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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

This morning Daniel, an awesome photographer and avid Bruce Trail hiker, posted about gratitude on Facebook. It inspired me to write a little about what I am grateful for today and share that with you.

Since November 2012 I’ve been getting rid of a lot of the negative influences in my life and that has made room for some very positive aspects to move to the forefront. I often reflect on all the wonderful things in my life and I try to pull the lessons out of the not-so-great things that have happened. Doing so keeps me grounded and my outlook focused where it needs to be.

I am grateful for…

  • Bryan
  • my darling children — Tobias & Kaia
  • love
  • true friends
  • our dog Thomson
  • coffee
  • camping trips
  • naps
  • my bike — I love our family bike rides
  • Tobias being a great big brother to Kaia
  • air conditioning
  • my friend Laurie dropping in to say hello
  • story time with my baby girl
  • my camera
  • wildflowers
  • our local trail network
  • hugs from Stephanie
  • my running playlist
  • the full fly on our tent
  • simple pleasures
  • running in the woods
  • listening to my kids play, sing & be silly
  • sunscreen
  • swings — they bring out my inner child
  • freezies — brought over by my sweet neighbour when she spots us coming back from a bike ride

So, what are you grateful for today?

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As Bryan and I approach our 20th wedding anniversary we find ourselves reflecting on our marriage and thinking about what we want to do in the future. Lately, there have been many wonderful conversations surrounding that. We are both simply amazed at how fast the time has gone, how much we’ve overcome and how our outlook has changed on so many levels. One of the topics we’ve recently chatted about is what we consider wealth to be.

There was a time where wealth would have meant having so much money that we could buy whatever we wanted without having to think about whether we could afford to or not. We wanted it all but that “all” was based on materialism. Bryan was working a great deal of overtime and I was putting in eighteen hour days with my own business. The money was fabulous but we were too tired to enjoy our lives and we weren’t all that happy about the long hours. We didn’t have time for children and had agreed that we wouldn’t become parents because kids were just too expensive. Then we decided to spend a great deal of money on some high-end backpacking gear. We were in a position that we could buy whatever top-of-the-line item struck our fancy and we did. Funny enough, that is when our materialistic outlook started to change for the better.

Going out into the wilds was a big part of the shift in mental focus. Backpacking and wilderness canoeing put us into a much more simplified existence if only for a few weeks at a time. The distractions of the technological world were removed and we got back to basics while on those trips. Then, the next spring we lost pretty much everything we owned, including the business and car, in a house fire. We were homeless in a sense, staying in a small 10’ x 12’ room that friends graciously provided, for seven months. Sure, it was rough but we pulled together and muddled through. Losing everything brought us something unexpected—the freedom to recreate our lives in the way we wanted. We were alive and that in itself was a great gift. With that came so many other changes.

Experiences, both good and bad, bring great personal growth. We discovered just how strong our relationship really is and what good friends we are. Bryan and I talked with each other about who we were as a couple and individually. We shared our dreams and visions for the future just as we had done when we were dating. We had been given a blunt reminder about how fragile life is and with that started to embrace living. The realization that we shouldn’t measure wealth by looking at what material items we have or how much money is accumulated in the bank was a most important lesson. The richness we were seeking wasn’t something that could be bought in a store. And with that, and a series of other events, we decided to change things up… we became parents.

Our recent conversation illustrated to me that Bryan and I are still on the same page about many things. We both define wealth as being content with what we have and truly appreciating how full our lives really are.

For me the wealth is in the simple day-to-day activities like watching Tobias and Kaia play at the park together and the way she looks up to her big brother as he shows her how to climb are at the heart of it. The mere act of sitting on the couch, reading her a bedtime story is precious. Especially when looking over to see that Tobias is listening and remembering the way I used to read it to him. Sometimes he even narrates from memory. For Bryan it is the way the kids rush to greet him when he comes home from a business trip.

Family dinners on the patio, camping excursions with dear friends, sitting on the deck to watch the fireflies in the backyard, bicycle rides with our children, and hugs before bed are all things that make Bryan and I feel rich beyond measure. Sure, we could both pursue other more lucrative avenues with our careers but the cost would be the time we spend with each other, the children, and the other people we care about. That’s too high of a price for us to pay.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dolly Parton, because she puts it perfectly… “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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Let’s face facts; we have all been judgmental at one time or another. Today’s post is about a lady who I met when I went to my recent appointment at the ophthalmologist’s office. Her name is Liz.

Liz and another lady were having problems accessing the internet on the computer provided for waiting patients. They thought the wifi was down and I spoke up to say that I had no issues with using the connection on my BlackBerry, so it must have been the machine itself.

