Monthly Archives: May 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

**I wrote this in 2006, shortly after the illusions of my life were suddenly and painfully illuminated.  Then, as now, I strive to live in the truth.

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Veracity is adherence to the truth.

Veracity is the heart of morality  ~ Thomas H. Huxley

my hand outstretched over a background of summer grass, the word truth written in red inside a red heart

Love the Truth

What does it mean to live in the truth?  Is it true that to be dishonest is to be amoral?   Can you keep a secret, or tell a little white lie, and still honour the truth?   I find myself growing wings and embarking on a journey to discover what living in the truth means.  It has become my quest, my search for the Holy Grail, the only way I know to learn and grow from the tsunami that has hit my life.

Nine months ago, as my twenty-four year marriage was exploding and my world was dissolving and evolving without me, my soon-to-be ex-husband asked me a question, “What do you want in life?”

I sat with that question for a while and the answer came to me – I want to live a life of truth.  After living for so long with my head planted firmly and deeply in the sand, with my eyes and ears cloaked in so many years of lies and denials, I needed to be immersed in the truth.  I needed to know what that looked like, what that felt like.  I needed the truth to guide me on my voyage of discovery.  I needed to know what living in the truth meant.

Galileo said “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”  In this ‘age of enlightenment’, my spiritual quest for the truth is not unique. A search on Google for “inner truth” spits out 5,500,000 possible matches; over 2000 titles on enlightenment are available from Amazon. As the baby-boomers hit middle-age and beyond and are confronted with the undeniable truth of their impending mortality, more and more people are becoming seekers, looking to uncover their own meaning of life.

I set out to discover my own truths.  Eihei Dogen, one of Zen Buddhism’s most prominent figures, wrote, “If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”   I believe in a Higher Power, that everything happens for a reason, and that wherever you are, is where you are meant to be.  These were the truths I carried with me on my journey.  When I was falling into the abyss of grief and fear, they were my lifeline which kept me from drowning.  I studied dozens of books taking notes and highlighting as I went, journaling about what I read and learned, discovering insights about my life as I wrote.  I began seeing a psychologist to help unravel my ‘self’ from that of my ex-husband and to slowly peel back the layers of protection that covered the truth.  I began to unwind and separate the threads of my truth from his truth.

I spent time cleaning the clutter from my closets and cupboards, filling boxes for a garage sale and giving away bags of clothes and shoes and in so doing I began to clear my mind as well.  I learned how to practice meditation and incorporated that into my daily life.  I began to sit in stillness, to immerse myself into whatever thought, feeling and emotion that flowed through me. I began to find the truth hidden within.  My discovery of myself and my truth became my vocation.  Peeling back the layers of the onion to reveal my authentic Self has been the most wrenching yet rewarding task I have ever done.

I needed to learn the truths about myself which I had long been denying – to acknowledge and take ownership and responsibility over my own actions and choices during my life and my marriage.  I needed to own and accept all my ‘selves’, the dark as well as the light.  Marianne Williamson, spiritual activist and internationally acclaimed author and lecturer, teaches us that “Emotional wholeness is the acknowledgment and integration of all our qualities.”

A sprinkling of rose petals frame the words Live in Truth with a small burning candle set inside a glass flower placed on the lower left corner.  In order to live in the truth, we need to live in all our truths, not just those that serve to present us in what we deem to be a positive light.  Williamson goes on to say that “We seem to have great resistance to looking at our lives, and our world, with emotional honesty”, yet to do anything less is to deny ourselves the opportunity to live a whole and complete life.

We also need to learn to separate our own truths from those of others, to take ownership over our own emotions and not to take ownership over the emotions and choices of another.  To take false ownership not only denies the truth within you, but also denies the right of responsibility from its true owner.  This was clearly demonstrated to me in the relationship with my good friend, Carla.

When I first learned about my husband’s affair, I was hurt, angry, devastated and humiliated.  My immediate reaction was to keep private the details of our separation as I learned to process and recover.  Carla was the one person to whom I entrusted my thoughts and emotions, and I asked her to keep my confidence.  I felt then, as I do now, that my separation and divorce and the reasons behind them, are my story to tell – when, if and to whom.

