Category: Inspirations

The Power of Empathy

propeller-801851_640I just finished reading The Aviator’s Wife, an historical novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the lyrical author and first female aviator whose marriage to Charles A. Lindbergh brought her both joy and huge tragedy. This story narrates Anne Lindbergh’s inner despair and pain in seeking her husband’s empathy throughout their marriage, especially following the kidnapping and murder of their first child. However, Charles Lindbergh, whose courageous solo flight across the Atlantic had made him a hero of mythic proportions and the most famous man in the world, abhorred emotional displays of connection and empathy in his wife and his children. It cost him his happiness and ‘his crew’ (She flew with him around the world and had trained to be his ‘crew’ in these ground-breaking flights). His lack of empathy and connection with her cost her depression, a life of seclusion for which she sought regular psychotherapy later in her life, and finally and bravely, stepping outside the marriage to get what she needed.

Recently, I was helping a client understand an emotional-relational pattern where she vacillated between hiding behind protective walls to block ‘getting hurt’ on one hand, and over-empathy on the other hand, which denied them the kindness toward self to say ‘no’ to situations and people who did not share their core values or may even have been deeply disrespectful or abusive. In over-empathizing with others, she put herself at risk of taking in and absorbing another’s emotional energies and attitudes for hours or days at at time, exhausting her inner reservoir for her own goals and heart-felt desires. She thought they were creating connection, but instead found herself sick and depressed.

love-482709_640And in a recent email a client shared some deep challenges she was experiencing with new information about her family’s history. As I was reading, I opened my heart to be present to her sense of betrayal and abandonment. I even caught a glimpse of my own memory of having felt abandoned and betrayed. It was a moment of acknowledging that she is experiencing abandonment ‘just like me once upon a time’. As I let that pass through my heart, I returned to the space of connecting with her true essence. I returned to the belief that she held the inner strength to heal and take the ‘right action’ and restore the love and belonging that was so deeply violated. I shared my love, and yet in kindness to myself, I trusted her to gather her self love and power to transform her sense of self regardless of her family’s history. This was her experience, not mine. I did not need to fix anything.

Three vignettes. Three different life stories that all reveal the power of empathy. The first one speaks to the power of empathy by its absence. The second speaks to its power by its over-empathy and the last one speaks to its power in healthy balance. So what is empathy really if we can be out of balance with it?

Brene Brown speaks of empathy as what fuels connection. Empathy fuels connection because we choose to take the perspective of the ‘other’, staying out judgement, recognizing another’s emotion and attending to it. We are feeling with (not for) someone. It is a vulnerable choice because in choosing to feel with someone, Brown says, we are also getting in touch with that same emotion in ourselves. You and I become deeply and authentically linked in the expression of empathy. It is the skill-set to bring compassion alive and respect the I-Thou in our perception and belonging in the circle of life.

To express empathy well we need boundaries – healthy and functional energy fields and truths and values that sustain our hearts, our energy, our relationships and even our sense of self over time and space. Boundaries communicate what we are okay with and not okay with in our lives. Boundaries take care of us and offer guidance in what to say ‘yes’ to, what to say ‘no’ to and what to say ‘not now’ to. They determine our display of respect both to ourselves and others. As Brown shares in an interview, “empathy without boundaries is not empathy. Compassion without boundaries is not genuine. Vulnerable without boundaries is not vulnerable. Generosity can’t exist without boundaries. ” Healthy boundaries keeps us from being a fool with our empathy.

A lack of empathy leads to the social ills and discord rampant in our world. In the movie The Nuremberg Trials, a Jewish psychiatrist interviewed Nazi generals being tried for war crimes. After his interviews with countless people on all sides, he concluded that the atrocities of WWII occurred because of apathy, the lack of empathy. This lack of empathy leads to the deep sense of hurt, disconnect and betrayal which can painfully destroy relationships, marriages and communities who gather around these relationships.

The flip side are those who express so much empathy or who over-identify themselves as empaths and open their hearts to the extreme where they become depleted, feeling used, depressed and over-identify with others stories and emotions. We now have this new social phenomena called ‘compassion fatigue’, or empath fatigue, where we have become so depleted we are burnt out. And this ‘burnout’ can turn into depression, anxiety attacks, apathy and more. What happens in these situations is that we get overly focused on the needs and emotions of others while under-attending to our own needs, values and true life purpose.

aware-1353780_640As a professional in a ‘helping role’, I had to learn to balance my needs for self care and self-nurturing with client’s needs for connection, empathy and compassion. I had to learn to reach out to appropriate resources to help me care for me and my own vital energy. I had to choose my responsibilities and focus my time wisely, so that both my needs and my clients needs could be met. Above all else, I had to sustain and balance my sense of I-Thou in our relationship. I had to reconnect with my core value of love and truth and my soul purpose of ‘being peace’ to hold my centre.

Empathy opens us to loving-kindness. It heals us and our relationships. It is a powerful path to restore peace. Empathy also requires healthy boundaries. And boundaries require our commitment and courage of the heart. So take heart. Practise empathy. It has the power to stop atrocities on both small and grand scales.

