Category: Summer 2013

Peace and the Opportunity of Conflict

Last week I was walking Carlie and our dear friend Roxie in an open field, under the cathedral bright, blue sky. The temperature was perfect and the sun beautifully warm. They would run and sniff separately and then jointly, often returning to me for pets, treats and loving affirmations of our beautiful friendship. We paused under the shade of a tree and let the moment of our love for each other sink in. I looked down and saw a 4-leaf clover and thought, ‘wow, this is the first one I’ve found in my whole life’.

I was so deeply grateful for the moment and for the deeply satisfying feeling we were sharing, me and the two dogs. I reflected on how Roxie had jumped into the car to greet Carlie, wriggling her body in joyful cheer about our anticipated walk together. We got up and starting walking to the next favourite place on this walk, our little watering hole, a good place to dip the feet in when it’s hot. To an outside observer, this looks like a wonderful moment, but of course they don’t know the whole story.

Not every dog likes puppies, and Roxie is one of those dogs. Puppies are unpredictable and they don’t know the rules, making them unsafe and a nuisance. Roxie and Carlie learned to fear each other and on numerous occasions fought with each other – in large part because of misinterpreted communication and a lack of trust with each other. Having them in the same space (ie during family events) required vigilant human management to avoid conflict.

Our family wants our dogs to be part of our gatherings and yet here was this major conflict – between the dogs. And as often can be the case, the conflict has the potential to spread, creating conflicts between the families of the different dogs (please feel free to place children, co-workers, neighbours as substitutes here).

One thing I know is that dogs need space to heal conflict – and lots of it. Walking together is a good way, a common moving forward. So I made a commitment to walk Carlie and Roxie together every week. The beginning was not easy. I did not let them off-leash at the same time. I did not let them play together as they hadn’t learned to trust the parameters of each other’s play. The walks required a constant vigilance on my part to watch and be aware of even the slightest signs of stress and arousal. We went to open fields and bushes, places of good energy where enough space was available to both in their walking and exploring. I didn’t let them stare at each other, barely even glance at each other. Our single task was to walk together.

On each drive to Roxie’s house, I would create a mental picture of walking harmoniously. I sent Reiki healing light to the conflict and our relationship with each other. I prayed for the seemingly unimaginable to manifest – a friendship with each other.

Wind, rain, snow, heat and everything in between, I went. Every Sunday morning for over a year I walked these dogs, two dogs I love. Sometimes I had company join me in walking them, but most often I went alone. I knew they both wanted something different, but had no idea how to get there on their own. They needed guidance, solid leadership and a profound commitment from me. I also asked the same from them – out loud every week. I would repeat my intention to both of them as we began walking and asked if they were aligned with it for a greater purpose of family harmony.

These walks were work. They required my full presence and my full commitment. As the months passed, the tension loosened. The walks became more relaxed. We still walk together every week and we still repeat our intention together. I still send Reiki to the situation, constantly asking Reiki to also help me be a better leader as we heal the past and create new bonds for the future.

So on this lovely day last week, I smiled and I smiled deeply. I was deeply grateful for what I was witnessing and was a part of. I was sharing in the gentle behaviours from two dogs who have created a bond of friendship with each other.

Experiencing peace takes mindful and intentional work because we have to face the conflicts that destroy our relationships and our sense of trust. Returning to peace requires enormous vision and a constant commitment to the vision. If I would have only gone on the walks when I felt like it or allowed myself excuses to stay home on those dreary and more challenging days, I would have missed out on what we now have together. And I never would have found that 4-leaf clover because I wouldn’t have been there with them to see it.

As you move forward this fall, what vision of peace do you want to return to in your life? Get specific in just one area or in one relationship in your life. What conflict is in the way? What do you need to acknowledge about this conflict? Who will help you on this path to healing and restored harmony?

Please join me in celebration of International Peace Day this Saturday (September 21st) and receive a Reiki peace blessing for yourself and your community. Let’s set our intent and take action together. Namaste.

The Path to Peace … Riddled with Conflict

As summer winds down and the fall equinox ascends, we are met with a privileged opportunity – to celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21st. If you have never read the Declaration of Human Rights, a United Nations document that serves as the basis for this Global celebration promoting peace, health and prosperity in our world, I encourage you to read it.

Article One makes this bold yet essential declaration: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of [community]. (my edit to the word brotherhood).

