Saturday, June 20, 2015

Collaborative Competition

Competition usually implies one winner and many losers. I like the idea that “there’s enough room at the top for everyone”. That way, more people become winners!

Paul and I just spent 3 days watching our daughter Jacquie compete in the CrossFit Regional Games in Tacoma Washington. Qualifying for this event is not easy, requiring hours and hours of daily training and a focus on healthy eating and clean living. Just qualifying for the Regionals is an extraordinary accomplishment!

CrossFit is a fitness program that is inclusive and uses everyday life activities as a guide to the exercises. The CrossFit culture considers the heaviest loads we carry in our daily lives and training is determined with the idea of “the more work you do in the least amount of time, the more intense the effort.”  Practicing CrossFit, then, is considered to be the ‘sport of fitness’.

Jacquie has been practicing CrossFit for 5 years. She has always been a physically strong girl, involved in gymnastics in her childhood and dance as she grew into her teens. Competition was something she avoided. She seemed to love the sport, and, traditionally lost interest when competition became the ‘next step’.

As a teacher, I acknowledge and honour the need for including competition in planning my lessons. The challenges provided by ‘performing better than’ someone else often inspire better performance. A little bit of stress could sometimes enhance results.  I am mindful too, that too much stress can also jeopardize performance. Fear of failure often supersedes the desire to try. I am convinced that many young people don’t even attempt to learn something new because they are afraid that they won’t be successful. (“I sure would like to be an accountant, but the exams are so difficult”, or “I’m not good enough. I might as well go into retail”)

Years ago while attending a Franklin Covey seminar I was introduced to an exciting model for healthy competition. The scenario described is of a tennis match where all levels participated and no one was ‘eliminated’. Scoring lower than others simply shifted the match in which a participant played but everyone played until the end. There is a winner, and, I suppose, a loser, and the point is that ‘everybody wins because everybody gets to play’. Malcolm Gladwell, (Outliers) also reinforces the idea that, when the focus is redirected from ‘winning’, everyone continues to be part of the game, and each player improves in her/his sport. Simply practicing improves performance. How ironic that those who need the most practice are eliminated from that opportunity.

“There’s enough room at the top.” That’s an idea I believe in strongly. On our island of Gabriola there are many people with wonderful progressive ideas. So much of what is promoted here focuses on similar concepts… inclusivity, health, mental wellness, mindfulness, participation, and appreciation. These are ideas that so often come up in workshops, meetings and other places of gathering. We all want similar things, we simply do it in different ways. That’s a good thing because the more ways we do something the more apt we will be to connect with a diverse group of people. That’s what we want - to have everyone involved.

In CrossFit there is awareness that natural camaraderie, competition and the love of the ‘game’ constitutes enough inspiration to play. Fear of failure defined by one person performing better than another, creates unnecessary stress, even absolute fear, which often leads to nonparticipation. In CrossFit, competition happens only with self. Use of white boards as scoreboards, recording information, clocking performance, and clearly outlining and defining rules and standards increases motivation and, ultimately, performance.

Jacquie is a winner simply because she is playing at The Regionals. I love watching the way she concentrates on what she is doing. Her deep breaths, inhaling slowly and completely with both hands spread wide over her knees as she hunches over her folded body, eyes directed to nowhere, Her deep focus and meditative stance during each activity reinforces her ‘being present’. She never gives up… not even when her performance is slower and/or not as great as she would have wanted. She cares about her self. And she is also there to support and root for others. Her skill and physical endurance continues to grow. When the weekend ends, there are many highlights and accomplishments, and apart from the joy that is evident, the tears that are shed are only tears of joy. Everyone this weekend is a winner! What a wonderful feeling for all!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


What’s the point in going back in time? “Be here now,” many people say. “Focus on the moment.”

This is me 'then'.
There was a time, not even 10 years back, that I realized that I had very few memories of my childhood. In order for me to really feel whole and to understand my life journey, it would be important to find a way to fill in the gaps. I knew that I would benefit from ‘knowing’ my inner child'. Therapy was one option I considered, and I also remained open to opportunities to revisit those times.

In 2007 through Facebook, I had an amazing connection with a few girlfriends from elementary school in New York. I left N.Y. for Israel when I was 14 years old and entering high school. Many of my friends from that time said things like “All of a sudden you were gone and no one knew where you went.” That wasn’t exactly true, I think, but maybe it felt a little like that. In any case, once I left the U.S. I never came back. My life after Israel continued in Canada where I’ve lived ever since.