This fall, I will again be facilitating a two-day workshop called The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy and Joyful Living on October 28-29th, 2016. It’s been a couple years since I have taught this transformative workshop so I am looking forward to it. It’s always amazing to me what happens when a group of people get together around a common theme. So don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to learn how to develop and strengthen your own healthy boundaries so you can embrace the practice of empathy.


Overcoming Obstacles. Lessons of the Breath

I was born utterly vulnerable, dependent and skill-less. And in the moment of my death, I will once again be vulnerable, dependent and my acquired life skills won’t change the outcome. The bookends to being human are profoundly mysterious and difficult to embrace. The first independent act we do is breathe on our own. The last independent act we do is release our last breath. What an extraordinary natural process within which we are invited to compose our great story in the time between our birth and death. Breath is foundational to life.

To be successfully alive, we have to win the battle of taking what we need from our mothers. Quite literally, we need to take the proteins from our mother to build the cells that create life. To be successful in our death, we lose the battle of staying alive. And somewhere in between these miracles of life and death, we ask some pretty fundamental questions and experience some powerful challenges that influence who we are.

This process is called life, filled with obstacles and challenges. It’s a process that we all have the privilege to learn from, be blessed by and make peace with somewhere in the heart of our souls.

What does birth and death have to do with overcoming our blocks, barriers, burdens or bondages? I believe the bookends of life help us frame the questions and wisdom gained to transform who we think we are in relation to the obstacle – for in every obstacle there is the path of life and paradoxically the path of death.

The Buddha taught the necessity of letting go of attachment. Jesus framed this same principle by inviting us to be in this world, but not of this world. Lao Tzu said when you let go of what you are, you become what you might be. This collective wisdom highlights a couple of key points for me in overcoming obstacles:

1. We need to become aware how we are mentally framing our story about the obstacle. Years ago in my seminary studies, a professor stated that until the church re-frames its conversation about the inclusion of LBGT people, it will remain polarized in this conversation, resulting only in conflict and division.

A light came on. Function follows form. The riverbanks shape the water flow. Poor ‘mental frames’ about these obstacles lead to poor questions and poor questions lead to worse solutions. Change the frame or form (of the obstacle) and often our perception of what we can do with the obstacle changes. Recently a client shared a concern she had sitting at the back of her head. It was an old pattern. I asked what happens when she relocates this concern in the back of her head and puts it in her buttocks. She did that and started to laugh. Changing the form it had in her body, released the power of this obstacle.

2. We need to release our emotional attachment to our ego identity in bondage to this obstacle and surrender to a greater wisdom within. Our ego seeks to control life and maintain the status quo. Yet, when life offers us some of its biggest challenges, the story and identity of who we are no longer serves. Releasing my ego identity, who I think I am, who I believe I am supposed to be, who I have practised being, the story I’ve been told about who I am and the one I secretly tell myself, is my biggest challenge.

For most of my life, our property was organized for hobby farming. The barn and shed were homes for pigs, chickens, ponies, a horse, calf, etc, for many years. After my father’s death, the barn transitioned to a chicken barn for almost 20 years. Following a short period of no function, the barn eventually became the Toonie Barn, a place to collect, store and re-purpose household items primarily for migrant workers, others with limited incomes, and the occasional seeker of the weird and wonderful for $2.00. But this too had to die away, leaving the barn empty and without function. We did use it as a training and play area for our dogs and their friends. For almost 50 years, this building had the same structure, but with changing function. However, last year a portion of the roof caved in. The structure now was dangerous. Great care and organization was required to take down these buildings.

The buildings were part of a story about who I was, but one which could no longer sustain me in my future. Like the barn, letting go of our emotional attachment to our identity constructs can often be difficult because it means emotionally letting go of the past. It means emotionally letting go of the old beliefs which bookend why we couldn’t participate in life in a certain way.

However, letting go of the buildings or the outdated ‘frame’ has allowed a whole new future to be possible, to be life-giving. Likewise, in becoming what I might be, I am no longer tied to the narrative of who I was and what was possible just as with the ‘frame’ of the property. I am now free to breathe into my life and what is possible in a whole new way, just as we are with our property.

Breath is foundational to all life. Obstacles are one part of life. We are given the opportunity to release who we have been and become who we might be through love, trust and surrender. Your breath frames your life. With your breath choose to release and re-frame your emotional attachments. Choose to live who you might be.

Trust: A Necessary Confidence on the Path to Reconciliation

The only relationships in this world that have ever been worthwhile and enduring have been those in which one person could trust another.  Samuel Smiles

When those we love or a system we trust deeply trespasses our values or breaches the history of trust that has been given, our hearts feel ripped open, violated, hurt, confused, vulnerable, angry, afraid, deeply sad, in crisis. One of the most difficult choices I had to make in a deeply connected relationship was to offer the hand of reconciliation after a deep betrayal left a gaping wound in my heart. Finding my way into the heart after such a betrayal or breach was a real challenge. There is no way around the task of feeling the hurt when trust is betrayed or broken. Trust is one of those core ingredients in a relationship which can take years to build and only a moment to destroy.

