Learning to Express Gratitude in the Everyday

by Liz Jansen

express gratitude

Expressing gratitude was an engrained practice in my family. Every day, my grandfather gave thanks to God for being able to live in a land of freedom and peace. Even during years of poverty and hardship, prayers opened with gratitude. Memories of the anarchy and terror they’d escaped were never out of range.

My parents continued the tradition. Both were born in Canada but life was not easy. Yet they always found something to be grateful for.

As a child growing up in a land of plenty, I was another generation removed from the experiences of my ancestors. I was appreciative and polite but had little upon which to calibrate heart-felt gratitude.

It’s only been in recent decades that I’ve embraced gratitude as a personal experience. An intentional practice of mindfulness and awareness has brought it to life. Now it appears spontaneously by appreciating the gifts right in front of me.

There are many purported benefits of living in gratitude. While admirable, they’re not a reason to give thanks.

The most profound feelings come from the seemingly mundane. A flower, butterfly, or hearing the stream behind my house elicit a thank-you from deep in my soul. Sunshine, music from wind chimes, and even rain make me ecstatic to be alive.

I look into the plate of food in front of me and think of the many hands that have come together to make my simple meal. A farmer has grown and nurtured the crop. Someone else has created the nutrients used to nourish the plants or animals. Others help with harvesting before delivering the crop to a packaging operation. A variety of people in distribution and transportation add their role. Finally, the shelf stocker at the local grocery store stacks it into a compelling display.

The whole world comes together at my table.

I am humbled and grateful.

Learning to express gratitude is a personal path, developed through consistent practice. It intensifies with use.

Gratitude is food for the soul. From the soul.

What are you grateful for? Tell us in the comments.



Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with:

Managing the Friction Zone — Life Lessons from Motorcycles

by Liz Jansen

managing the friction zoneOwning our power is one of life’s biggest challenges. Learning to use our energy without wasting it takes practice, persistence, and self-compassion.

Like riding a motorcycle, we all have a friction zone. It’s recognizable as that area of internal resistance that appears in response to change. Learning how to overcome it helps us grow.

Understanding the Friction Zone

Motorcycles move forward as power from the engine transfers to the drive system. To do this, you need to pull in the clutch lever, shift into gear, then release the lever as you apply the throttle. As you do, there’s an initial zone of resistance as power transfers to the rear wheel. That’s the friction zone. It becomes evident as the bike begins to move.  Read: New Rider: What is the Friction Zone?

Overcoming Resistance

New riders are often frightened of how the bike will respond to power. They react by chopping the throttle, cutting off the power supply. The bike stalls. Or, they pull in the lever while keeping the throttle open. In either case, they don’t move.

Holding back power isn’t unique to new riders.

Earlier this season I stopped for an errand on the way home after a weekend of teaching. I’d spent the previous week out of town with my dad in hospital and returned home to teach motorcycle lessons for the weekend. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was drained.

As I backed out of the parking spot, which I knew was a poor choice, my rear wheel dropped into a drain and I lost my balance. The bike was running, in first gear, and I had the clutch lever pulled in. There was enough space to pull away and time to recover. All I had to do was give it gas and release the clutch.

Instead, I froze. I applied the throttle without releasing the lever. The motorcycle, with me on it, tipped over and hit the pavement. It was completely preventable and I was really annoyed with myself.

Managing the Friction Zone

Often, we’re afraid of our own power. We hold back rather than letting go and trusting things will unfold in our best interests. We’re afraid to follow our intuition and take what we perceive as a risk. So we avoid changing careers, addressing an unhealthy relationship, or trying something different.

What we don’t realize is the risk to our self is greater if we don’t move through that resistance. We lose our balance. It gets harder to try something new.

The next time you feel resistance, don’t hold back. Recognize it as an opportunity to manage the friction zone and move forward. You don’t have to move fast, just keep moving. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to stay in balance.

How do you deal with resistance?  Tell us in the comments.


Related Post: Overcoming Resistance: 10 Steps to Master the Friction Zone

Photo by prottoy hassan on Unsplash

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles

The First Motorcycle Trip of the Season That Wasn’t

first motorcycle trip

by Liz Jansen

It was meant to be my first motorcycle trip of the season. Instead I’m doing it in a Nissan Note. The more successful outcome is that wisdom and pragmatism prevailed in an emotional situation.

