Hold onto your hats, because I am going totally off-book today.
Stop setting goals!
What kind of coaching is that?! We all know that the greatest tool a coach – life, sport, business, and the rest – is goal setting. Right? Just hit the Google and you will find goal setting strategies, tools, rules, hacks, and scientific guides. Hell, Tony Robbins himself will tell you that, “GOAL SETTING IS THE SECRET TO A COMPELLING FUTURE!!!” (Why does the man have to scream everything?) Who am I to argue with the guru? Yet here I am doing exactly that. And in a well-moderated tone at that.
Let’s take a look at how typical goal setting plays out. We’ll play it S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based.
Sounds positively horrible, doesn’t it? There’s a cyclical nature to goal setting that, well, keeps coming back on itself. Tautological, sure, but the point is, you never escape. The happiness that comes from reaching a goal is short-lived, and the emotional toll taken by not achieving it is devastating.
I propose that we stop setting goals and start setting intentions and then live as though we already exist within them. Every decision that we make after that point is with our future self in mind. "What would a healthy me eat?" or "What would the world's most effective legacy coach do?" The key is to decide who your future self is and then commit yourself to him or her. Beyond that, for me, I am a person who honours her commitments. Combine those with my values to serve love and lean into fear, and I will always be moving in the right direction.
That's key, though, isn't it? It's about moving in the right direction, toward that vision you have of yourself. If it's all about the journey, then you will be more flexible when you hit a stumbling block. Whereas the failing to achieve a goal can stop you in your tracks and stymie you into inaction, a roadblock is seen as a detour, a challenge to figure out the way forward. You may find that your truth, your direction, isn't as set in stone as you once thought when you were goal setting.
As recently as this time last year I believed that I was going to work directly with the dying and their families. Blown by the winds - as we dragonflies are wont to do - I arrived at a new place. I came to realise that my strengths lay in helping people heal their relationships. From that perch it was easy to see that the ramifications of healing relationships earlier in a person's life than at their deathbeds were far-reaching; end-of-life is simply the last best time to do it, while there's still time to pluck their wounded inner children off of the family tree.
I'm reminded of the story of the old carpenter, a homebuilder. He went to his employer and announced that he was ready to retire. The boss asked him for one thing, to build one last house before he called it quits. The carpenter agreed but didn't put his heart into the build. He didn't choose the materials he used as fastidiously as usual. He put the house up as quickly as he could, and his workmanship suffered for it. He shrugged and decided it was good enough. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came to inspect the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, "This is your house... my gift to you."
The carpenter was shocked!
What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with a shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.
But, you can't go back. You are the carpenter and every day you hammer a nail, place a board or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project."
Your attitude and the choices you make today helps build the house you will live in tomorrow, and it is your children's house of the future. Build wisely.
What do you want your legacy to be?
This is the part where I usually just post an aside, another something that struck me this week. This is kinda that, just a very quick one. Mostly, I want to thank the City of Calgary for this weekend's Doors Open YYC. While the weather was abominable - pun intended - we managed to take advantage of it. It really was a weekend of outside the box.
Did you know that we have a Buddhist monastery in Calgary? Did you even notice as it grew from one to four storeys? It's called Avatamsaka and it's on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Tenth Street, just south of the Tenth Street (Louise?) Bridge. It is incredible! Its fourth floor houses ten thousand hand-crafted Buddha statues of various sizes, each with a sutra sealed within. I can't imagine the patience it must've taken the volunteers to finish them. The monastery is gorgeous, and peaceful, and open for meditation every Wednesday to people of all faiths from 7-9p. Amitabha.
My second event wasn't exactly city-sanctioned; it was a birthday party for the one year-old son of my hypnotherapy instructor. My initial reaction was that this wasn't necessarily the optimal venue for me, a middle-aged childless woman, but I chose to go and was rewarded for it. After an awkward few minutes (of being one of the only adults dressed up as a pirate), I leaned into my fear and began chatting with a woman who was with Children's Cottage Society, a local not-for-profit group dedicated to addressing the needs of families through five main programs: Crisis Nursery, Healthy Families, Brenda’s House, Housing, and Community Respite. (In lieu of gifts, my instructor asked that donations be made to this worthy cause.)
