Abuse, Power, Greed and Corruption; Not Faith, Definitely Not God

The Innocent Children

The children. All the children, little and big. Their deaths are not isolated events. They are endemic to a culture of abuse, power, greed and corruption. In a monolithic church that gained momentum through the ages using these patterns that have been enduring and defining characteristics of its culture. Abuse, greed, power and corruption was going on well before Residential Schools, during the era of Residential Schools and continues post Residential Schools.

The sudden explosion of sexual abuse charges against Catholic Priests, Bishops and more in the late 80s and the 90s did not bring down this monstrosity of an institution. Charges that emerged all around the world. Will finally looking for, finding and counting the bodies of potentially thousands of children across this country do it?

In My Lifetime – Yours Too

I am almost 60 years old. I was raised as a Catholic. I was the first alter girl in my small church. I was pretty proud of that at the time and also oblivious to the power structures. I taught Sunday School when I was in high school. My father was French Canadian Roman Catholic. My mother’s mother was Irish Catholic (via Newfoundland). My grandfather changed religions for my grandmother but he was not opposed to skipping mass for a good cause, like sleeping on the couch Christmas Eve to stay with the grandkids while the rest of the family went to midnight mass.

I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia. Sheltered from most of the abominations of the world. While I was growing up in all innocence, children my age – children – my age – were still being forcibly removed from their homes, their parents and families, their communities, their cultures, their support systems. They were imprisoned in facilities claiming to be schools, sanctioned by the Canadian government and run by Catholic institutions, whose sole purpose was to “kill the Indian”, even as that meant killing the child, the human being.

These professed ambassadors of God are among the most heinous, villainous people. They have no humanity. What person sees a newborn baby and throws it into an incinerator? What person professes to love God but abuses children, starves them, lets them die of starvation and other illnesses? What person sees evil in a child – many children – and somehow believes they are justified in their actions of capital punishment and worse? Except to hide their crimes.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

No Person is Less Than

What society turns a blind eye to what is right there to see and then blames the traumatized people – the people we traumatized – for the ills that befall them – the inability to parent, not knowing how to be in relationship, turning to addictions because they are hollowed out cores of who they are as a person and who they are as a people, disconnected from their roots, their language, their own humanity? What person with any humanity can find any justification in what happened, the crimes that were committed? What kind of person still tries to hide the truth, still tries to believe there was good happening in those buildings?

There was no good in those “schools”. There was no humanity. There was no Christianity. There were horrors, evils, punishments, fear, isolation. There was physical, sexual, emotional, psychological abuse. Many people sought to hide those stories, including the Canadian Government, silencing anyone, like Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, who dared to try to tell the truth. Many others just looked away, unwilling to believe this was possible, denying First Nations peoples their voices.

From its roots, Christianity has wrought harm in this world, running roughshod over other practices like paganism, taking over holidays to take root in cultures and banning practices they deemed un-Christian. Birthing the patriarchy, violating women and making women subject to men. Destructive patriarchal patterns that societies have not yet extricated ourselves from. Why were Catholic priests not allowed to marry? Because of greed. Back in the days of the European aristocracy, a son offered to the church also brought some portion of an inheritance that would go to the Church because the Priest was not married. The Church filled its coffers off the backs of the poor and built beautiful, elaborate cathedrals.

What Compassion and Humility is Needed Now?

What compassion and humility is needed now to not block the way of full exposure, the full truth? Our nation should be screaming for investigations, for arrests, for every conceivable record to be handed over. Some of the people who committed these atrocities are still alive. Apologies are needed, sure. But they are hollow words without commitment to systemic change and to what it takes to heal the harms done.

I don’t know that any of my ancestors were directly involved in these systems of oppression and harm. I long ago stopped being a Catholic – a FARC as a friend of mine said – Fallen Away Roman Catholic. But I would be remiss if I did not bear witness. If I did not clamour for justice. If I did not create the space for these stories to be shared. If I did not let myself be horrified while not making any excuses for myself, the heritage I spring from or the society I live in. There are no excuses. Stop making them. Do the right thing. We can no longer look away because it is inconvenient to look directly at the horrifying harm that we, our ancestors, and our institutions have done.

