Friday, July 27, 2007

Cliffdog in Van City

Ok so Vancouver is:
- Cosmopolitan
- Easy going
- Vibrant

...Sometimes it is the little differences between people and between places that are the most surreal.
When the differences are slight I guess I guess you just don't prepare yourself quite so much. There is less of a 'shock' and more of a subtle strangeness where you find yourself thinking "Well that's weird..."
I've seen it the world over and I think it's one of the things I love so much about travelling. People and things the world over are really similar, almost in many cases exactly...but not quite, and disconcertingly so..

And Van is a lot like that. Same old sun, but altogether different.
It's less humid, there is a cooling breeze, and out of it the sun belts down with abandon (an altogether welcome and hoped for experiance for this winter weary ol' dog...although to be fair perhaps my winter has been coloured as my very own 'winter of discontent'!)

The best way to see a city is on foot. Luckily I don't mind walking, and I certainly don't mind solo exploring. You can't beat the routes, options, sights, sounds and smells of a journey on foot.
And so I set off over a few days to discover Van city.

At least my impression thus far is that life in Van moves at a slower pace than back in Ak. People start work at 8 but by 4.30pm most of them are having a welcome beer in the sun or are filling the parks and beaches. And as it doesn't get dark until nearly ten there is a great vibe and plenty of time to drink, eat, play, rest - whatever and without rush or hurry.

The government by all accounts provides a lot of benefits too, the country is heavily unionised and with a serious socialist bent. And although we in NZ are quick to criticise Helengrad and socialist utopian ideals, the majority of people that I have spoken to here seem to really enjoy the standard of living and the security of such things as free health and dental care, great wages and working conditions.
BUT - apart from perhaps Cuzco in Peru (and maybe Buenos Aires) I have never seen so many beggars and homeless..and one wonders if outside of the benefits perhaps this moderate socialism breeds dependence?...

Putting politics to one side (so often the place to put it!) a highlight of Van is the Seawall Walk, a promenade stretching around much of the downtown Vancouver area.
Well maintained and punctuated by parks and beaches, you can wander for miles and chill, read, play sports, swim etc etc (all the things a self proclaimed raconteur wants and needs on a sunny day!)
The downtown Van coast marries it's appeal with a rustic charm. Rough hewn logs tht have fallen from forestry barges litter the beaches and serve as tables, chairs and back rests fro the beach goers, and looking across the water at tree lined mountains reaching to the water it is one fo the few times where a stereotype (in this case the Pacific North Western one) has born true for me.

Next stop will no doubt be rock bars, followed by rock bars, rock bars and perhaps some more rock bars. What a pleasant surprise to walk into venues, clubs and peoples houses to be greeted by guitar driven rock and roll and not 'wallpaper house!'
Rock's not dead...at least not in Van city!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

(Beginning..) to rock out in Vancouver...

It had only been a night...a night spent mainly drinking (very drinkable) Canadian beer, eating (OK...) Canadian meat and talking (exceptional!) shit with K, Maf and CB1 Kenobi (names changed to protect the not-so innocent) but I had alreday noticed how thoroughly NICE Canadians are. I can see why they get so much crap in the US media for being 'rollovers' because, at least in my short experience I have found them to not only be 'pleasent' but they seemingly go out of their way to be firendly and helpful.
I'm sure it's not just my broad smile, charming ways and disarming with that has engendered this - nor my dashing good looks...

Second day's impressions much like the first. The niceness continues - I have never heard so many 'you're welcomes' in all my life.
Went with Lou to a cool little cafe/bar for a light meal (called something like the 'Cactus Club'). Not only was it in a very trendy and cool district but it was thoroughly affordable at about $11 for a meal and $3.50 for a pint! Good food, GREAT service, good prices...and serving staff who were easy on the eye (which could be the understatement of the year!) All in all the hits just keep on coming!

Not only is the food well priced but clothes, shoes and most other things are markedly cheaper than back home...beer however is a little pricier from teh off licence - a major negative but I guess with the savings elsewhere it's a compromise you could be willing to take!
All in all I was a little dubious before coming here about Van's supposed 3rd ranking in most desirable cities to live (after the Swiss duo of Geneva and Zurich) but I'm beginning to think the reputation is deserved...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle..." (Philo)

It is so easy to become insulated against the world and against things outside of our direct relationships, our possessions and our daily activities.
Of course this insulation is of our own creation.
We can get so hung up on our own 'battles' that we forget that everyone (EVERYONE!) we meet is also fighting their own battles, great and small.
When eyeing our own battles we forget this, but how we love when we receive kindness!
Kindness makes our battles easier, it rejuvenates and energises us, it makes those 'life hurdles' a lot lower! Quite frankly it makes our lives better...
What is interesting is that we get so much satisfaction when we are also kind to others. Even if our only motivation is selfish (because it makes us feel good) the net effect is what is most important.

People debate the truth of altruism. Me, I don't care!...

