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

Why I Retreat (Part 1)

It was the Winter of 2007. As I rode the wave of the exhilarating beginning of my life-long love affair with Yoga, I found that, no matter what my day held, I could always look forward to ducking away to my ‘Yoga home’ (a.k.a. studio) at the end of the day. I would roll out my mat, and relief would flood over my body. Good day, bad day, it didn’t matter. Yoga had become the cornerstone of my day and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

Two years into my yoga practice, I discovered the next best thing:

The Yoga Retreat.

I clearly remember the day I received an e-mail from Ally Bogard & Tanis Fishman, two teachers that have deeply inspired me and helped me along ‘the path’ (as we yogis tend to call it). They were holding a women’s only Yoga retreat in Morocco.

I got full body chills.

I knew I had to be there, come hell or high water. It scared the crap out of me (in a good way!). I didn’t know how I was going to afford it… Morocco was a whole new cultural kettle of fish from my home and native land of Canada…

My heart pounded but everything in me said “GO.” I threw caution to the wind, e-mailed a simple ‘sign me up,’ and vowed to figure out the logistics later.

A few months later, I found myself eating tagine, drinking obscene amounts of Moroccan mint tea, kissing snakes, riding camels, and  navigating the maze of ‘riads’ in the markets of Marrakech. All that, and I hadn’t even done any yoga yet.

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And then, we landed at the retreat centre. It was like no other place I had ever seen. Every single morning, as I opened my eyes to meet the sight of the ocean through our balcony window, a deeply contented grin would engulf my face, and I had to pinch myself. Was this real? Was I really here? In the first practice Ally led, I remember her saying that the earth we were sitting on that day was African soil. (AFRICA!) With the sound of the surf ringing in our ears, the ocean breeze caressing our skin, I knew we were in for an unforgettable week.

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Needless to say, it was all that and more.

We practiced, we meditated, we laughed, we cried, we explored, we danced, we ate (one of my favourite parts of yoga retreats — the food!), we slept deeply, we went inward, and we grew. The 26-year old woman I was starting that retreat in Morocco was not the same young woman who left. My eyes and heart had been pried wide opened in a way that a 90-minute Yoga class had come close to, but hadn’t quite accomplished yet. Retreats were magic. I knew that I was hooked.

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ImageSince that life-altering trip to Morocco, I have flung myself whole-heartedly at retreat/training experiences that have given me that undeniable message of “GO!” from the first invite. My experience in Morocco led me to jump at another unforgettable retreat in Baja California Sur, Mexico in 2010 with another of my most admired & respected teachers, Sasha Bahador.

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I had the bug for sure. Each time I returned home from these retreat experiences, I found a new depth of connection within myself, which of course, began to permeate everything that I did, and the choices I made.

In 2011, I took one of the biggest “I-don’t-know-how-and-I-don’t-know-why-but-I’ve-just-gotta!” risks of my life and followed Ally Bogard, yet again, to an advanced teacher training in Bali. I wasn’t even a yoga teacher at that point, but I knew it was the next stop on the path to deepen my yoga practice. It was in Bali, in fact, that I taught for the first time (read my blog post on that experience here), and had my perception of the world, of who I was and who I was meant to be, blasted open. It was in deep study and reflection there that I realized it was time for me to make some huge changes in my life that would lead me closer to where my heart was calling me. This realization was both exciting and terrifying. (The fish tacos & mango lassis certainly helped!)

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When I returned home from Bali, I made the challenging decision to quit the job I had been in for 3 wonderful years. This studio community of coworkers had become a second family that I loved very dearly and it was a decision I didn’t make lightly. Just as I knew my visits to Morocco, Mexico and Bali were all part of my bigger life plan, I knew it was time for a change. With no real sense of how or where the net would appear underneath me, I put all my faith in my gut, my heart and the powers that be, and took a giant leap…

Where did I land?? Stay tuned for Part 2…

Fear + 7 Minutes

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This past Mother’s Day, I had the incredible privilege of teaching an hour-long Yoga/Yoga Nidra practice to a group of amazing Mums at the Kids Cancer Care Mother’s Day Brunch. The journey to get to this moment brought back a remembrance of what brought me here in the first place.

