Bargain Making Creates Unnecessary Dependencies – Break It Before You Set It

Kitten prayingHave you ever found yourself making bargains – with yourself, with God, with the devil? I would bet most of us have at some time or other. And, for many of us, often. And, we don’t need to.

Making bargains is a form of a limiting belief. It sets up a dependency relationship that does not need to exist and it may even set us up for failure.

“Make my loved one well and I will pray every day.” If my loved one does not become well, will I not pray? Is it a threat – I will only do this if you deliver? It sets up an unnecessary and unhelpful dependency. This could just as easily be two separate statements – a prayer of gratitude “Thank you for making my loved one well.” Or, perhaps, “Thank you for taking care of my loved well.” This latter statement might include making your loved one well, or might have other soul journey implications. And an intention, “I pray/meditate every day.”

“Help me pay my bills and I will work harder every day.” Again, two separate statements. Various versions of the first include: “I am so happy and grateful that my needs are taken care of.” “I am so happy and grateful that the money is coming in now.” “Infinite wisdom, open the way for all that is mine by divine right to reach me now in great avalanches of abundance, under grace and in perfect ways.” This last is a favourite from “The Game of Life and How to Play It”, a classic by Florence Scovell Shinn that is well worth the read. The second statement could be, “Every day I take action in the direction of my intention (vision, dream) for my life and work.”

“Give me what I need and I will share with someone else in need.” Again, a statement of gratitude, “Everything I need comes to me.” And a statement of intention, “I will offer an act of kindness to someone in need.” This creates lots of opportunities. It could be a smile to someone who needs it, a “pay-it-forward” deed, a gift of money or an offer of support.

“Please, please remove this person/situation from my life and I promise I will be a better person.” You can’t be a better person even with this situation at hand? Maybe being a “better person”, whatever that means to you, is what is needed for the situation to change. “Thank you for the lessons this person/situation is bringing my way.” “I am grateful this person/situation is illuminating where I am in my journey now, showing me what is healed and where my work lies.” “I am so happy and grateful I am the best version of me I know how to be.” “I do the best I can with what I know. As I know better, I will continue to do better.”

It is often through desperation that we make bargains and we are often not aware we are doing so. It is an unconscious thought pattern. It is through trust and faith that we set intention and offer gratitude even when we do not yet see the results. And it is a journey of becoming – becoming aware of our thoughts, behaviours and patterns and learning to shift them so we gain a greater sense of peace, joy and love.

What bargains are you making? What happens if you make them separate statements, intentions or prayers? They each become more powerful in themselves. Is it just semantics or words? Is it all about positivity? The question is, what makes you feel better? When you feel better you do better. You live better. You are more resourced. Choose the better feeling options.

Try it. See what happens. Share your experience with us.

The Passing of an Era

It was the end of January 2008. I was driving down the highway on my way from Halifax to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on a beautiful sunny winter’s day. I wasn’t just on a road trip for the day, I was on a journey to another era – a past I knew very little about, to visit a man I knew very little about. I was on my way to meet Fred Hanson. A few brief weeks before this I had found out he existed, that he was my birth father, that I had a birth family of which I had had no conscious awareness. Yet he – and the whole family – knew about me for all of my life.

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Fred died with his wife Doris, her son Corey and my sister Debbie van Soest present, bringing to a close another chapter of my own life, the passing of an era.

Kathy (2 years old) and Deb (5 years old) visiting in 1964 at Nanny and Grampy Hanson's house in Digby

Kathy (2 years old) and Deb (5 years old) visiting in 1964 at Nanny and Grampy Hanson’s house in Digby

I did not know Fred well. Most of his life had been lived by the time I met him. There are three things that stand out. When he, at the age of twenty-three, and his little family – me as an infant and my sister as a three year old – were abandoned by my birth mother, he did what he could to make sure we were looked after. This meant uprooting us from Halifax to Digby NS where he had grown up and where his parents still lived. Because my grandmother was already ill with brain cancer and my grandfather was already well on his way to alcoholism, they searched for help. Help arrived in the form of my parents, Mary and Hector Jourdain, married a few years, living in Digby at the time and still childless. An agreement was reached for my parents to adopt me and for me to know my birth family. Which I did until my grandmother died when I was still very young. Fred knew where I was and for all the years my adoption was a secret (from me and my brother at any rate), he kept his word and he did not seek me out.

