Category: Inspirations

Self Kindness Response: Self Care in the Midst of a Fire

“The house is on fire.”

Greta Thurnberg, a 16 year old Swedish student said these words to the World Economic Forum just one day after the Notre Dame Cathedral’s roof was on fire in Paris. She was pleading them to address the runaway climate crisis plaguing our globe and is calling for “permanent and unprecedented changes to take place in all aspects of our society.”

Not only is our climate crisis calling to us, so is there a crisis of our social fabric — a moral and cultural crisis, and even a spiritual crisis as we see hate and religious intolerance on the rise. This is often when clients seek my help … when their house is on fire. They are in crisis — emotionally, in their values, even spiritually.

Frequently, what they initially want is to make the flames less hot, to make the symptoms go away. But they fear leaving ‘what makes the fire’. It is their place of ‘residence’, what they are familiar with deep in their minds. Some feel trapped inside, powerless to get up and run out of their burning house. Others want to stop the fire, but as soon as the fire is stopped they return to playing with the sparks in the same habitual and mindless ways. The permanent and unprecedented changes seem to be too daunting and hard to make.

In late 2016, Phap Dung, a Buddhist monk of Plum Village, interviewed by Eliza Barclay, used a similar metaphor. His response to her question:

EB:  What is the best way to manage deep uncertainty and fear in a moment like this?

PD:  We see the mind like a house, so if your house is on fire, you need to take care of the fire, not to go look for the person that made the fire… .

When our house is on fire, when our hearts are in crisis, we clearly need to attend to making ourselves safe and, to take care of what is first needed. This is clearly the first task of self kindness. Taking necessary action to preserve life and give ourselves breath. Find our calm so we can take action to upright ourselves again, to get out from under the overwhelm.

As Phap Dung says:  Take care of those emotions first; it’s the priority. Because anything that comes from a place of fear and anxiety and anger will only make the fire worse. Come back and find a place of calm and peace to cool the flame of emotion down ….

Once the fire is out in your mind, what does self care, rooted in compassion and kindness look like then? Here begins the more challenging work of cleaning up the rubble of old hurts, resentments and unhelpful emotional habits that are the mindless sparks igniting the fires.

Gabor Mate, in his book When the Body Says No, highlights four personality traits that tend to increase stress levels in the body. Over time, he argues, this physiological stress leads to disease. The personality traits include:

  • people who don’t know how to say no,
  • people who are rigid and compulsive, perfectionistic, expecting themselves to be perfect in everything,
  • people who don’t know how to express their experience of anger in a healthy way,
  • people who compulsively and automatically take care of others and don’t think of their own needs; these people are physiologically stressed, whether they know it or not.

Mate argues that stress is the thing that leads to disease or leads to conditions for it and certain personalities are more prone to this stress. For these people, their boundaries will be invaded but they won’t know it. They’ll be extending themselves and they won’t know it; they will work when they should be resting.

Self care requires a self kindness that has the power to say ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘not yet’ where appropriate and necessary. And in the midst of a fire, we need to be well-versed in these small and powerful words, so we can use them swiftly and safely.

Similarly, with our planet ‘on fire’ – we need to practise self care with a self kindness that has the power, strength, resilience and wisdom to make “permanent and unprecedented changes” in every area of our life and relationships. Learning how and where and when and why to say ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘not yet’ is no longer a skill for sometime in the future. It is needed here and now.

Your boundaries, whether energetic, emotional or spiritual need to evolve and reflect what is needed to keep you healthy, whole and safe, even in this environment of ‘the house on fire’. Your boundaries need the strength and flexibility to navigate the complexities of human tasks at hand to put out the fire (whether in our minds or on the planet) and rebuild a sustainable human community on this planet.

Our personal boundaries are connected to this greater story of the Earth on fire. And the Earth’s story and the social fabric ills are massively impacting our personal story.

Phap Dung writes: “The future is built with the present moment and how we take care of it. If you are fearful, the future will be fearful. If you are uncooperative, the future will be divisive. This is very important. The future is not something that will come to us; the future is built by us, by how we speak and what we do in the present moment.”

So let us do self care with kindness and in an aura of social cooperation and harmony, for this too is boundary work. Let us remember to speak and act clearly with what we need to do, for this too is healthy boundary work. May our ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘not yet’ be clear enough to put out the fire in our minds and habits, for this too is self kindness and boundary work! Then let us be brave enough to also make unprecedented and permanent changes so all living beings can thrive and return to wholeness.

Wouldn’t that be the greatest kindness and boundary work, that we choose to live the values of what gives life, offers respect and sustainability to all organic life on this planet—personally and socially?

Blessed be.

Shirley Lynn

An Invitation to the Reiki Path

When we first start practising Reiki, many of us have amazing stories to share. The healing releases we first experience remain with us for a lifetime! After 20 years of Reiki practice with myself and others, I am still in awe of this incredible gift I received when I was attuned so many years ago. It is very simple. There is an initiation – an attunement we call it. There are 5 precepts. There is the practice of opening and receiving, like with receiving grace. And it centres around gratitude, kindness and letting go to the process of purification of habits, mindsets and attachments.

For me, the greatest challenge that remains after 20 years – Release control. Open and receive. Release your attachment to your intentions, your outcomes, your illness, your discord.

Release control. Release control.

In this simple journey, the colours, textures, dimensions, layers get richer and more profound with time. Yet, simply, without ego.

