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What’s on Your Bucket List?

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A friend of mine sustained a head injury a little while ago. He went to sleep that night and has not regained consciousness since. In my mind I cannot reconcile how he could have been alive and well one day, and comatose the next. I send him distance healing energy every night and wait every day to hear news from his family. It has really brought to the forefront for me, how precious, and sometimes short, this beautiful life can be. I wonder if there were still a lot of things he wanted to do. And I wonder if he will have the opportunity to do them, or if that chance has passed him by now. It has made me question whether I am allowing my dreams to slip away for the sake of safety and security, by working at a full-time job that does not feed my soul, but pays the bills.

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I am also reminded daily about the false promises of the “safe and secure” job, when I observe how my youngest daughter lives her life. She has had a bucket list for years. I think at last count there were hundreds of things on it. As she bravely and boldly accomplishes each thing, she crosses it off the list. And then adds another dream to the list, in its place. A few weekends ago she ran a half marathon…a dream that had been on her list for a long time. And this, despite having chronic pain from injuries sustained in a bad car accident several years ago. She is an example of living life in joy. I sat on the sidelines at home and cheered her on virtually, through the miracle of technology.

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I seem to have no problem cheering others on as they seek and fulfill their dreams. I wonder what hampers me from doing the same for myself. What keeps me on the sidelines of my own life? It’s as if I’ve sacrificed making a life, for making a living. Even though they can be one and the same, for me right now, they are not. I realized that I have been in a holding pattern, waiting for external appreciation and consideration, when the truth is, I need to give those things to myself. A Course in Miracles says, “Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.“ (T-17.VII.4-1) A new moon in Virgo, and new beginnings. Time to make a bucket list, and put myself and my dreams right at the top! I’ve got a fresh new journal just waiting for me!! I’m wondering what would be on your bucket list, if you had one.

No Matter the Question, Love is the Answer

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I had the absolute privilege of performing a pagan wedding ceremony yesterday for a beautiful couple. There is something so precious and life-affirming about celebrating love. Unlike some of the other things that I “do” in my life, when I am creating and holding space in ceremony, I can feel my whole self just “being”. The bride was exquisite, and the groom was adorable in his anticipation of seeing the woman of his dreams join him at the altar. The love was palpable in the air. Not just between the couple getting married, but with everyone who was witnessing the ceremony as well. I am feeling so blessed to have been a part of this couple’s special day. To have had a glimpse into, and a reminder of, the power of love.

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There is so much going on in the world right now that would indicate that as a species, we are determined to annihilate ourselves. The media is filled with stories of hatred, and fear. There are days when I have more questions than answers. Sometimes it can be really difficult to find a kernel of hope, or a space of sanctuary from the insanity. And then, in a gazebo, in a park, in a town that barely makes it onto a map, 2 people brought the highest of themselves together to remind us of the truth about life. For 30 minutes, one pin point on the planet was transformed by love. And then the impact of that 30 minutes rippled out into the wider world; via the bride’s laughter echoing through the trees in the park as pictures were being taken, through the smiles on the peoples’ faces in the park who got to witness the ceremony because they just happened to be in the park that day, by the joy that I got to carry into my world as a result of having been part of such a momentous occasion. And the ripples just keep expanding.

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I am so grateful to have been reminded that regardless of what is going on in the world at large, each of us can bring our own light and our own love into our tiny part of it. That what my seem small in the grand scheme of things, is actually huge in all the ways that matter. And that no matter what questions I may have about the future of our planet, love is the answer.

Shining Your Light

Sometimes life’s greatest lessons come from what appear to be the most unlikely of sources.

Yesterday, I had the honour and privilege of taking part in a celebration of life for an incredible, majestic, Paint gelding horse named Romeo. Romeo lived life large in every way, and impacted the lives of people all over the world. He was an equine guide, a master of humour in the barn he called home, and a force to be reckoned with. If you lacked boundaries, Romeo would keep taking up your space, until you could ground yourself and claim it. If you were taking yourself, or life, too seriously, Romeo would toss his huge head up and down, flashing his enormous teeth as his gums flapped about in the breeze. Kind of like Mr. Ed the Talking Horse, in that old television show from the early ‘60s! If you were out of your body, or not fully present in the moment, Romeo was not averse to giving you a nip every now and again! Not in a malicious way, but the strength of the nip depended on how far out into the twilight zone you were. And if you needed to be reminded of the breath-taking beauty of strength, power, and grace in motion, all you had to do was watch Romeo running free in his pasture.

