Category: Fall 2013

Path to Peace: 2013 in Review

In the past several days and weeks, I’ve had conversations with numerous people who have commented on 2013 being a year of significant challenges. Losses, major transitions or a cumulative stress from multiple transitions, relationship disruptions, sickness, and deaths have been part of the memories and experiences of 2013. Such events certainly leave their mark on us, and at times may even overwhelm and consume  us. But what else? Where did Spirit show up in your year in unexpected and blessed ways as well?

As we end this year, it may be of value to glance back over this past year and remind ourselves of the goals and dreams we were working toward throughout 2013 At the outset of this year, I personally  completed my own Wisdom’s Way to Living JOY-fully workbook and my ‘spiritual focus word’ for 2013 revealed ‘inner strength.’ Looking back over this past year, and all that I lived, I realize that I have learned and re-learned some great lessons and anchored some soul wisdom.

The first question that came to me in my reflections about what this spiritual focus has taught me and what it now means to me is ‘how did my inner strength increase my love’? Although I could write many blogs on what I learned, here are some key points:

  1. When life offers me big challenges, remember to play. Carlie, Rayna and I went sledding this weekend – it was Rayna’s first time. Can you spell FUN? Just a break in the day to go and do something that only required me to be happy in my heart.
  2. When life offers big challenges, go it ‘with community’. Ask for help. My inner strength called me to ask for help from those who love me and want the best for me. Why in the world would I want to ‘go it alone’ and bear the burden alone? Never again.
  3. Cultivate laughter. Recently, I had to have some very difficult conversations over the period of a weekend. However, we both intentionally shared some fun and laughter even in the midst of our pain.
  4. Be more than the ‘pain or the strain.’ These conversations above were interspersed with walking in Nature together, reading a great book together, preparing meals together, talking ‘shop’ and sharing some dreams of what we wanted in between the moments of these difficult conversations. Inner strength meant I could stay in the conversation and find my love to create outcomes I never anticipated going into the conversations.
  5. Let my ‘inner strength’ seek where love is. Of course love is in my heart. Yet, we all know the adage that the longest distance one can travel is the one from the head to the heart. We all are seeking love. We only need to go to our hearts. This journey to my inner heart required my ‘inner strength.’
  6. Let Grace guide you. A colleague and I have led several Peace Circles this past year and our motto became, ‘let Grace guide you.’ Grace is big enough to show up anywhere, anytime in any situation, regardless how challenging.

I have lots of love in my heart.  My ‘inner strength’ helped me to find more love in my heart which opened the path to experience great love coming from others’ hearts. That is the real gift of the Immanence of the Divine.

We are entering into the Season of Lights in many traditions and as a society celebration. We are about to end this year and begin another. Take time to reflect on this year and what you have learned. Who have you become because of your spiritual focus? Where are you now? What are you doing here that is different and new? How has your love increased?

End this year with class. Take time to contemplate on your blessings, your lessons, your fond memories and honestly acknowledge to yourself what brought ‘pain and strain’. We will be offering the 2014 workbook shortly so you can take your lessons and strains and gains and begin to intentionally create a peaceful 2014. Wishing you the best!

Namaste and Infinite Peace,

Shirley Lynn

The Path of Peace: Loving our Enemy

As 2013 draws to a close and I reflect upon my lessons and discoveries of 2013, I am struck by the countless opportunities I’ve had to witness the kindness of people who have encouraged, supported and been a blessing to me. I am struck by the countless ways I have been taken care of and been confirmed by a Loving Universe when the knocks of life showed up to serve as a challenge to me.

The gift is not only those who have extended kind words, deeds and thoughts to me over this year. The gift is also my ability and willingness and openness to see and receive them, rather than miss their presence at the moment they were offered. This past year, I focused deeply on this spiritual word ‘love’, and the kindness it evokes in us, even in the face of what is unjust, disrespectful and untrustworthy.

Two events in the past couple of weeks have really brought forward the revelation that the power of love transforms our ‘enemy’ to become our ‘neighbour’. I went to hear Malcolm Gladwell speak on his new book, David and Goliath. The second memorable event is the passing of Nelson Mandela who has so graciously touched the world with his love and kindness.

