Category: 2016

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: Falling in Love with the Living Earth

This beautiful, bounteous, life-giving planet we call Earth has given birth to each one of us, and each one of us carries the Earth within every cell of our body.

Thich Nhat Hahn

eagle-527392_640For the last several springs, my sister and I walk down along the river with our dogs, watching the nesting, the lives and growth of a pair of bald eagles and their eaglets. We feel quite honoured and amazed at these incredible creatures who gracefully take flight across the sky. We eagerly await the development of their offspring who eventually learn to fly and to source their own food. The young eventually move on to their own territory and the cycle of life continues.

I am in awe of these eagles who inspire me to remain aligned with my passion and calling to share and facilitate healing with people, whether in individual Soul Coaching, in Peace Circle, or in Reiki Ryoho programs.

What I have witnessed in my own life, as well as in my professional life working with others, is that our healing is deeply rooted in the Earth. The quality of our healing is matched by our qualitative connection with the Earth and all of Nature. Earth is not just our environment. She is our Mother ~ sentient and abundant. She gives us life. The atoms that make up our cells and being are the same ones that create all life. There is a great and incredulous order and harmony to the flow and function of our Earth and how we are to be in respectful stewardship with all our relations.

A few of my Reiki friends spent a couple of years exploring our relationship with Nature where we gave ourselves permission to really notice Her, to delight in Nature, to celebrate and play with Her. We also gave ourselves space to grieve and anger at all that is diseased, killed and maimed, desecrated, raped and violated in Nature. This 2-year healing circle opened us and guided each of us into our own unique way of volunteering, of giving back as awakened stewards and of being in love with our Living Earth. We each found that deep appreciation for Her natural cycles and rhythms, for the boundaries and natural laws that support the balance of all life.

We had to grapple with our own disconnect, with our own disembodied paradigms of cultural success. We were called to remember that we are human beings, living in a resource limited planet. We were called to celebrate our limits on this Earth rather than push beyond them for greed. We also were humbled by all that remains a mystery to us about this elegant and beautiful Earth.

nature-794126_640In a recent workshop I was facilitating, one of the participants is a geneticist who is moving into the specialty of roses. The incredible existence of roses, she explains, is they are are like the bananas we eat, from the point of view of chromosome composition (triploids). Simply stated, odd numbers of chromosomes can’t reproduce, and when something can’t reproduce, there are no seeds. That is why we have seedless bananas. Sterile. What she said is that some roses are triploids as well, but scientists are discovering that unlike bananas, rose pollen can still be fertile. In other words, they don’t follow scientific ‘rules’ of genetics. So now they speak of ‘guidelines’ rather than rules. It’s not ‘a mechanical universe’!

I was delighted to hear about the rose’s capacity to do what we didn’t believe was possible. It made me fall in love with roses and the Earth all over again. And I was reminded that our perceived status as superior to the Earth needs a ‘falling’. We need to fall from our present position as superior to the Mother Earth and into Her. We need to ground, connect and recognize our own constitution as from Her. Though we can be as diverse as Nature and all creatures in it, we need to respect our place in Her.

What this highlights for me is that our language about the Earth needs to change, so that our relationship with the Earth can also change. Our language has been from a position ‘above her’, ‘standing upon her’, ‘having power or dominion over her’. This structure or position of above, over, upon Mother Earth is filled with arrogance, delusion and entitlements. And now after hundreds of years of this kind of structuring of our relationship with Mother Earth, we are experiencing the consequences of our plundering and abuse of Her.

It’s time we collectively step down from our self-made platform of ego superiority and into right relationship with Nature,humbly and gratefully accepting the gift of having limits and boundaries to our existence as humans. It is time we stepped back into the circle of life, take our place in the rim with all our relations, rather than believing we alone are the centre, or are entitled to control the centre of the circle of life.

If we fail to accept our place here as ‘part of, one among, with’, if we fail to ‘fall in love with our Mother Earth’, we deny ourselves healing on any issue we have. We deny ourselves our true heart’s abundance and health. We deny ourselves respect and the flow of Love. And we deny ourselves the gift of being guests here on this planet. By Nature’s power, we will be the ones asked to leave, as any disrespecting, violating, extremist person is tried and judged as unsafe for society.

Earth Day (April 22nd) is coming soon. Mark this day as a time to celebrate. A time to fall in love with Mother Earth. A time to experience the magnificence, elegance and mystery of what gives us life … and love. I also invite you to join me in our next Peace Circle on Wednesday, April 20th and share your stories of Falling in Love with our Living Earth.

Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: Just Like Me!

sitting in cirleNurturing compassion, connection, and empathy between ourselves and others can be as simple as affirming the phrase ‘just like me’ where we might otherwise judge, criticize or condemn. This compassion practice invites us to put ourselves into another’s shoes by concretely acknowledging our own likeness to our neighbour, to a stranger, to our family member or friend with whom we are in conflict or are triggered to criticize and hate.

I personally use this compassion practice in my work when at times I have no answer for a client experiencing the angst of loss or even, the fear of their potential unrealized. As I listen, I quietly tell myself, ‘just like me’, they feel ashamed that they have found themselves in this conflict, in this depression, in this place of career deficit.

‘Just like me’ calls me to love, to have compassion for the frailties and suffering we experience as humans. Regardless of background, we all are touched by the fires and waters of the human condition. No one here has been rescued from the pains of birth, nor will anyone escape the path of death. ‘Just like me’ calls me to honour the equality of our humanity regardless of race, sex, class, age, etc.

children-1149671_640Today, I received an email from a client asking for guidance for a relationship situation causing them distress. At the core of this relationship stress, lies the client’s fear and life pattern of being unworthy, not good enough, of finding themselves painfully wrong in their mind. When shame strikes us, it usually cuts into our core sense of self-respect. As I read this email, I found myself saying, ‘just like me’, this client is feeling the oppression of the past. ‘Just like me’, this client is feeling the weight of resentment not yet transformed. ‘Just like me’, this client is searching for the freedom to be healthy and happy in their current life.

Honouring our ‘sameness’ in this way, opens space for me to listen and hear what may not be said, what pain may not be expressed and yet is eerily present in its absence. As a response, ‘just like me’ gives me enough space between my thoughts that I can reach into my heart and find the compassion to neutralize the judgements or criticisms that might be beginning to ride my neuro-pathways. This pause also invites me to remind myself of my practice of loving-kindness, to love all of who I am, to welcome the truth of my being to the inner table of Self. When I return to love in me, I return to love for the ‘other’.

When we consider life in a wholistic way, then a spiritual practice becomes multi-purpose, three fields of experience unified as one.

First, ‘Just like me’ becomes a practice that not only evokes the spark of compassion in our shared humanity when life is painful, sorrowful or even where there is anger and hurt.

women-friends-1577910_640Second, ‘just like me’ becomes the practice of seeing the empowered and dignified essence of the other. ‘Just like me’, my client has the powerful potential to become resourceful and capable to transform their inner experience and change their sense of Self. ‘Just like me’, with a little guidance, my client is loving and compassionate, capable of experiencing a more satisfying life. ‘Just like me’, my client’s inner wisdom holds the inner motivation and life-giving permission to generate new habits and choices that best align with what their heart wants most. ‘Just like me’, my client can ask for the support they need to return to the peace and abundance that belongs to our shared humanity.

Finally, ‘just like me’ awakens us to our creativity and collaboration, our light and love to become what neither imagined in the beginning. As clients and I engage in the compassionate way of ‘just like me’ on our shared path of Wisdom’s Way to Peace, wisdom and peace transform both our hearts, trickling out into our families, our workspaces, our environments, or visions for a more peaceful world. We are no longer just night and day. Now we can enjoy the fullness of life as dusk and dawn as well.

‘Just like me’, our shared humanity is best and most joyfully celebrated when we honour that

  • we have all grieved the loss of loved ones
  • we have all been embarrassed to the core about something we did or didn’t do
  • we have all spoken harsh words in our pain
  • we have all wept at the suffering of another
  • we have all acted in anger when experiencing disrespect and our needs and dreams denied.

And paradoxically, when we honour that

  • we all have been born to this Earth
  • we all have a song that lives in our heart waiting to be sung
  • we all have the potential to be vital and empowered human beings with compassionate hearts
  • we all have gifts and talents, some active, some dormant awaiting the opportunity to breathe into them, to nurture them
  • we all have the need to be loved, belong and live the authenticity of our uniqueness and our shared humanity
  • we all have the capacity to be wise and to benefit from our own wisdom.

I’m starting a new journey in hosting podcast conversations with people ‘just like me’ and that means with people ‘just like you’. These podcasts, I hope, will offer a sacred space for us to be present to our hearts and to discover Wisdom’s Way to Peace. Since Wisdom is as diverse and rich as life on this planet with many paths, may our return to One Peace be useful, meaningful, honest and filled with kindness for all life.

Shirley Sept 2015 frontNamaste,

Shirley Lynn

PS. I’ve just uploaded my first podcast in which Shelley Schanzenbacher [Reiki Master/Teacher, Leadership Coach and Circle Mediator] interviews me about how I got to be where I am. I invite you to join in and share the conversation. It’s simply called Getting to Know Shirley Lynn Martin.