Eight years ago, friends who except for blood are family, invited me to spend American Thanksgiving with them in Georgia. That began a much-anticipated annual tradition whereby I enjoyed an end-of-season 3,000 km/2,000 mile ride.

Weather is the looming variable that can affect plans. Daylight is scarce and it can be cold. Much of the route is mountainous and I don’t like riding that terrain after dusk. Still, as long as the roads are safe—i.e. not snow-covered or icy—I’ve done it.

The first year I didn’t have the proper gear to deal with the elements. Nor did I have a GPS or smart phone. I also tried to cram the ride into two days, something that’s doable in summer but not when the temperatures are hovering around freezing.

Hypothermic and fatigued, I got lost in the warren of sub-division streets about five minutes from their home. The local gas station seemed like a good place to get directions but my queries came up empty.

Deciding to try again from the scrap of paper I’d scribbled their address on, I headed for an exit, only to realize it was a one-way entrance to the lot. Everything, including my reactions, were moving in slow motion. Trying to stop on a bit of a slant, I lost my balance and tipped over.

As depleted as I was, my brain circuits were working well enough to come up with a plan, even as I was falling. Thirty seconds earlier, I’d noticed a sheriff refueling his squad car. Certain that if I just lay there on the ground, he’d come and help me lift my bike. It worked like a charm. He gave me directions and I was home safe in a few minutes.

The tradition lasted four years and then stalled. This was the year to resume.

Even a few weeks can make a difference on daylight and temperatures so moving the ride to early November ride seemed more reasonable. Since that first debacle, I’ve ramped up my gear and purchased a GPS.

Having deferred motorcycle travel this season, I was really looking forward to a long ride before putting my bike into hibernation. I’ve ridden less than half my usual miles this year and missed being on the road.

I knew I could do it if I set my mind to it, even when the forecast changed, the temperatures dropped, and the rain moved in. I could stay relatively warm and dry. I could also be flexible with dates and extend my time if necessary.

This year, after much internal debate, head overcame heart. I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else by pushing myself beyond reasonable limits. I know how insidiously hypothermia can creep in, even when heated gear is making you feel warm. There was no need to add additional stress to a body that’s had its share to deal with in the past few months.

The whole point of the trip was to spend time with loved ones. The only thing I had to prove to myself was that I had my priorities straight.

So I rented a small car, downloaded the latest Adventure Rider Radio podcasts, and arrived educated, warm, and intact. My first motorcycle trip of the season will have to wait until next year.

Photo by Ana Pavlyuk on Unsplash


Posted in Adventure

Changing the Story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

by Liz Jansen

Snow WhiteImagine my surprise when I walked into the back yard recently and discovered new denizens had taken positions around the gardens. Snow White and five of the seven dwarfs must have entered through the opening in the stone path that leads to the woods.

Snow White was standing by the pump, fetching water to use for cooking the next meal. Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Bashful (behind a spruce shrub), and Happy were hanging out close to the new garden shed they call home. Doc and Grumpy stayed behind in the mines, unearthing diamonds and other gems.

No one knows why they were on the move or how long they were searching for the right place. Perhaps they were tired of fending off the Evil Queen, showing up in her disguises, bullying and threatening sweet-natured and gentle Snow White.

Their presence delights me! These famous characters activate my inner child and spark creativity for the adult writer. On top of that, they’re just plain fun to have around.

For the time being, I’m ignoring any Jungian analysis into the meaning of the story and its characters. What they have reminded me of, however, is the role of myths in our lives. Passed down through the generations, stories shape who we are. Usually, we’re unaware of their role in developing our world-view, making decisions, and forming judgments. We accept these stories as fact without questioning their origin or relevance.

Not all stories keep us bound in dysfunctional patterns of behavior. Many are very meaningful, while others, useful at one time, many have lost their relevance.

It’s healthy to question why we do the things we do. Blindly accepting stories, no matter how well-intentioned they are, can keep us from questioning nonsense presented as fact, being open to new ideas, and ultimately, stepping into our power.