Please enjoy this beautiful reflection by my friend and colleague, Elyssa Matthew’s open letter to anyone wondering if Reiki practice is for them, even if they have been attuned for a long time:

An Open Letter

Dear new fellow Reiki practitioner (or maybe not so new, but just ready to begin again),

Welcome to a magical path, as magical as any new path may be – whether marriage, maternity, a craft, an art, a skill, or a course of study – only perhaps more so, as you will discover, should you pursue this path every day with an open mind, open heart, and open will, for it has the power to transform all other paths and bring you to another way of being beyond anything you may have ever hoped for, wished, or even imagined.

Feeling intrigued? Or excited? I hope so.

But as excited, curious, and ready as you might be, know that no path is without challenges, subtleties, or demands, and that, when it comes to Reiki, many before you have wandered away. It is almost hard not to. So here are a few thoughts you might like to ponder and a few words of encouragement.

Let’s start with the beginning.

Before Mikao Usui Sensei sat at the top of a mountain outside Kyoto, for three weeks, nearly one hundred years ago, he had decided that the purpose of life was enlightenment, and to this end, he had been practicing Zen meditation for a number of years. Sensei was seeking this radical transformation of consciousness which in Japanese culture has been known as satori. Nothing else was going to do anymore. It was do or die – “one life, one arrow”, a steadfast attempt to put all his energy and deep yearning into sitting, fasting, and meditating for as long as it would take for “lightning” to strike, since “enlightenment” the wise say, “is an accident, and practice makes one accident prone.”

The story, as recorded on his memorial stone in Tokyo’s Saihoji temple, tells us that Sensei got his wish
– that after twenty-one days, Grace whisked him away to a place within himself from where he could experience his identity with fundamental consciousness. Mental formations, like clouds in the sky were cleared away, and his sense of self was re-positioned within inner spaciousness, allowing fundamental radiance, like a sun, to shine through. All this happened as he felt a numinous presence engulfing him. He called it reiki (using a word which had always been in common usage).

Following his experience of self-realization or satori, Usui Sensei also discovered that something new had spontaneously become possible for him – the ability to radiate coherence and invite harmony and balance in the mind and the body, in himself and in others.

This was the beginning of what we now know as Usui Reiki Ryoho.

When Sensei began teaching Usui Reiki Ryoho, it was with these two goals in mind: health and well-being in everyday life on the one hand, and spiritual awakening on the other, the two possible end results being intertwined – as the light of our essential nature shines through and dispels suffering and obstructions, so healing of the body-mind can clear energetic pathways for natural intelligence to flow through and take us in the direction of realizing the source of healing and of all creation, and our identity with it, not as an idea, but as a deeply known certainty. And as this happens, we become more fully human – more open-minded and more big-hearted, more enlightened versions of ourselves, and also more effective healers. Sensei found that Reiki makes all this possible and so, Usui Reiki Ryoho was offered as a practice of nondual healing and awakening.

So if you are new to Reiki, or ready to start again, keep this in mind, and if you are not so new and may already have had an inkling of any of this, keep going. And in following this path, follow the founder’s example – commit fully and practice daily with deep sincerity, putting your heart, mind, and body into your practice. From your own end, that’s all you can do. The practice requires non-ambiguity, and steadfastness as well as trust and surrender. And know that these attitudes pay off. They did for Sensei.

It is up to you, then. But not only. Reiki itself, the core of your being, the natural rhythm and flow of your unfoldment will take care of the rest. Just do your personal practice (either your hands-on practice or your Reiki meditation practice which Sensei would introduce at level 2, if you have been taught that, or both – both would be best). Then see what happens.

Having said that, keep in mind that Reiki is not only an individual practice, but also a practice of togetherness. We are all in it together and we need each other in this practice. And not only when it comes to receiving an attunement (no attunement, no Reiki practice), but also subsequently, as we keep going on the path.

In Usui Sensei’s time, students would attend weekly gatherings since in order to grow, one needed to receive “reiju” (what has come to be called “attunement” in a more elaborate form) as often as possible. This practice is still in effect in the Gakkai, the original Reiki Society created by Sensei. Not that the one time Reiki initiation we are all familiar with is not enough for a new student to begin practicing, but that something happens every time in the space of resonance between a teacher and a student, between somebody who is further along the path and a new initiate, something which can lead to further unfoldment. For the same reason, the members of the Gakkai have also been practicing since Sensei’s time, “Reiki mawashi”, a group process which allows Reiki to flow from one person to another as they stand linked in a circle, everyone benefiting from the magnified effect. Something happens when two or more are gathered together in Reiki.

Reiki practice then, is not just about receiving an attunement, or collecting attunements. It is not just about an attunement having a transformational effect. That is a fact, but it is only the beginning. There is further to go in this practice, and again, this can only happen if after taking a class, one commits to personal practice daily and to group practice as often as possible with the aspiration to attain satori, or to become as good a healer as one can be, or both. And it is to personal practice and group practice, that we add the practice of treating others.

Personal practice and group practice reinforce each other. As we do the personal practice and grow, we may find ourselves in a better position to be of service to others as healers. As Japanese Reiki Master, Hyakuten Sensei, succinctly puts it, “Me, first. Then, you and me together.” On the other hand, as we practice with a group, we may find it easier and be more inspired to do the practice on our own, at home – we may develop the interest, confidence, or enthusiasm to keep going every day.

Lastly, consider this: whether we do the practice alone or with others, the numinous presence of Reiki is enough. Togetherness with Reiki is enough. Surrender is enough. This practice undertaken with the proper attitude of trust, sincerity, and non-ambiguity is enough. Nothing else is needed, for what is there that can be more real, more profound, or more healing than the beauty and power of fundamental consciousness, of the light that shines throughout Reality experienced as Reiki itself and our own essential self ? What is there that is greater than that?