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Romeo was only 16 years old. What should have been the prime of his life; but the Universe had other plans. Like many beings that leave the planet early, it was as if his soul knew that he would only be here for a short time. So, he packed a full life-time’s worth of living and light into one short brilliant 16 year burst. His human shared how Romeo greeted every single day as if it was the greatest thing that had ever happened. I’m trying to imagine how different my life would be, if I greeted every day that way too.

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We all have the same light that Romeo shared with the world. Sometimes it gets buried, or dulled by worldly circumstances. But remembering that light, and shining it, is just one choice away in every moment. Thank you Romeo for the incredible being of light that you were. I will never forget you. Thank you also for the reminder to shine my light everywhere. I know that the world will be a better place each time I make the choice to do so.

Road Trip with My Dad

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This is going to be a long post, so please make yourself comfortable and settle in for a bit 🙂

Just over a week ago I took a road trip with my Dad. It wasn’t your typical road trip, because my Dad was with me in spirit rather than in person. I lost him to suicide when I was 18, and our journey the Friday before last was planned as a spiritual foray into forgiveness. It was a way to immerse myself in our common loves, to remember the good things and explore the learnings/messages from the so-called “bad things”. I wrote out a list of the bad things the day before the road trip with the intention to burn it in a ceremony of release, at some point during the trip.

I wanted it to be a road trip, because my Dad was the one who taught me my love of cars! The trip began with me stopping at a gas station to get a pop (Cream Soda) and a bag of chips (my favourite Bar-B-Q flavour was not available, so I chose All-Dressed instead). This was how we started every road trip with my Dad when we were kids. Pop and chips were a special treat. Probably designed to keep us quiet for several minutes, but it was a treat, none the less! And there had to be music on this road trip, because I inherited my deep love of music from my Dad. The sound track for our trip was the incredibly gifted Denise Hagan’s “For Those Who Hear” album. I decided to head to the lake at Harrison Hot Springs, because so many of my happy childhood memories with my Dad took place around water. Other than that, I didn’t really have a plan for the day. I did my best to let Spirit guide me.

The road conditions were not great. The rain turned to wet snow fairly quickly. Normally I would have been afraid to drive on some of the winding roads and steeper passes in my car in that weather, but I felt held and guided all day…not only by my Dad, but by a whole realm of support in the unseen world. When I got to the lake at Harrison, I walked out on a long dock there, pausing for quite a while to admire the beauty of nature and feel the incredible gratitude I have for the gift of my life. I could imagine my Dad fishing off that dock 🙂

Peering into the clear water, I could see the rippled sandy bottom of the lake. It reminded me of our summer family vacations at Wasaga Beach, in Ontario. And then I remembered how my dad taught my brothers and me how to skip stones across the surface of the water at that beach. There was an art to achieving the exact angle at which to hold your body, the precise way you held the stone in your hand, the concentrated way you held your tongue clenched between your teeth and lips, the honed position of your hand and wrist as you launched the stone. The stone skipping practice held all the presence and skill of Jedi training! The water also had to play its part in the game by remaining fairly calm. Part of the thrill was the search for the perfect skipper stones; round and flat, with a bit of weight to them. And then, the excitement of counting whose stone skipped the highest number of times across the water before it sank from view. I don’t recall ever winning one of those contests. But winning really wasn’t the purpose of the game. Being let in to a part of my Dad’s world, and learning from him was the prize. He had such a unique way of being totally present with whatever he was doing. I looked for a skipper stone at Harrison Lake, but couldn’t find one. I then stopped into a couple of stores to see if I could find a memento of our trip, but I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me there either, so I started the trip home. The whole day I could feel myself searching for something that felt like it was eluding me. I often “hear” messages from Spirit, but there was radio silence up to that point in the journey.

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On the drive home I was guided to turn off the main highway onto a side road at Harrison Mills. The road eventually came to a one lane wooden bridge that crossed over the Chehalis River. I pulled my car off to the side of the road after the bridge, and started to climb down the embankment below the bridge toward the river. I could hear the roar of the water before I actually saw it. It was moving with incredible speed and power. For safety’s sake I was keeping an eye on the ground beneath my feet during my descent. And as if by magic…there was the “something” I’d been searching for. A skipper stone: not a perfect skipper stone, but its colour, shape, and design drew me in. I loved the greenish colour encircling the white centre. So many metaphysical meanings for that. The most important meaning for me was that it felt like the love of my Dad encircling the light of me. This was the perfect place to burn my list of the things I wanted to release. As soon as the list was burned, I picked up my new skipper stone, put it in my pocket, and headed down to the bank of the river. As I was watching the river careen wildly and boldly on its course, the message from my Dad came through loud and clear…”Don’t look back. That’s not where you’re heading. Face forward, surrender to the course of your life, and let Spirit carry you.” Thank you Dad for your love, your wisdom, and your grace…I hear you and I’m breathing your message in.