To understand what reconciliation calls from us in a broken relationship, we need to understand the power of trust. As Rob Voyle, a Change Agent and Episcopalian Priest puts it, “Trust is the ability to make vulnerable what you value, to the actions of another, knowing that what you value will be protected or kept safe.” Stephen M. R. Covey states “trust is confidence. You know it when you feel it. And the difference between trust and distrust is dramatic.”

A common and yet truly unhelpful understanding that clients come in with after such a breach of trust is that somehow they must forgive and forget. But they can’t. They feel shame and guilt because they can’t forgive and be reconciled with the person who abused them, or who violated their values. It is impossible to forget such a breach. The more we try to forget the trust betrayed, the more we hold it in our consciousness and entrain our memory with it.

The healing task is to feel through the hurt and to change how we remember what happened, how we remember this memory, as we cannot change what happened in the past. As we work through these tasks, we realize that the wholeness of healing comes with forgiving the one who broke the bonds of trust. The Dalai Lama has said that we need to forgive the person, not necessarily the event. Lots can be said about forgiveness, about what it is and is not. Though we are focusing on reconciliation, it is best sustained with the act of forgiving. In my work, I have encountered a couple of reasons why people cannot forgive – one is that they don’t know how to forgive. The second is that there is still a deep objection to forgiving what has not been justly satisfied.

Simply, forgiveness is about how we relate to the past and our memory of the past. Reconciliation is about how two or more people agree to live together, to relate together in the future. In the process of reconciliation we seek to overcome our hurt, anger, grief, the fractured relationship and enter into a peace process wherein we come together in unity with those involved. And in some cases, reconciliation may not be a chosen path for healing. Indeed, if core values are not shared, it would be unwise to reconcile with another where the repeated risk of broken trust would occur.

In my own journey with my friend, it has taken me considerable effort and willingness to walk the journey of reconciliation with my friend. By nature, I am a peace-maker. That being said, it has not been an easy path because deep trust of the heart, destroyed in a moment, is not easily repaired. The one who breaches the trust must make themselves trustworthy over and over again. This is often very, very difficult for the person who breached trust to accept and understand. Trust is earned in small steps of someone reliably valuing and safeguarding what another values and has made themselves vulnerable in sharing what they value.

On the other hand, the one who has been betrayed consciously chooses to trust the one who betrayed. They are willing to make themselves vulnerable again in the relationship. Needless to say, the steps are often small and take a long time. Trust builds through what we do which has far more power than what we say. Re-building trust is key to reconciliation in relationships and when there is agreement to restore some semblance of intimacy, this re-building must be intentionally and mindfully attended to by all. Trust is a journey of the heart, not the head. Being trustworthy is about the actions of our character, not an intellectual exercise.

One sobering statistic I learned in mediation training is that when a conflict takes place over 25 years, it can take 50 years for reconciliation. Perhaps in certain situations, the time can be shortened or softened. But I believe it’s important for us to remember the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, because re-building trust once it is broken can be forgiven. It may not always be reconciled. I have a dear colleague who grew up in Germany. She once shared with me that upon returning to Germany to visit family and she saw the German flag being waved from cars. Germany was in the World Soccer Championship that year and there was pride in the nation. Growing up in Germany, she had never seen this kind of national pride. The shame of WWII took 50 years to dissipate before the national flag could be proudly displayed. Trust betrayed is not easily restored.

I know that reconciliation is possible and can and does offer my future a brightness not possible without this gift. I also appreciate the great effort of heart and soul it has taken on my part to be open to reconciliation, because it means being willing to trust the one who betrayed me and let them demonstrate they are trustworthy. It’s a journey. An incredible journey with gifts that still await me because reconciliation is about my future, not my past.

Choose forgiveness. It’s freeing. Be wise about reconciliation. Your trust is precious. Be precious with your trust. And you will build a delightful future, perhaps even with the one who had once betrayed you. And if you were the one who betrayed another, remember to also heal your hurts and commit to making yourself trustworthy again. It too will change your future.


Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: From Love to Courage

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

During a web search for quotes about courage, I found that most quotations suggest that courage precedes before all other virtues. First you need courage and then you can be kind and compassionate and generous. I find it easy to agree with this order of moral quality. So it gave me pause in reading the ancient teacher Lao Tzu’s perspective. He tells us that it is loving another which gives us courage. What he really reveals is this: It starts and ends with love.

In preparation for writing this blog, I first had to sit with various definitions of what courage is understood to mean. I read the following:

  • the ability to do something that frightens one;
  • strength in the face of pain or grief.

I then found the following definition to be a more full and complete definition:

  • mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (Merriam Webster).

The origin of the word courage comes from Middle English corage, from Anglo French curage, from coer (heart), from Latin cor. In other words, courage comes from the heart, the way of love. As Maya Angelou wrote, “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

It starts with love. We are born loving. We are born to be loved foremost. Compared to other mammals, human infants would need to be in utero another 12 months to have the same capacities of new life as other infant mammals. Foals are able to stand and walk within hours. Kittens and puppies within weeks. Human babies take 9-12 months (or more) to walk. As newborns, we are completely dependent. We start with love, not courage. And love is what keeps babies thriving.

