Depths of my inside world

The longer arm points to the camp
where I find prejudice and hurt
and hope
in the personal and local
I’m not so naive 
as I’m growing, discerning
what to say
what to be thankful for
what to look to: a spiral of fear or the good that always comes
what feeds my spirit Continue reading Depths of my inside world

Others allow me to remember self


Today, I pause to notice what I choose to do with the peace in my life.

Canadians pause to remember today. To remember the 2.3 million men and women who have served, and more than 118,000 who died. To remember those who continue to serve. To remember Canadians who gave their lives and their future so that we may live in peace.

Today, I pause to notice the peace I experience in my life, in exchange for their sacrifice.



: to have or keep an image or idea in your mind

: to cause (something) to come back into your mind

: to keep (information) in your mind : to not forget something


How do we get stuck at simply remembering the past instead of re-membering the future, of bringing back into relationship what has been torn apart?

(John Phillip Newell


The peace in my part of the world allowed me to go on a wilderness quest. A month ahead of the quest, I recognized that my intention was to find the bigger ME that sees abundance in the world, to find my abundant Self. At the time, I called this my effort to rewire the reptilian in me, to awaken my whole being to what scarcity looks and feels like (no food for two nights in the wild). I did this safely, without fear of loss of life.

The peace in my part of the world allowed me to go on the wilderness quest with people who travelled safely from Canada, the United States, Germany and Australia. In my case, I drove 1500 km with one uneventful border crossing, and hours of beautiful countryside.  Nestled in the northern part of the Cascade Mountains that stretch from northern California, to southern British Columbia, I enjoyed the passage of Chronos + Kairos time.

Here's where we were, courtesy google map
Skalitute Retreat – google maps
The valley
Skalitude – a beautiful meadow, and the Sacred Mountain to the north

The peace in my part of the world allowed me to Earth gaze from Earth. I contemplated my self, my Higher Self and the nature of me and the nature around me. I was contemplating my planet and my place in it. I found a place to camp up the valley to the right of the Sacred Mountain.

Camp Red Chair on topo

The peace in my part of the world allowed me to listen to the voices of longing in my soul, my soul hungers.

Today is tuesday
on the Sacred Mountain
which means I notice
what I’m really hungry for
i have shelter
i am warm enough
my thirst is quenched
my hunger is 
for my soul to be seen
by me
for my soul to be seen
by others
for my soul to be seen
by this place
to see Me
to see Others
to see my Place
I am hungry for Me
here I am.

The peace in my part of the world allowed me to take time to settle in to the experience for weeks afterwards. In this time, I recognized that synchronicity is the Universe tapping you on the shoulder, a wild synchronicity that invites me to be awake in every moment. Further, I noticed cascading synchronicity, a series of events and understanding that revealed the synchronicity in synchronicity. Words in books, on maps, in experiences. Everywhere I went.

The peace in my part of the world allows me to fully be Me.

The peace in my part of the world allows me to look after others.

The peace in my part of the world allows me to look after place.

Thank you.



Cascading synchronicity


There is synchronicity in synchronicity.

Three days ago the words wild synchronicity were front and center in my being; today the words are “cascading synchronicity”.  And it all has to do with walks in the wilderness.


Cascade – Noun

  1. A small waterfall, typically one of several that fall in stages down a steep rocky slope
    • A mass of something that falls or hangs in copious quantities
    • A large number or amount of something occurring at the same time
  2. A process whereby something, typically information or knowledge, is successively passed on
    • A succession of devices or stages in a process, each of which triggers or initiates the next

Cascade – Verb

  1. (Of water) pour downwards rapidly and in large quantities
    • Fall or hang in copious quantities
  2. Pass (something) on to a succession of others
  3. Arrange (a number of devices or objects) in a series or sequence


  • Mid 17th century from French, from Italian cascara, from cascare “to fall”, based on Latin casus.

(Note – above from Oxford Dictionary)


Three weeks ago I left Washington’s Cascade Mountains, where I went on a wilderness quest, with the support and guidance of Ann Linnea, Christina Baldwin and Deborah Greene-Jacobi (and apprentice guide LeAnn Blackert).  I walked up the meadow of the Smith Canyon Valley, and up the valley to the right to set up a camp on the flank of the Sacred Mountain for 48 hours of solo time, alone in the wild.

