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Posts Tagged ‘letting go’

In my last post, I wrote about the dilemma faced by Peter Brother after his bike was stolen in Peru. Suddenly his dream of cycling from the Yukon in northern Canada to the southern tip of Argentina came crashing down around him. He had managed to complete two-thirds of his journey, and now had no bike to finish what he had started.

It’s a good example of what can happen as we pursue a dream. Sometimes life gets in the way. Circumstances beyond our control pull the rug out from under out feet, and we’re left dazed and confused, asking why. And wondering what to do next.

At first, Peter was shocked. He spent a few days trying to come to terms with this change in his plans. Then he decided to see if he could get a bike built to meet his needs in Peru. He also explored the possibility of having a new bike, identical to the specialized one he had bought for his trip, shipped to him from Canada.

Neither option worked out.

At that point, he could have give up. So close to achieving his dream, and yet so far.

Instead, he decided to revamp the dream. He realized that he still wanted to go to Chile and Argentina. He wanted to continue the journey. However, now he would do it by bus. He felt it would give him plenty of opportunity to meet people, and to do some hiking.

So, for the past few weeks, he has been hiking in the mountains and the desert, exploring caves and glacial lakes. He will also be trekking to the world’s largest canyon in Peru, the Lake district in Argentina, Patagonia in Chile and a number of other locations.

His dream continues to evolve. In a recent post, he wrote,

“While in Hauraz, I had a couple of significant dreams, that seemed to me to indicate I want to continue cycling for part of the journey through Chile and Argentina. I am now rethinking about biking.  I will go by bus to Nazca and Arequipa in Peru and then bus it to Santiago.  Then I may pick up a “new” bike there.  Then go to Mendoza, down to the Lake District and cross back and forth between Argentina & Chile, biking and hiking.”

It’s important to be flexible and open while following your dream, yet keep in mind your focus, the main reason you started on the journey in the first place. In this way, you’ll stay open to possibilities and … those possibilities are endless!

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I lost a close friend last week. We had known each other for over a decade, and been through a lot of life’s ups and downs together. She had gone through a particularly difficult year and was just getting her feet back on solid ground again. She was young, healthy, and strong. And we’d been emailing to try and find a time to have a good long phone call so we could catch up with each other.

The phone call didn’t happen. And now she’s gone.

I am struggling to accept this new reality, as I’m sure her family is as well. My heart knows her spirit lives on, in the memories of her laughter, our adventures, endless conversations over a glass of wine, weekends spent at my cottage or her condo, and all the beautiful threads of which a friendship is woven.

But my mind continues to scream “No! This can’t be true.”

I know I’m not alone. Life and death surround us every day and touch each one of us in unique ways. So I want to share with you a poem that was given to me. The words are helping to quiet my mind and calm my heart. Perhaps it will be helpful to you, if not today, then at some point in the future.

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Journey well, my friend.

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Over the years, there have been times that I’ve been called a bit of a control freak. While I like to think that I’m growing more flexible as I age, I will admit that letting go (in any form) has never been easy for me.

I’ve always been the “keeper of the stuff” in the family – memories, treasures, photos, furniture, dishes (from my grandmother and mother). I finally managed to divest myself of much of that in the last few moves. But it was a struggle.

I also have difficulty letting go of people in my life. My children have been here this summer for a much anticipated (and long overdue) visit. While they’re here, I’m savouring and absorbing every moment, creating memories that will last for the next few years until I see them again. And when it’s time to leave, they have to peel themselves out of my last hug.

However, lately I’ve been getting lots of interesting opportunities to practice letting go in other ways.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I went to the Toronto School of Circus Arts to try out the flying trapeze. (I wrote about the experience in my other blog if you’re interested in the details.) If you’ve ever watched someone on a flying trapeze, you realize that, at some point, you do have to let go of the bar.

Actually, letting go occurs several times in the experience.