When you watch a child that is deeply loved, it is this love which provides a strong foundation to explore, to fall, cry and get back up to try again. A loved child builds courage to touch and taste the world. A loved child develops the resilience to face the great challenges of life.

When I was 10 years old, my father was killed in an industrial accident with burns over much of his body. Though he loved his children deeply, my mother showed us the burns to explain that he didn’t leave because he didn’t love us, but because of the burns. Because he loved us first, and we knew it in our bones, we had the courage to face both the tragedy and the aftermath of a parent’s death. To this day, his spirit continues to demonstrate his love for me, a love that nurtures my courage to step out and into the fullness of my potential.

About 10 years ago my grandfather died. Three days prior to his 85th birthday, our whole family gathered to celebrate his birthday around his death bed. We expressed our love and gratitude to him for the love and commitment and mentoring he had shown us in our lives, through song and prayers and story-telling. He came and lived before us and left a legacy of love and gentleness for us to follow. Because he loved us deeply, and we knew it, he developed the courage to face his own death, his own transition back into Spirit. He knew he would have to travel this journey and leave us behind. Just as coming into this world is a courageous act, so is leaving this world and trusting that those you are leaving will be well. It is love that first nurtured such courage in both of their hearts. And it is love that builds courage in the next generation to step out and forward to create their future of good fortune and blessing.

Lao Tzu says when we love another deeply, we build courage. When we receive love, we build strength. When we are courageous because we love and receive love, we have more joy. We develop the joy that comes with loving when hurt is still mending, for we will indeed have to face this life experience. Love gives us the courage to open our hearts to give more love and to receive love, even after the hurt, the rejection, the betrayal. Love is the deep motivator to be courageous and open to one’s inner knowing and wisdom that guides us to face the fear pressing in, shrinking our mind and our relationships.

If you are afraid, or if you are struggling to exercise the courage to follow your heart and pursue your dream, perhaps you need to contemplate your inner state of being loved and deeply loving another. If you don’t feel strong, where do you need to open your heart and receive love? And if you lack courage, then where do you need to more deeply love another?

To thrive with courage, first deeply love. Courage is love. Courage is my soul. It is my potential. I was born to love and be courageous. I came through the birth canal, riding the waves of contractions, to come head first into a sea of light into a new world. I am hard-wired to be resilient. To take the knocks of life, to get back up and keep choosing love. And so are you!

So please, keep loving deeply. That’s courage, and you have it in you. Contact Shirley Lynn for individual coaching and whole life therapies to bring healing to the stories of love that need to be transformed. Find the courage to awaken and re-kindle your heart’s truth and passion.

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: What is Love Really?

Why can’t we give love that one more chance

Why can’t we give love …

Because love’s such an old fashioned word

And love dares you to care for

The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night

And love (People on streets) dares you to change our way of

Caring about ourselves

This is our last dance

This is our last dance

This is ourselves

Under pressure

Just after David Bowie’s death, I listened to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury singing an acapella rendition of Under Pressure. Both of these artists throughout their musical careers called us outside the status quo of our deep social-cultural norms of male and female, of love and paradox. I invite you to read and reflect on the words of this song again. When you speak and utter the word love, what does it dare you to be, to do?

My Reiki Master/Teacher, Inamoto Huyakuten, says that in Japan and other places in the east, they do not use the word love. They speak of compassion or loving-kindness. This language of compassion and loving-kindness has helped us to reclaim the power, light and blessing of our western use of ‘love’ out of the trite idioms of many pop songs, valentine cards or romance movies that have little to do with the transformative essence and power of love. It saddens me that we have reduced our experience and understanding of love to mean what is shared in passionate encounters under the covers, hoping it will fix the emptiness inside.

We have stripped love of its radical nature and ethic to walk justly, to be kind and patient, to forgive and to let go of wrongs done. We have stripped love of its capacity to make us feel secure and confident that our physical and emotional needs will be attended to in a respectful way. We have stripped Love as the experience and essence of Abundance.

In a recent Reiki practice night, we were discussing what we believe Love is. One person commented that we really can only experience Love – once we begin to try to define it, we lose connection to its essence. We immediately switched into a loving-kindness Reiki meditation. We began to remember heart stories of where we felt love, where we received and offered love. The entire experience and energy of the evening became richer and more dynamic healing!

Years ago in my seminary studies, I was drawn into the journey of love, into the experience of God’s grace. The word, God, may be a poisoned word for you, but its true ‘character’ was about bringing an experience of the Universal Essence of Love, Light and Creative Wisdom onto our tongues, to help us share in a common experience of what brought life to the soul of who we are. Albert Einstein used the term ‘Universe’ to describe this incredible Great Mystery that loves and bewilders us. The bible refers to this sacred love as agapé, a love that is shown by what it does and expresses its own true nature to love for no other purpose than LOVE loves. That is Grace. It’s the gift of love in kindness and abundance, just because. When the bible says, God is Love, it means that this Sacred Universe is love. This Love is benevolent, charitable, kind, and good, and faithful, and committed, and willing.

