Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Finding the Magic

Perception is everything. So often we pass the same landmarks as we drive to work, shopping or elsewhere on familiar routes, and pay no attention to what’s around us. We’ve seen it all too many times before.

That’s why many of us love to travel. In a different place we naturally focus on our surroundings with fresh eyes. We allow ourselves to be seduced in the moment, enjoying the caress of the breeze on our skin, the roar of the surf in our ears, and the visual stimulation of buildings we never saw before.

On a recent trip to Florida, I wandered the streets of Pass-a-Grille, a residential beach area on the Gulf. I came across these unusual hangings in a yard decorated for Christmas.

It was magical!

I also discovered a wooden wishing well that looked like it had emerged from the pages of a fairytale. I had to hold myself back from stepping on private property to toss in a few coins for good luck.

In Gulfport’s waterfront district, the rows of quaint shops immediately drew my attention – their outer walls ranging from deep orange to lime green to yellow.

How delightful!

My challenge now is to view my surroundings back home with the same sense of wonder. To appreciate the uniqueness even in a harsh Canadian winter.

Today I admire the way the ice glistens on my windowpane, leaving patterns as distinctive as the snowflakes that tumble from the sky.

There IS beauty everywhere – it’s just a matter of perception.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Italy... from Splendor to Ruins

As I walk down cobble-stoned streets in Tuscany's hill top towns, ancient church bells clang in the clear mountain air. I feel the harmony of a simpler life in medieval times.

Long before the tourists arrived, donkeys and mules travelled these roads, carrying goods for the community.

The people may not have been wealthy but they worked closely together and enjoyed spectacular views like this one from their mountain homes.

There's an orderliness to the countryside that is very pleasing to the eye - whether it's the neat olive groves or rows of tall, cone-shaped Italian Cypress.

I am with a Canadian tour group. We are driving through the Appenines from Tuscany to Umbria, then up the Adriatic coast to Venice before heading west.

Beyond the old-world charm of Venice and Florence, I marvel at all the Renaissance art, including Michelangelo's magnificent marble statue of "David."

In Lucca, Florence and Pisa, I admire the baroque or byzantine architecture of the Middle Ages - only to realize that in bygone eras, these cities were vibrant, exciting places to live in, not historical sites. It was a special time on Earth when our greatest artists and inventors gifted us with their work.

We visit these places to see the unparalleled richness and beauty of the Renaissance.

Our tour ends with Rome, once the seat of the mighty Roman Empire. As we explore the ruins of the Roman Forum (less than 1/3 of the original building structures remain), I am filled with a sense of devastation and loss.

But when I see the Colosseum, where so many slaves or prisoners of war fought to the death as others watched and clapped, I'm glad the bloody past is over.

Present-day Italy is a land of contrasts - from the peacefulness of the hill tops and their medieval towns to the bustling cities - as well as a mecca of well-preserved art and history.

What may strike you the most, if you go, is the wonderful food (traditional & preservative-free) and the warmth of a people who greet you with an enthusiastic "buon giorno" every day.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Moon - Daring to Dream...

My eyes turn towards the skies lately, focused on the glowing, orange moon. The Harvest Moon arrives around this time every year and each time, I am blown away by its beauty.

Because it’s round and full, it appears pregnant as well as magical – pregnant with dreams.

It reminds me that what we imagine carries much weight. Focused on what we would like to see in our lives, we can feel inspired and hopeful.

It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t have what we want. That’s why we need to bring a piece of it into our lives right now.

If you long for a summer garden, you can plant a bunch of bright yellow daisies in a flowerpot. It will make your heart sing, because it’s part of your dream. Maybe your dream is to visit Hawaii but with your finances stretched to the limit and current responsibilities, it seems impossible. Just putting a picture magnet of Maui on your fridge can keep your dream alive. And who knows? An opportunity to travel there may come sooner than you think.

When we lose our dreams, we lose our enthusiasm for living. The Harvest Moon comes around once a year to remind us.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Bigger Picture - Our Playing Field

I’m stair-climbing to prepare for a Fall trip to Italy, where I’ll visit “hill top towns” in the north (as well as the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome).

Mostly I go up and down the bleacher stairs at my local track and field. For anyone who's counting (like ME), I'm currently at 250 steps per day.

