Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jean Paul Riopelle - Chevreuse II

Jean Paul Riopelle - Chevreuse II
1953 - 1954, Oil on Canvas

There are times when you are so drawn in to a piece of art that you experience something that you cannot quite explain. It becomes a "spirit" moment. A glimpse into mystery, wonder, and divinity.

Jean Paul Riopelle's Chevreuse II did this for me today. I went to the AGO to see the Turner exhibition. It was ok. Very crowded. I moved through it quickly.

I walked around for a little bit without a particular purpose and walked into a room with this painting. It's a huge painting and it instantly drew me in. I gasped. I walked closer and I didn't leave for a very long time. I stood there and looked up at it and the longer I stayed the more overwhelmed I was. I don't really know how to explain the sensations or what I was feeling. All I know is that I was moved and the only thing I could do was keep looking with sometimes teary eyes.

Monday, January 18, 2016


This year, I had the best birthday I have ever had. There were no parties or grand gestures. It was a normal day. I went to work and Bryan and I went out for dosas in the evening. Nothing spectacular. 

What was spectacular however is how I was feeling. 

Earlier in January I had been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness and even as I read the book I was becoming more aware of my life. Seeing, if only briefly, the wondrous reality that life was. For me, reading Thich Nhat Hanh brought everything that I had been learning over the past few years from Richard Rohr, Fredrick Buechner, Henri Nouwen, and Yoga into a form that now makes sense. I see it all connecting up. 

For the very first time in my life I was able to feel joy and marvel at life itself. I felt grateful for everything and every experience I had had - even the bad ones. I smiled all day. I was overwhelmed with emotion - it was hard to contain. Often during the day I would cry and just shake with the intensity of it. 

Finally I was able to see My Self and even love my self. I truly celebrated me, my life, and in doing so I celebrated the lives of everyone I knew, everyone who loved me and was a part of my life. 

To truly see yourself, to catch a glimpse of that human soul in you - it was as if I were looking at God. Maybe I was. Maybe I was looking at the Life Force that is within all of us. The Spirit. The Essence of all life. 

Everything else seemed meaningless that day - how much money I made, where I lived, how secure my future was - nothing else mattered. 

I listened to Jason M'raz at work that day and I could see that all my struggling, all my experiences had brought me here. To this point and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's not easy but how else would I have learned these things. How else could I have experience what I experienced today?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Reasons to #LoveTheWorld

See earlier post here: 50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld

Niagara Falls, Canada

Harbourfront, Toronto
Niagara On the Lake, Canada

Tree Swallow, The Brickworks, Toronto

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. - Marianne Williamson

I've had this quote up on my blog for a long time now.
I've been thinking about it again.
I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness and he talks about being in a state of mindful mediation all the time. Being fully aware of every minute, every breath, every moment.

To me that was terrifying! If I was completely aware of every minute I was awake life would seem so vast and long. I would actually have all the time in the world and while that should make me happy it scared me. What would I do with all this time? If I was being mindful with it I would actually be a very productive human being. If I was mindful of time I would not waste it. But that would mean actually facing my life and the world and not seeking distraction. Good lord! I don't know how to live like that!!! I am afraid of what that might feel like. What emotions that will bring up. Will I be able to handle them?

I know I have been doing this for a long time now - distracting myself with television or mindless online games. I try to find a state of numbness so I don't have to really deal with life or the world. I function - I go to work, do what needs to be done to keep the semblance of a life lived - but I am not really living it.

I also have many dreams. I want to be so much but I'm not doing what I need to in order to actualize those dreams. Somewhere I still judge and criticize. I make excuses. I blame others. It has become such a part of my being that I don't even recognize it. It is what holds me back.

I realized that I was really afraid of being my true self. I kind of enjoy thinking I have some potential but really going after the dream, really becoming somebody amazing almost paralyses me. It is probably my biggest fear. So I actively find ways to waste time just to get through the day. It's a sickness really. It's such a waste of life.

So it is time now to stop wasting time. It is time to be awake and aware.
It is time for me to find and be my true self. To be amazing and fabulous. To be everything I can and want to be. It is time to be brave and courageous and face the world and my self.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Young, Healthy 35 Year Old

Two weeks before my surgery in November I went to a pre-op consultation. I had a bunch of questions for the nurses. They answered me very patiently. Then I asked them what my husband should do if there was an emergency? Is there a box or something I can tick so they don't resuscitate me?

The nurse said, Oh you're thinking about the worst possible thing. Well - there's always a risk with surgery but you are young and healthy so it should be fine. You are a great candidate for surgery.

I was a little shocked really. Me - YOUNG & HEALTHY! I don't think of myself as young and healthy at all! I am close to 36, I am overweight, I have aches and pains and very low energy. I don't run, I don't exercise, I don't diet - how could I be healthy? In fact, I was actually expecting that the pre-op tests would throw something horrendous up! Like I had high blood sugar or something. Especially since when I went home my aunt tested my blood sugar on her little home testing device and my numbers were on the higher side. Of course my mum was all worked up and they both looked at me with grave concern. Even as I was going through the pre-op meetings and tests my mum kept asking me what my sugar levels were. Apparently - they were fine for surgery - so there!