Although our initial connection happened through Facebook, we immediately arranged for a weekend gathering at one of their homes in New York. We spent the weekend reminiscing, sharing yearbooks and autograph albums and having conversations about ‘those days’ ‘those guys’ and ‘those times’. Since then we speak often, text some, visit individually and try at least once a year to get us all together in one place at the same time. With this new union, my life has been enriched enormously. How I value the very special and unique relationship that has been allowed to perpetuate from the time we were children! Even considering the 35 years we didn’t see, speak to, or even think about each other, I have come to value the memories that have been rekindled as a result.

For me, memories are only important if they have a direct impact on my life today and who I have become.

A few years ago we held a reunion on Gabriola of the people who were here in the 70’s. Those years on Gabriola have been called ‘The Hippy Years’. The weekend featured a popular band from that time, Medicine Wheel, and many people from Gabriola and from other areas in BC and beyond came to participate. I was asked to facilitate a welcoming circle to kick off the weekend of events. In planning, I felt driven to bridge the years. The question, “How did your experiences on Gabriola in the 70’s inspire the person who you are today?”  prompted some interesting thoughts and captivating responses. The weekend began with a shared experience and a bonding of emotional and intellectual perspectives.

Yes…living here and now is the ultimate, and, living here and now is greatly inspired by who we were there and then!

So recently, when my high school reunion was announced in Fort Lauderdale Florida, I began to think about the benefits of attending. My one year at the American International School in Israel was a year of social and academic intensity. I lived in a gorgeous four bedroom house directly on the beach of Herzylia Petuach. There were five other people in the house. All of them were boys. One of them, Terry, I eventually married.  We partied often, played music together on the beaches in our neighbourhood, went to school when we had to, and grew close as family together. Our house was the ‘go to’ house for our cohorts. The year was memorable. Relationships were intense, fun and crazy! When the year was over, Terry and I and two other friends from the house moved on to study in Jerusalem. Other than them, I had never seen any of these people since.

The Reunion weekend featured a gathering of about 130 people all of whom graduated sometime in the 70’s. Most of the people who went to AIS attended for only one or two years, since their families moved around often as job placements changed. Missionaries, ambassadors, politicians were some of the jobs that brought these families to Israel at the time. The children of the families required American schools to graduate.  

At the reunion I knew maybe three people. We ended up sharing most of the weekend together, not necessarily attending all the reunion events, but creating our own. These were the three people I needed to see.

I have learned that intimate conversation and mindful sharing of experiences is a great opportunity to piece together the years of my life. I have learned to accept and embrace these relationships, despite some of the pain and hurtful times that we might have experienced together. I don’t need to forget anymore because forgiveness just comes naturally. I embrace instead.
This is me 'now'
I am enriched by the multitude of relationships in my life. I benefit from my memories as they continue to help clarify ow events in my life have helped me to become the person I am today. I have no regrets, because I truly believe that everything I’ve experienced is purposeful and meaningful and helps me to be me.

The memories that I have been successful in generating have reinforced for me the richness of my life! The ‘wanderlustful’ quality of my youth continues to prevail even after 41 years of career focus and childrearing. I continue to complete the ‘book of my life’ with the later chapters. I once again have the time to focus on ‘me’ and to continue to live out the dreams I have always held.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

God's Colours

We live in Paradise! Every day presents a new radiance in our lives. Sparkling evidence of Nature abounds all around me. I am healed by evidence of God’s presence.

Some times I lose sight of my connections to the natural world. Visible images remind me. The beauty around overwhelms! I am grateful for the reminder!

God’s colours inspire my morning. The green leaves solidly clinging in grey patches hang from the living branches in the woods. The silhouette against the azure sky reminds me of the symmetry of life and the ordinance of patterns that govern my days.

Solid rocks, pearl white protrude from the ground. They are heavy, strong, and smooth. There are no two rocks the same. I paint on them with brush strokes of bright pink, sparkly yellow and purple. With God’s creation and mine, we make those pearl white rocks explode with vitality.

The birds chirp. Their sounds emerge in various hues of blue as they soar in contrast to the sky. Owls release hoots of brown and tan and orange with dark strokes throughout. They respond to each other in owl song. Sometimes they perch boldly on the dark russet limbs of the trees above. At times they pretend to be red, but they don’t fool me. And I like them in their natural colours. Those are the colours that God meant them to be.
 God’s colours illuminate my garden. Bluebells, bright red roses, purple pansies and brilliant white daisies with dull orange centre cores scatter furiously, shouting out God’s message, “I’m here! I’m alive!”

And God’s colours fade as the sun sets and the moon dawns. The colours fade into one until all is grey. The night becomes clear and the colour of God’s silence encourages me to sleep.

God’s colours turn slowly to black and white as I dream. There will always be new possibilities for colouring God’s world of tomorrow.

In the meantime, I only want to remember about Paradise! We live here now!