Sunday, November 16, 2014

Breathe. See. Do. Rest.

Sunset View of a Mango Tree on Lana'i
-in tune with the soul of my kahuna-
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

I get caught up in my assumptions of the expectations of others and it throws me off course. I am off course. I take myself back to the big four:

Be impeccable with your word.
Don't make assumptions.
Don't take anything personally.
Do your best.

Or, in my words for today:


I try to regain the rudder and reset my course. I am not here to perform and receive applause. I am not here to meet the expectations of another. I am here to live my life. I am here to be present in each moment of it. I am here to choose my own way but I get lost sometimes. I get lost and I need to stop and get back to basics because it is when we are lost that we slip through time. It is like an obscure game of Snakes and Ladders. Every once in a while we land somewhere and it sets us off down a chute where we eventually shake off the bumpy ride and wonder how the blazes we arrived at this place! 

Cusheon Lake in March, Salt Spring Island
There is beauty all around us, always.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

I suppose I am talking about intention (yes, again). When we are in the moment, we are exactly where we are when we are there. We are not looking toward the future nor back into the past. This slows that peculiar time concept under which many of us function. Presence creates space and breathing room. Presence expands us and allows us room to see, to act and to rest. Part of this expansion comes from breathing deeply, with intent and appreciation. Why do you think so many of us sigh so much? We are so tense that we disconnect from our bodies and our capacity to breathe. We hold and when we hold, we lose capacity. See where you are. Be there. Breathe into your belly and take action from a place of presence.

Boat excursion from Bamfield Marine Science Centre
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Allow yourself the opportunities life brings. Embrace opportunities.
Photo of me by H. Gottfried, c. September 2014

There are so many chances in life, so many opportunities to embrace experience. I try not to to let fear stop me from taking opportunities when they arise and I try to create some opportunities as well. People say to me, "You are so lucky to take that trip!" or "Wow. I wish I could do that." The thing is, most of us can do at least some of what we want - particularly, those of us in first world nations who have homes and jobs (though sometimes we allow our jobs to get more in the way of our potential than to support or expand it). We must choose. We must be present and actively walking toward that which we desire. If I want to travel, I must forfeit other things - by choice. I set a goal and work toward it. It helps to have people in our lives who support us in our dreams and desires. Those who seem not to care or disengaged may be lost themselves and unable to help you find your way. Look to share your "way" when you can. Actively seek out supportive, like-minded people for your journey. Take the risk that some may say they are not interested and that this is not a judgement of you but a choice they are making. Try not to take it personally. Get on with your journey in the present. Where are you and what will you do with these moments? This is your life. It is the most precious gift.

Hulopoe Beach, Lana'i, Hawaii
Stop and reflect. Stop to enjoy the moments and to revel in 
this precious gift of life.
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

I need to not rush. This is not usually an issue for me and when I allow others to make it one, I inevitably fail. I must live my life in my own time. How else would it be possible for me to live my life? I am a fool every time I tumble down this rabbit hole. If others feel I am holding them back because of my pace, then I must let them go without me. I need to stop and I need to do so more frequently than my younger days. Time appears to have gone into hyper-speed and I find more need for that "down-time" I have discussed previously. Rest. Restoration - a chance for my body to recover and space to discover what I need to remain well and positive. Not doing is integral to healthy living and it is a disappearing art. When I was a child and a teen, I mastered the skill of "not doing" but I have lost touch with this ability. Now we go to classes with 30 other people and pay to sit on rubber mats and meditate because this is an acceptable act of not doing. If it works for you then it is good! I actively planned to lie on the living room carpet this weekend and do nothing for a while. Find a way not to "do". Find a way to stop and I am not talking TV, phone or computer. Sit, breathe, rest. You will slow this concept of time we have and gain greater capacity to "do" if you learn to "stop doing" regularly.

May your week be full of your own life in the way you choose to live it and may we love each other along the paths we choose. 
-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 16, 2014

 Breathe. See. Do. Rest.
Cusheon Lake, Salt Spring Island, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c 2012

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Bird - Balanced
Chinese Cemetery - Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Why the blazes am I heading down this path on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning? Well, I am heading down this path because it came to me and because I believe I can offer some peaceful thoughts on the subject.

