Are We Really that Spoiled? … Absolutely!

I was having a chat with a neighbor the other day and the new Wal-Mart that has just showed up in Maple Ridge. She was happy because there just isn’t any shopping available here in good old Maple Ridge.

No Shopping in Maple Ridge? What the !@%*!

Everywhere I drive in the darn place there IS shopping, all along Dewdney Trunk, all along Lougheed Highway, malls and shopping as far as the eye can see. So I asked, “What do you mean no shopping?”

“Well there is nowhere to purchase women’s underwear.” was the response.

“Oh, of course.” I thought to myself. I smiled and walked on.

Writing this piece I am sitting here laughing my ass off. How humorous in a way, yet how sadly first world non-sense in another.

Have we really gotten that entitled? Have we really made things so easy that we take our abundance and privilege for granted? That we expect this ease of access to supply our every whim and want?

Sadly, and deeply so, yes.

Today, I am going to practice even more gratitude for all I have. Uchenna Nwosu Jersey

Spiritual Correctness Can Cause Miss-understandings

Yes, living life with spiritual values is wonderful thing to do. These important values can truly help reduce conflict, stress, and strain in a family, a workplace, or a community. These very same values when taken to extremes though cause many a miss-understanding and a loss of self in the practice of compassion.

Often those of us following a spiritual path are drawn to personal growth and we have a tendency to internalize or take personally things that go on in our lives. Everything somehow ends up as some sort of new age spiritual teaching for us to grow by and grow through. We tend to suck it up and put on some sort of spiritual veneer that is soft, caring, tolerant, gentle, non-violent, and mind numbingly spiritually correct! The spiritual practioner tends to minimize their needs, boundaries, and feelings to ensure that spiritual life is maintained at all cost (usually theirs)!

This is where the miss-understandings occur.

This is where a deeper more human spiritual practice is needed.

I was one of those spiritual nice guys so I can talk from personal experience and show you the costs I incurred by being spiritually correct. I had mistaken spiritually for quietude, calmness, lack of conflict, the obligatory lack of personal boundaries and genuine self-expression, and the lack of any of life’s ‘darker’ energies; A kind of spiritual passivity if you will.

What seems to go missing in this type of ‘light’ spirituality is the real, raw, human being. It happened for me – I simply left me out in my service to others. I banished my natural human responses to life’s issues to the basement of my being in order that I would fit into some sort of notion of what ‘a real spiritual life’ would look like. It cost me relationships, jobs, money and most of all my own self-value. I would almost always set myself aside to serve others. It looked like I was a true spiritual fellow; problem was I wasn’t being true to myself!

Because I left the authentic me out there was always a miss – understanding. Nobody really knew me. All my spiritual correctness did was avoid natural human conflict and provided some weird sense of a happy spiritual life. I wasn’t working things out at all; my life was full of compromise and underneath the compromise a growing feeling of resentment.

My spiritual life was missing the real me.

Now, years down the road, I am much less spiritually correct and much more authentic in my self-expression. The result is there is way more reality in my life, things are way more raw, real, and human; sometimes bumpy, bouncy, and noisy. I have learned that in order to be living a human life with spirit I need to show up! I need to define my own boundaries; I need to express myself just as I am without some limp apology.

And, I need to do so in a way that does not cause injury to others. This is not to say that others won’t feel uncomfortable with my more full expression not at all, I just won’t be judging them, criticizing them, making them wrong, or putting them down. And I also won’t be holding myself back.

Yep, it may look crazy from the outside and yet from the inside it feels so darn good. In order to be and feel seen, we first must show up fully as we really are in order that others can see the real us and connect with the real one we are – no more miss-understanding just clarifying.

Me being fully me while others are being fully them living  in the chaos of full, real self expression based on and not limited by a set of spiritual values – now that is a human – spiritual practice. Nate Solder Authentic Jersey

Turning Habits to Rituals – Creating a Great Life


In these days of digital this and technology that, the stress of making a go of it financially, working nine-to-five, and being all things to all people it is no wonder many of us have fallen into the Matrix and are running on auto-pilot. Life, it seems, has become a series of habits and patterns that most of us find ourselves being lived by.