The valley
Photo credit: Ann Linnea

Since my return home, having turned my back on the Sacred Mountian, writing has been one of the ways I listen to myself, to integrate and incorporate the experience of the wilderness quest. Much of the writing has surfaced in blog posts:

  1. I went to rewire the reptilian in me
  2. I found myself face to face with the ways Chronos + Kairos time show up in my life
  3. I realized the quest was also about Earth gazing from Earth
  4. I received an invitation to explore  my soul hungers
  5. I noticed wild synchronicity around me


While sitting in the living room this week, I noticed a map my husband left on the coffee table. “Lake Minnewanka,” just north of Banff jumped out at me, and I recalled a walk along the shores of the lake almost seven years ago. I was in the middle of an intense learning experience and our hosts wisely gave us the gift of time that afternoon to integrate what we were learning, and decompress. We had a few choices, one of which was a guided walk in Canada’s Rocky Mountains with Rosemary.

I have to confess that Rosemary drove me nuts. I was hungry to get moving and do something physical after two and half days of sitting and concentration. I was alive to be outside, on the move. And Rosemary kept stopping. And talking. And we hardly moved at all.

I had a conversation with myself about how to handle my frustration. I could just bolt and do my own thing, but since we were a group, my hosts would get in trouble; to bring a group into Banff National Park, you must have a guide. I could just play along. I chose to surrender, to listen to what she was saying. I didn’t give up – I surrendered to Rosemary and her wisdom.

And what I heard was remarkable.

How nature – the wilderness – works is, of course, very similar to how humans work.

Upon returning to the formal part of learning experience, we were asked to write, in free flow, to let out what was in us. Rosemary’s wise words, as I received them, came through:



eagle nest
beaver dam
broken and whole
self and selfless
ice and snow
grass and green
onion shoots
evidence of animals
not seen
fire and rebirth
not destruction
the flames are on
the lee side
when the wind 
blows strong
amid the firestorm


I recognize this experience with Rosemary at Lake Minnewanka as THE point in my life where I learned to listen.

And then, in my living room, I noticed the name of a river that feeds the lake:



These two wilderness experiences have provided me with space into which I can expand into myself, and in so doing I expand my capacity to listen to the world within and around me, and to listen to me within me, and around me.  One experience was quick, the other longer in duration; both significant.



  1. The simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

(Note  – above from Oxford Dictionary)


Noticing synchronicity is an invitation to explore a non-linear world. Noticing synchronicity is noticing a portal into deeper understanding of self, and our relationship with others and our places. It isn’t about explanation, but it is about understanding.

The synchronicity – having the word “cascade” pop into my consciousness as it did – invited me into a conversation with myself about the meaning of the word “cascade” in my life. The result of this conversation with myself is this post. I can see that the wilderness quest naturally flowed from my experience with Rosemary. Even though it was years later, I can see the trajectory; I can see a series of cascading events. The synchronicity is in how I happened upon the word “cascade” on the random map on the coffee table.

I’m betting that these synchronicities, the wild and the cascading, will be foundations for more synchronicities.

What synchronicities are you noticing in your life? How do you explore them?







Wild synchronicity


Synchronicity is the Universe tapping you on the shoulder, inviting you to notice what resonates with you. It’s a portal into your deeper self.

Three things are tapping me on the shoulder:

  1. Three weeks ago I was in the middle of a wilderness quest; two days and two nights in the wild with no food. I am in the process of integrating this experience into my life – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. 
  2. As I fell asleep, for several nights after the wilderness quest, I could see clear images on my eyelids. A friend named this phenomenon: hypnagaia. With a little research, I found the acronym WILD. Wake Induced Lucid Dreams.
  3. While listening to David Whyte’s What to Remember While Waking, he speaks of the revelations we have where we no longer recognize ourselves, and the wilderness skills we need because we don’t recognize “home”.