I spent one day in hospital and the nurses kept saying how well I was doing. I wasn't nauseous from the anaesthesia, I was responding well to the pain medication, I was able to eat, my oxygen levels were good, my blood reports were good - I was recovering like a champ! And all the while they said, Oh you're doing so well. You're healthy and young - you'll bounce right back!

Through this surgery and recovery I have realized that I really am young and healthy. So many people must go through that hospital everyday with so many complications. So many must have surgeries they really struggle to recover from. And God only knows the number of illnesses the doctors and nurses see every day. And here I was, doing very well.

So why don't I feel that way everyday? Going through life I tell myself that I am not healthy and no longer young. It's a lie. Medical science says so - It's a bloody lie. I am young. And I am healthy. And I will not waste any more time in my life believing otherwise. I will enjoy the youth and good health I have been blessed with. And be thankful for it.

I will be 36 in a couple of days - Here's to my young and healthy 36 year old self! :) 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld

I came across this today - 50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld.
We are constantly badgered with news about how horrible the world is, and how horrible the people of the world are - and there are some horrible people - but we shouldn't forget how beautiful the world is. It's hard for me to remember this. Which is stupid because even I - limited and untraveled as I am - have seen such beauty.

We need to remember the beauty of the world. We need to seek it and bask in it and share it.
So we don't forget.

These are some of my pictures taken over the years - so I don't forget that I have seen much beauty in this life. And that there is much more to see.

The Sunset at Dandeli, India

Storm Rolling In, Pondicherry, India
Jispa, India
The Himalayas, India

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Miracle of Mindfulness

This has been wonderful for me.

I have actually been at home for the past three days sick with a cold and fever. I have been reading a little a day. Before I got sick with my cold I spent the first week at work not feeling very good. It was nice to be back but I have been struggling for a while with it. I think it is time for a change in my life. I don't like to do something for too long - it gets boring and I lose interest. I think feeling restless and wanting more are good things. It helps me not get complacent or stuck in whatever I am doing. Also - I have spent a lot of time over the past year solidifying what I want to do next with my life and I really just want to get going on it! Bills have to be paid though and as jobs go, it's not a bad one.

I was beginning to feel limited again and trapped in my circumstance and that is never good for me. I spiral when I begin to feel like that and maybe this cold was part of it. Of course, it's winter, I went into a full work week after 6 weeks of recovering from surgery, and it's flu season so a cold is bound to happen. Still, I think having these three days to read the book without dealing with any other emotions except getting physically better was a gift from the universe.

The importance of being in the now, of being aware and present has been coming back to me over the past few years. I read about it earlier in Richard Rohr's The Naked Now. I have paid attention to it in Yoga. I am reminded of it when I listen to Jason Mraz's Living in the Moment. It's not an easy thing to do though - it takes work and constant practice. This book helps.

The books also gives me a different approach to work in general, be it a job or doing the dishes. I find mundane work tedious. Cooking everyday, cleaning, dishes, groceries all seem like a huge waste of time. If someone else could just do it for me life would be so much better.

Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't think of work in this way.

Wash the dishes relaxingly, as though each bowl is an object of contemplation. Consider each bowl as sacred. Follow your breath to prevent your mind from straying. Do not try to hurry to get the job over with. Consider washing the dishes the most important thing in life. Washing the dishes is meditation. If you cannot wash the dishes in mindfulness, neither can you meditate while sitting in silence. (pg 85)

This applies to all things.

He sees every act, every minute as an opportunity to experience the great mystery of life, the wondrous reality. It is an opportunity to be completely oneself. To be present.

Of course I don't understand any of this yet but it is draws me in - these ideas, this voice.

One of the things I am very drawn to is the half-smile.

"Half-smile when you first wake up in the morning." And half-smile every time you begin to meditate. And meditate all the time. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, do it mindfully. Half-smile and watch your breath. Slow it down. Be aware.

Right now its hard for me to not break into a full smile when I think of the half-smile. It just makes me so happy. I'm sure this elation is not very Zen like and in time I will learn to control it. But a half-smile makes everything seem better doesn't it?

I feel like I have been searching for this all my life. I remember saying at Book Club sometime last year that I wanted to go through life with a zen-like feel. Not tossed about but calm, composed, as if I know something more than what meets the eye. I know that every time I think about this I do have a half-smile on my face and my eyes gets softer.

I don't know anything about Zen, meditation, or mindfulness but there is a longing in each of us and when that longing is spoken to by something, we know we need to embrace it and pursue it.

So here begins my journey to meditation and mindfulness. 

(I am aware that mindfulness gets thrown around a lot these days and in its mass production can be found in very diluted forms. I am hoping that in reading Thich Nhat Hanh and trying to follow his way I will learn it in a more solid form. It would be good to find a good teacher though - I'm sure that will happen in time.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Understanding my Personality Type

In my search to understand my self I think it is helpful to understand my personality type.

We did the Myers-Briggs when I was doing my Masters in Christianity. I was an ISTJ then.