In this soup of pressure, technology, and a multitude of distractions we often find ourselves adrift at sea – lacking some sort of spiritual anchor or compass. In days gone by we used to practice and rely on rituals. These ‘old fashioned’ reminders provided individuals, families, and communities with both an anchor and a compass that was reliable. It seems these once honored practices have been buried under the pressures of modern urban living and have become either empty habits or entirely lost.

If we say grace do we say it consciously before a meal? If we go to church do we do so consciously? If we honor the solstice do we do so with presents and awareness? Or have all these important life-affirming practices turned into empty habits?

Have a look at your own life and see. Could you turn some tired old habits into enlivening rituals that you could be inspired by? Thanksgiving has just passed here in Canada and is on its way in the United States. How could you bring more presents to bear on days like this? How could you enrich your family’s holiday time by bring more ritual than habit to the time family spends on Christmas Holidays? I am asking the same questions of myself. How could my family be more enriched, more enlivened, and more inspired by adding even more spirit to the Holiday Season? How would I behave if I were more at choice, more present and less in the habit of Christmas Celebrations?

If we can do this a Seasonal Celebrations how could we make it an everyday occurrence? A life of choice and ritual or a life of habit… hmmm? Ryan Allen Womens Jersey

The Messy Notion of Help…

I was sitting around with some friends of mine this morning chatting passionately about poverty and homelessness. The conversation was lively, loud, vital, and respectful. There was an underlying tone in the conversation however, that was a bit like ‘us and them’. They are down there and we are up here tossing them a helpline. There was this belief that there is a helper and a helpee and that somehow the position of helper was superior.

This is why help in it many forms can go wrong.

What would happen if there was no such thing as help? What would happen if we released both sides from the help-full / help-less codependency?

I remember years ago I was working in Vancouver’s Downtown East End. I was an employment counselor working with people on welfare or employment insurance ‘helping’ them re-attach himself or herself to the workforce. I was working in the East End because I care about people and wanted to help out, after all I was a helper; of the helping kind so to speak.

While working there I noticed my life was being enriched. Along with making a contribution to other people’s lives I was having many realizations about life in general and my own personal development and growth. And, I must admit there was a piece of me that felt spiritually special – I was doing the good work. I was somehow a bit more pure or good or compassionate somehow. I was attached to my spiritual specialness and linked it to my doing the hard work with difficult people.

What was out was my attachment to making a difference – It gave my clever ‘spiritual ‘ ego some leash and in subtle ways I liked it. My self-enjoymen, self-importance,t and self-satisfaction was short lived though.

One day it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so attached to being this ‘helper’ that Grandmother, (my personal word for God) took me over Her knee and spanked me so to speak. As she did I realized there was no such thing as help, that I didn’t have the power to help somebody. This deep belief of mine was replaced in an instant with the awareness that no one is help-less.

The scene was a common one in the downtown east end, an individual, a woman had just fixed in an alley and had stumbled onto the sidewalk and collapsed. I stopped immediately to offer assistance, as did another fellow. We called 911 and just as we did she came to and gave us shit for wrecking her high. It was in the moment of her raging that this realization occurred.

“There is no such thing as help.” Grandmother spoke calmly and firmly.

“What?” I questioned out loud as I was walking along Gore Street back to the office.

“That’s right Honey,” Grandmother said, “No one is help-less. They have simply forgotten they have the tools to succeed in their own life, their own way.”

“What? Then I am totally useless if I can’t be a helper.” I sputtered.

“You are only useless if you are attached to being a helper or helping out.” Grandmother replied softly. “If you are attached to helping, true help will not take place. Remember there but for the grace of Me goes you.”

From that day forward I reminded myself that the helpee and the helper were of equivalent value the only difference is one of us had woken up a little bit sooner than the other. It was and is my authentic presence and willingness to connect with the helpee as a real person with real capacity, ability, and value – not a help-less case. – That genuine connection is what makes the difference we tend to call help.

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Don’t Touch My Strawberry Plants! – An Exercise in Personal Boundaries

Sometimes our stuff gets in other peoples’ way.

Sometimes we do things with their stuff ‘cause we forget it is not ours.