As I weave these threads together, I see that the wilderness quest was a way to wake myself up – to me. I knew heading in to this experience that I wanted to crack myself open. I thought the crack would let light in, and what I would see would shake me up. I wanted to see what would come of it.

The wilderness quest crack is not only about letting light in – it is as much about letting my light out. It is about seeing things I have never seen before, and welcoming and integrating them into my very being. It is about waking up, everyday, any time of day. Being awake in every moment.



Build the city to save the world


Happiness is slippery, it slithers away between your fingers, but problems are something you can hold on to, they’ve got handles, they’re rough and hard.
Isabel Allende


Partly because sprawl has forced Americans to drive farther and farther in the course of every day, per capita road death rates in the United States hover around forty-thousand per year. That’s a third more people than are killed by guns. It’s more than 10 times the number of people killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Here’s an image that sticks: imagine a loaded Boeing 747 crashing every three days, killing everyone on board. That’s how many people die on U. S. highways every year… A rational policy maker would wage war, not on other nations, but on traffic deaths. 
Charles Montgomery

Six significant ideas in Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming our Lives Through Urban Design, about why things go wrong in our cities:

  1. Happiness never stands still. Happiness is inherently remote. “…the brain constantly adjusts its idea of what we need in order to be happy. It compares what we have now to what we had yesterday and what we might possibly get next. It compares what we have to what everyone else has. Then it recalibrates the distance to a revised finish line. But that finish line moves even when other conditions stay the same, simply because we get used to things.”
  2. We are hardwired for active dissatisfaction. “Hunter-gatherers… compulsively looked ahead in order to kill more game or collet more berries than they did yesterday, were more likely to make it through lean times and thus pass on their genes. In this model, happiness is not a condition at all. It is an urge genes employ to get an organism working harder and hoarding more stuff. The human brain has not changed much in the ten thousand years since we began to farm.”
  3. We make bad decisions all the time, and these decisions shape our cities. We are not equipped to make decisions that maximize utility because we are not equipped to make decisions with the longer term in mind. For example, we choose long commutes, even though the longer people choose to commute, the less happy people are with their entire lives. Extrinsic rewards trump the intrinsic rewards.
  4. We generate unreasonable expectations.  Our culture sends us messages about about what is important in our lives. “Our brains are pushed and pulled by the powerful synergy of memory, culture, and images. So our concept of the right house, car, or neighbourhood might be as much a result of happy moments from our past or images that flood us in popular media as of any rational analysis of how these elements will influence the moments of our lives.”  You know  the things that harm us in our cities – time spent in cars, lack of walkability and social cohesion, pollution – yet we are so attached the things that generate the negative that we ignore the information so we can live up to our unreasonable expectations.
  5. The habits of professionals make the same cognitive mistakes as the rest of us. Everything described above applies to citizens and professionals alike – but the professionals (the architects, landscape architects, engineers and planners) build the city and give us our choices. Limited choices. This is true, but Montgomery does not acknowledge the power of the consumer and how as citizens we also shape our city. Where we choose to spend our money is where the developers will go… We all make the cognitive mistakes.
  6. Presentism: “we let what we see and feel today bias our view of the past and future.” This is a cognitive error. Example: too much traffic on the road, so I want more lanes; lanes immediately fill up with cars; too  much traffic on the road, so I want more lanes; I forget that the last time this happened, the solution did not help; I want more lanes.

The real issue facing us are the cognitive blocks that “prevent us from recognizing the connection between the way we live in cities and the massive risks now facing our world and our species.” There are clear safety and environmental threats to how we move in our cities, yet we are held back, “…in part by the autopoieisis of urban systems that have their own momentum and staying power. But we are also held back by our own imperfect minds.”

So what?

The sustainable city has got to promise more happiness than the status quo. It has got to be healthier, higher in status, more fun, and more resilient than the dispersed city. It has got to lure us together rather than push us apart. It has got to reward people for making efficient choices when they move around. It has got to be a city of hedonic satisfaction, of distilled joys that do not cost the world. The city shapes our decisions. It always has.
Charles Montgomery

Now what?

