Sunday, November 25, 2012

Never Stop!


“Nothing was going to stop me, not even myself.” says young Oskar Schell, as he embarks on a hero’s quest to keep his father’s memory alive. This line is from the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, adapted from a novel by Jonathan Safran Foers. It stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and my experience of it was so powerful I wanted to share the impact.

Oskar is a lonely eleven year old reeling from the death of his father at the World Trade Center in 9/11. When he wanders into his father’s closet a year after his death yearning to inhale even a scent of the bond he had with his dad, he inadvertently breaks a vase and discovers inside a tiny envelope with a key.  The envelope is marked ‘Black’ and knowing his dad’s love of games and puzzles Oskar is now committed to find the Black to whom the key belongs. There are 472 people named Black in New York’s five boroughs and his every waking moment is spent charting the course of this adventure.  

Wearing his heart on his sleeve he begins to meet and connect with the Blacks in the world of New York. His belief that if he can find what the key fits he will be able to keep his dad alive inside himself just a little while longer, propels him to such tender open exposure with these strangers that his invitation to vulnerability is met with authentic connection. Somewhere, one of these Blacks holds the key to his heart. They hold a hope that he can forget what he calls, 'the worst day', the day his world…our world…was shaken and seared with pain. 

While alive his dad’s message was ‘never stop looking’ and taking this to heart the odyssey unfolds. This journey is not an easy one for Oskar. Shaking with anxiety he bangs his tambourine to calm himself and just keeps walking into his fears muttering “I’m free, I’m free,” a mantra of solace in a world filled with shadows.

He forces himself to overcome all obstacles, his fear of subways, walking across bridges, and most of all a fear of people. “Every day is a miracle,” writes his mysterious grandfather who doesn’t speak, instead using the words yes and no tattooed on the palms of his hands to aid communication.  “I don’t believe in miracles” says Oskar. And yet as, he touches lives, he touches souls and his crusade holds a miracle in every step.

Whenever Oskar is feeling depressed and forlorn he says that he is wearing, “heavy boots”.  He knows the likelihood of finding what the key fits is slim and yet he will not give up. Profoundly touching, this film marks you and leaves an imprint.

Who among us does not at times feel like we are wearing heavy boots? Who has not felt loss and faced that sense of an abyss at the crossroads of choosing between love and fear? This little boy is at that crossroad daily, moment by moment (as are we all) and I view his journey as an inspiration for us to rise above personal limitation and step into shoes of a hero even if we may not fully believe they will fit.

We have all had a day we call, the worst day and perhaps more still to come. We also have a gift for choosing and the power to act as love would. The light that shines in Oskar’s soul is like a star that herald’s new birth.  And just as he is called to follow blind faith in order to let this light guide him, so too are we. This light is unwavering and while at times may seem dim it is a beacon that is always there…waiting for us to notice…to remember.  We are always being called… sometimes we are not listening.  In the call to love, to keep love alive at all costs, and to refuse to let it ever be extinguished no matter what the circumstances …well that is life’s odyssey.  The Oskar’s of the world are our muse.

Nothing is going to stop me, not even myself.  I yearn to take these words to heart this season and be guided by something bigger than personal struggle. My prayer is to lead with my heart and live by the words of my favorite Christmas carol, ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’

If you want to be moved and stirred to gratitude, opened to the power of love and possibility, read the book…download the movie.

Santa’s orders.

Branded by faith,

Authentically Yours,




Sunday, November 18, 2012

See (and sing) with your heart!

What a week!  Ive been hovering on the brink of a full-on sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, and hoping that it will abate in time for a gig tonight.  (The jury is still out its possible my new sound is husky and sexy...  well see.) I havent felt 100% to put it mildly and there are a lot of other things going on that have challenged my sense of humour recently.

A good friend of mine reminded me of the theory of relativity... you can always find someone worse off. And while Im not one to ever throw a pity party, it does help to reflect on how grateful and fortunate I am no matter how crappy I feel.

Take my evening between 4 p.m. and 5:30 last night – I had just finished a marathon session with my mentor that often involves delving into the deep dark recesses of my life, including relationships, finances, and how I am in the world vis-a-vis who I am (if that makes sense). It was incredibly fruitful.  I came out of her place buoyed with a renewed confidence that I am doing well and that no matter how bad things look on the surface, I am sturdy and I am loved.  And I do know that.  I just need reminding sometimes.