Malcolm Gladwell wonderfully and creatively told the story of Alva Vanderbilt, a prominent multi-millionaire American socialite and a major figure in the women’s suffrage movement. She was a significant force in the passing of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in the USA (the amendment being ratified in 1920, 40 years after its first draft). Gladwell offered to the audience that still today, we must remember this woman and her story so that we offer more space for women to re-shape our society.

Nelson Mandela was a lawyer and South Africa’s first black president. Through his love, kindness and savvy wisdom, he led his nation out of apartheid. He became a hero to black people, white people, to people around the world who believed and hoped that racism and apartheid systems can be put to death. President Obama is quoted as saying: “We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.”

Like Alva Vanderbilt, we must remember Nelson Mandela as he showed us a way to offer more space for all races to re-shape our society.

Former NDP Leader, Jack Layton, who died in August of 2011, also spent many hours working for a just society. His life, marriage and work was a testament to the way we must offer more space for people of all colours and orientations who marry for love to re-shape our society. On his deathbed, he wrote these words: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

We all have had challenges this 2013, and for some, quite significant. Those who follow the astrological unfolding of our time understand the significant influences that we as humanity and the Earth are experiencing at this time in history. I cannot help but wonder that these great teachers who came to show us what it looks like to love those who sit ‘in the other camp’, and who have now returned ‘to the ages’, still remain in the spirit of our nations’ hearts sharing their light and guiding us to a better world.

I invite you to look back over 2013 and look for where kindness and love showed up. Look for where you experienced it and where it brought a moment of inner peace. Then look again through the past year and see where you might have missed what kindness was shown and offer your deep gratitude for the gift of love that showed up in the way it did.

It may not seem evident at the time because the kind of change these leaders manifested in our world called for a shift in our consciousness, a shift in our legal systems, a shift in our psyche about what is legitimate. Such profound and radical changes are often met with great resistance and fear. The great love and kindness of these radical changes are often not understood or perhaps even experienced as a blessing in the moment by some.

Time and sustainability of their kindness and respect eventually awaken our consciousness to the deep reserve of love they shared with us. We offer our prayers of love and gratitude to the leaders who taught us to love. They also handed the torch to us to carry on. May we do so in whatever ways that brings out the best in each of us. And let’s see how many ‘enemies’ become our ‘neighbours’ still here in 2013 with what remains.

Shirley Lynn

Understanding the Animals in our Lives

Last Saturday, Shirley Lynn and I (Lucy) led a workshop on enhancing connections with our animal companions. The group shared stories about our connections with animals past and present. We spent quite a bit of time talking about what connection really means and how we go about achieving it. In preparing for this workshop, I spent a lot of time thinking about my connections with the dogs and cats in my life now and in the past. What have I learned from these relationships?

One of my biggest revelations has been to view the world from the perspective of my animal. To actually put myself on the same physical level to see what they see, what catches their attention. I don’t think it was any one animal that asked me to do this, but on numerous occasions when out walking with a dog, I would notice them intently looking at or reacting to something that appeared relatively benign to me. But when I got down to their level, things looked very different and my perspective shifted. *To see what I mean, and especially if you have a little animal, I urge you to lay down on the sidewalk and experience the world from that level. Any wonder that it could be a little frightening and intimidating?

By observing the world from the perspective of the animals in our presence gives us a broader understanding of them as well as our world. Taking that extra moment to pause and look at things from a different position gives us greater insight and appreciation – for the other being as well as the situation at hand. How can that stray plastic bag be anything but alarming yet intriguing? Who’s been to the lamppost today that everyone leaves their ‘post-it notes’ on? How do we react to strangers who immediately want to touch and request tricks? The examples are endless…

One of the exercises we did in the workshop was to put ourselves in the paws/claws/hooves of an animal companion and look at ourselves from their perspective and experience. What do they see? What do they feel? What do they wish from and for us? *I invite you to try this on your own. Truly allow yourself to be open to the insights you receive. Do they see a happy loving person who engages authentically with them and others? Do they see someone who is angry and aggressive, someone who is scary to be around? Are you respectful and trustworthy to them and others? Do you consistently provide fresh water, good food, interesting walks and other stimulation?