Liz and I chatted a bit while we waited. She asked if I believed in God and I said yes, because I do believe in a higher power. My beliefs are complex so I didn’t go on to explain—there wasn’t enough time and I really didn’t know her. I had mentioned what I do and given her my card. I always hand out my card because you never know who is going to need a graphic or website designer. She gave me her contact information and the next day I wrote her about the projects she wanted done.

She replied with an email full of Biblical reference and said “I need someone to set up my website. I also need someone to make me a flyer and business cards.” She went on to say “I will be in touch (Lord willing) and under His timing. But I just know he introduced me to you yesterday. I will study all the information on your website, your books etc. and I have faith that soon I will be in touch again!” Throughout the email she made it clear that she was choosing my business because of what she assumed I believed.

Because I feel that having integrity is extremely important, I wrote her back and explained my beliefs much the way I did in the post titled my thoughts on spirituality. I thought it the just and fair thing to do as she was placing so much of her decision on her perception of my beliefs rather than my talent and experience. It was also my fault for even responding to her query about my spiritual leanings in the first place and I should have been more clear at the time. I felt, by sending this reply, that I would be respected for my honesty.

The response from this woman, who happens to be in training to be a “Biblical Counsellor” was a shock to me. “I mentioned in my email Laurie that as GOD leads me I would contact you to help me with some projects. I am saddened by this but yes our differing beliefs will end our connection.”  Hmm… apparently I am not spiritual enough. I wonder if she only buys fuel from gas stations run by Christians she deems worthy enough. Or if she ensures the produce she buys from the grocery store was grown, picked, shipped, and sold by people who believe the same as she does. I hope the dairy farmer that milked the cow was worthy. Were the jeans she was wearing sewn by a “true” Christian? I apologize for my sarcasm but I found it insulting that she made the decision based on my faith; that even though she found my work “quite beautiful” I am not worthy enough to be her designer. She could have merely just said that I wasn’t the designer for her rather than put down what I believe in. It certainly lacked feeling or etiquette, in my opinion.

Several words come to mind, and they weren’t exactly complimentary. The most prominent one was prejudice and the second judgment. Because I do not hold the same spirituality that she does, that was the end of it. I was raised as a Christian and I was always taught to be accepting of all people despite our differences. To me, this was akin her judging me for the color of my skin or the shape of my body or my race. I am appalled.

This reminds me of one of the many bible quotes that my Mom taught me when I would sit on the stairs reading. I would have been about five years old and the quote was about acceptance. It was in Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” Liz, it seems, has clearly made up her mind and she certainly wasn’t accepting. I teach my children that we should understand and be accepting of people who may have different ideas than we do. Really, aren’t we all on similar journeys in this world?

I was also taught to never speak of religion or politics. This is one of those instances where, perhaps, I should have listened to my Mother.

I hope, that in reading this story, it will remind you to be accepting of others. With that, I leave you these words or inspiration.

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Nothing brings down walls as surely as acceptance.”
~ Deepak Chopra

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I am a runner.
A runner named Turtle.
S l o w   a n d   s t e a d y.

Today I finish my first full week of the Couch to 5k Treadmill Version which is a program of interval training to build up to a five kilometer run. This will be my fourth workout even though the program is set for three. You see, I’ve decided that I really like it and would do it every day if it didn’t mean the possibility of overtraining. I may not be very fast. I may not be able to run for as long of a stretch as I’d like. But the important thing is that I am running. The walking is good—the running is awesome!

Running reminds of my grade school motto; “Mind, Body, Spirit”. This is how the three relate to me when it comes to running.

Mind
Loving myself means being truly accepting of the fact that I am limitless and can reach any intelligent goal I set for myself. This was the first step in my transformation from obese to active. Running is no different.

When I am pushing myself harder than I thought possible and it seems difficult I just visualize myself running in a race, wearing a number and chip. Then I imagine myself crossing the finish line. This visualization process propels me forward in my workout and it also puts positive vibes out into the universe. I’m sure the thought of going back to injecting insulin into my abdomen four times a day could be motivating but I go for the more positive approach because I believe, with my entire being, that the feelings I put out there are what comes back to me.

Body
Aside from being much lighter than I was in the beginning of the journey to optimum health, which helps tremendously, I am also in better physical condition because of hiking, yoga, boosted walking, and the like. My lifestyle is quite active in comparison to the sedentary self I was twenty some years ago. I move. I’m stronger and more dedicated that I was even a mere decade ago. I have muscles that I actually feel now. With weight loss and fitness comes balance—life balance and physical balance. In other words, I am not falling over my fuzzy bunny slippers any longer.

