Thursday, July 5, 2012

Does Hard Work Justify Existence?

Quote from Abraham

Most people have a hard time delegating, or even wanting to delegate, because you have been justifying your existence through your hard work, and you equate success with struggle; you equate results with struggle. And so, you sort of wear your struggle like a badge of honor. And all of that is opposite of allowing the Well-being. The only thing that ever matters in success or achievement is your achieving the things that you want to achieve. So if you are setting standards and you're feeling uncomfortable about the standards that you've set, tweak the standards back a little bit. Ratchet it back a notch. Give yourself a break. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Lighten up. Be easier. Go slower. Take it easy. Have more fun. Love yourself more. Laugh more. Appreciate more. All is well. You can't get it wrong. You never get it done.

--- Abraham

Moving On Without Forgiveness

Process of Illumination Journal
July 3, 2012

As the birthday of a particular close family member approaches, I am faced with a painful dilemma.  In past years, because we share a close bond but are separated by distance, I would have called with good wishes and excitement for the excuse to chat.
This year, however, I’m not sure what to do. 
What is troubling me is that, due to a falling out we had in early 2011, it seems that this person has chosen to write me off. She has not actually said this to me, but since I have not heard from her in over a year, I think its a safe assumption.
The stress on our relationship came in the wake of a tragic event in her life in which she felt I did not support her in the way she needed me to.  At the height of her crisis, I tried to be there for her as best I could, given that we live at opposite ends of the country.  We spoke every day, sometimes several times a day, but there came a time when I was up north with no phone charger and I could not be reached. I had told her I would call her but I wasn’t able to. She had been trying to contact me for two days. 
It makes sense to me that she would have become very upset not being able to reach me. I was one of her lifelines at a time when her entire world was falling apart. I imagine she must have felt scared, hurt, alone and abandoned and I feel terrible thinking of what she must have gone through.  When I returned to the city and was unable to find her for a few more days I became quite alarmed and concerned for her well being, but when we finally spoke, she told me how upsetting it was to not be able to reach me. I did my best to apologize to her but at the same time, I needed her to understand that it was never my intention to hurt her.  I hoped she would be able to see that it was an unfortunate circumstance and recognize that I tried to reconnect as soon as I could. We discussed it off and on for the next few weeks and I thought we had come to a mutual understanding.  But, in the months that followed, she replied to my inquiries less and less and eventually, around April of last year, she stopped responding altogether. I still messaged her a birthday greeting in July, hoping she would be more receptive, but she did not respond and since then, I have not reached out any further.
Now, before you come to any conclusions, I should add that this person has been one of the most supportive people in my life.  When I was going through my divorce (one of the worst periods of my life), she was unwaivering in her dedication to me and helped to get me through some unbelievably tough times.  She was relentless when it came to checking in when she was worried about me and she was encouraging, comforting and incredibly resourceful. I am eternally grateful to her and when her world fell apart, I wanted to be there for her, as she was for me. I really thought I was doing that, which makes it so much harder for me to come to terms with what has happened between us.  
I guess I am writing this, in part, because I’m angry.  I’m angry at myself for not handling this issue better. I should know better. I should BE better. But I’m also angry at her for her extreme and final reaction to it. It seems so out of proportion to me and so unfair.  I have the ability to see many sides of any issue and I am constantly making sure that I put myself in others’ shoes before I make up my mind about any situation.  I find it really hard to relate to people who can’t understand the complexity of an issue and the importance of seeing things from another perspective. And so, true to form, that’s another reason that I’m writing this.  To gain further clarity about what lessons are in this for me that I have not considered. 
What else could I have done to repair the rift in the early days? Should I have kept calling and texting her even though she told me repeatedly she didn’t want to talk about it? When I am hurting, I often withdraw into my own process, not wanting to be bothered but I resurface eventually and, when I do, I try not to blame others for misinterpreting or not knowing how to handle my moods. I try to take responsibility for my own feelings, even if they are provoked by external influences and I hold myself accountable for being honest and addressing any issues with others that are causing me to have residual negative feelings. If she had unresolved issues with me, it was up to her to address them with me directly. I am not making excuses, but that is how I justified my decision to step back at the time. I don’t know how my retreat was interpreted by her because I was given no opportunity for any further dialogue. 
Perhaps I was being stubborn (Maybe I still am) and maybe I should have risen above my own feelings at the time (maybe I still should), but I guess have been hurt, too, and I’m trying to protect myself from the shame of being rebuffed again. However, I am a firm believer that our mistakes are what teach us how to do better next time and I sincerely hope that I will be able to grow as a result of this experience. Sadly, the chance to heal this relationship may have already passed without me realizing it. And that is a painful truth to live with.
So the question is:
How does one move on without the forgiveness of another?
As many of you know, I believe that the key to healing relationships is through restoring connection and, to do this, the individuals must be willing to stay open, vulnerable and create ongoing opportunities for dialogue.  When the opportunity for dialogue is not offered, however, there is very little one or both people can do to regain a safe connection.  The longer the silence, the further away they drift.  What’s left is two people, each with their own feelings of pain and no safe place in which to be heard.  And what happens then? How do they move on?
For now, all I know is this: Based on the information I have, there is nothing that I am prepared to do that I have not done already. She may feel that there is more for me to do to redeem myself, or she may feel it is best for her to have me out of her life but I have nothing to go on except silence.  I see no way of moving forward together unless we are both willing to talk about it within a safe, structured dialogue.
Either way, her forgiveness is not in my control. Without a clear understanding of what it is that needs to be addressed, I must accept the silence for what it is and grieve the relationship. Continuing to carry the burden of her disappointment is not the answer. If it were, this would have been resolved by now. I have to let it go, keep an open heart and surrender. 
The bottom line is what I have known all along. That the only forgiveness that really matters is that which we give to ourselves. Forgiveness is not “for” anyone but the forgiver.  It is a gift that we bestow upon ourselves in order to release us from the burden of blame toward ourselves or another.
 In this case, I have done much soul searching and have looked at what happened from every angle I can think of.  I am able to admit that I made some choices that may have been interpreted as hurtful, and if it were in my power to take that pain away, I would. But I also know what is in my heart and what my truth is.  I care very deeply for this person and I want the best for her, yet I failed her somehow. I was not able to give her what she needed. Maybe I didn’t understand what she needed. Maybe I underestimated her needs. I am flawed, as we all are, and I have regrets for the mistakes I have made that have hurt others. However,  given another opportunity, I am not sure that I could have done it any differently under the circumstances. Maybe I would today and maybe I wouldn’t.  I was trusting my judgement then, and I would do the same today. What more can any of us do?  We can’t be different than we are, no matter how much someone else needs us to be. Had I known then what I know now, I may have been able to avoid these consequences but I didn’t. It took an experience like this to educate me. I can’t turn back the clock. I can only move forward with new information and continue to trust myself, knowing that I am doing the best I can.
 For those reasons, I am learning to be at peace with my decisions. 
I am moving toward forgiving myself.  
And yet, that doesn’t resolve things, does it?  There is still another person in this equation who has made a choice based on what she feels is right.  And even though I’m hurt, how can I blame her?  Her experience and the feelings that came as a result of it are valid. So, I must forgive her, too, and trust that, if a resolution is in our highest good, it will happen some day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today's Miracle