Several times during the ensuing months, Carla would accuse me of not living in the truth because I was not revealing the affair to the world at large.  Each time she confronted me with this, I would step back and question myself – by choosing to keep this part of my life private and asking Carla to keep this secret, did this mean I was not living in and acknowledging the truth?

Martha Beck, a Harvard-trained sociologist and an innovator in life coaching, compares secrets to stars in her New York Times best seller, Finding Your Own North Star.  She says “They’re hot, volatile concentrations of energy, and they have two ways of dying.  Over time, small stars simply burn out and cool off, becoming what astronomers call white dwarfs.  Massive stars collapse in on themselves, growing so dense that they create an immense gravitational vortex from which even light can’t escape.  They become black holes.”  I wondered whether my secret was a black hole and whether I was in danger of being sucked into its whirling vortex.

I meditated, studied, journaled and talked with my therapist about this.  I came to trust and believe my own instinct to find a way to define ‘black hole secrets’.  If keeping the secret causes emotional or physical pain to anyone then it’s a safe bet you’re in danger of being pulled apart by the black hole.  However, if the only discomfort felt is the need to gossip, then the only person served well by breaking the confidence is the person who is doing the telling. You can live in and honour the truth and still keep a secret.

The more I learned about myself, the more I began to trust the truth of my instincts and to listen to my ‘gut’.  As I learned to accept and take ownership over my choices, my feelings and my truths, I felt my reality shift.  A miracle happened in my life;  I began to lose the pain, fear and grief surrounding my separation and impending divorce.  A miracle is really just a shift in the lens through which you perceive life.  I realized my husband’s affair was not about me, it was about him and his choices and denials and his own hidden truths.

I let go of the life I had thought I was living and the future I had envisioned.  I let go of the person I was and surrendered to be the person I was always meant to be.  I learned from my past and stopped living in it.  I stopped projecting and expecting the future and instead, I work at living in the moment, taking comfort in the knowledge that what is meant to be – will be.  The I Ching states that “A light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.”  This can only happen when we have the courage to face our self-deception, denials and illusions – to face things exactly as they are.

"The Seekscape" painted by my son Patrick O'Neill

I am still learning and discovering what it means to live a life of truth.  I will forever be on this voyage.  What I know for sure is that the truth is the only path to a whole and complete life.  I have learned from Mahatma Gandhi’s principal of non-violence which declares that “moral force emanates from righteous action”.  I believe, as Marianne Williamson states in A Gift of Change, that “while such force might not have observable effects, it indeed has effects on an invisible plane.  By simply standing in Truth – not only in words but through our behavior as well – we help create a wave of power that will heal the world.”

When I embarked on my pilgrimage I hoped to find healing, solace and peace.  I wanted to show my children what was possible in a time of crisis, to grow as a person.  I needed to learn from the earthquake which had destroyed my world.  I had no idea that I would find something much more powerful.  I would find my Self.

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Gremlins of Fear

I’ve been contemplating fear lately.  Rolling it around inside me, reading about it, turning it this way and that like a prism.  Trying to come through the backdoor of my perceptions – my preconceptions.  Trying to sneak up on my already made up mind in order to nudge a shift, or learn anew.  It’s not easy; this ego mind of mine is so very good at dodging and blocking and building walls.

I’ve been stepping into my fear consciously and consistently for almost ten years now.  Pushing against and into my set in cement boundaries to grow and learn and evolve.  To become someone more, or other, or further, than simply being a wife and a mother.  To simply Be.

I sit at my simple, old, wooden desk and look out the window at the incessant rain drumming down.  At the dance of water that drips from the blue incandescent Christmas lights still clipped to the leaf clogged eaves troughs.  At the many hues of green that gives promise that Spring is here despite the grey skies, chilly air and wet, soggy ground.

Inside and outside Inspirations

I pull my gaze inside the room and see the words of inspiration that lay propped just in front of me, leaning against the window.  They have become cliché’s but remain as true and motivating as the day they were written.

It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Elliot

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined. ~ Thoreau

Do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stand in the space and know you are there. ~ anonymous

I began taking tiny small steps into my fear when I ventured back into the world of acting with my first class nine years ago, impersonating the confidence I didn’t feel in the slightest.  Ten years and many steps later I am doing what I once only dreamed of doing.  I’ve learned that a dream realized doesn’t mean the end of the rainbow, the dream just grows and changes, always needing more and more steps into the fear.

