Illuminating the Journey: Putting You in the Picture

Looking back over the last 8 months it certainly has been a journey. Perhaps the two most significant events have been the 10 day silent mediation retreat and my niece Adriana’s request to come and stay with me.

10 Days of Silence

The mediation retreat in March (part of my 65th birthday present to myself) was at the Vipassana Centre near Barrie. I did not know what to expect really – a couple of friends had been – but as I often do, I just trusted that part of me that drew me there and let life emerge. For those who know me well, the thought of my being silent for 10 days made them laugh; however as I noted to some on my return – being silent was the easy part after the first day or so. Here is how Vipassana is described in its website.

Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.

This is a fancy way of saying that by practicing sitting still and being in touch with what is going on in the body, one gets to become more aware of the body’s sensations and how they are a mirror to or reflection of what is going on in the mind/emotions. You may have noticed the word disciplined in that description. It is not my strongest suit and I did almost succumb and go home. The kind teacher convinced me that was not a failure at meditation that I could sit in a chair; I did not have to sit in the classic meditation pose if the back and leg pain was that brutal. So I stayed. The work I did at Vipassana helps me stay in the present and be more aware of sensation. As a Myers Briggs ENFP, knowing that sensing is my inferior function, anything that keeps me more connected to my body and the present seems like a valuable tool. Although I can never imagine doing the 2 hours of meditating (sitting as they call it) each day, morning and night, which is what committed practitioners do as a minimum, I have sustained the practice to a degree and I believe it is benefiting me. The two most important mantras for me are impermanence, impermanence impermanence and as it is, as it is, as it is. Though they sound like oxymorons, they are not. Life is simply the dichotomy of accepting the present as it is (or as Eckhart Tolle says, all anxiety is created by not accepting what is, and no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable the present, accepting too that the present is always impermanent.

Sharing My Home and My Life

In April my then 18 year old niece Adriana asked if she could come and live with me while she was attending school in Oakville. Adri is not only my niece but my beloved god-daughter, so yes was an easy answer. Though I did explain to her, except for short visits I had not lived with anyone for several decades, since her uncle and mom were on work placements in Hamilton and had variously lived with me in the 70s and 80s. So we agreed we would try it out and review how it was going at the end of each week at first and then at the end of each month.

gail-adriTo say living with someone is an adjustment is an understatement – In trying to model being responsible and letting the other adult in the house (she turned 19 May 10) know where I was, when I would be home etc., I became aware of just how independent I am and what it is like to live alone and be accountable to no one. As always when the universe unfolds in certain ways, I am never clear til after what the lesson or purpose is, but there have been many learnings for me and much joy in sharing time and life with Adri. We will review our time together and see where it goes next as she finished school for this term August 17th, but so far it has been a lovely (and loving) lesson for me in sharing space, giving space, holding space and I am grateful. I am grateful for the learning and also for the company on a day to day basis of a beautiful, creative and inspiring young woman.

What Next?

I am excited about the planning for September in my own business; September is always a New Years time regardless of our age or stage in life. People are dreaming about the upcoming year and needing coaches or OD folk to help with goal setting, assessing next steps and creating strategic plans. This summer Culture of Peace Hamilton is sponsoring a Social Geography Project and I am one of the leads working with the summer students. Doing payroll and all it entails is challenging both my skills and my patience, but this too is impermanent. The project is very exciting and has potential to make a difference in many aspects of the Hamilton Community. I also have a volunteer role acting as Leadership/Volunteer Coordinator at the Unitarian Church where we are all excited about the arrival of our new minister Rev. Victoria Ingram. I have taken great joy in the beauty of the summer in my garden and have captured some of it on digital – somehow that does not sound as permanent as capturing it on film – speaking of impermanence. I look forward to the autumn light and its subtle inspiration.

Coach’s Corner

In this version of Journey, I must acknowledge my own coach Ileana Vassilou who has been on a coaching journey with me since March of 2008. I am so blessed to have her in my life. When my former coach Melanie Parish (Sage Portfolio Group) took on a work project where I was on the Board and we could not be transparent with the organization and continue our coaching relationship, Melanie connected me with Ileana. Ileana’s coaching has a spiritual quality that is perfect for me at this point in my life – hard work – and perfect! The coach’s corner article is a tribute to both Melanie and Ileana – Why I Have a Coach! And it explains why I will have a coach as long as I am coaching (or maybe even longer). In my first newsletter, I wrote about coaching and said in an ideal world everyone would have a coach and I so believe this to be true.

Gail’s Guest

Gail’s Guest this month is Beverly Horton – Making Our Way to Mother. Beverly is a friend and colleague, a talented writer, teacher and performer and though this was written for Mothers’ Day it has particular relevance to me with Adriana staying with me. How do I mother as a verb and not (s)mother? How do I give support and space at the same time? How do I permit risk and still be responsible? All very good questions!


This month the short leadership article Mothering as Leadership is inspired by Beverly’s beautiful piece on mothering and also by a client’s comment. We give our very best to our children – so why not use the same values, skills and strategies with our peers and reports (and even our bosses) in the workplace?

So welcome September…