"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, April 28, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: gina smith

Photo by Derrick Smith
You just never know where and when you will make a soul connection.

I first connected with Gina Smith at a memorial service for a mutual friend in 2010.  It was our shared grief that lead us to each other... so seemingly different in our day-to-day lives, and yet, not so much really.

In addition to her deep spirituality, one of the things I admire most about Gina is her willingness and her daring. As lead singer of a hard hitting rock band, Neverfriend, Gina really puts herself out there!  The band's upcoming CD, Dangerously Addictive, has her singing of heart-felt topics like addiction, abuse, pain and survival.  Although I can admit that the alternative/punk rock influence of her band is not my preferred style, Gina most certainly is my style. In music and in life, Gina reminds me that Hope is never lost... Thanks for sharing your Hope here with us, Gina!  (You can also follow Neverfriend on Facebook.)

Grateful for the Journey

I didn’t think I’d ever be grateful for any journey.  Until a few years ago, I had always been focused on the outcome, the achievement, and the recognition.  I had been taught that the goal was to be an overachiever, perfectly organized, leading a flawless life.  Why would I ever be grateful for a journey that took me to the depths of darkness through years of chaos and emotional turmoil?  What good or benefit could ever be derived from that?

Yet today the life experience I’m most grateful for is my journey through acute pain and sadness that fueled an insatiable desire in me to find a better way, a greater meaning, a reason and purpose for my life.   Which I’ve found!
All those experiences, that journey, has made me strong, resilient, and courageous, and taught me how to have faith, hope, and acceptance.   I now know that I was born by divine order, not to suffer or be sad, but to love, to accept everyone for their uniqueness and to see the beauty of this magnificent world we have been given.

The journey has also shown me that I have a gift.  I’m the lead singer in a band and I write and sing about my life experiences.  The gift is not that I can sing and while I can hold a tune, it’s that I have been given a powerful vehicle through which I can tell my story, a story of hope.   My band with its punk/hard-rock influenced sound and its gut-wrenching lyrics may not be for everyone, but it may be for some “one” and that possibility is good enough for me.

I am following the path before me and the journey unfolds.  I don’t question where, or why or for how long anymore.   I just keep going down the path, reminding myself to be grateful for the experience and the opportunity to learn along the way.

My life today is blessed beyond measure.  Through it flows love, laughter, music, hope, joy, and awareness of the God-given beauty of the spirits that surround me.  I’m grateful for my family, my friends, and for you, and I thank you all for enriching my journey. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

meditating on gratitude...

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
-Thornton Wilder

I invite you to join me in taking a moment to connect to your Spirit today.
Allow yourself to be guided in this short meditation by Deepak Chopra.

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

be grateful... be quiet...

self-portrait by jag
The silence is there within us. What we have to do is to enter into it, to become silent, to become the silence. The purpose of meditation and the challenge of meditation is to allow ourselves to become silent enough to allow this interior silence to emerge. Silence is the language of the spirit.

— John Main, OSB in Word into Silence

In the fall of 2000, my life was in free-fall crisis.  I reached out to a friend and asked her if she knew of a place I could go and "hide" for a while.  I clearly remember saying: I need to step away from the world - even for just a few days.  She knew of a place... a silent house.  A place called Stillpoint House of Prayer.  It was small and welcoming.  Unstructured and affordable.  Easily accessible.  And when I called on that October day - at the height of fall colours season - they had a room available.  In hindsight, I believe that my Healing Place had been awaiting my arrival.

During that first visit - my first experience of unstructured silent retreat - I experienced unconditional love and acceptance.  I felt deeply that, no matter what would happen in the days ahead, I would be OK.  It was the beginning of an ongoing relationship with, and befriending of, Silence.  And that is a gift for which I am ever grateful.

This week, I will be returning to Stillpoint for a 5-day retreat into silent solitude.  I try to go twice a year, spring and fall, for a "spiritual tune-up".  No TV. No computer, iPad or iPhone. No radio.  Just me... Being. Attempting to become the Silence, to converse in the language of the Spirit.