Fred and Kathy

Me and Fred – March 2008

The second thing that stands out is how nervous he was to meet and how welcoming when I walked in the door. He’d been pacing from the front window to the kitchen window to the door in anticipation of my arrival. The door was opened before I even had a chance to get out of the car. He hugged me and we found our way through the awkwardness of first meeting. He gave me pictures from when I was baby.

The third thing that stands out was his agreeing to let me interview him for my memoir: Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. As I asked him questions and took him back through memories he had not thought of for decades, he forgot for a moment that I was interviewing him. He reflected on the moment my birth mother left and his incomprehension, still all these years later, that she could leave two babies behind.

Doris and Fred 2006

Doris and Fred Hanson, 2006

Fred had a sociable side that enabled him to fit in many places – like the Red Knight in Yarmouth where he and Doris often when for a beer and to hang out with friends. And he had a sarcastic wit that made him a great sparring partner. I didn’t know his second wife who raised my sister Debbie and brought my half sister Robyn into the world. I did however have a chance to meet Doris and experience the warmth and hospitality of their beautiful home. They were together for 28 years.

I am blessed to have known him, filling in some blanks of life story for both him and me. There are many stories that will not be known and many that will not be written now. I do know his brother Bill, his parents and others greeted him as he passed over. My mother and my birth mother had a pact together with Fred and my dad that has gifted me with multiple lineages that are important and relevant to my own life journey and in many ways I am only at the beginning of that exploration. And for now, it is grieving and celebrating the passing of an era.

The Voice of Your Inner Judge

There is no more powerful limiting mechanism in our lives than the voice of the judge.  I don’t mean that other person – parent, spouse, child, teacher, boss, friend, co-worker, random stranger on the street or in the shopping mall.  It’s the internal voice of judgment or internal critic that often runs rampant inside of us that we barely notice, if at all, because it is so clever and really good at disguising itself – for self preservation really.

I first became intimately acquainted with my inner judge in 2008-09 during coaching work with Sarita Chawla.  She recommended I read Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown in addition to the work we were doing together. I will forever recognize this as a pivotal point in the shifting shape of my openhearted journey.  I wrote about the voice of the judge back then in an article.  I am reviving that article here now in an updated version .  When I first wrote this post, my inner critic was activated – obvious to me because of how I felt – and I am reminding myself of strategies I already know that help to deactivate it and release its grip on me.

When I first became aware of the force of the internal judge, I had been working with the concepts of self-leadership and hosting oneself for almost as long as I could remember – still do, of course.  I worked with coaches, read books, did courses, took part in and led deep group work.  I am generally a positive, optimistic person holding deep appreciation and gratitude for much of what transpires in my life and who shows up.  I have transformed the negative self talk of my “itty-bitty-shitty committee” into more appreciative forms of self talk and into periods of quiet in my mind.  I meditate and practice other forms of reflection and mindfulness.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered a voice of self judgment and self criticism that was booming loud and clear in my unconsciousness, stronger than any external voice of judgment or criticism could possibly be.  This voice constantly set the bar for my performance at the best that I had ever achieved.  The bar moved if I did better.  When I didn’t match my most excellent performance, even when I did extremely good work, this voice told me that I had failed, that I did not measure up and that I never would on a consistent basis.  Strong performance was interpreted as mediocre.  Criticisms from others, whether justified or not, was reinforced by this inner critic.

When I felt most down on myself or just down in general, this voice played a significant role – and still can in moments I feel most overwhelmed or vulnerable – until I expose it.  I didn’t actually hear it as a voice until I began to listen for it but I felt it strongly in many forms: sadness, unhappiness, melancholy, anger, listlessness, lack of motivation and many other emotional manifestations.

While I had been aware of this voice (or at least the emotions it manifested in) to some extent, I also prided myself on my journey of self-transformation and change.  Been there, got that medal, surely I must be done now, can I just get on with my life and success?  I realize now it was the voice of self judgment that said, “You’ve been doing this long enough, how come you’re not done?”

Part of the reason I had been pretty oblivious to this voice was because, in my quest to be calm Happy-sad masksand serene and professional, I skirted over my own emotional reactions.  I barely recognized I had them except in the odd instances where they overtook me.  Oh, was that an emotion that wasn’t calm and serene?  Oops.  Nope. Couldn’t have been.  It must have been something else.

Then, a friend told me I deal with my emotions intellectually.  So, I thought about that.  And I thought my friend just might be right.  Emotions don’t reside in our intellect.  They reside in our bodies.  We feel them and sense them.  We use metaphors to describe them.  We say things like, “That packed a punch!”  If we stop to notice, we will notice where it feels like we got punched.  And if we stay with that, we will begin to notice the impact.  And if we stay with it longer, we will notice the uncomfortableness and want to move onto something else.  This is where I am learning to stop.  I have learned to stay with it longer, until I can begin to discern the wisdom that is held there and that can only emerge when we give it an escape hatch to surface to the light.

