Practicality and Spirituality are NOT Opposites – They are Necessary Bedfellows!

Imagine going to the bathroom and not wiping your ass. May sound like a distasteful and silly analogy and yet… imagine what a stinky mess that would create.

In many areas of new age spirituality it is much like this example. New Agers have the spirituality piece down pat – meditation, imagining, inviting abundance, surrendering to a higher power, manifesting, letting go and letting God, and all that kind of spiritual stuff. Now please, before you get pissed off at me for speaking this way, know that these practices are important and yet as stand-alone practices they are simply NOT enough to create a life of your dreams.

Trusting the Universe is only half the coin.

Creating a vision board only a piece of the work.

Going with the flow only a temporary path.

Our North American culture has jumped all over this new age stuff feeling the ‘spirit’ in it for sure. Yet if left on its own it is like spinning your wheels – lots of noise, burning rubber, a bunch of smoke, tons of energy expended, and absolutely no progress. It sure looks like you are doing something. In some ways it can be a satisfying distraction, while in reality we are totally avoiding the guts of life.

Off to the meditation room.

Sit in front of the vision board and manifest.

Pray to God to make your dreams come true.

All of three are half measures and on their own a total waste of time. These new age steps can be a cop out, or an empty soap opera – a sort of fanciful ungrounded soup, and an unreal existence.

People who practice these half measures often feel, when things don’t turn out the way they envisioned, that they aren’t spiritual enough or practicing hard enough somehow spiritual not good enough. So they pray more intently, imagine more, surrender deeper, redo their vision board with even more heart, and chant even more passionately only to again get the same result – a type of empty, ungrounded, confusing reality that does not at all feel like nirvana. But don’t worry keep that spiritual smile on your face, be even more devout, and ultimately abundance will show up.

Bull shit! BS! Non-sense!

Until these effective and helpful practices are mixed with a good dose of feet on the street hard work, persistence, patience, and planning there will be no forward movement, no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no feeling of at last I made it.

Until we are willing to be uncomfortable, to do the hard things, to not know, to persist even though it feels extremely difficult, to fail continually, and yet to continue to get up and press on, we are fooling ourselves and setting us all up for the ongoing disappointment of new age idealism.

Things don’t just happen.

Magic does not just simply occur.

The lottery doesn’t often payoff.

Now, take those same new age practices and add to them, achievable goals, action plans, effort, practice, a willingness to fail, a burning intention to succeed, persistence against all odds, a solid group of true supporters, and a humble confidence that you do have what it takes.

Then and only then are you real-ly up to something.

Then and only then will you real-ly make progress.

Then and only then will abundance real-ly show up.

Stop waiting for God to move mountains! Move them yourself, take the initiative and get the shovel out! Be willing to move that damn mountain all on your own, shovel by shovel, blister by blister, ache by ache. Be real-ly willing to go it alone, then and only then will Providence move too!

It takes profound intention, (really meaning it), and unfailing persistence to accomplish your dream, especially big dreams. Yes it takes trust in the Universe, and it also takes trust in yourself to handle what the Universe does bring your way. It takes hard work to let go of all the personal doubts and mistaken self-beliefs you may have. It takes courage to face down those others who may doubt your ability and capacity to achieve your dreams and even more when they doubt your dreams. It takes tremendous courage to believe deeply in you. You can absolutely bring your dreams into reality with time, effort and hard work. It takes spiritual wisdom, practical hands on effort, and a heart that just won’t quit.

You can create magic in your life. Just don’t leave it solely up to some new age idea of God.

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Can Knowing too Much Get in Our Way of A Good Death?

With technology and information being all the rage, in medical circles too, we are lead to think we know what is going on. The laptops, the notepads, the World Wide Web, Google, all enable us to dig into and be buried under a sea of information, research, surveys, and prognostications from people who are paid to know. So they pass it on and inform us. We read all this ‘stuff’ and then believe we have an informed opinion and know what next to do.


Do we really need this ocean information when it comes to the dying and death of a loved one or ourselves?


The first answer that came up off the top of my head was yes and I am sure your initial answer was yes too. Yet under closer review I am now leaning more towards the no.

Here is why.

I have watched my brother and family closely over the past years as Peter has walked along his path with cancer. I have watched myself too. I have noticed how as the cancer came and went, came and went, and came yet again the information overload increased. The longer the fight, the more information, the more research, the more informed guessing – and for a while it did make some sense.

