Friday, January 30, 2009

Plugging in

At a function the other night I met a woman who recently had moved to Nanaimo. She invited me to meet her for coffee. She told me she was trying to get to know local people. She said, "You know what it's like when you move to a new place and don't know anyone."

Yes, from previous relocations, I knew what she meant. But that reminded me how different my move to Nanaimo had been. When I'd arrived here in September 2008, I'd hit the ground running. I plugged in so quickly, it would have made your head spin.

That was entirely owing to the fact that I'd joined Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. Even before I'd moved to Nanaimo, while I still was packing up in Calgary, my fellow cohos already were e-mailing me and telling me about upcoming events in Nanaimo and activities I could join.

Very soon after getting here, I knew heaps of people, had a full calendar, and felt as if I'd lived here for years.

When I scanned my calendar to find a free slot in which to meet this lovely new acquaintance for coffee or lunch two weeks out, I did not want to sound like a poser. But the fact was that I had to pick through several activities to find some openings.

On almost a daily basis I am reminded of my gratitude for having found and joined a cohousing community.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Irresistible Nanaimo

Our lunch with our American visitor, whom I mentioned in my previous couple of posts, was illustrative of why Nanaimo is such a neat place to live.

We took him to the Thirsty Camel which, as the name suggests, serves Middle Eastern cuisine, and is my absolute fave in Nanaimo.

The restaurant was packed, and the five of us were occupying a table that could seat six. A woman came along and asked us if she could sit at the end of our table, since there was no other space for her. She promised to do her own thing and not disturb us. We said, "Sure. Go for it."

While she was sitting there, she was stuffing and addressing envelopes. We just carried on with our conversation. Each of us told our visitor what had drawn us to cohousing. As Sharon said, each of our reasons was quite complex, and these were concepts that were not that easy to convey in a short sound bite, on a website, or anything like that.

Some time after the woman who had shared our table had left, Susana noticed that there was a piece of paper at the woman's place. Susana thought it was something that the woman had forgotten, and almost felt embarrassed about reading it, but she did.

Then Susana said, "Hey, guys. Look at this." On the piece of paper, the woman had written, "Key words that I heard were .......," and she went on to list what she considered to be the most important nuggets from our conversation. Then she'd written, "For information about community, contact Dr. So And So at Such And Such University."

We said to our visitor, "This is one of the reasons we love living in Nanaimo. The people here are so awesome."

Our visitor, who was in discussions about the formation of a cohousing community back in his own city, said, "I want to tell folks back home what people here are like. Can I take that piece of paper to show them what I mean?"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A friend indeed

Yup, yesterday's visit was what I hoped it would be and more.

To say that we cohos and our out-of-town guest were kindred spirits really doesn't go far enough.

It was a very meaningful day for me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A friend I have yet to meet

Today some of my fellow cohos and I will be showing a visitor around Nanaimo, I'll have him over to my house for supper, and then one of our other cohos will be billeting him at her house tonight.

Our visitor lives in the United States, but is in Vancouver on a short-term work assignment. His family has a long history of involvement with intentional communities. So, when he was preparing to come up to this area, he put out his feelers to find out what sorts of intentional communities there were around here. I guess his Google search must have brought up Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, because he contacted us.

It just goes to show what a useful tool the Internet is.

But the Internet takes you only so far. It can serve as an introduction to people in distant places. Yet the Internet cannot meet your ferry, chat with you, take you on a walking tour along the harbour and through downtown, feed you, and so on.

The cool thing about being involved with intentional communities is that it gives you so much in common with folks in the movement. You pretty much know, in advance, that you will be kindred spirits.

Or at least that's my theory. I am off to test it right now and to find out if, indeed, a stranger is just a friend whom I have yet to meet.

I'll let you know tomorrow how it went.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My sacred body

As I created a title for a new blog post, I chuckled when I noticed that I'd transposed the letters, and had typed My scared body.

That typo probably says it all. I used to be afraid.

As I have settled into supportive communities in Nanaimo, love, peace and joy have flowed in and replaced fear.

One of the developments I have noticed is how much I have been drawn to physical activity and how much I have been enjoying my body.

