Monday, August 26, 2013

Road fork.

The essence of Fall is in the air in northern Alberta (already???). The morning is gray and foggy and the furnace in the motorhome is taking the chill out of the air. Willie Nelson's newest album, Let's Face the Music and Dance, is keeping me company. "Sittin' here wondering if a matchbox will hold my clothes...". If by matchbox, he means a small motorhome, then yes. Hearing Willie brings back fond memories of my dread lock-adorned college roommate, who was a Willie fanatic. Back then I wasn't at all interested in old hippie-cowboy serenades. Today, I adore them. Funny how life changes us. 

I recently rewatched Slumdog Millionaire, a story of an orphaned boy on the streets of Mumbai, India. (I don't often watch or suggest movies, but this one is in my top 5 of all time inspirational films.) The story recounts all of his life experiences that had led him to where he was presently.  It reminded me that every single day is a gift and that we constantly draw upon past experiences to help us make decisions in the present.  

Over the last 5 months of living tiny in this motorhome, we have realized how much this lifestyle suits us. So the question we have been asking ourselves is "where will we go for the winter so that we can continue to live in our little rolling home?"  We certainly won't be able to stay warm enough or keep the pipes thawed in our vintage home here, where temperatures are well below freezing, often dropping as low as -30c or lower. We have considered heading southwest toward Vancouver Island for the cold season, where temperatures are rarely much below freezing. Maybe even California. Seems more practical, right?

However, Northern Alberta drew us here for a reason (in addition to being close to family). There's no nice way to say it.
We came to make money. To pay off debt. To free ourselves from the system. To end the old chapter of what has become widely accepted as "normal life", so that we could write a new chapter about an alternative way of living. So far, we have made strides in that direction. We have a ways to go yet though, and staying put for the winter would help see us through to the other side. Dilemma

Out of the blue last week, a cowboy preacher from the neighborhood stopped by. (I use this term loosely, as the neighborhood consists of hundreds of square kilometers of farm and ranch land) He asked us if we would be interested in housesitting his cozy log cabin for the winter. Appealing. Yet...being holed up 45 minutes from the nearest town in bitter cold temperatures with the shortest days having a mere 7 hours of daylight raises my skepticism flag high. 

To me, this is a perfect opportunity to relax, breathe and observe. If this option showed up, won't others come too?  Yes, they will. Be patient. Be open to the flow of life and hold up your butterfly net. Listen to your initial instincts. Follow the bread crumbs that life lays down every day. The messages are all around us. I personally do not believe in coincidences or accidents. I believe that we play a much larger roll in our daily experiences than we are led to believe, through the teachings of religion and society.  

During a bike ride the other day, I was listening to Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth audio book for the 6th time. Yes, it's that good. Everything he said was profound, yet, the last line I heard before getting off of my bike was the most powerful one. He said "we do not live life, life lives us." And as the cowboy preacher said to us last night, "you can make all the plans you want, but they will only happen if The Lord wills them to happen". In my own words, I prefer to think that the universe has our best interest in order and that we are presented with situations that will help us to grow our consciousness collectively as a species. 

"One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment. "

Friday, August 16, 2013

Warning: May cause you to love life.

This post is about cultivating a wonderful life, filled with love, meaning and connection.  It ended up being a bit lengthy, but these words are important to me.  The inspiration came to me during a sunshiny, summer chat with a wise elder who said "The grass will always be greener, if you choose to see it that way. Or you can focus on keeping your own grass greener each day." I thought about that statement and it occurred to me that many of us spend much of our time wanting what others have, wanting to be somewhere else or wishing we had a different life. 
YIKES!!!  How did we let ourselves get to this point?! What can we do to learn to love our life as it comes? I have a few ideas I would like to share. From what I have learned so far, a happy life takes a bit of effort and patience and understanding of human nature. By default, we are all the same at the core and we all need the same things to feel good about life. Try focusing on finishing old business and loving what you have. 

Several years ago, I attended a retreat on New Year's Eve. It was there that I first heard of a life-changing tool called Non-Violent Communication (NVC). My first reaction was "haha! I don't need that. I'm the most non-violent person I know!"  Think again. Simple words can do as much damage to the soul as a nuclear bomb.  Over the last few years, I have learned to rely on NVC every day to communicate better with the people around me. It has been a tool that has helped my life flow smoother and has strengthened many relationships with coworkers, family and friends. 

Challenge yourself to become a better communicator. There is no downside. It's free. All it takes is an open heart, an open mind and honesty. 

Here are the simple steps to communicate how you feel and let others (and yourself) know what you need. It can be used to show gratitude also. Very powerful stuff. Ok so here goes. 

Step 1: State the facts of the situation. No extra dramatic flare needed. Facts only. Keep it simple. No name calling or blaming. 