The longer the battle the more the data seemed to mean less and yet get more in the way. The more we began to put the numbers and the research in front of what we all knew on some deeper level was really going on the more unreal it all became. It was glaringly apparent on the 15th floor of Vancouver General Hospital during the summer of 2015.

“Well the Germans have been doing this stem cell transplant treatment for years with good success.” said Mom.

‘Well the numbers are doing what every one said they would, nothing to worry about.” said Peter.

We all seemed to get in the habit of reviewing the numbers posted on the white board in Peter’s room and in our own way put them in front of facing Peter. This should happen, this could happen, don’t be surprised if this does happen. It seemed all the information, all the success reports, all the research details began to blind us – we were putting our faith in what we read not so much what we felt. It makes sense given the alternative – none of us want to drop into the discomfort of reality.

Despite the numbers and the information my own intuition was singing a different tune. I had this deep intuitive feeling Peter wasn’t going to make it, the end of the road was much closer than any of us wanted to accept. So I did my best to compete with the data, the information and the reliance we were all placing on it and I brought of the topic of the treatment not working and what then. Well then up came the very data we had all been looking at, the success rates and all the rest.

Now, several months later, it looks like the cancer has returned with a vengeance. Perhaps now is the time to put the numbers behind us, and deal with the reality of what is in front of us.

Finding the balance in dying and death as well as in life – On a need to know basis.

Warmly and with gratitude

Stephen Doug Flutie Jersey

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Holier Than Thou? – Nope, ALL Paths Take You Home.

It is easy to make the assumption that because we are on a “spiritual” path we have some sort of upper hand on those we judge not to be on a spiritual path at all. It is a type of “spiritual elitism” that causes more trouble than you might first imagine for both the “spiritually elite” and those they judge.

And yes I have been there. I was one of those “spiritually elite” folks who carried subtle and sometimes not so subtle judgments about others who look like they are not behaving in a spiritual way or living a spiritual life. I mean after all look at my seeking, my practice, my writing, my spiritual travel – Peru, Costa Rica, Hawaii, India, Mexico, Egypt, Africa – God I must be just a shade better than those boneheads who party all weekend.

I have to be, otherwise what was the point of all my spiritual efforting?

Well isn’t that the million dollar question!

I spent sometime in a sacred ceremony not too long ago and this was the very nature of my contemplation, though I must admit I came at it a bit sideways. We were in a beautiful yurt out in the country, by a creek and quite secluded. We were about half way through the ceremony when I chose to go outside and sit amongst the trees, near the creek and just be alone and still.

Shortly after getting comfortable, finding the right tree to lean against at the right spot in the creek I heard the sounds of an all night party cascading down the hill right into my silence. I was so pissed off! Those damn party animals they are so unaware, so lacking in consciousness – doing drugs and drinking and chasing gals all over the place it sounded like to me.

Well I have this relationship with God – I call her Grandmother and we often chat. She loves me deeply and is often a shade on the demanding side! Well she could not resist my ignorant ileteism that I was doing my best to disguise as being spiritual.

“Honey,” She said to me, “They are just like you – humans doing their best to make sense of their life. They will find their way home to me just as you will and in their own unique way in their own time just like you.”

Well my spiritual little ego didn’t like hearing that so I began to wrestle with Grandmother over this point. She was unrelenting and gave no quarter. Each and everyone one of us are doing our very best to make sense out of the life we are living with the cards we have been dealt. I fought her for what seemed like hours, I so wanted to be spiritually special. My ego was no match for Grandmother. I collapsed into a bawling lump face down on the ground in recognition of how ‘right’ Grandmother was.

I surrendered to Her Wisdom and realized how I am just an ordinary guy doing my ordinary life in my ordinary way.

No matter what my little spiritual ego thought this is how it actually is – we will all find our way ‘home’ one way or another and who am I to judge?


Warmly and with gratitude



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Death a Real Life Community Development Opportunity

We have Block Watch, Crime Stoppers, MADD, all kinds of community efforts to make positive changes and they are effective! So, why not death as a community development opportunity? Why couldn’t we get our neighborhoods all ready to go? Why couldn’t we teach each other how to support our neighbors who are going through a dying and death process? Why couldn’t we use death to bring us all closer together?

Well progress regarding end of life preparation is taking place and it could be in a community near you!

A Real Life example.

