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Stop Looking at It as A Battle

by Robert Meagher on 07/07/23

This month’s message is a simple, yet precious, little story about how we look at things can make all the difference.

I live in a 110-unit condominium building. There is a wonderful sense of community in this building. In part, because of numerous community-based initiatives going on in and around the building. One of these initiatives is an old-fashioned composting program. This composting program uses discarded, raw fruits and vegetables, and other compostable matter, to create rich soil additive for the gardens around the property. The program has been a tremendous success for the community, and even some of the wildlife.

One of the wildlife benefactors of this program is the local squirrel population. The squirrels have easy access to the bin contents via air vents that they have widened to aid in their access and exit from the bins. I have tried plugging up the holes in the past, but the squirrels are very adept at undoing whatever efforts I make to block the holes. Years ago, I decided I liked the idea the squirrels could avail themselves of the fresh produce in the bins, especially during the cold winter months, as it provided a dependable food source for them.

This season, however, the squirrels have been making their presence known more than usual. Often, the squirrels choose to excavate a significant portion of the bin contents outside the bin, leaving mounds of compost strewn around the base of the bins. On the days I discover the squirrels mischievous behavior, there are typically several squirrels perched on branches in the trees above the bins, gazing down at me.

When I’m in a playful mood, I will talk to them. I’ll tell them I’m glad they are enjoying the compost deposits but ask them if they could mind their manners a little better so as not to leave so much leftover outside the bins. Sometimes, the squirrels will peer down at me, squawking at me, twitching their tails, chattering away. I’ll often carry on my exchange with them—as I pick up the mess—treating them like they know full well what I am saying. It’s become a bit of a playful game between me and the squirrels. Surely, if anyone was watching the scene from afar, they would want me committed!

Earlier this week I ran into a community member at the compost bins. She was making a deposit of some compostable material. We got to chatting and the topic of the local squirrel community came up. I shared my experience above with her. We both laughed and she said to me…

“You know, when we stop looking at it as a battle, we can begin to look at it as a circus.” We both roared laughing.

I walked away from the exchange with a profound sense of gratitude for the gracious exchange and the endearing pearl of wisdom offered me. While the little jewel was offered in the context of the playful times I was sharing with the squirrels, I was very aware how far-reaching this little wisdom saying has in our daily lives.

How often do we approach life as a battle? A confrontation, an argument, an upset, a long-held grievance against a colleague, friend, or family member. There is no end to the litany of battles we wage on an ongoing basis.

But what opportunities are there to turn these battles into something we can laugh at and have fun with?

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.


I Can’t Change Anyone

by Robert Meagher on 05/03/23

I was in the kitchen with my beloved partner when my partner let into me about some items that were out of place in the kitchen. It was a bit jolting to be barked at for something that seemed so insignificant as a knife that was out of place in the cutlery drawer. In the moment, I simply apologized and said I would try harder the next time to place the knife in its right place. Thank goodness I was in a peaceful state of mind at the moment and was able to respond instead of react to the unfolding events.

Later that day my partner apologized to me for his outburst. He asked me if there was anything that bothered me about things he did? I paused, realizing this was a formative moment. “Sure!” I said. “Then why don’t you tell me?” asked my partner. I explained to my partner that I have come to realize that I cannot change him, or anybody else.

We are all set in out ways. We all have our little, sometimes big, foibles and idiosyncrasies. We are often very set in our ways, and these ways become so entrenched in our psyche and behavior that to change them would be tantamount to moving a mountain.

People are who they are. People do what they do. The sooner I accept this fact, the sooner I can come to peace with whatever situation greets me. The lesson and teaching in events that bother us rests in asking ourselves, “Why does that bother me?”

If the car keys are not in the place they ‘should be’ and I get upset, I must reflect on why it bothers me that the car keys are not in the place they should be. If the grocery list is not arranged how I like it and I get upset, I must reflect on why it upsets me that the grocery list in not arranged how I like it. If it bothers me that I go into the fridge to get some milk, and there is no milk left, and I get upset because there was milk in the fridge earlier in the day, I must reflect on why it upsets me that there is no milk left in the fridge. You get the idea.

Nothing is as it seems. And I am never upset for the reason I think. The other person is not upsetting me. I am getting upset. If I ever want peace in my life, I must stop wanting to change other people and events. Learn to accept them as they are, and welcome it as an opportunity to reflect on why a person or event upsets me. This introspection will lead us to peace and personal growth.

Life’s Smooth and Bumpy Roads

by Robert Meagher on 03/06/23

Photo Credit: pexels.com - Tom Fisk

Once again, this month I am going to use my passion for cycling to retell a recent adventure. The cycling adventure held within its teachings a wonderful metaphor for life.

I was out for one of my day-long rides. I went back to an area that I had explored a few weeks earlier. At a point in my ride, I had the choice of turning north on March Road, but I had found March Road to be both bumpy and heavy in car traffic—not a good combination for safe riding. So, this time around, I decided to cycle further west so that I could take another route north.