After a while conversation began to develop with other people standing around the kitchen island. Like we do. There were adults of all ages - new parents, me and my new best friend Amanda, and grandparents alike. The topic turned to public speaking somehow, which was very much in keeping with the week I had had. Wednesday I went to a Women's Talk on Wednesday. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's similar to a Ted Talk, only begun here in town by Brigitte Lessard-Deyell and, uh, estrogen-driven. It was my first, and I have since bought a membership and begun writing my own Talk. Thursday I went out again(!), this time to a Fabulous@50 event, a talk by Karen McGregor all about speaking on stage. What was interesting was the acknowledgement that public speaking is scarier to most people than death. I guess it makes sense from an anthropological standpoint; back in our tribal days, if you didn't fit in, you would be cast out, forced to fend for yourself. It's amazing how our brains haven't evolved beyond those thoughts.
Next stop post party was somewhere called Taiko Canteen. I don't know if it was part of DOYYC, but it was a blast. We played a silly nine holes of mini golf - what they called Lucky Putt, and laughed our way around the "course." It was in what is now being referred to as Calgary's Barley Belt, which I didn't realise until I saw the banner. I had heard about a barbecue place down there which, I was assured, was the best in town. Paddy's. We arrived early, about 5:15, and the place was packed, always a good sign. We were shown to a table and went up to the bar to grab a flight for me ($8) and a four-ounce draught for Shel ($2). We were seated at a communal table and were joined by a nice family, mom, dad and their two teenage sons, one of whom could drink, so I'll assume 18. It was Dad's birthday. It was their first time there as well, so we foundered together.
It was great fun.
Today - Sunday - we went to check out the new(ish) Central Library. We booked the early tour, 11a before the doors had even opened. It is a gorgeous spot and so multi-purpose. I know I will be taking advantage of its AV studio when it comes time to create my own videos. It's a great spot not only for research material and fiction, but also to learn about Calgary's history and for meeting rooms. (I feel like I'm selling these places, but I'm not; I'm just sold on 'em.) The tour ended around 11:45, but we stayed until 1:00. I cannot wait to bring my mother-in-law there in a couple of weeks!
Last stop on this Play Tourist Weekend was Red's in Ramsay. Sorry, Red's, but I was always told, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Well, the service was good...
Isn't it fun to explore where you live? I have been very fortunate to've been able to travel over the years. I am grateful for the experience. It will allow me to, well, you know...
Leave the world better.
Christie Morden is Calgary's premier emotional legacy coach. Her unique and revolutionary Quicknotherapy, a blend of hypnotherapy and coaching techniques, helps her clients achieve results fast and get the healing that they and their families need to break the cycle of generational emotional trauma.
Hard to believe Buddhists are so peaceful, then, right?
(Please forgive me the delay in posting. A crazy weekend followed by a September bug of some sort caused me to lose time.)
I went up into the mountains last weekend, a lovely cabin outside of Radium, not, y'know, climbing a peak looking for a guru. I took some time to start a new book, Buddhism: A Beginner's Guide Book for True Self-Discovery and Living a Balanced and Peaceful Life, by Sam Siv. The title is nearly as long as the book, which tells the story of Siddhartha Gautama, the boy, the man who would become a buddha. And The Buddha.
The word buddha quite simply refers to a person who has attained bodhi, by which we mean wisdom, an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection which can be achieved by man through purely human means. Buddha literally means enlightened one in Sanskrit. In theory, then, any person can become a buddha, but it ain't easy. Having attained a certain level of enlightenment, a bodhisattva is a Buddhist who is on their way to becoming a Buddha. Siddhartha is not a deity. Despite teaching for forty-five years, he scarcely considered himself a teacher, because the truths he espoused were so obvious and universal. I’m not going to go into the Three Universal Truths to any great extent. They’re universal and you will probably just nod your head knowingly as you read them.
1. Nothing is lost in the universe.
2. Everything changes.
3. The law of cause and effect.
a. The Buddha said, "The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit. Those who do good will reap good results. Those who do evil will reap evil results. If you carefully plant a good seed, you will joyfully gather good fruit."
Pretty simple, right? But Buddhism is just like watching a webinar. First, they entice you with something that really speaks to you. They’ve got you hooked in an hour. Next, they offer you something that sounds really good to you, “The Four Noble Truths.” Damn, I really want those! How much? You buy into those easily, and… In for a penny, in for a pound. “But, wait! There’s more!” Before you know it, they’ve sold you on The Eightfold Path. The commitment is pretty high – a lifetime’s worth – but the ROI is the ability to live in peace for the rest of eternity! Oh, that’s right. It’s not just until the end of this lifetime. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. You will keep being reincarnated (Samsara) until you escape the three poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aversion.
