Thursday, July 31, 2014

A New Home :)

My new desk J

It’s like coming home, again. Coming home to a place that I never knew was home.  It is not permanent and it will change, but it is new and it is where my writing will live.  It’s official, and real. I no longer have to write at my kitchen table, though that was a beautiful place to start.  I would not be terribly sad if I was still at home there.  I am not though, the chance came to get a new home, and I took it.  I am so glad I did.  It is, and will always be a work in progress, this space.  A starting point that moves fluidly through time, cradling my practice and evolving as my practice evolves.

I think I was always meant to be this, to do this.  I have written in many forms for a very long time, though I never expected that it would become my work.  It has though, and that is just awesome.  What a gift to have a skill, a talent that I can turn to when all other venues have failed.  And fail they have.  I am starting to get that this is the truth of the situation.  It’s not me that has failed.  Rather it is the venues through which I have sought success that have failed to produce satisfactory results.  My failure would be if I stopped trying.  

That is not my style.

This new space will refresh my motivation, and remind me to sit down every morning and bang out some pages.  I will get back to posting a blog a week, at the very least.  

Lovely to be back in the groove, dear readers.

See you soon. J

Friday, May 30, 2014

Finish The Sentence Friday - My Favourite Way to Exercise

My favorite way to exercise is yoga.  I mean it.  I may not be super thin, or hugely built, but yoga keeps me long, lean and strong.  And all while helping me center, burn stress and connect with my inner life.  Not a bad deal for twenty minutes a day!

Transparency alert ~

I am not stone cold consistent with my practice.  I often will put it off or skip it entirely for the lamest of reasons. Being too tired, feeling sore, or being...ahem....too busy are all excuses I have offered myself for not showing up on my mat when I had intended to. 

And yet, when I return, my mat is always there, offering no judgements, feeling none of the neglect, ready to support me as I move through the asanas.  As a workout companion, my mat is one of the best I have had.  It's always there for me when I need it. 

And yoga is wonderful in that you need no special equipment, not even shoes, to indulge in it's benefits.

My mind, like most of yours I am sure dear reader, is abuzz with thought more often than not.  Yoga is difficult to practice distracted.  To get deep benefit from the practice it requires me to be fully present to what is happening in my body.  To be aware of what is grounding, where I am reaching, what muscles are lengthening and which are contracting, where my eyes are gazing and how my breath is moving. 

Yoga, you see,  asks nothing more of me than my presence.  In my mind, in my body and on my mat. The more I can give this little gift to myself of presence in practice, the more space I invite into my mind where there are no thoughts.  This space grounds me.  It is my awareness that is beyond thought, the presence that allows me to edit my words before they fly out of my mouth (see previous post on Unsought Words)  and stop to think before I react. 

Yoga is my constant companion, and my absolute favourite way to exercise, hands down. 

(Zumba rocks too, but that's a post for another day :) ) 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Unsought Words.

"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come the most unsought for are commonly the most valuable." ~ Francis Bacon

My thoughts of this moment.  I'm hungry,  I have dishes  and chores to do, and I am sore in my shoulder.  This is my life today, right now, in this moment.  Coming back to practice, to presence, to mindfulness.  I sat this morning, and in sitting I reconnect to my mind, rediscover the spaces between my thoughts.  

I did not seek my anxiety, or my fear, or my anger.  Not directly anyhow.  In resisting practice, they sought me.  In ignoring the value of quiet, my quiet left me.  The spaces became filled with thoughts, fears, anxieties and doubts.  When I am not doing, I begin doubting.   

When the quiet begins to disappear, filling with fear, anger and doubt, I notice that it is my words that betray me.  The words that fill the quiet spaces in my mind - How could you? Why me? What next? - These words begin to spill out of my mouth.  

These words have sharp edges.  They hurt coming out.  They contort my face, wrench my mouth into uglilness, and break the heart of the person that they are flung at.  

These are my sins.  Sharp edged, thoughtless, unquiet words that tear at the fabric of my happiness.  

It is said that right speech is not the right of right and wrong, but the right of skillfulness, mindfulness and compassion.  This is why so often the right answer is no answer at all.  

Maezen has written that "Right speech is whole, perfected, wise, skillful, appropriate, necessary, and non-divisive. "  Lots of words to describe how to use our words.  