Today’s Miracle
November 22, 2011
Today my client, after a session where she seemed quite distracted, told me, with tears in her eyes, that my mother had been in the session with us the entire time and she did not know whether she could/should tell me or not.  She said my mother’s energy was very strong and she was very loud, asking my client over and over to please tell me that she was here and that she is sorry. She also asked her to tell me that “they” are always with me.
It will be the 8th anniversary of my mom’s death this weekend.
I am sitting here in my office now, feeling sort of numb.  I know what I think this means and yet I’m not really sure what to think.  The message was so simple and so I feel there must be more.  But, even though “I am sorry” is a simple statement, it is also loaded with opportunities for interpretation.  Is she sorry for the part she played in the issues I have been facing these past weeks? Or is it something more complex than that? And, if there is more to this message, maybe the understanding of what it means is yet to come.  And maybe this is simply just another confirmation that I am in the right place, for now.  Things lining up.  Channels opening. Or maybe there is an urgency for this message to be heard now.  Certainly my mom could have come into any previous session with this client, as I have been seeing her for several years now. I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that it happened for a reason.
After my client left, I stood in my office and tried to feel my mother’s energy, but I couldn’t.  I looked around to see if something caught my attention - a sign or a symbol or an intuitive sense about something I could do to connect, but nothing did. I spoke out loud to my mother asking for clarity about this message, but there was none.
It was just a gift in that moment, to be used as I see fit, I guess.
There have been so many remarkable occurrences since 11/11/11 that I am convinced that the gateway I passed through in my meditation at 11:11 on 11/11/11 really did lead me to a new vibration.  I’m not the same person I was 11 days ago. I’m not making the same choices or telling the same story. And yes, crazy as it sounds, it was precisely 11 days from the time of my meditation at 11:11 on 11/11/11 to the time my client shared this information with me, sometime after 11:00 on 11/22/11.
If the one thing I have been asking the universe to help me with is to let go of my resistance, perhaps these occurrences are the evidence that this process is underway.  If I am finally allowing myself to break through the barriers that have held me apart from my true “self”, then all of these things make sense. I am finding the courage to set limits and break old cycles. I have experienced the power and the ecstasy of opening my heart and releasing all that I have been holding on to. I am literally finding my voice and I’m able to listen and enjoy what I hear. I am able to recognize that the answers to the questions I seek are within me. I can accept that my “self” can remain present and need not disappear based on the feelings, the needs or the decisions of another. And I have been given a message from my mother that I never even imagined I needed to hear.  
And, just like that, gratitude and forgiveness have replaced fear and doubt.
If that isn’t a miracle, I’m not sure what is.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Solo" doesn't have to mean "Alone"


