… many other forms of spirituality originate from a book …

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Viktor Frankl


If you could see me now, I am sitting on a reclining red deck chair resting upon a sprawling wooden platform listening to the roar of the British Columbia interior’s Nahatlatch River and its white water rapids. As I begin to write this it is 10am Pacific time. It also happens to be a milestone birthday.

I arrived here late the previous afternoon after the conclusion of a week long business trip also here in BC. For some, this appears to be an odd way of celebrating a milestone birthday such as this is. Travelling alone, landing here on my inaugural yoga retreat with strangers is not entirely a commonplace practice for – okay – a 60th birthday celebration. There, I said it. But since the day I turned 59, I have not quite dreaded this day, for what is the alternative – tragically I have been shockingly reminded of it. Yet I have had my mind negatively preoccupied with what this day represented to me!

So who are these strangers? Well, they are beautiful human beings hailing from; Australia, Spain, Los Angeles, Canada – Ontario, BC, and Alberta, New Zealand, Fiji, South Dakota, France and elsewhere. They are; students, yogis, several types of therapists, a construction worker, a doctor, professional white water rapids guides, an Ontario cop, photographers, a TV studio set designer and even an international fireworks architect.

I have revelled in the multiple daily yoga practices – but above of all I will always cherish the conversations I have had with several of the precious souls here with whom I made a deeper connection.   Where else but sitting 10 metres from this beautiful river in front of us can someone describe and literally point out to me her interpretation of spirituality as, “nature is my church”? Those trees and raging river we are gazing out at clearly are not man made, she went on to say. So many other forms of spirituality originate from a book, whether written by man or at least inspired into man – nature is just there for all to see and marvel in the power of a source or unlabelled creator of nature and by definition – of us. And then there is the unexpected depth and joy of discussion with a 19 year-old summer worker. He is a very bright and inquisitive young man mature beyond his years. He firsts asks me if I believe in love and soulmates. Next he asks if I have any regrets in life as he seeks advice from this “erudite” new sexagenarian.

Soulmates? Wow. That one hit home. How does one know? Do both parties have to realize it for it to be your true soulmate? Or perchance it’s not the right time for the soulmates to light on fire. Can there be more than one in a lifetime? And therefore if the is yes answer, then timing must be a factor since by most western norms, morals and practises one can’t be involved with two soulmates simultaneously. And a 19 year-old is asking “me” about my life’s regrets in the hope of not making the similar mistakes as I have? In those two astounding questions he somehow condensed all I had been worrying about at turning 60. At a later discussion over dinner he confided to me that both his parents are social workers – okay so he is evidently a good listener particularly around the dinner table at home.

Most of you would agree that life is about those who occupy space around us – like family and also those we meet along the way. Those who impact us and vise versa. One of the yogis and I were having a general dialogue regarding the meaning of life. What is my purpose she asks? I gave her my answer. She then challenges me, “Why are you not following it”? Hmmmmm …

I am feeling rejuvenated here. I love these people. I am captivated by the Nature enveloping me. I can’t wait for my next hike. I am excited by what I will find later through the lens of my camera. I love all of my family and adore being with them.

Find your motivator. Don’t settle. Know when the time is right to make changes in your life.

I do know this. I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to go through the motions. I want to make meaning as Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning and as I referenced in my book, When Walls Become Bridges.

And for all this worry about turning 60, I just learned that the 34 year-old son of one of my dearest friends died of a drug overdose on my birthday …

Believe in Possibilities – #BellLetsTalk

 “Hope is a passion for the possible.”

– Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

The existentialist soul Søren Kierkegaard wholly captured the passion I sought in heading up this piece.

Why do we – as they say – dust oneself off and try again after a self-perceived failure or disappointment? Is it because we expect the same result and accompanying sense of overwhelming despondency by trying again? Is it because of low self-esteem that we feel we get what we deserve? Or are we perhaps gluttons for unrelenting self-flagellation?

Of course, the answer lies in our deeply held, sometimes subconscious belief in hope. We hope for a better and more desirable outcome the next time. Many of us in the past have purchased a lottery ticket and I suspect that most of the many know fully well our chances of winning the jackpot are highly remote – yet – we buy that ticket don’t we holding out hope that “maybe” it will be us this time?