Because I had both "gratitude" and "silence" in mind as I sat down to write this, I googled the two words together and, after a click here and a click there, I was lead to this video of Timber Hawkeye at TEDxHonolulu (2012).  In it, he states that the two concepts that will change the world are:
  2. Be QUIET
I can attest that these two practices have changed MY world - I have no reason to doubt it could change yours too. 

gratefully yours,

p.s.  Be sure to stop by the blog while I'm away - I've arranged to have some goodies delivered in my absence... :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full... lisa larochelle

Photo by Eric Castro
I met Lisa LaRochelle through my sister.  I'll never forget the first question she ever asked me: "So, what do YOU do for fun?!"  I was so taken aback; no one had ever asked me that as a get-to-know-you question!  I must admit, it was at a time in my life when I had trouble finding an answer and, if I were to meet Lisa for the first time today, I would be ready.  :-)

Lisa inspires me through her love of friends & family and her sense of adventure. Her wanderlust has allowed her to experience the world first hand and - to borrow shamelessly from George Bernard Shaw - to grab hold of that splendid torch of life and to make it burn as brightly as possible. So glad to have you share your gratitude with us here, Lisa!

I have lived an incredibly fortunate life.

I often feel very guilty about why I was given such a life and other people have lived with so much pain and difficulty.

This incongruence means that I am highly attuned to the gifts that I am given.
I strive to nurture and cultivate a spirit of immense gratitude in my daily living.

One of the things that I am grateful for, which is a constant source of energy and joy in my life, is my physical being. I cherish
  • my ability to laugh
  • using my eyes to observe beauty in all that I encounter
  • the way my legs carry me where I need to go
  • how I can hold the ones I love
  • my sense of touch
  • this physical vessel that enables me to explore the world
My favorite thing to do is walk the streets of a city at night - when sound is muffled, familiar shapes look different in the shadows and the world sleeps.

I love that I am a tactile person.
To be connected physically to people and animals who are important in my life – to touch, hug, bridge that physical gap.

I love to give massages.
When I have the opportunity to practice massage, I can often feel palpable relief and release as people respond to the healing power of touch.

My favorite gift to myself is travel.
I seek out new opportunities to grow as a result of the connections that I make when I change my perspective and observe the world as it so beautifully is.

I know my body will not last forever, especially in the way that I know it now, but I feel gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given so far.

I fully intend to celebrate the gifts that hopefully will come my way tomorrow. 


Friday, April 19, 2013

the only appropriate response...

The first time I saw this video, I experienced both chills and tears. As I settle back into "normal" life, following a week of high emotion and drama (a state that continues in Boston and in so many parts of the world), it reminds me that today... this one day... can be an extraordinary gift in its ordinariness. 

Pull away from the heartbreak. Treat yourself to 10 minutes of visual beauty and wisdom... thanks to the brilliance of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg.

"(Today) is the only gift that is given to you right now
and the only appropriate response
is gratefulness."

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

good grief...

Today, I am grateful for grief... this phenomenon that gives me permission to feel the full impact of sadness and loss without thinking I'm losing my mind. It unites me with others who are experiencing the same loss. It's one of my membership cards into humanity. No apologies necessary.

My aunt passed away on Saturday. Unlike last week, this time I can say "I was there". I had the privilege of being by her side for the last two days of her life. And that is a gift no one can take away from me. Today, we will gather as family and community and we will say continue to remember her. And yes, I grieve.

And yesterday, I cried as I heard my husband's voice on the phone. He was in Boston to cheer on friends who were running in the Boston Marathon. I am grateful that he is safe, as are all our friends. But our running community has been hard hit. I grieve the loss of innocence... the loss of safety surrounding this activity that is such a big part of our lives.

I attended the Boston Marathon as a spectator in 2010, 2011 and again last year. Hubby was running and it was a cause for celebration! The atmosphere is unlike anything I had ever experienced, mostly due to the pride & recognition of the hard work required for each and every runner to get to that famous start line in Hopkinton. I have stood at the very spot where the explosions created their chaos and horror. My heart aches for all who were there: for those who were directly affected by the blast most of all... but also for those who were still running and who, miles away from the finish line, were told their race was over... and for those who had already crossed the finish line and whose accomplishment has been eclipsed by this senseless act... For this, and for reasons I can't even articulate yet, I grieve.

Good grief. Welcome to the human race.