In my Peace-Building Conversations course, I ask people to read and reflect on this document in the context of the course.  Just as the students who read it, I remember reading it for the first time and thinking, “It’s all here. The formula for peace is right here and it’s in our global consensus for how we are to live together on this planet.” The Commission got it right and Eleanor Roosevelt was a powerful driving force to make this incredible document accepted into the history of our global governance. A definite cause for celebration!

A few years ago, I took a mediation course with the Canadian National Defence in Trenton, ON.  After the course, I shared some of my peace-building and Reiki healing work with some of the instructors. An army captain, who was one of the instructors, said to me, “it seems peace is always there. We maybe just need to return to it. Maybe we don’t have to build it.” For me it was a profound comment and truth. At the same time, our lives and relationships with ourselves and others are filled with such tenets and mindsets of conflict that returning to peace becomes a transformative and often  challenging path.

What strikes me about the power of peace is that it is the energy, the vibration, the true essence of all healing. Healing cannot occur if peace is not present. For me, the path of Reiki Ryoho is a path of peace, a profound path of inner self healing. It is both simple and profound. What makes the Reiki practice magical is that there are moments where such deep peace is experienced and the inner conflict of a relationship or personal habit simply dissolves into a great harmony.

What makes it deeply challenging at times is that this path to peace is really a path to awakening to our own inner truths – to the many faceted tendencies of the personality, to the pain of our own contradictory feelings and ideas, to the undeniable evidence of our own inner demons, or to the inner conflicts between our primal intuitions and our intellect or reason. Discovering our inner truth offers us the potential of freedom and power to live our dreams and be profound agents of change in this world.

Conflict will return on this path to peace because it has a necessary place in the journey of the soul. Our lives are filled with paths that present many choices. As soon as we come to or even create the crossroad of choices, our soul needs to make a decision. And these decisions are rarely permanent. The path is too dynamic for that and our contradictory feelings, ideas and dreams keep re-emerging. But there is hope…

Join me in this conversation about Peace. It is a lifelong conversation which has no end and no one right way. To start, pick a path that helps to promote peace within. Consider what you can do today to take a step towards inner peace. What are the internal conflicts you need to acknowledge aloud to yourself?

One possible path that may be right for you is to learn Reiki Ryoho as a way to inner peace and healing, Join me at my next Reiki Level One training on September 27th, 28th and Oct. 5th, and begin a new journey.

You are also invited to join me and other Reiki practitioners in celebrating International Peace Day on Saturday, September 21st. Drop in for a fall food recipe contest and free Reiki peace blessings. Family, friends and colleagues are all invited.

I encourage you to find your own path to peace. Be courageous. Learn to love yourself and find the light, the peace within.

The Search for Love

I have been told many times and in many ways that one of the keys to happiness is learning to truly love oneself. Fully embracing self love is one of those foundation pieces that allows authentic love to flow, flowing to me and from me in this circle of life. It is this deep commitment to love that lies at the heart of peace for me.

While I know this to be true I have often struggled with how to get to and stay in this place of true self love. I know how to have moments of self care and moments where I become aware that I need to be more kind and forgiving to myself – but total acceptance of who I am and all that is present in my life has been challenging and a work in progress for me.

During last spring’s Peace Circle Series – Opening to Grace: Connection, Acceptance and Wealth of Love – something happened for me that opened me up to a new experience of self love. It was like my spiritual compass was rebooted and I was able to tap into a new power of self acceptance that I had not experienced before. That power came from my experience of deepening and reconnecting my relationship with the Divine Feminine.

As I journeyed through our Circle and experienced the shared stories, wisdom and ceremony I found myself opening in a new way to connect with the Divine. From a young age I always believed the Divine was part of me. While that belief has never left me, as I journeyed through  life I found myself shifting the bearings on my compass to accommodate the stories and beliefs that I was told and were modelled for me. As a child, I was trying to make things fit and trying to fit in with those I loved.

During our Circle, I became aware that while my adult self accepted the fullness of the Divine as masculine and feminine, my child self had never had an experience of the Feminine Face of God. She was buried deep within me but not freely accessible.

In my life all ‘aha’ moments have come from the roots of truth for me. With the truth of this experience in Circle, I transformed my connection to the Divine within. I smile as I know that she is with me now and with her comes a new way and power to truly love myself.

submitted by Karen McCarthy

Shirley Lynn Martin and Karen McCarthy are again facilitating a 4-Part Series called Opening to Grace: Connection, Acceptance and Wealth of Love starting Tuesday, September 10th. To see what it is about, visit Opening to Grace: Connection, Acceptance and Wealth of Love.