We tell children this often "Use your words".  We put no qualification on their use of words, because they are too young often to understand any other idea than just to use words to express what is inside of them, rather than striking out at the world with hands, feet, or wails. 

As adults, and particularly as adults who practice the Dharma,  we are old enough, and often wise enough to choose words with care and caution.  Compassionate communication creates understanding between people, and of ideas. When we use the words that we have learned in a wise, skillful, appropriate, necessary and non divisive manner we can nurture growth.  We can coax reluctant listeners,  we can open doors that were hitherto closed before.  Words can build bridges.  Right words build strong bridges.  

I suppose though the question now is what happens when we use our words in this manner and they still fall on deaf ears?  A bridge with only one strong, grounded side will crumble in the first strong wind.  

It is to the speaker to speak, and the listener to listen.  We can only be responsible for ourselves.  We build our own foundations. 

Therefore, practice.  

Build your foundation. 

It is the beginning of being responsible for yourself. 

Do The Dishes.

I realized the other day that I have forgotten my practices.  I am not sitting, I am resisting my dishes and my chores, feeling them to be beneath me.  Truth is,  they are not.  I am not above them, and they are not beneath me.  Unless, of course, you count the actual, physical reality of the floor being under my feet, and the sink existing at about waist height.  Physically, they may be beneath me.  If they were not, how could the floor support me?  It's the floor that I walk on.  It is the floor that stops me from plummeting into the basement when I come downstairs from my bed.  So, yes, unless you count absolute physical reality, my chores are not beneath me.  When I put my hands in the dishwater and feel the warmth of the water,  smell the manufactured scent of apples from the soap, and put my hands and mind to the task in front of me, I forget myself. One dish at a time, the job gets done.  When the job is done, for just one moment, I feel good. I got it done.  

I have not been sitting in the mornings.  I wake up feeling awful, sore in my neck and shoulder, not awake at all, and I head straight for the coffee.  I don't stop to sit.  

Ruts are tricky things, especially when we are not entirely awake, or aware of our actions.  Truth is, though, if we are acting, then it is on us to be aware of our actions.  

I have been feeling anxious of late, and I can trace that right back to my practices, or lack of them.  

When I forget my practices, I begin to forget myself.  I believe, as I am forgetting, that I am busy being myself, busy being in the minutiae of my life.  The truth is that I am busy avoiding my life.  Busy with the can'ts and the why me's and the couldn't possibly's.  I am wrapped in the no more, and the don't want, and the how do I's.  I am too busy resisting to engage.  There is not enough of me left to truly engage when I get lost in the resistance.  

Anxiety is the fruit of I don't have time, and I don't want to, and the why bother.  Analysis creates paralysis, or so says a wise teacher of mine.  








It's really not as hard as I imagine.  Stop imagining.  Do the dishes.  Sit.  Love my children, especially when they seem unlovable.  That is when they need my love the most.  

See life, stop imagining the life I want, and live the life I have.  It is the only one I will ever be given. 

"When we see our life, we bring it to life.  When we don't see our life, it seems lifeless"  Karen Maezen Miller 

Read more from Maezen on her blog www.karenmaezenmiller.com

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Digital Dexterity Deficit?

I have been writing my morning pages by hand the last couple of days.  I can tell that I have not been writing with my hands for quite some time by the way they ache and cramp halfway through my third written sentence.  Digital Dexterity Deficit?  I wonder if this is a thing.  

Hm...I think this calls for some research.  Honestly.  I used to have the most neat and tidy hand writing.  When I was in university my hand writing was pro.  I could blast out pages and pages of neat, tidy, organized notes, complete with underlines, highlighting and bulleted lists without so much as breaking a sweat.  Now,  well now I can't write two sentences without having to stop and massage my hand.  

What does this mean for our future?  This means to me our children are losing somethng.  With the huge advance of digital technology in education kids are not writing like they used to.  Yes, in elementary school they do try to control for this by ensuring that children are hand writing at least a portion of what they are responsible for academically, but what happens when they move on to high school?  How about university?  There are thousands of laptops, and tablets in university classrooms now.  These students are not writing their notes anymore.  I wonder if there is something being lost here, outside of the obvious fine motor skills that it takes to manually form letters, words and sentences with accuracy at speed.  What changes when our relationship to our product relies on digital technology? Further to this, what happens when that digital technology inevitably fails?  