Can we really say that a good deed; giving kindness to others, treating them with respect, smiling, understanding - committed by someone because it makes them feel good is any less moral, any less worthy than that committed merely 'because'...with no reward?
And perhaps the greater good is actually when we revel in our own kindness and that of others - it's not altruistic but it creates two happy people instead of one!

Either way kindness and giving need not be totally altruistic - they just need be!

And it's also not hard to choose to bring greater kindness into our lives - indifference and cruelty are choices, every bit as much as the choice to be kind.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

dOg Talks...on the calamities in life!...

The calamities in life...those that push us close to the edge (so close that we nearly, nearly fall) we all rationally know are the things that provide us the opportunity for the introspection to see our own shortcomings, and the teachings that can allow us to grow as human beings - if only we let them!

Conversely the trials, tribulations and hardships in life can harden us & make us cynical & bitter.
We can even mistake this for growth and development. We can easily equate 'strength' with hardness and guardedness - but I can't help but think that these are but walls that we build up to try and shield ourselves in future from the pain of loss, the very pain that first encourages us to begin building those walls...

But at what price!
Heartbreak, loss, grief, anguish - all of these things WILL befall each and every one of us, and more than once and no matter how guarded we become.
It's true that we may not be at risk quite so much if we don't allow ourselves to love (and live!) fully but niether could we experience the full joys of a life lived to the full without it.
The joys of the spring-time of romance, the joy of that nervous excitement and expectation when you hear the footfall of the one you love nearing the door after a long day. The joy of a baby's cry and of a cracked and weathered smile from a beloved elder. None of these ring true to a closed heart...and what a price to pay!

The words of Max Ehrman's seminal 'Desiderata' are poignant for so much of life, and, in the case of love "...neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disappointment it is as perennial as the grass..."

I know that looking back over my time it is the trials that have given me a swift and much needed kick in the pants. More than anything else the hardships we face can make us more human. They have made me a better nutritionist and they have led me into life coaching.

It is amazing that lately, facing perhaps my darkest ever moments, (and almost by ozmosis!) clients - some old and some new have appeared to ask my help with many of the same questions I have been asking myself.
Perhaps without the soul searching, the re-appraisals of what is and isn't important in life, I would be ill equipped to help them.

How could I after all empathise with others about loss and grief had I also not lost so many who were so very important to me over the years?
How else could I relate to my clients facing lifelong and potentially debilitating illnesses had I not too faced the same spectre?

And so, in the face of our demons we do become stronger - but we need not become hardened. We become more empathetic, and more understanding. We open to love and to trust without pulling away for fear of being hurt, because hurt is a part of life. We avoid putting ourselves in the way of unecessary hurt but we just can't avoid it if we want to live a full and meaningful life.

We begin more and more to understand the reasons why people do things, but less inclined to accept excuses, for after all it is our actions that define us, and it is what we 'do' that affects us and those around us. And when we want to live meaningfully, with compassion, love and purpose we must at some stage stop making excuses, take responsibility and DO SOMETHING!!!

We accept our own failures and the faults of others with loving kindness. We still hate when people do things that hurt - but we don't hate the 'doer!' merely the action, because I for one believe...in fact I know, that we can't lose our trust in peoples goodness...

Remember that Cliff's book "Choosing You!" will be released at the end of month. To find out more, or to preorder CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

dOg talks - 'why are we so prepared to hurt each other?'

You know they say that 'we hurt the ones we love most' but I can't quite get that through my head...

Of course I know that people hurt the ones they love all the time but I wonder how we can do that...more so I wonder how people can be so willing to hurt others at all!

Hurting anyone willingly and knowingly is something that the majority of us revile against in the extreme. But it seems that more and more people are prepared to hurt others.
People knowingly and willing hurt others by their actions for; financial gain, materialism, pride and ego. We are presented every night on the News with the state of the world - violence, murder, rape and all sorts of abhorrent acts. Not to mention greed, selfishness and sheer and unabashed materialism. All of which springs from an obsession with "I" and little thought (and NO compassion) for 'YOU' and for "WE".

At the end of the day every single thing we do, we have chosen to do. And the reasons WHY we make those choices are many and varied....but they are never, and should never be allowed to be excuses for the way we act.
Our fears and insecurities can lead us towards certain paths - but they don't MAKE us do anything. We choose to. And so often people choose to act in the full knowledge that in doing so they will hurt someone else.

Surely by cultivating self awareness, mindfulness and compassion we can a) see where our fears and insecurities are rising up to push us away from the person we could be, the person who we have dreamed of being and b) change the way we act, moment to moment to create more harmony, more love, more satisfaction and fulfilment and reach our goals to live the life that we want to live.

But without mindfulness, without cultivating an awareness of self and all the idiosyncracies, fears and insecurities - when presented with choices it is often easier to simply allow those very fears and insecurities to push us into paths of action that define a way forward, no matter how damaging that path is for yourself and those around you....

Click here to pre-order or find out more about Cliff's upcoming book "Choosing You" - How you can choose to live the life of your dreams...right now!