Creativity, Integrity, and Living in the Moment

Inspiration-forYou1

Have you ever been struck by an idea but unable to write it down? Found yourself saying one thing but doing another? Become inspired by some unknown force? Read something you wrote years before and suddenly gone, “Aaah. Now I get it.”

I’ve been struggling a bit lately with the idea of living in integrity, of walking the talk so to speak.

I find, and have often found, that when I write about something, it doesn’t always resonate with me right away. It comes to me as more of a realization, a lesson that I still need to learn, a bit of prophecy that I still need to self-actualize, an intellectual idea that hasn’t quite reached my heart yet.

And then there are those things that I write that I want to achieve and maintain but find am not able to for one reason or another, like following my passion rather than taking a job just for the money it provides, something I still can’t quite seem to manifest in its entirety.

This can be quite frustrating. As can having inspiration strike at an inopportune moment.

Before I made the decision to move across the country to change my life 9 years ago, I wrote a poem called “The Moment”. I’d been walking through Union Station in Toronto. It was rush hour. I was on my way to work the hockey game at the ACC.

As I fought my way through the crowd of people rushing to catch this train or that bus, scrambling in every direction, bumping and pushing their own way through the clustered crowd, I got inspired to write.

Luckily, during most hockey games, the guests in my private suite were so enthralled with the game that I had whole periods to sit at the little bar in the back and work on my personal projects. One regular guest even said to me, “You’re going to be famous one day. You’re always working on something.”

It’s true, I usually did have my pen and notebook or printed papers sprawled out on the bar during my shifts. In fact, I’ve done some of my best writing to the sound of a hockey game: the swooshing of skates and clacking of sticks on the ice; the commentator’s muffled voice resonating in the background; pucks bouncing and dinging off goal posts and the sideboards.

And during this one particular hockey game, I wrote “The Moment”.

“The Moment” basically foreshadows my decision to move out West, an idea that had not yet reached my consciousness when I wrote it. I knew I was unhappy with my life as it was in Toronto and that some sort of change was needed, but the thought of moving hadn’t occurred to me. Then I wrote this: 

The Moment

People Walking

Rush Hour

Cell Phones Ringing

People Talking

Jay Walking

Paths Crossing

Bumping in

And up against

Bags & Backpacks

The Urgency

The Angst

To Miss the Bus

To Catch the Train

To do this tomorrow

All Over Again

A Nameless Name

A Faceless Face

Of Mice and Men

It’s a true Rat Race

Scurrying Here

Scampering There

Looking Ahead

But so Unaware

Could you imagine

What it might be like

To have wide open spaces

And mountains to hike

To stare at the Stars

To sail out to sea

To catch a big fish

And then set it free

To feel sand through your toes

Breathe fresh air up your nose

Dance with a whale

While you slowly exhale

Take a walk in the park

Snuggle a bear in the dark

So many things

So easily forgotten

Like sweet candied fruit

That’s suddenly gone rotten

Eat while it’s ripe

But don’t miss the boat

Watch out for the deep end

Learn how to float

Life is too short

To lose sight of the now

Live in the moment

Let us show you how.

 

Looking back on it, this poem is a call to action, an invitation from a source beyond my immediate consciousness to learn to live in the present moment, something I have been dedicating much of my life to these past 9 years, thanks to the time I spent out West with its “open spaces”, “mountains”, and “fresh air”.

This happens quite often with my writing. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a means to self-actualize, and where the inspiration comes from is still a mystery to me.

In her TED Talk about nurturing creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love”, talks about the ‘elusive creative genius’ that we all have access to. She speaks of the “utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process… which does not always behave rationally and can sometimes be downright paranormal.”

One of my favourite clips from this talk is when she tells us about her interview with musician Tom Waits. He tells her that inspiration once came to him while he was driving and that he didn’t have the means to write it down. Instead he stopped, looked up at the sky, and said,

“Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment.”

I like this analogy, this idea that inspiration and creative genius come from an unknown, outside source and can strike at any moment. It makes sense to me, especially in light of my poem.

 

I’ve also recognized that, when inspiration comes from a life event or another person, which has often happened for me, what is written is not necessarily for or about that event or person. In fact, more often than not, what I have written about is a message for me, and the person or event that inspired it was merely a catalyst for that message.