It seems to me that expectations are kind of tied up with opinions. We have our own, which may or may not have been influenced by our parents, our history, our spouse, media and so on. We also have the expectations and opinions that come to us quite directly in the now, like missiles.

I've been thinking about the height, depth and breadth of my self-expectations and how often I place them onto others. I am ridiculous for doing this. How many times do I talk about all of us walking our own paths in our own ways? Hypocrisy! Hypocrisy! 

Oh well. I am pleased to discover this about myself. As I continue to unpack it, I realize that my high self-expectations were seeded in my childhood. My understanding of one of my parents was that it was imperative to succeed - that there was no room for accident nor failure. Accident and failure resulted in anger, discipline and those, oh so awful, looks of disappointment. How could I not carry those expectations forward into my adulthood when they were as deep in my being as grain is to oak. The wonderful thing is that when we grow up, if we take the time to look at this stuff, with or without the help of psychology professionals, we get to untie the net and make it into something that fits us now or cast it off entirely. 

We have the opportunity to re-frame expectations as goals - if we wish. We have the capacity to try, to fail, to learn and grow. We have the capacity to acknowledge the same need in those who surround us. I would guess that everyone has felt like a failure in front of someone and, I know from personal experience, it is a wonderful feeling when someone stands by you through your errors and says, "Hey, it's okay. You can do it again. I'm here and I love you whether you succeed this time or whether you need to try again." 

You see, it is the path and not the destination. It is the relationships and the journey that make up the food of our lives. Whenever we reach the end of the road, do we want to be thinking, "Darn it, I wish I had done more - I wish I had at least tried"? Have fun on the journey. Don't worry too much if something breaks or fails. Just learn from it and move on. We are all perfect in our paths as long as we proceed at whatever speed and in whatever way works for us.

I made muffins this morning. 11 out of 12 worked. Is that a failure? Nah, I ate the bottom half of the broken one and I'll leave the top for J when she gets home. Now I know the muffins are tasty before I bring them to the party. Success! 

I dedicate this post to my partner who helps me learn about myself and guides me through my seriously debilitating self-expectations and my desire to be perfect. Instead, I am learning to try, to make time to do the things I love, regardless of how those things are received and others concepts of success. I am on my way.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 9, 2014

Many Boots, Many Treads
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2014

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Down Time

Summit Park Garry Oaks
Pencil, Graphite and Ink on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c 2010

Down time: Puzzles, tea, a sketch book, a novel, a hammock, the cottage, a tropical vacation, a walk by the sea, a nap, a walk in the forest, a movie... the list goes on, doesn't it? There are a million things I love to do (or not do) to recharge my engines. I don't know about you but there just doesn't seem to be enough of it either.

I remember when I was a kid - there seemed to be tons of it. I supposed that comes with a privileged, middle-class childhood. I can't remember the last time I just lay under a tree and stared at clouds floating across a big blue sky through branches swaying in a gentle breeze. When I was a youngster, Heather McGhee and I used to ride our bikes to the Mill Pond on a Saturday and eat our bagged lunches on the grass under the tent-like boughs of the giant willow tree. It was peaceful and fun. We had exercise, food, talk and rest. Life was quite perfect.

I don't know when we lose that space, that time, to just be. I am often admonished for the time I spend staring into one of my many devices: laptop, desktop, iPod, smart phone, e-reader, etch-a-sketch ...just seeing if you were paying attention. I actually do have an Etch-a-Sketch - two, actually and I love them. I would definitely put Etch-a-Sketch in the down time list. 

Big Island of Hawaii
Oil Pastel and Mineral Oil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

 As you can see, I've included some of my own drawings in this post. The thing is, I used to draw in my down time too. I studied with a number of artists and I used to draw pretty much every day - during lunches, after work and on the weekend. Now that I am writing avidly in the hope of finishing my first novel before I am too old to remember I started it and sending short works and poetry off to magazines, I no longer seem to have the time to draw, so that has gone by the wayside for now as well. 