Yes, even today, I am...
gratefully yours,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 14, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: paul harris

photo by jag
I am thrilled & honoured that my friend and spiritual mentor has agreed to share his gratitude with us today!  I first met Paul Harris around 10 years ago, in the early days of my Christian Meditation journey.  I had seen his name on many of the books on Christian Meditation and was surprised to find out that, not only did he live in Ottawa, but that he hosted a weekly meditation group!  I timidly showed up, was warmly welcomed, and have been attending ever since. 

Paul is a writer, a public speaker, a meditation group leader and teacher, a father, a grand-father, a social activist, and a friend. And at the age of 86, he shows no sign of slowing down!  Paul, you are an inspiration to me... Thank you for your friendship and your support. 

                                                                                  PSALM 102

It is not too difficult for me to answer the question "What are you most grateful for?" In fact I was reminded of all my lifetime blessings recently when reading the following item on the Internet:

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead ,and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of people around the world. If you have never experienced the fear of war, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are better off than 700 million people worldwide.
This was a great reminder to count my blessings and realize just how much I have been given in being raised in a middle class family and living in Canada.

But looking back on my life there is one incident that happened at 16 years of age that changed my life forever and for which I am eternally grateful.

One day a teacher in my high school class in Toronto announced that the school was looking for someone to represent the school as a reporter with a weekly paper distributed to all high school students, the Canadian High School News. He asked for a volunteer.

With no apparent writing skills and with great recklessness, I immediately put up my hand. I then looked around and no one else had responded. Little did I know that the seed of a future writing skill had been planted that would change my life forever. Writing became the skill and key that opened doors in a work career and retirement, that included being a sports reporter at the Toronto Globe and Mail, Executive Director of the Catholic Information Centre in Toronto,  Director of Immigration Public affairs with the Canadian government in Ottawa, and eight published books on the subject of spirituality and prayer.

Looking back I see that the simple action of putting up my hand and volunteering to do something I had no aptitude for, changed my entire life. Am I grateful? Yes tremendously. And I thank God on a regular basis for that one tiny action of putting up my hand. In addition I have always urged my children and grand children to put their hands up for any volunteer work. I've told them: "It may change your life forever"!

Paul Harris
Ottawa, Canada

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

recognizing what is there amidst what is not there...

It's been a tough weekend, emotionally.

A beloved family member was admitted to palliative care... she appears to be nearing the end of her cancer journey. She's 1000 km away and I can't be there.
Another beloved family member is at the beginning of his cancer journey and his community came together for an amazing benefit concert in his honour. It was 1000 km away and I couldn't be there.

The decision to leave my home province is one I made many years ago and I have never regretted it. But at times like these, it's tough. It's as if the sadness is deepened by the distance... my powerlessness is acutely felt because I can't do the simple things like stop in to offer help. Or pick up groceries. Or sit with my aunt at the hospital. Or offer my mom a hug. I'm 1000 km away and I'm not there.

On Monday morning, I came across these words:

"Help us to recognize and to rejoice in what is given, Holy One, even in the midst of what is not given." - Richard Rohr

If this isn't a call to practice gratitude, then I don't know what is!  And so, reflecting on this, here is a small sampling of what has been given this weekend:
  • Facebook.  Yes, Facebook. A family group where news, and photos, and videos can be shared.  And family members who take the time to post and keep us informed.
  • Texting.  Yes, texting. And a late-night "conversation" with my cousin who was sitting at my aunt's bedside... sharing thoughts and being able to write "tell her I send my love!" and being able to read "she sends love back!".
  • Telephones.  Yes, telephones. And chats with my Mom who lives afar.  And chats with my sister, who lives nearby.  Sharing news.
I am grateful for these words that encouraged me to look beyond what wasn't there... and to recognize what was.  And this past weekend, technology seems to have been cause for rejoicing.

Is there something you can be grateful for today, in the midst of what is not there?

gratefully yours,

Sunday, April 7, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: giacomo panico

I am happy to welcome today's grateful guest, Giacomo Panico.  Giacomo is a reporter in the CBC Ottawa newsroom; you can hear him these days as interim host of CBC Radio's In Town and Out on Saturday mornings.  More importantly, we met in his pre-reporter days and he's been a buddy of mine for several years now.  There are few people who can make me laugh like Giacomo does... and his sense of adventure and storytelling ability always keep me hooked. He was instrumental in helping me shape the gratitude project when it was little more than an idea.  Glad to have you here, my friend!  (You can follow the informed and always-entertaining Giacomo on Twitter.)
What LIFE EXPERIENCE are you most grateful for, and why?