I cycled west to Panmure, along Upper Dwyer Hill Road, and turned North on Panmure Road. I immediately felt this was a much better route north, over the Carp Ridge. The road was quiet and had little car traffic. I was also pleasantly surprised that the road was very smooth. What a difference from the other route north! I was so glad I had cycled further west so I could turn north on Panmure Road.

Panmure Road turned into the Donald B. Munro Drive that had me, eventually, cross over the Carp Road. On the north side of Carp Road, my smooth ride came to an end. The Donald B. Munro Drive became bumpy and full of cracks. As long as I was cycling on the flats, it wasn’t too bad. But if I found myself cycling downhill, the chatter from the bumpy road really took its toll on my body. My whole upper body would shake and tremor from the cracks in the road. Fortunately, the car traffic remained light and I could cycle out more to the centre of the road where the asphalt was a little smoother. As I approached Dunrobin, the road smoothed out again. Once I turned on to Dunrobin Robin, there was a nice, smooth paved shoulder to cycle on.

As I quietly made my way back toward home on smooth road surfaces, I smiled at the experience that took me from Upper Dryer Hill Road to Dunrobin Road, along Panmure Road and the Donald B. Munro Drive. The road started out smooth, then became uncomfortably rough, then smoothed out again. What a beautiful metaphor for life!

Sometimes in our lives everything goes smoothly. We glide along with few, if any, obstructions. The wind can feel like its at our backs, pushing us along. We experience a smooth ride through life. Then, unexpectedly, through no seeming fault or cause of our own making, we encounter bumps in the road that can really take a toll on us. We go through periods of ‘bumpy rides’ before life calms down again.

Life can seem like that sometimes, can’t it? Smooth and effortless, then bumpy roads that have us holding on tight. To navigate these ups and downs in life I have found the Buddhist practice of the ‘middle way’ to be helpful. The middle way may be described as an approach to life where we avoid extremes. This approach includes extremes in emotions and thought.

As I turned on to Panmure Road and gave thanks for a smoother surface than March Road to take me north, I knew that ‘this too shall change.’ As I crossed over the Carp Road and the Donald B. Munro Drive became bumpy, I knew that ‘this too shall change.’ While I was grateful for the smooth road surface on Panmure Road, I knew better than to be jubilant. While I was feeling uncomfortable with the bumpiness on the Donald B. Munro Drive, I knew better than to be dejected. I knew the road surface would change from what it currently was.

The gift of life is inherent in our ability to learn how to be happy where we are, instead of trying to be happy where we are not. We have a tendency to wish away the present moment by wishing we were somewhere else. If I’m on a bumpy road, my tendency may be to wish I was on a smoother road surface. But that bumpy road is teaching me something; something that is important for me to learn. Can I sink into that awareness and welcome the experience, no matter how uncomfortable it may be?

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

You Don’t Have To Like It To Love It

by Robert Meagher on 01/03/23

Photo Credit: pexels.com - Pack2Ride

Last year I signed up for the Great Cycle Challenge (GCC) taking place throughout August. The GCC was to raise money for cancer research for children. I have an increasing passion for cycling and I have a personal connection to childhood cancer. So, signing up for the event was a no-brainer for me. My personal connection with childhood cancer is that my partner’s, niece’s daughter is currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

I began my fundraising in earnest! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the fundraising. It was exciting. Each donation I would receive filled my heart with joy, knowing how generous people were being and the support they were showing for the cause.

As with most anything in life, at least in this material world, you will have people who will support certain things, and others who will not. Deep into my fundraising efforts, an acquaintance responded to one of my fundraising emails to congratulate me on signing up for the GCC and wishing me well with my challenge. This acquaintance went on to share with me that they could not, however, in good conscience support the medical research behind the cause. This acquaintance expressed the view (and the same view as many other people share) that such medical research has been taken over by the pharmaceutical industry which has zero motivation to cure cancer, because their efforts to find a cure for cancer is really a thinly-veiled attempt to create a ‘cash cow.’ My acquaintance closed the response with a wish that my partner’s, niece’s daughter “truly heals from her cancer.” I responded to my acquaintance’s comments by thanking them for their support, blessing them, and sending them love.

I was initially taken back by my acquaintance’s response to my fundraising email. I quickly got over my reaction, realizing the message had nothing to do with me, personally. The response from my colleague was such a blessing and such a wonderful teaching. It got me thinking…

As a practicing therapist, one of the golden rules of therapy is to always, always, always, meet the client where they are. If the person is ready for a certain approach to healing, then that is what you start with. Who am I to judge what approach anyone would use to heal themselves? If the client thinks that eating Tim Horton’s donuts is what’s going to heal them, what purpose does it serve to tell them they are wrong? In the end, whatever we think will heal us, will heal us.