I know what it's like to live through a very traumatic divorce.  During that time in my life, it became painfully clear to me that the support and resources available to women and their children are very hard to find and, even then, they lack the understanding and compassion that can only come from those who have gone through it themselves. I often felt alone, inadequate and, at times, unable to trust my own judgement. I desperately needed a support network that went beyond that of my well-meaning family and whatever friends I had that weren't too uncomfortable to talk to me. I knew very few people who could relate to what I was going through. I needed emotional, mental, physical, financial, legal and even spiritual support and yet I was too overwhelmed to find out how and where to get it.

Living through Separation and Divorce can feel as if you are on a runaway train that will take you to places you never imagined, nor ever intended to go. That is why I created Suddenly Solo, because I believe that women need a place where they can get the help they need, regain control of the process and, more importantly, their lives. Being newly independent can be a scary feeling, but Suddenly Solo offers women and their children a comforting and empowering alternative with unique social networking and events, emotional support from professionals and peers and practical support and guidance in the form of workshops, lectures,and resources.

Separation & Divorce Counselling

Navigating through the upheaval of a divorce is overwhelming at the best of times and, more often than not, we can find ourselves sucked into an emotional, mental, physical, financial and even spiritual abyss.
Without proper support or a framework of values to work within, before you know it, the process can take on a life of its own and you can find yourself feeling as if you are no longer in control of your life and its outcome. Regardless of the circumstances, this is one of the most painful and difficult experiences you and your family will ever endure and, no matter how strong you are, you will need a steady supply of ongoing support and encouragement.  Family and friends are well meaning, but they often lack the skills necessary to assist us effectively and, real or imagined, we can find ourselves feeling alienated from those we once relied on and for reasons that seem unfair or inexplicable.  That is why it is most important to seek help as soon as, and, if possible, even before you have made the decision to separate.  A compassionate therapist with experience in separation and divorce is an invaluable partner in helping you develop your vision for the future and stay true to your values and principles along the way.  In addition, if you are planning to or have already entered into the legal system, this can add even more complex issues and decisions into the mix. Even the most compassionate and experienced legal professional is not a skilled therapist and entering into the legal process too early or without adequate information or emotional support can be a painful, slow, expensive and often unnecessary way to learn how the system works and what your options are.

The service I offer to indivuals, couples and families is multi-faceted in its approach.  My greatest wish is that I meet you early enough in the process so that I can assist you in examining all of your options in a clear and honest way. Leaving a relationship or a marriage is a decision that is often influenced by hidden factors as well as obvious ones, and I feel it is crucial to have as much information as possible and to understand that this decision will effect the rest of your life in ways that you might not have considered.

In the event that a separation is unavoidable, I will then help you and, if possible, your spouse, get a very real picture of what to expect.  Together, we will identify your goals and create a vision based on your individual and collective needs, values and priorities. We will address the emotional and practical issues associated with your unique set of circumstances and design a framework that will address all relevant issues such as creating and adjusting to new relationship boundaries, expectations, financial concerns, living arrangements, how/when to tell the kids and others, co-parenting arrangements, property, friends and family, choosing a legal process and more.