Reiki practice needs no external support. It is full and complete, in and of itself. One’s wandering (or is it wondering) mind might want to make the practice more complicated or bolster it with all manner of “additives”, from objects to techniques, as prompted by one’s insecurity, confusion, resistance, attachment to outcome, expectations, idle curiosity, self-importance, or just simple restlessness and addiction to haste… (The list could go on.) The challenge in Reiki practice is to let go of all that. And this has been a challenge for many people who after taking a Reiki class or two, have rushed on to the next exciting modality, rather than committing to practice (either personal practice, or group practice, or healing practice, as they are all intertwined), or have been tempted to clutter the practice with techniques learned elsewhere, or with various kinds of objects, misguidedly believing that something else is needed aside from surrender and trust, that is aside from an open mind, open heart, and open will.

So, dear new fellow Reiki practitioner (or maybe not so new, but just ready to begin again), try practicing this way, and then let’s see what happens.

You may just find that the path begins to unfold and to transform you and your way of being beyond anything you may have ever hoped for, wished, or even imagined.

Wishing you big blessings,

Elyssa Matthews

If you want to learn more about Reiki, to walk a journey of mystery and grace, of groundedness and truth, of healing … simply … of health, happiness (inner peace) and freedom, please contact me.

Reiki Level Two starts this weekend. Don’t miss it.

Shirley Lynn

Keep What’s True in Front of You!

“Keep what’s true in front of you, Old Man said. You won’t get lost that way. I was asking about making my way through the bush. He was talking about making my way through life. Turns out, all these years later, it was the same conversation.”
Richard Wagamese, Embers, One Ojibway’s Meditations


Keep what’s true in front of me.

“What is true for me?”, I ask myself. This is what I know to be true:

Love is.

My dreams are filled with love.


So that’s what I’m supposed to keep in front of me— Love. And my dreams that are filled with love. Not the definition of love. Not the concepts. Not the science of it. But the experience of love in all my relationships. And the vision of life being better than it is for all my relations.

When I keep my experience of love and my vision, my dream where love makes life better, in front of me, I am not lost. I have a compass with my North Star clearly visible or felt for me. To keep love in front of me, then I also keep the truth of what I value in front of me. And then as Rumi says, I am in a position where I am ‘silently drawn by the stronger pull of what I really love … for it will not lead me astray.’

Love speaks the truth. Love offers freedom. Love creates harmony even in diversity. It does not invade my privacy, nor does it require me to be someone I am not. Ah, the truth of what I genuinely need and am passionate about can be in front of me. I don’t need to alter it, minimize what I need, lie about my needs, dull it, displace it, project it, or make them ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of others. Love seeks to be true and free and respecting.

Love in front of me. That means with my family and ancestors. That means forgiving them and being at peace with the past. Seeing love freely flowing from the stranger in front of me who smiles and says a kind word to me.

When I keep love in front of me with its foundation of truth and freedom, then I can keep my heart open to the flowing of love to me and from within me out, here and now. I can keep my heart open to my dreams, even when my dreams feel distant and unachievable.

Keep love in front of me. A mantra. And suddenly or slowly and gently, I’m recognizing:

  • love being shared in the heart-felt conversations with my personal coach.
  • love when my heart opens and connects with the beauty and power of Nature, the bald eagle who flies down the river behind me.
  • the sun which radiates through the trees and bounces off the backs of my dogs running through the grove of trees in sheer delight.
  • the mystery of love from a client or friend when I have failed to be at my best.

Keep what’s true in front of me. Higher Love is true.

Love calls me to participate in sharing and receiving. Moment to moment. Day to day. Its present to me. Calling me into freedom. To return home to my truth, my soul centre. The more I keep Love in front of me, the more I find myself, here and now. Grateful for what was. Grateful for what is. Even grateful for what will be.

Love is not dominance. Dominance is about power. Dominance and power becomes politics. Who gets what and how much. The relationship becomes about politics, not about truth and freedom. When relationships become about politics, about power, then what’s in front is the same thing as what is behind. Conflict arises.

I will fail, falter and fumble. I will forget to keep what’s true in front of me. But I know now. When I keep what’s true in front of me, higher love, then my dreams will be my guide, my core values will be the lens for my choices, my truth will light my darkness. I will know where I am, no longer lost.

When I am with higher love, expressed in the ordinary and deliciously simple moments of life, then life is blessed and I am home. Peace.


Shirley Lynn

The Reiki Way: Simplify Your Spiritual Practice

    • A friend of mine shared with me a teaching he received from his mentor – his mentor said to him, I cannot teach you about being awakened or enlightened, but I can teach you about being honest. This deeply resonated with me. Being honest is my path to freedom, happiness, inner peace and health. Live honestly. Work honestly. Speak honestly. Relate honestly. I don’t always get it perfect, but I do know that truth and honesty are grounding for me. If I’m feeling ungrounded, the first thing I check is if I’m being emotionally honest with myself.
    • Recently, I read a remarkable teaching by the late Richard Wagamese from his book, EMBERS: One Ojibway’s Meditation, which best describes my own experience of Reiki practice. It reads: “What defines me is not what I do, but what I receive. Out of a deep spiritual yearning, I have received sobriety, recovery, and a working relationship with the god of my understanding—so that I have received grace. Out of that same yearning, I have received community, belonging, home and the opportunity to be productive—so that I have received prosperity. Spiritual yearning has brought me friends, fellowship, brotherhood, family and a life partner who expands me—so that I have received love. That same yearning has brought me calm, peace, prayer, compassion and forgiveness—so that I have received joy and freedom. What defines me is not what I do but what I receive, and I have received in great measure.” (p.155)
    • Above all, be kind. These are words that came to a member in our Reiki community during our two-year in-depth study of the Reiki precepts. Whether one understands it as loving-kindness, compassion, love, or ‘unconditional positive regard of all sentient beings’, choosing kindness in any situation requires a great level of discipline, courage and humility. Respecting our common humanity and treating one another with the golden rule with regularity, takes the strength of 10,000 suns (an ancient way of speaking about infinity).

