A little goes a long way

What if we started to break up the big, heaping chunk of love we felt we had to give into little bite-sized pieces? That way, we wouldn’t feel like we needed to exhaust ourselves to the maximum limit every single day and fall into bed at night feeling we have nothing left.

What if we were to simplify and watch what beauty can unfold when we put the most attention (and INtention) into the smallest (and seemingly most insignificant) things?

I had a great heart-to-heart yesterday with the two lovely women who work at the front desk of my dentist’s office. Even as they were both dealing with clients making payments and booking appointments, they would always (sometimes in tandem, which was making us all laugh) lift their eyes from what they were doing to smile, wave and acknowledge any new patients who were coming in for their appointment. I could see the look on the patient’s face light up — even though they may have just been coming in to get their teeth cleaned or a crown fixed, there was a knowledge from the moment they walked in the door that they mattered.

Acknowledging the existence of another human being out in the world is the simplest form of kindness and love we can give to a friend or stranger alike. In acknowledging someone else, we silently acknowledge our own humanity and the ways in which we are all connected in this life.

The little bits of love you think won’t have an impact have the power to grow a heart the most.

xo A.

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What seems impossible…isn’t.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re in the midst of difficulty, we never know how we’ll reach the other side? We doubt that we’ll ever feel less pain/sadness/frustration/grief/anger/disappointment/… than we do in that moment, or in the days that follow that time as we process what we’ve been through, or what we’re grappling with. In the temporary narrowness of our vision, we fail to see how on earth we will ever get by, how anything could be any different than it is right now, how we could ever stop hurting, or at the very least, hurt less.

If we look really closely, really attentively at our lives, it is possible to see the inevitably of change — how the world changes, how we change, how life is changing us; how the strength of the emotions that weigh on us the most can, and will, somehow diminish. How they do, in fact, get to be less of a burden on our hearts…when we’re ready.

It doesn’t mean we forget, but it does mean that we can attempt to move forward.

There have been times where I’ve flat-out declared that I am completely uncertain as to how I’ll make it through the pain of something — a heartbreak, a loss, a significant change. It feels truthful because it is the truth of the moment, the daunting sight of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The ‘blow’ typically feels like the tip of the iceberg, the lowest ebb, or maybe it just takes some perspective to see it that way — the tiniest shaft of light in the darkness to guide us back into a brighter place.

They say time has its own way of healing. It’s true. But we need to, at the very least, give ourselves that, and to recognize that we may not be the same on the other side, but we will be a much richer soul for having navigated that tempest.

When we feel like we’re making baby steps in the world, let’s keep in mind those mammoth trials that cracked us open, but we somehow still managed to emerge from stronger, greater lessons we’ve learned for having been taught, and higher mountains we’ve climbed that have shown us a perspective on the world that we wouldn’t seen have otherwise.

We may have scars, bruises and bumps as a result, but they serve as a reminder to celebrate our victories, no matter how small. Even the littlest triumphs are a benchmark for hope that deeper peace and healing will find us in due time, and our rejoicing will be profoundly steeped in gratitude.

There is nothing like the jungle gym/obstacle course/playground of the human heart to show us that what seems absolutely impossible…isn’t.

What Seems Impossible ALLIG 2015

How the mall taught me about what doesn’t matter (and what does) at Christmas.

Despite my efforts to re-capture my childhood effervescence around the approaching of the holiday season, I’ve found, with each passing year, an increasing sense of pre-Christmas dread. No matter what change or hardship may come, I have begun to cultivate a more profound awareness of how my circumstances are not permanent, and how, oftentimes, the discomfort and resistance I may feel in any given situation is one of two things: an indicator of something new burning its way into my world, or a lesson to be learned before I can proceed to the next chapter in my “Life workbook.”

Even optimists have their down days. Most days, the mess reveals itself to be beautiful design work in disguise. Other days, it’s just…mess.