We walk through the door, eyes open, heart exposed, vulnerable but hopeful. In our essence we do believe in possibilities – and if we don’t, we should call out for help. Hope is soulful passion. Hope is the lifeblood of continuance. With each breath we strive to get better, to become more fulfilled, we take chances, we try to enhance our lives, and even go out on one more date, and another and another.

Yet in the yearning for a belief in possibilities, there are certain immutable facts that present as non-starters. At my age I will not become a star for my beloved Boston Bruins nor any other professional hockey team.  Actually, those who saw me play in my youth several decades ago already arrived at the same clairvoyant-like conclusion.

I am constantly amazed at human resiliency. So many others with whom I speak echo the same observation. And despite all those hardships you and I have experienced, it is those specific setbacks which have undoubtedly shaped who we are today. It can therefore be said that those adversities are contributing to us being loved by others for that is how we became who we are and we are loved by family and friends. There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of and know that there are always people who will listen and not judge us, but it is our responsibility to seek them out or accept their open-handed generosity.

Yet too many times that resiliency is not present. Too often that listening voice is not sought out. Several days ago I received a dreadful phone call at work about a client’s teenage child who committed suicide and my assistance was needed to speedily release RRSP (401k) funds to pay for the funeral. It was heartbreaking. It was sudden. Incredibly sudden.

No doubt many of us are all too familiar with mental health matters within some specific slice of our lives. And tragically, some are also all too familiar with the worst possible outcome of mental illness – suicide.

Today we are more aware than ever that mental illness can strike within any; community, socio-economic position, race, nationality, education level, profession, relationship status, employment status, age – especially amongst our youth.  For reasons we cannot rationalize or hypothesize, many struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD or a myriad of other mental health diseases. Hope becomes less a state of their of conscious thought. The possibility of hope becomes, for them, sadly, a faint memory of a distant time in the past. But there is an opportunity for rediscovery, to reignite that belief in possibilities and hope that many of us have every day when we arise and perhaps take for granted. We need to reach people, talk to them, accept everyone for their perfect imperfections and provide a safe place or person to begin the discussion. We must strive to continue raising awareness of mental health challenges in our homes, workplaces and in society at large.

On Wednesday January 30th, Bell Canada once again sponsors Bell Let’s Talk.

“In September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk began a new conversation about Canada’s mental health. At that time, most people were not talking about mental illness. But the numbers spoke volumes about the urgent need for action. Millions of Canadians, including leading personalities, engaged in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle, with numbers growing every year.”

It is my profound hopeful desire that through worthy programs like Bell Let’s Talk, the belief in possibilities will flourish for all those currently without hope. #BellLetsTalk

My evolved humanistic perspective on Christmas

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.”

Christmas has always been something of an enigma to me. There was a brief period in my early childhood when I recall on Christmas Eve setting out a cup of milk and caramel squares on my night table – for Santa Clause of course.  In my first season of playing rep hockey, in the game immediately prior to Christmas, the players all received a hockey stick from the coach. I was about to ask the coach for the stick lie number six I was accustomed to instead of the number five I was given but my father appropriately intercepted my near faux pas and told me it was a gift.  Why would the coach be giving us a gift I wondered?

Growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Toronto in the 60’s with a large population of holocaust survivors (my parents however were not), Christmas was largely a non-event save of course for the year or two when I suppose I believed in Santa. We were aware of it for sure, but we had Hanukkah around the same time where the children also received gifts but commonly not the parents. I don’t recall any of us feeling we were missing out on the commercial aspects of the holiday plus we received chocolate coins and real coins too – not a tradition of Christmas! With Hanukkah being a post biblical holiday and therefore having diminished religious significance compared to the biblical Jewish holidays of for example Passover or Yom Kippur most Jews don’t attend synagogue. Not too dissimilar a scenario from a substantial number of Christians who choose to ascribe limited religiosity to Christmas – all was equal.

This all began to change for me as I entered University and subsequently the working world.  That point in time also saw the rise of the evangelical movement in the USA with Jerry Falwell and the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979.  At Carleton University in Ottawa I spent my initial two years in residence and for the first time in my life lived in a predominantly non-Jewish environment. I wrote about some of those revelations and new challenges in my book When Walls Become Bridges.  There were a couple of people from my residence floor who objected on what I felt were prejudicial religious grounds when I was Santa Clause for our floor Christmas party. Beautifully though, my dear first year roommate invited me to his family home over Christmas (a new experience for me) and there were many more Christmases in his Southwest Ontario home to follow. Those enlightening moments are precious memories to me as he and I reminisced this past Christmas Eve.

