Year End Motorcycle Road Song and Tribute to Dad

by LIz Jansen

While driving my car down a popular motorcycle pine-tree-lined road a few years ago, Jim Croce’s I’ve Got a Name came over the radio. The lyrics sang a custom fit to my time and place in life.

Now they reached even deeper into my heart. By researching my ancestral roots for Crash Landing, I’ve reconnected with me.

The motorcycle trip I took in 2016 that followed the migration of my grandparents opened my eyes, understanding, and appreciation for their lives. They arrived in Canada as refugees in the 1920’s, moving thousands of miles over decades, trying to make a go of it.

They passed their experiences, courage, strength, and resilience to their children, my parents. My parents tried to pass them to me.

It was a profound honor to take my dad to visit his Alberta childhood homes in August. That trip brought his life full circle. We didn’t know he’d be gone less than two months later.

I’ve Got a Name is the perfect road song, whether you’re on a motorcycle your life’s road.. Listen and sing, live, and ride along!

Here’s to rolling me down the highway, moving ahead so life won’t pass me by.

 

Celebrate the Return of Light with Peace

by Liz Jansen

return of lightToday we celebrate the return of the light in the northern hemisphere. For tens of thousands of years, people around the world have celebrated this sacred and auspicious time.

Tonight I’ll celebrate with a contemplative lantern walk in the nearby town of Elora. Our moonlit path takes us along the boardwalk and Grand River. After, we’ll enjoy singing, hot cider, and merriment around a community Solstice fire.

In a few days I’ll join my family in our traditional Christmas festivities. The first one without dad. I miss him. He told us before he passed that he was off to a celebration and I picture him there.

Gazing at the night sky makes me marvel at the immensity of the universe and how the cosmic laws operate with precision and reliability. It’s intimate, yet vast. I feel insignificant, yet part of something so huge I can’t comprehend it.

If you take a close look at this photo, you may see angels, or reindeers pulling Santa across the sky.

Many of us mark the season with feasts, festivals, and holidays—like Christmas and Hanukkah. A time of giving and receiving. It’s also a time to remember those less fortunate who may not have kin to celebrate with. Or money for gifts. Or even a home. We’re all in this world together.

The same Power that brings the light back, lights the stars, and moves the planets in their orbits exists in me. In each of us.

However you celebrate, may love, joy and compassion fill your season. Peace on earth and goodwill toward all.

How will you celebrate the return of light?  Tell us in the comments.

 


Additional Celebrations: FestivalsLights Around the World

Photo by Caleb Ralston on Unsplash

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How to Find Your Voice — and What to Do When You Hear It

by Liz Jansen

Find your voiceTwo weeks ago inexplicable phone glitches interrupted a regular session with my spiritual teacher. During our time, the line went silent five or six times. I’d notice when my words didn’t elicit a response.

She’d try calling back, only to go straight to voice mail because I had continued to talk. When I caught on and hung up, she could get through again. Then the cycle would repeat.

I don’t look for meaning in every quirky event. But unmistakable messages demand attention.

The voice I needed to listen that day belonged to me.

Always hungry for knowledge, I read a lot, take courses, and seek counsel with wise teachers. All these things are valuable investments of time and energy.

They can also be a way of avoiding a persistent inner voice. No other source can deliver the message with your name on it. Slowing down and listening enables you to hear it.

It may take time to grasp the meaning but stay with it. Over time, you risk losing yourself if you don’t listen and act.

In 2002, at age 48, I left a 25-year marriage. Eight months later I walked away from the stability of a corporate career. Needing time to think, I set off on a two-month solo motorcycle trip around Canada and the United States.

Many people commented on what they perceived as bravery and courage. I saw it another way. That voice had been talking to me for years, only I hadn’t followed through. The roles I occupied no longer fit. To stay in them would have sounded the death knell for my spirit.

After those changes, my world opened up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I questioned why I had waited so long. Riding around the top of Lake Superior on the third day of my trip, I shouted with joy inside my helmet.

The outcomes aren’t always so dramatic. They will always carry meaning and lead to other openings at some point.

Since then, I’ve honed my listening skills, and not just with my ears. Messages come through all our senses. Learn to recognize them.

The more we practice, the sooner we see the universe as a co-creator. It conspires to help us in unusual, often humorous ways.

Find your voice by listening. Follow its lead by summoning your courage to take the next step.

No one else can do what you came here to do.

 

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

How to Make the Most of Every Day — and Why

by Liz Jansen

make the most of every day

Every morning I start the day with a prayer and intention to make the most of every day. I’ve done it for years. In the evening when I look back at the day, the results are always mixed. The next morning, I’m grateful for another day, another chance to make the most of a new day.