Last week I moved to a house from which I can walk to most amenities that I need. It has been a tremendous pleasure to walk. I enjoy the sensation of walking. I'm grateful for my comfortable shoes and for a body that is healthy enough to walk. When I walk, I notice so many things about my neighbourhood that would not be visible from a car.

Recently I joined a Tai Chi class, and have been enjoying the slow, gentle, but surprisingly demanding, movements.

Yesterday, Everybody Sings resumed after the Christmas and New Year break. It was delightful to participate once again in the lively singing, clapping and dancing. Shirley said it reminded her of kindergarten, and Ian said it reminded him of summer camp when he'd been a teenager. It sure is fun to be transported back to kindergarten or summer camp as an adult, or to experience them for the first time if you missed out as a kid.

Last night I tried Sacred Circle Dancing for the first time. I found it peaceful, meditative and grounding. I especially liked the fact that there was very little talking, and we dancers just gave ourselves over to the soft music and flowing movement.

Our Sacred Circle Dance teacher, Maureen Wild, said that dancing helped us to be conscious of our bodies, to feel connected to the planet and nature, and to experience ourselves as something other than "a head on a stick."

Food has taken on a new dimension for me too. I have just taken a break from typing and eaten a perfectly ripe tomato. As I sank my teeth into its juicy, red flesh, I reveled in the delicious taste. I was conscious of the earth, water, air and sunlight that had poured themselves into the tomato plant. I appreciated the tomato for giving up its life to sustain mine.

I am experiencing myself as a sacred being, sharing my life with other sacred beings, in a sacred time and space.

My scared self, in the meantime, seems to have kicked off her shoes and joined the dance.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flourish or stagnate

Less than a year ago, I was not a happy camper. If I had been Goldilocks, I would have been whining because the porridge was too cold, the chair was too hard, and the bed was too soft.

But it wasn't really about the porridge, the chair or the bed. In hindsight, I believe I was frustrated because I had yet to identify my life's purpose and figure out how to live in alignment with it.

The psychologist, Erik Erikson, identified eight stages of life. According to Erikson, each stage involved a task. If you completed the task demanded of the relevant stage, you would be rewarded with a benefit that you would enjoy for the rest of your life. But, if you failed to accomplish a task, you would suffer from a disadvantage.

The good news, though, is that it is possible to catch up later. For example, if you did not acquire basic trust in the world as an infant, it is possible (if challenging) to do the necessary work and establish basic trust later in life.

The stage in which I personally am most interested is the one in which I am at the moment -- middle age. According to Erikson, the accomplishment of this stage is what he called generativity.

What Erikson meant by generativity was a contribution that had the potential to last beyond your own lifetime. The contribution does not have to be spectacular or impressive. The main requirement is that it is meaningful to you.

For example, you might teach a hobby, such as photography, to a child. You might create a garden. You might act as a mentor to a younger member of your profession.

Failure results in stagnation. If you do not give something of yourself to the world, you become stale.

That's how I felt in Calgary, before I bought into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community and moved to Nanaimo. I felt dull, to the point of suffocation.

My membership of a cohousing community has given me many opportunities to contribute, directly to the cohousing community itself and to the wider community, with which my fellow cohos and I have lots of connections.

Linking this back to my previous couple of posts, I suspect this is one of the greatest losses that hunters experience when they are robbed of their habitat. Older men are denied the opportunity to mentor younger men and boys.

In Iron John, Robert Bly goes on at length about the importance of the role that older men play in the lives of younger men and boys. He also describes how meaningful it is to older men to play a useful part in the lives of younger men and boys.

All the way from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, hunting-gathering societies implicitly understood this. They all incorporated sophisticated initiation rituals and ceremonies into their customs.

Returning to me, since I have found a renewed sense of purpose, porridge, chairs and beds have ceased to be issues. Those kinds of things have just fallen into place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Making peace with men

It was serendipitous that my visit to the Royal British Columbia Museum took place at a time when I was re-reading a marvelous book, Iron John by Robert Bly.

Although the museum collection caused me to recall the suffering to which "progress" and "development" have subjected hunter-gatherers, our modern way of life has created challenges for contemporary men too.

As Bly states, the relationship that has been most severely damaged by the Industrial Revolution is the one between father and son. During our hunting-gathering days and even during our agricultural days, fathers and sons used to work alongside each other. Think of the farmers, blacksmiths and carpenters who passed on their skills to their sons.