For the most part, we have chosen to have our animals live with us in our world. So the responsibility rests on us to make that a positive experience for them. But I also believe that who that animal is and when they join us on our life journey isn’t totally random.

I have a friend who is struggling a lot with her dog’s [mis]behaviour and she is getting increasingly frustrated and angry with him. She acknowledges that her rage is really not about her dog but still he bears the brunt of it because he’s there and repeatedly triggers her anger. Regrettably they are in a perpetual cycle of extreme frustration, anger and unconnectedness. While the situation isn’t easy for either of them, and resolution seems to be far-removed, I believe he is in her life to help her confront this demon (none of her previous animals were strong enough to stand in the face of it).

I think that if she would step inside her dog for a bit to see and feel what he does, she would be able to find her way forward in a way that she never envisioned. She would realize he loves her so much that he is willing to stay on this tumultuous journey with her. His courage and tenacity would surely inspire her. He is calling out for help in a way that she has been unable to. She would see that he has not, nor will not, abandon her in her darkest moments. She would see that he is her rock.

And in return, he wants a trustworthy and loving partner in her. Someone who looks out for him, provides for him in ways that he can’t for himself. Someone who makes life simpler, not harder. Someone who understands and loves him for who he really is and hopes to become.

And when it comes right down to it, isn’t that what we all want in our relationships – human and otherwise?

Submitted by Lucy Martin

What Can Be Better Than This? The Path of Releasing

As many of you know, I have recently moved from the office that I’ve been in for the past 7 years. It was a good space and afforded me and my clients some really good things and powerful moments. I enjoyed the park across the road where Carlie and I could go for a walk at lunch or eat our lunch in the park, lounging under a shade tree to re-group and ground before the afternoon revealed itself. So when I got the letter of termination of my lease, I had an initial breath of ‘oh my goodness’ – followed by an affirming prayer that something better will come in its place. During the month of October, I often questioned ‘what can be better than this’?

As I searched for a new office, I realized I needed to practise the path of releasing. Although I truly and deeply enjoyed where I was, I had to let it go to experience something more. Sometimes life calls us to release what we love in order to experience more of what we love. It’s a strange paradox which reminds us that the Universe is an abundant expression of Love, Joy and Peace, but to stay in the flow of these gifts, we need to let go of what we love to remain in the flow of Divine Love and Peace.

This paradox opens us to both the grief and the joy of what life unfolds. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, grief is a fundamental or core emotion in the cycle of life. We will never escape it. However, we can develop good skills in allowing grief to ‘pass through us’, rather than getting stuck in its hold of our hearts. Once I acknowledged my grief in moving from my old, comfortable and familiar office, I could more joyfully move forward, trusting that somehow something better would continue to manifest in the potential of my vision.731

What Can Be Better Than This? This question came to me from a good friend and I have often asked it when faced with these kinds of moments in my life or when I am seeking new potential to unfold and I am asking for change.

As this year begins to wane and the winter solstice rises in our consciousness, I invite you to reflect on what you need to release. Is there something you totally enjoy and perhaps even love, but need to let go so you can move toward what fits your greater potential. It’s not always about releasing what you don’t want anymore; rather it’s releasing what no longer serves. Sometimes we may not recognize that something no longer serves us because we still are enjoying it.

With the approaching holiday season, the close of this year and the stepping into 2014, I share the question ‘what can be better than this’? What new opportunities will invite you to be in the flow of Divine Love and Peace?

735What Can Be Better Than This? After much consideration and shopping around in the limited time I had, I chose a new office space in downtown Elmira. This new office space in the Elmira Wellness Centre, holds a most lovely and inviting feel. I just had my first week in my new office and it felt as exciting as starting a new job. The energy in my space is very good, and according to my clients so far, even better than my previous office.