Prince Rupert, BC population 12,508 and likely 20,000 including the surrounding areas is well on the way to getting their community end of life ready with their recently passed Community Initiative 75 – 20. By the year 2020 Prince Rupert intends to have 75% of their adults end of life prepared which means folks there will have their representation agreement, advanced care directives, and wills complete and ready to go. Quite an intention indeed, and mayor and council will be doing theirs first!

Here is a link to a column recently published in The Northern View that speaks about this unique community project;

and an excerpt to whet your appetite.

“It means that you get the type of care that you would like at the end of your life if you are not able to communicate yourself because of an accident or a medical condition. It also means that your family and loved ones know what your desires are and it is much better to have spoken about it before you are in a hospital in a crisis situation. It also means that our medical system can best take care of people – they have a protocol they will follow because they are interested in people and what they want,” said Riddell.

“A lot of resources are invested during the last few months of people’s lives and perhaps that is not necessary. The baby-boomer population is aging and over the next 20 years we will be putting a lot of demand on our already stretched healthcare system and that is why it is important to look at being end-of-life prepared.”

Sanchez said having a plan for end-of-life care is important not only for the person facing death, but for their loved ones as well.

“Make sure you get your family together and get this done because I have seen too many times where families fight about this care,” she said.

This all came about several months ago when several of us gathered at a local coffee shop in Prince Rupert. I simply asked the question, “What would have to happen to get your community end of life ready in 5 years?” The five of us gathered around the table simply answered the question and off the project went. I asked Mayor Brian Lee at the local Rotary Club meeting if he would be willing to get his paperwork together publicly so the people he governs could understand how very important this preparatory works is. He said yes, Judy Riddell the Hospice Chair made a presentation to Mayor and Council and the rest is history!

With health budgets tight and getting tighter, medical staff ageing and at a premium, the death rate rising to almost double current rates, and the population ageing bring with it even more complex health needs, we are facing a potential crisis when it comes to dying well.

It is of the utmost importance that we as adults all get our ‘shit’ together when it comes to end of life preparation.

  • Who will talk for you legally about your health care needs if you cannot, who is your medical representative?
  • What do you want and not want from the medical system?
  • Does a loved one have enduring power of attorney in order that your financial affaires be well handled?
  • Have you a current and accurate will?

Here is a link to some kits I created to help people get all this important paperwork complete and more to have those important conversations with your family so each and everyone is on the same end of life page with you.

Here is a link to the All Ready to Go kit.

So don’t delay get you and your family, neighborhood, and community All Ready to Go!

Warmly and with gratitude

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Healthcare IS Changing from the Top Down – Are We Ready at Home?

Ontario released its budget last week and of course it includes health care. Here are the highlights.

“Health care in Ontario

The spending plan holds health care to an increase of just 1.2 per cent this year, even as costs and population will grow far faster. The government will achieve much of this by freezing base operating funding to hospitals, forcing them to make cuts. The province is also hoping to save money through a tough contract with doctors. It imposed a cut to their fees earlier this year.

One of the few areas in health care receiving more funds is home care. The government’s long-term plan is to effectively move chronic patients out of hospital and have them remain at home.”

All this going on just in front of the tidal wave of death the ageing baby boomers will be bringing us – an increase of close to 75%.

Are we ready to die better at home?

Whether we are or not it is coming to a health region near you.  Have we a mobile care system that can support family care givers who are being downloaded to?  Have we educated our ‘people’ regarding dying and death care?  What are the healthy alternatives to death in a hospital or hospice?  Do we know how to take care of ourselves along with the loved one who is dying?

Many of us, 90%, want to, so let’s get ready and inform and educate individuals and families about how we as communities can support each other in dying better at home. There are alternatives so let’s talk about them, and let’s do it publicly!

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Addictions Die Too! – Grief and Loss has A Necessary Place in Recovery.

Having spent time in the worlds of addictions and of dying and death I have recognized they have something in common – something died! And yes there is a difference. One is the end of a loved one’s life – the other is the end of a comfortable friend-like habit. They both once existed and then they didn’t.

Well, most addicts will tell you their addiction was their best friend in a way, so when the addiction ‘dies’ it is much like losing a best friend. In fact it can feel like a type of death, a profound loss, emptiness, an ache – Similar, yet different to the death of a loved one. The letting go process and the walk with grief is common.