Path to Self Love: The Magic of Circle

One of the most frequent desires I hear expressed is to feel more peaceful, to be more at peace within themselves. The key question they have is ‘how do I get there?’

Before we can ever ‘get to our destination’ we need to know where we are in the moment and what this destination of peace within looks like – or how will we ever know where we are going? When I ask people what being at peace with themselves looks like, they often give me a very small picture. It’s not that this picture isn’t good or valid, it’s often just not clear or big enough to be a motivation for them to make the sustained necessary changes and healing to experience this peace within.

For me, peace within feels like a calm lake on a full moon, sitting around a campfire, telling great stories and just being in oneness with my environment and the people around me, in oneness with the flow and rhythm of life. What inner peace looks like for me is the yearnings of my heart being realized in whatever divine order and graceful balance supports the greater good. This is very tough for me as I struggle with patience and trust at times to know that the tides will turn. They have to … it’s the divine order and balance of things.

A pathway to inner peace requires the task of learning to love oneself. Indeed, love is the bridge to peace. This love cannot be superficial or conditional in the ways we have often learned. For me, this kind of self love is really about nurturing a compassionate love towards all of who I am. I have ego, shadow, heart. I am spirit, soul, light and body (because I’m totally incarnated as human).

The Dalai Lama (2000) said: For someone to develop genuine compassion towards others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare…. Caring for others requires caring for oneself.

This past spring, my colleague Karen and I facilitated a Peace Circle series focusing on the Grace that awakens true self love. We found our journey taking us deep within to the place where the wound of self compassion originated. I say it this way because when we are unable to express self compassion as children, we learn the habits of suffering and turn our self compassion into anger or shame. We feel violated somewhere deep in our soul by the neglects we experienced as a child or we feel the unworthiness as a result of the love that couldn’t be shared or was withheld. And in the culture we may have been shaped by, even the Divine Presence and Power that we were indoctrinated with was exclusive and horrendously narrow, at least for me anyway.

In the gift of this Circle, of stories shared and with ceremony to bless us, I found a new spaciousness within. A spaciousness where love and compassion could finally be anchored in the power of the Divine Feminine balanced with the power of the Divine Masculine. It is the creative magic and mystery of sharing story and the true self blessed within the guidelines and confidences of Circle that something new and amazing can be birthed and transformed. Out of this experience, an increasing spacious solidness of myself nurtured by a true state of self compassion has come to life. For that, I am grateful to the ancient wisdom and practice of Peace Circle and also to the beautiful participants who joined us for the Opening to Grace that personally touched each of us.

As you step into September and focus on the last quarter of this year, what goals of self development and life purpose do you need to give energy, time and focus to more intentionally? What commitment to loving yourself, to all of who you are, are you ready to invest in this fall with real action and supported outcomes?

To take the next step in your path to inner peace, begin to love yourself. Join any one of my fall offerings or working with me individually and invest in your journey to inner peace. I delight in this dream of peace in our world … a dream that starts with each of us!

The True Beauty of Circles

In anticipation of their upcoming Peace Circle series, Shirley Lynn and Karen in their blogs the last couple of weeks have talked about what ‘Circle’ is and how it works.

As I have thought about this and considered how Circle has impacted my life, I realized there are many places where we gather in groups – whether in circles or other formations. I too recalled numerous  occasions of being gathered around a campfire, or around a kitchen table or at a family reunion – times and places where stories, ideas, joys and sorrows were shared. At times, this sharing was met laughter and joviality, and other times it was met with argument, judgement, or misunderstanding.

When I reflect on those experiences of Circle, I can recall times of feeling let down and unheard by those I made myself vulnerable to. I also recall times of tremendous support and caring, even from those I didn’t anticipate or expect it.

So what makes Peace Circles different from my other experiences of ‘circles’?

    • Everyone is presumed to be equal – no one is above or below anyone else. The facilitators are there merely to guide the process but have no greater role than anyone else.
    • A talking piece is passed around the circle. Whoever has it talks, and everyone else listens (without interruption of any kind). This empowers the speaker to honestly share their truth, experiences and feelings
    • Feeling safe is paramount – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Creating an environment of trust means each person can share their truth and heart.
    • Confidentiality is expected and agreed upon. What is said in the Circle stays in the Circle.
    • Participants bear witness to and support each other’s growth, healing and transformation, both as individuals and as a whole.