In an agricultural society, fathers work close to home. They return to their houses for lunch. Their wives and children understand what they do for a living and interact with them a lot.

But that changed for us when men went off to work in distant factories and mines, and later in offices. Their work became specialized, their family members no longer understood what they did for a living, and their wives and children saw much less of them.

Some men, who were forced to work punishing hours, were exhausted, and behaved like jerks.

Women resented being less powerful, but let off steam by disparaging men. One of the rhymes that I remember my mother reciting was:

Girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice.
Boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails.

Once we were both middle aged, I told one of my brothers that I felt uncomfortable about having been elevated at his expense. I asked him how he had felt when he had heard those words. He said, "Like a piece of shit." I felt so sad when he shared that with me.

We see variations on this theme all over the place. For example, television ads invariably portray the dad as the resident idiot who doesn't have the first clue about cold medicine. Then the mom rolls her eyes before revealing the magic elixir that will fix everything.

I am sorry to report that there was a time when I was that smug mom. But I like to think that I have outgrown that attitude.

I know, from first hand experience, that some men behave badly. Yet, with that having been said, I am finding it deeply rewarding to be gaining a new recognition of the gifts that men have to offer the world.

The society that I want to nurture is one that is supportive towards men, women, children and, indeed, our planet. My membership of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community is central to that commitment.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The hunter’s broken heart

I have just returned to Nanaimo from a weekend visit to Victoria, two and a half hours away by train. While I was there, I spent half a day at the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The museum has excellent exhibits that depict the traditional hunting and gathering (or, in some cases, fishing and gathering) lifestyles of the First Nations people of British Columbia.

I also was lucky enough to have a personal tour with a docent (volunteer guide) who was knowledgeable and passionate about the collection. Under normal circumstances the docent would have led a group through the museum. However, one of the advantages of visiting in winter, as I did, was that it was a slow day at the museum.

Although in many cases Europeans did not deliberately set out to be evil, the effect of their contact with the Aboriginal peoples of British Columbia was brutal.

To understand a museum's collection, it is not enough to look at the display cases, and say, "Isn't that lovely?" To make sense of a collection, the visitor needs context.

In the case of this museum, for example, it was relevant that only a tiny percentage of Aboriginal artefacts had survived European contact. Well intentioned missionaries had encouraged Aboriginal people to demonstrate their conversion to Christianity by burning their "heathen" artefacts.

The visitor is more equipped to understand the implications if he or she has witnessed the effects of the cash economy on hunter gatherers in another time and place.

My friend, Andy, who spent a couple of decades in Canada’s Far North, has described the devastating loss of identity and purpose that Aboriginal men suffered when they were denied their traditional role as hunters.

The same tragedy unfolded in Swaziland, where I grew up. Consummate hunters and trackers were reduced to shadows of their former selves when their traditional lands were sold from under them, and survival meant working for wages on a plantation or in a mine.

Contemplating the consequences of imperialism, capitalism and globalization used to have a crippling effect on me.

Fortunately, I now have carved out a way of life that feels supportive, but that still is nested within a conventional setting. It does not involve raging against the machine (to paraphrase the name of a well known rap metal band).

In my next few posts, I will share some strategies that I am employing in mending my heart. Hmmm ....... well, come to think of it, perhaps that's what this entire blog, down to the last post, is about.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Man in the Arena

Was just reminded of this Theodore Roosevelt quotation that I like:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

I find it helpful to remember this when I'm doing something challenging.

Although I don't always succeed in pulling off this feat, there also have been times when I've managed to shut up when someone else's performance has been imperfect. It seems more constructive to say, "How can I help?" than to snipe at them from the peanut gallery.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cohos are cool

The other day, just off the top of her head, Susana came up with this list of hobbies in which we owners of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, collectively, are involved:

  • attending musical events
  • baking
  • bicycling
  • bird-watching
  • book clubs
  • camping
  • celebrations of different traditions
  • choir
  • cooking
  • dancing -- all kinds of dance!
  • dialogue groups
  • drumming
  • festivals of all sorts
  • gardening
  • geocaching
  • good films
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • naturalist outings
  • opera
  • organizing and participating in events
  • parties
  • personal growth work
  • photography
  • playing music
  • playing with children
  • potlucks
  • singing
  • skiing
  • spiritual retreats
  • spiritual rituals and gatherings
  • story-telling
  • swimming
  • symphony
  • Tai Chi
  • theatre
  • travel
  • voluntary simplicity circle
  • volunteering in the community
  • writing
  • women's circle
  • yoga

    In running down that list, I like the look of drumming. But I've just taken up singing, dancing and Tai Chi, so I'll have to see how I can work drumming into the mix. Susana says there are classes in which one can do drumming and dancing.