First, you have to jump off the platform (while holding the bar) in order to swing through the air. As you’re swinging, if you manage to get your knees up onto the bar, then you have to let go and let your arms reach down toward the floor. And finally, you do need to let go in order to dismount.

You’d think with all that practice, I’d get better at it. No, each time it was equally terrifying.

Then there’s the rock climbing I’ve been doing lately. The first time I climbed the wall and reached the top, the instructor said, “Okay, let go.”

What? I guess I’d never thought about how you get from the top of the wall back down to the ground. You let go of the wall, lean back into the harness and trust … that the person who’s belaying you will get you down gently and safely. The very first time takes a lot of courage.

I am realizing this summer that if I don’t let go, I can’t move on. To the next step, the next dream, the next opportunity. And so, I continue to seek out ways to learn how to let go more gracefully.

How about you? What has helped you learn to let go?

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As I move toward a life in which my focus is on living more (and working less), one of the questions I regularly ask myself is – Are you doing this because you HAVE to or because you WANT to?

This is a question that stirs up a lot of reaction (and reflection). There are so many things in life that we do out of a sense of duty and obligation. Or habit. Things we’ve done for years just because that’s the way they’ve always been done. We don’t seem to question whether or not there is a better way, or if it needs to be done at all. We just do it.

If I want to live more this year and find pleasure in all aspects of my life, then it’s time to discard the “have-to” activities. They only bring a feeling of heaviness and dread, and who needs that? I’m all for joy, fun and laughter!

It’s like cleaning out a closet. Every item that you give away or throw away makes room for wonderful new possibilities that are far more suited to who you are at this point in your life.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the “have-to” pile is often cleverly disguised by the word “should”. For some reason it sounds more palatable that way, and we’re often tricked into saying yes (even though our hearts are saying a resounding “No!”). Guilt wraps itself around “should” in a subtle yet irresistible way (kind of like a boa constrictor that envelopes its prey before the final squeeze). So if you notice yourself swaying to the allure of a “should”, remember it’s just a “have-to” gone incognito. Don’t let it have its way with you!

And then start thinking about what you want to bring into your life. What will give you a feeling of living more?

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Ten years ago, when I visited Costa Rica for the first time, I had an intimate encounter with … The Wave. If you’ve read the introduction to my book, you’ll know that this particular wave had quite an impact on me (literally as well as figuratively).

My partner and I recently returned from Costa Rica and the same beachfront hotel where I’d stayed a decade ago. I’d wanted to return there to share the magic of waking up to the peculiar sound of howler monkeys in the early morning, the thunderous crash of The Wave on the beach, long sunrise walks to explore tidal pools and treasures in the ebbing tide, and glorious sunsets reflected across the ocean.

The first morning, I introduce him to The Wave. It’s unique (hence its title) – a single magnificent wave rising up out of a calm bay and crashing along the full length of the 2 kilometer shore. At its peak, it towers above mere mortals and rushes into the beach with unrelenting speed. In order to go swimming, you have to find a way to get past it to the quieter water.

Locals have learned through experience how to work with The Wave. They back their fishing and diving boats into shore, timing it perfectly so that they ride the flow. The Wave has its own rhythm, rising and falling every seven seconds, with a sequence of three high waves followed by three lower waves.

Can you tell I’ve studied it closely?

You see, ten years ago, The Wave won. I tried to get past it. I tried jumping over it, into it, through it … and finally I just turned and bodysurfed into shore. It tossed me on the beach with such force that I nearly lost my swimsuit (and ended up with sand in every possible nook and cranny).

As my partner and I headed out to swim, I explained all this to him. We timed it so that we were dealing with the lower sequence of waves. After swimming in the calmer water for a bit, he moved closer to shore so he could play with the breaking wave. I moved back and did the same. It was fun for a bit and then, suddenly, we were in the midst of the peak waves.

I handled the first one fine. As I stood up, still wiping water from my eyes, I heard him yell, “Open your eyes, Julie!”