 Victoria Warehouses
Oil Pastel on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

Now it seems, to really get down time, I have to take time off work in large chunks, get any necessary chores out of the way that absolutely have to be done and THEN I can take some down time after I've worked on the writing that has lain dormant because I've been too tired or too this and that... Blah, blah, blah. And trust me, I know, this is all first world problem nonsense but what I really want to get at it, I think it is crucial to make time to chill out - whatever that means to you. If you want to be well, get exercise, eat well, laugh as much as possible, love with an open heart and HAVE FUN!

The House
Watercolour Pencil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2004

I'm lucky that I work in a really pretty location. At lunch, I go for walks with a colleague. Generally, we have to stop and laugh at least 5 times because, together, we make a hilarious and joyous pair. It is not uncommon to see birds and deer as we walk the wooded path by the circle road that surrounds the campus on which we work. So, it's pretty close to what I described with my childhood friend, Heather.

The Mallard
Watercolour Pencil on Paper
5 x 7
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2004

What do you do for down time? I'm open to new ideas, suggestions and hilarious anecdotes. I'm excited to know that I'm not alone in my need to chill out. I believe that it is in our moments of freedom, our moments of lightness, that greatness happens. Breathe deeply and give space to your potential. Open your mind and heart to all that is here for us if we just stop for a minute, breathe into our bellies and connect to "all".

Baby Parker
Pencil on Paper
Gillian Cornwall
Commissioned - Not available

I think that if we can integrate down time back into our work, we will achieve much greater standards of excellence. Greatness takes time, space and belief in ourselves and each other. All too often, I look around me and I see people racing to check off the boxes. "Let's get it done!" And all too often, if we stopped, thought and made space for thinking outside of the check box, we would get it done a lot better, faster and with greater enjoyment. 

Arwen Portrait
Pencil on Paper
4 x 6
Gillian Cornwall, c.1999

There is time. There is space. We just need to allow ourselves to take it. Most of us do not NEED more stuff or more money to get more stuff. We need to stop, slow down and be present in our lives. Down time. That's what we need. 

The Grizzly Bear
Oil Pastel on Paper
Gillian Cornwall, c. 1996

This is your imposed down time between a grizzly bear and a farm cat. *Breathe here* :-)

 Boots the Cat
Oil Pastel on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c.1994

If anyone is interested, please share your thoughts on this subject by leaving a comment below. I know most people just want to have a look and duck out unnoticed and that is fine too. I hope you are off to do something fun and relaxing! -maybe do some of your own drawings? 

The West Coast Rainforest - Long Beach
Ink on Paper
Not Available for sale
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009

While I may seem fairly light-hearted about this, I want to acknowledge that there are millions of people around the world who struggle in every hour of every day just to survive and if those of us who have so much shared just a bit with someone else, we could ease their path a great deal and perhaps allow them to stop and breathe one day without having to worry all the time. There is always more we can do for another and this can be a down time thing too. Read to someone who can't read for themselves anymore. Bring someone a treat. Make a donation if you can. Share your beautiful gifts with another for we are one and we are greater together than apart.

The Wave
Oil Pastel and Mineral Oil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 1988

Thanks for stopping by and having a read. I hope you enjoyed it. I love sharing with each of you and send you love and blessings for a peaceful and joyous day. Know that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, someone out here is thinking of you and wishing you the very best of life. Never give up. Walk your path with your head held high and feel the simple joy of the sun on your face when it does shine.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 2, 2014 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Universal Place Within Us

The Waves of the Mother - Lana'i Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

In light of the events in Canada this past week and because some concepts of this work arose during an interview I watched between Oprah Winfrey and Pema Chodron last Sunday, I have chosen to republish this post. The principles here guide me through my life and I re-read this work every time I start to lose my way. I hope you find it helpful.

"Love. Kindness. Joy. Patience. Endurance."

