Waiting for Inspiration

It has been so long since I have put anything up on my blog. I have a thousand things I want to write about and at the same time every time I think about sitting down to write I am not sure what to focus on.

I am taking it that I am in the midst of a transition. The dust needs to settle a bit around here. We moved in March. Our move was quick – about seven weeks from purchase to sale to closing. So, it is with good reason that I am feeling this way.

I think it is OK to just wait. To just be. To just sit with the creative tension I am feeling as we create a new path in a new community.

What do you need to put off doing so you can just be right now?

Why I Chose to Receive in 2014

The last time I blogged was at the beginning of January. In that post I said I would explain why I chose ‘receiving’ as my word for the year.  Apparently, I chose the right word. I’ve been so busy receiving I haven’t had a chance to get back to posting. On January 10th,  I bought a house in Hamilton. And I mean “I”. My husband wasn’t able to make it to see the house and it had multiple offers being presented so I went ahead and bought it. What a roller coaster we have been on ever since. We also had to list our house and sell it. Our closing date on the new house is March 7th. You can appreciate the chaos our lives have become.  I barely have time to watch House of Cards Season 2, let alone blog.

I do want to finish my thought though and I’m sure there are a few of you wondering when I’ll get around to the explanation.  So, as difficult as it is to explain the word, here goes.

To Receive means to get or be given something, to react to something in a specific way, to welcome someone usually in a formal way (receiving line). Most of the ‘words’  I have chosen over the years were focused on doing.  Past words or themes have included:

  • Moving Forward (after a particularly challenging year)
  • Living the Truth (being authentic)
  • Letting Go (releasing the things I was holding on to in my life)
  • Focus (the year I tried to be something I’m not)
  • Defining (or more accurately re-defining)
  • Choosing (the year I wanted to make better choices)

Last year was a difficult year for me. It was painful and scary. Several things happened that were not what I wanted to have happen in my life. I felt like I was trying to just get stabilized.  I got through it, thanks to the wonderful community of people I have in my life and the occasional numbing.  At the end of 2013, when I took stock, I realized how often my themes have been about striving. Trying to do something or be someone – if I could just be more focused, or choose better, etc.  The themes were what I needed at the time but this year I didn’t feel like I had the resources to embark on a self-improvement journey.

So, as I reflected on the year I had come through and thought about what I wanted several themes emerged for me.  A couple of the other words that I considered were welcoming or simply, ‘yes’. I wanted a word that included the idea of embracing whatever was happening in my life. But embracing sounds like it requires an element of doing as well.   As I reflected more the idea of ‘receiving’ came to me.  It is about about posture more than about doing.   In December, I was reading some reflections by Richard Rohr.  In one of them he wrote, “We can’t manage, maneuver or manipulate spiritual energy. It is a matter of letting go and receiving what is being given freely. “ That quote said it all.  I want to receive instead of managing my life. I believe that the posture of receiving has at its heart the idea of humility.   I hope that receiving will allow me to let go of my own beliefs and judgments of how things ought to be and accept with humility the gifts I am given each day. I am trying to journal every evening on that topic. I look back over the day and ask myself ‘what did I receive today?’  Sometimes the gifts are unexpected, sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they are in the challenges of the moment. But keeping this open heart to receive whatever comes my way is better for me than trying to drive my own agenda and facing the inevitable disappointment when something happens that wasn’t on my list. It is admitting that I might not have all the answers or even know what I really need at any given time. It recognizing the teachers that are sent into my life through many different channels. I hope this explanation isn’t abstruse.

So, what have you received so far in 2014?



Choosing A Word for 2014

I can’t remember how long I have been going through the process of choosing a word each new year. I don’t even recall where I first heard the idea. I do know that a lot of people do something similar so I am not taking credit for the idea.  I wanted to share a little bit of the process that I go through to choose a word for the year.

1. Reflect on the year that just ended. There are lots of ways to do this activity.  I usually begin by taking out my journal or a notebook and at the top of 12 pages write one month (January – December).  I then begin by going through my calendar and just making a note of anything significant that happened during the year on the appropriate page. I don’t make any observations about what happened. I just write down things like: weddings, deaths, births, significant work related activities, vacations, etc.  Even this process alone can take a few hours. It is amazing how much happens in a year and reviewing the calendar is reminder of how much we do in our lives.  After I have done this review I go through my journal(s). My journals are often a combination of notes on books I am reading, reflections on conversations I have been having, notes from messages I have heard, articles I have read, etc. I usually use flags in books I am reading and then go back and write out the quotes in journals. I review Evernote, Facebook and Instagram as well.  Lots of information gets captured in these places as well. When I finish reflecting on the year, I look for themes, lessons learned and take time to be grateful for all that I learned and experienced.  This reflection of a year usually takes place over a few weeks.

2. Choosing a Word. Sometimes it seems a word chooses me and sometimes I need to really think about what word feels right.  Sometimes I start with a word that is really the essence of what I want but after I reflect on it a little I begin to see that I can refine it a little or enlarge it to include more.  Last year my word was “Define”.  I wanted to really define what was important to me at this stage of life.  A lot of things happened that I didn’t plan – like cancer and my daughter having a miscarriage.  When I look back though even those very difficult things helped me define what was important.  I do feel after 2013 a lot clearer about what I want right now in my life.

Here are some tools that I have found helpful in this process:

1. Unravelling the year ahead by Susan Conway. This is the second year I have used this free .pdf by Susan Conway.  It’s a great tool to help you reflect on the past year and plan for the coming year.  I usually plan a time to get together with a friend or two and review it together.