If you are ready to contemplate and work with this question in the presence of sacred witnessing, I invite you to set up an appointment in my new office space. Come in before December 5th, 2013 and  benefit by a Welcome to my New Place 15% Discount. So let’s get started …


The Power of Community: A Path to Peace

Last week I wrote of Remembrance Day and honouring the intention of peace that lies amidst our common breath, including the ‘fallen’. I also invited us to celebrate those who have sacrificed their lives for better communities and ways of living peacefully and prosperously in our world. I think of the women around the world who courageously challenge the fundamentalist streams of various religions and governments and sometimes pay with their lives. I especially admire Malala Yousafzais’ courage to speak out on behalf of these women and she will be remembered throughout history. (You can read Malala Yousafzais’ speech to the UN at

Today, I also think of the millions of who have been profoundly and traumatically affected by the forces of Typhoon Naiyan. How can we speak of a path to peace, to inner peace in the midst of such trauma and desperation? I humbly acknowledge my responses may be small in comparison to the scope of such destruction and despair. And still, the question of where is peace, and how to restore peace in such deep and horrendous events sits in my heart.

There are considerations and questions that I have heard teachers and people make about what it means to become spiritually awake and peaceful in our hearts. For example, many spiritual traditions, teachers and key spiritual principles speak of ‘do not fear’, ‘do not worry’ or some similar precept, including the precepts in Reiki Ryoho.

How can we ask these people not to fear? Not to worry? Given what they are experiencing and needing to face for a long time, fear and worry may be a post-traumatic effect for years to come.

Second, how do we perceive the Filipinos now? Yesterday, a colleague was sharing about a film called Good Evening, Mr. Wallenburg about a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish lives during WWII. My colleague was struck by a Jewish woman survivor of WWII in the film who stated: ‘if we are victims, we are not fully human.’ Powerful words indeed.

We often hear we are cannot be alive, living and experiencing love if we see ourselves as victims. In such massive events as a typhoon, do we have the right to ask them not to feel like victims? It makes me realize again that I cannot name the experience for another in ways that takes away their power to name their own reality and self-identity.

In all these incredibly powerful stories of our collective humanity what stands out for me is that it is the power of community who in its compassionate and kind responsiveness helps those in despair ‘not to fear’. It is not up to these people ‘not to fear’. It is up to the communities who surround them globally to act and be responsive to their needs on all levels so they don’t need to live continuously in trauma and fear.

It’s up to us to BE the powerful community they need. In our responsiveness, we hold them in our hands, our hearts, and in our first aid, so they can re-gain their dignity, their livelihood, their health, their way of engaging in the world. When they can trust completely the rest of the global family to show up for them in all these ways, they don’t need to live in fear.

I wonder if it isn’t the forsakenness, the abandonment, the alienation by the rest of the global family that has turned the ‘sense of self’ of children of violence and communities of catastrophes into victims. When the community forgets and neglects its power and responsibility to heal and respond, people forget they are more than victims.

In a small way, I also experienced the power of community in this past month. Unexpected demands were put on my plate, including finding a new office location in a month. I will be starting this week from a new space (69 Arthur St. S, Elmira) and there is a real sense of a new beginning, a prosperous path forward. How I came to this inner peace and new beginning, however, is because of the community who gathered around me to help me create and sustain my life and service.

I had the great pleasure and privilege of friends, family and colleagues help me to move and set up my new office (a special thank you to Lucy, Karen, Jodi and her family – I am thrilled with the results!). I had colleagues willing to take on more in our committee because I couldn’t attend or take on further demands in this past month. I had family to visit and support us following my mother’s surgery. I had clients (bless my clients – I have such amazing clients!!) who shared their concerns, positive wishes, their compassion and graciousness even as I offered sessions at different locations during this transition.

I could have seen this unexpected termination letter from my landlord as something that happened against me or to me and left me victim. I decided, however, something better will come along and then as the stresses accumulated, I simply asked for help. My community stepped forward in big ways and thus I thrived. My inner peace is supported and sustained, not only by my personal connection with the Divine, but equally because of the community who lovingly surrounds me.

I invite you to reflect on who is your community? How do you show up to be community to others? What improvements in your inner peace do you experience when you are connected with community? Take a moment right now to honour and thank them.


