For most Canadian children, school starts in a few days and excitement is building. Whether they know it or not, they are the lucky ones.
In many forms of media, television, print and online, we are shown Images of desperately poor children in squalid living conditions, with few educational opportunities and very little to look forward to. People are moved to share generously because they want to give hope where there appears to be none. They want to support the construction of safe schools, provide adequate learning materials and ensure teachers are well trained. They want these children to have the same chance that kids anywhere else would have. They want them to live happy childhoods and grow up to be productive adults; maybe even leaders of their villages. It’s hard for many of us to resist the urge to help children because we know they are the vulnerable ones. They are not responsible for their circumstances.
But resist we do. For decades our Canadian media and some independent filmmakers have shown us these same images with nowhere near the support they deserve. Why? Because the children are not in a third world country. They are Canadians. They live in aboriginal communities across Canada and their plight is no different than the suffering of children in other countries. The reasons for their disadvantages may be different but they are still children; vulnerable and not responsible for their circumstances.
So how can children in aboriginal communities in Canada compete with children in third world countries? If you want to help build a school in Africa, Nicaragua, Guatemala or Pakistan, there are literally hundreds of organizations doing just that. Their marketing material and online presence are compelling. And the need is great. Money goes a long way in these impoverished places and appreciation is heartfelt. It’s easy to help.
But why do we do just the easy thing and not also the right thing. I fully accept the choice of those who do intense, committed work for children anywhere. I’m not advocating that we stop our global activities because they make a huge difference on so many levels. What I am saying, is how can we justify our extreme generosity around the globe and continuously ignore the horrendous conditions children in our own backyard face. One of my favourite charities Free The Children says on their website, “More than 120 million children around the world are denied the basic right to an education—the key to ending extreme poverty and hunger.” What I don’t know is whether or not children in Canada’s poor aboriginal communities are included in this number. And if they are, what are we doing about it?
The issues are complex and can be very frustrating. Those I talk to in government, in native communities and in my general circle of relationships all agree on one thing. The system as it stands is not working. Kids are suffering. Kids do not have safe schools, adequate resources and the same incredible opportunities that every other Canadian child has.
Recently a friend asked me how this is possible. He thought that every child in Canada was guaranteed an education up to the twelfth grade. Perhaps it is assumptions such as this one that sidetrack us from the truth. Of perhaps it’s that gnawing feeling that it’s too big a problem to take on and one that is increasingly controversial. Talking with Lloyd Fournier of Thunderbird Rising opened my eyes and heart to a fractured system that almost predicts children will not reach adulthood with the skills and knowledge they need. Of course I knew things were a mess. I’d watched the trailer for Andrée Cazabon’s wrenching film Third World Canada. I’d heard the stories about the challenges on reservations from my friend Wilmer Nadjiwon. I read the Canadian Geographic article on the Attawapiskat community’s over 20 year struggle to replace a condemned school. And I listened to the sad news reports of substance abuse and suicide among native children. All I could feel was “Damn. Why is this happening? What can I do?”
So, I’m doing what I can. I’m donating my time and resources to Lloyd’s website. I’m writing. I’m asking questions. I’m listening. I’m learning. And I’m seeing possibilities. I’m hoping. And there is still hope. There are small pockets of determined volunteers like Helen Benn of I Giggle In Canada who work tirelessly to bridge the gap and expose the need. There are teachers in the communities who are showing up every day and doing the best they can. And, I hope, after reading this article, that there will be more people wondering out loud “What can we do?” and then doing it.
Once again, I am reminded that what we do when no one else is looking, is what matters most.
We can join reputable clubs, show up at important gatherings, do endless hours of volunteer work, talk about integrity, write articles on social change, and many more things that tell the world about our character. But if we go home to ourselves and think or behave differently, we live a lie. And we live with the constant threat of being exposed, of being seen for what we are - an impostor.
Give it up. Start right now in this moment to be who you know yourself to be, truly, deeply. Let go of your need to look good in someone else's eyes. Stop trying to care about something you think you "should" but don't. Embrace who you are on every level. Then ... feel the tension leave your body as you accept yourself in all your magnificent imperfection.