To think of all the poems I once shared with boyfriends and lovers, family and friends, poems that were meant for me and me alone. Poems that could have been misconstrued by the reader and taken very personally when, in fact, those readers were merely muses and had absolutely nothing to do with it otherwise.

It takes me back to when I made my decision to move West and the many responses I heard in response, namely the negative ones:

“You can’t do that.”

“You can’t run away from your problems, you know.”

“What are you thinking?”

I was seeing a counselor at the time and when I told her about this she said something I’ll never forget:

“When people say these things it has nothing to do with you. It is a direct reflection of what they would say to themselves in a similar situation.”

I loved this and also recognized this to be true when it came to much of my own writing. Even if it took me years to recognize it, the message was meant for me and I was merely projecting it onto that other person.

That’s not to say that the message can’t be shared, especially if it’s a universal one, just that sometimes it can take a little while to catch up, to match up what we inherently know or are being guided towards with actually DOING and LIVING it.

I have no doubt I’ll get there with a little patience and a lot of perseverance, and as my one friend so gently reminded me, “You’re doing just fine. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Change comes gradually and integrity takes time.”

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A Pile of Dry Shit: A Buddhist Story

Do No Harm But Take No Shit

One day a famous government officer met a highly respected elderly master. Being conceited, he wanted to prove that he was the superior person.

As their conversation drew on, he asked the master, “Old monk, do you know what I think of you and the things you said?”

The master replied, “I don’t care what you think of me. You are entitled to have your own opinion.”

The officer snorted, “Well, I will tell you what I think anyway. In my eyes, you are just like a pile of dry shit!”

The master simply smiled and stayed quiet.

Seeing that his insult had fallen on deaf ears, he asked curiously, “And what do you think of me?”

The master said, “In my eyes, you are just like the Buddha.”

Hearing this remark, the officer left happily and bragged to his wife about the incident.

His wife said to him, “You conceited fool! When a person has a heart like a pile of dry shit, he sees everyone in that light. The elderly master has a heart like that of the Buddha, and that is why in his eyes, everyone, including you, is like the Buddha.”

the way people treat you

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What I Learned from Mr. Tall, a Man Named Gary, and Cab No. 549

Mr

I was sitting on a patio at a pub in Toronto the other night. It was nearly 1 am. I’d just been babysitting a friend’s kids and afterwards hopped in a cab with some other friends and headed to the pub. I got out of the cab and foolishly left one of my bags in the back seat.

When I discovered what I had done I was a bit upset by it. I’m usually very good about stuff like this so when it happens it surprises me. The bag contained a favourite pair of sandals, a water bottle (one of those $25 glass ones with the rubber casing), a copy of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on dvd, an apple, an apple slicer (one of those cool ones that slices the entire apple in one swift move), some strawberries, and a few books.

The books had sentimental value. I had had them since I was a kid. One of them had been given to me when I turned 5, the same age as Alexander, one of the kids I was babysitting. It was called Ant & Bee. Then there were three Mr. Men books: Mr. Mean, Mr. Silly, and Mr. Tall.

We’d read three of them: Ant & Bee, Mr. Mean, and Mr. Tall. William, the 3-year old, insisted we read Mr. Tall even though I promised to read it to him the next time I came over. But no, he was adamant that we read it. So we did.

Sitting across from me on the bed, he suddenly drew very close to me and even looped his finger under the green hair elastic I had around my right wrist as I read them the story.

It was the best story of the three because it taught a lesson about learning to appreciate what you have, like legs that are too long, as was the case for poor old Mr. Tall. And the best part? Mr. Tickle, with his extra long arms, makes multiple appearances throughout the story, which, of course, meant fits of giggles every few pages as I “tickle, tickle” tickled the two boys.

Best kind of story that.

Mr Tickles

I wonder if William sensed that the book would get lost and that’s why he was so insistent on having me read it? I even left the books on the dresser in the boys’ bedroom and thought I’d better go back to get them so I could be sure they were safe in my bag with me. Books! Granted they were books from my childhood, but they were just books. If I left them there at the house, I’d get them back eventually.