I can write hundreds of different endings to the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Most important of all is being the author of my life rather than living it from a script someone else has written.

Some analysts would say the dwarfs unearthing treasures represent us going inward and discovering our gifts and strengths. It’s something to consider. For now, the most precious gift these little characters have brought is the reminder to be Me.

What’s the most unexpected or unusual gift you’ve received recently? Tell us in the comments.

Posted in Adventure, Liz's Stories, Personal Growth Tagged with: ,

Learning How to Live from Being With the Dying

by Liz Jansen

In my last post, I talked about infinite possibilities and having priorities rearranged by events beyond our control. I’m grateful to have taken time to spend with my dad in what would be his last days. No one could have predicted how things would unfold, or the journey he would take me on. As painful as it was, it was precious beyond words.

learning how to liveMy dad passed very peacefully back to Spirit on October 5, 2017. During the 26 days he was in hospital, dancing between worlds, he taught his family much about loving, healing, living, and dying.

This summer I was honored to accompany him as he visited the lands in Alberta where he’d lived as a child. Back to where he felt innately at home— on the prairies with their openness, vastness, and grain farms. Returning to the land. Meeting the descendants of people who had been instrumental in his and his parents’ early life in Canada. He was alive, and vital, knowing his life had come full circle.

The best part of the trip for him was in Beaverlodge, where his father Johann, had died when dad was two years old. Dad longed to see him again and knew Johann and his mother Liese would be waiting for him with open arms when it was his time.

Shortly after returning, dad became ill and was eventually hospitalized. Initially, doctors told us he’d require two or three days of treatment before returning to his home. His illness worsened, however, and even the doctors were astounded at his resilience in pulling through that first week.

He worked diligently at learning to swallow without choking, and taking his first tentative steps with a walker. It reminded me of the determination he’d shown to get his mobility back after breaking his hip less than two years ago.

At some point, perhaps when he realized he wouldn’t likely recuperate to the point where he’d be able to continue living on his own, his fight for independence took a different tack.

He focused his attention on wrapping up his life. He made sure we understood he was never going to long-term care. It required making choices on his behalf—decisions as a family we wrestled with, even though he’d made his wishes clearly known months earlier.

“I trust,” he said, his voice barely audible, yet stronger than ever.

He had time to say individual good-byes to his family. We had extraordinary moments to tell him how much he was loved and appreciated. Other than as an infant, for the first time in his 91 years, his role had switched from caregiver to care-receiver. His smile came from his heart and lit up his whole countenance. Even when words were becoming scarce, he told us he was happy and thankful. As painful a time as it was, it was also one of peace, filled with grace and light.

We were sacred witnesses and participants during his end of life journey.

Gradually his body shut down. My brother Robert stayed with him as I and my niece Andrea stepped out of the room for a few minutes to use the restroom. On the way out, I stroked his leg and told him “I’ll be back in a few minutes, dad.” When we returned, he’d gone.

He alleviated the invariable stress of mourning over a decade ago by preparing his life story, preplanning his visitation and memorial service—complete with explicit instructions, including, “Keep it brief.”

He valued simplicity, honesty, compassion, and standing up for his beliefs, even if he stood alone. In his living and his dying, he showed us what was important. His was a life well-lived and his legacy will live on forever.

Thank you, Dad.


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Posted in Leadership Tagged with: , ,

Infinite Possibilities in Unusual Personal Times

by Liz Jansen

Infinite Possibilities

It’s a marvel to observe that tests of faith come when we least expect them. Arriving in forms that mean the most to us, they’re guaranteed to catch our attention. They’re a gateway to infinite possibilities.

Learning to let go of expectations and allow life events to unfold as they will, has been a primary lesson over the past few years.

My vision for Crash Landing was that it be published in 2017. When I started writing, my plans and timelines looked realistic. All was on schedule until about a month ago when it became apparent I’d need longer than expected to do a good job on the revisions.

I also realized I hadn’t allowed enough time for pre-publication marketing.

This project is so close to my heart and I’m certain it’s what I’m meant to do. I’ve set aside most other work so I can focus on it. I want it out as soon as possible—for altruistic and financial reasons.