It pains me to say it, but the approach of the Christmas season this year has brought the pessimist out of me. These last couple of weeks have been marked by unfortunate global and local events that cause my burning faith in the basic goodness of human kind to wane, and my despair over the injustices of the world to grow. I have found myself grappling with a dizzying lack of understanding around why bad things continue to happen, why unhappy, fearful people are giving us all greater reason to be terrified, why souls of all ages go missing and families are left to worry themselves sick…and why oh why has it become acceptable to go out to dinner with your child and have them sit in neglected silence while you give your undivided attention to your phone!?

I thought that was enough of the world’s problems to feel through, but apparently I hadn’t come face-to-face with the tip of the iceberg yet — the place that has, somehow, become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus:

The Mall.

It was a regular Friday night and I was feeling pretty good about life in general as Joel & I walked hand-in-hand, laughing at our usual weirdo banter. I wasn’t dressed up — jeans, winter boots, a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and a scarf. I very rarely wear make-up, so I certainly wasn’t made up for the occasion. This was meant to be a quick mission — in, out, done.

As we walked in the doors, I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelm ooze over me. Typically, the sheer amount of stimulation from walking into a mall (heck, even the grocery store!) makes me spacey and unfocused, but this was different. Christmastime at the mall is basically the mall on steroids. All I could see were strollers and arms laden with bags. There was a line-up into the jewelry store that snaked around far outside the paned glass entrance into the shop. Men & women alike were crowded over pamphlets, presumably selecting what charms or pieces of jewelry they would be purchasing once the security guard let them past the door. We wandered into a clothing store and I saw a pair of soft, knit leggings that I thought were pretty scrumptious. I checked the price tag, and they were $108. For leggings. A woman nearby stared blankly at the display table, quietly rubbing an over-priced scarf between her fingers. I wondered whether this was, in fact, the kind of gift that would make someone realize how much this person truly loved them.

Maybe my fault was in projecting how valuable these physical items might actually be to a person, or maybe it was letting the tissue paper-stuffed Armani shopping bags and the price of wooly leggings get my goat, but it didn’t take much to spiral from there. I felt a weakening in my spirit as I began to fight back tears and attempted to reign in an increasing feeling of helplessness. We were surrounded by STUFF, all around us, but yet we couldn’t find the small, simple item we were looking for. As we walked the halls from store to store, I reached for Joel’s hand. In one hand, I felt his steady presence, and in the other, any previous shred of appreciation and joy I had for everything about myself and my life when I came in the door began to dissolve.

Nothing felt like enough. I wasn’t well-dressed enough, pretty enough, successful enough, good enough… I even got as far as wondering whether I was completely deluding myself in even trying to make a go of creating a fulfilling, meaningful career for myself… Maybe it was time to banish any insecurity around what I feel other people might think about what I do, jump into the stream of corporate conformity and shelf my quest to bring greater peace, wholeness and wellness to humankind. From this vantage point in commercial mayhem, it was easy to believe that there was more value being placed on finding material things to shower upon family and friends than anything that enriches the grist of who they are. If anyone had cared to count, there were probably more people in the mall at that moment than at every Yoga studio in the city.

As I held the hand of the man I love, I knew that these negative thoughts were the true delusion, but something about this vortex made it harder to see that my thoughts were as false and impermanent as the gussied-up brick & mortar around me.

I truly believe that a Yoga practice is just that — a practice of honing our inner tools to put them into action when we experience challenge out in the world. I am also all for deep breaths and allowing emotions to be felt and honoured as they are coming up, but at this point, Joel knew that the best place for me to re-group and do those things more fully would be at a table in the food court, sharing a Blizzard. (And for the record, the seasonal flavour right now is delicious.)