So my friends got home, I hung out with the group of them for a bit and then some of us decided to hop in that cab and go to a pub for a drink.

As we sat down on the patio, that’s when I realized I’d forgotten the bag in the back seat. I got a bit panicky but calmed down pretty quickly, recognizing it was only “stuff” while one of my friends and I called a couple of cab companies in hopes it might turn up.

I looked up to the sky and called out to the universe or my spirit guides to help me, recognizing that perhaps there was a lesson for me in it somewhere and trusting that if it were meant to, the bag or the books would come back to me somehow.

I noticed a bit of a tight feeling in my chest and heart, which I noticed had disappeared while I was busy writing this sitting beside my two friends who were deep in conversation. My heart no longer hurt.

If I started to think about it again, perhaps got home and lay in bed ruminating a bit about all the things I could have done to avoid this happening – like gone straight home, insisted we go to a bar within walking distance, left the books on the dresser where they would still be if I hadn’t been so hell bent on keeping them safe – if I started to think all of these thoughts, I would feel pain again and the more I thought about what I’d lost, the more pain I would feel.

So I decided to just let it go.

And just as I did, just as I was writing that very sentence in my notebook, a man approached our table from the sidewalk beside us. As he did, I thought it was another homeless man. We’d met three so far that night.

When the first man approached, my one girlfriend insisted he go away, that we did not have any money, and as he turned to walk away he and I made eye contact. As I stared at his face I knew straight away that I knew him.

“Hello,” he said. “My name is Gary.”

I knew Gary. I’d met him in 1998 when I was working downtown Toronto, near the old Hummingbird Centre. I was sitting in a park reading a book and there he was, wandering around, singing loudly. He had a bushy brown beard and a thick mop-top of brown hair. And he had a wonderful singing voice.

He wandered around that fountain in the concrete park that day a bit spastically, suddenly yelling, “Sunny side up!” and proclaiming, “My name is Gary. It means ‘Great Man’ and is pronounced gear-ee”. Then he took his shirt off and started doing push-ups on the ledge of the water fountain. I noticed he had good upper body definition.

As he approached me that day 15 years ago, I remember getting nervous. I didn’t want to engage with him but didn’t want to be rude and ignore him either. I was a 25 year old female sitting alone in a park and his unpredictable behaviour was a bit intimidating.

I even wrote a little story about this encounter in the front cover of the hardcover book I was reading that afternoon. That’s how I can remember all of these little details about that day.

He approached and said, “Good day ma’am. Are you looking for the cat in the hat on a mat? Have you found the cat?”

“Not yet,” I replied timidly.

“Oh. I’m sorry. That’s a personal question. Have a nice day.”

And then he walked away.

I saw Gary a number of times over those next 5 years in various locations around the downtown core: the concrete park near the Hummingbird Centre, while sitting on patios at restaurants on King St W., once when he tried to sell me a rose and another when he tried to sell me a disposable camera.

So here, now, 15 years later, was Gary, standing before me on the other side of a patio rail on King St W. asking me for $19. He was clearly older now, his greying hair cut short, a greyish-brown, closely shaved scruff of a beard framing his thinning face. As he turned to me, my friend kept insisting that he go away but suddenly I took his hand in mine and as he said, “Hi, my name is…” I exclaimed excitedly,

“Gary! Yes, I know you. How are you? It’s been a long time.”

He calmly said, “Yes, my love, it has been. Can you help me out?”

“Oh Gary”, I replied, “I can’t even pay my rent right now. But it’s really great to see you.”

“You too”, he said and then he moved on.

I felt so happy hearted. Gary’s face was always so warm and welcoming, a familiar kind of face, and his voice was this gruff yet high-pitched sort of voice, his piercing dark eyes so sad and yet soft and friendly.

“Wow”, I said, as my friends sat in amazement that I actually knew this man. “That was Gary. I haven’t seen him in over 10 years. And here he is, still making his living on the streets of Toronto all these years later.”

We had two more visits from older homeless men asking for a lighter which led to them asking for change, but also to my friend engaging a bit with them as she offered them a cigarette.