I think it is a real (and too rare) gift to be part of a group of truly caring and supportive individuals. A place where you can bring to light old wounds, beliefs and stories – to have them listened to and honoured as a part of who you are – and then to release them. A place where you can explore and embrace ideas and beliefs and have others who genuinely encourage and support you. A place where you can share in the joy of someone else’s healing and transformation. A place where Peace is abundant and gracious.

I invite you to reflect on how you have experienced ‘circle’. And then consider how those events might have been different within the context of a Peace Circle.

If you want to experience a Peace Circle, Shirley Lynn Martin and Karen McCarthy are facilitating a 4-Part Series called Opening to Grace: Connection, Acceptance and Wealth of Love starting Tuesday, September 10th. There are still a few spaces available and we’d love to see you there. For more details, visit Opening to Grace: Connection, Acceptance and Wealth of Love.

Submitted by Lucy Martin


The Magic of Circles

I have always loved circles. As a kid my school notebooks were full of them as I doodled to pass the time. Actually, I still find myself drawing them when my mind wants a break and drifts from the task at hand. My fascination with circles has been with me for as long as I can remember.

When I first started going on canoeing adventures, I couldn’t wait until that time of the evening when dusk fell upon us and we started to build our fire. Staring into those flames as we gathered around the fire was magic for me. I had this feeling of being connected to everyone and everything. My body could breathe deeper and I felt myself soften and open in new and wonderful ways. We had some of our most meaningful conversations sitting in circle around those fires. We settled more deeply into ourselves and opened more fully to each other as we shared the truth of our experiences.

Over a year ago I was introduced to the concept of “Peace Circles”. A friend had taken Peace Circle training and shared a book about it with me. As she shared her experience with me, I had this incredibly strong sense that this is what I was meant to do. The Peace Circle concepts and process resonated so deeply with me that it took about a nanosecond to decide to take peace circle training. It is one of those experiences where my knowing was screaming “yes” and the practical pragmatic part of me was left sorting out how to make it happen.

My experience with Peace Circles has been truly transformative for me. It has given me a way to be in community and in a safe and honouring way, share and connect authentically at a much deeper level. With this deeper level of connection and authenticity I have found great opportunities for growth and healing in my life.

When we gather in circle we tap into this ancient and sacred knowing that exists in all of us. The knowing that as we sit around the fire our voices can be equally shared and valued and that when we come grounded in our true selves with shared intention and values we tap into our sacred and collective wisdom and what happens is so much more than we could have imagined alone.

I know this may sound revolutionary but I really do believe Peace Circles could change the world and I invite you to experience the magic. This September, Shirley Lynn and I are facilitating a 4-Part Peace Circle series. I am so excited about this series and the connection and shared wisdom that we will experience. Check it out.

Submitted by Karen McCarthy

Our Dignity is Equal

In my late teens, our congregational youth pastor organized a series of floor hockey games with Native inmates at a nearby minimum security prison. The experience of getting our names police-checked, our selves searched each time we went to the prison, and the steel gates clanging locked behind each of us as we walked single file through the hallway was both exciting and scary for me. I loved playing sports and playing floor hockey on a Sunday morning with a group of Native men was about the best church I could have imagined. The second part of the morning involved our youth group being invited to participate in their Native ceremony – in circle – in which I was also excited to participate. Circle had always made sense to me, even though I had little exposure to its power at the time.

After the fun, the laughter, the competition and the thrill of jostling about with hockey sticks and balls, we gathered into circle and prepared for the smudging. Although I didn’t understand the language of prayers to Great Spirit, I felt the presence of Mystery and Divine Love as I always do in the invocation of that which is Sacred – prison or no prison!

An Elder led the prayers, the smudging, drummed and smoked the sacred pipe in which we all got to participate. I remember feeling how wonderful this ceremony felt. I am now very grateful for what our youth pastor was encouraging and had worked so hard to make happen. He wanted us to experience the culture and the spirituality of those who walked upon this land connected to Creator in very different ways than we were practising. I appreciated that there was no attempt on our part to change or bring any of our spiritual ceremony to them. As Ghandi states: “Like the bee gathering honey from different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only the good in religions.” We were there to be blessed by their ceremony and rituals for invoking the presence and power of Great Spirit.

I look back at this experience with great awe at how it has shaped my understanding of who we are as human beings. Never in that circle was I fearful of any of these inmates.  Never in that circle did I think that I was superior to them, nor them to me. I didn’t see anyone as more or less than anyone else. Our dignity was equal. We were all equi-distant to the centre. Each of us – no exceptions!