Even as I traveled parts of the world after university it [the world] would soon nonetheless become narrowed to me. I slowly embraced and then withdrew into a Jewish religious community of like-minded individuals and institutions, many of those people however were some of the loveliest I had ever met.  Still, I would take on new idiosyncrasies that further isolated me from the world at large. For example, I not only felt it wrong for me to utter the words “Merry Christmas” to friends, colleagues or clients but I would narrow-mindedly be offended when greeted by those warm and sincere wishes of the season. I became one of those “Seasons Greetings” people.

But over time things changed – as most constants do. Think about what has changed in your life, but more poignantly – why?  A relationship? A job? A move? A birth? A death? A friendship? Some other life altering event?

Nothing remains the same – nor did some of my idiosyncrasies.

Something would eventually happen to me every December. A friend made an unassuming social media post this week captured in the heading of this piece that perfectly captured it for me.  Christmas did become a feeling.  Most people also can sense it themselves. There is a percolating energy of peace, a growing sense of lightness and joy in the air that becomes unmistakable each and every December.

Despite the Northern Hemisphere certainty of December as a cold winter month here in Toronto, I am yearning that December could last. And maybe the tide is turning …

Speaking with a homeless person on Christmas Eve who had been on the streets for several years as he recounted to me, he said that he has seen an outpouring of goodwill, generosity and love this season. “It’s a bit too much” he told me as we both shared a laugh at his observation.  Oh, how I wish that laugh could carry on for twelve continuous months …  

Our Gut Instinct

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs

It has been a few months since you last saw my words strung together here, these thoughts of mine. Oh, I have been writing, observing the world around me – like most of you do as well – but I have not published again until today.  I am now especially motivated to do so …

A week ago I was heading to a hot yoga class. I parked my car on a busy street on the west side of midtown Toronto, used a mobile parking app to pay for the time I needed and got out of my vehicle. Walking only thirty metres or so to the yoga studio I was startled by a cryptic message on my phone.  My end point was interrupted by that message and instead a gut instinct altered my course – the first one of yet another to strike me that morning. I was persuaded to abandon my hot yoga class that I was so looking forward to.

What is gut instinct all about? You might also call it your inner voice. Is it a supernatural or god-like power not merely guiding us but compelling us towards an absolute action or direction? According to the Collins Dictionary a gut instinct is “an instinctive feeling, as opposed to an opinion or idea based on facts.”  This latter perception is a conscious, thoughtful and reasoned conclusion akin to a Benjamin Franklin protocol on how to make a sound or even unbeatable decision.  Have you ever been so motivated by a gut instinct?

The Cranberries wrote and performed a beautiful song called Animal Instinct which I hope you will click on. It is a raw love ballad illuminating something many of us have experienced.

“It is a lovely thing that we have
It is a lovely thing that we
It is a lovely thing, the animal
The animal instinct”

We know of being in that carefree present moment of love making when we are seemingly in a free-fall of actions without a thought to orchestrating a pro and con analysis of next steps or what if scenarios. And it is not thought to be learned, but an innate ability – an animal instinct if you will.  That was the allegorical gut instinct I experienced last week but not a sexual one.

I was in an elongated moment of confusion, uncertainty and fear. I had no previous experience on which to draw. Facts were not within my reach. I had no capacity to formulate an opinion. Suddenly, an action ensues, and I am in free-fall.

Powerlessness. Trust. Abandonment. Faith.

As a person who so often writes about choice and free-will I am not sure I acted out of choice this time. And I ask myself repeatedly – WHY NOT? Five minutes later and I would have been doing a downward dog or tree pose.  So, was it a force that interrupted my journey at that moment? If it is truly a gut instinct or inner voice, I trust that this power is so great and pure – following it will and did end happily, and I’ll leave it at that.

I urge you when and if the moment arises, to be fully self-aware of that extraordinary opportunity. But then again, if it does, you will know it – just as I did.

Let’s all make a difference in our lives and those we touch or can …

Intolerant of the belief once categorized as “tolerance”

Where is the line between one being “tolerant” or “intolerant” of another human being? I suggest it is a dangerously fine line indeed. – Stuart Lewis

In beginning this piece and searching for an opening – hopefully a thought-provoking quote complementary with my thoughts here, what I found were numerous idioms fawning over the virtue of tolerance from luminaries such as; John Kennedy, Helen Keller, The Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi to name but a few. None I found were on the mark of where I was heading so as you can see, I came up with my own. That could very well mean I am again an enigma unto myself or perhaps it is time to rethink this model of comportment we label as “tolerance”.

