Forget Your Perfect Offering

There they are, glaring at me as if to rub in my face that the self-deprecating thoughts around my ‘2015 Writing Dought’ are well-founded.

Little graphics of calendar pages…”May…June…July…August…September…” all blank.

As far as this little statistics widget on my blog is concerned, I’ve done nothing, created nothing, experienced nothing, captured nothing, and shared nothing, when in fact, my silence speaks louder than any words I could articulate. There are stories to share, and despite my own resistance, I know full-well that our “Truth-Stories” need to be given wings, not tethers, if they are to serve their purpose. When they land in the right ears and hearts, they can build bridges, create bonds, and remind us that, though we may seem worlds and experiences apart from each other, there is a very vulnerable, human part of us that is longing to be seen for the beautiful, complex and fascinating creatures that we are.

One such example came across my path yesterday.

I spent the day teaching Yoga in a high school — four classes of grades 10-12 who take this particular course to enhance their athletic performance. The thought of me being the person to teach them (let alone challenge!) these highly physical teenagers was almost laughable, in my mind. (You may understand my hesitation a bit better by reading this post here…)

The early morning hours before the alarm went off found me wide awake, thoughts racing. My fear of not being able to give them what I would assume they were expecting (a workout) was high, but my knowing of what they most likely needed (relaxation) was deep. Even so, I succumbed to doubt, to the useless dialogue of “who am I to do this,” put my pajama-clad self in child’s pose on our bed and cried, all nerves as to how I could serve this group to the best of my ability.

When my tears subsided, I reached for a book on my nightstand that my Mum recently gave me, opened it to a page — any page — to see if any wisdom would surface to reassure me.

There they were — four lines from Leonard Cohen‘s song “Anthem” that reminded me what, all this time, I had been forgetting:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

The part about the crack in everything letting the light in always gets the fanfare, but all I saw was that second line:

Forget your perfect offering.

Four hours later, nearly thirty Grade 10 boys who, upon arrival in the room, had been whacking each other with yoga mats, were now sitting in peaceful stillness so deep I was trying to figure out how to make it clearer that the class was over and the time had come for them to pack up, get changed, and move along to their next class. As they began to filter out of the gym, a quiet boy approached me.

“I just wanted to say thank you for the class…I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 12 Steps at all…anyway, whatever we just did made me feel really centered. I haven’t felt this centered in a long time, actually. I really needed that.”

In daring to give me a truthful micro-glimpse of his own imperfectness, what this young man unknowingly offered me in exchange for some simple, strong poses and a quiet relaxation were deeper lessons than he probably realized.

Perfection — in who we are, what we do and how we do it — is overrated. Offer whatever it is you have to share, from whatever experience it is you have to share it from, no matter how deeply you doubt or fear your inadequacy, or the likelihood that you may meet rejection or failure. Turn to your truth; offer it, if you can. Silence and inaction, though safe for a while, only keep us stuck and alone.

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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.

Showing Up

It is far earlier in the morning than I would care to be awake, the second morning within the bookends of this week that I have found myself wondering, “Really?! Now?! Can’t I just sleep?!”

I immediately think of my friends with babies. This is their norm, except the bonus is that when they wake up, they have the eyes of a sweet, innocent little soul to look into; I am sure I could promptly get the comeback that this early-rising of mine doesn’t involve someone needing something of me, or the cacophony that ‘needing’ creates, and at least I am waking to relative quiet, to my own thoughts…

True enough, I guess…

I am falling into that place of recognition and gratitude for the moments of ‘freedom’ where I will, one day, have the needs of my children at the forefront of my mind. I know the frustration of restless slumber (and early rising when there is no clear desire to do so) is strikingly similar across the board whether we have children or not, and being the baby-lover and wannabe mother that I am, I still haven’t heard a single one of my new parent friends say they look into the faces of their young early birds and wish that little smile wasn’t there to greet them in the wee hours. Like any other, parent or non-parent, I’d prefer to have some good sleep so l can live fully in the world and in the lightness of my own being. Until parenthood becomes my reality, what I am waking up to when I am called out of bed at what would be referred to as ‘ungodly hours’ (others would say this is some of the most ‘godly’ time of all) is far less tangible…and let’s face it, waking to the hamster wheel of ‘my own thoughts’ is not always what could be deemed a relaxing experience.