Lao Tzu said to his follower: “Love is no other than the rhythm of Tao. I have told you: you are come out of Tao,’and to Tao, you will return. Whilst you are young – with your soul still enveloped in darkness – in the shock of the first impulse within you, you know not yet whither you are trending. You see the woman before you. You believe her to be that towards which the rhythm is driving you. But even when the woman is yours, and you have thrilled at the touch of her, you feel the rhythm yet within you, unappeased, and know that you must forward, ever further, if you would bring it to a standstill. Then it is that in the soul of the man and of the woman there arises a great sadness, and they look at one another, questioning whither they are now bound. Gently they clasp one another by the hand, and move on through life, swayed by the same impulse, towards the same goal. Call this love if you will. What is a name? I call it Tao. And the souls of those who love are like two white clouds floating softly side by side, that vanish, wafted by the same wind, into the infinite blue of the heavens.”

This Love birthed us. This great Love nourishes us. We have learned that like food and water, we need love. Without love, infants die – ‘failure to thrive’, we call it. What is most sad and distressing to me is how so many people have no experience of this agapé, of Tao, of God who is LOVE. They haven’t experience this love through their parents or community. It was gone from these guardians too. Or the hurt in their hearts has closed the door to Love and their tenderness within is starved of the nurturing it needs.

Last night, I listened to a lecture where several experts where sharing their process and technology of transforming conflict into connection. At one point, they asked if either knows where Love comes from, and they didn’t know. The listening group had no real answer either. It just is. It arises when we open our hearts to the interactions between us or any living being. Amazing!

When was the last time you really committed to learning to love—body, heart and soul? When was the last time you really opened to the space between you and another living being, totally committed to the ONENESS, to the creative uniqueness, affirmation and blessed connectedness linking you together like the rim of a circle to its centre? Love tends to the needs of each member and tends to the well-being of the whole with heart. Like circle, Love is about WE and ME.

Call to Action

I invite you to attune to Love. Receive the gift of abundance that is LOVE. Start loving yourself, your neighbour, your life, your foe. It’s your essence. It is Tao. It is God. It is Universe. LOVE.

If you want to remember Love, have an experience of love, join us this Mar 23rd for Peace Circle: Open to Love.

And if you need to heal your heart so you can open to love once again, and really feel alive, drop the excuses, tell yourself or tell a friend it’s time to book a session with me. Love is waiting.


Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: I Want Change Please. You Go First!

Sunday mornings Carlie and I meet with our tracking club to practise developing tracking skills. Basically, we each follow a track (or scent trail) with several items for the dog to identify, each carrying the scent of the person who had laid the track). Although we are still quite amateur in our skills and abilities, we all enjoy our time and keep stretching our skills and our partnerships with our dogs.

Typically, the facilitators lay our tracks before we arrive, so each track has a chance to ‘age’ (this is more difficult than fresh tracks, which are easier to follow for the dog). This week, several challenges were added to Carlie’s tracks. They were intentionally ‘contaminated’ by two other people who had walked across the track – which means that she had to really concentrate and discern which track we were following. Second, the wind had picked up since the tracks were laid, carrying the scent farther off the tracks. This drifting makes it more difficult for the dogs to stay with the ground track. And to top it off, Carlie’s tracks involved corners, both into the wind and away from the wind, meaning the scent would be more or less strong, respectively. Garbage was also strewn around, so she had to ‘mark’ the real items ‘lost’ by the person, separate from random garbage on the field.

My own challenge of the tracking was that I didn’t have any idea where the track went. This is a sport where you learn to read and trust your dog. Carlie’s sense of smell is approximately 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than mine. A human has about 5 million scent glands, compared to a dog, who has anywhere from 125 million to 300 million (depending on the breed). While a dog’s brain is only one-tenth the size of a human brain, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger than in humans. So I have to learn to trust her and what she knows through her nose. That being said, she still looks to me for direction when she is unsure about a situation.

Carlie and I enjoy this sport and our goal is to set the dogs up for success. This time however, with the shift in wind, we all ended up being somewhat frustrated, dogs and people. I found myself wanting Carlie to be able to find the right track and ‘mark’ the items. I couldn’t help her because I didn’t know where the track went. The facilitator was calling out ‘read your dog’. Carlie wasn’t on the right track but I didn’t know how to help her get there. We both were getting frustrated. When she followed a track she was sure was right, I stood still and wouldn’t follow. So she came back to me looking for direction, looking at me, “well which track then?” She was doing exactly what she is trained to do – look to me for direction when she is unsure of what is expected. Yet, in this moment, I was asking her to be the one to go first, to get calm and work through the challenge before us.

The third track was even more difficult with angles and repeated contaminations of the track. When I realized what I was expecting of Carlie, I took a deep breath, called Carlie back to me and paused with her. I got myself calm and shifted the role of being patient back to me. I asked the facilitator for the orientation of the path. I reset her and reassured her she was doing a great job even though it was hard.

We got ourselves re-oriented and I directed her to ‘search’ again. We got through the contamination section and onto the last part of the track. Although we still had the wind, we now were dealing with only one track and she found her last item. We were both cold, somewhat frustrated, and yet relieved we had finished – we had found all the items. Together, we had completed the task and we felt a sense of accomplishment in the midst of the frustration.