I could have made it happen, but it didn’t feel right to force it. To do so was falling back into patterns I’m trying to correct. So intentionally, I decided to take the time necessary to honor the story, the characters, and each step of the process. That meant tossing out timelines and deferring publication to a time yet to be determined.

Then two weeks ago, another diversion popped up. My dad became seriously ill. Dad trumps book.

For more than a week he was dancing between worlds, his children gathering to offer what support we could; making decisions according to our understanding of his wishes.

His strength, stamina, and resilience have surprised the medical teams actively treating a complex and cascading litany of disorders. While investigations continue, it seems he’s decided to stick around, although he faces a formidable recovery.

Events that hit close to the heart have a way of rearranging priorities. As painful as they can be, that’s where the most valuable lessons live.

Holding to self-imposed expectations is limiting, regardless of how important I think they are.

And so I let go and trust. Rather than getting bound by what I think I should do, I open the door to infinite possibilities.


Posted in Personal Growth

Disempowering Motorcycle Myth Debunked

by Liz Jansen

motorcycle myth debunked“If you’re going to ride that bike, you’d better be able to pick it up by yourself.”

“I can’t go on a solo trip until I learn to pick it up by myself.”

The first statement was directed at a woman; the second was spoken by a woman. I’ve never heard it applied to men but I’ve heard it declared to woman many times. Sometimes by other women. Some actually believe it and use it to limit their motorcycle or touring choices.

It’s a MYTH!

Why put up arbitrary barriers to limit your experience? Using your power isn’t limited to the physical. Apply it to making wise choices instead.

While it’s true that purchasing a motorcycle beyond your skill level is a recipe for disaster, how did being able to pick it up ever become part of the decision? Most riders cannot right their motorcycle alone. Why not focus on riding the bike that’s best for you, then honing your skills, thereby reducing the chances of dropping it?

Motorcycles tip over. Regularly. My blog post 10 Things to Do with a Dropped Motorcycle outperforms most other articles daily, and it was posted five years ago.

Is it a good thing to be able to pick it up alone? Absolutely. Especially if you ride solo.

Harley-Davidson made it a core topic at Garage Parties hosted by dealers across Canada and the U.S. for years. I attended many of them and demonstrated how to lift a big bike. Clinton Smout, of SMART Adventures shows fantastic methods for righting bikes. Easily applied to street riding, he adds techniques for off-road riders who are more likely to go over, sometimes in remote or precarious situations, like on a hill.

Learning how to do it by yourself is a wise investment. So is having a contingency plan. While the first option is to enlist assistance, knowing the techniques will help you avoid injury or damage, even with help.

Depending on how she’s fallen, I can no longer pick up Trudy. She’s tipped over twice—once in my garage when I was turning her around and lost traction on the cement floor; the other time after a long day of riding. After checking in to a motel, I was getting on to ride to my room. In my exuberance to be done for the day, I overexerted myself getting her off the side stand and we went over on her right side. The first time I called a friend for help; the second, I conscripted other riders who were staying at the same place.

At one time I could lift my bike. I could also hoist it onto the center stand alone to change the oil and clean, lubricate, and adjust the drive chain. Now I require assistance for both tasks. I’ve had to really swallow my pride and ask for help.

It’s not going to stop me from riding though. Nor has it influenced my choice of motorcycle. My 800 cc Triumph Tiger is the best bike for me and the type of riding I enjoy. I haven’t given up on being able to lift her alone, but in the mean time, I’ll figure out other ways.

Asking for help requires a big dose of humility, something I’ve had to learn repeatedly over the past three years. Not only is it a gift to receive help from someone else, it’s a gift for the other person to bestow it.

Instead of believing a disempowering motorcycle myth, change your perspective. Take control, make wise choices, and ride safely. Then enjoy the gifts!

What’s your opinion—myth or truth?  Why?  Tell us in the comments.


Posted in Adventure Tagged with: ,

5 Lessons From Life—To Last a Lifetime

by Liz Jansen

Lessons from LifeAnniversaries of significant events are good signposts upon which to reflect on the lessons from life. And so on the anniversary of my motorcycle crash, I find myself thinking about my journey over the past three years.