Like many fellow members of the Jewish faith, I was last week sitting in synagogue observing Rosh Hashanah hoping to be inspired or just passing the time with tribal compatriots. The featured speaker of the day was a prominent Canadian parliamentarian. It should not be surprising that a Canadian parliamentarian is not likely to be the source of a spiritual uplift – in particular during a religious service but I was intrigued to listen to the “wisdom” of such a dignitary. I quickly became uninspired and thoroughly displeased with the message and messenger – as did numerous others.

I think I heard the word “tolerance” uttered half a dozen times by this presenter when speaking of immigrants and new Canadians. Each time the tone of the utterance became increasingly disapproving of the generalized differences they represented and grudgingly tolerant of the welcome to Canada they received from this parliamentarian. In my opinion it was a distasteful series of statements from such a representative. But this of course is not an isolated circumstance whether here in Canada, the USA or Europe but we are observing a torrent of rising populism across these lands.

A few days later I was fortunate to be invited by a friend to attend a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) of “The Hate U Give”. This provocative and gut-wrenching film depicts the precarious social structure of a fictitious African-American city neighbourhood existing under the double-edged fear of actualized police brutality and the code of silence exacted by a local drug lord.

Further, in the case of this film as a Caucasian man, I feel culpable how we objectify the condition in these neighbourhoods as either blaming the local populace for staying there or for somehow perpetuating the circumstance under which they live. “Well we don’t live there, not our problem” is the common refrain from many Caucasians. By reinforcing the archaic concept of tolerance, the definition of community is persistently being narrowed and diminished as we proclaim our tolerance (or intolerance) of others not like us. We don’t see them even when in our midst.

We have witnessed opponents of #blacklivesmatter demand that #whitelivesmatter too without even attempting to understand the deeper meaning of the #blacklivesmatter movement or #takingaknee for that matter. Is this tolerance?

I recently spent time watching our “contact” with the homeless in the downtown core of Toronto. We have become so tolerant of the homeless on our city streets that today we figuratively walk right over them. It is not that we should necessarily give money to every or any homeless person we see – it is up to us individually to make that decision for any donation of charity, but to walk by and not even look upon their face, to withhold a response and turn away when asked for money or when they wish us “good day”, to not see their pain, their loneliness or their despair and to not even acknowledge their existence as human beings was chilling to observe. That is when we have lost compassion and empathy.

This is how is I see tolerance in our society today. How is being tolerant not a destructive force in our communities? We need to go beyond what we once thought tolerance to be. That too is something we all must figure out for ourselves.

Life is shorter

Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist

While I agree with the esteemed author Paulo Coelho of life being either too short or too long, this half-statement of his is a mere generality. I prefer to look at the world, my world, not through generalities but with objective reflections. At my age, the life to come is empirically now shorter, I can’t say that it will definitively conclude by being “too short” or “too long” it will simply be shorter than the past life I have thus far lived. And like some of you depending on your age, being circumspect about what lies ahead, I am drawn to another contemplation, this one by the highly respected commentator on life’s meaning and purpose – Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This past weekend, a long holiday weekend in many parts, was a remarkably emotional and soulful time for me. It was a more intense “time-off” than is my norm; perchance I was endeavouring to pack as much into these days as is humanly possible. I am not sure if it was subconsciously a result of my first bicycle accident the weekend prior after seven years of adopting this activity as my primary warm weather vocation. It was however just a T-bone crash with another cyclist and I’m delighted to report both riders – save for a few bruises were relatively unscathed. It was our bicycles however that took the brunt of the damage.

I spent the weekend connecting to events and people that were immensely meaningful to me. From special friends and family to a bridge and just my own private thoughts, I was deeply engaged in trying to define my purpose and figure it all out with the short or long life I have remaining.

Making soulful and personal connections in whatever manner they are can be spellbinding and were. Who would have thought that a bridge could ensnare me in such a manner causing me to be lost in multiple simultaneous sensory vibrations? A bridge is just a thing of course, but behind the “thing” are people and memories.