These teachings are simple spiritual practices: honesty, kindness and being open to receive from the god/dess of your understanding/the Universe. Living these practices as a daily habit is incredibly challenging and brave. To live a spiritual life is to surrender and say ‘yes’ to receiving from the god/dess of your understanding, from the Essence of All Life, from the Universe/Cosmos.

Surrender, open and receive.

That’s as simple as it gets. That’s all I do in my Reiki meditation. You might think that is easy enough to do. What it requires, however, is releasing all and every need for control of outcome. And that is a most difficult thing to do each and every day. As I practise ‘surrender, open and receive,’ I become more honest. The layers of defenses, hurts, karma and fears all begin to fall away. I encounter my true nature, my authentic being, my diamond soul … naked, revealed.

We yearn to know and be our true nature, yet we fight against the honesty it requires. We yearn for compassion and kindness, toward ourselves, in our families, communities and in our world. Yet, in a flash of a moment, our emotional triggers and memories become activated and we have fed our anger, our resentments and our judgements, shaming and guilting ourselves or projecting this shame wherever it lands.

The simplicity of my Reiki practice as a spiritual practice often takes my breath away. There is nothing I need to do. A colleague shared with me a teaching from our Reiki Master/Teacher, Huyakuten Inamoto: “Not thinking is good. Not doing is best.” Open and receive. Become your honest self. Be compassionate.
The incredible irony is that I cannot open and receive except in love and gratitude. To open and receive is to be gifted in grace. The only appropriate response to this gift is gratitude, right here, right now. And in this experience of grace and gratitude, a gift unimaginable on some days, I find myself doing what I must do. Living purposefully. Living with focus and clarity of heart, doing what is needed. Humble discipline.

And with this gift, this receiving of Reiki, we find ourselves doing what we never imagined. We start following our inner guidance, living in the spirit of the moment, listening to the awakened heart and learning to love it all. And somehow, in the journey of all of this, I receive my health, my happiness and my prosperity.

I wish this for you as well. If you are yearning for a deepening of your spiritual life, a betterment of your health, join me for the next Reiki Level One class starting on January 25th, 2019.

Shirley Lynn

Winter Solstice: An Extraordinary Path to Peace

You think this is just another year in your life? This year has been given to you – it’s the gift you have been living all year. It has given you a unique opportunity to cultivate peace in your relationships and in your world. What did you do with this gift? … I have been asking myself these questions as I’ve been pondering the closing of 2018 and opening to the seeds of 2019.

This past fall, I have supported others in their grief and losses and have also experienced my own. Facing the death of loved ones is a certainty, a reality of life from which we cannot be spared. In fact, every fall and winter season, we are given the opportunity to prepare ourselves for this experience of death and letting go. The leaves fall off the trees. Plants go dormant or die. Wildlife patterns shift with migrations. Temperatures drop and people move indoors, a form of preparing for the darkening and wintry days.

Nature teaches us to let go. To surrender. To let ourselves die in some manner. We often convince ourselves we are outside of Nature – that we don’t need to follow its laws, its flow, the changes it ceaselessly undergoes. But we do.

Each year, we enter this season of dying and death whether we understand this principle and activity or not. We try to skip over it and go to the birth, to Christmas and its pageantry, to the holidays, to spring without ever opening to and surrendering to the death that calls us. However, the order is clear. Birth and life and death cannot be separated from each other.

Now what is the grace in this? Where is the grace in death? How can death be sacred, holy even, when it requires that we let go of those we love and dreams we cherish? I’ve lived with this question since I’ve been 10 when my father was killed, over 40 years ago.

The grace I have experienced has gifted me with the deep inner knowing that as Father Thomas Keating says, ‘in the death is the resurrection’. And Leonard Cohen sang ‘there is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in’. In the grace of the Universe, death is the birth to new life. It is the path of transformation. The water, the fire, the air/breath, all return to the Source to be utilized in all of creation’s pure spirit.

As I have mentioned above, this fall has presented numerous deaths around me. I am also have dying conversations with others. I have also realized there is a dying happening within me. There are moments when fear comes knocking. Yet, when I deeply enter into my heart and open to the love between the heart-spirit, I realize that love transcends all death, and I am pulled into a sublime joy and peace words cannot convey.

When fear knocks, I remind myself to go deep within where the light is. As Richard Rohr writes: “What’s dying is not the deepest self, but our dependence and over-identification with the mental ego and its projects, and our cultural conditioning and over-identification with it, including our roles in life.”

The gift of grace in this dying is that already I can glimpse the joy of becoming fully alive. Some might say that I cannot prove that life exists beyond death. And they are right. What I do know from my own heart’s experience is the joy of resurrection/new life through the purity of love, spirit to spirit, a profound mystery to experience through the doorway of death. Whether it be my father’s spirit, my animal companions, my friends, my ancestors, Usui Sensei, their love and kindness, their compassion and guiding presence calms my spirit, restores hope and purpose along my journey, and grounds me in the life I have here and now, fully and completely. And so, love and hope become a healing balm to grief.