I thought about Gary, about my missing bag of stuff and how he and these other men clearly didn’t have much of anything. It became easier to let it go.

And as I wrote down this realization, the fourth man approached us. He wasn’t a homeless man but the taxi driver. He approached us from the sidewalk and said, “Did I just bring you here in my cab? Did you leave a bag in the back seat?”

“Yes!” I said excitedly. “Thank you.”

How wonderful to think that just as I had let it go, there it was coming back to me.

My one friend had been inside and when he returned and I told him the story, he couldn’t believe it. He’d been a little skeptical, feeling we had a lot of faith in cab companies if we thought we would ever see that bag again. He kept asking:

“So, the guy just showed up at the table and gave you your bag back?”

“Yep,” I replied. “Isn’t that so cool?”

And then I took a sip of my water and returned to writing this story feeling blessed and happy and ten feet tall.

The world is my mirror and it’s a magical, magical place.

Mr Tall

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How I Learned to Love, Let Go, and Never Say Never

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Have you ever thought someone was making a poor decision? Projected your own beliefs onto them? Passed judgment on them saying something to the extent of, “I could or would never do that!”

I have learned some valuable lessons about judgment over the years. Judging is so easy to do. When we form a judgment about something or someone it’s a way for us to feel in control or to feel superior in some way, and we all do it. It can be really hard not to.

When I adopted my cat Diva 10 years ago, she was 7 years old. Her owner had adopted her when she was a kitten but now had to choose between his fiancée and his cat. I couldn’t believe or understand how anyone could make that choice. This cat, this pet, this soul was what I would consider to be his baby, his family, so how could he just trade in his child for a future wife?

I held such an opinion, such a judgment about this whole situation for a very long time. I was so grateful to have Diva. She was pretty awesome so I found it hard to understand how someone could let her go like that.

Diva and I lived together for 8 years and moved across the country and to 6 different apartments during our time together. While I loved Diva, she wasn’t the easiest cat in that she really didn’t like outsiders very much. She was very much a one-person cat, a man’s cat even, and a bit possessive at times.

I learned a lot from my relationship with Diva. I learned about building relationships, practicing patience and how love grows over time. The affection she showed towards me, the level of comfort she felt and exhibited, didn’t come straight away, it developed gradually over those 8 years so when it came time to part ways, it was incredibly difficult.

Diva was nearly 16 when I was given the opportunity to pursue a long time dream of mine – a dream to live in Spain. I had wanted to do this when I graduated from university nearly 15 years earlier but never did. So, after 8 years with little Diva, I decided to leave her in Victoria and travel to Spain.

Initially I left for 2 months so hired someone to care for Diva in my absence, but as time progressed I soon discovered I wanted to stay in Spain indefinitely. The woman I left Diva with eventually found a home for her with a single man who had a bumper sticker on his car that read, “I love cats”. Diva needed a real cat lover so I felt good about making the decision from such a distance.

As it turns out, I returned to Victoria 6 months later but wasn’t in a position to take Diva back nor did her new owner want to give her up. He had grown very attached, so I left her there where she seemed quite happy too.

I went to visit her briefly before leaving Victoria for good. She growled, hissed and swatted at me. While her new owner insisted that he’d never seen her do that before, I laughed and said to her, “Well, it’s nice to see that nothing’s changed with you”. That’s when I knew she was just fine.

It certainly wasn’t easy for me to leave her there that day but I learned another valuable lesson from that little soul friend of mine with such a fitting name, a name that was the reason we met in the first place. “My cat ‘Diva’ needs a new home”, was the ad I’d seen passed on from a friend those 8 or 9 years earlier. “I need to meet that cat,” was my immediate response.

In leaving her there that day, in a city her previous owner had once thought about moving to with her in tow, I realized that I was wrong in my initial judgment, that, while Diva was more of a friend than a child to me, I too was letting her go to pursue a new life. It’s true, that saying, “Never say never”. I once said I could never have done what her first owner did and yet here I was passing her on to someone else.

I like to think that this was all a part of Diva’s soul journey too, that perhaps she needed these different people and experiences in her life in order to grow. I certainly needed her in my life and know that – no matter how far the physical distance between us – we will be forever connected energetically. Our spirits came together for a greater purpose and for that I am so grateful.