Naturally, you will receive follow-up emails trying to sell you on The Eight Worldly Concerns, Kleshas, Karma, Tanha, and The Wheel of Life. There will always be more to learn. About yourself and about others. With each training you take on, you will be robbed of your petty grievances, anger, and attachment to stuff…
Nope! Not this time. That wasn’t me getting distracted away from the task at hand, just, uhh, giving a bit of background is all. *whistles innocently*
That said, let’s just reign it in from that area of non-distraction and get back to the point: Dukkha, from the Sanskrit, translates out as, ”Suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, stress.” Many interpret it to mean, Life is suffering. Gautama Buddha would not be pleased to hear his teachings mangled like that. It’s not life as suffering; it’s life has suffering. Huge difference. The great thinker Xander Harris (in Season 5, Episode 14 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) says it succinctly. “I’m alive. I can tell because of the pain.”
Question: Has any dramatic change ever happened in your life without accompanying pain? Negative change, sure, that’s easy. But think about positive changes that have happened in your life. Pain is growth, at least a lesson of some sort. Think of the lowly caterpillar that has to completely dissolve to be reborn as a butterfly. What about a lobster? It is only the stresses of its life that crack its shell off, allowing the lobster to grow into the one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half pounder that many of us know and love. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski explains it best.
Suffering is absolutely necessary for growth! Now, if you’re happy and comfortable staying where you are, great! But if you’re like many of us, looking to be the best, most satisfied version of yourself – so you can make a valuable contribution to making the world its best and most satisfied version of itself – you need to embrace a little discomfort.
One of the values that is guiding my life is, “Lean into pain.” Sounds horrible, right? Avoiding pain sounds much more palatable. Funny, I was talking to a client last week about my mother’s second knee replacement. My client, Dorothy, who’d had one done couldn’t comprehend Mum’s decision to put herself through that a second time. I explained to her that my mother had been bowlegged all of her life. While having her knee done was initially painful, she recovered beautifully. Any residual pain was bearable in comparison to what she had been living with. The problem she encountered was one of physics. See, her new knee wasn’t bowed. The surgery had straightened it up beautifully. She’s likely one of the only seniors around who has actually gotten taller. On one side, anyway. The other side of her body was in deep trouble. Mum’s other knee was no great shakes and her orthopod knew that it would need replacing eventually, but Mum called him out, insisting that if he didn’t also want to replace her hip, he’d better get to the knee sooner rather than later.
He did it sooner.
Western society continues to make our lives easier, doesn’t it? You have a headache? Take a Tylenol. Interested in the works of Wayne Dyer? Get the audiobook. Want to touch base with a friend? Send a text. Looking for an overview of quantum mechanics? Google! So simple, but so superficial. As a massage therapist, it was my job to get to the cause of your headache. Audiobooks make it very difficult to precisely capture a poignant statement, particularly while driving. Our reliance on audiobooks also explains how our collective ability to spell has tanked so badly in a generation. Finally, no one can fully wrap their heads around quantum mechanics. Google gives you just enough information to look foolish trying to explain it to others. And texting? Texting isn’t connection. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to meet a friend for coffee.
That was lovely. My friend and I have known each other for about ten years, since she was a young woman of seventy-nine. We hit it off immediately, both of us being a little twisted. Now, I’m not saying that engaging at a profound level is impossible over text – shout out, Orochi! – but it takes a level of commitment that can be overwhelming. In a one-hour coffee with my friend, I learned that her parents were alcoholics, her father a violent one, and that she herself is forty-eight years sober. There’s something about being able to look into each other’s eyes with love and compassion that engenders trust. We knew that our words were safe with each other.
Oh, and I got a huge hug. I don’t care how many emojis you use, that can never really translate into text. Remember, we need four hugs a day just to survive.
Can we say that making our individual lives easier has had a positive effect on our world? From an environmental standpoint, I’ve gotta say no. From horseless carriages to central heating to plastic everything, we are destroying our planet. We had one job! Worst Custodians Ever.
Meanwhile, we sit back, lazy and complacent, watching our mental health plummet. We work from home, drive the car to the gym where we workout (head down, music up), then go to the drive-through bank, the self-serve gas bar, and finally to the grocery store where we self-checkout. An entire day gone and you didn’t have to speak to a soul.
Soul. Connection. Human to human, soul to soul.
Or we can take to our screens, watch A Handmaid’s Tale, without recognising the irony, all while doing battle with strangers on Facebook.
