Sunday, November 29, 2015


Stop. Go. Reset.
Gillian Cornwall, c. Summer 2015

  • we create them, 
  • we respect them, 
  • we cross them, 
  • we defend them, 
  • we change them and
  • we tear them down.
Boundaries can be cultural, physical, mental, social, spiritual, environmental, imposed or democratically developed - well, they are just all over the place really, aren't they? 

I have some and I feel good about that. I am learning how to create them and how to be okay with changing them. I try to exercise them with self-care and with kindness. Others will say I do not and that is their opinion. I am learning and growing and doing my best and that is okay. 

I have had to set boundaries in all kinds of places. In my personal life, it is easier than my professional. I am getting better at not being bullied into crossing my own to appease someone else. I will do my best to act with care and trust myself and those to whom I turn for support and advice on my path.

I realize as I age, my views change - maybe because I am more open to listening to others but, along with that, I have changed in that I will not let the loudest or most unkind voice move me beyond my boundary or belief just to settle the storm. This means that sometimes I set boundaries that keep me from certain people and places because I do not feel safe in their presence. While this is unfortunate, I am still acting with choice. I am choosing my personal safety and comfort. I believe that is all I can control - me, my space, my behaviour. I cannot control the opinions, voices or aggressions of others. 

At the risk of being dull (as I have posted about these frequently), I consider my setting and changing of boundaries around The Four Agreements as written by Don Miguel Ruiz:
  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don't take anything personally
  • Don't make assumptions
  • Always do your best
While I am still working on all of these, I have most trouble with the second. Perhaps this means I have a hyperactive ego - not sure; nonetheless, we are all works in progress. None of us ever finishes our learning and growing. 

As we head into a season which speaks of love, joy and kindness, may we all set and review our boundaries with good hearts. May we all try for our best selves. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 29, 2015

Reaching for the light
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gift of Evergreen

 Evergreen Bough
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

peaceful moments
senses heightened

I walk among these winter woods
of evergreen,
every green.
From western winds, a carpet laid
in pine and spruce and cedar 
with every footfall fresh.

Branches gathered
fingers stuck with pine sap scent
this air freshener
the real McCoy.

Intertwining perfect circles
still damp
with the whisper
of the first snow fallen.

Rose hips of red
Snowberry bunches
of winter white
all bound in birch
a ribbon found.

Nature's gift
a perfect lift
for spirits fading
running ragged
the season nears.

I hang this wreath
upon your door
The symbol, strength
The circle, friends

-Gillian Cornwall, November 22, 2015
Re-posted from the original, December 8, 2013

On Campus
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Moments - stories

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Moments - they are happening all over the world to everyone all the time. The picture above represents one I had recently. It was brief. It was magical. It was fun. Here is the back story: 

I have some wonderful friends here is Victoria, BC who own an antique and second-hand furniture and collectibles shop. They are my friends. I adore them. They are kind, warm, fair people with good hearts and awesome humour. Their shop is called Charmaine's Past and Present. Check it out next time you are on Fort Street in downtown Victoria. I've had many awesome moments there - just hanging out, chatting and, yes, even occasionally buying something despite being a bit of a minimalist when it comes to possessions). Anyway, one day before I left for the UK, I stopped into Charmaine's to visit before I left the country for a month. I noticed a horse brass / bottle opener for The Crown and Cushion near the front desk and noted it to be from Oxfordshire. I mentioned to Glenn and Charmaine that I would be going through Oxfordshire at least once on my adventures and wouldn't it be fun to take this with me and bring it back to the inn from whence it had come across one country, a vast ocean, all the way across our enormous continent, with a skip across the Pacific to land on Vancouver Island! It's the kind of thing I think about ...perhaps not common or normal, but I am rarely accused of being "normal." We agreed that this was a fine idea and they kindly gave it to me and simply asked me to get a picture and let them know how it went. 