On the way home, I could sense that Carlie had found the morning very challenging. Dogs have the capacity to understand us and are often impacted or influenced by our emotions. I wanted to change our response to the morning and I knew that change needed to come from me. Our trainer always tells people to talk to their dogs. Explain things. Even though there is no scientific evidence to prove they understand us, again and again, she sees that it works, so go with it.

I, of course, know Carlie listens when I speak with her. What she understands I’m not sure, but I can tell when she has understood the concept or sentiment I wish to convey. I told Carlie that “I know it was frustrating and very hard. But we did it. We stayed with the track. We finished it together. We worked together and didn’t give up on each other. We both kept working to finish the track. That is what we celebrate.” I thanked her several times for her good work and partnership. She sighed, relaxed and put her head on the door handle (her favourite resting spot in the car).

Change is difficult. It requires our all and sometimes more than we know we have (like this tracking session with Carlie). And when change is necessary in a relationship, change needs to be mutual. Both parties need to stick with the change process. If only one person is doing the changing, eventually the partnership will fall apart or one party will get sick or at the extreme, die.

Change is a natural given. How much change is often up to us. However, the level of change we allow, is the level of peace and joy we will be gifted. Change will take us outside our comfort zone as it did for Carlie and I. It will mean learning new skills that push us outside of our competency. And change will mean that sometimes we need to leave some people behind who cannot and will not join us on the change journey. But if we do not leave them, we will find ourselves frustrated and angry or depressed because we will have to stifle our own joy, freedom and potential to stay with the other … and perhaps make ourselves sick.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I’ve been inviting people to listen for their sacred word for 2016; that sacred word that will grow them, transform their hearts, expand their sense of self and guide them. My word is ‘imagine freedom’. To have more freedom, to imagine more freedom, I have to change. And I can’t ask Carlie to be the one to go first. It’s not for me to ask my family or friends to go first. However, as I change and invite more freedom into my life, I can ask them to partner with me in changing. I can invite them onto a journey of change with me, so we can move up toward partnership or companionship with each other, toward more intimacy and connection, toward higher expressions of love and joy.

This month I am offering a Reiki Retreat on February 19-21st on Moving into Freedom for anyone who wants to join us on ‘being free’.

I am also co-facilitating Peace Circles in which amazing conversations happen among people who want to walk inner peace to interpersonal peace in our lives. With peace, we are free. In peace, we have joy. If you really want change this year, are ready and committed for it, join us.

If you looking for new ways to imagine peace in the way you live your life this year, plug into one of the available programs. Or contact me for an individual session. You just might experience the freedom to be the ‘you’ you are, rather than the ‘you’ you think you would be, should be or could be if only life were different. Change you and you will change your life.

Blessed be.

Shirley Lynn

Peace on Earth: Get Ready for It

We have just about completed our rotation around the sun for 2015. That’s approximately 149,600,000 km over 365 days travelling at 30 km/second. Mind boggling, isn’t it?
As we celebrate this journey, as well as the journey of Light that is also born within us, we again prepare ourselves for this journey around the sun in 2016. I am reminded of the line from a John Lennon song “… and what have you done?… let’s hope it’s [2016] a good one, without any fear.” The closing of each year inspires us to reflect and evaluate our successes, our failures and our goals and dreams for the year ahead.
For me, peace is a constant theme that weaves its way through my life and work. Peace within. Peace in my close relationships. Peace in my work. Peace in Nature. Peace in the global sphere. And while peace is central to who I am and what I do, it does not come easily or quickly.
Pause for a minute. Breathe deeply. Soften your belly and let the memories of 2105 wash over you. As you journeyed around the sun this past year, what peace did you experience? Where? When? With whom? What about this experience brought you peace or restored peace and harmony within you or your environment? What effort did it require of you? Who did you need to ‘be’ to experience this peace?
Although this peace can be experienced in the Now, rather than some far-off distant future, experiencing the expansion and fullness of peace over longer and longer moments can often require us to develop ourselves and our heart’s maturity. This path to maturity is more than a short term goal. It’s more than one lunar rotation and often more than a single season. Such journeys of inner development and heart maturity require journeys around the sun. It requires more difficult character virtues of steadfastness, self discipline, commitment, forgiveness, patience, resilience, love, compassion and more.
For peace on earth to be sustained, humanity needs to become mature. We need to take the journey of wise and creative development. Short term vision will not be enough to provide for our existence. We need mature hearts and souls to step forward and speak. We need to be willing to release the old pains, the old resentments and hurts, willing to forgive and choose to do the bigger journey of peace that involves burning away the inner greed, narcissism, hatred, violence and falsehoods we carry individually and collectively. We may want the peace of the still calm water, but for true peace, we first need to journey through the fire, the journey around the sun. We will be offered the rewards of peace in the moments that the lunar cycle gives us, to be sure. However, real transformation, real maturity takes us around the sun.
As 2016 approaches, we have before us another opening, another opportunity to end the wars, both internally and externally. We have an opening where we can imagine what peace and light of truth we are called to restore, create, build, embrace and awaken to within and around us. We are being called back to the beginning of the journey where we can boldly claim the light of our truth and be stewards of our contributions to peace on earth.
The time has come. We have journeyed around the sun. A new year is about to begin. I invite you to make 2016 the year where you begin living peace on earth.
Living peace does not come easily or quickly, but the benefits outweigh the challenges by far. It’s the nature of peace to thrive in community and through Feathers, Rainbows and Roses, I provide multiple avenues for you to find a community that will support, encourage, love and hold you accountable to your aspirations as you step into this journey.
The fires of transformation, of heart maturity is a path of wholeness. Rarely do we accomplish that journey alone. Find the resources, support and love you need at Peace Circles, Reiki community and practice nights (requires Reiki course training), Reiki Winter Retreat, and/or individual whole life therapies and soul coaching. Aspire to the joy and peace and light you really are.
Shirley Lynn


