Fire and Light

A few inconspicuous thoughts on unleashing the fire within and lighting up the world ~


That feeling you get – a tingle or a shiver, or an awesome boom.

That spark of deeply burning flames from the far reaches of your soul – it’s there, breath in and feel it.

You just know.

This is what I’m destined to do, or to pursue, or to become.

It’s being certain, even with a furry beast of fear lurking around in your mind.

Pure joy fills every miniscule pore of you – you burst with illumination.

When mastering what is core to you, it feels as natural as exploring an unknown wilderness.

You know you will be safe, and you follow and watch the sun – every sunrise, every sunset.

To dare and to try with tenacious resolve, you become lionhearted in your own quiet way.

You are doing it for you, because you can – inch by inch, mile by mile.

You move forward with or without the luxury of support or platitudes of praise.

You dream, you create, you perform – and a piece of you imprints on the world, forever.

The spectacle of your heart and soul is aglow with a precocious luster.

You exude what it means to radiate as you wrap the world with your original goodness.

You are fire and light.

My Quiet Time

Sitting on my porch before the sun rises with a cup of French pressed coffee with honey and cinnamon, when all is still – no matter the weather or the season, is the way I begin each day. Sometimes the forest, or the mountains, or the ocean, or the banks of a river in a world class city, or the most spectacular view from a magnificent suite 30 stories high looking down at the peaceful power of Niagara Falls – are worthy substitutes of my little porch depending on where I find myself in this big beautiful world.

This is my quiet time – to just be. To bask in the calm silence, to revere in the beauty of nature, and to hear my heart beating. Sometimes it’s the colour of the sky or formation of the clouds that catches my eye – that conjures up a memory or imprints a new one. What is for certain is that the sun will rise each day – and each day I relish this small ritual to ground me, to appreciate me, to count my lucky stars to be alive, and to open my heart and be grateful for all the amazing people who grace my life with love.

This is my quiet time – to patiently work through the most troubling of dilemmas that weigh heavy on my heart. With the sky above me, a vast comforting blanket of clarity, I see beyond doubtful feelings that creep in, and always think of others – of what they have gone through or are going through. And my heart opens when I remember something of them that makes me smile or laugh out loud. In the complexity of life, the warmth of these feelings is fuel from my soul re-energizing the strength of my heart.

This is my quiet time – to listen to and act upon what my heart is saying. The course it plots always leads to an incredible destination, needing humility, bravery, and tenderness to fulfill the journey. A place where mutual love and respect abound, where trust and transparency live true, and where the power of being together is stronger than being alone. Sometimes the path of one may not be the path of the other – the grace in knowing translates into kindness when going.

One of my favourite quotes from Rumi is, “The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”

What do you hear during your quiet time? What is your heart saying?

Little Red Battery Charger

~ in memory of a lovely neighbour who passed away 2 years ago on February 29th

We survived the first polar vortex of the season – one that reminded us of the quiet power of Mother Nature, and the anti-fragility of humans and fragility of machines. Contending with wind chills plunging well into the -30’s, most of us rode it out by hibernating indoors – looking out the window and opening the door every so often to breathe in the pure Arctic cold air. Many were stranded at home because dead car batteries rendered their vehicles useless – as was my Dad and his van.

Reaching out to get a boost or tow proved to be an exercise in patience and understanding as companies offering such services were inundated with thousands of calls and unable to keep up with the volumes. Situations were prioritized based on whether a customer was stranded on the road which made a lot of sense. After rummaging around his garage, my Dad happened upon a little red battery charger given to him by our late neighbour of over 30 years, Miss Wiggins, a retired school teacher. She couldn’t drive anymore and told him the winters were going to get bad, and that he would find it handy one day. Well, she was right as he certainly did. After a few hours plugged in, it boosted his van.

Many years ago, Miss Wiggins gave me a boost too – she helped me secure my first real job in a bank, introducing me to a local branch manager. It was in her nature to be kind to others, especially helping young people explore their full potential. She mentored many in our neighbourhood, teaching some how to play the piano. During the last six weeks of her life, she asked me over for afternoon tea often. While multiple myeloma deteriorated her body, her mind was sharp. She enjoyed having conversations and wanted to be in the comfort of her own home rather than in a hospice.

While watching the sunset, we spoke of many things – her time spent teaching at a Canadian military base in Germany at the beginning of her career, her travels abroad including her many trips to England and our mutual fondness of London and of Hampton Court, her childhood in Fort Frances, Ontario, stories about each piece of art she collected over the years, her concern about the plight of Syrian refugees, especially how the young children would adapt to our school system, and the books she was reading – specifically And The Mountains Echoed and Peony in Love, the latter intrigued me because of my love of peonies.