My BlackBerry chirps on the desk beside my laptop, singing to me that I have a new text message.  I take a sip of my hint of chocolate tea and read what my friend has written,  “Just beginning step #4: Make a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves.  Must write down all hurts and resentments in my life honestly.”

I glance to the bookcase on my right and my eyes find the picture of the two of us together.  I hear the conversation she and I had on the phone yesterday when she spoke of the path she was taking and the fear through which she was bravely swimming.  Although not an alcoholic, she is working through the twelve-steps with the help, support and guidance of a trusted friend and counselor.  At a time in her life when she often told me “it is too late,” and she is “too old”, my friend is finding amazing change and awareness and a growing consciousness with each courageous step.  The strong chains of fear that keep her bound to the past are growing brittle and falling away with each new awakening.

An image pops into my mind and I smile.  Another friend who is shining the light into her own dark alleyway of fear on her blog, Bespoken.   Although Marlene and I met only briefly over a year ago at the Deepak Chopra Foundation’s Sages and Scientists Symposium, I still remember our connection and conversations.  Every once in a while a person appears who I am sure has been with me on many life journeys, a familiarity and kinship is felt at once.  We don’t email or talk on the phone, but her presence is there nonetheless,

Just as I began a more formal research and examination of fear, I read a couple posts by Marlene ~ There’s Nothing to Fear Except Yourself and Resistance is Futile.  Synchronicity.  She writes about fear and relationships and ends with words that I will read many times over.

Nothing can fill the emptiness because the fear of being hurt or exposed or out of control becomes the dam that keeps you from experiencing love. And love is what we came here for. That’s our true purpose. Not money, not ambition, not fame, not passion, not success, not status, not video games, not gossip. Only love. Everything else is a distraction.  

I am once again suspended upside down against the wall in my yoga class.  My elbows form a triangle with the crown of my head suspended just above the floor, my fingers laced together and my pinky fingers stretched straight along the floor.  My forearms hold most of the weight of my body and with each breath I bring space and strength to the cavity of my armpits to help keep my shoulders from collapsing and keeping my heart centre open.  I slowly slide my feet tall up along the wall until my legs are straight.  I practice one-nostril breathing in order to bring relaxation in to my assisted headstand and to breath fear out.

“Move your arms closer to the wall, Terri.” Chris speaks across the room to me.  I slowly shift my arms back and then lower my head to the floor, allowing some of my weight to now flow down through my neck and the crown of my head into the floor.  Chris walks over to me and helps to move the straps from around my feet until the only thing assisting me is the wall against with I’m gently resting.  I keep my pelvic floor and core zipped tight and my awareness on my breath.  Release, release, release, I silently chant on my out breath.

“Okay,” says Chris, “lower yourself to the floor.”

A spike of fear.  Irrational images and thoughts of broken necks flash through my mind.  I take a breath in and with my exhale I slowly lower one leg…..and it stops, suspended halfway to the floor.  “Oh-oh,” my ego mind says.  Out loud I say, “I can’t reach the floor!”

“Just lower the other leg,” encourages the red-haired woman to my left.

I resist, not saying anything.

“Lower your other leg and you’ll automatically find the floor.”  Chris echoes, standing close enough to catch me if I crumble.

Fear rises in me like a red-scaled dragon.  I haven’t been in a headstand in so many years that I can’t find a memory to re-member.  Perhaps the fear grown from a head and back injury two years ago has walled me in so tight I can’t feel the childhood joy and body awareness in this inverted pose.  I can feel the sharp barbs on the wire as the fear wraps around me and threatens to pull even tighter.

I hear and feel the encouragement and support from Chris and Eve and allow my trust in them and in myself to move my second leg.  I feel the energy from the earth flow up through the crown of my head, along my spine and extend back down through my toes as my legs gently and softly lower to my mat.  As I lean back into child’s pose a warm wash of empowerment flows through my body.  I push up to a kneeling position, grinning in pure joy at the delight of fear conquered.

I’m finding new ways to melt away the contraints of fear, to breath away the suffocating confinement that stops me from learning and growing.  I close my eyes and sit in Namaste gratitude and listen for the stillness within.

Who am I?

I am a mother.  I am a writer.  I am an actor.  I am a seeker.  I am creative….female….