It may not be a baby crying out for me, but something else is.

In previous incarnations of this scenario, I would resist. I would lie in bed, my mind processing scraps of thoughts and seemingly unrelated emotions, tinged by an overarching shade of exasperation at the fact that I’m not sawing logs like the darling man in bed beside me.

Very recently, I’ve stopped resisting.

There must be a reason for this. Go with it.

Show up.

I have really come to appreciate that Yoga is labeled as a ‘practice’ – a commitment to coming to a mat with whatever you’ve got, over and over and over. As a student said to me yesterday, “there is comfort in consistency.” The container of the practice can look very much the same in some contexts, but the more I release expectation and surrender, the more I learn. It’s bigger than just learning, though. It’s experiencing something in present moment time, exactly as it is meant to unfold, with all its kinks, smudges, and glimmers of light.

When I come to my mat, I almost ritualistically ease back into child’s pose with a sigh (the comfort in the consistency), gather the steadiness of my breath, then start to move instinctively, with no real knowing of what might arise.

What if I do this in Life? What if I silently answer “Present” right off the top, open up… and trust?

I wish I could say when I began to see the truth-telling mirror of Life and Practice, but I can certainly attest that, in the lead up to our wedding, there was a distinct acknowledgement of how futile it is to micro-manage and control — how we can set the foundation, the main plot points, but what unfolds from there is all up to the moment, that we need to be OK with that, and for extra brownie points, see that as being the magic. I used to be one of those people who tried to fit life into a box because it was a thing that we humans had to do. Doing so created an anxious need to know more, to know what’s next, and to be assured of all the details so I could feel at ease. Before I went to Bali, I remember pestering my teacher for as many details as I could as to how the whole week of training would go, what material we would cover, who I would be rooming with, blah blah blah. She gently called me out on my need-to-know-ness and did something really great that has radically changed my perception of how things can or should be:

She gave me enough to reinforce a strong, positive feeling in my gut, enough to get me from Point A to Point B safely and on schedule, and not nearly enough to cause my own expectations to ruin the experience.

Show up. Trust. Allow.

The result? Mindblowing. Changed my life. For real.

I’m not only seeing this yielding to uncertainty through glass-half-full, rose-coloured glasses, though I can attest that showing up with peace in my heart and nearly-zero expectations has yielded to some of the most beautiful, most connected and honest moments of my life to date. Just as truthfully, there have been seemingly normal, happy days that have been game-changers in more shocking ways than I could have ever expected. Regardless of their ‘tone,’ these events have shaped my life, each carrying their own lessons, wisdom and experience. I don’t regret them existing for a single second. They are my teachers.

Showing up, however, becomes much harder when things don’t go the way you planned, or when you feel like things aren’t going your way. Within the last few days, I have faced unexpected obstacles and that heave-ho of resistance, which, in the past, would have had me turning away from the horizon and feeling all my efforts were in vain; or contrarily, feeling I need to put on a brave face and just get to the other side, to a place that feels “better” than whatever is being felt in the Now.

These methods don’t seem to work so well for me anymore. As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” Before you see the other side of the forest, you need to face the trees…and sometimes those trees are knotted, scary, have crazy faces and sing creepy songs.

On Sunday morning, reluctant to get out of my PJs and greet the world, I took solace in Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent interview with Oprah. It was like the internet heavens opened up and, in the form of a Liz (some of my favourite people on this planet are Lizzes), what I needed to hear was dropped into my blanket-covered lap.  In their discussion around Joseph Campbell’s concept of “The Hero’s Journey,” Liz brought in the idea of “The Call” — that this “Call” may very likely come at an inopportune time, and when called, you are faced with a choice: refuse the call, or answer.