Step 2:  State how you feel about this. DO NOT use the words "you made me feel..." Or "it made me feel...."  You are the only one who made you feel it. Make that connection in your mind. (Feeling words: I FEEL- happy, sad, angry, afraid, excited, uncomfortable, embarrassed, grateful, etc. DO NOT use words that imply fault, such as disappointed, offended, annoyed, irritated etc.)

Step 3: Tell yourself and others what need(s) you have that are/aren't or weren't met in this situation. (Ex: needs for safety, love, peacefulness, quiet, inclusiveness, respect, friendship, community, freedom etc.)

Step 4: If you feel the need, make a kind request to another. A request might be something you want to do for another, or something you would like done for you. 

To get the whole picture, here is an example situation:
Mary made dinner. Joe didn't come home for dinner. Mary is angry. 
They can blame and point fingers and try to guilt each other and create a huge mess that will make their lives miserable...
or use NVC...

Mary: "Joe, I spent two hours cooking us a lovely dinner tonight, and I ate it by myself.  You didn't come home when you usually do for dinner. (Those are the facts.)
I'm feeling sad and angry about it. (That's how she feels.)
I have a need for clear communication and a need for appreciation for the things that I do. I also have a need for quality time with you. (Her needs). 
The next time that you have plans in the evening, would you please tell me ahead of time so that I can plan my time accordingly? I would really appreciate that." (Seems like a kind request to me.)

A key component here is non-attachment to the outcome. The other person(s) involved my not react the way you would like them to, but that is out of your control.  Do your part to speak from your heart and the rest is up to them. You will feel better about life knowing that you did what you could to enrich the situation. 

I was reading a book the other day and a passage jumped off the page. It was a statement from a Native elder. In a nutshell she said, do not carry the dead. Work out your own issues now. Not later, not tomorrow, now. Don't leave it up to someone else to help you like your life more. Do not give away the moments of today to the troubles of yesterday. At the end of the day, you're the only one who will be hurting from those negative thoughts and feelings inside. 

Whew. If that all seems overwhelming, its understandable. It might even been a bit scary while you are learning this new language of communication. Most of us have been communicating from our egos our whole lives. Send your ego (and its fears) on a one-way trip and open your heart. Practice. Practice. Practice. 

Another simple tool that I have been using for a number of years is to acknowledge the things that I am grateful for. It can be done at the dinner table before anyone takes a bite. Take a moment for each family member to say what they are thankful for from their day. 

Alternatively (or in addition), if you have a partner that you get to snuggle up with each night, take a moment to tell each other and the universe what you appreciated today. No partner? Say it out loud anyway! It is amazing how life will shift to the positive side when you begin to realize how fortunate you really are. Pour your energy into nurturing the flowers of life instead of constantly looking for the weeds. 

Lastly, pick one (or all) of these suuuuuper easy things: Smile. Hold a door for someone. Let someone know you're thinking of them. Share some homemade food. Give hugs. Let someone ahead of you in line. Buy a coffee for someone. Offer to lend a hand. Do these things with the intention of spreading good vibes. Have no expectations that you will ever be compensated for your kindness.

Life will love you back and that is reason enough. 

Extra tidbit:
My heart grew a few sizes today after watching this...

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

More Power...but not the kind you think.

Last night, reading by headlamp, I could hardly put down a new-to-me book that a friend recently recommended. It's called Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, PH.D... and it's amazing. In a nutshell, it is about recognizing emotional and spiritual patterns in ourselves and learning how to correct them to avoid/heal illness and disease.
First thing this morning, I did a quick exercise inspired by the first few chapters. She talked about how we each give up personal power over a lifetime of everyday experiences, and how each of us can learn to regain our personal power to boost health and wellness. Here's what I came up with:

Things that Self-Empower Me
Reading books
Helping others with love
Staying informed
Growing my food
Learning new things
Listening to my intuition
Doing what feels right
Healthy cooking & eating
Honesty and clear communication
Surrounding myself with loving people

Conversely, here are the things that I find DEPLETE my Personal Power:
Fearfulness (this is a broad topic, amazing the subtle things we all fear)
Believing and/or sharing false information
Exposing myself to negative energy (people and situations)
Not respecting my body (ie. consuming foods that are not supporting my wellness)
Not speaking up about injustices or fallacies in our world
Undervaluing myself

This exercise was similar to the "Things That I LOVE" exercise, but also made me reflect on the things that I allow myself and others to do or say that are depleting my Personal Power.  I am certainly intrigued by my lists and hope to dig a little deeper to discover more.  I hope that this will be useful to some of you also.