As I spooned in mouthfuls of ice cream, my tears of sadness and frustration spilled out. I heavy-heartedly laid my mind’s turmoil out on the table while Joel listened and responded with deep compassion and understanding. The mall was near to closing, the crowds growing thin. If the mall had a sanctuary in that moment, it was the breathing space of the food court, at the small table in front of the DQ where there was Love, and a connection that not even wireless technology can emulate. I thought about a lovely compliment that my future sister-in-law paid me in a text message this Fall — that she admired my ability to keep perspective and see the positive in a given situation. Her words have fueled me to keep my eyes on the big picture as much I can, even if I feel my heart raising its protection level up a notch. Amidst my tears, I knew it was the feeling I had going into the mall, simply holding a hand and knowing I was ok in the world, that was more truthful than any single fear-based thought or doubt that my mind had created in that palace of excess.

As down as I felt, I knew that I hadn’t lost my ability to see the silver linings, or to know in my heart what was really true.

Cliché as it is, I don’t know if we always remember that all the shiny baubles, new technology, or overpriced items of clothing don’t really take us to the heart of what matters, not only at this time of year, but all year-long.

photo(21)Maybe what appeared to me to be disenchantment over the Christmas season (and thus my entire existence and purpose in life, apparently!) was actually a re-framing of what we need to hold onto as truth in a culture that thrives on our fear of not having or being enough; that we need more of something — anything! — just to be happier.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my loved ones to stress out over giving me stuff, just as much as I don’t want to feel that putting something in their hands on December 25th is the only way they’ll know how much I value their presence in my life. That text my future sister-in-law sent me was a gift that keeps on giving. The way my husband looks at me and listens with his eyes wide and soft is something I never ask for, but receive without condition time and time again, even when my gaze drops from the horizon of greater knowing and possibility. The feeling I had as a kid on Christmas morning is now contained in the joyful embrace I share with my brother and his fiancée every time they come home, and in seeing my whole family share laughter and stories around the dinner table. My parents may worry about me more than I know, and love me more than it is comfortable for them to say at times, but I know that they will always see me for who I am. And no matter how much in-laws get a bad rap, I am blessed with a mother-in-law generous to the point that I don’t even know how to say thank you anymore, and a father-in-law who seems perfectly content just to hug & kiss me every time I walk in their front door; a sister-&-brother-in-law who, from a distance, teach me how a passion for the great outdoors is a direct line to what actually matters in life.

All this, without even scratching the surface of the friendships — old & new — that enrich my life beyond measure, the teachers and mentors who nourish my soul, the practitioners who inspire me to give simply by showing up, and all the strangers who, when I’ve smiled at them, have chosen to smile back.

Everything that has allowed me to grow wiser, stronger, more compassionate, joyful and peaceful this year cannot be gift-wrapped. It exists within a moment, a lesson, a touch, a word, a laugh, a story, a meal shared, a silence, a gesture of kindness, a breath, a sunrise, a knowing look or a starry sky.

The true joy and sparkle of Christmas lies in the hearts of those whose hands we hold, of those who give us the truest versions of themselves all year round, and in doing so, aspire us to greater light in our lives, knowing all the while that we always have, and always will be, enough. Just as we are.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m perfectly content to give Love this Christmas, and always.

Ugh, I GET this. Do you?

Ok, BIG “Honesty Moment.”

And to be fair, someone else probably coined that term, and probably says that they made it up.

I’m not going to claim that I did or that I didn’t since, really, it’s the most unoriginal (and literal) thing to call a moment of truth.

But sometimes “literal” is brilliant — that’s just what it is, a moment of honesty; those are the two words that genuinely come up when I am about to say something that I feel to be gut-wrenching-and-heart-gushing truth, or when I see something that draws up a neglected file of haphazard, half-processed materials from the recesses of my brain; from the messy file room of EVERYTHING that I have been thinking, worrying, musing, sorting, contemplating as of late…

And this is when the worry comes that I’ve ALREADY written about something to this effect (see Nothing Is Yours), and perhaps I am only triple underlining the fact that, no matter how hard we try to be original in this big, bold, creative world, we still find ourselves coming up short and re-inventing someone else’s wheel. And maybe I’m being unoriginal or predictable by drawing from a beautiful writer who I consider, at afar, to be someone who teaches me a great deal more about the world within and without us than she probably will ever realize (or ever intended to when she wrote her wildly successful memoir unveiling her journey into wholeness after heartache).