After I returned home, I started to see that my road trip journey of forgiveness around the devastating loss of my Dad had morphed into more of a journey of self-forgiveness. I thought I had healed most of the wounds around losing my Dad, but I was mistaken. When someone leaves your life by suicide, they leave behind a convoluted web of unanswerable questions. The biggest strand in the web is the question, “Why?” Followed closely by meandering and tangled strands of, “What Ifs?” The death of a loved one is often incredibly difficult. But when that loved one unexpectedly makes the choice to end their own life, there’s a part of the human psyche that desperately and incessantly tries to make sense of something that defies logic. In the case of my Dad, I came to an understanding of some of the “Whys” over the years. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t completely let go of the “What Ifs”. Some of the “Shoulds” that comprised the “What Ifs” were still alive and active in the young girl part of me who would have done anything to have just one more day with her Dad. These are some of the “Shoulds” that the young girl in me was holding on to: I should have been a better daughter and not left home so young, I should have visited my Dad more often, I should have been the one to find my Dad’s body so that I could have protected my brother from that indelible memory haunting his life.

In the aftermath of the road trip with my Dad and his message to me to surrender and not look back, I am beginning to release more of the “Whys, What Ifs, and Shoulds”. The bottom line is that my Dad made a decision that didn’t have anything to do with anyone else. From the black pit of his spiral into clinical depression, his view of the world, and his ability to see his incredible importance in it, were both severely limited. He forgot that his life had meaning and purpose, and that he was so loved. He forgot that there can be hope in all situations. And even with the above knowledge and understanding, my heart still wishes that he had been there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, that he had met my daughters, and that they had been able feel the incredible unconditional love and kindness that I felt from him. And I’m okay with feeling what my heart needs to feel, for as long as it needs to feel it.

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This post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to all who have experienced the suicide of a loved one. I carried you with me in my heart on the road trip. We are part of a club that no one willingly seeks membership in. And yet here we are, doing our best to carry on, and learn from and live a meaningful life in the aftermath of unspeakable pain. Thank you for being a part of my tribe. Thanks for accompanying me on this healing journey.

And I especially want to reach out to anyone who has, or is, contemplating suicide. Please stay with us if you can. There are only a few things in this life that I can say I know for sure. One is that even though it may be hard for you to believe right now, I hope you can hear my heart speak when I say to you that you matter. Your life has touched more lives than you will ever know, and you would be missed so much, by so many people, if you decided to leave. There is hope. Please reach out for help in whatever way you can. Talk to a counsellor, a friend, or someone else you feel you can trust. If you are in immediate crisis, this link will take you to crisis resources in Canada and worldwide:

https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/crisis-centres/

My healing journey is a work in progress, and I am still receiving messages from the road trip with my Dad. I am very proud to be my Father’s daughter, and I miss his physical presence with every fibre of my being, every day. I am very grateful to have his spirit, and your presence, on this healing journey with me.

Much love,

Denise, xo

Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary

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As I embark on this new phase of my life, where I am working with others to help them celebrate the milestones in their lives, I have more questions than answers. The higher part of me thinks that’s a good thing! The human part of me has a different opinion  I can now add the title “Reverend” before my name, and yet I hesitate to do so. For me, that title is steeped in experiences of judgement, exclusion, and oppression. I may be wrong, but I suspect I may not be alone in those experiences.

The child part of me who felt incongruence in organized religion wants to dismiss all things “religious”. And yet the higher part of me continues to search for and craft a religion of my own. A way of being in life that celebrates the sacred in the ordinary, and is inclusive of all peoples. A way of embracing “Reverend” that feels right in my heart. In my search I came across this quote from Ganga White that speaks to my soul. I hope it speaks to yours too.

“What if our religion was each other? If our practice was our life? If prayer, our words? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and oceans? What if meditation was our relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was self-knowledge? If love was the center of our being?”

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What if?

My search for ways to celebrate the sacred in the ordinary continues. Thanks for being with me on the journey.

A Prayer to the Great Mother

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Goddess, Mother of us all, hear my call.