It inspired me to look back to the moment that sparked my being where I am now. 

In March 2011, I took part in an incredible advanced teacher training program through Gaiatri Yoga. When I received an e-mail about this training a few months prior, my heart nearly stopped. I wasn’t a yoga teacher and had adamantly said that I wouldn’t ever be. The reasons were 3-fold at the time:

1) I loved my yoga practice far too much (still do) and hated the idea of ‘giving it up’ to be in my head/teaching brain whenever I hit my mat.

2) My Dad is a teacher (not yoga, though he could now!) and whenever ‘teaching’ came up, I pictured Dad tearing his hair out over poorly-written papers and saying ‘Never become a teacher!’

3) At the time, I managed a yoga studio and cringed at the idea of being the one who was consistently relied upon to sub at the last minute. I wasn’t even a teacher and I occasionally got asked to lead a sun salutation or two to buy time if a teacher was late, and that just made me want to barf.

Ok, so an ‘advanced teacher training’ hardly seemed like my fit.
But it was in Bali.
And it was with a teacher I admire immensely — my time spent with her on retreat in Morocco saw my heart and practice grow, and I was ready for a boost.

No matter what anybody said to try and deter me (“It’s so expensive!” “It’s so far away!”),  no matter how healthily fearful I was of the unknowns I may face there or how big of a hole it would leave in my bank account, I knew I needed to be there. So I jumped in with both feet, figuring I would worry about the financial part later, and made it clear that I was attending this training solely to grow my personal practice, with no intention of teaching whatsoever.

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Flash forward to March 23, 2011 in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.

A sweaty, quiet young woman sits on the front porch of her little ‘house’ she is sharing for a week with a hilarious young man who wears primarily sarongs and speedos. This good-hearted guy has ordered the young woman a large glass of red wine paired the most delicious coconut chocolate pudding you can imagine, and left her alone to write. Flicking away the occasional bug and listening to the crickets, birds and jungle-y animals perform their nightly serenade, she writes:

“I taught today. For the very first time. We were instructed to teach a 7-minute sequence — 3 mins dharma talk, 4 mins teaching postures or a simple posture, and interweaving the theme, based on something we had recently worked through or was working through us. I picked “Peace.” It is still coming up. And though I am not here to find peace here, per se, I am here to cultivate it to take into my own life back home.

I was terrified when I was told I would be amongst the first ten to teach a section of the group. I told  Ally [Bogard] flat out that I was scared. She acknowledged my feelings: “I know. And this is why it will be so great for you.” She was so great & supportive, gave me a temporary out if it scared me to the point of vomiting, and said she had confidence in me. So…scared as I was, I mustered my courage and did it this afternoon.

7 minutes went quickly & I just went with what I could dig up. I talked about this concept of Peace, how it applies to daily life, shared an anecdote… Ally was holding a steady presence beside me at the front of the room. I could tell she was there to support me the second I needed it. Not too far in, Ally moved from the front of the ‘classroom’ with me back to her place further back on the couch. “You’ve got it,” she said. 

So it wasn’t much — getting them to breathe and ruminate on Peace in a restorative posture of their choice, shift to child’s pose and continue breath and imagery, then I gently brought them to a forward fold, and roll up to standing. That was 7 minutes. Done. When I finished, Ally said “How did that feel?”
I cried.
“Alright,” I said.
“Please tell me it felt just more than alright,” she smiled.
“Better than I thought,” I replied.
One of the girls said, “Did you say you’ve never taught [yoga] before?”
I shook my head.
“Not in this lifetime,” Ally said, “but many lifetimes before that. So what does this bring up for you?”
“A lot.” I couldn’t put it into words.
She smiled. “I have nothing for you. That was perfect. Thank you.”

I couldn’t say then where this moment would lead me. I have a greater idea now. More often than not, the idea of teaching still makes me want to barf, but I’ve learned to ‘trust the practice,’ follow my gut, and know that each time, it will get easier…and that all I need to do is start.

I can’t exactly say now where teaching will take me, or how the bigger picture looks… 

But I can say this: I never thought that a bit of fear & 7 minutes could change my life.

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