Family is also a treasure that we try to hold on to or in many cases (mine) reclaim as our lives become shorter. I know however that family reunification is not legitimately possible or desirable for everyone – but I hope you might give it some extra consideration while you still can. I spent a lot of time with my precious family too this weekend and I have to highlight the time spent with my 82, she’ll say almost 83 year-old mother. She’s been saying that just a few months after her 82nd!   I did something special with her and she was overwhelmed by it. My first reaction was one of shame and guilt for not doing more of it. But my attitude quickly changed. I can choose my attitude as Viktor Frankl wrote and I look forward to my next special outing with my dear mother.

Connections, real ones are essential now to me in ways dissimilar than ever before. My search for Frankl’s meaning is taking centre stage as I contemplate that next milestone. It’s not about being frivolous or not with the time that we have. For me it’s about being in the moment and thinking and feeling and not just doing whatever you want with no meaning or purpose. For the record, “playing” is purposeful if that is what one desires in that moment.

As I travel along, I can’t help but see our greatest potential for positive change lay in modifying our own attitude concerning how we see and react to the stimuli swirling around us on a daily basis. Frankl nailed this. Choosing our attitude “is” our greatest freedom. One who is rich or poor, healthy or ill can acquire such freedom. It is not subject to supply and demand economics for it is in limitless supply.

Whether or not life is shorter for us individually is inconsequential for who truly knows anyway? It is however never too soon to check-in with ourselves and taste true freedom.



I Know You Are Hurting

There is loneliness when we are hurting. That can be both a physical and or an emotional hurt. At those difficult moments we are trapped inside ourselves and in many cases have spiralled further and deeper in our despair. The enormity of the sensation can be overwhelming and the loneliness which wasn’t necessarily present without the physical or emotional pain is now nonetheless and integral part of it. We don’t feel right. We own a consciousness of isolation from all that is “normal” or “carefree” and we intensely desire a return to what was – before this fell upon us.

For some, it is the loneliness that is the prominent condition. I see it in the elderly on a daily basis but also with many much younger – even with Millennial’s. Loneliness is becoming more prevalent in today’s society as we become massively digitally connected yet physically more distant. Is there any possibility this is an improvement in connectedness amongst human beings?

I was searching recently for one of those great dictums to post on social media and found one so appropriate for what I sought at that point in time:

Saying you can’t be sad because others have it worse, is like saying you can’t be happy because others have it better. – Go Fun Yourself by 9GAG.COM

That is not to say that empathy and compassion are absent from our awareness but our shit IS OUR SHIT.   You know what I mean.

Today – was a difficult day for you. I know. I sensed your pain.

Many are hurting and you are one of them – I assume that is why you are still reading this. For some, you can’t see the end of the tunnel from the incessant pain. A few of you fear an upcoming surgery. You can’t afford the life saving surgery. Something you saw you shouldn’t have and triggers abound everywhere. Others are fighting serious disease. You lost your job. Bankruptcy is imminent. You are separated from loved ones and it is killing you. A million things are bringing you down.


What is hope? Is it real and tangible? Is it a belief system? What good is it to you?

I am reminded of a brilliant English teacher I had in grade eight, or was it nine? Mr. Sevigny. He was a linguist. He professed to know roughly eight languages. The class was soon to learn he was profoundly religious as well. Just moments after a fellow student, under his breath, but loud enough to be heard by our teacher – uttered God’s name in vain, Mr. Sevigny took a yard stick in his hand, raised it high above his head and smashed it down as hard as he possibly could upon a desk in the front row of our classroom. I will never forget the sound and shock of that unsuspecting implosion inside my body created by that yard stick and Mr. Sevigny’s fury.

What we didn’t realize at the time, this was the immediate impetus for Mr. Sevigny to lurch into a lesson of Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century physicist, philosopher, and mathematician. He argued that a rational person should live under the possible belief that there is a God. We got quite the lesson that day in Pascal’s Wager. If you are interested to learn more about Pascal’s Wager then click here.

I see in part, that a belief in God or a god or a higher source is of possessing hope. Hope for a better outcome. Hope for change. Hope for a cure. Hope for peace. Hope for normalcy. Hope to end our pain. Hope for love. Hope for companionship. With the concept of Pascal’s Wager in our consciousness, hope is then a logical direction or focus of our energy.

I hope that you wake up tomorrow with the hope you most desire.


Threatened by Yourself

“Not being afraid to be wrong – I had to learn how to do that.”