As I begin to rise up out of the ashes of my former life,

lead me to where I can serve you best.

If my steps falter on this new path,

touch my heart that I may remember of whom I’m born.

If friends fall away, bless us in the parting and lead me on.

If fear should cloud my vision,

please clear it with your love.

If I feel alone,

remind me of the legions of women who came before me,

that are holding me up.

Remind me of my sisters hand in hand around the globe,

who are rising up with me.

A new day is dawning.

Goddess, Mother of us all, hear my call.

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Remembering What Matters

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On the eve of a new/super moon, solar eclipse I feel moved to write about remembering what’s important in life. With all that’s going on in the cosmos right now, my body and my energy has slowed right down. It feels a bit like a forced respite. The Universe’s way of saying, “Stop and take a breath. Matter of fact, take several deep breaths, all in a row!” For the last several weeks I’ve felt a bit like I’m moving in slow motion under water. If you’ve ever had a traumatic experience, where you’re pulled out of time as we know it, and catapulted into an alternate sense of reality, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s as if you’re watching your life as an interested observer, removed from your body, and everything is happening in slow motion.

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I guess in many ways, the world we live in is undergoing many traumatic experiences right now. As an empathic person, it can be a challenge to turn off the angst of the world. Remembering to hold and shine my light sometimes falls by the wayside when the going gets tough. Luckily for me, I had the honour of babysitting my 18-month-old grandson this past weekend. As always, he taught me about what matters. Watching him navigate his world and the relationships he has with the people he loves, and who love him in return, touched my heart. When he’s hungry he asks to eat. When he watches his favourite show Paw Patrol he is completely engaged. He only speaks a couple of words right now, but he speaks them with feeling, and gusto, and volume when he’s really excited! Everything he does, he puts his whole heart and soul into.

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There is no holding back for him, waiting for a better time to love, or eat, or engage with the world. He is truly here now, in every sense of the word. He shines his light because that is who he is. It’s not conditional. He is 100 percent present in every moment. He is love personified. I consider myself lovingly schooled by an 18-month-old mini master! Thanks for being my teacher once again baby Lucian. Grandma loves you more than words can say. Thanks for holding the light for me, so that I could remember my own.

Beauty in the Breakdown

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For those who read my blog post last week, I wanted to let you know that I’m still wandering in the wilderness of my mind. The scenery is not unpleasant here, just a bit repetitive, and at times boring. It’s familiar, and if I am to be honest, there’s a sense of safety in the familiarity. As much as I seek a new direction, and to have the path illuminated before me, I feel like I continue to be lost in the forest looking for the trees. That’s a familiar defence from childhood. If what’s in front of me was too scary to look at, then I allowed confusion to muddy the waters enough that nothing was visible. The child part inside of me is afraid to take the road less travelled at the moment.

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I remember being in this state several years ago. I had been involved in a car accident, and among other injuries, the impact of the accident scrambled my brain. I had a counselling practice at the time that I ended up closing. After the accident I couldn’t remember what my client had told me from one appointment to the next, and it didn’t feel ethical to continue to see clients in that state of mind. As I sat at home day after day, I started to lose my perspective and I forgot who I was. I called a dear friend one night when I was in the middle of an emotional meltdown. I said to her, “I’ve forgotten who I am. Can you remind me?” And as only a dear soul friend can do, she very lovingly and patiently affirmed all the incredible parts that make up the unique soul incarnation known in this lifetime as Denise Cunningham.

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So it’s no surprise to me that as I’m wandering in this mind wilderness again, I get a message from this same dear soul friend today, asking if I’d like to meet for dinner tonight! We live quite a distance apart, but as synchronicity would have it, she’s in town for a few days. I feel such joy at the thought of reconnecting in person with someone who sees my soul, as I see hers; in hearing about her life and supporting her on her path, as she supports me. There is such comfort in being held energetically in your absolute perfection by another. And in returning that gift. To receive confirmation that all parts of us are okay…not just the bright shiny parts. Today I remember that there is beauty in the breakdown. The old needs to fall away in order to make room for the new. Sending love to all who are also in the forest of the unknown. Even though it’s not always comfortable here, it really is an incredible journey and I’m honoured that you’re on it with me.