How the Catholic Church continues to be a seemingly untouchable monstrous global organization is beyond me. When the stories about the abuse of young boys by priests began to break and we learned that priests were shifted from one parish to another, moving the problem from one community to another where these same priests continued to perpetrate harm on innocent youth, to supposedly protect the reputation of the Church, it was not enough to bring down the institution. It happened by and in full view of decision makers and high-ranking authority figures within the Church hierarchy. And in happened in full view of the community with hushed whispers and the inability to confront power.

Don’t Look Away

The truth is there for all of us to see. My parents would be mortified, heartbroken and confused. And none of that would make up for the pain and destruction wrought by the Church since it was conceived all those centuries ago.

What can we do now? Add your voice for justice. Research who to contribute to. Learn about Truth and Reconciliation. Question every assumption and judgment you have ever carried about the First Nations people of our country. The fact they have and are surviving despite the extent of harm and destruction wrought upon them is nothing short of a miracle. That they were deemed less than human, by others claiming superiority is exactly the abuse, power, greed, and corruption that infuses the culture and systems of the Church, government and even our communities.

The Children’s Voices are Rising

They may have tried to take away the language of the children. The voice of the children may have gone silent for a while, but a chorus of voices is rising up now. They are creating the space for the voice of the living and the dead to finally be heard, acknowledged, seen by more and more people. We can no longer look away. The truth demands to be known.  

Wistful

I learned of the death of a high school friend yesterday. I discovered how, even for someone you have not seen in decades, some friends carve out a little space in your memories and nestle into your heart in deep ways. His obituary reflects the person I knew and remember, celebrating his soul and soulful qualities. It also gives the smallest glimpse into the challenges he faced in his life. Another high school friend described him as “that boy”. He was “that boy”. I wish his path could have been easier, but it was his path.

Last night, as I paused Shadow and Bone on Netflix and stood on the landing of my stairs, looking out the window onto my street, I felt wistful. I longed for the days of being a parent of teenage boys when our house was always full. Full of life. Full of energy. (Also full of challenges but those are stories for other days.) There were days I had no idea how many kids, or who, were in my house. Grocery bills were staggering. I cooked for them. They learned to cook. They all helped out when asked. They supported each other through a lot of challenges and most of them are still friends, a decade or so later.

Adventures

Life ambles along. It brings us all that shows up in the soul journey. We don’t always stay connected in the world, but there are threads of connection that never go away. There are people nestled in the vastness of our hearts who have carved their names into our memories in ways they will never disappear, even when our paths no longer cross, even when death intervenes.

Hope and Despair – More Than A Year In

Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, darkness and despair have descended yet again. So many metaphors come to mind: the wind taken out of our sails, it is darkest before the dawn, the darkest hour, dark night of the soul.

Just as vaccines are rolling out and hope is on the horizon for many of us, variations of Coronavirus are showing up around the world. India is making headlines for the devastation being wreaked by the virus and the inadequate ability to respond which is leaving people dying, not just in hospitals but in the streets. Other countries are also struggling, even while others are enjoying success like Australia and New Zealand. The tide in the US has changed dramatically with clear leadership and the dedication of resources to combatting spread and ramping up vaccinations, and they are not out of the woods yet.

Across Canada, cases are rising, hospitals are in chaos and frontline health care professionals are exhausted. In Nova Scotia, after being down to no or few cases for months, we are having the highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Last year, most of these cases were in long-term care and now they are the result of community spread. Locked down again just as plans were made for opening up.

Defiance of vaccines, mask wearing and social distancing competes with people advocating for as many precautionary measures as possible. Misinformation, both deliberate and uniformed, competes with science, medicine and public health guidelines based on sound research and evidence based results. Almost everyone I know personally is signing up for vaccines as fast as they become available.

