Category Archives: Photography

The Seven Grandfathers Teachings

Lago Titicaca - According to ancient cultures, it is the birthplace of the sun.

Lago Titicaca – According to ancient South American cultures, it is the birthplace of the sun.

In honour of National Aboriginal Day in Canada on Wednesday, June 21, I am sharing the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers. This traditional story, given to our First Nations early in their history, applies to all people in all times.

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The Creator gave seven Grandfathers, who were very powerful spirits, the responsibility to watch over the people. The Grandfathers saw that people were living a hard life. They sent a helper out to spend time amongst the people and find a person who could be taught how to live in harmony with Creation.

Their helper went to the four directions to find a person worthy enough to bring to the Grandfathers. He came across a child, and he tutored the child in the “Good Way of Life.” Each of the Seven Grandfathers gave to the child a principle.

Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom.

Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only “wisdom,” but also means “prudence,” or “intelligence” or “knowledge.”

Love: To know Love is to know Peace.

Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. This form of love is mutual .

Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect.

All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected.

Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity.

This means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant.

 Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave.

Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others.

Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation.

This can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better.

Truth: Truth is to know all of these things.

Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

 

 

 

The biology of story: Pick up, listen, restore

I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.

Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”? 

At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.

Buchbinder’s documentary, found at www.biologyofstory.com, outlines three principles.

1. A story is a living thing

“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair

If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.

Watch: Stories are living beings. Period

2. Living is a story thing.

“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso

Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?

Watch: Listen and your story will speak to you.

3. Not all narratives are stories.

“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger

Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”

Watch: Stories are about wholeness

Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.

I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore. 

The laying on of hands: A touch of love, power, blessing

“Every moment is a starting point.” —Etienne LeSage

On the weekend, I attended the ordination and commissioning of two friends of mine into the United Church of Canada. The ceremony touched me deeply, and since then I’ve pondered what to write about it.

So many aspects of the event filled our emotional wells to overflowing. We cried happy tears.

The two people involved are both joyful givers; they embrace all people, work for justice, don’t sit in judgment of others, and allow and encourage questions. Love envelopes them; their parents, spouses, siblings, friends, children and other supporters glowed with it. The two people possess the perseverance and the indefinable “something more” that propels them into the challenging work of ministry.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Dunmall https://www.flickr.com/photos/llamnuds/

Photo courtesy of Shaun Dunmall
https://www.flickr.com/photos/llamnuds/

In the end, though, I kept coming back to the laying on of hands.

Those unfamiliar with the practice, or those who have never been on the receiving end of it, might see it as an empty ritual, or even as a showy bit of hocus-pocus. But the ancient tradition of laying on hands is a powerful experience for both giver and receiver. It recognizes the potency of human touch. Like a comforting squeeze on the shoulder of someone bent over in grief, like a cool touch to hot brow, like a gentle nudge to the back of someone who hesitates—hands have the potential to soothe, heal or empower.

After the ceremony, one of the two people, Mark, told me that he felt the love flowing to him from hands placed on him by his parents, spouse, family and friends. But when he felt the touch of his daughter and his toddler son, his heart burst—the power of children blessing a father.

I lay hands on my friend, Etienne, as he was blessed and ordained. I was a member of his discernment committee, and I walked with him—metaphorically speaking—on his path to ministry. When I lay my hands on him, it was a conduction of love, power and blessing.

I sent him love, because the tremendous amount of love I had for him grew even stronger during the psyche-testing process of discernment.

I sent him power for his journey, because the path he has chosen (or that was chosen for him?) is not an easy one. He begins ministry in the face of assumptions about Christianity that just don’t apply to him. He’s funny and open, not sombre and judgemental. He knows that love is the foundation of a strong and healthy marriage, not gender. He sees the soul in people, no matter what race, ethnicity, religion or shape the body that carries it around, so he excludes no one.

I sent him my blessing of courage and compassion to face it with strength for the highest good of all.

Both people, in their individual ways, had to overcome big difficulties to arrive at the day. They both chose to take the road less travelled, and it is one that is fraught with challenges.

