Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Life Compassionate

A Path to Knowledge - University of Victoria
Gillian Cornwall c. 2013

What does it mean to be compassionate? The Oxford definition tells us this:
Adjective: "Feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others."

In particular, what I am thinking about today is, how do we become or remain compassionate in the face of disappointment or hurt? ...and, even as I type this, I remember my lessons from Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements:
  1. Be impeccable with your words
  2. Don't take anything personally
  3. Don't make assumptions
  4. Do your best.
In this, I have my answer to the question above. We are emotionally hurt when we take the actions of others personally and when we make assumptions with respect to the intent of another. Oh, I know, so much easier said than done, right? ...but, that is where it gets interesting because all we can do is:
  • Be impeccable with our words and
  • Do our best.
Consider, when you first feel hurt by the actions of another:
  • Where is this person on their own path to awareness and enlightenment?
  • Would this person intentionally hurt me?
  • Am I able to not make assumptions and ask them about the things which have caused me hurt?
  • What do I need to do for myself in order to create a healthy path towards my own well-being and the well-being of the world that will act as a counter-balance to violent behaviour or behaviour lacking compassion?
When we go to, and stay in, our initial feelings of hurt, we perpetuate a path that ultimately lacks resolution and relinquishes personal power:

"Why is Bob so inconsiderate? Why would he do this to me?" 

We concede our power in these statements and assume that Bob set out to do us harm. Certainly, this may be the case, but can Bob actually do us harm if we do not accept his actions as such? Why would Bob do this to us? Almost every time I have investigated and excavated this question, I have come to the same root:

Those of you who have read my blog before are probably fed up to the teeth with this one:
Everything we do as humans is motivated by either love or fear. 

Let us do our best to choose love in our actions: Love for each other and love for ourselves. 

Thank you to everyone in my life that I have encountered on my daily path in Victoria, BC and around the world, through the gift of inter-connectivity and social media, for teaching me and giving me room to learn these lessons. Thank you for not holding me to a standard of perfection that I do not even understand. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your compassion. I will try to honour your love and teachings by the path I walk and the legacy I hope to leave in the hearts of my fellow beings. 

Wishing you each a beautiful and peaceful week. 

Please remember, if someone is hurting you and you do feel stuck and alone, there are people and resources to help. These are a few:

In the moment: Call Emergency Services. In North America, call: 911 Please check the number in your part of the world and commit it to memory. Get out of the immediate environment in which the hurt is happening and seek safety and asylum.

Take Action / Follow up: Seek services to help keep you safe and set you on a happier, safer path:

These are just a very few and I am not affiliated with these providers. Even if all is well in your world, take some time to familiarize yourself with resources in your area and online in order to be ready to help yourself or another should you ever find yourself in that position. Also, many organizations lack regular, base funding and can use whatever resources you can help provide. Its all part of the life compassionate. 

Please feel free to add your local organizations in the comments portion of the blog to help others. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c May 31, 2015

Balance and Peace
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In the shoes of a student...

My College Grad Photo

There is little I remember about my time as a college student other than feeling complete and utter chaos and fatigue. With a full-time diploma program, three part-time jobs, one co-op job and a terminally-ill parent, I simply put one foot in front of the other until I found myself crossing the stage to receive my diploma. I know my experience was not unique.