It is my belief that, with ongoing emotional support and a rational, disciplined and value-oriented approach to separation and divorce, couples and families can dramatically reduce the duration and long term effects of this traumatic experience.

Friday, September 3, 2010


    “I’m so afraid. Please, god help me.  I fear I’ve made some terrible mistakes and     that I am somehow heading for a disaster of huge proportions.”

Believe it or not, these are the first few lines of a recent journal entry of mine. When I wrote this, I was battling an episode of fear that was so crippling, I could not go 5 minutes without feeling intense panic and a sense of doom. Given my reputation for optimism and my ability to find learning in every challenging experience, many might find it hard to believe that I would be capable of going to such a dark place. Thankfully, I can recall only a few times that I have felt like that in my life, but nevertheless, under certain circumstances I have found myself in the grip of a fear so unbearable, it made me question my worth, my choices and everything I believe in.

If I were to explain how I got to that place, I would have to say that it seems to be set off when I perceive that there is some threat to my ability to meet the basic human needs of my family (food, shelter, etc.). This must be a very deep core issue for me because, In almost any other situation, I am a pillar of strength and yet when this issue is triggered, I somehow develop an irrational fear-based thought process around it.

If you have ever felt this kind of fear, and I’m guessing most of us have at some point in our lives, it is important to understand that, even though we do not want to encourage fearful thoughts, we must also recognize that when these “dark nights of the soul” do happen, they are a necessary part of our process of self discovery.  In my case, even though I felt quite powerless at the time, there was still a part of me that was able to view myself and my thoughts objectively and try to assess what was going on for me emotionally.  But I was still caught in a “thought loop” because there were very real circumstances that needed to be dealt with and I had no idea how to fix the problem.  Every time I succeeded in distracting myself from the negative thoughts, the reality of the situation would become obvious, once again, and I was sucked back into the pit of desperation.

 Over two weeks passed before I was finally able to regain my power and change my thoughts, but my rational mind was reminding me all along that the more I allowed myself to indulge the fearful thoughts, the more I was reinforcing them and giving them power.  I knew I was attracting more of what I did not want, and because I was able to recognize this, it gave me the strength I needed to keep trying over and over to reject the fearful thoughts and eventually come up with a plan to banish them entirely. And this is really the key here.  The reality of the situation has not changed but my perception of it has.  I can now think the same thoughts that would have made me panic a week ago and still feel calm and in control.

It is remarkable. I would even say it’s a miracle!

     “Please help me. I need a miracle. Show me the way. Tell me what to do and I’ll     do it. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t     want to be afraid anymore. I don’t want to be in the dark anymore. Please help     me find the light and stay there”

So, what changed?

Well, first, I wrote that journal entry which ended up consisting of over 2,000 words by the time I was done.  That was on a morning when I woke up and the panic started the moment I opened my eyes.  I knew I could not get through the day unless I did something and the only thing I could think of was to write.  I was hoping it would purge the feelings and make me cry. I needed to cry so badly but I had not been able to for weeks.

    “I wish I could cry and unlock all of this terror, but I can only seem to manage a     few stray tears that leak out. What I feel inside is like a dam that is ready to burst,     but its so strong and immoveable right now. Maybe, on some level, I worry that if     I let it go, I’ll completely fall apart.”

As I wrote, I allowed myself to verbalize all the most horrible thoughts that had been going through my head. I blamed and berated myself for every choice I had ever made.  I told myself that I was being punished for all my mistakes and I called myself every bad name in the book. Reading it over now, I realize that I had to get out in the open all the secret things that I blamed myself for and had never really acknowledged. It all seems ridiculous now, but when I was in the darkness, I really believed it.

Then, I questioned how I could have made such mistakes, been so foolish, stupid, selfish etc. I questioned my motives and my beliefs and where they had got me.  And next came the apologies. I said sorry to everyone for every thing I had ever done. After that, I began to ask what I could do to make it right again and realized that I had to forgive myself before I could move on.

By then, I had become calmer and it was then that I began to make statements about what I  needed and wanted. I asked to feel better, for answers, miracles, understanding and growth. I asked for help.

When I was finished writing, I meditated for the first time in months.