Refuse? Go ahead, but expect nothing to change.

Answer? Well…buckle up.

Back when I chose the path of Yoga practice as an anchor in a time of uncertainty and tumult, I was naive to the fact that I was committing to answering a call that would ring not just once…but over and over and over again. The physical postures still teach me and humble me to no end, but it is through the quiet, meditative practice of Yoga Nidra (and in particular, in the past year of working through my limiting beliefs in the space of that practice) that has required digging to untouched and sometimes murky depths. Each belief, each day, each scenario, each interaction, offers me the opportunity to either put up the blinders and stay stuck and safe, or to recognize the faces of my limitations and conquer them heart on, to clear space amidst the weeds, sow seeds of positive intention and be totally open to how they will blossom.

Now, I see with more clarity the nuance of what needs to Be and what needs to fall away for something better, what needs to be ‘slept on’ and what needs to be faced. I have also had to reconcile myself with the fact that, no matter what we may be working through, there is a time for being alone and processing your emotions without the filters, risk of judgement or lofty expectations from anyone around you. There is also, however, an immense strength and courage in being present in your community, in your tribe, simply as you are.

On Monday morning, once again awake before the crack of dawn and still not quite on the other side of my cloud, I felt a habitual pull to stay in my pajamas, to conquer my to-do list from the comfort of home and avoid human contact for one more day. Only 24 hours before this, this cocooning was my most potent form of medicine, but on this particular day, something was calling me from the other side of the haze. I gathered the bits of me I felt were intact, cobbled them together and promptly took them out the door for a long walk to the yoga studio to practice. When I walked through the door, I saw beautiful, familiar faces of those who, whether I knew it or not, were all fighting their own battles that day. I knew in an instant that I had made the right choice. We all rolled out our mats and showed up to what was.

Messy and true, “what was” was the gift.

“What was” was the doorway, and no matter what I may find on the other side, I chose to answer the call. I choose to answer. I choose to listen.

It’s Wednesday, October 8th, 2014. It’s 4:30 AM. Your eyes are wide open. Why sleep? Why not just be what you are: Awake.

Show up. Allow. See what unfolds.

What unfolds is THIS. What unfolds is here.

How will you show up today?

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Nothing Is Yours

It was one of those moments of sudden inspiration, and clearly, I was not in a position to do anything about it immediately.

My lower back, nestled into a folded, Indian cotton blanket.

Both hands grasping a long, purple yoga strap looped around my foot, gently stretching my extended right leg.

My breath, deep and slow. My eyes, softly closed.

Silent, grateful bodies on colourful mats all around me.

My mind… instantly awake.

CRAP.

I had come to this Yin yoga class to be as fully present as I could be, and here I was, being tugged far out of the room…by an Idea. Rather than each thought drifting consciously into my awareness like clouds and swiftly leaving, one thought became another, and I was decidedly in the midst of a brainstorm. I had become the example that yoga teachers use — that I, too, use! — of the person who is drawn out of the practice by the so-called monkey mind.

But THIS felt different.

This felt like a moment that Elizabeth Gilbert referenced in her TED talk, where an interview with Tom Waits revealed to her that she was not the only one who had ever been struck with inspiration out of the blue and wasn’t in the least bit ready to receive what was coming down the pipe. Waits admitted the inconvenience of songs emerging from the ether while he was driving with no way to capture it. Creatives will recognize this plight — when you’re hoofing up a hill and are suddenly struck with insight, without a pen, or the good old iPhone Voice Memo function, and you just PRAY that it will come back to you again…

Was this what this was? Had I been chosen, in this inconvenient yoga moment, to be visited by a muse?

Was this my miracle minute of receiving the idea (or a potentially valuable one) that could determine the purpose and direction of my life? The skeleton with which to make a body of work that could have a positive impact on the lives of others? And if I just held on tightly enough to that thought (and this thought! Oh, and THAT thought!), could I make it to a piece of paper in time? Could I remember the buzz words, the key phrases, elements & messages that made up the initial pieces of what I thought could be something really big?