It is easy to get lost in a sea of desolation. I am fortunate that my family is close by, we all take precautions and we do get to see each other, if not as often as we might like. My partner and I live in different countries and are separated by more than a border right now and have been for the majority of the pandemic. We are not young. These are precious years. My business was just beginning to return to some in-person work, which is sorely missed in my world.

The tides can turn fast, though. If you, like me, seem to be moving through quick sand to get up in the morning, begin your day, attend to your tasks, to find joy, we have to remember the light is at the end of the tunnel and, even if it is hard to see, it’s not as far off as it seems in the moment.

Here are 14 reminders of things to do to keep moving through the days, toward that light at the end of the tunnel:

  1. Above all, be kind and compassionate to yourself. You are doing what you can. Things are getting done, even if slowly.
  2. Be kind and compassionate towards others – family, friends, neighbours. Most of us are doing the best we can.
  3. Reach out and connect with your family and friends – including new ones. Commiserate together. Laugh together.
  4. Let yourself feel what you feel but try not to let it overwhelm you. Not easy some days and for some people not easy at all.
  5. Grieve the losses. The people. The ability to be together. The freedom. All of it. There is so much of it. Acknowledging our grief and our sorrow helps us be still or keep moving or discover whatever it is we need to continue.
  6. Look for things that make you laugh. We are allowed to laugh, even in the dark days. And laughter is good for the soul.
  7. Get outside – walk, sit in a garden, in the woods, on the lawn, on your patio or balcony. Even just open a window. Breathe in fresh air.
  8. Take care of your body. Hydrate yourself. Drink water. Lots of it. Eat as well as you can in these days. I live alone. Getting motivated to make good food is not always easy but I do what I can on the days I can. Exercise. Breathe.
  9. Meditate, if it is in your practice. At a minimum, sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and invite yourself to be present to that moment.
  10. Take a break from the news (says she who listens to CBC radio a ton).
  11. Listen to music that lifts you up.
  12. Use social media to lift your spirits – not drag you down. Find the groups that inspire, the people who provide hope. Spread those messages as often and as far as you can.
  13. Read. Binge on Netflix. Play games. Just give yourself permission.
  14. Allow the future to motivate you – when you will see loved ones again, be able to travel, move more freely without the fear of the virus at every outing.

I know it’s hard. It’s why we have to turn our attention to the little things. They keep us going. And, above all be kind – to yourself and to others.

Love Never Fails

I woke up recently with 1 Corinthians 13 in my mind, likely prompted by a compulsion I feel to compile my writing on love into a little book about love – Embracing Love: An Openhearted Practice. A common reading at weddings, this verse holds a promise and a commitment.

Yet, too often, it is just words. Words read but not taken in, not lived. There is such power in these words that, if they were lived, there might be more compassion and less harm, in us, our relationships and the world around us.

For many, the promises of love fade as life is lived. Too many hardships. Too many hurts. Too much despair. Too much trauma. Grudges held. Forgiveness demanded but not given or offered. Heartbreaks. Grief. We break. Our humanity breaks. We lose our way. We forget.

We forget that love is not sustained through a promise. Love needs to be a practice. Without the practice of love, the promise is meaningless. It feels like love fails, but maybe it is humanity failing love.

In his book, Born a Crime, Trevor Noah says, “Love is a creative act. When you love someone, you create a new world for them.”  He was talking about his relationship with his mother. “My mother did that for me and with the progress I made and the things I learned, I came back and created a new world and new understanding for her.”

Thus, love is generative. It is a life force that shows up in so many shapes, forms and degrees that no single definition of love will suffice. Love is at the core of who we are as human beings although it is often obscured by shadow as I wrote about in my memoir, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. We are all a little bit broken. It is part of the human journey.

Imagine if we remembered we are love. Imagine if we emanated that love out to all those in our circles of love and beyond. Imagine if we took these words in – love is patient, love is kind; it does not envy or boast; it does not dishonour others – and brought them alive, let them live in and through us. It would change us. It would change the world around us.