That afternoon and the morning that followed, each of my two best friends visited me. We shared our pain and we wept together. I felt more honest and deeply connected to each of them than I have in over 35 years of friendship.  I had been “broken open” and it allowed me to embrace our friendship and be present on an entirely new level. I was reminded of how we are all living through our own versions of hell at some time or another and that our suffering can take up so much of our precious time and energy if we let it. I felt such gratitude and compassion for them and for myself.  I felt whole again.

Since then, I have continued to meditate every day. The problems I am facing are still there, but now they seem manageable. I am organized and productive again and I have regained my trademark Optimism (thank god!)

As horrible as it was to live through, I’m grateful for the experience. I feel stronger now and I have learned more about myself in the process.  I realize that there is a deep psychological connection between my new role as a single parent and my experience growing up as the child of a struggling single mother and the learning continues...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This week's Inspired Living Post

For my new Inspired Living segment on Newstalk 1010's Buddha Lounge Show, it occurs to me that I have created a whole new job description for myself:

Look for everything that’s good in the world.
Talk about it.
Write about it.
Teach others to do the same.

What could be better than that???

This is the first in a regular series of articles I will be publishing which focuses on "Real People Living Inspired Lives". I will share with you some of the truly Inspiring People, Places, Events & Stories that I encounter in my everyday life and I will also be encouraging you - the audience - to email me or the show and let us know who or what YOU think is SO Inspiring so I can follow up on it and perhaps include it in an article or on the show. Go to to share your experience.

Regardless, I hope you will check in with this blog or the show for your regular dose of Inspiration.

Synchronicities and Benevolence

It happened on Good Friday. A beautiful, warm, sunny day. Thinking all the stores would be closed, I donned a pair of old flip flops and ventured out to do some window shopping and grab a coffee.  To my delight, many of the stores were open and Yonge Street was alive with people. With every step, I became more appreciative of this glorious day. 

At one point, I stopped into Chocky’s to find some socks and underwear for my boys.  As I meandered about the store, the sales clerk was extremely helpful and we chatted as she assisted me. Then, a woman and her two daughters came in and I overheard her asking if they had any flip flops for sale. This caught my attention because mine were in pretty rough shape and I had thought about getting a new pair.  The sales clerk said she did not have any flip flops and the woman went on to say that her boots had given her blisters and that’s why she needed the flip flops. I laughed to myself, thinking about how amazing it was that this random event revealed two synchronicities.  First, it was just this morning that I had thought about throwing out my flip flops and second, it was only the day before that I had been speaking to one of my kids and recalled with affection how, in my younger years, I often preferred to walk on the city streets in my bare feet. It just seemed so obvious to me. I should offer my flip flops to her.

The woman was very appreciative of my offer, but was not about to take the “shoes off my feet”.  Of course, I completely understood, however it would have made me very happy if she had taken me up on it.  Nevertheless, we struck up a conversation and it wasn’t long before yet another synchronicity was revealed. 

We discovered that the woman and her daughters knew my son, Ryan, but that was no real surprise. Ryan knows everyone. What really gave me goose bumps was when they told me that Ryan had become a hero of sorts when, after a party one night, he was in a fast food restaurant and saw one of the local thugs trying to sell a stolen cellphone.  Ryan recognized that the phone belonged to his friend (one of the daughters at Chocky’s) and, knowing how upset she had been by the incident, he decided to buy it back for her. Needless to say, I was very proud to hear that Ryan had performed such a benevolent act but even this did not really surprise me.  Ryan has always been that kind of person and while I would certainly put Ryan’s good deed and general good nature high on my list of things that Inspire me, on this day, there was another simple, unexpected bonus which made my heart sing. 

The woman, her daughters and I chatted a while longer, and made plans to keep in touch. They left the store and I went to the counter to pay for my items. The sales clerk, who had overheard our conversation, smiled and asked me “Are any of these things for Ryan?” “Yes”, I said. “As a matter of fact, they are!” “Well, then”, she said,  “I think both of you deserve a discount.  You, for offering the shoes off your feet, and Ryan for getting that girl’s phone back.”

I have to say that I was practically speechless.  This sales clerk really had not investment in what she overheard, and yet she felt inspired enough to make the gesture.  I don’t know if she was the owner or an employee, so I hope she doesn’t get in any trouble for giving the discount on that basis.  Rather, I’d like to add Chocky’s to the “Inspired Living Friends Network” and encourage everyone I know to shop there.

Thanks to Chockys (2584 Yonge St, Toronto), Marsha & Co, and Ryan.