Sunday, July 26, 2015


Buddha, Hawaii 2006
Gillian Cornwall. c. 2012

Let love flow through you. 
Do not attempt to hold it for questioning.
All will be well.

Walk the path of love rather than the path of fear.
Give what you have to give freely, without expectation.
Make way for those you love to follow their paths without impeding their journeys.

Hold up a light for them when they are in their darkest hours.
Hold up a mirror when they need to see their beautiful reflections more clearly.

Love freely.
This is a good job.
This is a good life.
This is a beautiful life. 

All is well.
Blessings to all.
Love to all.
Love and blessings gratefully received.

-Gillian Cornwall, revised July 26, 2015.
Original text: August 25, 2011.

Mount Baker From Willows Beach
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Life is a Ride
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2015

Empathy - I have been thinking about how we behave on a daily basis in our personal and professional lives. 

Leaders and colleagues may have a void of empathy for those around them. In a professional environment, this lack of understanding can have disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of a team and their emotional divorce from an organization. This can be the first crumbling brick between working groups, friends, institutions, teams or businesses.

Everyone can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. Primarily, it takes desire to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a friend or colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It requires a comprehension of your own emotional issues and learning how to express them in the best ways and at the best times. Packing your emotional stinginess into your lunch kit everyday into a sarcasm sandwich may not be the best option.

Certainly, it is unwise to climb into the crevasse with someone when then are trapped in the dark without a visible means of escape. If you are both in there, how will you be able to help the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path and point out some options for footholds?

It is essential to first acknowledge that the person is in a crevasse and that you are aware that they may be uncomfortable, hurt and afraid in there. If you skip this step and proceed to, "Hey, at least the crevasse wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person within the crevasse that you wish you had never come across the discomforting scenario of finding them in the first place. It appears that coming across them in this state of distress is an embarrassing inconvenience and that their predicament has been engineered to inconvenience you on what would have been an otherwise enjoyable day. "Crevasse person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, this is not the way to assist with recovery and healing.

Once you have acknowledged the situation, as an effective leader, you can offer direct assistance if you are able; this too, is a form of empathy. If you are out of your league with a situation, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have made your acknowledgement, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them with resources (give details, such as date, time and format) and make sure you follow-up! Be real and be true. 

If you are in a position of empowerment, entitlement or leadership, your position makes your time no more or no less valuable than that of the person in the predicament. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together on problem-solving is an investment in any relationship, organization or group. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all worthy of respect. They are not your employees; rather, they are employed by the organization and you have been hired to lead them.

Know your responsibilities as a leader.

Know the resources of your organization.

Know the rights and benefits of those you have been asked to lead.

If you do not know, find out before the next scenario arises.

Do not make assumptions about the person's experiences or feelings based on your own history.

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the crevasse, set a time to follow-up and talk about the experience. This will involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgements to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have with which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are the employer's "human resource." Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately. Think about their meanings and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and with the person you are engaging. 

It is not your responsibility to "fix" whatever is happening with the person. It is unlikely they need, nor want, "fixing." As Oprah said on her last show, "...every single person you will ever meet shares the common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'..."

Try it. See people. Hear them. Acknowledge what they have said to you and let it flow through you without judgement nor personal need. You needn't carry the trauma of others, but hold up the lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way out of the crevasse we find ourselves in from time to time.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 19, 2015 
edited and re-posted from June 22, 2014


The following articles, books and scripts have been helpful to me on my journey towards empathy and along my path towards emotional and social intelligence.

T-Shirt painted for VSAC event
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What You Want

Shasta Daisies - Brentwood Bay 
Gillian Cornwall, c. June 2015

The sun-warmed bee buzz of the Salt Spring Island summer sits softly behind my still-closed eyes as I lay in the quiet sterility of my bed. I treat this place as somewhere exotic and far, absurd when it is but a bus and a ferry away.

Why do we complicate that which is simple? Is it to afford excuses for inaction? Do we not really want that which we say we want? Do we want it given to us rather than having to ask for it or work for it? 

In my case, I think all of these are true at different times. If I want to go to Salt Spring, I need to either ask someone to go with me and simply share or pay the costs of using their car or I need to just get up on a Saturday morning and go! I would be there within a couple of hours. 

Anyway, this post isn't really about going to Salt Spring Island as much as it's about what we do or do not put in the way of our own desires. When we think about what we want, perhaps the best course of action is to sit down and write out all of the reasons and excuses why we cannot get it and all the ways and means through which it can be achieved. 

Life is a short course of choices and the ones we make can impact the others as we weave our way through myriad choices. I do not believe in right or wrong choices as much as how we act and react to those which we have made and those we decide to abandon along the way, when they no longer suit our dreams and goals. 