Love would be a bold, courageous, radical, creative act.

Hope and Despair and the Promise of Tomorrow

Someone in my circles posted yesterday, asking if anyone else was having difficulty finding words to share in these times. The answer was a resounding yes from many of us. Last night, in my deep dream state, these words came to me: hope and despair.

I imagine these words were also relevant in that first Christmas as Mary and Joseph looked for a place to stay, to give birth to the baby Jesus. A side note: the fact that I am not a church goer was obvious when my two oldest were young, whispering to each other in front of the nativity scene, saying, “That baby has a bad name.” So, it is kind of ironic I find myself referencing that first Christmas, but it is 2020.

2020 has been a year with all the feels. Anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, delights, joy, love. Also, at points, the absence of feelings. Nothingness. Like the monochromatic days I wrote about earlier this year. Most of us have discovered we can move through it all. Some days are full of activity and outcomes. Some days, we just manage to get out of bed and have a cup of coffee. Some days, it is enough to know we are loved and we love, no matter how imperfectly that might be.

While time has disappeared into a vortex and it is already Christmas Eve morning as I write this, we have not disappeared into that vortex. We are still here. While not everyone is still physically here with us, they are in our hearts. They are present whether we know it or not. For me, my father who died in January is a constant presence along with my mother who died in 2012. Regularly in my dreams. Likely inspiring this writing this morning. My father prayed to Mother Mary regularly. His statue of Her still has the unlikely place on a side table in my living room. A tribute to him and his faith in Her. Also possibly what caused me to think about that first Christmas morning as I woke today.

Tomorrow holds a promise. Not just tomorrow Christmas Day, which for some holds as much or more sorrow as joy, but for the many tomorrows that flow out of and through time. The promise we will still be here. The promise we will keep putting one foot in front of the other, literally and metaphorically. The promise that we will find the moments of peace in times of chaos and uncertainty. The promise that 2021 may hold more hope for us individually and collectively. My partner, Jerry, and I look to the coming year with a hopeful eye. We will grow. We will expand. We will rise above and prosper.

That is my 2020 Christmas wish for you – to rise above, to prosper, to hold your loved ones close in your heart if not physically in your hugs, to continue to find your way, to stay hopeful for tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. Sending love, peace, joy to each and every one of you, from my family to yours, from my home to yours. Merry Christmas.

F**k the Law of Attraction

I struggled with the Law of Attraction for a long time. I felt the guilt, shame, frustration and self-blame of not doing it right, not consistently enough guarding my thoughts to stay positive and focused on what I wanted, to not get stuck on the intentions but to let them go once created.

I knew it could be done, I just wasn’t good enough at it to do it repeatedly, to improve my financial situation, to create the business of my dreams. I was bound to continue hobbling along with limited success and fruitless hope, even as I practiced gratitude for the good things that showed up – my family, my partner, our business, my book, our book, our clients.

I first came across the Law of Attraction in 1998 after my first marriage fell apart and my job blew up. The shards of the glass walls fell down around me, resting in small piles at my feet making any step I took in any direction somewhat precarious. Five years ago I wrote about my Passive-Aggressive Relationship with the Law of Attraction. There is a lot of good advice in that post, things to do to keep yourself centered, grounded and focused that are not dependent on the Law of Attraction.

Now, though… now I am done with the Law of Attraction, its hope filled promises for the price of positive thoughts, a book or many, a course or two or a life coach. The premise is that you attract everything in your life to you – the good and the bad. You attract the bad things because of worry, fear, frustration. They arrive to teach you a life or spiritual lesson. And, if you attracted those things to you, you can also attract the equal and opposite good things, once you understand everything happens for a reason and you need to consistently think good thoughts. There are too many hard things too easily explained away through this premise that don’t quite add up.