It is in these moments that my voice of self judgment has come booming out at me in all of its voraciousness.  With all good intentions, all it wants to do is protect me – from failure, from being unlovable.  But its methods only serve to reinforce for me my failures, even to the extent of turning successes into failures, thus creating in my mind my own unlovability and unwantability.

CA red dress Day 1I learned to journal in this voice.  I am astounded by the punch it does pack.  Periodically I sit and check inside of me to sense into what I’m experiencing and feeling and what the impact is.  I journal what I am sensing until I feel done.  Then I check in again to see what I am experiencing, sensing and feeling, and then journal again. And then again, if that seems required.  I am committed to going the next layer deep and the next until I feel the light flood back into my soul and I feel a lightness of spirit and of body. This is what I want to amplify in my life now.

Exposing my voice of self-judgment transmutes it into a gift of understanding and insight after which joy can once again arise and take more of the space that is its, and my own, rightful due.  Now, instead of seeing my journey as one that should be concluded and being hard on myself because it is not, I see my journey and myself with a gentleness I could not access before as it was hidden underneath the protective layer of the voice of judgment.  I have always known, intellectually, that learning and growth is a life long journey.  Now I know it and accept it with a graciousness that only comes from the light.

(This post was first published at Shape Shift Strategies on December 20, 2011)

Love is the Conversation We Need To Have

Love is the conversation we need to have.  A post from Dogma to Divine I read some time ago illuminated for me the need to write about love.  Love.  Not romantic love. Not love with attachment or conditions.  Love as a way to be in the world.  Love as a way to hold space – with others, for others, for ourselves, for conversations that want and need to happen.  Love as a healing energy.  Love as a pathway in the world.  Love as an illuminator.

open-hearted (1)

Fear tries to obliterate love.  The inner voice of the judge tries to shut it down.  We have come to associate so much disappointment with love, we are afraid of love.  Afraid to let it wash over us, our relationships, our way of being in the world. We are afraid we will be disappointed, exposed, hurt.  Afraid we will be vulnerable in ways that allow others to take advantage of us, our good heart, our good intentions – in which case it is no longer love but something posing for love.

We are afraid to know ourselves from the field of love.  We are afraid to know others from the field of love.   Yet it is who we are at the core.

It is hard to love others when we do not love ourselves.  It is hard to let love in from others when we do not love ourselves.

Love is misunderstood.  We have come to attach so many conditions – or feel conditions attached –  to it that rediscovering what love is becomes a practice, a journey to open heartedness. If we allow it.  If we invite it.  We are not even aware of the conditions and the expectations we attach to it.  To those we love.  “If you loved me, you would….”  Yup.  Fill in the blank.  For anyone you are in relationship with.  We all have many of them.

If you loved me, I wouldn’t have to tell you what I feel, what I need from you.  If you loved me, you would just know.  Because you don’t know, you don’t love me.  Now I am hurt. Now I shut down.

If you loved me, I wouldn’t have to love myself.  But if I cannot love myself, I cannot let your love for me in.  I deem myself unworthy, undeserving of your love.  Not romantic love.  Human to human love.  Spirit to spirit love.  Soul to soul love.  Just love.

We discover love and how we relate to love through relationship with others.  Yes, romantic love counts here too.  And it is so much more than that.  Children. Parents. Siblings. Friends. Colleagues. Acquaintances. Strangers on the street. Those who love us.  Those who challenge us.  Those who don’t even know they impact us.  Or don’t know how much.

Disappointment arises when expectations, hopes, conditions we are carrying are not met.  When we harbour this disappointment it casts shadow over the field of love. When we replay it over and over again, it grows.  Then we feel the need to armour ourselves because we have learned love only leads to disappointment.  Anger shows up.  That we would be treated so.  That someone else doesn’t care enough about us.  That people are only mean and selfish anyway.

The journey to open heartedness invites the inquiry – into hurt, pain, grief, disappointment, attachment.  It invites the release of whatever shows up during the inquiry. It invites forgiveness.  Of self.  Of others.  An opening up of space.  Expansiveness.  Generosity.  It also invites inquiry into joy, beauty, delight and love itself.  It is a pathway to peace.   A practice we don’t get perfect but we can perfect the practice of inquiry and deepening the journey to open heartedness.