It's SO interesting what humans will say and do to each other to steal each others personal power. Children learn this at a very young age through observation of the adults in their lives.  In Gary Zukav's life-changing book, Spiritual Partnership, he likens all human relationships as being like two weights on an old-fashioned scale.  We should all be working to keep the scales balanced, which means we don't see ourselves as "above" anyone else, and at the same time we don't undervalue ourselves and see others as "above" us. I also recall a passage in another book that was referring to the auras, or energy fields, around any two people interacting, and that there is a visual vacuum-like effect when one person is stealing power from another.  In the ideal human interaction, each person will be expanding the personal power of the other so that no one walks away drained or inferior.  Think about that the next time you speak to a stranger on the phone, stand at the checkout counter or have a flare up of road rage. Turn your thoughts around and give a little. It won't hurt you, and it could mean a whole lot to someone else.

"We all share a type of physical body that becomes ill or heals for the same reasons. We also share emotional and psychological crises common to the human experience. Everyone fears abandonment, loss and betrayal; anger is as toxic within a Jewish body as it is within a Christian or Hindu body; and we are all drawn to LOVE. When it comes to the health of our spirits and our bodies, we have NO differences." - Caroline Myss, PH.D.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Get up. Stand up. Yes, you.

I have spent many, many hours, which translates to hundreds of kilometers, riding my bicycle around the county roads of rural Alberta. It's field after field of genetically modified organisms (GMO's), being repeatedly sprayed with a toxic chemical cocktail (made largely of petroleum byproducts), which feed us, our families and the livestock that ends up on your dinner table. Amongst nearly every farmer's crop is an oil or gas well. Often both. At night, huge flames light up the skyline, flaring off the waste gases from the wells. It stinks. In more than one way. 

It's evident to me that the oil and gas industry has an upper hand, and that BIG agriculture has the other upper hand. They're giving each other a big, sweaty high five right over top of Alberta's heartland.  I would even go as far as saying that they have a secret handshake, and a treehouse where they meet with the banks, insurance agencies, public health providers, government "officials", pharmaceutical companies...and Walmart (to name a few). I am yet to actually document this...but stay tuned. 

What I'm getting at here is that every choice YOU make (by using your inner wisdom...yup. it's in you. I promise.) that uninvolves all of these huge organizations brings you one step closer to your innate birthright of freedom.  

(Canada, don't fool yourself, most of the same things apply to us too.)

For me, things like riding a used bicycle, growing my own food, bartering (really?! Yes!) educating myself on natural health solutions, supporting small local merchants and most of all, speaking to other people about what I believe and about my hopes for a better tomorrow are bringing me ever closer to the life I imagine for our future generations. 

There is a big difference between being awake and aware of what is really happening in the world (starting in your own home) and then actually doing something about it.  So many folks say "I don't want to know! I'm happier not knowing." Or "I can't make a difference anyway." Then there are those who say "well, I sure do my part! I recycle!" Or "I use a cloth grocery bag".  Well, don't get me wrong, those things are great, but honestly folks, that simply is not enough to turn this sinking ship we call humanity around!

We North Americans (and probably all corporate-run countries) have a tendency to pack every moment of our day so full that we won't take the time to notice the bigger picture. We are so absorbed in work and "obligations" (or so we like to tell ourselves) and made-up busy stuff. Working day and night to earn enough for that shiny new vehicle and that all-inclusive holiday and toys and new clothes and appliances  and...and...AND....when is enough going to be enough? 

In 10 years of not owning a television, I have been able to think for myself, have more free time, get outdoors, meet new people, find out what really matters to me (and to others) speak my truth and make a difference, even if it's a small one. The down side of not having a tv is.......(*crickets chirping*.....)

Do yourself and your families a HUGE favor and get rid of your bossy talk box.  Your kids will probably cry. Maybe for days or even weeks. It's called withdrawal. TV and video games (and smart phones, iPads, etc) are a serious addiction. They will recover and on the other side, they will become happier, healthier, less moody, more creative, more active, more like kids are supposed to be! These things are robbing us humans of so many key components of thriving!  Not to mention that no matter how you slice it and dice it and try to justify it, you are being told what to think, how to act and what to consume consciously and subconsciously every single time you turn these things on. And pleeeeeease don't give your electronics to someone else! They need to wake up too! Smash them with a baseball bat and/or chuck it into the local electronics reclamation site (making darn sure that it shatters and is unfixable). I'm serious. Help yourself. Help your loved ones to break the cycle of a mindless existence. Get outdoors. It's nature...natural. Where we are supposed to be. 

Once you have started doing these things, we can make up our own secret handshake and build our own tree houses and enjoy the beauty and freedom we deserve. I don't know about you, but when I was born, I don't recall signing anything that said I agreed to taxation, vaccination, food poisoning, or slavery. We have all come to accept this as normal. Just like our parents did and their parents did. Well it's not normal. So stand up and speak up. Start living. 

Ps. On a lighter note, check out this super creative music video about living simply. And riding a bike. Love it!