So just as I am on the mend financially, I come outside to find my car had been towed.  Yes.  I dropped the f-bomb. Hailed a cab, and immediately got stuck in Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic, which was even more chock-a-block than usual as there was a power failure and the traffic lights werent working. Then the old oh-shit-this-isnt-looking-good feeling kicked in.  The meter was ticking away and we were going nowhere. And to top it all off, the driver had decided it was alluring and seductive to douse himself with at least a litre of after-shave lotion that might have been appropriate if he were trying to camouflage being sprayed by a skunk.  I was gagging. Fortunately he said he accepted Master Card.  We arrived at the towing compound.  I handed him my card and lo and behold, he couldnt process it because of the power failure.  As I didnt have any cash on me, he offered to take me to the nearest ATM.  Off we go, back out into the crawling traffic.  He dumps me off at a gas station.  Their ATM has run out of money.  I get back in the car and suggest he find another ATM.  Back out into the sea of cars, and all of a sudden, this crazed woman jumps in front of the cab, starts banging on the hood, and demands that she gets in with me.  She is hysterically sobbing, and I begin to understand that her friend has just died in the hospital and she needed to get there. The cabbie auto-locked the door (English was not one of his strong points).  I think he thought she might have been just some wild and dangerous Friday-night nut on the loose.  I told him to open the door and let her in.  We spent the next ten minutes speeding as best we could to the hospital, while I did my best to get her to talk about her friend in a way that was helpful to her.  She did calm down and was very grateful for our giving her a hand.

By this time I felt like the cabbie and I were a team.  For some reason, I couldnt even smell his cologne any more.  He was a very kind person and (after finally finding an ATM that bore fruit), he dropped me off and we parted as though we had known each other forever. We wished each other well.  I was starting to feel better and I hadnt even faced the music of a towing charge and parking ticket.  I walked up to the wicket, where I was greeted by this radiant young mans face who was so empathetic (not a quality you expect from a fine collector), that I was completely disarmed. Whoever hired him for the job, knew what he or she was doing.  He could tell I had had a harrowing day and his final words to me were, “Whatever you do, or whatever happens, dont ever lose that smile.”  I hadn't even given him so much as a grin, but that made me beam.  He said, “See what I mean?  Thats what Im talking about.” How the hell did he know about my smile?

Aah.  What a day.  I am so incredibly blessed.  I was able to help someone. Someone acknowledged that inner me that is always smiling.  I experienced being who I am in the middle of turmoil and angst.

No pity party tonight.  Im going to sing.  Doesnt matter what it sounds like.  Its where it comes from that counts.

Branded by the sniffles and a grin,

Love Buns xo

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Could You Unzip Me All The Way?

I seem to be doing a lot of yearning these days. Yearning for a change, a dog, a trip, more sun, some snow, a different home, a shake up with work…just plain yearning. And as I notice I am on the brink of calling a real estate agent, quitting my job, diving into a passionate but  possibly unwise adventure I also notice that it is all connected with a growing understanding of just how short life really is.

I look at pictures from my twenties and think, gosh I was pretty, how come I didn’t know it back then. Then I flash forward 20 years from now and imagine myself hobbling along, still eccentric but wrinkled and bent and thinking back to this present moment, perhaps looking at a picture of myself as I look now and thinking, gee I sure had a vital energy and spirit back then.

Why the appreciation for the present moment seems so fleeting at this time I cannot truly say.
I saw a bald eagle yesterday and for a moment my heart soared with it over Lost Lagoon. That was in the present. My niece broke her tibia playing soccer and is in a cast from hip to toe. I got lost in the present, painting stripes of red, purple, and blue interspersed with polka dots set against a backdrop of sunshine yellow. For a moment we were lost in the art of obliterating white. It made us both happy.

And yet before and after, I drift, dreaming dreams that are not yet here or letting pictures of the past come to mind triggered by the crisp air and sugary smells that are infiltrating cafes getting ready for Christmas. I can’t say I am struggling with all this, I am just noticing. But it is irksome at times, like a knot in a fine silver necklace that I can’t unravel. At times I want to resort to using my teeth but I refrain.