Our stories were also equal in value and no story was excluded. The circle I realized, had the power to contain all our stories, regardless of who told it. I was deeply moved and relieved that in this Circle, all our names for the Divine were equal and with their own dignity. No name, no tradition, no doctrine was more or less than another. I am so grateful for these memories and the wisdom shared with me in these circles in the prison.

This month we will explore the guidelines and facets to Circle within our ongoing conversation of deepening our happiness in life. What if we lived our life in the ways of Circle? What peace would it build into our relationships? What new skills of listening and communicating would change the way we show up to relationships and even to conflict?

If you would like an incredible experience of Circle and Ceremony where we explore and welcome the Divine Feminine within each of us, please join our Peace Circle series beginning September 10th, during which you will experience the power of dignity and Great Spirit to restore wholeness, inclusion and connection in your life. Ask me for more information!

Perfect Health and JOY

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows but we can choose to live in joy.  – Joseph Campbell

You have inoperable cancer. We can treat you with chemo and radiation. At best, we consider this palliative. These words seem to ricochet off the ceiling of the airplane and penetrate deeper and deeper. I attempt to read the Dalai Lama’s newest release. His usual comforting words seem to fall off the edge of the page. I hear the Boeing 767 engine rev. In five hours we will land in California. I remind myself to breathe deeply. Didn’t I read somewhere it is impossible to feel fear when one breathes deeply? Flying is a phobia of mine. Oh heck, let’s be honest. Dying is a phobia of mine.

I will be treated like I am going to live, I say to myself and anyone else who will listen. Thankfully, the Californian doctors are up for the task. Two months into treatment, I am more sick than I can imagine and looking for the ever elusive rainbow at the end of the tunnel. I have taken a great leap of faith and landed in the arms of trust with Reiki as my constant companion. Why is it so dark? I am grateful for the most basic things: sleep, dry toast and the strength to make it to the bathroom.

The soul who is my mate is worried. I can see it in his eyes. My hair is falling out in handfuls. Blessed with a resiliphoto (1)ent nature, I remind myself I live a charmed life. My daughters and my brothers are here for a short visit. The warmth of their love comforts me. I say goodnight and snuggle into bed. I hear the bedroom door open and close quietly. The three souls the Great Universe gifted me climb into bed with me and we giggle like school girls. ReJOYcing in each other’s presence, enJOYing the undeniable bond we share, we bask in the JOY of pure love. Here is your rainbow, Reiki whispers.

After four months of chemo and radiation treatment, I am going home tomorrow, cancer free. I glance at the keychain attached to my purse and smile. Purchased at a little shop in LAX for five dollars, “Peace love and California sun” has been my mantra to carry with me to every treatment. It has carried me through the darkest of days and the agony of treatment. Before cancer (B.C.), would I have felt the depth of JOY I now feel? I wonder. As every cancer patient will attest to, after diagnosis (A.D), life takes on new meaning. Time IS relevant.

Sitting at a beachside café, watching the California sun settle in behind Catalina Island, it is not difficult to let go of the day’s worries and be JOYfully lifted by Mother Nature’s colourful celebration of the day’s end. Her gift to us, it would seem, for a day well lived. Humbled by thePeace Love & California Sun splendour of her artistry, I bow my head and whisper to Reiki “Thank you for this day and this healing”.

~ Nancy Bennett

Thanks Nancy, for sharing this glimpse of your journey through treatment for cancer. Your story and life inspire and awe those of us who are blessed to know you, and surely those too who don’t.  ~ Lucy

The Simple Joys of Life

This past week was a hot one – really just summer weather but a rarity this year, at least for such an expanse of days. I actually don’t mind this weather but I am grateful for an air-conditioned home.

Rayna & Tucker at BloomingdaleTo beat the heat, Rayna and I had our long morning walks at Snyder Flats in Bloomingdale every day (usually we only go a few times a week). For those of you unfamiliar to this dog mecca, it is a remediated gravel pit back the dirt road by Shirley Lynn’s office. Trails meander in and around several ponds with lots of space for everyone to roam alone or in small groups.

The ponds and shaded trails were beckoning us to enjoy them this week. And we were not alone – other humans and their dogs were also out and about in the heat, finding pleasure in a variety of things: long dips in the water; resting on a bench in the shade; games of chase in the long grass and into the water with other like-minded souls; shaking off a coat full of water in the midst of ‘dry’ [and maybe less-liberated] humans, re-saturating in the water to do it again; listening to the bustle of other creatures in the trees and grasses; discovering interesting scents in all kinds of nooks and crannies along the way; meeting up with dog or human friends, or making new ones. These are some of the simple joys I shared with Rayna this past week.