The Peace of Remembrance Day

I was raised as a pacifist. It was the only way of thinking I knew. As a child, I never knew anyone who had fought in a war or even anyone enlisted in the Canadian Forces. I don’t recall any conversations about the CF at home or even with my friends at school. I do remember every Remembrance Day at school and the ceremonies of ‘remembering the fallen’.

Since my teachings focused on living peacefully with the land, I didn’t truly grasp what I was to remember. However, even as a small child, I remember feeling compassion for the suffering of soldiers in war. Somehow I knew that war brought tremendous suffering, devastation, despair and trauma, even though I never had seen it up close.

As an adult, I understand there is a bigger and more complex story of how we as humanity must ascend to the consciousness of peace. This path requires the full and deeply dedicated discipline of growing in forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, loving-kindness, truth-telling and extraordinary skills in listening and creative conversations … and more.

Every systemic paradigm must be explored for its clarity and validity in offering a wholistic response to our current challenges and assumptions. Such endeavours are often challenging as rarely do we see the depth of our own assumptions, cultural norms and  worldviews which we have come to accept as ‘right and good’.

In my own path of deepening my inner peace, I realized I needed to study and understand new ways of living with conflict, not as something to be avoided or suppressed, but as an opportunity to seek understanding, restore creativity and practise the fundamentals of dignity and respect for all beings.

Over the years, I have come to recognize the ‘wars’ inside of me that needed my love and forgiveness. I needed to lay down the internal weapons of judgement, criticism, shaming, blaming and more. It requires an ongoing dedication to inner healing as I compassionately accept the complexity of what makes us/me human.

Around the world this week, we will be remembering ‘the fallen’, those whose journey for service, peace and freedom led them to fight for the causes deemed necessary by our governments. We the people elect our governments to make these choices on our behalf. We together make up the consciousness of who we are and how we want to live.

This past weekend I have been watching tributes and listening to songs and hymns for ‘the fallen’. I have watched videos as soldiers return in coffins down the ‘highway of heroes’ [Hwy 401].

I have also watched tributes for world peace, songs by a collective of artists around the world, ‘playing for change’. I have meditated and asked for my own growing spiritual development and inner peace. I have prayed for the ‘fallen’ and those whose path of service includes the military, asking for harmony, balance and peace for all beings (and in my world, that includes trees, land, water, animals, etc). We cannot get to peace in one day, and not even in one generation.

That being said, regardless of the news media, statistics show that the world is becoming more peaceful – when measuring the number of active wars.

Let us remember the cost of war, both blatant and those sophisticated nuances of its devastation that can last for generations. Then let’s turn our attention to what truly brings inner peace, peace and tolerance in our families, our communities, and our nation and among nations. Let’s celebrate the strides and gains we have made in our collective wisdom to implement the Declaration of Human Rights, for example. Let’s celebrate the new spiritual communities in all their diversity we see emerging. Let’s celebrate where tolerance is rooted and legislated into our lives, so we might make further gains as a global family.

This week I invite you to notice that somewhere in the ‘common intention and desire’ of people and soldiers is the service and commitment to free expression, to peaceful communities and to improving the well-being of citizens around the world. For this week, focus on the ‘good’ in the world and seek out the acts of humanitarian service that might otherwise be hidden. Make this Remembrance Day a time to remember that we all desire peace, happiness and well-being, that our souls are taking us through the lessons to awaken to the consciousness of peace.

Honour the past, celebrate the present and create a future where you can experience yourself living in harmony and peace.


Letting Go and Letting Come

I was just reading a e-newsletter which featured a section on the element of Metal (Autumn). This time of year frequently is associated with letting go (of waste, impurities, toxins, the old and stale in our lives). How many of you recall having to houseclean in the fall, ridding the home of dust and leftover debris in preparation for the long winter months ahead? Perhaps some of you still do…

On the personal level, this is a time of year that many of us also pursue detoxification – clearing our selves of toxins, pollutants, regrets, outcomes, as well as emotional, psychological and spiritual garbage. Like the trees who shed their brilliant leaves each fall, we too need to shed what no longer serves us. If you consider what can happen to a tree that doesn’t shed its leaves, it makes it much more vulnerable to the ravages of winter (heavy snow, ice and wind can break even the strongest of trees).