Today, on the good old Facebook, this torchbearing warrior goddess of truth shared this:

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It hit me so hard that all I could bring myself to comment back to her was “Yes. This. Yes. Ugh. Yes.” Or something to that effect.

Original!?

NO!

Eloquent!?

HARDLY!

Authentic?

HECK YES.

Even our speechlessness can be the most truthful response of all.

I am certain A LOT of you will get this too, so naturally, I’m sharing it.

And now, trusting in my own words, I’d like to share something else:

Navigating this world from the space of my heart (and trusting my intuition) has made my life richer, more colourful and more meaningful. It has also made things both clear and confusing in equal measure. There are stretches of the journey where I feel well-equipped, strong, confident, hopeful, and absolutely in my stride. On others, I feel like I’m missing a shoelace on one shoe, short on snacks, tired, losing daylight, and needing to pause for an indefinite period of time to gaze up at the perceived Summit and wondering how on earth I ever thought I could get up there. There’s also the part of me that gets much joy out of seeing other awe-inspiring people succeed, witnessing them finding that place of flow and meaning in their lives, the space and clarity where everything is clicking. After all, they have earned it. I’ve seen them struggle and press on to be where they are, to realize their dreams, and they deserve every single second.

Another of part me just wishes I was up there with them already, bypassing the part that I’m working with, and coming up with mere scraps of clarity. It can feel like I’ve been asked to solve a Rubix Cube to proceed, and I ain’t NO master of the Rubix Cube!

The compass that guides me in my life will never direct me wrong. I know that to be true. On some legs of this journey, though, the needle begins to spin every which way, pulling me between what I know within myself to be more valuable and more lasting, and the realities of the material world. I have already answered The Call; I can’t un-answer, nor would I want to. I am 7 (maybe even 8) years deep into this particular answering and there is absolutely no turning back. I have chosen my work, and I would never wish to undo anything that has unfolded, or bypass the mysteries and beautiful surprises yet to come. For everything that I ever feel is unclear or uncertain in my life, there are many more things that I know in my bones to be true, good, and purposeful.

You can’t put a price tag on those.

We’ve probably all heard at some point that we are here to offer our unique gifts to the people of this world and to the planet we live on. I am fortunate to know some incredible people who have the best intentions to make lives healthier, happier, brighter, and more easeful… Lucky me, I am surrounded by this kind of light a lot of the time. But what if, by job description or title, what you do isn’t unique?

The other night, I had the immense privilege of helping out at Mastin Kipp‘s ‘Growing Into Grace‘ event here in Calgary. It got my week off with such an epic bang that I am reeling to piece together everything I learned and all the questions that have come up as a result… which are really an extension of all the questions I have been asking since I leapt to find greater purpose in my work life 3 years ago. I’m going to bet that the vast majority of the people in the room that night want to do some variation of what he does — write/blog, teach, speak, inspire, mentor, lead, and ultimately, change lives for the better around the world while having financial wellness that not only allows them to take care of themselves, but also to make contributions towards the betterment of others.

And if I’m even more honest, I would love nothing more than that myself, in my own unique way. (“Unique” meaning in knowing for certain what my capital-S Service is that I enrich the world with, and how I offer it. We’ve already acknowledged, even silently, that this world is practically being taken over by blogging yoga teachers. ;-))

Mastin told us that, before he began this ever-growing venture that became The Daily Love, he checked to see how many people do something to the effect that he does:

90,000 people (!!!!)