There are many reasons for relapse for sure, yet one we generally do not look at is the lack of ‘burial’ of the addiction. We do not often create a good-bye ritual for the addicts ‘best friend’. Along with this missing step is the lack of recognition that they may be grieving of the loss. Others especially family, friends, recovery workers, and therapists see it as a good thing, and miss the fact the addict has suffered a loss. We see the ‘death’ of the addiction as a positive step forward for our family member or friend and fail to equate it as a loss for the one in recovery.

When you get into the being-ness of the addict you will discovery there are multiple losses when they stop practicing their addiction. The act of drinking or drugging, their favorite place to drink or fix, the friends they used with, the memories both good and bad all of these are losses, and there are many more.   Then there is time – the time they spent with their habit. That space is now empty and ‘dying’ to be filled.

Without formal acknowledgement of the ‘death’ the grief process will be suspended and even more unexpressed emotions will be added to the already large store of latent emotions most addicts are carrying. These very emotions are often the trigger for relapse – self-medication, and adding more to the stockpile brings about the urge to use again – To escape from the unrelenting press of these disturbing feelings

We could do it differently!

We could acknowledge the end of the habit, the broken addiction the ‘death’ of it. We could create a ritual or ceremony that would in the manifest world demonstrate the ‘death’ by a burial or a burning of some sort. We could help the one letting go of the addiction fully grieve the loss and say good-bye well. Then the celebration of one month clean, one year clean and then a decade.

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Holding Sacred Space – “Being” there for Individuals and Families

Holding space is one of those new aged spiritual phrases that are tossed around like we all know what they mean. Many of us nod our heads in agreement, “Yep holding space is quite something.” Well what does it mean and how do we hold space for dying and death that dignifies the one who is walking hand in hand with death?

What a great question!

Perhaps some of this could form a piece of the answer.

In the role of a mentor, facilitator, coach, or guide you are creating space by offering compassionate, judgment free support and direction. It can also mean walking beside another person or persons on their journey with death without criticizing them, trying to fix them, or getting them to your preferred outcome.

“Holding space for others is a function of an open heart demonstrated by the offering of our full support while letting go of our own judgment and control.”

And it is not easy!

We have very human tendencies and a kindness to want to fix people’s situations, make it better, and to give them great advice. The darker side of this is we will subtly judge them for not doing it right or for not being further along the path than they are. We as guides, coaches, mentors, or facilitators must be prepared to get out of their way by empowering those we are serving to make their own decisions. Sometimes we simply offer love and support, other times we give a little advice or a gentle hand up when they stumble.

“Holding sacred space for those walking with death is an art form. When we do it well the people we are holding the space for will grow and transform, actually thriving through grief.”

Here are some practical tips to put into use when you are holding sacred space for others.

Get your own ego out of the way.  What this means to me is setting our own agenda aside, paying attention to those we are holding space for and helping them discover their own agenda that will be different than ours.

Empower the folks you are serving by helping them make their own choices.  What this looks like to me is asking questions more than providing answers. Helping them explore their own thoughts and looking for their own solutions. Part of this is encouraging people to discover and trust their intuition and internal wisdom.

Give people information in bite-sized piece, only as much as they can handle in one bite. Too much information can and will confuse people especially those who are also dealing with their internal emotions. When emotions are running high it is very important to slow down the information flow as their mind is preoccupied with making sense of their feelings and they have little bandwidth for new data. You will find the very information you want to get across to them so they can make the best possible decision they can actually paralyzes them and no decision will be made.

Let them know that making mistakes is normal and natural. When you do this well they will then feel safe enough to fail. This freedom usually results in them relaxing and then making even better decisions.

When you do give guidance and help do so thoughtfully and humbly. Remember a couple of things here; everyone is doing their best; and you just like them have your own experience, intuition and wisdom – yours in no more ‘wise’ than theirs.

Make their complex emotions, fears, and thoughts welcome in your space.  What this means to me is accept where everyone is at. You don’t need answers, in fact often the right questions are more important.

Finally and likely most importantly know that they will likely make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would. Be totally okay with this.


Holding sacred space is not something you will master overnight. Any master, a painter, musician, athlete, author, or barista will tell you it takes thousands of hours of practice to master a skill set. Holding sacred space for people experiencing the dying process is a complex practice that evolves each time we walk along the death path with an individual or family. This practice or art form is unique to each and every person.

Warmly and with gratitude

Stephen Nick Castellanos Womens Jersey

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