By 2050 the world population is predicted to hit 9.7B. That’s on a planet that, by some accounts, can only support 10B. Thirty-one years and we’re gonna pretty much be full, folks. "If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people," cites Edward O. Wilson in that article.
"If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people."
Sorry, but that bore repeating.
I would also argue that our medical science has far outpaced our capacity to feed and water ourselves. It’s not a help that Canada wastes 35.5 million tonnes (78 trillion pounds!) of food annually. Roughly two-thirds of that is lost at the production level and one-third at the level of the consumer. That amounts to $49B worth of food, enough to feed every Canadian for five months. Maybe a more efficient system will help.
Or maybe Thanos had it right.
So, struggle. Learn. Grow. If we rest in our comfort for too much longer, we’ll continue to pay the price to the tech giants who just want to make our lives easier.
Leave the world better.
Huh. I’m not entirely sure how I went from superficial foray into Buddhism to environmental rant in fifteen hundred words, but there it is. Ultimately, I guess my point was that there’s no such thing as a life without suffering, but if we lean into it, we can learn a lot and grow not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones.
One summer when I was a teenager, maybe thirteen, my family rented a house on Lake Memphremagog in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The house was a new build and the pathway down to the lake hadn’t yet been cleared. My two brothers and I went down for a swim one morning and I innocuously scratched the top of my left foot on an exposed root. Didn’t even hurt. I washed it off in the lake and proceeded to take a swim. After a while we called it, having grown weary of ducking under to avoid some very aggressive horseflies. They’re part of a dragonfly’s diet, you know. Hmm, I wonder if that’s when my affinity for dragonflies began…
But I digress. SURPRISE!! :D
Three days later, I had spiked a fever and my whole lower leg was hot and swollen. Things were not looking good for our hero… My parents took me to Magog General Hospital – the same hospital my mother’s mother had died in about a year and a half earlier – and got me tended to. The on-call physician took a needle thiiiiiiiiiiiis big and jammed it into the infection. Owie. My mother sat on the bed trying to block my view of what the nice man was doing, but, well, I’m an idiot that way and craned my head to see. It was pretty gross, not gonna lie. He scooped out green goopy grossness. Yeah, I have that exact same look on my face as I’m typing this, and I lived it! Once he was done with the digging, the doc stuffed cotton in the hole he’d excavated and wrapped several layers of bandage around the top and ball of my foot.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that if we’d waited another day, I would have lost my leg up to the hip.
So, don’t be afraid to dig deep, people. The cost of waiting could be much more than you want to spend. I don’t know what my life would be like now if I’d lost my leg, don’t know who I’d be. I don’t have a guardian angel named Clarence to show me, but, if I had to guess, I’d say that I wouldn’t still be alive. The mark that I would have left on this world – on my family, friends, clients, strangers – wouldn’t be the same. If a single pebble falls from the bank, the course of the river is changed forever. I know next to nothing about quantum mechanics, but I believe in the ripples we create, in the effects of a butterfly flapping her wings, and I know that I’m a positive force in this universe for the simple reason that I choose to be.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Monday afternoon I went to a gathering, a private event to which I was asked to bring a rattle.
That best part about it, as Sarah, the guest of honour, pointed out, is that none of us even questioned the request. My rattle (pictured above) is on loan to me from Mary, a massage client, a woman I have known for almost seven years, a woman who has had me into her home for coffee and whose bird I have met. I casually mentioned to her that I needed one – and why – and she didn’t hesitate. I hope I have the story right… After the war, Mary’s husband was stationed in Jamaica, where he picked up a souvenir for her. He sailed with it all the way from the Caribbean to Victoria, B.C. From there he had to take the train to Saskatchewan. I cannot tell you how honoured I was to be lent such a generous gift. That said, I’m terrified by the burden of it and cannot wait to get it back into her hands today! :D
The event in question was a very well-attended healing ritual. I believe we were fifty open-minded ritual goers. See, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer in July. I won’t go into detail – it’s her story to share (which she has been gracious enough to be doing) – but would like to tell you about how this pertains to my personal journey.
I have known Sarah for about six years, I think. Though the rattle-ask might have given you a clue, she’s a ritual practitioner. The first workshop I took from her was So, You Wanna Be a Death Midwife? (I might be paraphrasing.) Something which has stuck with me all these years is her image of ‘shamanic chili peppers’. It’s like when you go to a Thai restaurant and they let you know how hot you can expect a dish to be by how many cartoon chili peppers are beside it on the menu. Aside: I was in Thailand maybe seven years ago and I would order my dishes Farang, or ‘foreigner’. In other words, “Please don’t hurt me!!”