Later on, when I heard one of the ladies there mention this kind of work was something she felt she could/wanted to do, I felt any fragments of a dream I had created for myself start to dissolve. And why, WHY, would I do that to my own dreams, just because someone else was showing a sliver of confidence in their desire to create something more meaningful for themselves?!

I know in my heart that everything is here, that you can only truly be THERE by being HERE, and that THERE is really just HERE. 

Read: The treasure you are seeking is in this moment.

You are already living your purpose, whether it is your ‘job’ or not.  

HERE is IT. THIS is IT.

And then, some days, I feel like I couldn’t be more far away from where I feel I need or want to be, and HERE just seems to be a puddle of uncertainty and fog.

I am also learning that what falls away in our lives is just as important as what falls into place.

Grace.

What was never ours is giving us the gift of something greater…an opportunity. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I’ve got my eyes on the bigger picture through it all. One definition of Grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration.”

Regeneration. Re-inspiration. An opportunity to dig deeper, burn brighter, dream bigger, see clearer.

When you’re navigating rough seas, nothing feels better than knowing you are not unique in your seeking, that you are not as alone in your storm as you may feel. Being “unoriginal” never felt better than when you are facing life’s trials.

Be that as it may, what we DO need to know is that, though each of our situations may not look much different from the outside, our ability to be authentic about it, to summon our courage and tell our story… IS.

The steps along the path may be smaller some days, but they are still steps worth taking… And I’m going to let Liz close this one, because hey, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, and her authenticity speaks loud and clear to me this morning:

“So whatever it is that you dream of doing (creating, traveling, loving, inventing, transforming) just do it. Don’t worry if you’re the 100th person to do it. Just do it, anyhow, and be sure that you bring the highest purity of intention to your pursuit. Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself…
And trust me, if you are authentic, you WILL be original.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“Uncle” Days

Today, I cried ‘Uncle.’

Well, I texted Uncle, actually. (It is the modern age after all.)

I’ve always gotten a kick out of that expression, which, according to the language authority that is Wikipedia, is defined as follows:

In the United States and Canada, the idiomatic expression “Say ‘uncle’!” may be used as an imperative command to demand submission of one’s opponent, such as during an informal wrestling match. Similarly, the exclamation “Uncle!” is an indication of submission – analogous to “I give up” – or it may be a cry for mercy, in such a game or match.

Although it is often regarded as an Americanism, there are at least two differing theories as to the true origin of the phrase: ancient Rome and 19th century England.

The Roman Empire theory says, Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say the Latin phrase, “Patrue, mi Patruissimo,” or, “Uncle, my best Uncle,” in order to surrender and be freed.  […] The 19th century England theory says it comes from an English joke about a bullied parrot being coaxed to address his owner’s uncle.

Yes, my friends, snow days can provide ample opportunities for language lessons too!

And yes, I did say “snow day.”

Our fair city has been hit with a giant batch of the white stuff, far too early than any of us would care to have to deal with. Within a 24 hour period, we went from tank tops and flip flops to down-filled parkas, mitts… the whole kit’n’caboodle. Social media has been plastered with images of fallen trees, kids building snowmen, vegetables salvaged in the nick of time, flower beds draped with towels and tarps, and hands clasping coffee mugs perfectly positioned in front of a roaring fire…on a Wednesday…in Summer.

Upon rising (late) this morning, we found our power was out (the absence of the alarm tipped us off), the tree in front of our house torn out of the earth and cozied up to the hood of our van, and snow softly piling onto the solid base that had been falling for the last couple of days.

I had plans, items/to do’s to knock off the list, places to be at certain times… But there’s nothing like a power outage to remind us how much we rely on our technology (none of which was working; texting/calling from our cell phones was all we had), and boy, does a city filled with fallen trees, backed up and blocked off roadways, and out-of-commission traffic lights show us how, instead of pushing against every obstacle you face,  it’s not a bad idea to say “Uncle!” and throw in the towel.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that to micromanage, or to over-plan, or to over-expect, or to continuously push uphill, was fighting a futile fight. My life has proven, with each coming year, that letting go of the plan, and acknowledging the truth of a situation, leaves much more room for the Universe (for lack of a better term at the moment) to just do what it needs to. If we’re talking about this current meteorological dilemma, here’s a truth:

Complaining about the weather is not going to change it. Period.