I’m grateful for second chances.

Years ago I was working in a safe, stable and secure setting. I had gotten there mostly through a path of least resistance. And in return, I was bored and unsatisfied. I was in a cubicle, attending meeting after meeting. Although I believed in the work I was doing, my heart just wasn’t in it.

And a scary feeling had started creeping up on me. A feeling that maybe, just maybe, there was a career out there that could capture my mind, and my heart. 

So I started volunteering at the community radio station CKCU. It felt great researching a topic, interviewing people, then putting it all on air in a presentable fashion. Eventually, I quit my cubicle job and I took the plunge. I felt scared, but I was also lucky to have people around me who encouraged me to go for it. I’m grateful to them, and the amazing people at CKCU for trusting me and giving me a chance to screw up, week after week.

About a year later I was beginning to feel a little frustrated. My radio skills had been improving, but all my calls and emails to CBC Radio had gone unanswered. Then, through a contact, a couple of radio producers at CBC Montreal gave me a two week internship. This was special because, as I’ve since learned, interns come through a formal college or university program. My degree is in mechanical engineering, and my radio background at that point consisted of volunteering as a community radio host once a week. I gobbled up every second I spent there, asking to see every aspect of the production. I felt so privileged to be inside the shop for 2 weeks, like a giant sponge absorbing every ounce of knowledge. I’m grateful to the producers for accepting to help me out, when they could very easily and reasonably have said no.

Two months later, I met CBC Ottawa’s Adrian Harewood, at the time the host of the CBC Ottawa afternoon radio show All in a Day. I just walked up to him following an event he was emceeing. What I’m about to tell you might surprise you, until you realize, like I have after working with him for several years now, that Adrian is arguably the most generous person in this business.  Based only on my work at CKCU  and my 2 weeks at CBC Montreal, Adrian offered to be let me shadow him for a day at CBC Ottawa.

It gets better. On the day of the visit, Adrian gave me the opportunity to pitch a story idea to the news producer, Andy Clarke, who not only liked the idea, but also offered to pay me that day as a freelancer to do the story.

I’m grateful to Adrian and Andy for being open minded, and for being willing to risk their time and credibility to give me a chance to prove myself.
Overall, I’m grateful that I realized early enough that I was not happy in my previous career, and that I was letting the better things in life, including an enjoyable career and an active lifestyle, slip by in exchange for security. And I’m especially grateful for the people who, through their support, helped me find a place where I feel I belong, and where my heart sings. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

gratitude kills...

Stop the presses!  Turns out that gratitude kills.

Watch this (4:39) and find out why this can be a good thing...

gratefully yours,

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

the story of easter...

photo by jag
I was raised Catholic and I am grateful for the spiritual framework that has given me. I recently saw an expression that aptly describes me: it seems I am of the "jesus, yes - church, no" persuasion. That made me smile. :-) And it's pretty darn accurate, for today anyway.

More and more, Lent and Easter make me even more grateful for having been given this beautiful tradition. The narrative of the Easter story really resonates with me, all the more so if I take the time to step back during the season of Lent. This year was no different. Good Friday reminded me that all things come to an end. There is always a dying that is a necessary part of my life: death to my illusions, my ego-based expectations, my denial of what might be staring me right in the face. An ending. And Easter Sunday told me that every new beginning must start with that very ending.

Between these two extremities, there was Holy Saturday... a time of "darkness" where we are called to accept the loss. Call it grief, or surrender, or letting go, or acceptance. Yes, the message of Holy Saturday for me is that we need to sit in the unknowing sometimes. Most times actually. We need to befriend the darkness and trust the seeming absence of god. It's the time of "What the hell just happened here?! I don't know what to do with this!"

Did all this happen in 3 days?  Of course not.  And neither does the Easter story, IMO. It takes the time it takes.

This is powerful stuff. Good stuff.  I see that the Easter story is told in the very substance of my life. And most likely yours too. And this is what good sacred scripture is capable of doing - and for that, I am grateful.  Hallelujah!

gratefully yours,