All I'm saying is that it is my life, it is your life, and how we choose to live our lives is up to us - regardless of what we believe we have or do not have and what we feel are our barriers to our goals and successes. So walk your path with care and do not abandon your dreams too easily. Chances are some of them are just a bus ride or a ferry away. 

With love and peace to each of you on the journey.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 12, 2015

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Walking the Path of PRIDE

Pride Crosswalk
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2015

Hurt breeds fear. Fear breeds anger. Anger breeds hate; however, love, unconditional love given with a good heart, without any expectation of return, that love exists and cannot be taken.

If you had the chance to read my post, titled: The Life Compassionate from Sunday, May 31, then you may remember the lessons in remaining compassionate in the face of disappointment or hurt. I believe that these lessons come up for us at times when we either need them for ourselves or we need to teach them to someone else ...sometimes both.

I spoke at an event this week. Some of you are already aware of it but, for the rest of you, it was the official opening of a PRIDE crosswalk at my workplace. It may not sound like much, but it took 11 months of collaboration and work to achieve the installation of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. Most people in attendance believed this celebration of accomplishments to be a good thing and some did not. Some people were hurt and angry because there is still more to do and they felt the crosswalk misrepresented where we are on that path of equity and inclusion. All voices were heard and the crosswalk was opened. For me, it was a celebration of what has been accomplished and it shows a willingness to participate in changes to come.

I have worked at this place for 20 years and participated, as an individual and multiple committee member to affect change, to make my community more equitable and diverse through advocacy. Notice that I say making, for the work is not done - likely the work will never be finished. There have been an enormous number of people who are change-makers participating in the process, some as individuals who stand up to be seen and participate in change by being themselves, despite knowing the risk of what should be a right for all, and those that have worked actively to bring about policy change ...and those who do both. Some have been at it for much longer than I. I am grateful to every one of them for their bravery and commitment. This crosswalk is a way to acknowledge the proud past and the work of these people and it is an acknowledgement that there is always more work ahead.

Past. Present. Future. Work done. Work being done. Work to be done. I am grateful to be a part of the process, despite the hate, anger and fear I have encountered, and can still encounter along the way. Celebrations of the work done are necessary and drive us forward, particularly for those of us who have dedicated our lives to make it better for those who follow.

Here is my speech from the official opening of the crosswalk, minus the section where I offered my thanks to some folks - I did not have a chance to ask to use their names here. Like every single person walking the face of the earth, people want to know: "Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say means anything to you" ~Oprah Winfrey I hope my words will mean something to you:

"I speak, with gratitude for the strength, bravery and knowledge of the elders and all of the people of this land. I recognize I am not of this place and that I am standing, speaking my truth, on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples. Thank you.

Rainbows are a reflection of sunlight through raindrops. When white light enters a raindrop, the different wavelength colours bend at slightly different angles.(1) So we each find our path when a light is held up for us in dark or difficult times. We are enabled to walk our unique paths, following our hearts and minds on our voyages of personal discovery. 

The PRIDE crosswalk is complete. The lines are painted and they stretch from one side to the other, representing this path we walk. They represent the original PRIDE flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in San Francisco in 1978. The pink (stripe) hearkens back to the pink triangles forced upon homosexuals, rapists and paedophiles, by Nazis, when they were sent to concentration camps during World War Two, but was added by Baker to represent sexuality. Please take time to investigate the history of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. 

The weight of oppression may grow heavy at times, but lay your burden down here for it was never your fear, nor your shame, to carry. Story by story, you will be heard and acknowledged and we will heal together. 

On this, our path of PRIDE, I see opportunity for acknowledgement, recognition and healing so we can go forward together, in wellness, with good hearts. This path represents our journey as a community. We are many beautiful, different threads and, woven together, we can make a strong cloth.

Take time to listen to our change-makers; do not see them as troublemakers if their stories discomfort you. Be brave. Ask questions.

Listening may be one of the greatest acts of healing you will ever perform. Each time you cross here, remember those who have worked for equity, diversity and inclusion and that our work continues until everyone is walking this as a path of love rather than a path of fear. 

In closing, I ask you for 3 things:
  • Remember
  • Be present
  • Aspire
Our best bet has always been to start, stay and finish with kindness.

Thank you."

I wish everyone around the world a Happy Pride. For those still struggling for your basic freedoms and rights, I do see you; I hear you and what you say means something to me. We will keep working, for we do not truly have freedom until we are all free. With love and a kind heart, I wish you each peace and safety on your path and may we continue to hold lanterns up for one another in our times of darkness. Look for moments of peace and joy and embed them in your very cellular structure and in your soul to keep you going through times of drought - the rains will come again and so will the sunshine and, with them, rainbows. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 5, 2015

Victoria Pride Pin - "We Are Family"
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2014