Category Archives: spirit

No “can’t’; No “won’t”; Only “how”: Spencer West

I’ll be volunteering at National We Day here in Ottawa, Canada tomorrow. We Day, an event affiliated with Free The Children and Me to We, is a music and inspiration-filled concert that energizes kids and inspires them to shift their view of the world from “me” to “‘we.” Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, want to free children locally and internationally from poverty and oppression, and they want to free children from the belief that they are powerless to effect change.

I attended a training session last night along with hundreds of other volunteers. If we held any lingering doubts about our abilities to handle our assigned tasks, out guest speaker put those doubts to rest.

Spencer West climbed the stairs to speak to us. That one simple act inspired us, for Spencer West has no legs. But no matter. He has done outreach work in Africa, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and he travels the world speaking and encouraging people to effect change. One of speaking topics is: No Can’t, No Won’t, Only How: Overcoming Obstacles to Make a Difference.

It’s easy to imagine that Spencer West heard the words “can’t” or “won’t” many times in his life. His ability to climb over those words to get to the word “how” inspires the rest of us to climb over our own surmountable obstacles.

The kids attending the concert tomorrow couldn’t buy a ticket to attend; they had to earn it. Schools and groups commit to taking one local and one global action to earn their way.

Perhaps we can take a cue from them: one local and one global action. If “can’t” or “won’t” pop into your head, brush those words aside and look for “how.” It’s easy. Certainly easier than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: How we create our own world

9780062086525

Parenthood provides the opportunity for fully grown adults to re-capture childhood joys. When my children were younger, I re-captured some childhood joy when I came across the book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

As a child I loved the simple sketches and fun story, but as an adult I appreciate the profound spiritual truths that lie at its heart.

My friend Harold begins his story in chaos, with his purple crayon scribbling all over. Then he decides he needs a moon to light his way and solid ground on which to walk. With these two necessities in place, he begins his journey.

harold-chaos

At first, not wanting to get lost, he creates a straight path for himself.

harold-straight-path

The straight path soon loses his interest, so he decides he needs a tree, and that the tree needs some apples. Wouldn’t they be delicious?

harold-apples

As soon as he has apples though, he worries that someone might steal them. He creates a frightening dragon to defend his treasure. The dragon is so frightening, it scares even Harold, so he falls backwards into the wavy ocean that his trembling hand squiggles out for him.

harold-dragon

Soon Harold is in way over his head.

harold-over-his-head

To save himself, he creates a boat, and then a sail, and then a shore upon which to land.

harold-ashore

Harold takes himself on an adventurous journey complete with delicious pies, friends, hot air balloon rides, large cities and helpful guides. The moon accompanies him on every page.

harold-guide

Eventually he grows so tired he wants to go home to bed. He remembers that his bedroom window is always right around the moon, so he draws himself his bedroom window and his big comfy bed. He crawls in and goes to sleep.

harold-at-home

This beautiful story shows spirit (the moon) and our physical world (the solid ground) created out of chaos. With the moon shining on him always and the ground solid underneath, Harold uses the purple crayon (free will, the Source, Universal Mind, whatever you choose to call it) to shape his life. He creates fun times, hard times, dangers and solutions to his problems.

I keep a copy of this book on the shelf beside my desk. When I look at the cover, it returns me to a quiet centre. It makes me ask questions: Which fearful events and situations have I created for myself? What solution can I create, or draw, to solve those problems? What positive and fun things can I draw next?

It reminds me that spirit is always shining down on me and that the ground is solid beneath my feet. It reminds me that the path my life takes lies in my own hand.

And it humbles me, because at the root of everything lies the unanswerable question: Where does the purple crayon come from?

Fred Phelps, St. Patrick’s Day and Any Known Blood: Tired discrimination

http://i1.wp.com/topekasnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/kansas-religious-freedom-bill-ridiculous1.jpg?resize=300%2C536

Photo from TopekasNews

The state of Kansas, U.S.A. recently made headlines for proposed laws that would allow restaurants and businesses to ban gay patrons from their establishments. A sign reading “Service refused to gay couples” appeared in at least one restaurant. 

These headlines preceded the death of Fred Phelps (I won’t call him reverend) by about a month. During his lifetime, Phelps loved to make headlines—his even more hate-filled. His “God Hates Fags” tagline summed up his sorry life.

When I saw the picture here, and when I read Fred Phelps’ views on issues, I thought, “Really? Did they learn nothing from history?”

But I take comfort in seeing that their actions, intended to promote discrimination and hate, ended up encouraging more openness and love. Shocking hate prompts us to act with active love.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I remembered that signs reading “No Irish” used to appear in the windows of early New York City establishments. I’m part Irish, so this one piece of knowledge keeps me celebrating the occasion every year.

I re-read Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill this week, too. At the beginning of the book he cites this passage from An American Dilemma Vol. I, 1944:

Everybody having a known trace of Negro Blood in his veins—no matter how far back it was acquired—is classified as a Negro. No amount of white ancestry, except one hundred per cent, will permit entrance to the white race.

Good heavens, they were really covering all the bases, weren’t they? My father was adopted, so I have “unknown” blood in me. I guess I wouldn’t qualify.

No gays, no Irish, no blacks, no Indians, no Jews, no Japanese, no Mexicans, no women, no men . . . in the course of history, is there any group that hasn’t at one point or another been barred from something?

It makes me tired. Enough already, people.

If you ever feel inspired to put a sign reading “No . . . (anything)” in your window, think again. Such signs say a whole lot more about you than they do about the group of people you’re aiming to keep out.

 

Eating the Sun Meditation

I am on a March Break vacation, “eating the sun” as much as I can. I thought I would share this beautiful meditation from the Cauldrons and Cupcakes blog. If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you will be craving the sunshine after a long winter. Click on the link below to visit her page:

Eating the Sun Meditation.

enjoying-life

Build castles, don’t dig graves

McMaster UniversityFrom The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz: 

“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.

Holy Crows: A little love for a much-maligned bird

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.

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