An Attitude of Gratitude

(Originally posted October 2013)

Mary's Garden1These beautiful fall days have made it easy to be thankful and grateful for the harvest we are gathering. As I have been collecting the dahlia bulbs and digging potatoes I have been pondering the attitude of gratitude. What does it look like and how would I recognize it? How does one get it or work for it? What does it actually mean? I went to the dictionary as a place to start finding the answers to these questions.

Briefly, gratitude is “a kindly feeling because of a favor received; desire to do a favor in return; thankfulness.” In thinking about what gratitude looks like I soon recognized what it is not. Gratitude is not entitlement which some people, me included, sometimes struggle with. We may say or think things like ‘I deserve more than that’ or ‘how come he/she gets more’ or ‘is this all there is?’ Gratitude is not keeping a running tally of who has given me what and how much do I need to give back so that things are balanced between us. It is not the ‘owed’ feeling I may get when I am given something which I feel I didn’t do enough to earn.

Gratitude is “a kindly feeling”. A few summers ago, I spent some time in Kenya volunteering in an orphanage and in a school in the slums. I saw and felt this attitude of gratitude that I am trying to describe from the many children who had so little. I saw them going through the food line twice, once to wash their hands with a limited amount of water followed by a squirt of hand sanitizer and back again to get their plate of food with no pushing or complaining. Nor did they check to see if they had as much as the person beside them. They smiled as they ate; they received their gift of food and returned the gift with what they had – a big happy smile.Simple Joys Big SmilesDSC00302

I was taken aback with the respect I received from the children as a grandmother, an elder. They didn’t know me and I had done nothing to earn this deep respect which I felt I didn’t deserve. They were giving me a favour, a gift and I was at a loss how to graciously receive it especially with a language barrier. But I did have a desire and opportunities to return their gift. It may have been a smile, a hug, taking their picture with my camera and then letting them see it, playing catch with a ball or washing dishes with them. This was living with an attitude of gratitude, just giving and receiving as we lived life together!

Our host, Mama Rose, was so honored to host us. A few years previously, she had left her abusive husband and was ostracized by her community for doing so. She was grateful for an opportunity to restore her place in her community and hosting guest volunteers helped this process. Mama Rose needed healing and we needed a place to stay. Again, gratitude in action through living life on life’s terms.

Marys Garden4I believe we can cultivate this attitude of gratitude if we nurture our ability to daily be astonished at the beauty that is around us or to notice the acts of kindness that often go unnoticed. We can cultivate gratitude by reading that which helps to nurture and challenge our mind and spirit and maybe also to move us to think of others and not just ourselves. As we remain aware of what the ever-giving Earth gives to us, not because we have earned it or deserve it but because She wants to give, should we not then in gratitude desire to preserve Her with the care She deserves? Thus we contribute to Her ability to provide us with food and astonishing beauty and we in turn again get to enjoy them.

I seem to have come full circle but I wonder, what does an attitude of gratitude look like to you? For me it is Carlie wagging her tail in joyous gratitude to my scratching her ears. It is Rayna’s hearty response to my giving her the bone she so desired! It is in my inner response to the full moon coming up from behind the barn. I will continue to look for gratitude in the rhythms of life and the giving and receiving which is part of it.

Please join me in seeking and living this attitude of gratitude in whatever ways are fitting to your life. Have a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving holiday – we have much to be thankful for…

Submitted by Mary Martin

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: The Self Kindness Response

Recently I had a conversation with someone who understood she needed ‘boundaries’, but struggled with creating the necessary boundaries in her relationships because she believed what she really wanted was connection. Wouldn’t boundaries destroy the connection she was seeking? And anyway, aren’t connection and kindness to others spiritual virtues? Won’t boundaries constrain our compassion and kindness to others?

These objections (and resistances) are quite common among those who really want to be compassionate to others and who are very sensitive to the energies and emotions around them. These questions and ones like these get to the heart of our inner objections in creating the kinder relationships and inner states of peacefulness that we yearn for.

In today’s blog, I would like to challenge this notion that boundaries exclude a sense of connection by exploring four different core operating beliefs that are commonly played out in our unconscious:

“I’m Not OK, You’re OK”

In this core belief, we enter into the land of dependency and exclude ourselves from the blessings of life, of love and life-giving relationships. Our sense of shame and unworthiness causes us to ‘do for others’ what we cannot do for ourselves. We will not be able to open to love, nor the blessing of another. If we do not perceive ourselves as being worthy of someone’s blessing, we will not be able to stand and look someone in the eye and tell them what we need.