As Father Keating says, one aspect of creation is that, once you have been born into this world, you never die because, as the Hindu religions teach, each of us possesses deep within us an inalienable spark of divine love. [The Song of Songs says that love is stronger than death (8:6).] That spark is the same energy that created the Big Bang.

Shortly, Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year will be upon us. This day is a ceremony of letting go and surrendering to the death of what is now done and a time of going within to connect with the divine light deep within. It is a ceremony of the death of a mental ego projection and conditioning if we surrender to it. And it is a ceremony of planting a new seed, having trust and confidence that new life, a fresh and vital life will be resurrected as the days of light grow longer.

I believe we desire and yearn for ceremony, for the seasonal rituals, observances, and sacraments that bless us with vitality, with meaning for our humanity, with deep mystical moments that unite us with the cosmic presence and beingness of love and peace beyond our capacity to fully grasp it all. It is simply something we open to, surrender to and say ‘yes’ to. I am saying ‘yes’ to this death (yes, it has had its challenges!) and I will plant a new seed of peace for 2019.

I have been shown again this fall, several times, that the freedom and joy in death is not to be feared but to be celebrated, inspired by the love and compassion so profound that it powerfully can hold us in our grief, in the journey of acceptance of what is now forever transformed to new life.

This year of my life I have lived in community with all of you. You each connect me to my truest self, the place where I can drink from my holy peace. And so I invite you to this year’s Peace Circle: Planting a New Seed of Peace on December 19th. More details are available on my website.

For those of you who wish to join me in gratitude, in hope, in confidence that we can let die what is done in us, and then let the seed of new peace be born in us, flow out into our world, do so in your own good way.

May this Winter Solstice offer you something magical, fresh and new in the death of what is already done. Nature is showing us the way. We are not lost if we follow Her deep into our own inner light of peace. May the deep inner light in you be experienced, intimately known, as though you are discovering it for the first and wondrous time. May it be cause for joy and celebration!

I close with this poem as a blessing!

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the centre
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.
Feel relief flood into every
cell. Nothing to do. Nothing
to be but what you are already.
Nothing to receive but what
flows effortlessly from the
mystery into form.
Nothing to run from or run
toward. Just this breath,
Awareness knowing itself as
embodiment. Just this breath,
awareness waking up to truth.
~ Danna Faulds

Forgive the Past. Remember it Wisely

We all have been wounded and hurt—the heart broken or seared by the pain of betrayal, abuse or neglect.

I too can remember a deep betrayal, a lie told me late at night, far away from home. Where does one go at that time? Where is one’s ground when the ground has been collapsed underneath by deception? What to do with the sense of vulnerability washing over one’s being? And what are the choices in the moment that align with the path of peace, of peace-building, of love and kindness, first towards oneself and then towards “you and me together”?

I remember that fateful night clearly and with great detail. It’s not that I try to remember the details. They are simply etched in my memory. What has changed, however, is the anger, the resentment of being placed in such a vulnerable situation, feeling powerless to stop the reality that was unfolding. Even as that night turned to morning, a primary question I asked myself was: What does it mean to be a peaceful person and acknowledge my anger and deep hurt? What do I choose to do with my anger and hurt? I already knew I did not want the choice and behaviour of another to change the true nature of who I was— a kind and peace-building person.

My anger was real and deep. My hurt was raw and vulnerable. But to heal was to forgive. To forgive was to be in ‘love’. To remain in love was my path to peace. I knew the benefits of forgiveness. I had read them before. I knew what steps to take. I knew that forgiving the person who broke my heart in their lying would free me to create a larger narrative about who I was and the way I lived love and joy. I new forgiveness would be my gift and I knew, in the words of David Whyte, “Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.”

To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.
David Whyte

This experience profoundly altered my sense of my future at the time. And in working through the pain and hurt, I realized that my grief, my trauma, my anger and resentment all needed to be worked through. I learned the skill of forgiving in a new way. I learned how to hope again. And I learned how to heal the trauma in my life.

Some believe that forgiving others is a process. Perhaps. Grieving was a ‘process’ and it’s different than forgiving. Healing from trauma was a process too and it’s different than grieving and forgiving. But when I learned the skill of forgiving, the skill of releasing the resentment of the past, forgiveness was a singular event. When we learn how to transfer our wisdom out from the anger (which reveals how deeply we care about ourselves and what we value) into our vision for a better future, we can learn that forgiving the present drama need not take long.

I learned in my forgiving, that I can mature my sense of self and my capacity to imagine a preferred future. The narrative of who I am becomes richer and larger and more compassionate. Truly forgiving another is a profound act of compassion – both to oneself and the offender.

I am convinced that forgiving another is a skill, a skill we must practise often. I am convinced that forgiving another strengthens our capacity for creativity and imagination. And I am equally convinced that we can forgive and remember. In the words of David Whyte: “Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.”

I remember clearly what happened those years ago. I remember clearly how I felt. But I no longer feel the hurt and the anger of that betrayal. And there is no way that the past can be different than what it was. No amount of resenting what happened will change it. No amount of demanding the past to not have happened the way it did will change the past. My best recourse was to forgive in the greatest act of compassion for myself and the one who hurt me. It is my freedom to create a just and good future for myself. And that, incredibly, is my greatest blessing.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
Paul Boese

If you seek to forgive, to be free to live a new and enriched future, I invite you to register for my upcoming new workshop The ART and PRACTICE of FORGIVING: Discover the Freedom to Live (November 17, 2018). Or if you think you cannot forgive, come and learn ‘how’ to forgive. Develop the skill to forgive and change your life and your relationships.