When you come from a place of privilege, even if you are struggling and don’t quite see your privilege, it is practice of luxury. I don’t mean the luxury that comes from millions of dollars at your disposal – lord knows I’ve never had that. But I also haven’t had a real fear of living on the streets no matter how much financial stress I have endured.

I mean the luxury that many people not only can’t afford but don’t have access to. Like a roof over their heads. Or food. Or a safe place to land. Or adequate healthcare. Or any range of other things that can hobble daily existence.

The Law of Attraction premise begins to fall apart when we think about people living in poverty, or in violent situations, family breakdown or dealing with chronic or terminal illness or addictions. People who have been the victims of sexual or other violent assault, experience war conditions and the wanton destruction of life, property and nature. People who have experienced natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, erupting volcanos. Did people really attract those circumstances to themselves? And to all of those around them who were are also impacted.

Then we revert to “all things happen for a reason”, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, “what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.” Ways to try to explain or understand the level of hardship that has come our way.

And this Covid thing? We can make up a lot of stories about how and why “we” have “attracted” this pandemic to ourselves individually and collectively. “Life is showing us we need to slow down.” “The world is falling apart so we can put it back together better.” We use stories to try to make sense of the situation after the fact. These do not validate the Law of Attraction. They trap us into a line of thinking that is hard to escape from. I’m not aware of Law of Attraction stars or enthusiasts from countries and communities focused on survival.

When I wrote that post five years ago, I was still trying to sort out why I wasn’t manifesting the abundance in my life that was promised to me through the Law of Attraction. And I had “proof” that it worked because when the house I owned with my second husband went on the market as we were divorcing, it sold within 24 hours and the house I have now lived in for 10 years beckoned.

I knew I should be able to do it over and over, but I was failing far more often than I was succeeding. The Law of Attraction had me blaming myself for this failure because I obviously wasn’t guarding my thoughts clearly enough. I wasn’t doing it right. And even though the Law of Attraction would say things don’t necessarily manifest right away, it is a pattern of thought over time, what happens when that pattern of thought is interrupted by sadness, disorientation, hopelessness, fear, anxiety or frustration? Emotional states that are all naturally occurring and we all encounter them.

Looking back, I now understand what happened with the house. Regularly for months before we put it on the market, I would go for a walk or run, come back to the house, walk down the driveway, behind the house to the stream out back. I would sit on a rock in the middle of the little brook and meditate. Then I would walk back up the other side of the house. I was meditating on letting go and asking my spirit guides to make the house welcoming to the next owner. I was powerfully weaving a spell, reinforcing an enchantment for the house over and over again. That is why the house sold right away, not because I wished it so but because I was a conscious, active participant in the process. Over a sustained period of time, in consistent practice. And that is why other big things didn’t manifest. Not because my thinking was wrong but because I was not weaving enchantments. I was not in a regular practice or ritual that supported my intentions.

I get now that I get to want what I want, no matter what that is. I no longer believe in “magical thinking”, that all I have to do is visualize it, then release it and if I think about it right it will come into being, which is not to say I don’t believe in magic. I have stopped following Law of Attraction posts and advocates and I am living into both the hard stuff and the joyful stuff as a conscious active participant in my life, feeling more grounded and more expansive in the journey. I am looking for coherence, so that my thoughts, my surroundings, my intentions and practices are all aligned, inquiring into how I can be my most powerful self, most consistently. It is part of embracing my identity, embracing my gifts, sludging through the hard moments and dancing through the joyful ones.

A moment of Embracing Power – Brazil, Warrior of the Heart

Doorways, Thresholds and Portals

My home refresh project has brought me to the entryway of my house. I am having a surprisingly emotional experience as I prep the area for painting.

There are threads that have been woven from the third floor hallway, down a stairwell to the main floor, with the next stage down to the bottom stairwell to the front door. It is part of the magical energy I have been building in my home for years now.

These hallways and stairwells pass by rooms, some of which have already been refreshed, reordered and refocused with the remainder on the summer 2020 to-do list. As each room is taken apart, it is put back together, somewhat to significantly differently. The entire energy – and dare I say identity – of the house is shifting.