This time with Marilyn was the most spiritually moving experience of my life. The lessons she taught many of us are universal and part of what it means to be human – to be kind, to help others, to listen, to give, to share, to encourage, to dream, to push your own limits, to plan, to savour, to show compassion, to be understanding, to lift each other up, to be creative and value creativity in all its forms, to love and to respect each other, and most especially, to enjoy the art of conversation and truly connect with a person.

Who is the little red battery charger in your life? What do they teach you?

When was the last time you gave someone a boost?

It’s never too late – there is always time for it. Share your humanness today.

Calling bullshit…try it, you’ll like it

Inspired by a conversation over lunch with a mentee in November 2014 ~ originally posted on my LinkedIn profile: 

After an engaging and spirited lunch conversation with a new mentee, she thanked me by simply saying, ‘I need someone to call out my bullshit’.

In that moment of genuine gratitude, I reflected on the true importance of calling out bullshit in the workplace – whether, for example, command and control behaviours, office bullying, made to look pretty metrics or the ‘try it, you’ll like it ’cause it’s awesome’ strategies. Or that which holds you back as a leader.

Sheryl Sandberg is absolutely bang on about women needing to lean in – and I’d add, in the process, getting comfortable and better at calling out bullshit without being labelled as being emotional.

People are emotional, healthy debate is emotional – and if you are in it to win it, business is emotional. The question is whether or not we as leaders are mature and skilled enough to handle it effectively, with grace, and still move forward at a meaningful pace.

I know a leader who is aptly skilled at calling out bullshit, as he literally calls out ‘bullshit’. No offense is taken – it’s a point of view that helps steer dialogue in a transparent fashion and moves the group forward. It is respected and it is well received.

Is courageous authenticity innate? Does it become more prevalent if you have the coveted two or three executive initials in your business title? Does calling out bullshit lead to being scolded about needing to be more political in approach and less emotionally charged? Or is calling out bullshit celebrated and a way of being in your organization? Are companies now faced with an evolved internal conflict which hinders organizational effectiveness because of outdated hierarchical performance management systems and beliefs?

As organizations charge forward in a brand new world, where the new way of working feels like doing a 100 meter dash for the duration of a marathon whilst high jumping 25 feet every 400 meters – all leaders need to muster the courage and conviction to call out bullshit – especially that which is first within themselves.

Try it, you’ll like it.

I wrote my first song when I was 13

I wrote my first song when I was 13 – music and lyrics. It’s called To My Friend…and here it is:

Found it buried in a box I pulled out from the depths of my cedar lined closet – full of my writing from grade school through to university. When I went through it about a month before I started this blog – a wave of pure and utter joy came over me when reading the words that I had written such a long time ago. I smiled, I laughed, and I vibrated with delight.

When you feel so strongly, in such a good way that defies logic and reason and just is…this is your heart guiding you to action what your soul is wanting to express. It is you at your purest truest self – it is a beacon, it is a light, it is your grand design as crafted by the universe. It is bigger than you, it is needed in the world, it is a humble force looking to beam love and beauty out into the cosmos for all time.

And this song…appropriate content for a throwback Thursday, brings me back to the last year of middle school, and the fond memories of a boy, who caught my eye, who I had a crush on, and for whom I wrote the song. My first adventure in following my feels.

He found out the song was about him – and asked me to slow dance, at the next afternoon school dance, to the last song, Hotel California. He was shaking, and I blushed. And for the rest of that year after school and on weekends, we rode our bikes, played tennis, we listened to music from homemade recorded cassette tapes blaring from a boombox and hung out in the park. For our final year end trip before we all headed to high school, our class went up north to a beautiful lake – and all I can remember from that weekend, was sneaking away with him to watch the sunset at the end of a dock that jutted out forever out onto a calm clear lake. In that moment, time stood still, he held me safely in his arms and we stole our first real kiss – and I never wanted it to end. That summer, he went to water skiing camp and I moved away – we lost touch and I never saw him again. Relationships were slow and simple pre-social media.

This memory is a wonderful piece of the complex fabric of my life – resonating deeply within me and reminding me to keep being brave, to always follow my heart, and to keep writing.

When did you write the first song of your life? One that reflects your true self – and creates beauty in the world. What happened?