Practicing love invites us into our own vulnerability.  A vulnerability that comes from our willingness to see ourselves fully and allow others to see us.  In all of the imperfectness of who we are.  Vulnerability that invites  us to be in our strength and power.  We can be in a field of love and make different choices about different relationships. To be in some.  To not be in others.  To make conscious choices. To appreciate our choices. To make choices that invite generosity of spirit, not from a place of hurt, anger or denial – although some of the choices may start there.  We have the opportunity to shift the shape of the story at any time.  It comes with hosting self. Growing awareness.  Growing practice.

Generosity and a willingness to love others without an expectation of performance in return for love or even having that love returned in the same way.  This is a difficult practice at first.  To let go.  To not follow a path of hurt or shame.  Just to offer love.

Love is the conversation we need to have.  Now.  Always.  With each other.  With ourselves.  As we journey deeper into open heartedness, we grow our acceptance of self.  Of others in their journey, wherever they are in their journey.  It doesn’t always require words.  It can simply radiate from the heart.  Become a way of being in the world.  The more it becomes this, the more people respond, even when they don’t know that they are, or what they are responding to.  Love is the conversation we need to have.  All of us. Every where.

Originally posted on December 24, 2012 at Shape Shift Strategies Inc.

Human Tragedy Story Often Obscures Soul Journey Perspective

For a long time, I have believed we are soul journeyers having a human experience. The beauty and challenge of life is that our assumptions and beliefs get tested along the way.  In 2012, for me, one way has been through my mother’s journey.

adimirkush_Butterly

Painting by Adimir Kush

When the symptoms of my mother’s dementia were becoming more obvious in the years before she went into long term care, I knew it as a soul journey and experienced it as a human tragedy story.  This became more pronounced when she went into long term care.  Instead of being the only person in a household living out a bizarre new set of behaviours,  losing her capacity to communicate and do simple things like change the channel on the TV, she became one of many old and dying people no longer able to care for themselves, most living in their own little diminishing physical worlds.

The human tragedy story is amplified in these circumstances and places.  It is hard to see past the story of tragedy when it stares you in the face as you walk down hallways that evoke very visceral reactions in what you see, smell, hear or otherwise encounter – even in a place as loving and caring as the place my mother experienced as home in the last four years of her life.

CorridorHow many people came up to me, my brother or my father after mom’s funeral to share amazing stories about her that captured the essence of who she was and then proceeded to talk about how they just couldn’t visit her at Harbourview Haven.  How hard it was if she didn’t seem to recognize them.  How hard it is to be in that building when, as a culture, we have become disconnected from the death chapter of the life cycle.  We no longer experience it as part of the natural flow of life but as something to be feared.  Walking in a place where death is imminent generates fear and discomfort for many of us.  It did for me when I first began visiting my mother but, through my mother, the shape of my experience shifted.

For the few who were able to manage a visit or two, they expressed how amazing it was when there was a flicker of recognition in something she said.  I learned how many people besides me she called “little one” (really mom?!) and that was a point of reference for them.

There are others who saw enough through the human tragedy story to visit often.  My mother had a few of those regular visitors although we often didn’t even know it since she couldn’t remember who visited or when they did.  Deeply grateful for those dear friends.

The length of mom’s journey with dementia and her stay in long term care, invited me more deeply into this paradox of understanding  the human tragedy dressing of soul journey.   The phrase “oh, that poor soul” makes me chuckle now.  We use that phrase to describe the human tragedy perspective.  It is the physical experience that appears poor, not the soul journey perspective if you believe, like I do, that we make some choices before we manifest into physical form about what it is we want to experience for our soul journey this time around.

As my mother become more disembodied, I embodied the soul journey perspective from a deeper, more encompassing place of understanding.  Towards the end, her human tragedy story didn’t register for me anymore, only the soul journey perspective.  This gave me a high degree of peace during her long transition process, allowing me to live my life fully even while being present to my mother’s journey and our family care around it.

For the gifted people who work at Harbour View Haven, it seems to me they also see past the human tragedy perspective, treating each individual with full dignity and respect.  Treating them as if they are, what we consider, fully functioning, fully present human beings.  It was a gift to observe this most keenly in my mother’s final hours. It made me wonder what would happen if  we all treated others all the time with this kind of dignity and respect – whether we thought they deserved it, whether we thought they were fully human or not.