I packed it in my bag and took it on a couple of aeroplane trips - back to the mainland and then back over the "pond" to the UK. Unpacking at my cousin's, I showed her the brass and told her this was a priority for me. As it turned out, we didn't have opportunity to go to Chipping Norton on our day to Oxford - one is limited by the clock in some instances - but, as it happened, my new friends, Richard and Carolyn, who I had never met before this trip, had very kindly agreed to pick me up and drive me to the Cotswolds with them on another of my adventures (to not make this post 8 miles long, I'll leave that story for another time). This meant, I realized quite happily after checking my wonderful app, that we would be passing through Chipping Norton on our way to Stow on the Wold - you have to love these place names! 

I felt a bit funny asking Richard and Carolyn to stop in Chipping Norton and even a bit more peculiar trying to explain to these folks that I HAD JUST MET that I wanted to drop off this horse brass, but there is something to be said for asking for what you want / need. Anyway, this is exactly what I did and they very kindly did stop and it was AMAZING. I sauntered into the Crown and Cushion on my own while my kind transporters and new friends went to find a place to park. As it turned out, the woman at the desk (I wish I could remember her name - I think it was Mary...) is the mother of the young man who runs the place and she was absolutely gobsmacked (as they say in the old country) with my story and what I had done. I had to repeat it once for her to absorb what this Canadian hurricane of a human was saying and another time to her son who had come out of his office to meet me.They were so thrilled, so touched and so delighted that someone would take the time to do this simple thing, to make a connection across over 7,565 km, over a simple inexpensive object that has now done more travelling than most people do in their lifetimes. 

A moment. Many hearts. A story. None of us know how the brass got to Victoria in the first place but now it has travelled back to where it came from however many years ago and I have met super cool people along the way and touched a heart or two by what turned out to be a simple act. The brass is likely hanging over that massive fireplace you can see in the background of the picture though they were concerned that someone might nick it and take it on another adventure. 

If you are ever passing through Chipping Norton and stop at the Crown and Cushion, be sure to stop in and mention the horse brass and this story. Maybe find a way of making a contact like this on your next trip. Don't be afraid. We are all connected by moments, by stories, by our love of the magic this world holds despite the violence and the threats of terror around the globe. Laugh, love and live on in the face of it, for love will win. Love always wins. 

With respect to everyone in war torn, terror-ridden nations around the world and the many moments of your lives, good and bad. Your stories are important. Write them down and share them because your love of your life will win and the pen will always be mightier than the sword. Know that there are myriad people around the globe, working for peace, for freedom, for love. Tell your stories. Send them out to the world by whatever means you can find. Let us connect through our humanity and our love for one another rather than rend ourselves to pieces in our differences. 

In this moment, may we each have a little peace. 

With love,

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 15, 2015

My first view of York Minster - I hope I have captured the awe
I felt as I stood in front of this exceptionally beautiful building
York, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. October,2015

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Empathetic Engagement

Empathy in times of trouble....
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

Hi Folks. This is a repost from a while back as it has been on my mind recently and I believe a reiteration is warranted as I ponder struggles close to home and abroad. 

Empathy - I have been thinking about how we act on a day to day basis in our personal lives but in the workplace as well. Leaders and colleagues can appear to have a void of empathy for those with whom they work. This lack of understanding can have some disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of the team and their emotional divorce from the organization. This can be the first crumbling brick in the demise of an institution or business.

All leaders can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. It takes desire, primarily, to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It takes dealing with your own issues first and not packing your emotional stinginess in your lunch kit everyday and hauling it into the office. 

Certainly, it is unwise to get right in the depths of the pit with others when they are down. If you are both in there, then how will one of you guide the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path? 

It is essential to acknowledge the fact that the person is in the pit and that you are aware that they might be uncomfortable or afraid in there. If you skip this step and go right to, "Hey, at least the pit wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person in the pit that you do not want to know they are in there at all. In fact, you are entirely dismayed or indignant that they have been so thoughtless in sharing their predicament. "Pit person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, in this context, this is NOT the way to go about 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 an issue, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have acknowledged, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them (give a time and date) with resources and make sure you follow up! Be real and be true. Your position makes your time no more or no less important than that of your colleagues. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together is an investment beyond measure. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all deserving of basic 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 your team.

If you don't know, find out now before the next scenario arises. 