– Michelle Obama

What does it mean, “not being afraid to be wrong”? Is it our ego talking? Is it some kind of intellectual weakness to confess when we are wrong? Does it demonstrate a characteristic of inferiority to admit we are wrong? And conversely, does that necessarily imply the “other”, if there is an “other”, is superior to us?

I spent a wonderful afternoon in Peoria Heights, Illinois this past weekend, participating in a book-signing event for WHEN WALLS BECOME BRIDGES. I had several in-depth and delightfully heartfelt discussions with buyers of my book.

It is moderately imaginable that some people have already been turned off by this blogpost since I initiated it with a quote from Michelle Obama. Well, before you tune me out completely, I had a similar reaction with one individual in the bookstore I Know You Like A Book in Peoria Heights.

Before I delve into that, it is important for me to clarify for the purpose here, the concept of “being wrong”. What I am not referring to is the proverbial heated exchange with one’s own spouse or partner and finally digging deep, often swallowing one’s pride and owning up to the error – sometimes for the sake of the relationship one party may even falsely admit to wrongdoing.

No, I am referring to being wrong just to ourselves and within ourselves where only we know if we are adhering to our own truth – or if we are not.

Back to Peoria Heights – He challenged me. Not by my words, not by any past action as I just met this gentleman. I was challenged by my thoughts prompted by him. How did this make me feel you might ask? Of course any respectable psychotherapist would pose the same question to their client.

I will reveal how I felt.

I felt offended. I felt attacked. I felt small. I felt I needed to be defensive. I stopped listening and was searching for counter arguments. And inside of me a controlled rage was simmering. And he kept taking jabs at me. Finally I shot back with what I knew was an anaemic “fact”. And dammit – he called me out on it. I found a few good counter punches left in my repertoire, which momentarily stunned my opponent, but he was undaunted in his pursuit.

I am not sure of the precise moment, but at some point during the verbal exchange I channelled the anger I was feeling towards him and redirected not anger, but questions – questions I posed privately towards and inside myself. Why am I angry? Actually I knew the “why” – but I didn’t immediately understand the “what” I was angry about.

It was about the same time I slowly calmed myself down and began listening again. Not to him, but to me – to my thoughts – to what he was triggering inside of me by his words. I didn’t have to hear him again – I already heard him loud and clear. But for some unknown reason I was surreptitiously answering my own questions in real time. I think he saw it and sensed it.

I began to contemplate, not change, some previously and fastidiously held beliefs. I transcended the internal anger and transformed that into critical thinking – in a way never before possible. I removed the emotional knee-jerk response and replaced it with a desire to benignly understand why I was reacting and feeling as I was.

I acknowledge this is difficult. When I very recently posited this concept with a friend she wasn’t able to go where I had begun to journey. Perhaps, she was not yet ready …

While the exchange with my book purchaser ensued, I recalled the time when a particular woman and now sadly former friend was incensed at me for a blogpost I had written several years ago about a visit to Dresden Germany. Even during my despair at receiving her vitriol, I realized she was unsettled more within herself than for what I had written. I remembered this exact altercation whilst in that bookstore. I wanted to be better than that. I can only try.

“When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.”  -Anonymous

I am scared.

Surrender your fear. Something will come that is greater than what the fear is trying to protect. Mooji

I am scared.

What does it mean to be scared or to be fearful? To not know what is behind that unopened door begging us to enter through it? Mooji nails it. I know for me – my fear is trying to protect me, but protect me from what?

Perhaps it is my age and I am feeling more mortal now than I did as that twenty-year old who went parachuting with several other university residence friends. Could it be I evaluate the number of good years remaining in a way I didn’t when I was that carefree student and my whole life appeared ahead of me while backpacking in Europe equipped with a pre-paid Eurail pass and American Express Travelers Cheques safely tucked away in my money belt? When the cheques ran out however, I wasn’t so carefree!

That twenty-year old didn’t concern himself with weighty philosophical thoughts of; “Will I be loved or remembered” when I am gone. Nor did I ponder how it would all end. Although, it is somewhat amusing that I write this now at 30,000 feet and undergoing significant turbulence over Thunder Bay – but I digress …

Like you I feel that I have much remaining to accomplish and wonder if time will permit me to do so. No, I am not expecting to build empires, create any wonders of the world or even pen an international best seller but the latter objective would be nice to see to fruition. Nevertheless, I feel there is unfinished business.