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I'm getting back into bicycling. Of course that's not counting the kayaking lessons that I'm planning to take this spring. Or the visit I'm soon going to pay to Tofino for storm watching.
  • Monday, January 12, 2009

    One Week

    Last night I saw one of the movies in the Fringe Flicks series. It was called One Week.

    It was about a young man in Toronto who was diagnosed with cancer. Before starting treatment he bought an old motor bike on the spur of the moment and headed west.

    It was thought provoking and at times funny.

    My gut reaction when I walked out of the theatre was, "I am so glad I didn't wait until I was diagnosed with cancer before I hit the road." On the other hand, I'm also older than the protagonist. About ten years ago, when I was in my mid forties, school friends started dying, one by one.

    So it was a while ago that a sense of my mortality started to build up. Eventually it reached the point that the thought of dying before I'd lived was intolerable.

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    Transcending Hell on Earth

    My favourite book is Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculée Ilibagiza.

    I have seen the after effects of the Nazi Holocaust in my mother's generation of my family. All my life I have interacted with family members who, I recently have come to realize, have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    I myself experienced an authoritarian regime when I lived in South Africa during the apartheid era. At that stage, which lasted from my teens to my mid twenties, the most effective response I was able to mount was to emigrate to Canada.

    Ilibagiza's experience of the Rwandan genocide fascinates me because it seems that her intense faith in God enabled her to bypass the psychological processes that would have been natural in an extreme situation. The degree to which she felt supported by God in those terrifying months when people were hunting for her was extraordinary.

    Furthermore, once the crisis was over, she displayed an exceptional level of forgiveness towards her family members' murderers. Again, her deep faith seemed to enable her to transcend the normal stages of grief.

    I read this book during a period in which I was questioning the existence of God and exploring atheism. My reaction to Left to Tell revealed to me that I was, after all, a theist.

    Of course Ilibagiza's faith does not, in and of itself, prove that God exists. The visions that she saw while she was hiding from the machete-wielding gangs may have been figments of her imagination. But, even if she was deluded, it just goes to show how resilient the human spirit can be.

    This book has inspired me to be more buoyant in the face of my much smaller challenges and to be more forgiving. It was one of the influences that informed me on my long and winding road towards a cohousing community.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Embracing the work(shop)

    When Tree Bressen led Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in a consensus decision making workshop in September 2008, she said, "Joining a cohousing community will be the longest and most expensive self development workshop you'll ever do in your life."

    She went on to model for us a receptive attitude towards life in an intentional community. That is, when there is a bump in the road, we have the opportunity to treat it like a workshop exercise. We can observe it, ask ourselves what's going on, figure out if there is some learning we can extract from it.

    Since Tree introduced that concept to me, I have found it very helpful to approach everything like that. In fact I believe that has contributed enormously to the happiness I described in a previous post.

    But, while the saying that Tree quoted was cute, I have come to disagree with it. I now would say that life is the longest and most expensive self development workshop you'll ever do!

    Cultivating an attitude of curiosity about my life and everything that happens in it -- whether it's supposedly good or supposedly bad -- has felt very supportive to me.

    Friday, January 9, 2009

    The dance of life

    One of the skills that Marshall Rosenberg discusses in Nonviolent Communication : A Language of Life is expressing our needs. He states that, in an ideal world, other people should be sensitive to my needs. But, by the same token, I have a responsibility to tell them what my needs are.

    In my former life, I was poor at this. Since I have been involved with my cohousing community, I have been practicing it.

    At our weekly shareholders' meeting last night, I asked if we could change the meeting from a Thursday night once a month. This was to accommodate my desire to participate in Sacred Circle Dancing at the Unitarian Fellowship.