Letting go is not necessarily an easy thing to do. It can be frightening. What will happen if I don’t continue to hang on to my current identity or role? If I let go of what no longer serves me (but is still what is comfortable and normal for me), where will I end up? What fills the void of that which I let go? Will that be better than my here and now?

What stood out for me in this article was the concept of letting go and letting come. Ridding ourselves of what no longer serves a useful purpose in our lives and replacing it with something else. This implies an openness and acceptance to what lies ahead, even if we don’t have a clear picture of what that is. But first we need to clear the debris away for a pure new space to emerge.

I am reminded of a wonderful book called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia. Freddie learns about his purpose as a leaf on a tree. As the seasons change, he is faced with the fear and uncertainty of having to let go and leave the tree. What will happen to him? How will he feel? What happens after? In the end, Freddie realizes that by letting go he is also letting come whatever lies ahead. This is what faith is – being willing to let go even without a clear assurance of what is to come.

[Note: The book is beautifully illustrated and a worthwhile purchase. You can also find the story at]

As the seasons demonstrate, there is often a winter of sorts between the autumn of letting go and the  emergence of spring. Perhaps we need to live for a time without what we let go of (and heal) before we can truly move forward with strength and vigour into the new.

I invite all of you to evaluate your homes/lives/bodies and clean out what no longer serves a useful purpose for you. There are many resources available to help you in this process so you don’t have to do it by yourself. Hire a cleaning service for a day or two. Purchase a good detox system for your body. And seek help from professionals like Shirley Lynn who can help you to let go and to let come. Call or email today and get started!

Submitted by Lucy Martin

Self Care: Opening your Heart to Peace

Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks or months where everything seems to come at once – when life seems to be offering you the full menu of challenges? And you wonder what it all means?

This past month, significant decisions and life matters were put on my plate, offerings from the Universe that allowed me to practise everything I invite people to consider and practise for themselves. I have been reminded of the hidden gifts of these times in life when we are suddenly invited into a very interesting dance.

What does self care look like when the demands of my work and key relationships all need my attention … now? How do my own needs get attended to when life offers a scenario in which relationships that matter deeply require immediate attention simultaneously to professional development and transitions which cannot be left unattended?

As the month unfolded, I quickly became aware of needing to focus my energy on what mattered most right now and to let the rest be attended to later or be delegated. I knew quickly what I most deeply value and where I would choose to focus my life force energy when there is only so much of me to go around.

Core spiritual practices of grounding, centring and meditation, contemplative listening to Divine Guidance all started, centred and ended my days. The Universe is very economical in its creative flow and manifestations, so I aligned myself to that concentrated power of higher consciousness and love and remained disciplined in this alignment.

I remained focused on the calm seas that surely will return, when the transitions and cares for renewed health will return in some form or another. I affirmed to myself that I am loved and cared for and this love and care will flow to me in many forms, from unexpected as well as expected people and places. So for today, I open my heart and ground in the Infinite Peace that all is well.

I acknowledged to myself, first and foremost, that this is a big month. I was clear with myself that I cannot pretend I can do this alone. I invoked the grace of Reiki to assist me to calm, ground and focus on the responsibilities of the day. I asked for support and help from trusted friends, family, colleagues and mentors. I delegated several tasks to others. Asking for help is a gracious act of self care and I’m so glad I can love myself enough to ask for help in the ways I need to have peace in my heart.

Simple steps and yet this self care required my self-honesty, asking for help, receiving love and support, allowing myself to be vulnerable, trusting that I had the resilience and resources to accomplish all that was necessary, sticking to what was most important and not wasting life force energy on what was not of vital importance to my heart in the moment and most of all my daily spiritual practices. With that, I could continue to find my clarity, my peace and to sustain my joy regardless of what life presented me.

When we walk consciously in our lives, self care is not a luxury; rather, it is a necessity that supports the illumination of our heart’s real passion and well-being on all levels.