Here, there is a lack of self-respect, a lack of boundaries and a whole lot of people-pleasing. In this land of dependency, we will find ourselves envious, resentful, exhausted and covet what we perceive others have or we give to them because we cannot give it to ourselves nor receive it from another. We lack kindness towards ourselves, remain disconnected with others and often fall into a state of passivity (-aggressiveness) about our lives.

“I’m OK, You’re Not OK”

In this core belief, we find ourselves in the land of arrogance and pride. Our acts of ‘charity’ are really ‘blessings’ imposed … and for the receiver, not really a blessing at all. In this state of arrogance or superiority, our helping another is often wrought with the assumption ‘I know better’.

Entire cultures and peoples have been destroyed in the blind assumption that ‘our way is better than your way’. Consider the disastrous results of the way we have mistreated, abused and fundamentally disregarded First Nations peoples and tribes. We destroyed connection, community and the life-giving spiritual knowing of our country and our Earth in this genocide. It’s often hard to fathom the depth of our failures toward First Nations people because of all we imposed. We failed to create boundaries of mutual respect and kindness, of common dignity for all people. The repercussions for these lack of boundaries and compassionate connection will be our burden for decades to come. What we did in this cultural example, we also do personally to ourselves and others when we come with an attitude of I know how to ‘fix’ you.

“I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK”

In this core operating belief, we find ourselves in the land of curses. Though we may find ourselves in a state of ‘likeness’ with each other, a state of common experience about what is ‘not okay’ around us or in our environment, our ‘joining together’ in this state is destructive, cynical and riddled with mutual contempt and despair.  Though we both may be ‘down in the dumps’, we injure each other to prevent ourselves from being more miserable than the other. All heart connection is lost, annihilated or in perpetual threat.

Again, we have no real healthy boundaries here. Rather, we put energy into creating emotional walls and barriers, leaving us locked away from connection and in the stalemate of our own inner hauntings.

“I’m OK, You’re OK”

Finally, this operating core belief sustains us in the land of blessing. This is the place of joining, of collaboration, of mutuality, equality, respect and appreciation. In this land, we can pray and chant the ‘Namaste’, the light in you is the light in me; the peace in you is the peace in me.

In this land, we can care for each other in dignity and respect for each other. It is not that we are needy of each other; rather, in appreciation for what another values and for what we value, we respect and validate and support the unique worth of ourselves and the other. In the land of blessing, we seek to compassionately appreciate and see the good in all things. Our boundaries here are flexible, clear, growing, strong, consistent and kind, sustaining the vitality of our own core essence. Because we respect and appreciate the goodness in ourselves and in the other, our connections are real, open, compassionate and trustworthy.

As we simplify the equations to see truly the essence of what matters in the heart of connection, we discover that boundaries are a way to sustain healthy and vital connection in “I’m OK, you’re OK.” For women who have been socialized and imprinted upon to care for others first (”you’re OK, I’m not OK”), self-kindness boundaries offer us the potential to choose self-love and joy (trumping self-improvement), to fill our own cup first and offer to others from our inner fullness, and to let our body lead us (rather than denying or denigrating our bodies).


It’s time for a shift in consciousness where self-love and strength, connection and unequivocal kindness in self-regard are the touchstones and daily practices in our relationships and in the joys of our lives. Recognizing and developing awareness and giving ourselves full and complete permission to have boundaries that sustain kindness and connection with ourselves and others is a first major healing of our hearts and psyche.

The next step is to learn HOW to create these kinds of boundaries which support our engagement in creating and living a joyful life, happy relationships and inner vitality. If you are ready to learn the ‘how’ of creating your personal, unique boundaries that fuel your body-mind-spirit connection, happiness and joy, join me at my upcoming The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Joyful Living workshop on October 28-29th, 2016.

If you wish to continue to nurture the boundaries you are already creating, please join us to support your self-kindness in love and strength. And if you already have been practising boundaries for self-empowerment, join us to expand the inner waves of self-kindness and joy in the boundaries you practice. In other words, no matter where you are on this continuum of creating and nurturing boundaries, there is more to do and this workshop will definitely offer the necessary tools to help you.

