Category Archives: Gratitude
“Build castles, don’t dig graves.”
We sabotage our dreams—our castles—before we even allow ourselves to begin to build them. We want a career change, but we tell ourselves we’re too old. We want a new house, but we tell ourselves we could never afford it. We want to go back to school, but we tell ourselves that we’re not smart enough.
We have dreams, but we bury them in graves of self-doubt.
Most of the time the dreams that we deem impossible are actually very much possible—if we dare to begin to build. We can take on a new career in our middle-age and enjoy satisfying work for several decades. We can save just a little more and spend just a little less until the new house becomes a reality. We can take the first brave step to register for a course that really intrigues us and discover that it’s not so difficult after all.
Decide what castle you want to build and place a first brave stone. Then don’t heed the temptation to shovel dirt unto that dream.
Build castles, don’t dig graves.
Crows kept cropping up in my life this week—one of those weird coincidences. The thing is, all the stories or events were negative, but I really admire these stalwart birds.
I wrote about crows for a past freelance assignment. Before that assignment, I gave crows little thought, but my research opened my eyes to their wonders. This Sir David Attenborough video from BBC Worldwide shows crows learning how to use crosswalks. (Better than some humans I know.)
You had better be nice to crows. They remember human faces—for years—and if people treat them ill, the crows harass them, as researchers in Seattle discovered. (This article from The Guardian contains many charming uses of the word “whilst.” Now, does that not make you want to read it? American crows: the ultimate angry birds?)
Crows are intelligent, adaptable, innovative, watchful and really quite beautiful. They have striking black feathers with a sheen of blue or purple. Go back to the early slow-motion scene in the Attenborough video and watch the graceful swoop. No less beautiful than an eagle or a hawk, I think.
In mythology (Greek, Roman, Chinese, Biblical, and First Nations) crows represent creation and magic. Ted Andrews says: “Wherever crows are, there is magic. They are symbols of creation and spiritual strength. They remind us to look for opportunities to create and manifest the magic of life.”
Today is garbage day in my neighbourhood. Crows swoop along my street manifesting breakfast for themselves from our leftovers.
I choose to see it as magical.
Outside the door of my childhood farmhouse stood a set of wooden steps leading to our clothesline platform. My father installed the clothesline high off the ground to keep the clothes from dragging, hence the need for steps and a platform.
When I was a child, I wrapped a towel around my neck like a Superman cape, climbed those steps, stood on the edge of the platform and made a wish to fly like Superman. Every time, I jumped from the top and landed—plop—on the ground.
Gravity was not my friend.
I’m not sure how old I was, but probably younger than 6. I can remember really wishing to fly and really believing that it just might happen; we lose that kind of magical belief around age six.
We humans have some common physical limitations—none of us can fly that I’m aware of—and other individual physical challenges—size, gender and illness all come into play. Sometimes it takes a long time to accept what can’t be ours; all these years later I’m still disappointed that I can’t set my feet and push off into the heavens.
Because we don’t want to accept those limitations, we push boundaries to achieve the most we can with what we’ve got. We learn to balance the cannot-ness of our physical realities with the can-ness of our spirit and mind potentials. When we do, we come up with ingenious adaptations. As a result, lo and behold, now I can fly if I need to, with a little help from the Wright brothers and Air Canada.
I can fly, just not in the way I expected.
It’s an ongoing balancing act: accepting the “what is” of our physical realities with not accepting the “what that means” as a result. Humans can’t fly all on their own, but they can fly another way.
Do you remember the TV show I Dream of Jeannie? How many of us would hold our arms in front of us and blink like Jeannie, hoping that the blink would transport us instantly from one place to another? How about Bewitched? Did you wiggle your nose and wish for the same? And, of course, there’s Star Trek. Can you hear the sound of the transporter in your mind? Don’t you wish teleportation were real? I do.
Teleportation is not a physical reality for us yet, but we humans don’t like accepting limitations. Maybe my grandchildren will have a much easier commute to work thanks to the mind and spirit work of others.