Living simultaneously with my mother’s journey, my journey and the rest of life, I’ve been thinking about how to express this all so it does not fuel the human tragedy story. I now speak about “the many streams of life”.  We are all in many streams of life all at the same time. Stuff happens.  Stuff comes up.  There is a life giving invitation to be well in all of it, although a more typical response is to be stressed by all the things that come our way that we have to take care.

I’m leaning into this invitation to flow with the many streams of life as though that is what they are, rather than challenges.  Greater spaciousness beautifully shows up.

And then there are the lessons of embodiment that have been present for me in a big way already in and since 2012.  As I embody my experiences and my learning I understand more deeply my life’s events, my relationships and my soul’s calling.

I’m not saying the human tragedy story isn’t real.  But the soul journey perspective is also just as real although harder for many to see, obscured by the human tragedy story.  The soul journey perspective allows me to live into joy and delight and allows me to fall in loveover and over again in a way living into the human tragedy story does not.

For my mother, I continue to experience a dance of joy, delight and lightness as her spirit soarspixies_in_the_sky-1868 free from the human tragedy unfolding of her physical body.  She continues to be my teacher and my friend and very, very real in my human experience.

(Originally published at Shape Shift Strategies Inc. on March 1, 2012)

Emotions Are Your Guidance System

When on the openhearted life journey, we each have experiences that can take us to some deep places.  Depth invites exploration – if we want it to, of course. In a conversation awhile back,  a good friend who is near and dear to my heart asked me how I was.  In that moment, I said, “I’m discombobulated and my emotions are near the surface.”

“My emotions are near the surface.”  What an interesting turn of phrase.  What I meant was that sadness, sorrow, angst, tears were all near the surface and tears would spill easily and effortlessly with the slightest provocation – sorrow or joy.

I dug a little deeper to discover what was stirring in my soul that caused these emotions to be so near the surface.  In that exploration, I identified and released things that had been swirling around and in me about decisions and choices I have no idea if I will even need to make.  I began to settle into a place of not knowing and not needing to know in this moment, trusting clarity will arise in due course.  No need for decisions or choices today.

a moment of reflection

I surrendered back into peace, joy and delight as I had a little realization, an aha moment.  My emotions were near the surface again.  They were just different emotions than previously.  Which got me to wondering.  Do I even think of joy, delight, peace as emotions?  Seems I do.  But not in the same way as I think of sorrow, sadness, anger and grief as emotions.  Without being conscious of it, I’ve been making value judgments about my emotional experiences – just like I tell people we do in the coaching and teaching work I do.

Yup.  There I was, doing it too.  Sorrow, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety – bad.  To have those emotions near the surface is bad.  Like they need to be contained.  We don’t really know what to do with them but many of us have learned that trying to contain them, while it might work in the short term, just doesn’t work in the longer term.

How many times people apologize for their tears, one on one, in circle, in some meeting or gathering, and how many times I say, “I look forward to the time we no longer feel the need to apologize for our tears.”  I have, for the most part, stopped apologizing for mine.  So it is always delicious to discover what all is still alive in me when I explore my own emotional state.

Today, when my emotions are near the surface, instead of a tear sliding down the side of my face, a smile might break out for no reason in particular, when I’m by myself, with my son, with my partner or directed at a stranger.

The strange thing is, just like we don’t necessarily know what to do with the emotions we judge as bad or negative, many of us also don’t know what to do with joy, love, peace, delight.  We can be pretty good if it’s episodic.  If there is a reason – like we have to have a reason.  We’re not so good at knowing what to do with prolonged bouts of happiness, joy or delight – but what a beautiful challenge to embrace.

If we are used to chaos and negativity in our lives, it just feels different to shift into a new normal – of peacefulness.  A new pattern.  A new way of being in the world. Shifting the shape of our experience. Quite delightful to cultivate actually.  And this state of being does grow on a person.  Thankfully.

What I’ve been learning in the course of my life’s journey is that our emotions – the full range of them – offer us guidance.  I used to think they made me weak – at least the ones I judged as bad.  I use to think being vulnerable was the opportunity for someone to attack me.  Now I know differently.  There is strength and power in vulnerability when it comes from authentic open hearted space.  And it takes courage to step into vulnerability.

My emotions are my guidance system.  They tell me how close or far away I am from my centre, from my soul essence. They are a clue to what I’m thinking, whether I am present or living in the past or future.  If I inquire into my emotional state I can find myself.  And I can change my state of well being by paying attention to my thoughts, discovering what I’m holding onto that doesn’t serve me.