Now, years later, as the editor of a burgeoning student blog for a university community, I have noticed some trends in the posts over the past year. If I were a student today (I graduated 33 years ago, so feel free to picture me as an eccentric Yoda-like sage right now), these would be the top 5 subjects of discussion that I would want to share with you as prospective students, current students, families and high school counsellors. This is my "in the shoes of a student" list:
  1. Stress: University is the most stressful thing many students have done in their lives so far, learning skills such as: work/life balance, multi-tasking, communicating needs and prioritizing. We have to learn that this is our education and, for the most part, we are the ones responsible for its success or failure based on the choices we make along the way. 
  2. Food: fuel. If I do not fuel my body with the appropriate comestibles, I will wither and get sick. Healthy food, in regular portions, is essential to my academic success. Treats, occasionally, are necessary to my emotional success. Feed a student and you will receive eternal gratitude.
  3. Preparation: ...before uni, during uni and after uni will make my life easier. a) High school counsellors: When you care and help us with our decision-making and university preparation, our paths are easier.
    b) Parents: Although we may rail against you every step of the way, it's important that you care and that you remind us about what we need to do and, once you teach us, let go (a little) and let us make our own mistakes so we can learn.
    c) Me: Use the resources available. They are there for me and will make it easier to succeed.
  4. Involvement: the school community. Find your people. Do at least one thing that has nothing to do with your classes and grades. Help someone else. Play a sport. Join a club. Plant a garden. Dance. This will enrich your experience and make your education unique. The "life" part of school will be what you remember the most.
  5. Work: a paid job, in a co-op program, in a work study program or as a volunteer. It will give you the opportunity to put to practice what you have learned in the classroom. I don't mean just the actual book-learning part, I mean the part where you have a difficult conversation with a colleague - like the kind you may have with your roommate or project partner. It will give you the chance to make a presentation to your boss or colleague using all the cool tools you have used for your class presentations. It's a chance to practice for your career post-graduation, to make connections, make some money and make a resume. Please don't worry about taking more than four years to finish your degree because that is very common.
There you have it. It may not be the same as your list, but having edited 155 student blog posts this year, I feel I learned a thing or two.

Would I ever go back to the student life now that I am closer to retirement than I am to school or career planning? Yes, I would - I would go back for the fun of it, for the pure enjoyment of learning, to share ideas and make new friends - definitely, yes. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 24, 2015

Looking back - elementary school
Circa 1969 or 1970

Sunday, May 17, 2015


As we walk through life, we encounter all manner of love. Love never disappears. As energy, love only changes shape. 

Each breath of love echoes through our hearts with each beat for as long as our journey continues. Know this and know that you are not alone. We are one world, one life and our hearts beat the rhythm of that song throughout time.

I hope this short poem reminds you of this today and that you feel the universal love, today and always.

For those of you in Nepal trying to recover from the earthquake and aftershocks, and those of you around the world, struggling to survive on little to nothing, please know that there are thousands of us around the globe who know of your plight and are sending resources (financial and physical), love and prayers to you. 

Things green
a place unseen
a home to lay your hat
and love.

Springtime Sunday
a bird song
a heart beat 
rhythm and a tune.

Now I understand 
the love that never left me
in each beat, we meet
as one.

Things green 
a place unseen 
a home to lay your hat
and love. 
-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 17, 2015
All images are the property of Gillian Cornwall

Please do what you can to help those recovering from the earthquake in Nepal. Until May 25, 2015 the Canadian government will match donations to the Nepal Region Earthquake Fund through Red Cross Canada.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers and Our Other Mother Mothers

My Mother, EA Jay c. 1943-44
Photographer unknown

One thing we all have in common (among the many things we all have in common), is that every single one of us, all living things, have had a mother who brought us forth into this world. Those lucky enough, were raised by them in loving, caring, supportive homes by women (and men) who taught them how to be kind, loving, supportive people in turn. 

Today, I want to talk about another kind of mother: the other mother. There are so many of you out there: stepmothers, godmothers, foster mothers and women who just stepped up to love and care for us when those of us who lost our birth mothers along the way needed a mother's love to get through something, or to support us, or congratulate us on our successes and comfort us in our losses. Today, I salute you and thank you for all you have given - selflessly and without asking for anything in return.

I had a second mum when I lived on Salt Spring Island. Her name is Jay and she cared for me when I was a bit lost. She housed me, fed me and showed me the unconditional love that only a mother can. I am grateful to you, Jay. Thank you for reminding me about unconditional love and about giving because you can. I did some healing in your care and in your home. I am eternally grateful. Also, I had the most amazing godmother, Mary Woodburn, who taught me so much about unconditional love and freedom of spirit. I am a much better person for the love of these two women and for many others along the way who taught me the lessons that a mother teaches.