After we chanted our final ‘OM,’ bowed down and closed the class, I became THAT PERSON — the one who breaks out of a mindful practice and starts half-hurriedly gathering her props, nosing her way to the prop shelf a bit quicker than she should. I made a mental note that I would either have to admit to the teacher that my hasty departure was due to riding a wave of inspiration that needed an outlet ASAP, or simply acknowledge my enjoyment of the class and give as sincere of a thank you as I could without letting on that I was clearly in what felt like labour… with an idea baby.

I am fairly confident I did the latter. (My conscience feels, however, that this teacher probably deserves a little note of extra thanks, just to be sure.)

I promptly ducked into the book shop next door and bought a notebook that had an inspirational saying on the cover that (coincidence?) was in perfect alignment with my idea. Somehow amidst the brain storm, I managed to daydream, “This notebook could become legendary. It could be the one that contained THE IDEA that started it all…”

What a thrilling thought. (And somewhat embarrassing to admit in hindsight.)

I restrained my impatience as a teenaged boy at the cash desk began to reveal to the clerk that he ‘actually didn‘t like Tolkein’s The Hobbit.’ Knowing that Peter Jackson couldn’t even fit this 300 page story into just ONE feature-length film made me grey. I was going to be stalled here forever.

Please just notice that I am GIVING IDEA BIRTH!

Yes! It worked! Eye contact and a nod from the clerk. “I can help you over here.”

Money, on the counter. Receipt in my hand. A thank you, a wish for a pleasant evening.

It was past 8:30 at night. All I could think of was getting what I could recall of this FREAKING idea out of my head and onto paper, and then my belly rumbled.

Shit. Dinner. I am STARVING.

My mind was made up. Cooking something would delay this process to the point of actually losing it altogether, so I zipped across the street to a Mexican restaurant, asked if they did takeout (yes, they do), and ordered the first thing I saw on the menu (chicken tostadas)…and asked to borrow a pen.

I had a 5-minute wait  & a black ballpoint in my hand. As I opened the “notebook that could change it all,” I briefly contemplated whether I should leave the first page blank…

Screw that. I’m going for it. How much could I get down on paper so I wasn’t desperately clutching my brain bladder all the way home!? I opened the valve I had consciously put a stop on during yoga class and let whatever came flow out onto the page. It wasn’t even close to all of it, but it was enough for me to last the 10-minute trek homeward.

Front steps.

Keys in the door.

Watch for escaping cats! No cat? Good.

I’m in.

I didn’t even put my dinner on a plate. Just a fork in one hand, a pen in the other. Takeout box on the left, journal on the right. While one hand wrote, the other shoveled in chicken tostada. Whatever was still left in my brain, whatever was coming, I scribbled away, no censorship or judgement allowed…

I paused and took a breath.

I had a ‘hashtag‘ (or handle, I guess it’s called?) come to me in class that I felt could be associated with this ‘project.’ It wasn’t revolutionary, but hey, sometimes even the simplest things haven’t been explored. Or have they? I consulted what my friend Liz calls ‘The Oracle’ (yes, Google) to see if this handle was being freed up by the universe to house what was the beginning of a project that, as far as I felt, could really grow into something beautiful… 

The inner soundtrack soars, my heart pounds and hope burns brighter than ever… This…could…be…

Friggin. Eh.

Sure enough, it’s been used. The general concept of my Idea has been done.

FAAAACK.

I followed a weblink. This gal seems lovely. There are pictures of her doing yoga. She keeps a blog. She fulfills her purpose by helping people find theirs…

In an instant, I felt my rosy pink Idea balloon (whose gradual but anticipatory inflation had consumed 80 minutes of head space in a yoga class where I just wanted to be present, dammit) shatter into a pile of listless, rubbery bits. It may have been an inspired woman that came into this room, but a sad one eventually dragged herself to bed for a night of restless sleep.