Montgomery’s challenge is to build the city that will save the world. Pieces of that city are being born all over the planet right now. The innovative acts and activities where people are pouring themselves into their work that makes the world a better place; they are improving the physical and social habitats of our cities, and our economic lives.

Strategies you can use to create the city that will save the world:

What are you doing to create the city that will save the world?



I’ve posted a few times about Charles Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming our Lives Through Urban Design. Here they are for you to explore:

Soul hungers


Two weeks ago today I emerged from the wilderness after two days and two nights alone, on a vision quest in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.

At the end of my fast, I was reflecting on a passage by John O’Donohue, where he invites the reader to “Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers.”

I wrote this in my sketchbook:

day 2 of vision quest. late afternoon, early evening o’clock. 6 meals missed. this is an interesting time to think of hunger because I am really hungry. 


As part of the process to prepare for the vision quest, I went for a walk in Elk Island National Park, Canada’s first wildlife sanctuary, and now home to North America’s largest land mammal – the bison.

They welcomed me to the trail head.

Bison welcom

They surrounded me while I paused midday for a snack.

Bison at lunch

They shared their land with me. And as I followed one of their trails off the official trail, I came upon a green, glass bottle.

the bottle - medium

These bison are here because of a series of human interventions. Humans created this sanctuary, a sanctuary needed because of human activity. But in the middle of this natural area the bottle was out of place. I know nothing of its story, of how long it has been here, or who left it. The only thing it could tell me was that was made in Canada (this was imprinted on the bottom).

I picked it up, initially because I felt a need to carry out any garbage I found. As I carried it around with all my own questions about the bottle, I wondered what questions the bottle might have for me.

We walked together and we sat together.

the bottle in the field

And eventually, a couple weeks later and just before leaving for the vision quest, it asked me this:

For what are you a vessel? 


On that last night in my tent, hungry, the beginnings of an “answer” came.

Today is tuesday
on the Sacred Mountain
which means I notice
what I’m really hungry for
i have shelter
i am warm enough
my thirst is quenched
my hunger is 
for my soul to be seen
by me
for my soul to be seen
by others
for my soul to be seen
by this place
to see Me
to see Others
to see my Place
I am hungry for Me
here I am.


Earth gazing from Earth


A week ago today, I emerged from the wilderness at dawn after two days, two nights alone and fasting on a vision quest (see Rewire the reptilian, and Chronos + Kairos). It occurs to me today that this was a form of Earth gazing at many scales, from Earth rather than from space. I contemplated my self, my Higher Self and the nature of me and nature around me. I see today that I was contemplating my planet and my relationship with it.


Earth gazing
a look at ourselves
a glance
at the dancing light of stardust
integrating interconnectedness
in space

This is a wee poem I caught while watching the Planetary Collective‘s trailer about the Overview Effect – humanity’s recent ability to see ourselves from a cosmic perspective. We have an emerging big picture view of ourselves. We live on a planet, and there are implications of this understanding for life on Earth.

The big change is that we now can see a unity of life that we could not see previously. Space travellers see a form of unity of life, of coherence. A oneness of consciousness. A delicate oasis in infinity. This understanding is crucial because who we are, our existence, is at stake. Our choices are made in a delicate balance that is destructive or sustainable. Says Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell:

We humans are responsible for ourselves.


This little film tells us that much of astronauts’ spare time, while in space, is doing what they call Earth gazing. Not quite a meditation, but quiet time in awe.

We can’t all go into space – yet. But we can explore the wonder of our planet and open ourselves to a more full relationship with the fullness of our world.

How do you Earth gaze from Earth?



Citizen superheroes are on the inside


There are citizen superpowers in each of us. We become citizen superheroes when we choose to use them. And after choosing to exercise your citizen superhero muscles, we need to practice, practice, practice…

The more you use your citizen superpowers, the more you will be comfortable with them, and the more you can handle the fight-or-flight parts of your brain that try to sabotage your deeper knowing despite the fact that you face no real threat (see Citizen Superpowers for more).