It’s as if I’ve traveled light years since then, yet from my soul’s perspective, I’m closer than ever to where I started life on earth.

Five Lessons Lessons from Life

  1. Realize I’m not in control. Life unfolds miraculously without our intervention. When we try to control it is usually when we end up in a mess. By surrendering to it and acting on our inner guidance, our ride is much smoother. As much as I tried, or willed my motorcycle to stay upright, I couldn’t control it and crashed. We don’t have to inform our physical bodies how to function. Our hearts beat, we breathe, and we digest food without any voluntary input from us. Why do we think we have to control other events? Or that we even can?
  2. Accept I’m different. We’re meant to be different than everyone. Just as our bodies require a diversity of cells, each with a unique composition and function, so too does our human community need people with a variety of interests and talents to be robust. It’s our diversity that makes us strong.
    We come to this earth configured with unique gifts. Recognizing, nurturing, and sharing them is part of our purpose here. They don’t have to be grandiose or elevate us to a level of prominence. But they’re there, waiting to be expressed.
  3. Follow the leader—i.e. my intuition. We never know the ripple effect of our deeds, or how a simple act of kindness has changed a person’s life. We don’t have to know. All we need to do to make our own life joyful is to trust and follow what’s in our heart. The rest looks after itself. I trust with certainty that I’m being guided in the direction that’s best for my soul’s calling.
  4. Acknowledge the independence I once prided myself in, is a myth. We’re interconnected with all life. We need each other for survival—water, food, shelter, and love. Our thoughts and actions create a ripple effect of whatever message we sent out. It makes me want to live simply and compassionately, not taking more from the earth than I need.
  5. Embrace the journey. We’re all on one. Like any trip, many routes arrive at the same destination. Our mission is to find the way that suits us best. I am a part of others’ journeys, just as they are part of mine. Honoring who I am, means being authentic to myself, and with others, not trying to pretend to be someone to avoid hurting another’s feelings. It’s the utmost way to bestow honor.

Like the storms in nature, life crashes can create havoc, but as intense as they can be, they don’t last forever. Always, they leave us with lessons for life. Storms, or life’s crashes, are often the catalyst for restoring balance and furthering our spiritual growth.

What’s your recent lesson?  Share in the comments.

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles

Taking the Trip of a Lifetime—by Train, Plane, and Motorcycle

by Liz Jansen

Trip of a Lifetime

Beaverlodge canola field. Family’s log house once stood behind us.

Looking at the same scenery during the trip of a lifetime, three generations had differing views. Flying north from Edmonton to Grande Prairie, my father stared out at the wilderness below. He was fixated on the fish and wildlife that called it home. Ninety-one years ago, his father had watched as the train clickety-clacked through these forests. He was headed to his new home in a new country. Last year, I’d ridden my motorcycle across the same terrain on a trip tracing my ancestors’ migrations through the west.

Knowing my father, who was born in Alberta, had always yearned to return to the prairies, and knowing how much last year’s trip meant to me, I offered to accompany him to the places he’d lived as a child. He’s in pretty good health for his 91 years, but frail. He thought about it only briefly before jumping at the chance—metaphorically speaking.

Aside from paying homage to his parents, my grandparents, I was hoping it would trigger memories and stories I hadn’t heard.

Even as the flight was taking him back to his infancy, I was delighted to hear his inner child speaking, a voice I’d rarely heard.

“I wonder what it would be like to land on one of those clouds,” he mused as we flew high above them.

Looking northeast towards Beaverlodge.

Not surprisingly, he had no memories of his home in Beaverlodge, in Alberta’s northern Peace River country. After all, his father died before he was two and his mother moved south with their toddler. His only recollection from that time was his mother lying in bed, holding him, crying. Still, his affinity for the area’s open farmland was definite. And it strengthened as we moved south.

By the time we arrived at the farm southeast of Calgary where he lived between ages 4 and 11 after his mother remarried, his countenance spoke volumes, even if words were scarce.

In 1925, an eight-square-mile tract of land known as Namaka Farm was neatly partitioned into quarter-section (160 acre) farms. Thirty-six immigrant Mennonite families (100 people), including dad’s stepfather, settled here.