Now, I’m under no illusion that original ideas are hard to come by. My Dad always said that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, and there is nothing wrong with being inspired by someone else, but I don’t think there are many people who purposely want to be generic and have the same ideas as everyone else does, do they? How colourful would our world be if we all did the same thing, or were the same person?

So why did this idea come to me out of oblivion if it had already come to someone else…someone else who followed through…

 I was instantly struck down with discouragement. I felt the increasingly saturated nature of the self-development world, that I was just one of many tapped into the universal mind; my hopes of having something unique to share, or offer, quickly dashed. I felt that, no matter what my experiences had been, I really had nothing, and I would just have to accept that at face value. My fear I had expressed to my husband a few months back — about being just another yoga teacher with a blog who wants to share realness, inspiration and create deeper connection in the world —  was being broadcasted to me in real life, real time, and I frustratedly saw myself willing to toss in the towel. All that was left of my optimism was 3 pages of messy notes in a $9.50 impulse purchase of a notebook. I had almost double that dollar amount in Mexican food in my belly, and it wasn’t even sitting that great. Oh, and 80 minutes of peace of mind that I really could’ve used…gone.

 (Wow, talk about glass half empty, huh!? I promise there’s a point. Please keep reading.)

 Which led me to think: why do multiple people have the same ideas? Besides my soul sisters who I know I share virtual head and heart space with (i.e. three of us had the same idea for our wedding invitations which, surprise surprise, already exists on weddingpaperdivas.com, which means TONS of other people have had — and used — that idea before!) Why did THIS idea come to ME — this idea that had already come to somebody else, without my even knowing it was already out there?

With the internet being such a public free-for-all, is it possible to say that we really own anything? And with all of us out there thinking, creating and being at the same time, is there any wonder that we may all be just recycling each others’ thoughts, concepts and dreams? And if this idea hit ME like a, well, maybe not a Mack truck, but an F250…does it mean that I should say no to carrying this through? And if I do, will anyone who feels this idea is rightly theirs be territorial or competitive? Will they insist that they came up with it first?

Or can we start to work together from a place of collaboration vs. competition and think, “Hey, my people dug this idea, but my people aren’t your people. And if you can reach more people that aren’t my people, then maybe we’re onto something here… World awesomeness domination!”

photoLE. SIGH. (By the by, for a while, I believed I had coined this expression… Turns out I’m apparently just a copycat who combines my French & English language skills into one super-language like everyone else.)

Since I was a kid, I’ve had a desire to have a ‘thing.’ I was protective of my relationships to my nearest and dearest, and still can be, to an extent. I value my one-on-one time with my bosom buddies deeply. I may still be sharing them with the world (and now in the case of many of them, their babies!), but when I’m with them, I’d rather not split my focus if I don’t have to (cute babies exempt, of course). When it came to activities, in High school in particular, I remember inadvertently stumbling into Drama and getting the sense from my Drama teacher that I was alright at it.

It quickly became my ‘thing’ — My joy. My happy challenge. My creative outlet.

Where others pursued their strengths and passions on swim teams, in soccer fields, art studios or in church youth groups, this was my much-needed time for me. It gave my 14-year-old self a sense of individuality and purpose amidst the burning desire to just make it through high school in one piece.

When a friend announced one day that they were taking up Drama, I felt my heart sink. My ‘thing’ felt lost to me in an instant, no matter whether I kept going or not. To further that point, if they ended up being good at it, then I would clearly have to admit defeat and let them shine instead. This is, of course, a really poopy attitude linked so intimately with the fear of not being enough, but it was genuinely how I felt. I would get good at something…then someone would be better…and inevitably, I would let it go because it was clearly their arena to shine in, and not mine.

Maybe them seeing me loving this ‘thing’ was what lead them to THEIR purpose, or THEIR gift. Come to think of it, this friend who jumped on the Drama bandwagon back in high school makes their career in Theatre to this day. Maybe if I hadn’t blazed the trail, they wouldn’t be where they are right now…Or maybe they would because we had just both had the same initiative to try it.