Doorways. Thresholds. Portals. Who and what passes through. Who and what is invited. Who and what is discouraged or even barred from passing through. Because it is my home and boundaries are important. Coherence is essential.

Doors opened and closed. Literally, figuratively and metaphorically.

Thresholds crossed daily with little thought about them. Other thresholds requiring intentionality.

Portals that open vast new worlds of transformation or that open the threshold between the visible and the invisible, known and unknown, seen and unseen worlds.

Practical magic. Being a conscious, active participant in my own life and my future. Allowing myself to want what I want without self-judgment, self-recrimination or self-censorship. Relying on my own moral authority and my ancestors, guides and guardians for guidance.

It’s been a full 10 years. I had planned to paint this year anyway. Started last summer with two rooms. With the disorientation and disruption of being grounded due to the Coronavirus, there is a different sense of urgency and compulsion attached to this refresh. To my sense of who I am. To how I want to engage life. My life. Now and in the future.

Many people have passed through my front door. I have passed through that door too many times to count. An abundance of experiences of the ins and outs of life, relationships, phases and stages. Ups and downs on the stairwells of my house and of life. Joy. Grief. Happiness. Disappointments. Struggle. Regrets. Yearning. Development. Spiritual growth. It is all here. Right in front of me. Behind me. Ahead of me.

Collectively, we are still in a period of not knowing. Not knowing what is next. Not knowing when it will be wise to travel. Not knowing when or if there will be a second wave. Not knowing what my business will look like or how I will support myself. Not knowing when I will be with my sweetie in person again. Not knowing what is ahead. Ready and not ready at the same time.

Living through grief, sorrow, regret and yearning. Some days pushing through inertia. Knowing reflection, connection, meditation, practices and ritual connect me to the vastness beyond myself in ways that are grounding, supportive and orienting to me. This changes my imaginings about what is possible. It opens me to love and LOVE. One more day. One more practice. One more dream. One more enchantment. One more action. One more coat of paint. One more phase of transformation.

What are the next doors that will open, thresholds I will cross or portals I will travel? Discovering as I go?

Inhabiting Identity

Who are you? Who are you really? Who do you aspire to be? How are you creating your life? How much thought have you given to these questions? For me, they are a guiding inquiry providing ample fodder for deep reflection.

I have been actively engaged in identity work for the last couple of years, becoming more of an active conscious participant in my own future, in creating my own destiny. I am doing this by becoming a magician (yes, you read that right) and living into being a powerful creator. Not a show magician full of dazzling tricks or someone who engages magical thinking, but a person who recognizes the power of combining deep spiritual work with practical mundane steps to advance a vision, intent or desire for my life. Learning how to do magic, be magic, live life magically.

A fitting image for the month of July 2020

I have found amazing teachers and tuned into a whole new world that has been waiting for me for decades. A world that has attempted to reveal itself through my spiritual journey but which often left me wondering what to do with what was revealed, with the spirit guides, guardians and supporters I knew to be available to me. Now I am learning how to build relationship, how to open the lines of communication more fully. And, I feel like my father through his death has opened a portal of greater access. Through this work, I am learning much more about identity, about my identity.

I recognize over the decades I have inhabited several identities – some more fully than others and none with the degree of consciousness I am bringing to this next evolution of who I am, who I am growing into.

Like everyone, I have a number of roles that shape who I am and contribute to my identity. Mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, lover, partner, friend, neighbour, consultant, trainer, teacher, coach, author, co-author, traveler, cat parent, caregiver. And these many roles are not the consummate of my identity.

My identity is more than my roles. Although all of my parents and grandparents are now departed, I am still a daughter and a granddaughter but these roles are different now. Since my father’s death, I am no longer a caregiver for my elder(s), which was a consuming role. I am no longer part of the sandwich generation – sandwiched between parents and children. I am now the elder in my family.