A delightful side effect of relinquishing some control of your ‘plan’ is shedding unnecessary stress — stress that we create both internally (our brains are good at that!), and externally through trying to navigate circumstances we have zero control over. We’ve all enjoyed telling a story about how stressful/challenging/frustrating it was to get from Point A to Point B. But what if we simply removed the need to tell it? We are no longer trying to make something work that, on a normal day (whatever that is!?), would flow just fine, but on this one day in time is just not worth the headache.

Whether letting go (or crying Uncle!) is to provide space for beautiful surprises or just necessary changes, releasing my grasp on what is no longer working or no longer serving me, or whatever is starting to feel like a constant uphill battle, has been both challenging and freeing. Whether it was calling in sick to work when I needed a day to hole up in bed, nap and not talk to anyone, or canceling a commitment I had excitedly made in earlier times, or even in January of this year, when I came down with the flu the VERY week I was to do a Yoga teacher training to work with Cancer patients/survivors (yup, I definitely had to cry Uncle on that one, and it was heartbreaking)… there is always that part of me that feels like I am doing something wrong, or letting someone down, for having to choose what I need.

(Isn’t that crazy!? It feels wild to actually see that written down — that choosing what I need for my own well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. was/is considered a guilt-point. Seriously!? Where do we GET this stuff!?)

For years and years, I feel as though I tried to fit into the mould or expectation of what would create the most harmonious result for all involved, oftentimes sacrificing what I truly yearned for to keep myself feeling whole. I remember one New Year’s in particular when my recently wounded heart, along with my “compensating-introvert” tank, unexpectedly ran dry, and all I could think of doing was getting out in the woods (we were in the mountains), being alone, having a quiet word with the stars in the night sky, and going to bed. In the end, I stuck around 30 minutes longer than I wanted to, and the feeling of inner struggle in those extra 30 minutes was SO not worth it.  I have swallowed my reluctance, I have ignored my intuition, or let my boundaries be broken down, all for the sake of what might make someone else happy (or at the very least, content); that no one will perceive me to be a party pooper, or a letdown.

Some days (well, most days, but some days more so than others), you have to let go of the plan (and I mean ANY plan — big or small), and surrender. You may even have to let go of some guilt attached. (Seriously, let it go.) I can’t guarantee that the day you have after the fact will be better or worse for having made the decision (that’s all up to you!) but you will have followed your gut, your heart, your inner compass. You will have made a commitment to yourself to quit being the salmon swimming up stream, and to ride the current, wherever it flows.

Calgarians are impeccably talented at both praising and trashing the weather. When the devastating floods hit our city last year, I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t reminded of how powerful Mother Nature really is, and how no matter how hard we may resist her actions, we are still at her mercy. These are the forces that are more vast, that have far bigger intentions than any of the myriad of expectations or parameters we may try to impose upon them.

Patrue, mi Patruissimo.” (“Uncle, my best Uncle.“)

I surrender, and I am freed.

Harness the clouds

Slow/Fast Balance

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It was in University when I somehow subscribed to the idea of moving quickly. I had to move fast. It was what took me from the Fine Arts buildings over to my English classes across campus. It got me moving, my heart pumping, my legs working, even if for only a few minutes, in between long periods of sitting, listening, reading and learning.

Walking fast mattered. Keeping aside completely the fact that there is probably a bit of a tendency in my family to walk swiftly, when I walk, I don’t just saunter. Oh no.

I dash.