I like finding myself in a place of peace and joy but it’s okay if I find myself somewhere else too.  My preference now, through the journey of life, is to find my way, continuously, through daily practice, back to a steady state of feeling good.

Is This Real or Am I Making It Up?

Harry_Dumbledore_limboOne of my favourite passages in the Harry Potter books is when Harry is in the in-between space – in between going back for a battle with Voldermort or moving on to another realm. He meets Dumbledore – who has passed on – in a very antiseptic looking, empty train station where Dumbledore tells him he has a choice about what to do next, it is his decision. He does not have to go back. As Dumbledore is walking away, Harry calls out, “Professor, is this real or is it all in my head?” Dumbledore pauses and replies, “Of course it’s all in your head, Harry, but that doesn’t make it any less real.”

Kathy Sacred Tattoo Design

I am often asked about this image – which is tattooed on my back – emblematic of my journey with that which cannot be seen but is, nonetheless, real.

And this is where we get caught – in the wondering of whether our experience is real or are we making it up? Not trusting our senses. I know the messages in my own mind as I began to experience an expanded consciousness were, “This is not real. I’m making it up.” I think this is the message many of us received as children. “It’s not real. You’re making it up. You have a lively imagination.”

Well, what if that imaginary friend was a non-physical guardian or a guide appearing to you? What if that vivid story you told was from a past life? What if your sense that a grandparent or other loved one, sometimes even someone you did not meet in this lifetime, what if that is also real? Faeries? Elves? Wood nympths? Magical beings? Why not? When you are told it is all in your imagination, it dismisses and diminishes your experience, causing you to lose trust in your own intuitive knowing.

The mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Napolean Hill, in Think and Grow Rich, said, “Thoughts are things. Everything is created twice – once in the imagination and once in physical form.” This is why visualization for athletes and other top performers is so important. It is why a fear response can be elicited in our bodies just by thinking about or remembering something that frightens us. Or a joy response by thinking about or remembering something that delights us. If I can imagine a world that frightens me, where I have imagined harm I cannot see and might not have experienced, then why couldn’t I imagine a world that delights me? Why can’t that be just as real as imagined evils in the world? And if it makes me feel better, more vibrant and alive, then does it matter if I’m making it up?

Being raised in a logical, rational world that depends on facts has numbed us to other experiences. When my youngest son talked about “the last time, you know, when I was a woman and grew really old”, I didn’t tell him he was making it up. When my older boys were young and their grandfather died, I asked them what that was like for them. When they told me they thought “death was like waking up, like when you are asleep and dreaming and it feels real, but then you wake up and realize it was just a dream. Maybe life – and death – is like that. You wake up and realize that “life” was just a dream.” I didn’t tell them they were wrong. Because maybe they are right. Because why couldn’t that be true?

The first awareness I had of a spirit guide came when someone else told me about one – a priest from my father’s family is what she told me. I asked my father if there was a priest from his side of the family who had passed on and he told me about Bishop LeBrie, a friend of the family whose lap I used to sit on while playing with his cross when I was a toddler. Then another person told me about another guide – a fierce wizard who grew larger when he was protecting me. Knowing they were there, I let myself sense into them and could then be aware of them – although I had no idea what to do with the information. And then there were more, arriving in all kinds of different ways for all kinds of different reasons. Because I became willing to “believe” and to trust in what was coming to me. Although language fails me still because I “see” but it is not physicality that I see. Not everyone can “see” what I see, although I have become aware that more and more people can experience the same thing as me in the same timing. There are things I become aware of that I could not possibly know – “proof” that my experiences are real. This is why I wrote Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedenss – because I am an ordinary person with what I have come to believe are ordinary experiences that everyone has to one degree or another and we need the validation that comes when we know someone else has had similar experiences – that it is real, we are not making it up.

Gold Lake 011When I stood on the mountain at Gold Lake and saw flashes and images of lifetimes long ago, I was not making it up. It was real. Even if it was “all in my head”, or in my imagination, or in my heart. When I came home and the “ancestors” came with me, other people could sense them, feel them and experience them too. The quality of my life and experience changed.

The days I walk in expanded consciousness and awareness are rich. I don’t do it all the time because I get wrapped up in the physical experience of living – of making a living, of worrying about finances, worrying about my kids and their unfolding lives. But I do it more and more and more. I learn to trust the nudges more. Reach out to a friend. Take your reiki training. Get a massage. Do energy work. Talk to your favourite psychic. Meditate. By yourself or with a friend. The less I get lost in the daily grind, the more life flows – not always as I expect it to but always it flows.

For Who’s Benefit Are You Telling Your Story?