Suddenly it all makes sense. All the drama, all the struggle, all the trying to make things be different than what they are. This is enough. This is beautiful and rich and fulfilling. There might be more ... there might not. Until something changes, this is enough.
It's time we stopped seeing ourselves as separate from others. It's time we started realizing that every person on this planet is connected to us and there is absolutely no coincidence people will show up to help us learn.
Who is under contract to be a huge annoyance in your life? Is there someone that just keeps getting on your nerves, intimidating the life out of you or just pushing every button you have? I was listening to the wise and inspirational Caroline Myss and she made it very clear that every person we encounter is under contract "from heaven" to be in our lives. And the ones that stir the strongest negative emotion in us are the ones who, without knowing why, keep us on edge. And I'm so grateful that they do.
If we are ever going to find peace in the world, we need to find it in our inner world. If we are ever going to accept others for who they are and how they show up in the world, we must accept ourselves first. All of ourselves. That means seeing the warts and wrinkles along with the extraordinary beauty. And it just might be that the only way some of us can see that is through the mirror that people hold up to us each time we encounter them.
When we feel angry or frustrated with someone it is the perfect time to check in with ourselves and see what's triggering us. As long as we are pointing a finger and saying "I'm not THAT" then we will keep living separate lives, isolated from the depth and breadth of living that is possible. Who is under contract to show you what you are not willing to accept about yourself?
I wanted to write this post from a third person perspective so I could do what I love - teach - and to teach without putting my drama on show. I know it can be done and I've done it before. But the truth is that I teach with my own stories, my own experiences and especially when something resonates so deeply with me. So no matter how I shifted the words, it had to be my voice.A few week ago I noticed that "suddenly" I was back into some old self-sabotaging. It grew with intensity as I tried to figure out what the trigger was. A few days ago I stumbled onto a deep, uncomfortableness. It started when I realized how disappointed I was with some of the choices I was making and it spread like wildfire into the halls of how much I have disappointed others. If I wasn't so good at finding the gift in everything I might have been swallowed up by the sadness that crept in. Disappointment is such a curious word. For me, it means I could have done better if only I'd tried harder. It reminds me that my effort, or attention, or discipline or commitment were missing and the result was a disappointment.
With all this rolling around in my head it was an easy segue into how I've disappointed some of the most precious people in my life. This is where things really got awkward and I noticed a spike in hot flashes and night sweats. Could be a connection there. My earliest memories are of times I disappointed people - my mother, my father, my grandmother, my teachers, my sisters and brothers. I clearly saw where I'd disappointed my first husband, his parents and family, my son, my employers and more friends. In the past few years as I've taken more risks, stood up for myself, spoke up a lot more, challenged more, I've expanded the people I've disappointed. Some have given me so much and some keep loving me even though I choose for myself. Looking back, I remembered feeling and hearing people's reactions to my "letting them down." What fascinates me the most is that when I do something for myself, for the good of my soul, my journey, that's when it seems that other people's disappointment in me lands hard and heavy. Since I'm in mid-life and growing more and more determined to follow my "inner ding" (thank you Louise Hay), it is inevitable that people will be disappointed. I know intellectually that their reaction is their "stuff". But I also know that something else has been going on inside of me.
So, I wondered what has feeling guilty for disappointing people got to do with self-sabotage. Just ask the universe these questions and get out of the way. The answers will come and may not be what you want to hear. Like a neon flashing sign I was faced with the choice I'd made from the beginning of my young life: I better do something to make these people happy so that they will like me. Now, disappointing myself caused shame and low self worth while disappointing others meant abandonment and rejection. Somewhere, long ago I figured out that in order to feel safe, loved and accepted I needed to find ways to make other people happy, regardless of the consequences. Alas, from disappointment, people-pleasing was born. It might have ended there with me living out my life on an ever increasing incline while I trying not to suffocate under the burden of responsibility for pleasing everyone, except that I'm a smart girl.