For those with long strides and quick gaits, it is like finding a soulmate. I am always surprised at how joyful it is for fast-walkers to discover the pace with which I approach a walk and hear them say, “YES! Can we walk together EVERYDAY!?”

For those with shorter legs, or with naturally stroll-y ways, or even worse, my poor pregnant friends (you know I love you and will walk slowly for you anytime!), it must be, well…annoying? Disappointing? Frustrating? A challenge? When my fast-walking-ness came up in my father-in-law’s ‘welcome to the family’ speech, it really gave me pause. It was no secret to me that he enjoys picking on this endearing habit of mine — he is 6-foot-4 and has legs for days, and still, I could really get his head shaking by walking 30 paces ahead of him, then doubling back, and walking another 30 paces forward… Now THAT would be annoying.

WowWalking swiftly has become one of my identifying traits. We live in a culture of speed, of efficiency. We are, in fact, so fast that we don’t feel fast enough. We are so efficient, that we don’t feel we can get everything done. In fact, we are so adept at multi-tasking that we don’t even realize that we are eating lunch, answering e-mails, responding to an incoming text, and thinking about all the things that we need to do today, tomorrow, this year…all at the SAME TIME.

One of my Yoga teachers shared this piece of wisdom and I haven’t forgotten it: ‘You teach what you need to learn.’

I never anticipated becoming a teacher. I resisted it. I still, on occasion, hesitate to call myself a ‘teacher,’ unless I am talking to someone who really just needs some sort of identifier to know with a bit more clarity what exactly I do, goshdarnit, and then I can say, ‘Well, I teach Yoga…currently, twice a week.’ I have designated those two classes as the classes that people can come to when they want to move slowly and mindfully, to breathe deeply and more fully than they do all day (or perhaps all week), to be still, to get inside their own experience and not worry about anything else if they can help it.

There is no coincidence that I teach a practice (Yoga Nidra) that involves lying as stalk still as possible for a substantial period of time; a practice that encourages breath, quiet, relaxation, visualization, creativity, imagination, and cultivating clarity by working with a single, solitary intention.

The truth? I teach this because it is one of my greatest lessons. The ‘speed-walker’ needs stillness and quiet. Craves it, in fact. And the speed-walker, when faced with having to move more slowly due to illness or injury, well, it disappoints me just as much as it does anyone being stopped in their tracks. Even more so, it is the idea of achieving that balance that appeals — of moving quickly and efficiently when we need to and enjoying the ride…then, just as fully, allowing ourselves to really slow it all down when we can, and tap into to the heart of who we are.

No clutter, no noise. Just US, at our core.

I am inspired when I hear students tell me that they have come to class as their first class back after rehab-ing from a head injury, or post-pregnancy, or because their doctor has prescribed yoga and meditation to them for anxiety. I could tell you a good handful of stories, but from where I sit, let’s just say that I have seen both personally and with those near and dear to me, that our desire for speed and to ‘do it all’ — whether physically, or through intense periods of stress, or both — can often lead us to some hard knocks and falls, especially when this is sustained and pushed through over long periods of time with little-to-no respite. The little cosmic joke in all this, of course, is that what is needed to get us back on our feet…is — you guessed it — to move slowly, or sometimes, not at all. To take care of ourselves. To listen to ourselves. To rest.

In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, I took a walk with a dear friend of mine out in the countryside. It was bitterly cold out, but stunning with the snow all around, the ink-black sky filled with stars. As the cold nipped at our skin (and at the feet of his very patient puppy), I felt it…that need — let’s face it, that habit! — to move quicker…But then I realized what I had to gain from this moment, and the answer was ‘EVERYTHING.’ 2 AM, spending the first hours of a brand new year bonding with a great friend under the vast night sky, chatting about where life was taking us, how big the universe is, and how small we are in it… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great conversations while speed-walking, but this was one of those moments where all I could do was stop, take the moment in, and realize how lucky I was to be standing still just where I was.