Shirley Lynn

Are you listening to what your body is telling you?

Listen Up!

Last fall Jennifer Bodenham, a team development coach, and I sat down to create a 3-part podcast series about Boundaries. Throughout these podcasts, we explored why we need boundaries, what they are and we included an exercise that will help you can get started towards living a life that is more kind and joyful.

The wonder and value of self-kindness, health and maintaining connection with others, even when it starts to get difficult are mutually possible. The podcast series begins with In Conversation with Jen about Boundaries for Healthy & Joyful Living, listen to it first to catch the flow of our conversation. I hope you enjoy this series and feel free to share them with others.

Listening to our Bodies: A Path to Relating Peacefully

In a conversation with a colleague we found ourselves sharing what we had learned about listening more closely to the cues our bodies were telling us. We each had a story of a physical injury that occurred because we didn’t listen to our bodies when it essentially said ‘enough.’

It compelled me to reflect back to a workshop I had attended with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No, where he identified key characteristics of the stress-prone personality including:

  1. Difficulty saying No;
  2. Automatic and compulsive regard for the needs of others without considering one’s own;
  3. Rigid and compulsive identification with duty, role, and responsibility rather than with the true self;
  4. Habitual suppression or repression of healthy anger and assertion.

As I read this list, a couple of things stand out for me. This list is about lies we tell ourselves and about compulsive behaviours to please others or to live within the status quo we assume others expect of us. –And we wondered why we got sick or injured when we ignored our bodies’ cues?

What struck me even more as I began to examine my own life is how we find it acceptable to lie with casual regularity. We lie to others when we say yes to them, but we really want to say no. We lie to ourselves saying we aren’t worthy enough and so we push onward when our bodies need to relax. We lie about our real needs and who we really are, compulsively rushing to the needs (and perhaps drama) of others (or our own). We lie about feeling angry at the boundaries that have been trespassed and then stay silent and perhaps punishing our partner or child or friend because of all the feelings we have lied about inside.

Lies create stress and conflict, both internal and external. Conflict disrupts our peace and our health. When we lie to ourselves and disregard the messages our bodies send us, we inflict a hidden emotional stress on ourselves and our bodies.

Just as good relationships with others keep us healthy and can heal us, good relationships with our bodies keep us healthy and can heal us. Good relationships require healthy boundaries that support our sense of true self and protect us against what drains our essential vitality. Healthy boundaries are like a good immune system—protects against what takes life and sustains our essence so we can participate in our purpose and what is truly life-giving.

We are hard-wired to need closeness, to need connection and belonging with others. We are equally hard-wired to need to express ourselves, to know who we are and then to be seen and respected. In other words, we are hard-wired to be authentic. When these two needs are in conflict or when they are incongruent over time, we are at war with ourselves. This war leads to illness. As Dr. Maté writes, “illness is not random”.

If you are like me, listening to your body is a daily task I have to remind myself to do. What is it my body needs to eat? What kind of exercise does my body need today? What decision do I need to make in my work that is congruent with my life purpose so I can stay healthy? What anger must I be honest about and what must I speak up about in my intimate relationships to increase my own sense of inner peace?

If you struggle with finding the joy of the body you have and so you ignore it even more. If you find yourself suppressing your own needs to look after other’s needs making you depressed, injured or always living in chaos, consider my upcoming two-day workshop on June 1-2, 2018 – The Self Kindness Response: Healthy Boundaries for Healthy & Joyful Living!

The following comment by a previous workshop participant really speaks to the substance and richness of this workshop. Please consider it for yourself too!

Just taking the boundaries workshop was an act of kindness towards myself. I learned to tune into my body to get a sense of what is a healthy boundary for me. Instead of going into my head, I feel how my body feels about something. There’s no arguing with the body! Even if there is another way to assess a situation and respond, it doesn’t matter because my body is telling me MY truth, MY healthy boundary in that situation, and that’s all that counts. I love the sense of certainty this has given me because I know my body is trustworthy. I have gained a stronger sense of myself and a feeling of being on solid ground. It was also helpful to work with a partner afterwards to keep working on what we’d learned at the workshop. Such a beautiful workshop space, too! T.H.

Peace & Namaste,
Shirley Lynn

Peace and the Crazy Drama of Relationships

Recently, a colleague shared with me how she had found herself in a situation where ‘a lot of drama’ was playing out in a business relationship. Her question was about how she can gracefully and peacefully ‘exit’ this situation. I remember what mediation instructors used to say in training … that even really good, kind and the best of people can and do get caught up in conflict or in a drama they don’t know how to get out of. They don’t know how it ‘got to this point’ and they feel embarrassed to seek help of any kind.

I frequently have people share how a particular relationship triggers them in ways that they just don’t know what is going on and soon they find themselves reacting to the other person’s comments or engage in behaviour, they themselves find ‘icky’ and intolerable.

To assume ‘that will never be me’ may be a grave mistake on our part. Getting caught in the drama of relationship dynamics happens to the best of us. Without realizing it, we have sent that email with words we can’t take back or we have said something that has landed in between ourselves and another that we simply can’t pretend weren’t said. Or we find ourselves playing out the drama because we don’t know what else to do. We simply may not have the boundaries or tools to step out of the drama and stop it. I also believe we use the word ‘drama’ because we don’t really know what is going on.