Fear mongering? Maybe.  Doomsday thinking? Perhaps.  

In my mind these are simply logical questions to ask when the media that we use to record our ideas and our learning changes and evolves.  

Fear mongering or not, these questions must be asked.  

How is that change going to affect us as a species?  Will the less fortunate countries become advantaged if the digital technologies of the more affluent cease to operate?  Perhaps, if they have retained some educational structures that are accessible to all.  Otherwise we will just become a generation of people who cannot accurately get an idea out of our own heads.  

What do you think, dear reader?  

Do you hand write anything?

Is it harder than it used to be?

What do you see coming in the future with this evolution in the relationship between dexterity, ideas and communication?

Monday, May 12, 2014

From The Bottom of my Heart.

What is it that lies at the bottom of my heart?  I desire to change the world.  I feel that my place, my goal, my raison d'etre is to change the world one person at a time.  My mission to make people think, to question their assumptions, their beliefs and their steadfastness.  If I can inspire someone to question even one thing that they have never before questioned, I consider myself to have been successful at my goal.  My goal will never be complete.  My mission will be a continuous evolution of truth, questions, curiosity and humility wrapped in compassion.  It will be a continuous becoming, and there is no place that we can come from that is more alive, more vital than on the edge of becoming. 

I serve the evolution of peace.  I write to broaden minds, to open eyes, and to awaken humanity.  In the evolution of a state of mind, it is imperative that we come from a place of joy, of positivity and of compassion for our fellow human.  War, fear, hatred,  these will only bring more war, fear and hatred.  Fighting will do nothing but perpetuate struggle.  The revolution begins inside of our own hearts.  It is the choice that we make to not divide, demonize or blame another human but to love them, to see their humanity and to have compassion for their journey.  

Yes, I even mean the people who do things you don't agree with, the people who believe things that do not agree with what you believe. 

"Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on a fear of war but on the love of peace.  It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.  In this sense, the most insignificant writer can serve peace where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing" Herman Wouk.

What lies at the bottom of your heart? 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Me, A Mighty Warrior?

Here I am at the top of another page.  Another day, another cup of coffee, another new beginning.  

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.  Its all in your perspective.  If you can look at the pain and see it as a catalyst for change, you are the better for it.  Change hurts. Growth hurts. Pain helps us grow.  If it hurts, lean into it.   It will help you to grow, to see what it is in you that is rigid and fixed.  Those are the parts of us that need to grow, need to change.  What hurts, and how it hurts are clues to the parts of us that most desperately need to change and develop.  If we shy away from the things that hurt, we are robbing ourselves of opportunities that could lead to explosive and absolute change.  The changes that we need the most to become the most effective and able person we are capable of being. 

Trust me, I do not write this out of wisdom or some mistaken saviour complex.  I do not write this because I am perfect.  I write this because I have hidden from the things that hurt me.  I have buried myself deep, away from the ideas, thoughts and experiences that are painful for me.  Times that bring me face to face with my rigidity have sent me into spirals of darkness, down the slope of The Big Black Pit.  Often, on the other side of our rigidity is the downward slope into blackness.  We have a choice.  I have had a choice.  I have often chosen sameness.  This has led me into the black pits of self doubt, self destruction.  I have not really learned to ALWAYS lean into change.  Who wants to hurt?  No one wishes to choose to hurt,  but we all desire change.  How often have you looked at the place you are, the person you are, and longed for better?  This is most often the source of my blackness, that I see my stuckness, my rigidity and I long to be free of it.  In that longing I have hidden from the very thing that would lead to the change I so deeply desire.  Because it hurts.  

Lean into it.  Nothing can hurt more than being stuck.  Stuckness can last forever if we allow it to.  It is the only state of being that can perpetually stick us in limbo.  If we hide long enough, and stubbornly enough, we will stay the same.  Somehow, life always knows.  It will always come up with a way to move us along, to make us grow.  Whether we want it to or not. 