I repeat these words and live their meanings to the best of my ability in each moment and in the face of my fears. I follow the path of the femina magna with calm and steady breath: impeccable in word, not taking the path of others as my own, not making assumptions and doing my best with each step.

Wars, heartaches, lives and deaths have cycled through us and we walk on, down our paths, making decisions with each and every footfall:
a) the path of love
b) the path of fear

Let us go to the universal place within us, 
the place we have all recognized at one time in our lives, 
if only for a fleeting moment:
We are beings of love, of energy,
we are inextricably connected.
Let us be our best one.
Let us walk our paths in a state of openness and love,
independent and together,
as the roots below our feet
and the flow of the oceans,
as all the creatures of the earth.
Let us weave this beautiful basket of life and love together
so when we look within
our introspection shows the wonder of limitlessness,
the universe in each of us as one connected being.
From mother to child we unfurl
with limitless love for all
and no fear of loss,
for love flows through us as an endless fountain
with no fear,
no need to hold,
for it is all there, all ways,
if we are open,
if we trust.

Gillian Cornwall, c. January  20, 2013.

Plumeria Blossoms, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Set Sail

Taylor Beach, Parry Bay
Metchosin, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

52. It's a heck of a number when I feel 21 some days and 100 on others. I suppose this is why some folks say, "Age is just a number." Well, yeah, it is. It's the number of years I've been knocking around this life trying to figure out what it is I should be doing - whether I should turn left, turn right, go back or stand still. Walking the path. 

Perhaps it's a midlife crisis - but that term makes me laugh. How the blazes would any of us know when we are at midlife? Anyway, lately I've been thinking about the finite nature of my time in this incarnation and trying to determine, once again, how I can make the most of it. I want to write. It's all I want to do really, but unless I go to work everyday, I'll be writing on the street. So I go to work and I do stuff that's probably helpful, but is it how I should be spending the time I have? Is it the choice that will lead me to say, at the end of my days, "Yes, I am satisfied. I lived well."?

I'm talking first world problems for sure. I know it because I've been without a safe home and I have gone hungry in my younger years. I don't particularly want to do those things again. It was hard and left even less time for pursuits such as writing. Survival is a full time job. What to do; what to do? I have a novel that is almost through the first draft but between work life and home life there are insufficient time windows to finish the job.

I need to turn things on their heads and get a different perspective. I feel sick. I sit all day at a desk and move paper and cyber paper and apparently it is helpful. I go to meetings and do volunteer work. These are all good things that help people but something is off. I feel an unusual weight, a drag off my stern, if you will... I need to trim the sails and find a fresh breeze on which to travel - perhaps in a new direction. Meanwhile, I sit, rather still in the water, waiting, watching for a ripple on the surface and I grow hungry as resources dwindle.

This isn't much of an inspirational piece (she said, pointing out the obvious). I'm probably over-sharing, but I am going to post it anyway because I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one who feels this way at times and what I want you to take away is that I'm thinking, searching, watching the horizon. My waiting is active as I look for the opening - for there has always been a way through. There always will be. So if you feel like this too, perhaps we can raise our noses to the air, listen for the whisper on the wind, trust our instincts and open up to the changing tides and times. Be of good cheer and remember that it is all about the "way". It is each step we take, each tack of the sail that takes us forward through our lives. We must do our best to enjoy the journey.

With love to each of you. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 19, 2014.

There's always this...
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Hulopo'e - Lana'i, Hawaii
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c December 2006

I've been wondering, where is my home? Is it the place where the safe roof lies over my head? Is it the place of my spirit? Am I so fortunate as to have those things be the same? Is my home the traditional territory of my people? If so, I may be without place. I do not know the traditional lands of my people. For generations, it was the island now known as the United Kingdom; however, I doubt my people originated there either. I believe I descended of Roman and Spanish peoples and I do not know before this or if it is indeed so. 

I know I descend from a long line of warriors - people who fought, sometimes to take lands and sometimes to free people. I am not proud of the fact that we took lands and traditional ways of being from so many. I am proud of those who fought oppression and hate so I could live a life with greater freedom to love who I want and engage in the spiritual practices of my choice. 