Over the last few hours, days, months we have experienced the best and the worst of humanity. Violent acts fuelled by hatred and total disregard for human life juxtaposed with the vision of three Montreal men from different cultural backgrounds firmly holding hands and signs telling the world that “we are brothers” and our bond will not be broken. Love over fear is the choice these young men are so boldly making. All of this is unfolding in real time as the images and words flood our screens and airwaves as we collectively seek to find meaning in it all.

diverging pathsAs I absorb what is happening in the world I call home it becomes clear to me that we are at a fork in the road. This fork does not feel new but rather like a well-travelled path that we have experienced many times over our collective history.

As I contemplate my role in this unfolding story I realize that our power lies in our coming together, in our collective voices and our connected hearts. Just as these young men from Montreal are so beautifully showing us. When we come together we access our shared wisdom and story and tap into a power that is much greater than its individual parts. This coming together is echoed in the words of Wayne Muller, “we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom and healing”.

The Dreamer part of me would like to invite the world to a Peace Circle. A safe place of true connection where we can speak our truth, experience our humanity and with the power of our collective wisdom and healing create a new story for our world.

As I contemplate my own journey, I know my answer lies in creating Peace Circle moments in my daily living and in offering Peace Circle to community. As in Circle, I seek to speak and listen from my heart and to live #loveoverfear.

In Peace,



Karen McCarthy is passionate about cultivating safe and creative spaces for people to share, explore and transform their lives in authentic and meaningful ways. Her wealth of knowledge and experiences as well as formal training in Peace Circle facilitation makes Karen the ideal partner along with Shirley Lynn in offering peace building experiences such as Peace Circle.

Karen and Shirley Lynn are co-facilitating an introductory evening to Peace Circle on December 16th in Waterloo. Additional Peace Circles are coming in January and February, with more to follow.

Peace Together: The Power of Vision in Community

Whenever I’m invited to be the celebrant of someone’s wedding, there are three key questions I ask them to answer prior to making plans for the wedding ceremony.

The first question asks them about their vision of their marriage, about their relationship together. I invite them to consider the dreams of who they see themselves becoming and how much room for becoming have they allowed for themselves.

Becoming is a state of being that invokes a vision of the future. It invokes the unfolding potential expression of who we can be. This is an important question because if couples haven’t considered the state of becoming as having a major influence in their lives and marriage, they will often find themselves feeling betrayed. “He wasn’t like this when we got married” … “I don’t know who she is anymore – that didn’t used to matter to her”. The values and ‘vows’ they make to each other now must have enough intention, awareness and commitment to the space of who they are yet to become. The language must include a level of openness, invitation and inclusivity in the shared sense of vision, of purpose and values that will take them into an unknown future when life brings them what they didn’t imagine.

The second question asks them about who they are now – with each other as well as on their own. I invite them to note the goals and shared values which support connection, intimacy and trust with each other in this journey they are choosing together here and now. It is both delightful and challenging to share one’s most innermost self with another. This state of being is here and now. It’s the fullness of the moment and all that one is right here, right now. I invite them to sink into, to truly become vulnerable to each other at the level of their truth and be together. If they can’t be together here and now, how will they survive the ‘becoming’ together in marriage?

And finally, the third question asks them to consider the community who supports and joins them in their being here and now and who holds a positive vision of their becoming together. We never get anywhere by ourselves. Business leaders affirm this wisdom, as do educators, politicians and spiritual leaders. We know that you need a ‘village to raise a child’ because the responsibilities, skills, challenges and blessings to raise a child require a whole community. It requires a community to bear witness, affirm and support this incredible life adventure. No less so for marriage success.

With thoughtful responses to these three questions, we then begin to discuss the ceremony, the rituals of joy, blessing and meaning. We talk about this ceremony as one that goes with them as an ongoing blessing, rather than a one-day event.

These same questions or variations thereof, share many of my conversations with people in soul coaching and whole life therapies sessions, in Reiki practice and meditation training, and now in Peace Circle.

When we share heart-felt stories in Peace Circle, we often weave between the worlds of being and becoming, between the presence of the moment and the vision of our best future. The power of circle is the compassionate, confidential, listening and truth-centred speaking qualities of being community together as we weave between these states of being and becoming.