She could be completely insensitive and a royal pain in the arse, but was the coolest cat I ever met. She prepared me for so many of my relationships, giving me patience and compassion when dealing with a few people in my life, women who were certainly Divas in their own right, and who I felt honoured to come to know.

I love you, Diva D.  To me, you will always be a special soul, a valued friend, and the best cat ever. Thanks for the unconditional love, the laughter, and the lessons; for teaching me how to love, how to let go, and that one must never say never.

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Notes On An Unhurried Journey

Me & Peter B

When I worked as the Guest & Events Coordinator at the Film Festival in Victoria a number of years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with screenwriter, Peter Bellwood. Peter wrote the screenplay for the film Highlander.

Peter was a character.  Jovial, energetic, eccentric. He had a shock of white hair on his head and wore a bright yellow scarf with a purple and orange jacket. Quite the contrast to me. A bit exhausted, slightly stressed, dressed in all black with just a splash of colour from time to time while I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off.

We hit it off straight away.

For anyone who’s ever worked at an arts festival you will know how much time, effort, and energy is required for very little compensation. Needless to say, I was putting in a lot of hours and taking on all sorts of extra stuff so when there was an opportunity to chill out and someone there to make me laugh, I jumped at the chance.

The photo below, one that Peter gave me, is a perfect depiction of what that experience is like and one of the first things he gave me to make me laugh. In case it’s too small to see, it’s a man in a suit on a business call having just been in an auto accident simply saying, “I was distracted for a moment. Go on.”

I'm Sorry, I Was Distracted...

In fact, over the course of those 10 or 12 days, Peter gave me numerous comical and inspirational quotes and cartoons and poems, to lift my energy and my spirits when they were low.

Overall, I did enjoy my job at the festival. One of my jobs was to accompany filmmakers to schools where they talked to students of all ages about making movies, though I don’t recall much about what Peter shared with the students we went to see.

What I do remember, and still have, is a piece of writing he gave to me by Professor T. Ripaldi who talks about adults and their relationship to children. It’s by far one of my fondest memories of the time I spent with Peter and a piece of writing I refer back to often:

Notes On An Unhurried Journey

When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore; childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question: “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.”

We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is moulded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other… adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. 

A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him; for, after all, life is his and her journey too.

Me & Luella  - Teeter Totter

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With Friends of All Ages, Life Can Be Sweet

Life is Sweet

I spent the day with my 5-year old friend, Luella, yesterday. We did all kinds of fun stuff. First I got a very special manicure, complete with “clown abstract” and “rainbow” designs. Then we played animal shadow games on the shower curtain in the downstairs bathroom – the darkest room in the house.

Then we went to the park where we hung out with some swans, played on the swings, bounced on the teeter-totters, and conversed with a bright yellow caterpillar before heading to the beach for pizza and ice cream.

“What’s your favourite kind of truck?” Luella asked me, Spiderman Popsicle in hand and all over her face. I thought about it for a minute and before I could answer she said, “Mine’s an ice cream truck.” We giggled, sat for a moment silently eating our ice creams, and then she turned to me and said, “I love you.”

One can always bond with kids over an ice cream. Then again, sweet treats work with just about anyone at any age, including myself.

A couple of years ago I took a box of dark chocolates to a 102-year old man I knew. I’d been working as his caregiver for about a month. I had the weekend night shift so my main responsibility was to be there in case he needed anything in the middle of the night.

As it turns out, he did get up one night to use the toilet and subsequently fell and broke his hip. I took the Purdy’s chocolates, his favourite, to him shortly after he arrived home from the hospital.

At 102, Lorne was still very capable of getting himself from point A to point B. He used a walker at home and a cane whenever he came to the theatres where I worked, using the arm of one of his female caregivers to maintain his balance. He even spent 20 minutes a day doing supervised exercises in his basement using weight machines, a treadmill, and a chin up bar.

I was honoured when I was added to his “Harem” of women.

The day I went over to discuss the job with the head caregiver, I played cards with Lorne. Doubles solitaire. I’d never played it before. It’s where each person plays an individual game of solitaire with the option to play your cards on the other person’s hand and their cards on yours.