Rising, building, peaking ...

Towering above me was The Wave in all its glory. Rising ever higher, foaming, building. I turned and prepared to bodysurf. It was a moment of dejà vu. I can do this, I thought.

The Wave had other plans. Descending on me in full force, it toppled me on my back and sent salty water up my nose and down my throat before tossing me like driftwood on the shore. I swear I heard the frothing water chuckle as it ebbed past me.

“Gotcha! Again!”

As I struggled to my feet and moved backward toward the beach (and to shallower water), I pushed my wet hair out of my face and took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” I called weakly to my partner.

In the rush of the water around my ankles, I heard a whisper, “Stop thinking you’re in control. Enjoy the ride.”

It was a message repeated many times during the trip.

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When you start out on the journey toward a dream, you’re filled with mixed feelings. There’s excitement at the thought of bringing something new and wonderful into your life. And anxiety because the actual outcome remains unknown. And sometimes, even though you create the vision, say all the affirmations, take every step and persevere through the challenges, the path doesn’t end up taking you where you wanted to go.

It can be discouraging and disheartening, to say the least.

I’ve had this experience numerous times in my life, and have just gone through it again.

Remember that house that I was so excited about in a blog before Christmas? Well, our offer on it was conditional upon selling my condo. And, in spite of countless open houses (including two on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve!) and endless showings (and very positive comments from viewers), and keeping the place constantly immaculate, there was only one offer and it was very, very low.

So my condo is now off the market, we’ve let the offer on the house lapse, and we’re readjusting our focus.

Do I know why it happened this way? Nope. At the time, finding that house seemed like serendipity. However, I do know from experience that serendipity involves flow. It’s recognized by the surprising ease with which puzzle pieces come together. Challenges are met with little effort and support comes from unexpected places.

That wasn’t the case this time. Something was off and although we all tried our hardest to make it work, in the end, it didn’t.

It helps that I’ve been through this before, so that makes this turn of events easier to accept. We may never know why things didn’t work out. Or, perhaps in six months, we’ll look back and think, “Aha! I’m so glad the condo didn’t sell and we didn’t buy that house.”

I do know that life has a way of working out and that, for now, staying in this condo is the solution that’s in our best interest. I also know that there’s something even better, a bigger dream, waiting for us. We may not be ready to dream bigger just yet, and that’s okay because what is for us will come to us, when the time is right.

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Grandmother sat in the old wooden rocking chair by the window, looking out at the woods that surrounded her cosy home. The leaves were starting to change colours. She watched squirrels gathering and burying nuts, and listened to the echoes of geese flying overhead.

Her daughter bustled about in the nearby kitchen, chopping vegetables and putting them into the large soup pot on the stove. She left the soup to simmer and began to sweep the floor.

“I can hardly wait til I’m your age,” she said to the old woman, ” so I can just sit back and put my feet up.”

Grandmother smiled. “Is that what you think I do all day?” she asked. “I’m only sitting here because you said you were here for a visit.”

Her daughter looked sheepishly at the broom in her hand. “I was just trying to help,” she said quietly.

“You are a great help, my dear. To everyone around you. But do you ever stop and notice the view outside the window, or share a cup of tea with a friend?”

“I don’t have time for that. I always have so much to do.”

“Really? That may have been true when your children were babies. And when they were teenagers. It can’t have been easy juggling your work schedule and their needs, and keeping the house running. But now they’re grown and gone, like the young robins who flew from the nest in the eaves a few weeks ago. What keeps you so busy now?”

The young woman was silent.

Grandmother smiled. “You find ways to keep yourself busy because you don’t know it can be any other way, Daughter. It’s a story you tell yourself about how your life is. It may have been true at one time, but stories can change as our lives and circumstances change. Perhaps it’s time to rewrite your story so that it’s more suited to who you are and what you want now.”

She gestured to a nearby armchair. “Come, sit for a moment. Let’s dream a little…”

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