If we want so desperately to change, take charge.  At least we can have that control.  We can CHOOSE to lean into the pain, the struggle, and allow it to refine us, to redefine us.   Choosing to lean into things that challenge us can be empowering.  We stop being victims of circumstance and start becoming warriors.  When we choose to stare down the enemy, to stand our ground, we reclaim our power.  From this position of power, we are in control.  We may not control the circumstance,  but we do control our reaction to it.  It stops being reaction, and begins to become conscious response.  In responding, rather than reacting, we grow.  We learn.  We become more self aware, and more able to tame the lions within our own hearts.  Truly, the most terrifying enemy is the fear that we harbour within our own hearts.  When we can face that, own it, and use it to fuel our growth, we become mighty warriors indeed. 

Earth Day Festival 2014 @ Malden Park

What an excellent morning we had at Malden Park today :) 

The Earth Day Festival at Malden Park is becoming an annual family event here in the Renaud household.  We pack a litterless lunch, and head out early so we can get a good parking spot.  

There were many vendors there this year including some of our faves ShopECO, Taloola Cafe, University of Windsor Science Department, Detroit River Conservation Council (DRCC) as well as multiple others.  

One of my motivators for heading to the festival is always the seedlings that are given out.  Last year we planted local tomato seedlings that we brought home from the festival.  This year I left with seedlings enough to not have to buy salad fixn's  at all this season. Lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes will grace my containers and my garden this year.  I will keep you posted on their progress!

The little Renaud-it-alls were expertly engaged by the Kids Passport that they received as soon as we arrived.  There were ten items on the passport that the kids had to then go find, get a stamp from each, and then return to claim their prizes. What a great way to engage the kids!!  They enjoyed the experience last year, and it was only enhanced by engaging them as active participants, encouraging them to seek, inquire and engage with experts, advocates and merchants from the local community. 

We discovered, moving from vendor to vendor, that this years festival was all about water.  What a great way to raise awareness about the risks to the integrity of our water supply by encouraging people to consider the cleanliness of our drinking water, how to conserve it, and how to keep it clean.  Fracking and irresponsible transportation of oil are only two of many risk factors threatening our global water supply.  

One notable absence was the local First Nations Community.  We would love to see them come out and engage next year!  

All in all, our Earth Day experience at Malden Park was a great success this year.  Well done all!  

See you in 2015!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Finish The Sentence Friday - I never understood what the big deal was about.....

 Just for some fun, I am participating in something called Finish the Sentence Friday.  My group comes up with the sentence starter and our job as writers is to, obviously, finish it.  Here is my take this Friday morning.  

I never understood what the big deal was about.... being gay.  I mean, come on.  The world needs more love.  So what if that guy in the tight jeans and the oh so stylish brand name shoes prefers the company of other men.  If he loves said other man then let it be.  To be honest, I have more of a problem with people who are serial non lovers.  People who are full of greed, and hate.  I would prefer to have a gay couple living next to me than a greedy, power hungry banker.   Truth be told though, I live in the ghetto, so I am more likely to have a single mom living next to me, or someone on disability struggling with mental illness, or an immigrant family trying to make a solid start in a new country. I have never understood the hate that gets flung at gay people just for being sexually and romantically attracted to someone from their same gender group.  Did this affect the taste of your breakfast?  Did it make your underwear shrink so much so that they are restricting the flow of blood to your naughty bits? Or better still, to your brain?  In my mind that is the only explanation for the terror and hate that gets flung at people just for being gay.  Get over it.  Truly.  The world will be better with more love, rather than less same sex couples.  In my mind, you are more the problem than they are.  If you are flinging fear, hate and judgement into the world, you are to blame for the moral decay of society, not the person who is willing to put themselves at risk of being the target of your hate, just to be with the person that they love. 

Love Trumps Hate.  In my mind, It really is that simple. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

In An Age of Fools

I am amazed at the number of people who simply do not know where to look or how to look at the world to galvanize change.  I see and have such compassion for the hate filled struggle of so many people who have found themselves feeling powerless to stop the devastation of the world around them, both socially and environmentally.  The world is being taken apart piece by piece and sold to the highest bidder without regard for the sustainability of the practice.  The world cannot survive the current level of plutocracy that has been surreptitiously rolled out underneath all of our lives.  The very systems that we rely upon for our continued existence are being molested, deconstructed and the only interest that is being considered is that of the rich elite.  The earth, and her wellness is nowhere in this conversation.  Nor is the wellbeing of the majority being considered. The collective apathy is being reinforced through the manipulation of the very free media that we rely upon to inform us and watch our government.  These people are now in the pockets of the rich minority.  