In my view, I understand this kind of ‘drama’ occurs when participants within the relationship dynamic do not take responsibility for how they feel or what they think. Participants end up ‘throwing around’ their shame, guilt and anger or lashing out in hurt or blame causing a wave of disrespect, disregard or failure to truly listen. People feel ‘hit’ by this anger and in this emotional chaos of energy, words are slung about. All communication speeds up and quickens in reactions, our shame being fueled. A true recipe for disaster and deep hurt – even with those we love the most.

So what can we do when drama shows up?
  1. Breathe. And breathe again. Breathe into your kidneys (practise doing this when you are not stressed, so it can be a reflex-like response in a necessary moment). This will begin to calm your heart rate and regulate your stress flight instinct, so you can think more resourcefully.
  2. SLOW DOWN THE CONVERSATION! As I mentioned, ‘drama’ is fast and mindless. So slow down the conversation. Put in breaks such as a 24-delay in responding to emails or simply say in a conversation, ‘I will need 24 hours to think about what you just said and get back to you.’ Or, ‘let me go outside and put my feet on the ground and get centred, so I can show up here feeling good about how I am doing that.’
  3. Answer this question: What is the boundary of respect that is needed here? When we become reactive and step into a drama dynamic, often our sense of shame (sense of inadequacy, failure or not being good enough or worthy) become fueled. When shame is present, respect is absent. Be present to your feelings, including shame. Perhaps tap on specific points if you know how to do that (ie. EFT, TFT, Midline Therapy, or some other way that you bring down the emotional arousal level). Shame feels ‘icky’ to face and we fear being ‘exposed’ when shame takes over. It’s often the best time to ask for help from a trusted other, because it’s precisely the time when our subconscious will try to convince and our ‘shame voice’ threaten us that if we ask for help we will be exposed and even less acceptable than before.
  4. Evaluate your own trigger. What does this dynamic awaken in you which feeds your shadow relationship pattern? Even if you assess you have contributed only 5% to the drama, you have contributed that much and so that is the part that remains your responsibility. Often our own core wound, such as we feel our incompetence or lack of worth has been exposed somehow. Learn to detach from this trigger and know its patterns so you can catch it early when it becomes activated. Have someone help you develop more responsive relationship patterns, especially in conflict.
  5. Identify what you really need and value. Clarify what you really want to have happen and what the relationship really means to you. Perhaps you need to exit the relationship because it is draining your energy. Perhaps you each need to clarify what values and core needs are being disrespected so it becomes clear what you need or want to have happen instead of the ‘drama’. Don’t shortchange this step. Take the time to deeply listen to what you need and then the other person. When people come back to the same issue again and again, even ‘after it’s been discussed’, it signifies that a core need or value is still not validated, and people are still not feeling listened to. David Ausberger says that deep listening is really an experience of true love. Establish boundaries that reflect your core values and true needs so that your relationships have improved patterns of connection than ‘drama’.

These are only a few ways to address ‘relationship drama’ when it shows up. I encourage you to write down what relationships are ‘drama-driven’ for you and see if you can start to identify where the lack of respect is playing out, on both sides!

Strategies to help you find new peaceful ways to stop this drama pattern in your life:

I look forward to hearing from you. Namaste,
Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: The Self Kindness Response

Recently I had a conversation with someone who felt she needed ‘boundaries’ in her relationships but struggled with creating boundaries because what she believed she really wanted was ‘connection’. She feared that boundaries would destroy the connection she was seeking. Added to this was the belief that connection and kindness to others are 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 and kind to others and who are especially 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 somewhere deep within.

So, let’s get curious whether boundaries actually do exclude a sense of connection by exploring four different core operating beliefs that are commonly played out in our unconscious:

1) “I’m Not OK, You’re OK “

In this core belief, we enter 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 whole bunch 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.

2) 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.’ Cultures and peoples have been destroyed in the blind assumption that “our way is better than your way.” Culturally, reflect upon the disastrous results of the way First Nations peoples and tribes have been mistreated, abused and fundamentally disregarded. Connection, community and the life-giving spiritual knowing of our country and our Earth have been destroyed 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 to ourselves personally and to others when we come with an attitude of I know how to ‘fix’ you.

3) 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 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.’

4) 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 the other, our connections are real, open, compassionate and can be trusted.

As we simplify the equations to truly see the essence of what matters in the heart of connection, we really discover that boundaries are truly a way to sustain healthy and vital connection in “I’m okay. You are okay.” For women who have been socialized and imprinted upon to care for others first (”you’re okay. I’m not okay”, for example), 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).

A first major step in healing of our hearts and psyche is by recognizing and developing awareness and giving ourselves full and complete permission to have boundaries that sustain kindness and connection with ourselves and others. 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 and eager to learn the HOW of creating your personal, unique boundaries that fuel your body-mind-spirit connection, happiness and joy, don’t miss my upcoming two-day workshop on June 1–2, 2018. The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy and Joyful Living is exactly what you are looking for. 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 practise.

It’s time for a shift in our 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. Join me in creating a cultural shift, a shift of the awakened and peaceful heart. Join me on June 1&2, 2018 for The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy and Joyful Living.

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

Stepping on the Path to Peace: Intentions that Inspire in 2018

It was quite cold for the past couple of weeks, with enough snow to use my snowshoes. I love this weather as does Carlie. She has certain ‘snow games’ she loves to play which include digging for her green ball and jumping to catch the snow I kick. Lucy has aptly named this game ‘kick snow’. Carlie’s life purpose is about living our joy. It’s not a goal she has – it’s an innate attunement to a way of being in her world. It’s part of her expressed consciousness and intentionality!