I do know that the biggest challenges are often the greatest opportunities for growth and it would almost be easier if this was some big drama so I could deal with it. But it’s niggley, not big at all and somehow that makes it all the more difficult to be well with.

And so the universe brought me an interview last week with author Polly Campbell who wrote a book called Imperfect Spirituality. In it she continually reminds us that self criticism thwarts motivation. Self compassion boosts happiness, optimism, curiosity, conscientiousness and motivation. I asked her to take our listeners through a practice that she felt was important in this life long journey of awakening and self acceptance. She said instead of closing your eyes to meditate to notice while you are busy at living, exactly what is happening. To verbalize out loud to yourself the present action immediately drops you into your body and into the present moment.  

For instance, I am typing on a keyboard watching the words appear on the screen They are filled with spelling mistakes. I am taking a deep breath and pushing my hair behind my left ear. It feels soft. 

Or if you are washing the dishes just name what you are doing. I am putting soap in the water. It feels warm as I put my right hand into the suds etc. I have tried this driving and walking down the street, bringing into consciousness wherever my eyes land. It is deceptively simple yet remarkably effective. Try it yourself.

Once I am back in the present I think drifting is not so bad. It’s only my judgment of it that generates unease. Can I accept this swirly void I keep finding myself falling into and be alright with it?

In Polly’s book she calls this space The Fertile Void which is a lovely reframe and implies that there is something being birthed in this process. If the emptiness is fertile then possibility lives in that sense of nothing.  

Instead of viewing my drifting mind as escape I can embrace it as free form possibility.

Yes I can rest in that. 

Branded by nothing,

Authentically Yours,




Friday, November 2, 2012

My overflowing half-empty glass.

Here it has been almost two weeks since I wanted to post something for your reading pleasure and yet each time I sat down to write, nothing was springing to mind. That's so not like me.  I can always summon up some witty little thing at a moment's notice, but not this time.

Mmmm.  It's not as if my life sucks.  Au contraire.  It's very, very full.  With only four weeks to go until our spiritual community's annual Christmas celebration, I am in the thick of it all, being one of the senior elves on the event-planning team. I am working 5 to 6 days a week, playing lots of gigs, and building my sideline business with Isagenix. I have no context for the words "day off".  And I'm in good spirits.

Still, a malaise of sorts pervades my space.  I've been pondering this for the last few days, and came to a realization that I wasn't acknowledging or expressing gratitude for my life.  And it's funny because I had been nudging a good friend of mine, who has been down in the dumps lately, to write at least 10 things he was grateful for each morning.  He said he couldn't do it.  (Until yesterday, when he came running into my store to tell me he had easily hit 50 things he was grateful for and was still counting!) He totally made my day.

I'll admit I've got a few challenges at the moment but they are all pretty much in the financial realm.  I am beginning to see that I am letting that dark cloud determine the weather conditions for me in the other areas of my life.  So I have decided to try and catch myself when I'm not feeling thankful.  I'm in training, I guess you could say.  I'm rewiring my synapses so my natural response to whatever is going on is to see the silver lining instead of the cloud.

So here's what I am thankful for... (and this is just a sampling)... 

My mom and dad are still alive and living in their own home.
I have three sisters and a brother and we have never known what it is like not to talk to each other.
My son Sean continues to delight me in ways that are indescribable.  (Yesterday, I was out shopping with him. He needed a few things from the drugstore as he was really not feeling well.  He stopped and bought a poppy for both of us and was very kind to the man who was selling them.  I knew he felt really ill, but he still took the time to give this man a huge hello.  I had a lump in my throat watching his tenderness with a complete stranger.)
While Duncan is no longer with us in body, I am so grateful to have had him in my life for 22 years. 
I am much loved by many people.
I eat well and enjoy good health.
I am surrounded by beauty.
I have many opportunities to sing (and I LOVE singing!).
I am in a position to help people better their lives.
I laugh every day.  Full belly laughs usually. I'm grateful for my sense of humour.
I could go on and on.  This, in and of itself, is helping to lift my ceiling.

I guess you could call this my post-Thanksgiving post.

Branded by gratitude,

Love Buns