I choose to dream and believe in that magic.
“I cannot feel anger against him who is of my kin, nor hate him. We are born to labor together, like the feet, the hands, the eyes, and the rows of upper and lower teeth. To work against one another is therefore contrary to nature, and to be angry against a man or turn one’s back on him is to work against him.” —Marcus Aurelius
We have lived some excruciating Canada/US Olympic rivalries in recent days: Virtue and Moir vs Davis and White, the women’s hockey teams, and today the men’s hockey semi-final. I cheer loudly for Team Canada, of course, but I feel the pain of the US loss, too. I know all Canadians don’t feel that way; many of us (most?) want to see the Americans crushed. To me, that feels like wishing ill on a brother.
Canadians and Americans labour/labor together like North American feet, hands and eyes. Our opinions differ in many ways, but we agree on the most important points. We’ve fought, and continue to fight, different battles on our way to respecting human rights, but both our countries are kilometres/miles ahead of others in that area. We’re both headed the right direction.
When we lose to one another at the Olympics, it might be as irritating as a zit on prom day, but I cannot feel anger.
It’s far too important for us to keep working together.
Two years ago I spent time in Bolivia volunteering for Habitat for Humanity helping a family in need to build their home.
I’m not one to talk about religion or my spiritual life on your average day, but our project took place in Cochabamba, home of the world’s largest statue of Jesus. With Jesus looming over our work every day, it was hard not to talk about him. In the course of those conversations, I revealed to the members of my team that I had been invited to speak at my church about my Bolivian experiences upon my return to Canada.
A few days later, as we worked, we joked back and forth. One girl turned to me and said, “I hope you don’t mind us joking around. I know you’re really religious.”
I was so stunned I couldn’t speak.
I was horrified at the idea of being considered religious. The word conjured images of dusty old pious ladies with pursed lips reciting Bible passages unquestioningly. I imagined judgmental battle-axes and humourless fire-and-brimstone preachers. One this is certain: She obviously believed that anyone who goes to church has zero sense of humour. Is that how she saw me? Horrors.
For someone who spent decades as an atheist and who still finds many aspects of some organized religions really worrisome, her perception shocked me. Me, religious? Ha! Religious was a label I did not want.
Okay, so I go to church almost every week. I am a Sunday school teacher. I was co-chair of our church council for three years. I’m on the Christian Development committee. But that doesn’t make me religious, does it?
Hhmmmm. . . I guess it does. So, if I’m going to be labelled “religious,” I’ll have to re-claim the word. I’ll have to change the connotations.
What does my church, my religion, my Spirit-seeking home, mean to me? It means: connection to the something more, critical thinking, compassion, kindness, caring work with people in need, acceptance of all people, questioning, evolving, progressive outlook, challenge, lifelong learning, meditating and justice seeking.
What does it NOT mean? It does not mean: judgmental, limited, blind, unquestioning, self-righteous, inflexible, exclusive, money-grubbing. That is not what my church is about at all.
I hereby reclaim the word religious. The compassionate, accepting, critical-thinking, justice-seeking, caring people who meditate on their questions to seek a connection with the something more (however that should appear to them) really need that to happen.
We are a compassionate and progressive community that nurtures and celebrates each others’ spiritual growth. We are rooted in our Christian tradition and open to the truths of other faiths.
We strive to follow Jesus’ example by applying his teachings to today’s challenges. We share our personal experiences of the Divine to help each other recognize God in all creation.
We believe a more just and sustainable world is possible through increased love, awareness and action. We invest in our children, our community and our world to help make this so.
You know it. You don’t need scientific evidence to back it up.
When you treat someone else with kindness, you feel good. When someone is kind to you, you feel good. When you witness someone else being kind, it makes you feel good.
You know it. You don’t need the evidence, but scientists don’t believe anything without cold, hard numbers. So they’re finding them. Telling us something we’ve known all along. Here are two videos about their findings.