Sometimes we forget there is a difference between yours, mine, and ours.

Sometimes when we are focused on our own needs we forget to check with others about theirs and we create interpersonal speed bumps.

It is easy in busy modern day life to run right over people’s boundaries; especially, it seems, in our families. We tend to get so self-centered and task focused that we literally miss others. An individual’s personal needs and perspectives can often be mistaken for everyone’s.

Such was the case in my home the other week.

I have very few plants in our family gardens that I am attached to. One is a rescued blueberry bush in the backyard, another is a magnolia tree I/we planted in the front yard, and the final one ‘was’ a strawberry plant that was magically wandering its way through the front yard gardens. The wandering part was what I really loved about this particular strawberry plant – I was always surprised at where I would find its next juicy red offering.

Well, this wandering feature was not as warmly appreciated by others in my family. It was seen as a type of garden urban sprawl – a kind of lawless rebel that needed to be restrained, in fact cleansed from the very garden it so loved. The next thing I knew the garden, perhaps more neat and tidy, was without my ever bearing strawberry plant which I now understood resided in the compost bag. All of this without so much as a mention of the cleansing plans to me the plants rightful ‘guardian’.

I was pissed off.

Now, the trespass was noticed by other family members and duly and sharply addressed. There was a genuine attempt to make right the infringement and a hanging basket of strawberries was offered up as an apology. The suggestion was that the berries could happily be hung and thereby not over run ‘our’ garden space. So it was kind of a conditional apology.

Hmmm, I don’t think so.

You see what I loved about the strawberry plant was it’s random, uncontainable, wandering, chaotic, spontaneous, nature. The now deceased strawberry plant was actually mine and given the garden is ours I feel strongly I have a claim, perhaps a right, to have plants of my choosing represented there.

The negotiations are now on – my right to have a plant of my choosing in ‘our’ garden versus an other’s preference for order and neatness.

Ahhhh, the Zen of personal boundaries, stay tuned for the results.


Warmly and with gratitude

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Our Love Affaire with Comfort – This May Be Uncomfortable

One of my greatest lessons this year has been learning to be comfortable with discomfort.


Yes, as simple as that. I am learning to let go of my attachment to comfort. I am no longer entitled to be comfortable – it is not a birthright or a privilege of a first world country citizen. In fact not being able to sit in discomfort is one of the most disabling things I know. Comfort is very over rated.

Let me explain.

I have watched myself, and others over the past few years. Doesn’t matter whether it is relationship driven, job oriented, family centered, personal boundaries, or a matter of life and death, discomfort is everywhere and I must say very much a common and everyday experience. Many of us reach for our creature comforts, some tool, or some distraction to get ourselves off the hot seat of discomfort – television, the Internet, food or drink, a drug legal or illegal, denial, hope, a vacation, a party, or blame.

Our ability to be with discomfort has lots to do with how we grow and evolve as people. The less capable we are of sitting in the discomfort, the less we will mature as self-responsible, interdependent adults and self empowered people. Instead, we will find ways out of the awkward situations, using tools such as projection, blame, denial, or hope to get off the hot seat and back into our comfort zone. Yes, these tools may temporarily minimize the discomfort, but it is temporary only, short lived and no growth, evolution or improvement in our relationships takes place at all.

If we are unwilling to work through the discomfort, face it head on with our family and friends, it will over time morph into resentment, distancing, and isolation. Facing the situation with a shared reality and living with the discomfort, is the only way I have found to move through these tough spots in life.

Here are two examples of what I mean by growing through discomfort.

One. Watching my brother die before my very eyes was indeed uncomfortable and yet the benefits of staying with him at his bedside through the discomfort are too numerous to mention, one being the deep and profound love for each other we discovered while facing Peter’s death together.  If I took the easy way out I would have missed this opportunity to experience this magical love.

Two. Working through a family upset and not backing down. Yes it would make it easier for others and smooth over the rough waters had I fled for comfort.  Yet staying in the discomfort renewed my self esteem and my self confidence in that I know even more deeply that I have value and deserve to be valued.  If I took the easy way out I would have diminished myself and missed an opportunity to take a stand for what I believed in and allowed myself to be unseen by others.