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

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the pit, set a time to follow up and talk about it. This may involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgments to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have in which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are our employer's 'human resource'. Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately and their meaning and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and the person with whom 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 judgment or personal need. You needn't carry it but hold up that lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human being, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way down our own individual paths. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 8, 2015


The following articles, books and scripts have been of great help to me on my journey to being more empathetic along my path for emotional and social intelligence:

Learning empathy from leaders throughout my life!
Photographer unknown
Circa. 1974

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Power of Care

Riding the British Railway and Minding My Gaps
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015


The quiet, persistent strength of my English cousin
Personal power without apology
and so it should be.
Greater than the works of Blake 
or any art that man can make.

She breathes on through storms
bigger than The Tempest born
with peaceful, treasured moments
after hurricanes and all the harms
oft this world has deemed the norm.

The Power of Care is an immeasurable thing and not one I would choose to drift by without mention. Before I left for the UK, I was a depleted soul - eroded by the tides of time and the "thousand natural (and unnatural) shocks that flesh is heir to".... I wrote to my cousin saying that I needed to come home, to be with my blood, to restore myself in a safe and peaceful place. She provided all of that for me and more. Some time had passed since I was able to simply be, to let go, to not have to take care of anything and to have the space created where someone took care of me.

The healing that can take place when someone is caring for your basic needs: clean clothes, food, transportation :-) - it's astounding. It really gives you time to be, to recover. I think a big part is being able to let go and feel safe in doing so. My cousin restored this art work that is my life, my being, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

I don't think we HAVE to go away to allow ourselves this space for healing and restoration, though it is an asset and a privilege of which I am completely aware. For me, breaking with routine in time, place and people was essential to the shifting of thought and the remapping of a way forward. Additionally, it was mildly terrifying because flying half way around the world to be with someone I hadn't seen for three decades, others I had never met - and to completely break with routine - well, it takes a bit of letting go. 

...and it was good. 

I want to say too, that there were many others on this journey who aided in my healing - some of you may not even realize it. From Gabby and the team at the Contini Cannonball Restaurant in Edinburgh who made me feel so incredibly special on the evening of my dinner there, to the teams at The Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh and The Royal York Hotel in York who made my stays beyond comfortable and into the realm of epic, lifetime memories, to my friends in the Cotswolds who included me in their family reunion in order to give me the chance to learn about Richard, my mum's wartime fiance, to my dear friend, talented artist and best selling author, Sheila Jeffries who has an unfathomable healing capacity through her extraordinary ability to love and share her heart and mind. Thanks to Battels Arts Cafe for buying us our tea after hearing the story my cousin and I shared. Thanks to Marc for the use of his amazing condo in Canary Wharf. Thanks to the river boat captain on the Thames who shared the history of the river from his heart with such humour and passion. Thanks to Trish and Susannah for inviting me into their hearts and homes. Thanks to all the kind and friendly, hard-working folks on the Transport for London system who helped me find my way around and the fellow at the Canadian Embassy who took time, just to have a chat. Huge thanks to April and Trich who invited me to their homes in Ireland even though I didn't make it to see you this time. I am so deeply moved by your generosity. To everyone whose path I crossed on my own healing path, I am grateful and certain that you have healed me through your kindness. 

When people ask me "What was the favourite part of your trip?," I've tried to pick a place, but all the places were amazing and incomparable. The truth of it is, it was the people and the interactions that stood out as much or more than the places. Even within the great cathedrals of St Paul and York Minster, my awe stands with those who put their life's work into the art and building of the places. It is inevitably the people that bring the places to life, from The Shambles in York to the River Thames, to the Tower of London, to Brighton Pier

Hearts. Caring. Giving what we have to freely give of ourselves to one another in order to increase the light of the world - that's the stuff of healing. That is where I am doing my best to live now. It feels like a pretty good place to be and I hope to see you here. 

With gratitude and love to all of you who hold up a light for me when my path grows dim and gratitude for all of you who have the courage to share your difficulties and truth with me. With every action and interaction we form our own future - let us do our best to do it with kindness and compassion.

With love to my cousin for her strength, candour and healing ways. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 1, 2015

The Armour of the Heart
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015