Here are your citizen superpowers, and they come right from the parts of your brain that are not about fight-or-flight:

  1. Explore with great curiosity and an open mind
  2. Empathize with yourself and others with compassion and understanding to any situation
  3. Innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions
  4. Navigate and choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission
  5. Activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, or distractions of the Saboteurs

Once you choose to practice these powers, then you grow your abilities to be skilful and wise in their application. Your actions will be large and small. Never mind the size – that you use your powers is the most important thing. Practice, practice, practice.

Find what is important to you and work on it. You are not the kind of superhero that swoops in and saves other people. You are the kind of superhero that looks after what you think needs to be worked on. Your passion is what drives you. It comes from the inside of you, not what others need of you.

YOU are your superhero.


(For more on Citizen Superpowers, see yesterday’s edition of the Nest City News , or the Nest City Blog post of couple weeks ago).



Rewire the reptilian


In a month’s time I will be going on a vision quest. My intention is to recalibrate my reptilian being.

I wrote last week about citizen superpowers and two parts of our brains: the part that serves as our deeper, higher Self (the middle prefrontal cortex, what Shirzad Chabine calls the Empathic Circuitry (mirror neuron system, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex) and the right brain; and the  fight-or-flight parts of our brain (brain stem and limbic system). The former generates what I call our citizen superpowers, our passion to improve, while the latter is the source of Chabine’s ten saboteurs (see citizen superpowers).

The brain stem and limbic system is also known as our reptilian brain. It is in survival mode at all times, but in  my life, I do not need to be in survival mode at all times.  I have reliable shelter. I have a good food supply. Far more than my basic needs are met. Yet this old part of my brain tells me that there is never enough, that it will never last. I puts me on the defensive and the offensive. It feeds my behaviours that sabotage me and my ability be my best Me.

The reptilian me is focused on scarcity.


When it comes to food, I have engrained habits that are based in deprivation. I eat whatever is in front of me because it feels like it is my only chance. A few years ago I tried my first diet and it worked wonders. I lost 30 pounds, was physically active and felt super fit. I felt wonderful. I even learned some good habits in the process – I now crave vegetables and fruit.

Inevitably, I started to gain weight back because I lacked the willpower to deprive myself of the foods I want. And when I have access to the food I want, or when I find myself super hungry, I eat like I will not have an opportunity to eat for a couple days. After depriving myself, the reptilian part of my brain takes over when it has a chance. Depriving myself of food I like/want is a pattern of scarcity.

The reptilian me is focused on scarcity.


I can feel a shift underway.  I long to trust my body and its signals about what I need to eat and when. I want to fully appreciate what my body is and what it looks like. I want to shift to appreciate my body from  within, rather than external measures (weight, people’s comments, the mirror).  To pursue this exploration, I am embarking on an experience that will involve true deprivation: a fast.

In June, I will be heading out on a Wilderness Quest on a mountain in the Eastern Cascade mountains with the support of Ann Linnea, Christina Baldwin and Deborah Greene-Jacobi. It is a rite of passage that started when I chose to do this, though I can not better describe what I am moving from, or moving to. That will come. What I learn on this journey could be entirely different from what I imagine. I know I will ease myself into life on the mountain for a couple days, then head out alone, fasting, for two days, then circle up with my fellow questers to “digest” our learnings and prepare to re-enter the world.

My only expectation is time to explore and discover. And I may discover nothing right away.

There is a bigger ME that sees abundance.


My intention is to rewire my reptilian brain, to awaken my whole being to what real scarcity looks and feels like. My intention is to experience what the reptilian me sees, and bend with it to more fully see and appreciate – and embody – the abundance in life.

My quest is my abundant Self. 





Citizen superpowers


… your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Positive Intelligence measures the relative strength of those two modes in your mind. High Positive Intelligence means your mind acts as your friend far more than as your enemy. Low Positive Intelligence is the reverse. 

These are the words of Shirzad Chamine, in his book Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours. This got me to thinking about how this relates to citizens and cities – how we choose to use our brains matters. We can choose to be happier citizens and have happier cities.