So, to all of you out there who have been a mother to someone, for a day or for a lifetime, I salute you and thank you for giving that very particular kind of love. Please know that you have made the world a kinder, safer and more peaceful place because of your actions. My gratitude to each of you for caring for the children of the great mother, Earth, who I celebrate on this day for her love and sustenance of all of us. Please be kind to her and care for her now and always so that she may continue to love and provide for generations to come.

For those of you who have recently lost your mothers, my heart goes out to you in your loss. Talk to her today anyway - tell her what is in your heart and go out and give love to another. This will help to heal the pain in your heart. 

To my mother, Eunice Audrey Jay, thank you for my life and for caring for me. I learned so much from you, from the lessons of your life and your love of the arts and culture. I wish I had known you longer. I have learned from your strength. I send you love and I wish you eternal peace and joy.

Here is a link to some ideas to think beyond our own mother's today: 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 10, 2015

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Funny/Not Funny

Have you seen this fish?
If you do, do not approach him.
He may be finned and dangerous.
There is also a great likelihood that he is tanked...

Humour is a funny thing.... As some of you may know, I worked as a stand-up comic for about four years at the turn of the century. Right of the bat, I need to let you know that this does not mean, nor did it ever mean, that I told jokes. I talked about this and that in a way that made people laugh. The stories were generally about my own experiences and the foibles of my being a human animal amidst a bunch of other human animals plodding our way through life. I don't know any jokes and never tell any.

My big goal, was to have people be able to laugh at elements of life that are commonly contentious in a way that may set them to thinking and, perhaps, have them consider a point of view outside of their own. 

I was able to touch on subjects such as: LGBT* lifestyle and gay marriage, our use of natural resources at the expense of the planet, the casual way we approach air travel and visiting cultures outside of our own. 

It was an interesting part-time career for me - I still had a full-time job - being an entertainer is not exactly lucrative in the early days. I learned a lot. I made a lot of mistakes and still think about them to this day. It's hard when you are on stage and all eyes are on you. People are paying attention (in most places) and they expect to be entertained. So when you forget your material in a moment of either ill-preparedness or after bantering with a heckler (part of the biz), it is really easy to go off the rails and pick on something ...anything. That's the thing with humour, whether you are being paid to do it or if you are joking around with friends: it is so easy to hurt someone with poorly thought out words. 

As a comedian, I approached the art with a great deal of writing, rehearsing and trial and error, but, generally, I was practiced and ready to work. When we are "joking" with friends, it is all too easy to go for the low blow, particularly if we are dealt one first and fall, helplessly into a retaliation mind-set. 

All I'm asking is that we exercise caution in our humour. Try not to be too self-deprecating. Do not make jokes at the expense of another person - their race, culture, sex, sexual orientation, age, weight.... The list goes on. I know, I know, you may be thinking, "Come on! It's just kidding around. Everybody should know when we are just joking. Why does everything have to be so PC?" The thing is, we are highly sensitive, delicate beings - all of us - and, above all else, we deserve care and kindness. We don't know what another person has experienced in a day when we decide to poke a little fun at them. Be careful with one another. 

There are many laughs to be had without unkindness. ...My apologies and gratitude to the fishy in the picture above. I confess I used his image and poked fun at him without his consent. I am truly grateful to him and hope he is doing well in his tank on Maui. I wanted to set him free, but I wasn't sure if he was even from there and, I admit, I did not want to be arrested. I am a bit of a non-starter when it comes to activities that can result in my imprisonment.

I wish you a happy day with joy and laughter along your way. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 3, 2015

Look, it's Nemo!
"Keep swimming, keep swimming..."~Dory

Me - doing a show in another stunning location...
Photographer unknown, circa 1999 or 2000.