2. Abbey of the Arts by Christine Valters Paintner. I’ve just discovered Christine’s work this past year. For some reason in 2013 I found myself drawn to reading a lot about people who have chosen to live a monastic lifestyle.  Even when I wasn’t looking for books on the topic I would receive them from friends.  It was one such gift that introduced me to Christine’s work.  She has an online (free) course in how to receive a word using monastic traditions.

3. My 3 Words for 2014 by Mitch Joel. I’ve been reading Mitch Joel’s blog for several years. He chooses 3 words each year. You can read what he does and some resources he uses on his blog.

So, there are some ideas for you. I would love to hear what word you choose for 2014. I will be writing about mine later this week.  I’ve chosen the word ‘receive’ but I will explain what it means to me and why I have chosen it in another post.

How do you reflect on the year that has ended?  Have you chosen a word for 2014?

A Suggestion for 2014

Last year I started to focus on the choices I was making that impacted my health and the environment. One of the changes I have been making is eliminating plastics – especially single use plastics from my life.  This morning I read about a plastic you might not even realize you are sending into the system and it is having an impact on our environment.  Read this article below and avoid microbeads in cosmetics.

Microbeads In Cosmetics End Up In the Great Lakes – Nature and Environment – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


What Would Peter Senge say to Rob Ford and Toronto’s City Council? | Leadership ON PURPOSE

Like everyone else in the GTA, I also have an opinion.  Read what I wrote today about Rob Ford.

What Would Peter Senge say to Rob Ford and Toronto’s City Council? | Leadership ON PURPOSE.

via What Would Peter Senge say to Rob Ford and Toronto’s City Council? | Leadership ON PURPOSE.

via What Would Peter Senge say to Rob Ford and Toronto’s City Council? | Leadership ON PURPOSE.

When Values Clash

greyThis past year, I have gone through a major shift. Things culminated last week with reaching one of those landmark birthdays. You know – the birthday that puts you in another box on the survey forms. The birthday that entitles you to a seniors discount in some places. The birthday associated with the word ‘Freedom”.  It hasn’t just been the accumulation of years that has led to the shift. Other factors in this radical change include: a diagnosis of melanoma, my 30th wedding anniversary and a few other personal life events. Plus I noticed my friends are getting older.

The shift I am talking about is a shift in values or perhaps more accurately a desire to live more aligned with the things I believe I have always valued. One of the gifts of maturity is the desire to become more aligned in your values. So what happens when those values clash? I’m working that through right now!

Value 1: Fashion/Looking Good. I admit to owning more clothes than I really need. If I walk through a mall there is a good chance that I will see some shiny object calling my name far to often resulting in purchasing something to add to my wardrobe. This desire to look good extends beyond my closet. For years I have colored my hair, wore gel nails and make up. My morning and evening rituals included a plethora of skin care products. Just to add to the mix, I would spray on perfume (never overpowering, of course!) before I left the house.

Value 2: The Environment. I have becoming increasingly concerned about how the choices I make are impacting the environment. I have also become increasingly concerned about how the products I am using impact my physical body. Let’s face it – if it is bad for the environment it can’t be good for me!

I have blogged about going plastic free especially single use plastics. Wherever possible I avoid them. I have blogged about getting rid of all the products in our home that contain harmful toxins.  I stopped getting my nails done (between the chemicals and the UV lights I wonder what type of a fog I was living in getting my nails done regularly). It has been an ongoing education and I am just scratching the surface. My daughter and I started canning this summer to have more control over what is in our food.  We even made our own laundry detergent – this is getting serious!  All of these changes were important and challenging but none of them really caused me too much stress.  They did all lead to the place I am now. Going grey.

I’ve been struggling with this one for months and it is becoming more and more obvious – even to a casual observer! The toxic chemicals in hair color are damaging to both your body and the environment (Free tip: Here are a few to avoid: Ammonia, Benzene, Coal tar, Lead acetate, p-Phenylenediamine and Toulene). So, I’m going grey.  To be more honest, I am going to stop masking the fact that I am going grey!

When values clash (in this case, looking good v caring for the environment) we have to choose the one that is ultimately the most important. The more I read the more responsibility I feel.  I’m still avoiding a hard look at sustainability and wine practices.

Vision Board or Learning Board?

For the past few years, I have created a vision board. It is framed and hangs in my office directly above my laptop.  I start to look at it more as the year starts to wind down.  I have become more realistic and more focused as the years go by.  This year I had a few big items:

  • Travel to Spain or India.  Done!
  • Run Around the Bay – the oldest road race in North America – Done! I ran 15K as part of a two person relay team. My daughter did the other 15K.

Some things were more vague. If I was teaching a goal setting class they would not be examples of SMART goals:

  • Focus
  • Spend more time outdoors (I have done 5K every morning for 4 months without missing a day)
  • Define the ideal (with a nod to Boyatzis Self-Directed Learning Cycle)

I began last year with a cancer diagnosis in January, I had surgery at the beginning of  April and recovered for a month. The surgeon believes they got everything but I now have check ups every 3 months and just had another biopsy.  It makes it hard to think about the future. It also has really changed me. The uncertainty of life really drives home that quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men/Often go awry.”  I also went through a few family crisis and last week attended the funeral of a friends’ 31 year old daughter.  It is impossible to go through tragedy like that without some serious reflection on what is really important in life.

I’m wondering about doing a vision board again. I love the exercise of cutting out pictures and words in magazines but I wonder if a learning board might be a better way to go.  What do I want to learn next year? I already have a few ideas: I want to learn how to live in the moment. I want to learn how to let the worry about an uncertain future where kids die and cancer happens from consuming me with anxiety.

So what do you think? How do you hold the tension of the dreaming involved in a vision board and the need to keep yourself rooted in the now?