What is your picture of self care? What are your daily practices of self care? How does your spiritual practice encourage self care as an ethic towards compassion and peace for all? I invite you to share with me your experiences, your thinking and your goals of self care.


Lumping Creates Bumping: Skipping the Baby Steps Slows our Path to Peace

In our training right now, Carlie and I are working on building our skills at a distance. Recently, I was attempting to teach her a new skill – where she sits and waits while I walk away 20 feet and then give her a ‘down’ signal.

I expected this to be fairly easy since she already knows all the elements. She knows front which means come and sit square in front of me as well as finish which means go around me to my right and finish with a sit on my left side. I called front and started the process, called finish and then asked for a stay. So far so good. But when I proceeded to walk away 20 feet to call the down, Carlie broke the stay (she got up and followed me).

So my trainer came over and asked me what I want to accomplish with Carlie. I told her and she immediately asked me to break it down into smaller chunks and then build it all together. As my trainer keeps reminding me, once you add a new skill to an old skill, it now becomes a whole new behaviour for the dog to learn. Teaching combined skills all at once is called ‘lumping’ and lumping often ends up confusing the dog and you get even less of the behaviours the dog already knows well.

Too much lumping leads to bumping because in this case, Carlie no longer was clear about what I was asking of her and a disconnect was occurring in our training. If she isn’t clear, then how can she successfully learn what I want her to do and to participate with me?

Before you can run, you first need to walk. Before you can walk well and automatically, you need to first learn to stand up and learn balance. There is an order to this process and lumping balance together with walking without first learning to stand up will thwart the overall success of what is desired – the freedom to walk!

Our trainer modelled for me a process and immediately Carlie engaged with her. I then followed where Carlie quickly grasped my intention and we succeeded in our goals quite quickly … so much so that we had time left to play tunnel and Treiball and caveletti (series of small jumps). Whoopee!

In considering this situation with Carlie, as well as observing and listening to people in relationship (as well as my own patterns at times), I realize how much lumping we do in relationships. We lump together a request of 2-3 needs without breaking them down and clearly communicating one specific need at a time. Or perhaps we aren’t clear what our objective is in our relationship and so our boundaries and communication lack clarity, bringing confusion to the core relationship dynamic. Other times, people within the relationship decide to change some core dynamics and they invoke about 3-4 new behaviours that need to be ‘learned or acquired’ all at once.

For example, when people realize they need boundaries to protect their own energy levels and core needs, they frequently think of all the places they need to stop saying ‘no’ to someone. Or they need to stop letting someone else walk over them or call them names. What I invite them to do is pick one area where they are willing to say ‘no’ to someone else’s comments, requests or negative behaviour. Start with one thing and work at that boundary.

Putting too many new boundaries in place without context or rapport with someone else is ‘lumping’. This approach leads to ‘bumping’ – I often hear people report that they give up when too many steps are requested of them or they experience significant push-backs from those they care about.

Baby steps may not look as classy as giant leaps, but they work. Baby steps may not be instant, but they lead to effectiveness and proficiency. Baby steps may not feel inspiring at times, but they lead to solid success. Enough baby steps create momentum and momentum can create quantum movement or shifts. Speed and inner peace come in the success of our baby steps and in the trust that we are respected by those who care about us.

As I learned with Carlie in our training, one needs to get clear about the outcome that you really want in your relationships. Create a clear vision of how you wish to show up in your more meaningful relationships. Then take some time to sit with yourself and see what skills and attitudes you need to develop or deepen to have healthy boundaries and avenues of connection to sustain these meaningful relationships.

If you need support or assistance to enrich or clarify your own strategies for meaningful relationships and healthy boundaries, please consider my upcoming workshop Cultivating a Joyful Life: Balancing Self Care within Relationships (November 1st & 2nd, 9:00am–5:00pm) or individual coaching sessions with me. Call or email me today.


An Attitude of Gratitude

These 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” – which I experienced this summer. 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 have very 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 favor, a gift and I was at a loss how to graciously receive it especially with a language barrier. But I did have a desire to return their gift which I did. 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. Three years ago 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.

I 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 response in 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.

Submitted  by Mary Martin