Shirley Lynn

(ps. Thanks to Rob Voyle and his work with the Appreciative Way in helping me to clarify my own understanding)

The Power of Vulnerability and Presence

I remember almost 25 years ago, sitting in my friend’s apartment crying in Marie’s arms as the waves of old (but now fresh) grief flowed out from my heart. Once again, I stepped through the fear and shame that my grief made me weak and incompetent, un-intelligible and less than. And even while I was openly and unrestrainedly expressing my grief and deep sadness 18 years after my father’s death, I feared that doing so made me even more unacceptable and displeasing. I feared what she was thinking about me, how she might judge me. But slowly, the fear began to dissolve as she uttered some compassionate words: “Of course you miss and grieve your dad. Your grief and tears are beautiful. You must have loved him with all your 10-year-old heart. We all have to tell someone. And you are wonderful.”

A year later, I had a very difficult experience with a friend I confronted on what I experienced as very disrespectful behaviour. That confrontation was met with anger and great displeasure and I was left feeling humiliated, confused and ashamed. Part of me wanted to hide in my apartment, to shut down my heart, to repress all the deeply painful feelings flooding me. But another part of me knew that hiding was the ego story of shame and humiliation. The heart story of humility, vulnerability and self-compassion knew that I had to reach out, be vulnerable and through humility and full presence to the moment, find my centre, reclaim my light and discover the wisdom available.

I called upon another friend who listened compassionately and quietly, who just sat with me as I worked it through. He didn’t try to fix it for me. What he did do was affirm that I’m a wonderful woman in what felt like my weakness and wrongness. What he did affirm was my hurt beneath the shame and that this encounter was not my wrong-doing alone. I felt loved and accepted. In that love and acceptance, my shame scattered and became undone.

I share these two experiences to highlight the power of appropriate, respecting and safe vulnerability. To experience the power of vulnerability, we invoke, even if unconsciously, the virtue of humility and the presence of a higher reality of love.

Humility differs from humiliation in that humility calls us to respect our humanness and divinity simultaneously and equally. As a human being I have limits. These limits are good and life-giving here. Without the use of some sort of flight mechanism, for example, I cannot fly. I cannot live years without food, water, sleep, shelter. As empowered as anyone can be in their imagined potential, we are grounded into the critical point of our actual human potential. In our bodies, we cannot live outside the human experience.

While we humbly acknowledge this truth, we also can and need to acknowledge that we too are spirit within. Spirit and matter meet within, which is the blessed incarnation of our unique existence. Humility calls us to claim both and so when we feel naked in our vulnerability, we equally are invited to claim our inner light and cherished essence.

In acknowledging that I’m both divine and human, I can trust that my vulnerable encounter with my own deeper being will lead to healing, love, and wholeness. The fear that my friends would criticize, shame or reject me was a smokescreen to my deeper ego fear. My deeper fear was that ‘my vulnerability and inner light were wrong’.

However, the power of humility called me into full presence, full vulnerability with my heart. When I humbly open my heart and become vulnerable to “what is, as it is”, as in the moments described above, I become fully present to me, to the other, to my experience as I am rather than my ‘ideal’ of who I am. In that presence, I stepped into the acceptance that I am loved. True vulnerability is pure presence. And pure presence to “what is, as it is” radically transforms us and those equally sharing this moment of presence.

Richard Rohr, a contemporary Franciscan mystic puts it this way: “In being humbly vulnerable, you give a piece of yourself to the other. You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously). This allows the other to do the same in return. You do not need or demand anything back from them, because you know that you are both participating in a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—one that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness. Simply to love is its own reward. You accept being accepted—for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever!”

We often consider those who are vulnerable as beings who are weaker than us, such as children, animals, our ecosystem, women in many countries, and spiritually speaking, the path to the Divine Feminine. However, mystically speaking, being vulnerable as a child or as an animal or our ecosystem is to be without the personal ego’s rationalization, judgements, analysis, ego constructed intellect and shadow defenses. Such vulnerability, mystically speaking, often invokes compassion, delight, joy, open to the wonder and awe and natural rhythms of life without needing to control or dominate the resources that sustain life. Mystically speaking, such vulnerability calls us to be fully present to the moment as it is, without dividing the moment. And such vulnerability is a practice of humbly accepting one’s beautiful place in the ebb and flow of all life. It’s the practice of deep acceptance of who I am as I am, neither greater than nor lesser than any being.

This is the radical nature of true vulnerability and humility. It is the practice of ‘Presence’. Presence shares with us the gift that we are loved, accepted and worthy as we are in this moment. Humbly, we tell our truth to ourselves and to the compassionate other. It’s about sharing our heart story, embracing that somewhere in our pain or shame or weakness, we are light, love and worthy. To the ego, vulnerability must be controlled and dominated. To our hearts, vulnerability or true presence to ‘what fully is as it is’, is a radical blessing of empowerment, truth-telling and healing. And so it is!


Shirley Lynn

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: 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