In each of us, according to Chamine, is a master saboteur of happiness – the Judge – and nine accomplices. Powered by the fight-or-flight parts of our brain (brain stem and limbic system), they aim for survival and power. They will do whatever it takes to convince you that your survival depends on them.  See if you recognize any of them (text below summarized from Chamine):

  1. The Judge compels you to constantly find faults with yourself, others, and your conditions and circumstances. It generates much of your anxiety, stress, anger, disappointment, shame and guilt. Its lie: without tough love, you or others would turn into lazy and unambitious being who would not achieve much.
  2. The Stickler takes perfection, order, and organization too far. It makes you and others around you anxious and uptight. It saps your own or others’ energy on extra measures of perfection that are not necessary. Its lie: perfectionism is always good and that you don’t pay a huge price for it.
  3. The Pleaser compels you to try to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others constantly. It causes you to lose sight of your own needs and become resentful of others. Its lie: you are pleasing others because it is a good thing to do, denying that you are really trying to win affection and acceptance indirectly.
  4. The Hyper-Achiever makes you dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. It keep you focused mainly on external success rather than on internal criteria for happiness. Its lie: your self-acceptance should be conditional on performance and external validation.
  5. The Victim wants you to feel emotional and temperamental as a way of gaining attention and affection. Its lie: assuming the victim or martyr persona is the best way to attract caring and attention to yourself.
  6. The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exlcusive foxon on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions and regard emotions as unworthy of much time or consideration. Its lie: the rational mind is the most important and helpful form of intelligence that your possess.
  7. The Hyper-Vigilant makes you feel intense and continuous anxiety about all the dangers surrounding you and what could go wrong… It results in a great deal of ongoing stress that wears you and others down. Its lie: the dangers around you are bigger than they actually are and that nonstop vigilance is the best way to tackle them.
  8. The Restless is constantly in search of greater excitement in the next activity or through perpetual busyness. It doesn’t allow you to feel much peace or contentment with your current activity. It gives you a neverending stream of distractions that make you los your focus on the things and relationships that truly matter. Its lie: by being so busy you are living life fully, but it ignores the fact that in pursuit of a full life you miss out on your life as it is happening.
  9. The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to one’s own will. Its lie: you need the Controller to generate the best results from the people around you.
  10. The Avoider focuses on the prositive and the pleasuant in an extreme way. It avoids difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts. Its lie: you are being positive, not avoiding your problems.

Notice and identify these Saboteurs, for they keep you from reaching your fullest potential. They keep you – and your brain – focused on short-term threats to your short-term survival. Through you and each and every citizen, they keep our cities from serving citizens well.


In contrast to your Saboteurs, the Sage in you is a “deeper and wiser part of you. It is the part that can rise above the fray and resist getting carried away by the drama and tension of the moment or falling victim to the lies of the saboteurs.” The Sage in you uses whole other areas of your brain for an entirely different purpose. Use of the middle prefrontal cortex, what Chabine calls the Empathic Circuitry (mirror neuron system, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex), and the right brain gives you the ability to see bigger pictures, empathize, and detect invisible things, such as energy and mood.

You and your brain choose how you are going to show up – in defensive survival mode, or as the Sage.

The Sage in you has five powers, enabling you to move “one positive step at a time, regardless of what life throws at you.” I call these your Citizen Superpowers:

  1. Explore with great curiosity and an open mind
  2. Empathize with yourself and others with compassion and understanding to any situation
  3. Innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions
  4. Navigate and choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission
  5. Activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, or distractions of the Saboteurs

These Citizen Superpowers allow you to accept “what is, rather than denying, rejecting or resenting what is. The Sage perspective accepts every outcome and circumstance as a gift and opportunity.” These Citizen Superpowers also allow you to make your cities better all the time.

The Sage moves you into action not out of feeling bad, but out of empathy, inspiration, the joy of exploration, a longing to create, a desire to contribute, and an urge to find meaning in the midst of even the greatest crises… there is no such thing as a bad circumstance or outcome…

Strengthen the Sage in you and you grow your positive intelligence – and your Citizen Superpowers. You strengthen your city.

How are you growing your Citizen Superpowers?