When I think I've disappointed someone I feel bad so I try to make up for it by doing something to "fix" the problem and then I feel resentful, depleted, angry, frustrated that I'm doing something I might not want to do for the sake of being accepted. To numb the feelings of shame I self-sabotage until one day I wake up and say "What the heck is going on here?"
So this brings me to the beginning of my post. I wondered why I was self-sabotaging (mostly with food) and now I know. Since knowing the way is not going the way, there is more to be done. First of all, I need to recognize my propensity for finding myself wrong and stop that right now. I also need to rewrite the story of my childhood where I believed I was such a disappointment. It simply isn't true and while I've been holding onto the memories that support this, I have overlooked the ones that tell me otherwise. AND yes, I have disappointed people in my life and people have disappointed me. I've forgiven them so now it's time to forgive myself.
And with a nod to Colin Tipping and his radical forgiveness work, it's all been a divine synchronicity unfolding just as it was meant to. This is the powerful work of the Emotional Eating Program I'm so blessed to share with my clients. Emotional Eating is only one of the many self-sabotaging behaviours that people in pain will choose. If you see yourself in this, take a breath and know there is a way out. Obviously this is the condensed version of the process for me. I feel liberated.
As you start your day, notice if there is someone that you are dependent on for approval or validation; someone who you hope will call, will thank you, will recognize you, will praise you; someone who will give you a nod in some way that will help you relax and feel good about yourself? Is there someone, even on some basic subtle level you are hoping will acknowledge the good in you?
It can be hard to turn off this need to have an external source value us if that's what we know. And in the world we have created, that's what most of us know. In the days of monasteries, religious people turned to God for proof of their worth. But for them, God was as much "out there" as "inside" so they understood that there wasn't a human being on the planet who could determine how they measured up but rather a divine source both within and all around them.
For most of us, unless we are taught otherwise, our sense of self and our value as a person starts with the messages we receive in childhood and are built upon as we progress through school, recreational activities, clubs, groups and eventually the interactions we have as adults, both young and old. Sometimes we get so used to others reflecting back to us that we forget to make our own decisions about our merit. Sometimes we adopt these beliefs about ourselves and frequently can't even remember where they came from. It happened to me yesterday as I took my daily walk and tried to figure out exactly who it was that told me that I'd never do anything that really mattered. I'd had that notion racing around in my mind after bumping into some resistance on a project. So I did what works - I went for a walk and talked to myself. I tried to pinpoint a time when I wanted to do things and got "shut down". There were some spotty early memories along with the realization that I was always trying something new, something bold, something adventurous. I wasn't afraid to reinvent or launch into things and I'm still not. But all this bravado is fuel for my inner critic who has been quietly (well, not always) piling up evidence of my shortcomings.
When I ask people why they don't follow their dreams or even just their impulses there is always some belief about themselves that they can reference and of course it is limiting. There is always some past failure or admonishment from someone that they immediately retrieve from their internal library. I love solving mysteries so I was really intent on reaching back into my past to figure this one out. What I learned yesterday was that while it is deeply empowering to be able to dissect the root cause, I was spending a lot of time digging up the past while the present moment was slipping away. And what I know about myself NOW matters most. I know that some things I do or try, will work. Some won't. I know that sometimes I push through resistance no matter what anyone (including my inner saboteur) says and sometimes I stop when I'm doubted. I know that sometimes I am like a dog with a bone who refuses to stop when everyone else has given up and sometimes I'm the first to throw in the towel. And I know that sometimes, I do things that really, really matter.
It's all part of growing into myself, accepting myself and facing forward.
It shouldn't have been such a hard decision. My sister had the coolest toilet paper holder in her bathroom and since we were redecorating ours, I wanted the same thing along with new matching towel rods. The paint went on the walls, the new wainscoting in place, blinds trimmed down, wall stuff reorganized and now it was time to hang up the towel rods toilet roll holder. I insisted we wait until we took a trip to the city so I could get the same set as my sister and have that look. Having to wait was pivotal.