As I gazed over unending fields of grain, I tried to imagine the community that existed here in his time. Each farm had a log house, barns, and granaries, all long since razed. There’d be pigs fattening up and cows for milking. A variety of horses used to work the land, pull the wagons, or ride for transport, hung around the barnyard. There was the schoolhouse where dad learned English, down the road just south of the railway tracks. All that was left was the grove of poplars that shaded it.

It took his family seven years to concede they couldn’t survive on the proceeds of 160 acres, even in the absence of drought and dust storms. But in the mean time, it was a vibrant community with lots of visiting between families, children getting together to play, and regular church services.

Southern Alberta

The prairie years set the stage for the rest of my father’s life. Out of necessity, he learned how to be frugal and stoic. It’s how he cared for his mother and younger siblings, and later raised his own family and successfully managed his fruit farm.

Those qualities pervaded his life—how he responded to hardship, handled his finances, and eked out his emotions. They were physical, emotional, and spiritual survival techniques he learned from his parents, and passed on to his children.

How that played out is a story for another time. Understanding the lives of my ancestors, the times they lived in, and how they managed helps me understand how their experiences and beliefs shaped me. It changes my perspective on their lives and mine. Most of all, it allows me to be the author of my story, rather than living from a script.

Thank you dad!

Have you had similar experiences? Share them in the comments.


Posted in Adventure

Understanding the Matter of Perspective

by Liz Jansen

A Matter of PerspectiveThe young couple disembarked from the train, squinting in the bright prairie sunlight. Their clothes, tattered and threadbare, were creased and wrinkled after nearly a month of travel from the other side of the world.

They too were tired and worn. Only days before leaving, they’d buried their 8-month-old daughter. During the past seven years, they’d endured civil war, famine, terrorism, and poverty.

The man scanned the station, his eyes quickly fixating on the figure running toward them. His brother would take them to live with him until they could find a place of their own.

In July, 1924, arriving in Saskatchewan was a chance for my grandparents to start life again in a new country, one that promised peace and freedom. They would have a family, worship, and be patriotic. They would work and contribute to their new community and country.

While they had the highest intentions, not everyone saw them like that.

To those already settled here, often referred to by immigrants as the ‘English’, they were a threat. In 1919, a Government Order-in-Council edict stated, “Owing to the results of the war, a widespread feeling exists throughout Canada, and more particularly in western Canada, that steps should be taken to prohibit the landing in Canada of immigrants deemed undesirable owing to their peculiar customs, habits, modes of living, and methods of holding property, and because of their probable inability to become readily assimilated to assume the duties and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship within a reasonable time after entry.”

By the time my grandparents arrived, Canadian laws had changed to allow railway companies to recruit immigrants from countries previously designated as non-preferred. The resentment, however, remained.

As compassionate as they were, the railway saw them as a means of revenue. Transporting tens of thousands of people filled their ships and trains. Selling off some of the land they’d purchased during the construction of their railway and helped recoup part of their investment.

To the government, more settlers meant ‘unoccupied’ land could be settled and turned into productive farms, augmenting the nation’s economy.

The arrival of more colonists, like my grandparents, deepened the wounds of the First Nations people. After being herded onto Reservations and having their children sent off to Residential schools, they were struggling for physical, spiritual, and cultural survival. Watching helplessly and hopelessly as their ancestral lands were ‘settled’ by immigrants must have been extremely painful.

Everything we see, the opinions we form, and the choices we make, is processed through our personal filters. Often we don’t appreciate the power of the beliefs and myths that live in our subconscious, even though they’re calling the shots.

As I write, edit, revise, and rewrite Crash Landing, understanding the matter of perspective becomes critical for conveying my stories in a meaningful way. Not only does it make my writing clearer, it teaches me about myself and the others who share my world.

Understanding the matter of perspective is the foundation for living in peace and happiness.

What’s your perspective?

Next week there will be no article as I’m away. Until next time, I wish you health, happiness, abundance, laughter, and adventures.

photo credit: Bernal Saborio G. (berkuspic) folding road via photopin (license)

Posted in Liz's Stories

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