Thankfully, I successfully closed off a once painful chapter in my life. I ended a bitter forty-two year estrangement from my father a mere five months prior to his passing – see #whenwallsbecomebridges. Still, as I reflect now, that was too short a time in a feeble attempt to compress forty-two years into five months. But I am deeply grateful for those final five months.

How many other ill feelings exist amongst our fellow travellers – friends or family alike? What other animosities percolate within our very being eating away at our internal peace and serenity? Don’t discount psychological and physiological damage caused by our own self-inflicted: bitterness, smugness, stubbornness or even envy. We have a choice to make the first and numerous additional attempts at reconciliation before that choice is taken away. My ensuing fear however was not that MY choice may be gone, but that the other party’s choice would be – and that is what THEY have to live with forever.

But what if one can surrender that fear as Mooji states? This new belief I try to have in myself has the capability to cast a smile upon my face and warmth through to my soul.

One of the greatest lessons taught to me is of letting go of things not mine to own.

It is drawn from mindfulness and that my responsibilities are not yours or vice versa. Your walls are not my obligation to deconstruct into bridges. They are for you to rectify if you so desire.

Fear is just another wall we erect in our life. Our job is to thwart them and when we successfully do, well, it is joyful and emancipating.

What “will come that is greater than fear” as Mooji’s states? I think it is internal peace. And looking at the following affirmation, who is responsible for our peace? Not a single part of that is dependent upon anyone but oneself.

In the end only three things matter: How much you loved, how much you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. Buddha

So I do try not to be scared and fearful. I don’t always succeed but the truth of this intention guides me to constantly progress.

We are awesome

Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness — Anne Frank


I often found myself standing in admiration, respect and simply in awe of my fellow searchers and other volunteers doing all they could to bring Kaden home. I would speak in loud praises of their leadership, accomplishment and unswerving dedication to the sacred cause and task at hand. Yet when they bestowed similar compliments upon me I would shyly play down my limited role. And so too did mostly everyone else upon hearing their accolades spoken and proclaimed.

On Saturday May 5th, the best possible result of that “sacred cause and task at hand” was completed – a community memorial service took place in Orangeville Ontario for Kaden – the forevermore 3-year old. A private funeral was held several days earlier. Out there in the rugged and dense woods where over two months ago these were violently flooded lands from the overflowing Grand River that claimed Kaden’s young life, we often talked and hoped that this precious soul could be found and returned home to his family – and we could then attend such a gathering. We finally did. We finally did.

A soulful minister took the podium, and she asked all the searchers present in that church of hundreds to rise and stand up. I proudly and slowly rose up from my seat and stood with the others and looked around at them all. Before the minister was done extolling all those present who did their part big or small, the entire sanctuary was on their feet. It was an exquisite site to behold.

The family shared for us at the service a video montage of Kaden. For most present in that church, we never previously knew Kaden or his family and this video presentation was our sole opportunity to see this beautiful young boy in action. And he was full of action. I especially loved seeing him play in the water park – just like any 3-year old would. The video hit us hard. That stark realization was so painfully evident for all to see, that in an instant, a life can be gone – any life. We are all susceptible to that. Who didn’t go home from church that morning and hug their loved ones a bit tighter and tell people we loved them when normally we mightn’t have?

Later that evening, during a get-together for the volunteers, I was outside speaking to one of the young women who I met on the search. She was admiring all those who had assembled. She said, “They are awesome”. Finally, it hit me – WE ARE AWESOME – I said to her.

Over the past few days I have come to learn more about the reasons why some people came out in the search for Kaden. They shared some deeply personal and touching stories that moved me to tears each time. Know that you are awesome.

But why at times do we allow the good things we do to be overshadowed by our human failings? I know that we don’t always do “good things” all the time – me included for sure. We can often be so bloody self-critical and we beat ourselves up – and I am not sure why. Everyone is awesome but we are not perfect, we make mistakes.

My wish is that we face our daily life with the knowledge and acknowledgement that we are awesome though we might still encounter moments of self-doubt. Nonetheless we are awesome and we strive to be awesome even during those difficult moments. I think we proved that to ourselves in the search for Kaden.

Recognize your own greatness in your life. Be proud of your accomplishments – especially what you did in searching for Kaden. It is okay to do so, and it is a great step towards self-love – something we could all use a bit more of from time to time.

YOU are awesome – WE are awesome.

Oh, and I had a reason or two as well … We all did!