Since putting a period on 70 Dufferin Street, clearing out my parent’s house where my dad had lived for 45 years, a house my brother and I also grew up in, I have turned my attention to my own house of 10 years. There are a few items from my parents’ house that have made their way into my house and they needed to be made way for. They have sparked a transformative effort in my living space. And, it’s more than that.

My evolving identity is demanding a space to inhabit that is refreshed through paint, cleared of clutter, bringing a sense of order to each individual space and the house overall. I am in the midst of this now, in the summer of 2020, the year of Covid-19, the year in which I hope we see the tipping point of racial injustice and a rewriting of social contracts, a year in which the global economy is struggling and Jerry and I are reimagining our business and strengthening the foundation of it to ride the possibilities and opportunities post Coronavirus.

In the painting of each room in my house, a transformation takes place. When I painted my bedroom, I took everything out of my closets and cupboards and only about a third of things went back. Clothes that had been in the closet for a decade, brought here from another life, another identity, were shed. A wedding dress and shoes. Clothes given to me by other people that I did not wear but had a hard time letting go of. Gowns I would never wear again. Clothes I bought because I liked them but every time I put them on I took them off again because I didn’t like how they looked. Shoes I had barely worn. All gone. And as I caught sight of a few sweaters that had been much loved and enjoyed a few years ago, I recognized that the clothes we wear are all part of the identity we inhabit at any given time and it is hard to fully inhabit a new and evolving identity when the ghosts of past identities clutter our spaces.

I am on a mission. As I turn my attention to the next space(s) in my house, things are removed, new order is brought in. By summer’s end, all of my living spaces will have been refreshed and transformed. My sense of my identity will continue to deepen and I will walk in the world with more confidence and hopefully more grace than in all of the decades before.

For those curious about who I have been learning from, my main teacher is Fabeku Fatumise. Through him I have discovered Dan Carroll and chaos magic, Jason Miller and Aidan Wachter among others. Buy any of their books and prepare to immerse yourself in a new journey. For me, it is a healing journey full of new awareness. It is a journey that has kept me sane through difficult times and it offers me practical things to do and focus on in times when it feels like there is little that can be done. And, as I said at the beginning, it has given me practices that enable me to be an active conscious participant in my own life.

A Radical Thought About Forgiveness

My radical thought about healing is that we can release ourselves from the hold and from the impact of the harm others have done to us without necessarily having to forgive them. This is an evolution of my thinking about forgiveness and counter to much of the prevailing thought about it. Hear me out.

In the new book I am writing, Accessing Your Healing Power Within, there is a chapter dedicated to forgiveness. I start the chapter with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I completely agree with this quote. I would say it is about touching into our humanity to see the humanity in someone else and to not get lost in our own hate of another. I have thought about the topic of forgiveness a lot over the years, having experienced intense, sustained emotional and psychological trauma by someone who was in my life for quite awhile.

In psychology, forgiveness is generally defined as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” This is followed by the caveat that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences.

In thinking about the person who did harm to me, who had power over me and some of my emotional experiences for far too long for reasons I will not get into here, recently I have been asking myself, “Have I forgiven them?” This person no longer has a hold on me, no longer impacts my emotional experience, no longer has the ability to take power from me and I no longer give away my power to them. I don’t hate them, I don’t feel resentment nor do I feel a need for vengeance. But, when I sense into the question, “Have I forgiven them?” the answer keeps coming back as no. Which I find fascinating and which has sparked this deeper inquiry. Will I forgive them eventually? It is doubtful and I am realizing it is okay.  That person not only harmed me, they harmed other people I love and continue to do harm to others. This will likely until the day they die.

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New growth comes out of the hardest spots.

A person I love deeply is currently in the grips of someone who is doing my person harm. Eventually, I trust that my loved one will find it in themselves to become free from this situation. I choose to believe this and that is another story. Will I forgive the person who is doing the harm? I understand where they are coming from. I understand the background. I can have empathy for why they act the way they do. But will I forgive them for the harm they are doing to my loved one and, by extension, to a network of loved ones? What about the harm they are likely to inflict on others over time, even once my loved one finds a different path? I am doubtful I will forgive that person for the havoc they have wreaked. Unless they are able to change their ways, how they treat others is unforgivable.