I listen to the wisdom of my body and go deeper, beyond the level of names and labels and physical form.  I breath in the stillness of the Source.  The wisdom of the Realm of Possibilty.

Who am I?

I am light.  I am darkness.  I am you.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others. ~~ Marianne Williamson


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To Mamma With Love

As I head out to brunch to celebrate Mothers Day with three of my four children I can’t help but think of all of the mothers and women across the world who aren’t as fortunate to live in a place like Canada.  Where equality between women and men, boys and girls are a given.  Where health care and a good education is free and readily available for both my daughters and my sons.
I am short on time and time is of the essence so I am copying and pasting words from another incredible woman – Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper).  Please take the time to read and to donate.  Please take the time to honour and help other mothers and woman across the world!
Much love and Gratitude,
Terri
It’s already Mothers Day here in New Zealand and Australia. My mum lives too far away for anything but a phone call, but today I was able celebrate mothers day by babysitting for a friend so she could get some mama-time-out to play with her Sunday afternoon soccer team.
What I’d also LOVE would be to celebrate Mothers Day by reaching our goals for the To Mama With Love fundraiser.
We found out yesterday afternoon that Hopeful World Publishing has decided to make a $5,000 matching gift IF To Mama With Love manages to raise $20,000 by Mother’s Day – tomorrow, May 8 – at 11:59p EST.

And if we raise $5000 just for Suraya by Mothers Day ( tomorrow at 11.59p EST) then she will also get to share a quarter of the total funds raised by To Mama With Love. That could double what we have to give Suraya and make a HUGE difference to the shelters.

So I’m writing once more to ask you to invest your love at www.ToMamaWithLove.org (that special link should mean that your donation goes to Suraya) or, if you prefer to keep things simple you can contribute via this ChipIn and I’ll add all those funds to Suraya’s total myself.
If you’ve already donated, thank you, I’m so grateful.
We’ve so far raised $1700 for Suraya and more than $15,000 althogether through To Mama With Love.
My heart is set on raising $5000 for Suraya by the end of tomorrow. That will help ensure that the total passes $20,000 and we get the matching $5000 grant AND it will make sure that Suraya gets to share in the overall funds raised on the To Mama With Love site. So we need to raise another $3300 in just over 24 hours. I know we can do it.
Thanks so much,
Marianne.
PS: It’s also my birthday this weekend. If you were thinking it would be nice to give me something for my birthday this would be it: a donation in Suraya’s name.  😉

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My Yoga Truth

I gently lower myself until I’m hanging upside down suspended in the sling and tilt my pelvis to slide my butt up the wall until I feel the solid surface against my back.  My knees are deeply bent open and my feet are wound around the straps to stop me from falling onto my head, although it almost brushes my mat on the floor.  I’m nearing the end of my Tuesday morning 90-minute hatha class with Chris and challenging my fear and changing my perspective with inversion poses – with the help of straps, sling and the wall.

My mind's picture! 🙂

I’ve practiced yoga off and on for over ten years but have never succeeded in establishing anything close to a regular practice.  I have a hard time explaining why I haven’t or even figuring it out myself.  I’ve tried many times, many places and spaces but nothing stuck.  The classes were always too late or too early or too something.  Or they conflicted with my practice of choice – pilates.

So I was pleasantly surprised to recognize recently that not only did I want a regular yoga practice but actually yearned for one.  I tip toed into the concept carefully, ever so slightly concerned that if I spoke too loudly, questioned too closely or walked too quickly, I would scare away the yen.

I suspect it points back to a long held-dream realized that awakened and stirred something deep inside me.  After a year and a half of preparation, strong intention and even stronger commitment and work my Theatre of Infinity birthed it’s first production earlier this year – Daniel McIvor’s Marion Bridge.  At the same time I followed Annie Q’s (@so_you_know) wondrous writing about her deepening yoga practice with Marco Rojas.

It’s amazing what strong intention and commitment can create.  For me it brought an emerging awareness that I wanted to cultivate a more contemplative life.  That it was necessary in order to do the writing I was feeling more and more compelled to do.  Bringing forth the truth with compassion takes compassion and it begins with myself.

This time around my yoga practice is simply a result of my growing spiritual practice.  My classes with Chris have prepared me for my nascent home practice with Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper).  Complimentary.  I practice with compassion and gratitude and sometimes with just a bit of fear.  But I practice!

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