Believe me, if there were another way through that was easier I would have found it because I really do not like discomfort. That being said I have learned to feel uncomfortable and not pull back from it’s edge. I have learned to lean into discomfort just a little bit and stay right there facing it with those people I am involved with.


The easy way out is to err on the side of returning to comfort before the ‘work’ gets done. More important than comfort is to stay in the uncomfortable conversation or situation until it is resolved – to stay open and willing to be changed by discomfort, to take discomfort as an opportunity to grow. Kansas City Chiefs Authentic Jersey

Compassion – Both Tender and Hard

Compassion is an interesting practice and one often misunderstood especially by this elf us who tend to lean a little towards the new age side of things. Many people think compassion needs to be gentle, kind, soft, tender and in some cases that is the style or expression of compassion that is required.

Let’s not shortchange the vastness of compassion by allowing only this tender side of it. Compassion has a bold, firm, no nonsense side to it as well that can be mistaken for lack of compassion. Let me explain with a bit of a story.

A family member of mine made a personal decision the other day that will affect her young life in significant ways yet to unfold. After only days at university she chose to quit. In spite of scholarships, family support financially, emotionally, and practically she buckled under some sort of fear and not good enough stuff and is walking away from a great education, a wonderful sports opportunity, and a whole new adult life.

I was surprised and disappointed and felt she was making a big mistake. My support for her and compassion for her and her future didn’t look like the gentle, tender compassion some thought it should. I was firm, loving absolutely yet firm and told her I could not support her choice. I told her that I thought she was making a decision based on fear and that 3 or 4 days of university was not nearly enough time on which to base such an important decision. “Stay at it for a full semester and then choose, give yourself a chance to succeed.” I demand as lovingly as I could.

Others in my family thought I was being too hard on her, and that I lacked compassion. No, I was being totally compassionate and letting her know how I really saw the situation.

I felt and still feel that she is making a poor decision; that she is quitting on herself and making a mistake she will regret later in her life. A world-class education, a sports scholarship to help pay for it and she is letting it all go. Compassion, my compassion, demands that I speak my mind and let this younger one hear my admonishment to stay in university for one semester and give it a full effort, to persist through this temporary yet challenging time.

Don’t Quit!!!!   Give yourself a chance to succeed!!!!   Stay with it for a few more months!!!!!!!!

Compassion is neither soft or hard, bold or tender. It is an art form and true compassion is both.

Warmly and with gratitude



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Five Great Questions to Ask Yourself Well Before You Die

  • What were the five best choices you have ever made? and why?
  • What were five of the most pivotal moments of your life? and why?
  • What two sentence message would you like to share with your family and friends before you die?
  • What are you most proud of in your life?
  • What are you most thankful for in your life?

Most often in life we leave these questions to the last moment to ponder, often only when we are on our deathbed. Many of us never really sink our teeth into the guts of the questions at all. Life happens, we get married, we have kids, we launch our career, we get into the corporate habit, we survive a mid-life crisis, we plan our retirement, we pay off our mortgage, we just get busy with the doing-ness of life and forget to attend to the meaning-nees of our life. We get so busy our life becomes rudderless.

These five questions when pondered on a regular basis, say yearly, form a rudder for us. We start to notice our values, our priorities, and our principles. We start to see the legacy we want to leave behind once we have died. You see, as I know it our legacy is not so much what we leave behind in assets, money, or accomplishments it is more in how we lived our lives, the example we showed others in how we were being while we were doing. Our legacy has much more to do with our authenticity, our internal integrity, and our genuine demonstrated love for others.

Here is a simple suggestion;

As we welcome in the New Year and lay the old year to rest these five questions might serve you better than making a New Year’s Resolution.

Stephen Covey the leadership guru said “Begin with the End in mind.” I don’t think Covey meant the end of your life and yet how power would that be to create a life that would fulfill you by beginning with the end point or ‘legacy’ set first.

Give this idea a try. I would love to see how it works for you.