But here’s the bottom line:

We may all share the same ideas, thoughts and dreams. We all share this world. At the end of the day, we own nothing. Nothing is truly ours. But part of what makes our lives purposeful is the decision to listen to the inklings of our hearts. If you’ve been visited by a crazy muse, HONOUR IT. If you weren’t meant to be visited, you would have been left to stretch your hamstrings in peace! Maybe this muse is a trickster who gets her jollies from whispering the same ideas to different people, in different parts of the world…but it’s an IDEA, and IDEAS. MAKE. CHANGE.

If you asked 1000 children to draw a tree and a cat, no two would be exactly the same.

Maybe the seed of my idea looks like any ordinary seed, but depending on who chooses to plant it, one comes up an Orchid, the other a Sunflower —  both beautiful, both completely different in appearance, but intentionally the same in their purpose. If we didn’t have both, we wouldn’t be able to choose which one enhances our own unique lives the most. Our ideas may not all be unique, but the body we will inhabit for this time on earth, and the soul that it contains, are.

In this moment, I can’t say what will become of my elusive Idea that kept me from fully appreciating my yoga moment. I can say, however, that what you are reading right now is the result of waking up when I wanted nothing more than to sleep in peace, of pushing through the weight of defeat & discouragement, and of being challenged to connect when it seemed more worth my while to withdraw. Perhaps this Idea was really an opportunity in disguise for me to encourage you (as I have had to do for myself) to question why any thread you feel called to follow is worthwhile if you deny yourself the opportunity to even TRY.

Shine your OWN light in the junkyard of recycled dreams and the bleak landscape of ‘sameness.’ Defy your own long-held beliefs that someone we will be better, or more deserving of this honour, than you.

If you’re going to own anything, at least own that.

What does your heart say?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to remember the earliest whisperings of our heart?  All the things our hearts told our childhood selves that we had the boldness and bravery to follow through on IMMEDIATELY?

“Come on…you can walk! Do it! Or wait, Yes! RUN!”

“I really need you to eat this dirt so you can learn the meaning of ‘Yucky!’!”

“It’s ok. Just cry. And don’t worry if anyone tells you you shouldn’t.”

I’m certainly not saying that we all lack bravery and boldness now — in fact, I think it is the everyday acts of bravery, small or large, that are the most inspiring to us all.  But we have all seen it as we’ve ‘grown up’ — the ways in which, over time, we become conditioned to be more cautious in our approach, to listen to the voices around us rather than the quiet voice inside. Experience has shown me that choices with far less reason behind them than you would expect (and a healthy amount of buzzing excitement) are typically on the path you are meant to follow, to bring you closer to that elusive P word…Purpose.

I can think, off the top of my head, of 4 things that I have done that were called into question and ended up being undeniably the most powerful choice for my own growth and evolution as a human being:

To travel to Morocco (‘It’s so far! It could be dangerous and they harass women there! It’s expensive!’)

To take a yoga training in Bali (‘It’s even further away! And it’s even MORE expensive to get there!’)

To subsequently [I hear it happens a lot after people do yoga trainings in Bali 😉] leave a job surrounded by people I considered a ‘second family’ in pursuit of a change (‘So do you have another job lined up?’)

Then there was the 4th thing. A choice that, in order to explain the ways this moment changed all areas of my life — creating beautiful,  criss-crossing webs of connection — would take an entire novel. (Or at least a novella.)

11 years ago today, I had a life-altering talk with my now-husband who was, at that time, my not-yet-boyfriend. We were sitting in a field on campus eating falafel and iced tea. He had asked me out on a date and my 20-year-old heart (which was admittedly, at the time, a bit hung up on another fantastic fellow) clearly explained his viewpoint on my ‘heart mess.’