The other big thing is that I am very conscious about what I put into my body and I do make better food choices, for the most part. Running makes that even more crucial because, even though I am not on medication, the reality is that I will always be diabetic and that presents some challenges.

Spirit
Many people think, too often, with their minds and aren’t connected to their spirit. Take my new relationship with running for example. It started with my jogging on a wilderness beach in the middle of Algonquin Provincial Park with my son Tobias. The setting was perfect, the day gorgeous, and I felt connected. Fast forward two years later and after being inspired by my friends who run; I’ve embraced this athletic activity with open arms. Had I thought about it, I’m sure my mind would have given me a hundred reasons not to do this. But something deeper than that stirred. That was my spirit.

For me, spirit is where inspiration lives. It is always sparked by someone I meet or something I see or hear or read or do. It can be as simple as the cool crisp air of a pretty Fall day. It happens in the weirdest places at the most oddball times. Inspiration often turns into passion. Sometimes it is an “A-ha!” moment and other times it is a more gentle progression. In my mind, the spirit is what connects the mind and body. It is important to have a sense of the spirit. In my life that means having hope, passion, and love. It involves being in balance with the world around me. Connecting to nature helps me do this. Music makes me feel grounded. So does mediation. And running… makes me feel alive.

So, here I am. Running and liking loving it. (Shh… don’t tell anyone!).

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Recently my son, aged 10, asked me what I believe from a spiritual perspective. It was a question that I knew would be coming but it was a bit sooner than I expected. That said, I am not surprised, because he is taught theology at his Catholic school and we do not attend Mass.

My Christian upbringing was an informal one. We didn’t go to church because my Mom was a wee bit reclusive. She grew up in a Presbyterian home and her Dad was a pastor for the village church. As soon as I was able to read, Mom brought out the bible and taught me from it. She used a traditional King James translation which was somewhat difficult to read at the tender age of four but Mom would explain the words to me.

As I matured, I sought to find myself spiritually. I attended the Bible Chapel in Guelph, Ontario. When we moved to Wasaga Beach, I attended Faith Missionary Church. I’ve been to services in many Christian based churches, too many to count. I tried to fit in but I always felt awkward and out of place—as if I was putting on a front of sorts.

It was only after the house fire, that I found my path. It’s not a defined one as my spiritual beliefs don’t follow a specific religion or teaching, rather a series of things that I’ve learned from all religions. I refer to myself as a hippie tree hugger. I’m not a hippie in the more traditional sense of the term but I do think love and peace are great things to strive for. I’m a little bit Buddhist, a little bit tree hugger, and a little bit Pagan.

Yes, I said Pagan.

Now before you suck all the air out of the room as you gasp in horror at the word Pagan, this does not mean I am evil or a Satanist or that I am performing rituals. Pagan, simply put, means “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.” Some of my beliefs have a Pagan slant to them as I feel that the cycles of nature are an important part of my spirituality. Nature is a pretty powerful force, after all. I believe there is a greater power of good but it’s something in all of us not an entity. I don’t believe there is a hell other than that which humans create.

Here is how I explained my general feelings to my son…

“Think of our universe as a big lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. In the middle of the lake there is a beautiful island which is our spiritual destination. In Christianity it would be called Heaven and in some Pagan religions it would be called Summerland and Buddhists would call it Nirvana. For others it is simply living a productive and adventurous life. Each person is in a canoe and the canoe represents their belief system. Most religious teachings tell us of being kind to our neighbors, being honest, and charitable. And like paddling a canoe, if you don’t keep a certain balance in your life, you will upset things and end up swimming in the lake maybe even drowning. You need a compass to navigate the canoe to the island just like you need a moral compass to navigate yourself through life. You see, even if our spirituality varies somewhat, we are all the same. There is no one true faith and you have to decide what is best for you, live your life well, and be kind. Treat others and your world with great respect. Know that being unethical or immoral will come back to you. Think of how the waves come back toward the canoe when they slam against a rocky shore and how that rocks the vessel sometimes. Some people believe in the rule of three and that the negative things you do will come back tri-fold. Buddhists believe in karma. I believe that the more positive energy you put out into the world the better you make your life and the lives of those around you. I know you are very curious right now and I’ve given you a lot to think about, but, if you like, I will help you learn about some of the many different paths.”

Yesterday at dinner he asked me to teach him about the totem system of the aboriginal peoples and he’s interested in learning more about Buddhism. In the end, no matter what good path he chooses, I hope that he will have a knowledge, understanding, and, most of all, a respect for the beliefs of others.

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