Let me just say that within that weekend workshop, I was also feeling like a bit of a Farang. The average number of shamanic chili peppers in that room was probably pushing nine, with Sarah herself leading the charge at around a hundred and seventeen. Me? I fancied myself a two. Maybe. I was raised without any sort of spiritual leaning whatsoever. All this talk of chakras and anointing with essential oils, and, y’know, the human soul had me wondering what better things I could’ve been doing with my time. Gynaecological exam? Root canal? Shaving my head with a cheese grater while chewing on aluminum foil? But I stuck it out, obviously, and by weekend’s end I had at least doubled my number. Today I’d give myself about a 7.5. I have even started a collection of healing crystals which get cleansed more than most everything else in my house, other than massage sheets.
Here’s my point. Probably. As you know I seldom know where I’m going until I get there. My point is that science is just beginning to bear out what spiritual pilgrims have known all along: Everything is energy. That chair you’re sitting on? It is not solid. Particles moving at such speed as to appear solid. If a butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico, it will effect a hurricane in China. Does it do it alone? No, of course not, but it is one of an infinite number of factors that have to happen in order for that hurricane to develop. We are all connected.
Further, every molecule of air you breathe has been breathed by everyone else on the planet. I mean everyone who has ever lived. Take a deep breath. At least a molecule of that breath was breathed by Jesus. And by Leonardo da Vinci. And by the Buddha. And by a Kardashian, if that’s your thing. We are all connected.
Now maybe you’re one of those people who won’t believe it until you see the math. To you I say, “You’ll never understand the math!” :D Leave that to people much more learnèd in the field than we. Beware anyone who tells you that they understand quantum mechanics. Even if they correct you and tell you that it’s actually quantum physics. Today the terms are interchangeable and equally correct!!
We are all connected energetically to absolutely everything else in this universe. Period. That’s what it comes down to for me. I think of the universe as an organism. You and I are single cells in that organism, and we impact it every moment of every day. Like all cells, one day we will shed our mortal bodies which will slough off to make room for a fresh new one, but the law of thermodynamics reminds us that energy cannot be created of destroyed, so we remain part of the greater whole forever and always.
In sum, the energy you put out matters. It touches the entire world. So, my question to you is, “How do your anger, your judgment, your irritation, your bitterness, your vengeance, your shame, your discouragement, your apathy, your despair, or your outrage serve the greater whole?” What if you choose to show up with patience, forgiveness, gratitude, kindness, and love instead? Imagine how that would impact your family, your friends, your barista, your fish monger, or the nice lady at the call centre. Check your attitude, change their day, heal the universe.
There’s the math.
Leave the world better.
Oh, how I wanted to continue to keep things light this week with more shout outs to classic 70’s cinema, but Jason Kenney has thwarted my good intentions. Though those of you who have been reading it can likely see its leanings, this blog isn’t intended as a right/left, conservative/liberal battleground; I am shining the same light I always choose: Legacy.
By eliminating Alberta Health Care premiums in 2009, Ed Stelmach took $1B annually out of Alberta’s coffers.
One Billion Dollars.
Maybe you didn’t like having to pay your premiums – who did? – but I feel it’s necessary to remind you that all seniors and lower income households had their premiums subsidised up to one hundred percent. If you paid your full share, it’s because you were making good money. It was still a heck of a lot cheaper than paying a provincial sales tax on all of those big-ticket items you could afford, wasn’t it? Imagine how we could have fared in this economic downturn with those extra dollars. We’d be $400M ahead of this UCP panel’s numbers, for starters!
“The panel’s report recommends matching spending with Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, which it estimates would drop total annual per capita spending by $10.4 billion, eradicating the province’s deficit by the 2022-23 fiscal year. It focuses on several areas of spending, chiefly health care and advanced education, as well as primary and secondary school education, public sector compensation, and capital spending.” From The Star, September 3, 2019.
So, what does this all mean? What I’m reading is that this Alberta government wants to keep working class people in their place. The panel’s recommendations scream privilege. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe it doesn’t bother you that people who can’t afford a car are having transit routes slashed. Or that lower-income families won’t be able to give their kids a post-secondary education, shit, even a decent secondary education. You can afford private schools, private cars, hell, even private healthcare once that behemoth resurfaces.
A well-educated, healthy populace is the only way forward.
Make better choices, Alberta.
What do we want our legacy to be?