They both know that their lives, in so many ways, would be so much easier if they were taking the well-trodden path. Now that they have been sent forth with the love, power and blessing of the touch of those who love them, they might just make it.

One corner left open to represent open minds.

The Trinity United Church cross, designed by Rev. Dr. Glen Stoudt. One corner left open to represent open minds. http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/

 

 

 

2 secrets to lasting relationships: Kindness and generosity

shared-joyEver wonder why some relationships stick and others peel away? Scientific research might have some insights into this.

An article by Emily Esfahani Smith published in The Atlantic and Business Insider outlined the research of John Gottman and Robert Levenson at “The Love Lab” at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson watched newlyweds interact with each other and then checked in with them six years later to see where the relationships ended up.

Gottman and Levenson divided the pairs into two groups: masters and disasters. After six years, the masters still maintained stable relationships but the disasters were separated, divorced or struggling.

When observing the two groups, Gottman and Levenson noted the physiological responses. The disaster couples’ hearts beat quickly and their sweat glands activated, but the masters stayed calm. They affectionately behaved kindly to one another, even in disagreement.

The physiological reactions can be explained by the kind of “scanning” couples choose. Partners either scan their environment and their partner seeking things to appreciate and say thank you for, or they can scan looking for partners’ mistakes. Disaster couples’ bodies reacted in a way that prepared them “to attack or be attacked.”

Wanting to know more, Gottman invited 130 couples to a retreat to watch them interact. Esfahani Smith writes:

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband . . ..

Turning toward or turning away from partners affects the relationship. Disaster couples turn toward only 33 percent of the time. Masters show the kindness of turning toward 87 percent of the time.

Generosity comes into play around “shared joy.” Master couples actively celebrated the joyful news of partners. Disaster couples either ignored it or diminished it. Apparently it is just as important to be present for our partners when things are going right.

What frequency is your scanner set to? 

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Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3KNfwGsWO

The difference between happy and glowing: Giving

This past week I had the privilege of writing an article about a woman from my church. Jean volunteers for a long list of organizations, giving to others in different ways. As she bakes, delivers meals to seniors, quilts, and tackles her many other labours of love, she glows with energy and good spirit. When I asked her why she does all she does, she said, “It makes me feel good. I get back so much more than I give.”

Another friend of mine volunteers for Canadian Red Cross. He supports people in need in his own community, and he travels to countries in crisis around the globe. When he speaks of this work, he glows. “I get back so much more than I give,” he says.

I have heard that refrain over and over in my life, from people aglow with the joy of hands-on giving.

After my conversation with Jean, I thought about other people I know who have stable jobs and who probably give to charity, but who don’t give of themselves in a close contact way. They golf every Saturday, or they enjoy fine dining, or they spend most weekends at their cottage.

I would never say these people aren’t happy. If I were to ask them if they are happy, they would say yes. What is the difference then?

The difference is the glow: The merely happy people pass through life content; the others glow with a giving contact high.

The question then: Do I want to be merely happy, or do I want to glow?

Mud-splattered and glowing in Bolivia

Arlene – Mud-splattered and glowing on a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia

 

 

Four-leaf clover: What are the odds?

Yesterday my daughter and a friend took her dog for a walk. They strolled along a path beside the Ottawa River, and my daughter spotted a large patch of clover. Being a fun-loving and spontaneous type, she declared, “I’m going to look for a four-leaf clover!”

Her friend had doubts. She said, “Do you even know what the chances of that are?”

Undaunted, my daughter walked over, bent down and, without even having to search, held up a four-leaf clover. “I found one!” she said.

four-leaf-clover

Life’s like that, right?

Sometimes we try, and struggle, and work to find something or to achieve a goal, but we don’t manage it. (Almost always someone nearby tells us not to waste our time because the odds stack high against us.)  And then sometimes good fortune shows up right in front of our noses when we haven’t even put forth any effort at all.

There’s no explaining it. All we can do is keep the faith that odds-defying fortune can find us, and be ready to celebrate when it does.