In the time that opened up I suddenly had a huge crisis of conscience. The news was filled with the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Thousands of people left with nothing and nowhere to go. All around the edges were the stories from Libya and Australia where people were suffering from catastrophic events. Buying something for the sake of having something new dramatically lost it's appeal in the face of both the heartwrenching human loss and ongoing environmental erosion I knew was devastating our planet. I sat on the floor looking around our beautiful new bathroom and suddenly I couldn't justify spending money on something I didn't really need. I already had perfectly good towel rods and a toilet roll holder. I was physically uncomfortable at the idea that I would even consider crossing the line of spending on such trivial things as the earth groaned under the strain of the latest disasters. And what, I wondered, would become of these old things that were in perfect condition but simply not wanted? I wouldn't dare fill up the local landfill with something unlikely to break down in many lifetimes. So, they would have to go to a thrift shop to be sold and earn money for a good charity. That took away some of the sting.
But the longer I allowed myself to weigh the options the more obvious it was that to buy new would be contributing to the over-consumption that I have so often railed against as a destructive force to our planet. Damn. All I wanted was to put something pretty in my lovely little bathroom. In the end, I could not justify to myself buying new accessories. And what has been most revealing is how really good I feel about my decision. Every time I walk into the bathroom I am happy; happy about how fresh it looks; happy with the old towel rods and toilet holder; happy with myself. I don't always get this right but this time, I listened to my crisis of conscience and I know it made a difference.
If only life's lessons could all come easily. Today I betrayed a confidence. I feel sick about it. I'm so particular about keeping confidentiality and uphold it with fierce determination. But today, I repeated something that I now realize was not meant to be shared. And I know why I did it.I've been vulnerable lately. Undergoing some health tests that are causing more discomfort than the original symptoms. In some ways, I'm just not at the top of my game. I'm not flat out crippled by any means. But I'm off kilter enough to realize that I'm not as conscious, not as integral in my thoughts, words and actions. So it is that I failed to see the impact of telling someone what I'd heard. Damn. I've apologized where I could. Did what I can to make amends. And now I have to wait to see what the fallout is and ultimately what the impact will be.
What scares me most is that usually I get a twinge in the moment I'm going to do something that dishonours my values. This time I didn't. Not even a gentle nudge. I'm shocked by how unconscious I was from when the incident started last week. And again, I know why. When I blew up in a very uncharacteristic tirade on Thursday I should have seen that as a great big giant clue. Something was touching a deep nerve for me to overreact so strongly. I didn't pay attention. I just simmered. Damn. Missed a great opportunity to avoid a lot of bad feelings.
Deep breath. This is a time when I would self-sabotage with the skill of a dancer on thin ice. I must watch myself carefully for the next few hours and maybe days to see if I can find myself right; find myself human; find myself holy again. The sad part is that the other people involved might not have the same perspective and I may lose a colleague or acquaintance. Lesson learned: Stay Awake
"Wisdom is higher consciousness, wakefulness, and awareness. Wisdom is self-knowledge."
(Lama Surya Das)
Yes! Wisdom is what so many of us are searching for, longing for. Wisdom is what keeps us exploring and keeps us curious. Sometimes the journey feels like an ache in our soul and other times it's as if heaven opens up with brilliant light. The most fascinating and powerful aspect of wisdom is that it comes from within. We might be led by books, teachers and other outside sources but the moment we uncover a truth from deep in our consciousness, we resonate on a whole new level. For me, there is nothing more moving that watching the face or hearing the voice of someone who suddenly "gets it", whatever "it" might be.
Wisdom is liberating. It lifts the cloak of frustration, anger, shame, sadness. It unlocks the mystery of stubborn defiance and helpless submission. Wisdom gets us up out of our chair. It reveals to us the secret that has held us hostage.
Wisdom might be knowing once and for all why we sabotage our best chances in life; why we push away people we love; why we punish ourselves mercilessly. Wisdom gives us hope, points us to our future, opens up possibilities.
Wisdom is my passion. My life's work ... as a coach, spiritual mentor, retreat facilitator. Wisdom is where I focus my attention when I'm not distracting myself. And ultimately, distracting myself is what ignites my passion for inner wisdom. I get it.