When I first came back from Gold Lake, Colorado, after spending a day and a half on the land, in a mystical experience that took place outside of my normal understanding of time, I had to integrate this spiritual experience with the regular, ongoing experiences of my physical existence, of my life journey.

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My sanctuary site at Gold Lake, 2009

One of the ways of doing this was through sharing the story of my experience with others. There were a few people who knew I was embarking on that sojourn. Some, not all, also knew that prior to going I already had experiences with non-physical guardians and guides. I had been learning to connect with my guides in healing work. And I could, when asked, help other people connect with their own guides, learn to access them and to work with them in their own journeys. I was not, am not, the messenger as much as the connector.

Story at workWhen I arrived home, I began to share the story of what happened at Gold Lake with people, tuning into what they wanted to hear. For some, to hear I went to Gold Lake and came home again was enough. For others, to hear the high level overview was enough. And for some, they wanted full details of as many moments as I could offer. And it was surprising at times who wanted what. It was discernible by the questions they asked and the attentiveness of their listening.

Slide1It was important for me to discern why I might be telling the story to any given individual. Was I telling the story because of my own need to share it, to understand it, to integrate it? Or was I telling the story because for some reason, the other person needed to hear it? If it was just about me, I would have babbled on to anyone in hearing distance all the time. But I had enough people willing to hear and witness my story, I did not need to visit it on people unwilling or unable to hear. And it is a sacred story to be shared in the right moments. Stories hold “medicine” and healing for others when they are ready to hear them so it is a gift to also share experiences, which is what I am relearning now as I have hesitated to share more of the mystical/spiritual stories in my blog. One friend, who wanted to hear the whole story, at the end shook his head and said, “Well, whatever happened, it is clear it was real to you.” It was real to me, although I cannot tell you how many times I have asked myself the question, “Is this real or am I making it up?”

This realization was part of why I wrote my memoir: Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness – not just to share the spiritual journey but to share my own ambivalence with my spiritual journey and the on again off again nature of my relationship with it. And it is also the story of grief, resilience, perseverance and joy – of embracing all the strangeness of who I thought I was (or think I am) and the vulnerability that comes from openheartedness. The stories of being fired from a job, marrying and divorcing, not once but twice, finding out later in life I was adopted, becoming the health care advocate for both my parents and my mother’s journey with dementia, in long term care and her eventual death in 2012.

Life is full of the bitter-sweetness of discovery – sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and more often both at the same time. We are not in bliss the whole time, neither are we in grief or sorrow the whole time, if we choose. When we meet life with the expansiveness of the soul journey lens, our stories become healing for us and others who are inspired by how we meet the path that rises up to greet us.

Intuitive Knowings

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A pathway in Gold Lake Colorado

In 2009, I found myself standing on the side of a mountain at Gold Lake Colorado, drawn inexplicably to this place as if by a magnet. I was there to meet myself. And, I was there to meet the ancestors. Ancestors I had an inkling of but did not yet know intimately. I was there to walk on a land that resonated with every single footstep I took, taking me back to a vision in a drumming circle nine years beforehand. A vision where I “flew” over a land on the back of a lion, arriving at a huge bonfire, to join the ancestors who were dancing, chanting and singing around the fire in wild celebration, permeating joy through every cell of my being.

Kathy Sacred Tattoo DesignNine years later, walking the pathways of Gold Lake, the lion reappears instantly and every footstep reverberates in the beat of the drum only I can hear, growing louder in my soul with each passing day, on a land I had seen in a vision that I did not know existed until I was there.

I was called there through an invitation to an Art of Hosting training, hosted by good friends. I had no role and no need to be a participant in a training having become a skilled practitioner in my own right. And yet, time after time, I could not resist opening that invitation and staring at it longingly. The appeal made no logical sense. Eventually I understood I just needed to go. In making the commitment, one of my friends on the hosting team invited me to stay longer to do a vision quest on the land with her. That was how I ended up on the side of the mountain, in time out of time, visiting with ancestors and other guides not visible to physical sight, being told how much love I am capable of, embracing parts of me I did not know – the stranger in me – with the journey to openheartedness becoming more apparent, conscious and intentional.

This is a dramatic story and example of intuitive knowing. More of that story is shared in Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. Not every intuitive knowing is so dramatic. They happen in everyday occurrences and in subtle ways. Recently my twelve year old son and I were crossing the street on a cross walk at an intersection. A vehicle pulled up on the inside lane to make a right hand turn on a red light just as we were reaching the vehicle. I had my hand out to hold back my son even before the car started moving. Involuntarily, I said, “Whoa.” The driver’s window was open, the driver was startled to see us there. But I knew, I sensed, this driver was going to make the turn without seeing us.