That being said,  we live in an age of information.  The internet has made the independent dissemination of information possible in a way that has not existed to date.  We, as a people, have the power to educate ourselves, to inform ourselves and to raise our voices when the very government that we elected abuses its power, deconstructs our systems and sells our assets to the highest bidder.  The problem is that so many people have been lulled both into complacency and political apathy that they have been disempowered.  They feel powerless and so they behave in a powerless manner.  Everyone has forgotten the power of one voice.  When one voice is raised, others will follow.  In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.  We can choose to reclaim our power, to raise our voices and to move society in a direction that better cares for the needs of the people and the planet. However powerless you feel,  it is your choice to remain that way.  There are many justifications for choosing to remain in a powerless state of mind.  The largest is that you believe that your one voice will make no difference.  

EVERY VOICE MATTERS.  We all need to educate ourselves, speak up and reclaim our power as a Human Family.  

The people should not be afraid of their government, the government should be afraid of its people.    

Friday, March 28, 2014

35 Things I Have Learned in 35 Years

I turn 35 this year.  Granted, it doesn't happen for another 8 months, but I cannot escape the awareness that this is my 35th year.  So, to explore and celebrate this, I decided to get all listy :)  Enjoy!

35 lessons from my 35 years. 

1. Don't poke the bear

2. It all washes out.

3. A shiny sink is medicine for the soul

4.  Nice people aren't always nice.

5.  Harsh words hurt.

6.  Tomorrow is a new day.

7. Sunshine cures almost all ills

8. A good anthem dance cures any bad mood..  

9.  Belting out a good song will vent any frustrations you have.  A beautiful expression of what could be negative energy. 

10.  Let it go. Sometimes that means crying it out, yelling it out, talking it out.  Letting it go.  

11. Dancing is beautiful.  

12. Seasons change.  In everything.  The winter cannot last forever.  This too shall pass. Spring will come. Trust it. 

13.  Like winter, spring and summer don't last either.  Winter always comes back around again. So love spring, and revel in summer.  This too shall pass. 

14.  Savour it.

15.  Do what you love.  Nothing else will make you want to get up in the morning.

16. Pain is your teacher. Listen to it. 

17.  Geeks are cool..

18.  Science contributes to spiritual development.  If you're a geek:)  It's how you tell really.

19.  Eat green.  Fewer ingredients is better.  Chemicals are bad for nature. 

20.  Achievement feels good. However, please also refer to #14.

21.  Kids are wonderful and terrible at the same time.  In opposites there is beauty.  Contrast is what makes things stand out.  In wouldn't be incredible if it wasn't also incredibly hard. 

22.  Failure is hard.  Multiple failures in a row are devestating.  However, please also refer to #14 and #16

23.  Someone who loves you no matter what is an incredible gift.  Cherish them. 

24.  No one lives forever, so live now. 

25.  Self awareness is a blessing and a curse. 

26.  The dirty hippies were right.  Peace is the answer. 

27.  Make your bed.  

28. Call your mother

29.  Juice is better when it's fresh.

30.  You are never ready to have children.

31.  Naps are wonderful.

32.  You are stronger than you think you are. 

33.  Look at the stars.  It will make all you problems seem small.

34.  Laugh.

35.  Plant a garden.  Watch it grow. 

Whew!  That took a lot to complete :) May my next 35 years bring 35 more lessons that are just as valuable. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A word about my truth.

Morning pages have reawakened my creativity,  my inspiration.  They have opened my eyes again to the beauty and bittersweet dichotomy of the world around me.  I had forgotten my Walt Whitman,  my Dead Poets,  my beautiful and insane urge to Carpe each and every Diem.  The beautiful and true are so often repugnant to the ignorant.  The truth speakers are often cast out, looked down upon and dismissed as crazy, decried and defiled by those who do not understand.  Let their slings and arrows be but the motivation that drives me forward.