At one point in the game, Lorne took one of my cards and positioned it incorrectly on his spread. I watched as he did this a few times. I didn’t say anything and chalked it up to his age. Until I tried to do something similar and he smacked my hand away. “Uh uh”, he grumbled. I laughed. The old man was still sharp as a whip and had been cheating all along!

A few days after signing on for the job, Lorne and one of the caregivers came to the theatre. I was supervising the Front of House that day. When Lorne saw me his face lit up. He was normally a bit hunched over and didn’t really speak so when he looked up at me, eyes gleaming, and offered me a piece of his fruit bar, I was instantly smitten.

And I was always taken with the photograph of him on his dresser. He was an attractive young man in the military. It was so interesting to see him now, as this elderly gentleman in need of round the clock care, a man we women were putting to bed each night like a child.

As we turned off the light beside his bed he would say to us, “See ya later alligator”, to which we would, of course, reply, “In awhile crocodile.”

Lorne

Lorne died not too long after I went to take him his favourite chocolates. He had stopped eating after his hip injury, though I did manage to convince him to have some ice cream with me that last day I spent with him, just sitting, reading the paper in silence together while he was clearly in a lot of pain.

At his funeral, I knelt down, placed some dirt on the tiny spot where his ashes were spread and simply said, “See ya later, alligator.” We had certainly bonded in the short time we spent together, over a game of cards, bedtime rituals, and those sweet treats, just as little Luella and I did over ice cream yesterday.

I enjoy having friends of all ages. I learn a lot from them. Learning patience and understanding as things move slowly or people forget their manners. In fact, one thing I’ve definitely learned is that kids and seniors, while often in need of constant care, are actually a lot smarter than most of us give them credit for.

And heck, when things do get a little rough, there’s always ice cream.

Luella with Ice Cream

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Addictions as Allies

Sweet & Vicious

We’ve all got addictions but according to Rob Brezsny who writes an astrology column called Free Will Astrology and has a book called Pronoia, even when these addictions obstruct our path we can still view them as our friend:

“Your addiction is obstructing you from your destiny, and yet it’s also your ally.

What?! How can both be true?

On the downside, your addiction diverts your energy from a deeper desire that it superficially resembles. For instance, if you’re an alcoholic, your urge to get loaded may be an inferior substitute for and a poor imitation of your buried longing to commune with spirit.

On the upside, your addiction is your ally, because it dares you to get strong and smart enough to wrestle free of its grip; it pushes you to summon the uncanny willpower necessary to defeat the darkness within you that saps your ability to follow the path with heart.

(P.S. Don’t tell me you have no addictions. Each of us is addicted to some sensation, feeling, thought, or action, if not to an actual substance.)

Extol your sublime, painful addiction—celebrate it to death. Ride it, spank it, kiss it, whip it.”

So, who are your sweet and vicious self-sabotaging friends? Your margarita and your daisy, so to speak. And how can you tame them once and for all?

Margarita & Daisy

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Waking Up

Be Here Now

Have you ever asked for a sign? Some indication that you were on the right path, making the right choice, doing the right thing? Or have you ever been struck by an idea or inspired by something you come across in the most unlikely of places?

I took the above photo while I was walking through the park. I had been taking this same walk every day that week, sometimes twice a day, to go over to a friend’s house to feed their cat and water their plants. I’d passed this particular spot numerous times and yet hadn’t noticed the words stencilled onto the sidewalk until that day. Had I missed them the first time I’d walked by? Had they been there all along or had someone just put them there?

Many of the photos I post to this blog have been taken while I’ve been walking. My first blog post photo, “Be Brave, Be Happy”, was something I saw etched on the wall as I walked along Willows Beach last year.  Even the pink flower petals in the shape of a heart were something I caught on the sidewalk, out of the corner of my eye, while walking through downtown Victoria. I like to see these as little inspirational messages or reminders I am receiving along my journey.

This “Be Here Now” message came to me at a time when I’d been finding myself glued to my computer screen. I was aware of the fact that I was watching hours of online television and yet, as much as I tried to convince myself to stop, I was unable to pull myself away. It both fascinated and frustrated me to watch my behaviour.