Ferris Bueller really did say it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

‘Here’ & ‘Then’

Ah, a brand new year! A time when we are positively dripping with ideas and optimism on how we can be better, look better, do better, feel better, [fill in the blanks] better than we did last year. A time of planning, goals, lists, intentions, and creating an overarching ‘theme’ or direction for the days ahead.

There is an immense amount of beauty in this idea — this reminder — that it is never too late to reinvent ourselves, work on who we are, create or seek out new opportunities, build new foundations, take long-awaited leaps into the unknown (or towards the next ‘trapeze’), forge new connections… There’s something refreshing about leaving an old set of days and events behind you, but carrying their lessons forward,  knowing you have the next 365 days to create your experience.

A clean slate. A new journal. A blank canvas.

Then there’s the other part.

On the flipside of feeling this energetic tsunami of new ideas, hopes and dreams, there’s this possibility of feeling completely overwhelmed. Not bad, mind you, but just…wow, a lot. Does anybody feel that?

Somehow, the dreaming and scheming and hoping and wishing has managed to transport our thoughts, our intentions, to a completely different time — “next week,” “by the end of January,” “in 3 months,” “9 months,” “by Christmas of next year…” And then there’s one of my favourites: “In 5 years…”

“By this time, I will have…”

“By this time, I’d like to be…”

“By this time, I hope that my life will look like…”

In the haze of waking up this morning, I found that my mind was spinning with the infinite number of things I needed to ponder, decide on, do, not do, take charge of,  let go of and  change,  in order to further create  this beautiful thing for myself that, ultimately, I can’t say I have a fully formed vision of yet. In my desire to devise this long-term picture of where I want to go, who I want to be and what I want to do, I was completely overlooking ‘the moment.’ At the same time, I felt innately connected to the fact that how I felt in that moment (mostly tired from too many late nights — aren’t holidays supposed to be relaxing?!) was not the way I wanted to feel for the next 361 days.

So then, of course, in comes the mental list.

“Well, in order to feel X, then here’s what you need to do:”

Out pours this completely daunting list (mostly daunting because it is so long!) of what might make a difference.  Just as it is nearly impossible to know EXACTLY how our lives will look in 5 years’ time, how do we know that after doing all those things, we will feel exactly how we hope to feel? How can we predict what forks in the road may pop up that will steer us off course, perhaps not completely, but enough for us to be forced to take in the scenic route for a while? Plus, with only so many hours in a day, and our chronically over-committed schedules, how can we possibly fit ALL of those things into our day-to-day lives in a way that is mindful and effective, that doesn’t involve half-assing everything just for the sake of being able to put a big fat checkmark in the box beside it?

This, my friends, is ‘Then.’

‘Then’ is where all this mind-clutter, self-doubt, indecision, stress and overwhelm reside. My mind, in this moment, is clearly in ‘Then.’ I’m pretty sure my heart has followed suit. And probably a bit of my soul is pouring out of me riding a high speed train to ‘THEN.’

All of a sudden, between the click of the kettle signaling the water has boiled and the pot of milk on the stove beginning to steam, I remember where I am.

‘Here.’

My body is ‘Here.’ I am in this place called ‘Here’ (which is often referred to as ‘Now’). I slowly bring my awareness back out of ‘Then’ and realize the only place I can possibly be right now is HERE.

Wouldn’t we all love to be in the idyllic picture we paint of our lives, where we have more of X, and less of Y, and the perfect balance of everything that we believe will create a ‘perfect’ life? In this time of creating a new paradigm for the coming year, there is  boldness in keeping your sights set high on the big picture, of finding clarity in what you want to achieve, and who you want to be. It strengthens your idea of where you want to go so you can bravely put one foot in front of the other, and find your way there. But I say this to remind myself as much as I hope it reminds you…

‘Here’ is It. It is all we have. If ‘Here’ was the end, would we be content?

Rather than finding heaven on earth...jpg