Had my acquaintance cared to enquire about my motivation behind signing up for the GCC, my acquaintance would have learned that I shared the same views as they did about the ethical nature of the medical system undertaking research in the name of ‘finding a cure’ for whatever ails us. If I had cancer, I may not be quick to dive into conventional treatment methods. I would more likely look to alternative approaches, approaches that might be considered by some to be more holistic in nature.

But in the case of the GCC, I put aside my own beliefs and views, and decided to give back to life—a life that has given me so much! Who am I to judge the motives of the medical industry? Who am I to judge someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and decides to undergo traditional treatment methods?

I don’t have to like something or someone to love that something or someone. I don’t have to like the medical industry. I don’t have to like cancer. In this instance, I put aside my views and personal opinions and chose to love it all, and give where I could.

There is a magnificent teaching from a great spiritual tradition that if someone asks you to do something that is insane, do it anyway, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. Even if you don’t agree with it!

Like with so many things in my life, and spirit-led things, I had been approached by a colleague, who knew I was a cycling enthusiast, to sign up for the GCC. I took this request, as most others, as a sign from Life that there’s something in this for me and I won’t interfere with what I am being offered. I will just go ahead and do it. I’ve never regretted this approach to life! I may not like it, but I can love it!

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

Playing With Your Fears

by Robert Meagher on 12/05/22

Photo Credit: pexels.com - Jorgen Larsen

I was recently out for one of my day-long cycling adventures in the Gatineau Hills / Park, a favorite summertime playground for me. I was well into the ascent of one of the longer and steeper hills in the park. It was the third time I had made this ascent on this day and I was tired. As I neared the summit, I told myself, “Just keep your head down and keep peddling!...breathe…breathe…breathe!!! I was rounding a sharp corner and something out of the corner of my eye distracted me, however. I lifted my head and…

Only 20-30 feet in front of me, on the other side of the road, was a mother black bear and four cubs. What had distracted me was that the mother had been standing on her hind legs and when she dropped back down on all fours, her movement had caught my peripheral vision.

The mother bear let out a soft, yet deep, growl. I thought to myself… “That can’t be good!” My next thought was… “I can’t turn around at this point because the grade is too steep. If I try and turn around, I will simply topple over (based on my experience!) and turning around means turning in the direction of the bears (as they were on the other side of the road)…and I don’t want to be moving closer to the bears!” Then I thought… “Uh oh…I’m trapped! I can’t turn around. I can’t go to my right, because I’ll fall off a cliff! I can’t go to my left, because I’ll be moving closer to the bears!”

When the mother bear let out her soft, yet, deep growl, the cubs bolted for the forest on the other side of the road. But there was a steep embankment where the cubs bolted towards and two of the cubs clung to some rocks and tree stumps half way up the embankment. The other two cubs tumbled back down the embankment, to come to rest at momma bear’s feet.

Momma bear looked at me again. She let out another soft, yet deep, growl…as if to say to her cubs “Follow me!” Momma bear turned around (away from me) and started to run up the hill I had been making my way up. The cubs scrambled after momma. After running up the hill about 15-20 feet, momma bear stopped, turned around to look at me again, then turned back around and continued running up the hill, with baby bears hot on her heels. A few seconds later, momma bear and baby cubs had turned into the forest and were able to make their get-a-way.

Just before the bears dove into the forest, another cyclist came screaming around the corner, coming down the hill at high speed. I yelled “Bears!!!”…pointing directly across the road from me. The cyclist hit their brakes and careened toward me. Fortunately, the cyclist was able to gain sufficient control of their bicycle to avoid colliding with me. As I watched the bears disappear into the forest, I resumed my climb. For the next kilometre, I warned cyclists that were making their way down the hill (I was continuing to climb) of my bear siting.

The further I moved / cycled away from the scene / encounter with the bears, the more I felt the tension ease in my body, until I was in my relaxed state again. I became aware of just how afraid I was. I hadn’t panicked, in the sense of screaming or running for my life…but I was afraid just the same. I can remember having the thought “So…this is how it’s going to end!” I had never been that close to bears in the wild. I remembered the feeling of having momma bear staring at me so intently that I almost felt an out of body experience. I remembered thinking “Talk to the bear…tell her it’s okay…tell her I’m not going to hurt her or her cubs.” I remembered seeing the drool/foam around the momma bear’s muzzle. I remembered thinking the bears were so close I could smell them.

I made it through the experience alive, obviously; here I am recounting the experience to you. But in truth, I was never in danger for an instant. Only my fear thoughts had me in danger. That I didn’t panic was, perhaps, a good thing. But even if I had panicked, it would only have been my panicky and fearful thoughts that would have expressed themselves, not actually what was happening.

Whenever we’re in a situation that scares us, remember, it’s not the situation itself that is fearful, it’s our thoughts about the situation that are fearful and, consequently, make us feel scared. Everything is neutral. It’s our thoughts that determine how and what we experience.


Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

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Shanti, Namaste, Agapé,

Rev. Robert Meagher