When I catch my breath at the top of the bleachers, I look out over the playing field at the treetops and endless blue horizon. There is a sense of spaciousness; a glimpse of infinity.

What if we could look at the “playing field” of our lives from a higher perspective? What would we see? Our past mistakes or misfortunes may have only been stepping stones to a different path. Where did they lead us?

My divorce many years ago led to a life of more freedom, giving me time and energy to coach others, deliver motivational workshops and write stories and articles. Instead of seeing it as a “failed relationship,” I know that my ex and I enjoyed what we had but simply came to the end of our road together.

Similarly, I could have perceived my mother’s debilitating illness as a “misfortune,” but it convinced me to quit my corporate job early and take care of her. The strength of our growing connection opened the floodgates of my heart, allowing me to feel great depths of compassion, overwhelming grief and intense joy.

I find there are fewer “mistakes” when we listen to the urgings of that small voice within… the voice that sometimes tells us to make a choice that isn’t logical or comfortable.

Looking at the larger picture of your life, where did events or your decisions lead you? What did you learn or gain that may not have looked like much from the outside, but SOMEHOW satisfied your soul?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Candles in the Night

About 150 Montrealers met downtown last night at Place des Festivals to hold a candlelight vigil for Grand Elder Raymond Robinson, who is on a spiritual fast, refusing both food and water for over five days.

He will fast until our Federal Government agrees to meet with Canada’s First Nations to resolve the current impasse. Hundreds of years ago, treaties were signed to protect certain lands and waters for the aboriginal peoples. First Nations are being asked, according to Grand Elder Robinson, “to give up our waters, our lands, our resources and even our inherent aboriginal treaty rights.”

Many believe that the reason for this is potential corporate profits, especially for oil companies prepared to lay pipeline on reservation land.

Montreal was one of many communities across the country and in other parts of the world to hold a candlelight vigil for Grand Elder Robinson and demonstrate concern over what is at stake for our aboriginal peoples. We drummed, sang Indian songs, and joined hands to dance to the drum’s beat in a circle. We also released our heart-felt prayers for Robinson's safety and well-being and for a positive outcome.

Similar injustices are occurring everywhere on this planet. The corruption of those in power is becoming more apparent and people are in revolt.

While our demonstrations of support may not bring immediate change, they connect us with our spirit and we begin to dream of a different world. A world of peace and harmony, where human rights and the natural environment are respected.

Our “dreaming” of a new world makes all the difference – for everything begins with a dream.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Capturing the Sun

On a recent trip to Florida, I fell in love with the spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. No two were ever alike. Sometimes the sky was completely orange, other times layered with pink, yellow and red.

I came home with over a dozen photos and enlarged a few so that I could frame them and enjoy these sunsets all year round on my wall.

Appreciating beauty is said to put us on the same emotional wavelength as love - and admiring Nature makes it easy for us to stay in harmony and peace. We live on an incredibly beautiful planet.

I hope you take a few moments every day to observe your surroundings and find something to admire. This will bring you into the present moment (instead of staying in your thoughts) and raise your happiness quotient. I recommend it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Darkness before Dawn

I volunteer at a Montreal hospital. Yesterday, in the Orthopedics ward, Diana, a young woman in a leg cast, asked to be wheeled outside for some fresh air. The real reason: wanting a cigarette. On the hospital grounds, another young woman, also in a wheelchair, spoke to her as they shared a smoke. She had jumped from her third floor apartment and ended up with multiple injuries.

This is when I discovered how Diana had broken her leg and pelvis. She, too, had tried to end it all by jumping – only from a bridge.

Both these patients are receiving psychological counseling.

But how many people in this time of job losses, debt, foreclosures and relationship breakups are increasingly overwhelmed? Too many feel they are only one step away from disaster. It’s important to ask for help, whether from others or in the form of a heart-felt prayer. How can it be wrong to ask for support, when we are part of the human family, connected to each other through our hearts?

We are heading for what many prophesized as “the end times” in December 2012. I believe this signifies a shift of consciousness and not the end of our world. It’s about our ability to choose love and peace over fear, hatred and war. Most of us now want a saner, more harmonious planet where life is revered and not destroyed.

It begins and ends with US – how we choose to feel and act towards one another. And what we focus our attention on.

May all of us who want these changes emerge into a glorious new dawn!