How many times are you driving in traffic that you can sense the intention of a driver near you – that they want to change lanes or make a turn, even before they indicate their intention, if they do so? Or you need to pay a bill, have forgotten the due date and just before or on the due date, it is so on your mind you know you have to check? Or, if you didn’t, later you wish you had?

How about when you sense what is going on with someone even if you haven’t been in touch with them in awhile? Those times when you just know you need to pick up the phone, reach out in an email or go visit? Or maybe you have received messages from a loved one who has passed on? Some people know this with certainty and others hold it with caution, as if afraid to hope it could be true.

We have been trained out of trusting our intuitive knowing in favour of rational, logical ways of knowing. Yet when we open ourselves to what we intuitively know, we also open ourselves up to a more expansive experience and tap into the subtle realms – to see what cannot be seen with physical sight, to feel the energies all around us, to converse with beings and entities that are readily available, wanting to support us but limited in the ways they can do so when we do not see them or acknowledge their existence.

This is not something that is restricted to special, gifted people, which was a belief I carried for a very long time. This is a part of the natural continuum of life that is available to each and every one of us. We need to stop questioning ourselves, allow ourselves to believe what we experience is also real, suspend logic and judgment, bring curiosity and compassion and be in co-discovery with others willing to be in the exploration because it amplifies the experience and gives us someone else who can “verify” our own experience.

Trusting your intuitive knowing offers beautiful expansiveness and access to far greater wisdom and knowledge than is available simply in the physical realm.

Why Do I Have To Be The One Who _________?

Why do I have to be the one who ________?

Have you ever found yourself asking this question as you have struggled to sort out a difficult relationship? You know. One of those relationships when you have felt like you are on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour on someone else’s part? When you have felt like someone else is projecting their issues onto you? When you have just wanted THEM to do their part, apologize, figure it out, leave you alone?

I have been in this place more often than I care to remember. And I encounter it often in training and coaching situations. Why do I have to be the one to “fix” this? Why do I have to be the one who reaches out? Why do I have to be the one to forgive? Why do I have to be the one who takes the lead on this? I am not at fault here!

bandaged heartEven in times when I felt I had made enormous strides, I was sometimes challenged on playing the victim role. Ugh! There is nothing pretty or powerful about that. Nothing. Once, when I asked this question, the energy healer I was working with challenged me with a good hearty, joyful laugh. “Because,” she said. “When you do this, you win.” Resignedly, reluctantly, I did the work – MY work. Because she was right.

It is simple really. When you do the work you need to do in your own journey – which for me I have named the Journey to Openheartedness – you win. Always. Inevitably. This is not winning like winning and losing. This is winning like peace in your soul. Winning like stepping into your strength and power, not because of someone else, but because it is the right thing for you. Winning like clarity of who you are, what you stand for, what you will stand in your life.

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

And what you learn sorting out one tough relationship is translatable to all your relationships. When you sort it out with yourself, you stand differently in every context, not just the one you sorted it out in. You begin to discern more often more quickly what is yours to do and what belongs to someone else. You leave them to do whatever they choose with their stuff – hang onto it, release it – it is not your business what they do or don’t do – and you focus on what is yours to do.

It sounds simple when I write it or say it. It can be. Honestly, though, it is can also be an intense, intentional journey over a long period of years. While it could be true (and the Law of Attraction would say it is true) that you could shift everything literally overnight, that is not my experience, nor the experience of people I know. As one of my coaches said to me, you can do the energetic, non-physical work in an instant. But then you need to ground it in physical experience, shifting patterns that you have taken years or even a life time to grow. It is an invitation to stay in your journey, despite setbacks, despite not seeing progress, despite experiencing the same patterns over and over again. Until the day it shifts. When you notice something has changed. Sometimes when other people have noticed something has changed.

You can continue to give away your power by stubbornly holding onto the notion that someone else needs to do the work – and it is hard to pry away that thought (I know) – or you can step into the fullness of who you are – one step at a time, embrace all that shows up, give thanks for the person and the learning, acknowledge and own your own growth. After awhile, the difficult situations do diminish, you stop focusing on other people and what they do or do not do and you simply focus on what is present and alive for you, in any given moment.

CA red dress Day 1It is worth it. I tell you that from my own open hearted healing journey. I wouldn’t have it any other way – now.