Our teacher asked us to think about our personality types again and see if we agreed with it. I realized that I was more an N (iNtuition - tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities) deep down inside but was raised to be an S (Sensing. ISTJ's tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities. (from Wikipedia)

More recently I have realized, and have taken tests, that say I am an INFJ and I think this is more true to my inner self.

Understanding my personality traits explains a lot about the way I am and function. It helps me not be so hard on myself. It's just the way I am made. The thing to do is to understand this and work with it to make life better.

Some things I've read so far that are helpful.
  • INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types. (Portrait of an INFJ)
  • INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic in their outer world. They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within themselves on an intuitive basis which is entirely spontaneous. This is something of a conflict between the inner and outer worlds, and may result in the INFJ not being as organized as other Judging types tend to be.  (Portrait of an INFJ)
  • INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments.(Portrait of an INFJ)
  • INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all.(INFJ Personality)
  • The passion of their convictions is perfectly capable of carrying them past their breaking point and if their zeal gets out of hand, they can find themselves exhausted, unhealthy and stressed. (INFJ Personality)
  • Strengths - Creative, Insightful, Inspiring and Convincing, Decisive, Determined and Passionate, Altruistic. (INFJ Personality)
  • Weaknesses - Sensitive, Extremely Private, Perfectionism, Always need to have a Cause, Can Burn out Easily. (INFJ Personality)

I am actually grateful that I was raised an ISTJ. I think that I still carry some of those traits that help me with my life now. In finding my inner personality at a later stage in my life, I can now learn to draw from the best of both pools which is something of a bonus! :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

God with Us

This Christmas we went to the service at the Church of the Redeemer. They have a fantastic choir and we like to listen to the music. The service itself was fine. The choir was good. The after party was ok.

I didn't feel very connected to Christmas this year and I haven't felt very connected to church for a long time. Maybe I am trying not to. Or maybe it's gotten harder to believe.

Things were going along fine in the sermon until the preacher told us about one of the choir members being murdered in the streets of Toronto earlier that week.

I guess, that was it for me!

Any sliver of wanting to be joyful, or hopeful, or at peace was gone. I was grasping anyway and now I fell down the well of hopelessness. I suppose the preacher wanted to bring home the idea that even though there is loss, and mourning there is joy because the saviour is born.... but I couldn't quite feel it. I didn't expect to - after all it has been a very long time since the birth of the saviour meant much to me - meaningfully.

It would be nice to though.

It would be nice to feel that joy even in the midst of sorrow.
To feel hopeful even when the night is bleak.

Anyway, I struggled through the service, not knowing how to feel, wanting to be joyful but not able to, wondering what to do with the rest of my year now that I seem to be so disconnected with God.

I thought of all the sad things that happened this year and all the people who were affected by it. I thought of the Syrian Refugees in their tents, the children dispersed from the Nepal earthquake and the floods in Chennai, and others for whom suffering, violence, fear, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness are part of their everyday lives.

Is it really possible to be joyful in this world? Can someone actually do that?

At the end of the service, as everyone but me sang the last hymn I had this feeling - that God was standing next to me with his arm around my shoulder, with an expression on his face that matched my own, only a little more knowing, a little more wise, a little more calm. He didn't seem terribly joyful but he had an empathetic smile - that 's how I perceived it. He didn't need me to be joyful. Just who I was - at that time.

And we stood there, God and I, at the point where my life was. In my scepticism, and cynicism, in my longing to believe, and my yearning for the experience of mystery - God stood with me. Just where I was.

Maybe this is what Emmanuel means.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Nurturing my Body in January

So I had great plans for this year as always. I wanted to do more, go more places, move more.
I went back to work 4 days into the new year and at the end of the day I was exhausted! All I could do was get myself back home and lie down.

My energy levels are not great to begin with and I didn't realize how hard the surgery would hit me. I was fine for the past two months while I recovered. I didn't have to go anywhere! Going from being quite relaxed to a full work day with two hours in transit knocked the wind out of me!

So I got angry and frustrated. And sad. I was raring to go in the New Year and I couldn't.

Then I realized that my body still needed a lot of attention. I needed to sleep better, eat better, drink more water, exercise and maybe take some supplements to boost my body up.

Wednesday night I went to bed early. Got 8 hours of sleep. Got a big breakfast Thursday morning. Drank lots of water and ate a good lunch.

I was much better when I got home. The best I had felt all week. I even cooked and packed veggies and snacks for the next day.

I've decided that this month I need to focus on nurturing my body. After all - I did have major surgery. I shouldn't forget that.

So - no other plans this month - just building my body up so she can help me follow through on all those great plans I have for 2016!

Also on: Dropping the Overcoat

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Self in 2016

This year is going to be about Building the Self. 
Again, I am not sure what that will look like but I am hoping that I will come out stronger, more aware, more kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others at the end of the year. 

I have spent too much time in the middle, always trying to please. Always trying not to rock the boat. 
I've moved away from this now. I have had the courage to move away. 

Now it's time to go deeper and explore what that means. 

So, here's to the Self in 2016!