    Even as I was asking my fellow owners of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community to consider rescheduling, there was a part of me that felt embarrassed. I thought it was a frivolous request. But, to my delight, everyone else treated it like a perfectly valid desire.

    It is gratifying to deal with people who are alive and who support my journey. You guys mean more to me than you can imagine.

    Thursday, January 8, 2009

    Everybody Sings

    Since my December 9, 2008 blog post elicited a question, I will provide an update.

    Everybody Sings took a recess over Christmas and New Year. We will start up again on Thursday morning, January 15th, 2009.

    The weekly session starts at 10.00 a.m. and goes till 12.00 noon, with a short break for tea about half way.

    It's held in St Andrew's United Church Hall, at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wesley Streets, in downtown Nanaimo.

    The fee is $7.00 if you drop in. You also have the option of paying $25.00 for four weeks. The fee is reduced to $3.50 for the underwaged.

    Another group, in which I have not participated, meets at St Philip's Church, 7113 Lantzville Road, from 7.00 p.m. - 9.00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

    You are welcome to e-mail me via my Blogger Profile. If you do so, I can tell you how to get onto the e-mail notification list for Everybody Sings.

    I sure am looking forward to singing those toe-tapping songs once again. Everybody Sings operates on the principles of Ubuntu Choirs, and is very informal. You don't have to be able to sing or believe that you can sing in order to join in the fun.

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009

    Could you bear to be happy?

    Ever since I moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia in the middle of September 2008, I have been happy -- delectably, deliciously, deliriously happy.

    Sure, I've had the occasional test, like the time my vehicle got stuck in the snow on a country road. But even those challenges have turned into blessings. They have brought me into contact with kind people, angels in disguise, whom I otherwise would not have met.

    When I first got here, I thought I was going through a honeymoon phase and that it might wear off. Now admittedly, it's still relatively early days for me in Nanaimo. But it is coming up for four months, and -- if anything -- I'm feeling even happier than I did when I arrived.

    Some days -- and this has been one of them -- my joy has been so intense that I have found it almost unbearable. I am not accustomed to serving as the container for so much delight.

    This has caused me to reflect on my past, when I rarely was as ecstatic as I am now. If sustained happiness could have been handed to me on a platter back then, would I have been receptive to it? Maybe, but then again maybe not.

    You may be puzzled by my assertion that I previously could not have tolerated being too happy for too long and the implied extrapolation that many people are the same way. You may be thinking, "Of course I want to be happy. Who wouldn't?"

    But just stop and think about it. Could you stand to live in a state of bliss for four months? Never mind that. Could you stand it for four days?

    Based on my past performance, I would say I would not have been able to take it. I suspect I was too attached to sadness and fear. They were familiar. I was comfortable being uncomfortable, paradoxical as that may sound.

    Having very few breaks from my current state of cheer has been a stretching exercise for me. But, wow, it feels to me like a nice challenge to have.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Listen for the Truth

    This is a follow up to my previous post about people's unmet needs.

    When Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community participated in a consensus decision making workshop with Tree Bressen in September 2008, she told us something related to this.

    She said that, whenever someone else was talking, it was important to listen for the truth in what they were saying. Again, this was in the context of someone behaving "badly," expressing themselves poorly, being too strident, etc.

    Tree said that, in these circumstances, the person often had a gift to offer, even if they were failing to package it attractively. It was our job to find the tiny kernel of truth that was buried deep in the middle of what they shared with us, regardless of how inarticulate they were.

    I have found that this has been a valuable practice when someone has been venting. Some of my ranting friends have gifted me with pearls of great wisdom. :-)

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    Unmet Needs

    One of the nuggets of wisdom I learned from Marshall Rosenberg's book, Nonviolent Communication, is that a person who is behaving badly has a need that is not being met.

    When I say a person is behaving "badly," this could mean mildly negative behaviour, like pouting or rolling their eyes at what you're saying. At the other end of the spectrum, it could mean they're holding a knife to your throat.

    But, wherever their behaviour is on that continuum, they have an unmet need.

    Since I have become aware of this, I have found that it has taken a lot of discipline for me to remember it when someone has been ranting at me. But, wow, it sure improves the outcome of the conversation!

