opposite of love is fear. Fear has the capacity to carve out the architecture of our daily lives, which over days, weeks, months and years, piles up to become the scaffolding of a constricted lifestyle. In this post-Paris season, fear is predominant on our radar. Questions arise about how to live with a greater awareness of fear, for example of possible disaster potentially affecting us directly.

To address the psychological manipulation of public fears, one sociologist suggested we use derision and contempt to counter the despicable behaviour of terrorists. Might this be an effective antidote to public fear-mongering, perhaps as a community-wide first response?

How can we manage fears of all shapes and sizes in our daily lives? Depends on the type of fear, but for simplicity, two general categories can be considered: external (real) and internal (imagined).

External: The statistical risk of disaster to ourselves in our daily lives is tiny. Generally, life bumbles along steadily.

Internal: Categories exist such as fear of failure, fear of loss of identity, fear of loneliness, fear of public speaking, etc. Much of these are our own mental contructs, or “awfulizing” as Joan Borisenkyo said. We tend to extrapolate situations to their extremes, both positive (I’m going to win the lottery) and negative (that pain in my side is cancer).   We can’t help that, it seems our minds work that way. But we can catch ourselves, “oh, yeah, there I go again” and gain some perspective on the situation. There are always unperceived options between negative and positive extremes that go unaccounted for. We can acknowledge our negative bias and positive or neutral alternatives without knowing their exact details. This is another way of accepting that our minds have natural limitations, both individually and collectively, and that unknown factors contribute to situations. Given human resilience and capacity for survival, and thrival, chances are excellent that healthy options are available, if yet unseen.

The fearsome thing about fear is the constellation of unpleasant sensations of fear – tightness in the chest, pounding heart, hyperventilating or feeling one can’t breathe, being unable to think properly, jitteriness, butterflies in the stomach, shaky hands, dry mouth, all features of the fight/flight/freeze response. The feared thing can be ordinary compared to our sense of fear. Knowledge can help to fill gaps with objective information that weights the rational part of the process.

Then there’s how we handle those sensations. We can react: avoid the fear, violate it (punch it, stomp on it, poke it, beat it up, yell at it, etc). When it persists, we can respond: take a breath or three, greet it, shake its hand, offer it a seat, engage it in conversation, put an arm around it, hug it, make friends with it, dance and sing with it, listen to what it’s telling us, let it stay with us as our buddy, and if that’s possible, then living with it may be not only possible, but peace-able too.

It’s easy to write this when I’m not terrified, but I can remember when I lived in fear for months and years on end. Descending insidiously into a deep dark vortex that lasted about 5 years before I succeeded in liberating myself and longer before I started climbing out. Now that I’ve been there, I know the terrain better and I’m sensitized to those landmarks. There are new challenges, and it’s fulfilling to struggle with them as I continue to collect tools to navigate my way and cultivate wholesome environments in which to practice.

How can we move from fear to love? We’re not going to get to love right now – that may take a while, in some cases possibly generations. In our daily lives, fear management may require matching the intensity of violence of all types with equal intensity boundaries of all types to indicate a clear NO and STOP to destructive acts of all shapes and sizes and a clear YES to safe practices.

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From Fear to Love

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Plain but Nice

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I was stopped in the hallway by an acquaintance one day in grade 10.

“Fern and I were talking about you last night,” she said. “We concluded that you’re plain but nice.”

I was stunned.

“Oh,” I said, and nodded, with a small grimace. She turned and walked away.

I was crushed at the judgement, at the audacity of her telling me this. No way did I think of myself as “plain,” as per an ordinary person. This was a blunt assessment of my personality. I had some idea of who I was, but it wasn’t “plain.” Nor did I like the word “nice,” though it could have been worse. Of course I was nice, who wasn’t, really? It went against everything I’d heard from my superhero English teacher to whom I was utterly devoted. She’d always told us to do something new in our work, it had to be original and different, not cliché. “Plain but nice” was definitely cliché. She also infused aliquots of wisdom into us like an IV drip. One of her favourites was “Learn what is your problem, and what is not your problem,” as she strutted, sat, or stood in front of the class. I absorbed this at least once a week.

“Plain but nice” stuck in me for years and grew like a tuber. Finally, I realized that I wouldn’t choose her as someone with whom I’d like to hang out with anyway, so it didn’t matter what she thought. It was out of context to let myself sit in someone’s petri dish, as an experiment, as an experience they would report like an entry in a log book, for their records, their discussion, their power, their control. What mattered was who I preferred my friends to be. Discovering this shift of perspective was liberating. It took me only 37.5 years to realize that. Glad it didn’t take any longer. Fern was later caught plagiarizing on an English essay.

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