Warmly and with gratitude


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It’s Not Just Stuff – It’s Their Life’s Legacy

For family and friends, us, it may look like “stuff”. To our loved one who is downsizing, de-cluttering, getting ready for the end of their life, or cleaning up after their loved ones has died it is way more than “stuff”!

We are intent on helping our loved one lighten the load and for us on the outside of the “stuff” –

We wonder why they are resisting our help.

We wonder why they labor over what we think are easy choices.

We wonder why they don’t want to let the silliest things go.

We wonder why they get so emotional or the oddest of memorabilia.

We wonder why.

Well for our loved one who lives inside the “stuff” it is a very different experience. The older our loved one, the longer their relationship with their stuff, the more challenging the letting go becomes, especially if the de-cluttering flows the loss of their life partner.

The photographs, the books, the artwork, the clothes, the furniture, the jewelry, the car, the tools – everything is imbued with the energy of their life. The emotional energy in particular fills the stuff with meaning. Their stuff (and my stuff too) is their life expressed through what they have collected – in a way it is their life’s legacy.

Their stuff IS their life’s legacy! Yes indeed it is.

Well, no wonder in some cases it takes time to go through a household of “stuff” and why it can be really hard to let go of things. They all have special meaning to the one de-cluttering. A friend of mine went through this very issue with his Mom recently. He went home to help Mom de-clutter and let go of things and was task oriented as good men can be. Well his task driven-ness was meet with Mom’s wanting to make sure that she wouldn’t need it, miss it or be sad she let it go. There was frustration on both sides.

To avoid this type of clash here are a few hints.

Start well before the moving date, as much as six to twelve months.

Do a little bit at a time.

Create several ‘piles’ – throw away, donate, give away as gifts, keep, and not sure.

Handle the throw away, donate piles immediately as it removes the ‘stuff’ from sight and gives the                  feeling of making progress.

Find ways to make it a fun time and a time of memories.

Don’t rush!

Using a few of these suggestions will help relax the tension and tendency to rush and make hurried decisions that will slow progress down over time. Make it a fun and relaxing time for your loved one, a time for one and all to remember in emotional importance of the items we sometimes see as simply just “stuff”.

Warmly and with gratitude


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Sitting on the Bench – That’s All There is to Do!

I remember years ago being a little, okay very judgmental, of a fellow sitting on a park bench.  It was 1992 perhaps, it was in the summer I think, well maybe the fall. What I am certain about is my judgment of what it was I thought I saw.

I was living and working on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, in downtown Sechelt with a lovely view of Pebble Beach, the ocean and Vancouver Island beyond. There was a park bench underneath a tree on the fringe of the beach. It was a great place to sit.

I noticed on a regular daily basis a rather rotund middle-aged First Nations fellow would take residence on the bench for what seemed like all day. I didn’t pay much attention to him or what he was doing. I did notice my judgment though that he was a lazy fellow not up to much and that he could better employ his time and the public bench. I was aware enough to catch myself, thankfully, and I asked the question in my head – “I wonder what he is doing?” I dropped my nasty judgment, an old habit that was dying slowly, and came at the same scene from the place of curiosity instead.

That shift from judgment to curiosity changed everything.

I began to see that this public bench was really his outdoor coaching office and that he had “appointments” with “clients” each day – a white man’s way of looking at it. Young teens, single moms, other elders all made regular visits to the “bench”. This fellow I had judged so sense-lessly was actually a very busy fellow.

I began to watch even more closely.

I noticed that his “clients” came to him with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind, like they were having trouble in life or something was eating at them. They would sit and chat with this fellow, sometimes for minutes, other times for hours, always for however long it took. When they got up to leave they seemed lighter, more self assured and happier for sure. He had this hand gesture where he patted his heart and ushered them along, making room for his next and yet to be seen “client”.

“Who is that guy?” I asked one of his “clients” as I passed them by on the seawall.

“Oh, that’s Hank our elder.” She said. “We all know where he sits so we drop by for a loving heart and a helping hand when we need it.” She smiled and walked on.

And I thought he wasn’t doing anything.

Goes to show you/me  judgment is an uniformed and narrow path. Thank goodness for curiosity, I learned that help only takes place when it is asked for and that Sitting on the Bench is All There is to Do.


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