It reminded me of the following excerpt from Michael A. Singer’s book entitled, “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” and upon reading it again I felt instantly better. Better because I knew that even if my behaviour hadn’t yet changed, my awareness had; that while I thought I was numbing myself out with my addictive behaviour I was, in fact, more conscious than I’d ever been. I was finally waking up.

“When you contemplate the nature of Self, you are meditating. That is why meditation is the highest state. It is the return to the root of your being, the simple awareness of being aware. Once you become conscious of the consciousness itself, you attain a totally different state. You are now aware of who you are. You have become an awakened being. It’s really just the most natural thing in the world. Here I am. Here I always was.

It’s like you have been on the couch watching TV, but you were so totally immersed in the show that you forgot where you were. Someone shook you, and now you’re back to the awareness that you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. Nothing else changed.  You simply stopped projecting your sense of self onto that particular object of consciousness. You woke up. That is spirituality. That is the nature of Self. That is who you are.

As you pull back into the consciousness, this world ceases to be a problem. It’s just something you’re watching. It keeps changing, but there is no sense of that being a problem. The more you are willing to just let the world be something you are aware of, the more it will let you be who you are – the awareness, the Self, the Atman, the Soul.”

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Letting Go of the Problem

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Je Suis Libre – by Vince Vaccaro

This is the link to a beautiful song called “I Am Free” by the very talented, Vince Vaccaro. Oddly enough, he posted this the same week I posted my rant about “Breaking Free”.

Click on the link and take a listen to some of Vince’s music as you read my post about him below. I’ve been listening to it as I write.

I met Vince Vaccaro in 2005. We were sitting in the kitchen at a mutual friend’s house. He was busy working on something on his laptop, a song. He had been writing and performing for a number of years but was not yet signed to a label or getting radio play.

This has certainly changed since then.

Vince and I crossed paths a few times over the years while I lived in Victoria. He was always very supportive, offering words of encouragement as I shared my dreams about filmmaking, dreams that have now shifted and changed.

At one point, I bumped into Vince on the street during a little music festival happening in Victoria. It was 2009. The festival was in its second year. Now going into its sixth year, Rifflandia has grown and is still going strong, bringing big name bands to Victoria and offering local musicians like Vince the opportunity to share their talent and grow their audience.

I had my video camera with me that day as I was working on a documentary about the arts. Vince ensured I was given a media pass so I could film and interview numerous artists both touring and local, and he was one of the artists I interviewed.

Vince invited me to film one of his performances. He expressed to me that it may be one of his last. When I asked, “Why?”, he said he had become disheartened with things, with the lack of success he felt with his music, with the constant struggle to make ends meet.

I expressed to Vince that I felt he couldn’t possibly give up now. He’d been working so hard and, the way I saw it, he was very successful. After all, when I’d met him four years earlier he’d been sitting at a kitchen table producing his own music. Now it seemed he had people in the industry working to help him, offering him opportunities to perform in front of large crowds, and he may even have had a local label interested at that time.

I did film Vince’s show that night, even chatted with he and the members of another band called ‘Maurice’ backstage. As I watched, I couldn’t believe he’d be serious about quitting. He clearly loved what he was doing, had so much talent, and the audience adored him.

The following year, I bumped into Vince on the ferry. He was with some of the members of Maurice. They’d just been to Vancouver to perform during one of the events at the Olympics. I had my video camera with me as I’d also been doing some filming around the event.

I interviewed Mark Lavoie, the bass guitarist for Maurice, in the old handy-dart-type bus they were using to get around. I will never forget when he said to me, “It’s so strange to hear myself on the radio while I fix vending machines for a living.”

This was ultimately one of the biggest things I learned about being an artist during those months of filming. Fame, success, radio-play, stage-time, none of it guaranteed an income. And being an artist of any kind meant always working.

Working to pay the rent by fixing vending machines. Working to produce your own songs on a laptop at someone’s kitchen table. Working to promote yourself, by far one of the hardest things to do. Getting up on stage in front of audiences big and small, even if it meant getting there in an old run-down bus. Struggling to keep the faith. Never giving up. And, most importantly, remembering to be free.

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