On Friday, I attended the annual general meeting of my professional organization where the president spoke to the experience and value of ‘communitas’ in our organization. In her address, Christina Becker stated:

Communitas refers to the unstructured state in which all members of a community are equal allowing each member to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage. This is different from the structure of community and its secular roles. Communitas reflects that element of a shared experienced which verges on the sacred.

We are standing at one of the most challenging crossroads in human history. Our past is unable to predict our future because there is so much change. I can’t help wonder where the ‘communitas’ is within the society and where we will find it moving forward.

It is this ‘communitas’ that couples require to be vibrant and supported in their marriages. It is this ‘communitas’ that I experience in our monthly Reiki gatherings. It is this ‘communitas’ I envision in our Peace Circle as visionaries gather to create new stories, transform old stories and express their best stories of who they are. It is also this ‘communitas’ that is necessary for visionaries who are committed to become leaders of ‘peace on earth’ in ourselves, in our world, with each other and with all sentient beings because life is changing so fast. The spirit of community in Peace Circle is not just a one time event.

This spirit of love, vision and peace weaves and moves like the Great Circle of Creation empowering and transforming our being and becoming as together we create and build peace on earth. Let’s start sharing our ‘being’ together so we can inspire the best ‘becoming’ together on our incredible planet.


Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: The Blessing of Stillness to Lead

I just finished teaching a 3-day Reiki Level II course during which I was reminded of the power of three major energy centres in our bodies, and how in ‘stillness’ we can access and utilize this power for our life purpose and vision for peace on earth. Quite simply, we have the head centre, the heart centre and the belly centre. When healthy and functioning, these centres interrelate with each other and provide an alchemy of vital clarity and empowerment which sustains our lives and being.

The Self operates through these three centres of consciousness which then operate through what is known as the chakra system. Various understandings of these centres exist, but today, I will keep it simple. The head centre is the centre of wisdom. The heart centre is one of compassion, love and sensitivity. The belly centre supports vitality, action and boundaries. Each centre is vital to the development of our personality and our soul.

“Listen to your heart, but lead with your head” as stated by leadership expert Jeanne Gulbranson. I have pondered this phrase alongside with the wisdom of mystics and spiritual leaders such as Lao Tzu and Dalai Lama who promote the path of compassion. Dalai Lama states “Compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and a sense of self-discipline are qualities that help us lead our daily lives with a calm mind.” Lao Tzu writes of the three treasures – compassion, moderation and the courage not to be first in the world – as foundations for true leaders. Nelson Mandela stated “lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.”

choosing your pathIn a world under significant transitions, extraordinary changes at mind-bending speed, it can be most challenging to lead our own lives. Making decisions in a world where there are as many opinions, theories and research results as there are communities, groups and institutes can become confusing, overwhelming and stressful. Which wisdom school do I access to help me in this critical moment? Who can best help me decide which path best supports my core sense of purpose? I know you have asked these questions because I have heard you ask them with me. And like you, I have asked them too as I seek to be a leader in my own life.

For me, a leader is someone who acts with wisdom, compassion and healthy (clarity of) boundaries on their vision and purpose. These qualities of wisdom, compassion and clarity of boundaries acted upon are nurtured in balancing and strengthening the three major energy centres and vice versa. At times, the body may lead. At another situation, the heart may lead, and in another moment, the head centre through wisdom may lead. Becoming aware of these power/energy centres and what keeps you balanced and whole as you lead your life is the gift and blessing that comes with stillness.

In my years of pondering, testing, failing, rising to my best, falling down and getting back up, I have realized that my Reiki meditation and self-healing practice have offered me spaces of stillness and quiet calm. In this place of spacious stillness, my energy system becomes balanced, my mind softens and my heart expands. My breath calms and goes deeper. My parasympathetic nervous system becomes activated and my sympathetic nervous systems relaxes. In this space, I feel safe, secure and loved. What I have noticed is that as my three centres balance and strengthen, my action, my compassion and my intellect align. I lead from my soul and I have the flexibility in these new times to lead with the guidance that comes from within the space of stillness.

I have also learned over the years as I have facilitated Reiki learning, community-building and meditation nights, that when I share this ‘spacious stillness’ in a sacred community, intimacy, connection, belonging and joy increase as added blessings to these leadership or visionary qualities.

If you are like me and you have a vision and inner calling of peace on earth that requires the attention, awareness, passion, courage and all the diverse qualities these leaders have shared with us, then you also may be looking for a sacred, safe and confidential space to share your vision and nurture the inner wisdom you have as a visionary of real and concrete peace on earth.

The great news is that we don’t have to do it alone. We aren’t meant to do it alone. So find those people who will hold the power of stillness, practise the path of inner stillness in body, mind and heart with you and claim your inner wisdom to manifest the peace you are called to create in our world.

If you are looking for an incredible and inspired opportunity to come into stillness and experience the blessing of your own truth and wisdom, then join us for Peace Circle. It will bless you with sacred qualities that become the way you engage and lead through your vision of peace on earth. The time is now. The Earth is calling the visionaries forward to lead. Let’s gather.

Peace Circle will be held on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015 from 7:00-9:30 pm in Waterloo. Contact Shirley Lynn for more details.