    When I have been able to listen to someone and let them finish venting, they eventually have calmed down, and we have gone on to have a rewarding interaction.

    Recently my son asked me about the main insights I'd gained from the consensus decision making workshop I'd participated in and my reading of the book on nonviolent communication. I cited the recognition of unmet needs as one of them.

    My son then asked, "Well, what has that enabled you to do? Have you recognized what the other person's unmet need is, and what have you been able to do with that information?"

    I responded that I had not always been able to recognize what the other person's unmet need was. Sometimes all I had been able to do was say to myself, "S/he is ranting. Therefore s/he has an unmet need."

    I told my son that, if nothing else, this helped me to avoid getting caught up in the other person's drama. At a minimum, I was able to stay calm, and listen. This bought me time. I felt that that alone was valuable.

    But, later in a conversation, when my initial feeling of defensiveness has quietened down, I often have been able to detect what the other person's unmet need has been. Then I have been able to acknowledge it and, together, we have been able to discuss how the need could be addressed.

    My point, though, is that this insight has been valuable to me even when I have failed to recognize exactly what the unmet need has been. Just reminding myself of the existence of the unmet need in itself has been useful.

    With that having been said, I do not want to sound as if I am discounting the amount of commitment and self control that are required to implement this strategy. At times, the effort needed to do this is huge.

    Saturday, January 3, 2009

    Touching the Void

    A while ago a friend recommended the above mentioned documentary to me. Somehow I had managed to miss Joe Simpson's popular book of the same title that had been translated into sixteen languages.

    My friend said that, while the documentary was faithful to the book, the book's first person account had a different quality to it, and it was worthwhile taking in both of them. Having watched the documentary, I now am half way through the book. I agree that they both are excellent. However, if you have time for only one of them, the movie certainly is a quicker (and still very compelling) way of accessing the information.

    In 1985 two young British mountaineers were the first (and so far only) people to summit the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Soon after starting their descent, Joe Simpson broke his leg. This was a virtual death sentence. Nonetheless, his climbing companion, Simon Yates, made the choice not to abandon him but to lower him in stages with the use of a 300-foot rope.

    But there came a point at which Joe dropped over an overhang and was dangling in the air. Simon had no choice but to cut the rope and consign Joe to a certain death. The only other option would have been to let gravity pluck them both off the mountain.

    Miraculously, Joe's fall did not kill him. His lone struggle to reach help is one of the most gripping accounts in the history of alpine mountaineering.

    It just happened that I watched the documentary at a time when I was scared out of my senses by developments in my own life (my financial situation, etc.). The documentary helped me to put my problems into perspective. Frightening as they seemed to me, my challenges were by no means life threatening.

    There seemed to be another parallel between Joe's situation and mine. There was no safe way out of his bind. If he was to have the remotest chance of survival, Joe had to embrace even greater danger.

    Although my position was nothing like as precarious as Joe's, it sure felt terrifying to me. I felt as if I was plunging into an abyss. Consequently, my friend's recommendation of Touching the Void was very timely.

    I am glad I chose to follow my bliss. I don't feel as if I am out of the woods yet. But there is no comparison between the quality of life I am enjoying now and that which I was experiencing while I supposedly was "safe." I am living in such a profoundly different mental and emotional space that I may as well be on another planet.

    I used to be such a wuss but, in following my heart, I now have displayed courage. Interestingly enough, the English word, courage, comes from the Old French word, cuer, which means heart.

    Thursday, January 1, 2009

    A poignant New Year's Eve

    Last night I did another volunteer shift at the Emergency Weather Shelter at the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo.

    It felt challenging to me. The behaviour of some of our guests was difficult.

    Yet, with that having been said, our guests showed great caring and empathy towards each other. My volunteer stints at the Emergency Weather Shelter have demonstrated to me that homeless people form communities.

    Although being homeless seems to be incredibly harsh (I'm sure more than I can begin to imagine), the level of concern and kindness within those communities is humbling.

    My fellow volunteers also were inspiring examples of compassion and authenticity.

    There is a silver lining to every cloud. The three-week (and counting) spell of severe weather we've experienced in Nanaimo has enriched my life by providing me with unexpected encounters with remarkable people.