I feel privileged to be able to experience these joys with Rayna. Moving through the world with another species can be enlightening. It makes me more aware of the many joyful moments and experiences available to me as well – I just have to be present and willing to participate.

How often do we wish we had more time or opportunity for joy-filled experiences? We might mark our ‘planned’ happy times on our calendars [vacations, dates, sports events, parties, etc.] and eagerly anticipate the moment they arrive. Other times we are surprised by some unexpected happiness that occurs in our lives and consider ourselves lucky to have such good fortune. But really, joy is an ever-present reality – whether we are conscious of it or not. But by being conscious of it we can be grateful. And by being grateful, we can encourage and expect more happiness.

What Rayna showed me again last week is that life is full of joy and happiness – it is all-encompassing. If we live in expectation of joy and goodness, it will happen. Sure, there are times when something happens that knocks our confidence or our view of the world. They are challenging and can make us feel sad, or angry, or fearful or … . But these can be seen as just moments within a larger experience of joy and gratitude.

As a young dog (6 months), some might say Rayna is living in innocence and naivety. But perhaps this is really wisdom, and having an understanding of the true intended spirit of life. I encourage us all to look more to our children, our animals, our environment, to witness a better way of being – where the simple joys of life are enough.

As Shirley Lynn posted last week “go and <b>be with the joy</b> that is around” us all. Revel in it and be grateful for it.

posted by Lucy Martin

Joy: A Way of the Heart

Last week my social media manager asked me to define joy since it has been my focus for July. In Chinese medicine, summer is the month of the heart and the natural emotion most connected with the heart in this system is joy. It is part of the rhythm of Nature. Her question made me realize I didn’t have a ready answer. After some thought and contemplation, I came up this understanding:

Joy, for me, is the experience where my mind is free and my heart feels its own passion …like a song for the soul that evokes enormous exhilaration and power to move mountains for a greater delight in all!

I realized that I cannot speak of joy outside of my own experience. It is not just a concept out there, a definition that is outside of my lived experience or wisdom gained.

As the weekend unfolded, a bigger picture of joy stirred my heart. I facilitated a Reiki Retreat last weekend and the magic of the cosmic energy that flowed through the group brought much peace and joy to me and the participants. Some finally found a touchstone of what is true for them in that place of joy and peace. What could not be overlooked, however, is this joy that people felt was born out of our individual awareness and experience of our own suffering; difficult and often painful life experiences where darkness overwhelmed.

Recently, a client sent me a documentary about horses and new ways that real master horse trainers are working with these magnificent beings. In the documentary, a photographer captured incredible shots of the pain horses experience with many of the techniques and equipment used today, explaining the real physiology of horses’ backs, noses and mouths. The contrast between these pain photos and the footage of these master horse trainers ‘inviting’ and ‘unifying in awareness’ with the horse was both agonizing and joyous. To watch the horse and master trainer be together in ways the mind is free and quiet – and where their passion exhilarated both into dance and free expression – stirred the passion in my own heart, my own song of the soul.

It was being present to the whole experience, being completely aware of the whole of the group’s experience at the Retreat that made real the joy for me.  It made me curious as to whether we can actually experience joy without the awareness that pain is simultaneously being experienced by its side. Perhaps that’s where joy’s power lies. It anchors alongside suffering or pain or difficulty so we can find our way out of this darkness. It serves as the balance and the freedom from this darkness.

However, too often we can’t see joy for the darkness. When I look back at some of the most difficult times of pain and inner suffering or darkness that I experienced in my awakening, healing and forgiving the past, I recognize what a gift my young niece and nephew were at the time. They brought such wondrous curiosity, natural joy and enthusiasm to life, to learning, to everything around them. I stepped away from my darkness of mind for a time and revelled in the joy of reading a children’s book with great pictures, playing Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods behind our house, or playing little games with our dog and cat friends. They were a saving grace to me …Universal Balance.

Today, I’m much less concerned with needing to escape pain or ‘suffering’ that I might have formulated in my own mind. What I am learning to do is go and be with the joy that is around me. Sometimes, it takes me longer to see it, but I can always find joy now.  And when I do find it, my mind becomes free and still for a moment and I can revel in the bliss of life. I really do want to dance and sing. Universal Balance happens and the pain shifts.

So I ask you: Where do you find joy? What is your experience of joy? Come and let’s be open to this journey this season, a journey of the heart.