As a new year begins and our hopes are ignited for a better 2018, Carlie and Rayna (Carlie’s dog sister), as well as my professional training and spiritual practice, call me to live the lessons I have learned, and they teach me. Although 2017 has just ended, our lives are continuing and will be an extension of the past year!

This ritual of starting a ‘new year’ is a celebrative invitation

to come back to our soul’s focus, to our purpose and dreams,
to our vision of what we want our lives to mean and to be about,
to what we hope and aspire to experience in this year,
to bring forward the best of who we are and what we love to do.

It is also an opportunity to release what is now finished. An opportunity to lay down the burdens that keep us from ‘lightly’ walking our life’s path. Not everything from 2017 and before is relevant to this present time. Let it go with blessing and gratitude.

The ‘spirit of joy’ of this New Year can be a blessing of hope, of aspirations and of new intentions for changing toward our preferred future and who we hope to be. To take full advantage of this ‘celebrative spirit’ which currently inspires us, we need to co-create with and absorb this ‘spirit of joy’ into our New Year’s hopes and wishes for a finer year.

As I watch how Carlie and Rayna embrace everyday moments, and I apply the best of what I have learned, I have chosen to share a few ways to accelerate your path to joy or your heart’s intentions for this year —

1. Clarify your vision of what you REALLY, REALLY desire in your heart … for how you would love and cherish to live your life. Communicate it to those who can help you. Be grateful for what you already have done or accomplished. Bring these timeless blessings with you.

2. In heart meditation, contemplation or centering prayer, listen with open and softened mind to your inner wisdom for the ‘intentions’ that will serve to influence and shape your actions and choices toward your vision. Choose only those intentions that have the power to truly influence your actions and choices when the challenges to revert to old habits are in full gear. Your intention/s must absolutely matter to you.

• They need to be Life-Giving and Life-Affirming
• They need to be Genuinely Personal to Your Heart
• They need to Provide Power, Love and Strength to You in your Present Reality – Enough to Transform Your Attitude, Belief, Habits, Emotional, Motivation, etc
• You Can, Will and Do Emotionally Commit to Living your Intention Because the Outcomes and the Path to the Outcomes are Precious Blessings.

3. Identify your current resources to get started in living your intention. Resources often include your skills abilities and talents, your contacts/network/support, your financial resources, your inner inspiration or aspirations. Carlie has learned to keep track of her toys and what she treasures. For me, when I want to learn something new or accomplish something, I first clarify what I need and then look around at those in my life and see who has what would be useful to me, or who has the contact that I need.

4. Identify where you need help to gather and put in place the resources you need and ASK FOR HELP. Both Carlie and Rayna are confident in asking for what they need. They trust their needs are important and will be listened to respectfully and appropriately. Carlie will give a single bark to let me know a toy is someplace where she needs help to get it. In this past year, I have brought new people on my ‘best life’ team, released others and maintained those who remain dear and wise and ‘useful’ to me.

5. Daily Ask your Inner Guidance three core questions as you connect to your life vision:

What would I love to do today to serve the greater well-being?
What do I need today to love and be loved?
What is love calling me to become or do or be aware of in my world today?

6. Take inspired and informed action. Carlie has learned skills and behaviour that support her pursuit in living joyfully and exuberantly. Likewise, when I ask for guidance and listen to my intuition, remaining attuned to the power and light of my intention, the action presents itself. It is up to me to follow through on the action, and often the action is a behaviour I have already learned, but need to apply in a new situation.

What I have learned over the years is that for me, truly inspiring intentions toward my vision of a more peaceful world, where all beings are healthy, happy, prosperous and at peace (thus justice and kindness are core values of our common humanity and determine our relationships with all of life) are the catalyzers for my change. Whether it’s through a spiritual word which focuses and empowers me, or a soul expressed intention which expands and informs my actions, these simple and yet powerful words carry me gently, cleanly and synchronistically beyond my familiarities toward the reality of my vision well lived.

This is a Goddess way of living for me. I have a vision that grows, changes and evolves as my soul awakens, evolves and grows. I have core intentions that attune me to my True Self. My goals arise out of these intentions and vision from deep within me. My intention for 2018 inspires me and continues to support my vision to love and be loved, to be peace and act for peace. My actions are beginning to naturally flow from these heart inspired intentions to live with greater kindness and generosity. And as Carlie reminds me, when I follow my inspired dream and intentions, I will know my joy, Goddess joy.

What I have laid down over the years are the ego goals and/or intentions of status, of colonial definitions of belonging, of excess use of resources and wealth for the elite rather than for the whole of the planet – goals and intentions that deny the presence of the Goddess as Life-Giver here on our Mother Earth. As Indigenous teacher and scholar, Maya Chacaby, stated recently, “we have all been colonized”. She challenges us to lead by doing differently than the status quo, by not following the ‘normal’ which is depleting us all and making us all sick.

So, when you listen for your intentions, listen deep, listen in truth and love for what will awaken your soul to the fullness of love and life and light, even if it upends the status quo. Sometimes, as Carlie knows with her arthritis, living your joy can also mean you will need to attend to your pain. However, her motto is GO FOR IT! Joy lessens pain.

My 2018 hope for each of you and all life that you touch:

Happy New Year to all young and old and those in between. To those who stand tall and to those who crawl on the ground. To those who fly and to those who swim. To those who sing and to those who howl. To those who bloom and bear fruit and to those who mushroom and grow in groves. To those who trickle and wind, and to those who ebb and flow. To those who shine and radiate and to those who cause darkness through cycles, I wish you a year of joyous happiness, healing hearts and bodies, and the essence of abundance that is sufficient, generous and sustainable for all. Blessed be.

Shirley Lynn