It’s tempting to think “make the best of” refers to how much I’ve accomplished. But then, what if what I’ve accomplished isn’t in line with my priorities?

I’ve concluded it’s using my gifts, skills, and talents to the best of my ability. Following my heart (with input from my head). Laughing. Loving. Forgiving. Playing. Learning from my mistakes. Extending kindness, understanding, and compassion, including to myself.

I can’t measure it in dollars earned, words written, or new Facebook followers. I can’t compare my day to someone else’s.

It’s not just what I’ve done. It’s how and why I’ve done it. Has it thrown me off balance?

Making the most of each day starts with how I perceive myself. The answer tends to be tangible. Yet we are so much more than our physical bodies. We see them as the means by which we get stuff done.

Our body is a balanced and complex system made up of 11 major organ systems. Bodies are always seeking equilibrium in response to internal and external changes. If something goes wrong in one system, it can’t help but put stress on another.

We’re more than physical beings though. Often we fail to recognize how our emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies influence our health. All systems depend on each other for maintaining our energetic balance.

So if I intend to make the most of the day, I need to step up and do my part.

For years I’ve been careful to include the healthiest, usually organic ingredients in my diet. No processed foods, sugar, or gluten. My day starts with meditation and gratitude. I’ve come a long way in establishing and sticking to manageable priorities.

It’s not enough though. Over the past month, I’ve incorporated new elements into the day. I’ve joined a fantastic yoga studio and practice at least five times a week. A thirty-minute walk each way, which includes a few grades, helps me improve my cardio.

Can I still get sick or have a bad day? You bet.

Nourishing body, mind, and spirit daily takes time. I may not write as many words in a day. Then again, maybe I’ll write more. Whatever I do that day is of higher quality, more meaningful. It changes how the day unfolds. It makes me feel more vibrant and resilient. Better able to deal with challenges.

I see with new eyes what it means to make the most of each day, and how to do it. There’s a reason they call it a practice. The only way to improve is to keep at it. And be grateful there’s another day to start again.

Read this article for great tips on Daily Practices for Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Well-Being.

How to you make the most of each day? Tell us in the comments.

 

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Power and Resistance: Moving Beyond Fear to Action

by Liz Jansen

I debated on whether or not I should publish this post. On the one hand, I felt drawn to write it as a follow up to a previous post. On the other hand, I felt resistance. Seriously! Parts of me said it sounded too flakey or obtuse. I’d be better to write a different kind of story. I had to do my own work in preparing it. In the end, I went with my internal guidance. I hope you find it meaningful.

Power and ResistanceTwo weeks ago, we talked about the need to overcome resistance in order to move forward. This week we explore a different relationship between power and resistance. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle to overcome, we can use its energy to our advantage.

On a motorcycle, we encounter resistance, known as the friction zone, every time we shift gears. If we don’t move through it, we won’t move forward.

But there are times we want to stay in that friction zone and harness that energy.

Slow speed turns are best executed by using the friction zone. As a proficient rider, you use this technique when pulling out of your driveway into traffic. And pulling into a parking spot at the donut shop.

Can you imagine what would happen if you let out the clutch during those maneuvers? You could careen into oncoming traffic. Or stall. Or over correct by grabbing the front brake and falling over.

That’s why it’s best to learn how to integrate power and resistance.

In life, resistance occurs when those parts of our selves we don’t want to see are activated. Known as our shadows, we’ve learned these aspects are unacceptable to our selves or our family. Whether we perceive them as positive or negative, we view them as a weakness. Thus, we keep them hidden and denied.

They don’t go away though. They stay outside of our awareness and operate without us knowing it.

You can identify your shadows by observing traits in others that trigger a reaction in you. For example, you may label a colleague as arrogant or a friend as judgmental. You may dislike someone who talks too much and never listens.

Likewise, you may admire people who you view as authentic, courageous, or compassionate.

The traits you see in others exist in you. They hold energy and they don’t go away. There’s courage in fear and power in anger.

It can take introspective work to recognize your shadows. And like the motorcycle example, you’ll need to slow down to tap into their power.

Acknowledge what they’re trying to teach you. Accept them so you can reintegrate their energy. Make peace with them.

Take the cue from someone who never listens to become a more active listener. Or embrace the beauty or courage you admire in someone else as personal qualities.

That energy that’s been hidden in the shadows will be freed up for growth and vitality.

How have you learned to use the power of resistance?

Related post: Managing the Friction Zone


Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

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

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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

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

 

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.

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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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