As a result of this lack of knowledge of my traditional lands, I have created home in my soul and attach physical home to where my soul finds peace. Often, that is also my physical place, here in Victoria, British Columbia with people I love but it is also in other places where my spirit understands the flow and harmony of "all", where I am attuned to the ways of other peoples. 

I am fortunate to have travelled often to the traditional lands of the Hawaiian peoples. I am fortunate to have spent time learning some of the culture, traditions and ways of living the aloha spirit. This is a path I can comprehend and when I am there, I feel an attachment to the deep spirit of the place and her people. I continue to study and visit. I know these are not my lands. These are the traditional lands of the Hawaiian peoples and I am grateful to be a student and visitor. 

Where do you find home? I suppose my lack of attachment to one particular place and a lack of comprehension of border makes my soul my home and, I think I feel pretty good about that. On this, Canadian Thanksgiving, I am grateful to all my teachers. 

I am grateful to the Elders at the First People's House, Office of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Victoria who have taught me so much about taking the time to see and to be present in my heart, body and soul. They have taught me so much about their history and ways and the land on which I am grateful to be a visitor/settler. 

I am grateful to my Hawaiian teachers and the Lana'i Culture and Heritage Center for your work and teachings and to all the Hawaiian people who open my spirit to the aloha way. 

Perhaps I am a nomad of the spirit, a conduit among peoples; perhaps I am a path and not a destination. 

With gratitude to all my teachers in this life. I dedicate this post to all of you. You taught me so so much more than a single subject. You taught me how to open my heart and mind to possibility. This is a great gift. Thank you.

"Malama i kekahi i kekahi"
Take care of one, take care of all

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 12, 2014

Giving the chaka 
Lana'i 2006

Signs of Lekwungen Detail
I believe this is a detail of a sculpture by:
Butch Dick - Master Carver

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Inspire and Stir

The Letterbox - Saanich, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2014

Stimulus: noun
  • a thing or event that evokes a specific functional reaction in an organ or tissue
  • a thing that rouses activity or energy in someone or something; a spur or incentive
  • an interesting and exciting quality

We need it. Without doses of regular stimuli, we will likely create some. Sometimes that gets us into trouble. We need to create. It's at the very core of our beings. We need to think, write, build, draw, sing, move or invent. 

So, what does one do if large parts of the day are spent in environments where capabilities are not recognized nor utilized and efforts to create are thwarted? The answer is simple: One wilts. One drifts. One becomes disengaged with the tasks at hand and looks further afield for inspiration. I believe part of the reason our minds fail us is a lack of positive stimulation.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with bright, amusing and kind friends. We were outside, on farmland replete with the bounty of a season of growth. The people, sights and scents and the energy of the land were palpable, invigorating and inspirational.

Now, I do not live in a fairy land (and that's a pity) where every moment of every day is an inspirational delight; however, why are we obsessed with the errant concept that we should do as we are told and we should do it without thinking or questioning or without inspiration? The greatest places to work worldwide all inspire their employees to think, to engage, to question and to grow. They are encouraged to try, learn, fail and try again. 

Some of you might be thinking, "It's up to you, isn't it? Inspire yourself!" 

Well, that's true too. We are responsible for our days and for seeking environments in which we find growth but, perhaps, part of that responsibility is questioning a lack of opportunity where we currently stand. Ah, in all things: balance. 

Go forth, my kindred spirits and inspire! Be inspired. Try not to give up. At times, it's not easy. On the days when people sneer at your vigour and enthusiasm and question: "What have you got to be so happy about?!", respond with sincerity and a true desire to know,
"What have you got to be so unhappy about?"

Let us give opportunity to one another to be our very best. Share knowledge. Share opportunity. Let us not be afraid of losing what we have. If we hold onto something too tightly, it is most likely to slip through our fingers. Enjoy your gift of life.

The Joy of the Harvest
Photo by: Dailene O'Neill - October, 2014

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 5, 2014