Monday, June 23, 2014

Books For the Cottage ...

Hi everyone,

I was in the midst of packing this morning when I realized that I hadn't posted my usual summer reading list. Instead, I'll offer you the the titles I'm taking with me to the cottage. I hope something here tweaks your interest:

1.  Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge (1997) This wee book is a lovely, joyful collection of meditations and techniques for approaching the art of poetry writing. (And I love the picture on the cover!)

2.  Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy (2013) This "bright story about dark subjects" begins with the main character answering an ad - "Literary Giant seeks young man to push bathchair. Own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage. Ideal 'gap year' opportunity. Apply Prys Box 4224XXC."  This book was placed in every room of the small boutique hotel in London where my good friend, Elaine, spent the last night of her British vacation last year. She says its an easy, moving read.

3. River Flow: New and Selected Poems by David Whyte (Revised edition 2012) This is the description of River Flow copied from its back cover - River Flow contains over one hundred poems selected from five previously published works, together with 23 new poems, including a tribute to an Ethiopean woman navigating her first escalator, a meditation of love and benediction for a young daughter and a cycle of Irish poems that convey a deep love of the land and a lifelong appreciation for its wisdom.

4.  Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (2014)  This is a spiritual exploration of the positive aspects of darkness from the New York Times best selling author of Leaving Church. She writes: Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me - either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. 

If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love. At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life, plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. 

Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.

5.  Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd (2014) This is the latest in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series, set in post WW I England. Inspector Rutledge has returned from war suffering from severe posttraumatic stress and the series investigates the usual number of murders and other crimes in tandem with the process of Rutledge's emotional suffering and healing. This edition is set at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, a community I know well from visits with my husband's dear cousin, Evelyn. I will enjoy reading the descriptions of familiar haunts.

That's it for me. Off to finish packing! Again, happy summer to you all!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Summer Vacation ...

Hello, everyone!

It's hard to believe that half the year has passed already and that, after a busy month of workshops, the summer stretches before me like a warm invitation.

On Tuesday morning, I'll board a plane to Toronto and then drive a couple of hours to a cottage on Kahshe Lake for a two week visit with dear friends. The cottage is my "safe place" - you know, the one you're asked to picture at stress reduction workshops? (All I have to do is imagine the scent of the sun-warmed pines surrounding the deck and I'm flooded with a full-on relaxation response.) I can hardly wait to settle into my deck chair with a mug of tea and a great book.

I probably won't read much of the book during the first week but just having it on my lap will help to hold space for gazing at the water and allowing the busyness of the spring to fall away. I'll bask in the warmth of the sun as I watch the eaglets in the tall tree across the bay and, as I watch, I'll feel the muscles of my neck and shoulders ease into a softness they haven't felt since this time last summer.

I am enormously grateful to have friends who are willing to share this little piece of paradise with me. But what about those of you who are unable to go on vacation this summer - those caring for ill or frail loved ones, beginning new jobs that won't accrue vacation time until next year, and those so burnt out or compassion fatigued that the mere thought of arranging a vacation is overwhelming? How can you take a refreshing break this summer?

I learned one woman's answer to this question while browsing through Living Artfully a lovely book by art therapist, Sandra Magsamen. Perhaps her answer, or some reasonable facsimile, might work for you ...

... after I read Under the Tuscan Sun - a captivating book about an American woman's soulful, life-changing adventure moving into and refurbishing an aging villa in Tuscany, Italy - I wanted so badly to pick up and travel to the Italian countryside to experience all that I had read, but that wasn't possible. So I reactivated my make-believe skills and, for an entire summer, acted "as if" I were a fresh transplant in my home away from home - Italia! My physical body was living responsibly in Maryland, but my mind and heart were otherwise happily Italian.
Over the course of several months, I learned to make all sorts of pastas and bruschettas, and immersed myself in the historical "stories" behind the recipes when I could find them. I discovered (and drank a few glasses of) Italian wines - the point was having fun, no? - while the aroma of roasting garlic and simmering tomato-basil sauce wafted beyond my home and into the surrounding neighbourhood. 
I visited local vineyards to continue my Italian-style reverie. Friends and family asked me about my sudden interest in opera and Italian films, and enjoyed the adventure I provided in the many Italian meals I cooked and wines I served. My journey became their journey, too, and all of our lives were enriched. We weren't anywhere near Europe, but it was great fun just the same! 

So, why not take your imagination in hand and, even if you can't travel physically to the place of your dreams, enjoy an "as if" summer vacation in your mind and in your own neighbourhood. Eat the meals of your favourite country or region, read its literature, listen to its music and watch its films. Immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the journey. Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A New Enneagram Website ...

Hi everyone!

If you've been to any of my workshops, you'll have heard me speak about the Enneagram, an empowering system of 9 personality types that we can use to help understand ourselves (including our patterns of reactivity when we're becoming compassion fatigued or burned out), to understand others and to create a pathway for our personal growth and development.

There are several different "schools" of Enneagram study. The one in which I'm trained, and that I like best as a starting point, is The Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition. As you might guess from the name, the Narrative Tradition focuses on learning about the strengths, difficulties and life patterns of each type through listening to individuals of that type as they describe themselves. It is a deeply authentic way of studying personality type, one that spawns both self-compassion and compassion for others, particularly others quite different from us.

This week, I received an email from Enneagram Worldwide, my Enneagram trainers, with the exciting news that they have published a completely new website including Dr David Daniels' validated and reliable Enneagram Test and descriptions and videos of each type. You can find it at

I hope you enjoy the process of discovering your type. Contrary to what some might fear, your type will not "put you in a box" but, instead, will allow you to escape the box of your unexamined personality. If you would like to attend an Enneagram beginners workshop that will help confirm your personality type and allow you to explore your type's response to change, I will be offering a Beginners Enneagram Workshop on November 28th, 2014. So, mark your calendars and if you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to be included on the list for registration forms later in the summer, just email me at

(Note:  If you work for a BC health authority, it's better to give me your personal email address as many of the authorities are blocking access to emails regarding continuing education workshops.)