There are many people, acts and behaviours I can, have and will forgive. I get that true forgiveness does not condone behaviour. I get that we forgive for ourselves, not the other person. But really what we are striving for is to be released from the emotional hold that another person, their actions or behaviours has or has had on us. My radical thought is, we can release ourselves from that hold and from the impact of the hurt without necessarily forgiving. And I think that might be okay. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about forgiveness. Maybe we need another word for this.

In the book I write, “You cannot wear your forgiveness for someone else as a badge of honour. Forgiveness is an act of humility. And, in my experience, especially in the most challenging of situations, it is one of the most difficult things to do and also one of the most freeing.” I still think this is true in many ways. And, I am now expanding and reframing my thinking. We can heal without forgiving the most atrocious things that have been done to us. We can become free through healing that does not have to include, or preclude, forgiveness of others.

Which leaves me with another question. Can we heal without self-forgiveness? And my initial response is that we need self-forgiveness, like self-compassion and self-love to truly access our healing power within

Grief and Love

I have been thinking a lot about grief lately. How we each carry grief. How we experience it differently. How it is sparked in different ways. It could be the loss of a loved one who has died. This is the way we often think of grief. Yet, there are so many other sources of grief.

Grief for one’s own journey. Grief for the journey that someone you love must experience although it is heart wrenching and heart breaking to observe.

Reminded over and over again that you cannot save another person from their own journey and you cannot rescue them. Patience in the waiting and the observing is a practice to be recalled over and over again.

Will they find their way? You cannot know for sure until they do. Or do not.

But you can hold the faith, in whatever way and practice that shows up for you, that they will.

The grief you feel personally may be amplified by any grief you feel for the state of the world these days. For Mother Earth and a climate crisis you might feel helpless to prevent. Grief amplified by the toxic state of public discourse that has created so much fragmentation and polarization in our communities and in our families.

It can be hard to look. It can be hard to look away.

Overwhelmed by grief, it can be hard to remember to tend to self, to your own internal condition. Yet, without this, survival feels remote and joy feels impossible.

You can grieve and also allow joy. States of the human condition do not need to be mutually exclusive. You can feel both and even more at the same time.

It starts with allowing yourself to feel. This can feel risky, even dangerous. There may be fear that allowing yourself to feel will result in becoming more deeply lost, though it is in the feeling you can move through the faces and phases of grief and any other emotional state you may be experiencing.

Sometimes it is head down, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other – literally or figuratively. Remembering to breathe. Breathe deeply. Breathe into the pain. Breathe into the love. Breathe into the heart and the soul.

Other times it is head up, looking around at the wonders of the world that still exist despite the desperation of the times.

The rising and setting of the sun. The phases of the moon. The rising and ebbing of the tides. The stars. The light drizzle. The pounding rain. Snowflakes and snowstorms. The fresh morning air, the high heat of a noon sun on a summer day, the cooling temperatures at dusk.

Look within. Look to nature. Look to love. For what is underneath the grief but the sense of loss. For people. For relationships. For other things held dear.

And if there is grief, there is also love. Love that lives on that, when you touch it, you can touch beyond your grief and find your way into another day.

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Grief.

It washes over the soul

Like waves wash over the pebbles

On the beach.

Sweet agony

Captured in the constant

Roar of crashing waves.

Grief.

The soothing motion

Of gentle waves

Lapping the shore.

Tears well up,

Dropping into the endlessness

Of the ocean,

Becoming one

Both with the tumultuousness

Of raging storms

Close to the surface

And with the quiet depths

So far below.

Grief.

Not just one face.

Not just one expression.

Not just one cause.

Feel it.

Let it wash over you.

Go deeper

Beneath the storm

To the calm.

Find the love

Beneath the grief.

~ August 2019