Growth Compass

We all deserve kindness – it’s core to our nature as human beings. Signs of it sprout up in the most beautiful stories that touch our hearts – happening in simple ways around the world each day. Whether it’s the lady who pays for the rest of the lines’ coffee orders, the man who let’s the Mom and baby with only a carton of milk ahead of him to pay at the grocery story, the child who shares her lunch with a friend who forgot his lunch at home, the bus driver who waits for the student running to catch the bus, or the neighbour who shovels an elderly neighbour’s driveway after a heavy snowfall.  We excel at demonstrating it to others – making us feel good and staying connected to each other.

And when someone is suffering, most of us offer what we can to help them out of love, out of empathy, out of compassion. Our thoughts, our prayers, our words, our actions pour deeply from our souls – our effort, no matter how big or how small, resonates vibrantly with warm soothing energy lifting others up from the direst of circumstances. This reverence is a natural human balance to restore order when chaos ensues disrupting daily routines and livelihoods, most often without warning. And we triumph time and again – we build resilience, we cultivate goodwill, we restore well-being. Whenever, however and wherever shit happens, we as human beings come together to support each other to overcome and move forward. It is the way of our existence on this magnificent planet – and has been for thousands of years.

What could possibly make our lives even better? Are we as kind to ourselves as we are to others during times of difficulty? Maybe that’s it.

I listened to an inspiring podcast recently about being more kind to ourselves. Roisin Ingle from the Irish Times interviewed Padraig O’Morain, a mindfulness author and psychotherapist whose new book, Kindfulness, is coming out in June. He spoke about the importance of being kind with yourself as you are now and cultivating self-compassion, especially when things in your life go awry. During those times, he recommends listening to how you speak to yourself – if harshly, notice this, interrupt and stop what you are saying, and replace your words with something more understanding. Wise advice – easy to say, harder to do.

The inner critic always comes out – it’s part of who we all are as human beings and will always be there as a survival mechanism, and is, what I like to call, our growth compass. Regardless of the destination we’ve set out for ourselves in life, difficult times are part of the territory as are our imperfections. Practicing self-compassion is about allowing yourself to feel shitty, acknowledging and respecting your flaws and limitations – giving yourself a break, showing yourself kindness, and, most importantly, moving on, growing in the process. Whether it’s looking at yourself in the mirror for a long time with soft eyes without judgment, or saying that word or that phrase or that quote or other affirmation out loud, or listening to or receiving difficult feedback that makes us uncomfortable – treating yourself with kindness, finding out what works for you, and using your inner critic as a growth compass are all acts of being self-compassionate.

Are you using your growth compass to move closer to your desired destination or is it holding you still?

Follow your heart or chase your ego?

It was the last of four days of introspection, inspiration and interaction – a lovely afternoon in early December 2016 at the Park Hyatt in Zurich. We were channeling our inner child while working with crayons to sketch out a picture of what we wanted to accomplish in the coming year. I timidly drew a mountain range, perhaps inspired by the charming country I was fortunate to be in then – Switzerland.

And there I stood on top of the third mountain – smile on my face and looking ahead to another mountain range in the distance that I wanted to conquer in the coming year. Reflecting back – I’m thinking, yeah, so what? I can climb mountains, but what was I chasing? Glory? Accomplishment? To what end? For what purpose? Was I chasing my ego again?

While reviewing my artistic splendour with my table mate, he quite gingerly pointed out that something was missing – my heart. Something clicked for me and I shook, it felt like lightening striking – and I immediately drew a wee little heart on my stick figure me with my pink pen. It was the most significant revelation I’ve had in years – and one that I’m forever grateful in receiving.

dec 2016 nf drawing

Thank you, Grahame – your gentle and thoughtful perspective at that moment in time opened me up to a beautiful year, full of love – giving it and receiving it, and following my heart in all facets of my life. I appreciate you.

Flash forward to another lovely afternoon in early December 2017 at the Ritz in Toronto, Canada – after another four I-inspiring days, we completed the same exercise. After doing an incredible amount of inner work and having the sweetest year of my life, my heart now became the focal point of my drawing. It influences how I deeply connect with people in my life, how I curiously create and channel my work, my contribution, and how I bravely explore new experiences and adventures to satisfy my wanderlust.

dec 2017 nf drawing

Those who know me well, know that when I think too much, my Type-A ego presents itself – they also know that I have the biggest heart – caring, supporting, and sharing my unconditional love. The difference in my perspective year over year, as evidenced in my drawings, is a result of being true to myself, having the right people and experiences in my life, and having the courage to change, to stop chasing my ego and to start following my heart.

Do you follow your heart, or do you chase your ego?