Winning the Lottery of Life

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A warm hello from the other side.  I’m not quite sure from the other side of what. All I know is that I’ve been absent for quite a while, feeling a bit lost on the roller coaster ride of life. When I’m in that space I tend to retreat, and try to make sense of the world, and perhaps that is the very time I need to be reaching out and connecting with all of you from the mess. From the place of the unknown. Maybe, just maybe, you’re in that place too and would like to feel like you’re not alone. Or maybe you’ve reached the other side of that space, and hearing about how someone else is navigating it will be a reminder to you of how far you’ve come.

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I got a bit of clarity on my drive to work the other day. I have a dear friend who buys lottery tickets often. We’ve had some great conversations about what she’ll do with the money when she wins! As I was driving I started to ask myself what I would do with my days if a big pile of money landed in my lap, and finances were no longer a barrier to living my heart’s desire. What would I do with my time/life? As I ran down the litany of things I am currently doing, and the things I have contemplated doing, I got a “no” to each of them. This left me a bit perplexed. Sitting in that place of the unknown, and allowing the comforting ritual of driving to envelop me, slowly from the depths of me the following bubbled up to the surface, “Oh my God, I’d go away some place tranquil and write.” I would spend my days, and late into the nights that sometimes stretched into early mornings, being immersed in, and dancing with the magic of words. Trying, as every writer before me has tried, to touch the soul of another. To reach beyond the surface, and the ordinary, and the mundane, into the ground of our being and to the bigger truths of life.

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And then I had to ask myself the question, “Why am I not doing something that feeds my soul and brings me joy every day?” I don’t need to go somewhere else to write. I can create a space of tranquility right where I am. I don’t need to have a pile of money to write. I can make a commitment to myself to honour my soul and write. And so, to honour my commitment to myself (and to a dear soul sister who has agreed to be my accountability partner) I am recommitting myself to writing in my blog every week. I have no idea what I’ll write about. All I know for sure is that I need to write. Then I will feel like I’ve won the lottery, because I will be doing something that brings me absolute joy. If you could do anything, and money wasn’t an object, what would you be doing? Can you bring a little bit of whatever that is into your life right now? What brings you absolute joy? I’d love to know.

Rise and Shine Sister!

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Who are you really? That’s the question that has been rising up into my awareness for the past several weeks. And no matter how much I attempt to set it aside, with the intention of finding a more convenient time to ponder it, the question won’t leave me alone. It’s kind of like a pesky mosquito that finds its way into your bedroom, after all the lights are out at night. You try to swat at it in the dark, or cover your head with the sheets, but eventually there comes a point where you have to get up, turn on the light, and deal with it!

So here’s my preliminary attempt at dealing with it. At surrendering to the shift of consciousness that is taking place within me and within the world. I say “the world” because this feels like it’s a part of me, and yet it’s so much bigger than me.

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If I look back, I can see that the Universe has been planting seeds of this shift in me for a while now. It began in earnest about 3 years ago when a DVD found me in a second hand store. The theme of the movie was the Divine Feminine, and I must have watched it at least 30 times after I brought it home. My fascination with it spurred me on to do tons of research into the feminine aspect of everything: women, men, the planet, religion, and God…to name a few. I wrote and gave a speech called, “Divine Alchemy: the Dance of the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine”. And I have come to believe with every fibre of my being, that our future depends on our ability to bring the feminine back into balance with the masculine. First, by cultivating that balance within ourselves, and then bringing that balance into the world. As within, so without.

Those of you who know me well, know that my approach to bringing this balance into the world is not one of confrontation or power over. But rather one of collaboration and power with. To affect this shift, I think that we need to tap into our feminine heart to feel what needs to be done, stand solidly in our grace and power, and then call on our masculine head to implement a plan.

 

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What’s being called forth from me now (by that pesky mosquito, lol :)) is to work with women to help them deeply remember their magnificence, and embrace their uniqueness, their power, and their special gifts. To that end, I’m hosting a 7 week online course for women that begins Feb 15/18. I had originally called it “New Year-New You!” but I’ve found that title doesn’t really reflect the deep shift in all of us, or the content that I now want to deliver. It’s not about a “new” us, but rather about the “real” us coming forward. So, I’ve renamed it “Rise and Shine Sister!” Because I believe that’s what we’re collectively being called to do. The time is now. The world is waiting for us now. It’s time to move beyond the fear, the doubt, and our past conditioning. To remember the Truth of who we all are. To rise up and stand in our full power. To let that beautiful feminine power shine everywhere in our lives. To then join with conscious men and bring balance to our planet. I know without a shadow of a doubt that we can do this. Will you join me? Let’s shift the consciousness of the planet together.

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You can sign up for the course on my website here: Workshop Registration