He spoke so calmly and warmly, looking straight into my eyes. Cliche or not, I could truly see the depths of his beautiful soul. I’m sure he didn’t know at that time how his words would change both of our lives, but they did.”I can’t tell you what to do…The only thing you need to do is follow your heart. Wherever you follow your heart to, I know that’s where you’ll be happy. And as long as you’re happy, then I will be happy too.”

In that moment, the fog completely cleared. My heart spoke more loudly, and with more certainty, than I think it ever has:

“Him. It’s Him.”

Even greater than that, his words highlighted for me a scattered trail of synchronistic breadcrumbs. I had been told in acting class that week that when I performed, it unmistakably came from my heart. I had received an e-mail from my high school boyfriend about how I had always made decisions with my heart…and here was this wonderful guy, telling me to follow my heart and to be happy in doing so. It was in this moment that it started to become evident to me that my life was meant to be lived from that place. All the years before that in school, I thought it was about filling your head with knowledge, and trying hard to get good grades. Suddenly, I was being shown my greatest asset. Since then, my heart has not let me forget that it’s there. I am telling you this story today because my heart literally yanked me off my yoga mat, drew me here and begged me to put words to my feelings.

This moment eleven years ago continues to remind me of what the path of Purpose should feel like — a stirring in your heart that cannot be ignored…a quiet nod of ‘Yes’… a gentle nudge…a summoning of courage to take the leap…

It may not always be the easiest path, or the most practical, or one that everyone will understand. As far as I have seen, though, it is the most meaningful, beautiful, exciting path of all.

What does your heart say? Where will it take you today?

Whispered the heart ALG Nov 26 2013.jpg

Thank God for My Broken Heart

If you look at the number of different types of experiences we will be privvy to over our collective lifetimes, I can guarantee that we will overlap on many of them. We will  believe that our experience is unique, which, to a certain degree it is — unique people in a common situation. Because the individuals involved are unique, that can certainly make the situation unique too. In the grand scheme of things, though, our experiences are universal… it’s our ‘take-away’ from our unique view on this experience that holds something strong.  And if we feel so compelled, we may feel drawn to sharing it, in the hopes that it touches someone, teaches them something new, or opens them to hearing something they were ready to hear.

 To be frank, break-ups suck. My heart goes out to those of you who feel you have had one too many of these. My heart has broken and been broken a handful of times when it comes to romantic love, and the depth of those experiences were key in revealing what I was both forced to learn, and chose to learn, in finding my way back to Me.

 I certainly hadn’t anticipated getting married, and then blogging about the lessons I learned in hindsight from the pivotal years I worked with heartbreak.  A 30-something woman who has just entered the doorway of  long-term (and legal) commitment to a man she is, admittedly, in perfectly-imperfect deep love with… who is suddenly delving back into what’s past… Strange? Or just timely.

A big part of the journey towards our marriage — in both the big picture and in the months leading up to the day — was about honoring where we had come from, where we were, and where we envisioned ourselves going.

Most importantly, this wasn’t something that we purely honored as a twosome. It was essential for each of us as individuals. Preparing for our marriage — beyond the details of colours, flowers, the dress, the rings, the venue, blah blah blah– held decisions much more pivotal than what the external shell of our wedding would be:

For me, every step towards being a married woman held this striking realization that, to love someone in the way you truly desire to, there has got to be one mama of a solid foundation in how much you love yourself. Make your wedding as elaborate, fancy or unique as you want. Stress about the details to no end. But when the event is teared down at the end of the fastest-moving day of your life (and it will feel like you blinked and it is over!), what you’ve got left are two people who have made a commitment. For life. And if neither of them has a shred of love and respect for who they are, and a decorative wicker basket of love for everyone else…then it may just be a long road.

We still unanimously agree that breaking up (twice) was one of the best things we could have ever done. Once we got back together after the first break-up, I was so committed to making this deeply seeded feeling of mine (“He’s the one! I know it!”) come to fruition that I did exactly what a woman in her mid-twenties would do for love:

I completely lost myself.

Though I felt more wretched than I had ever felt, it finally hit me hardest when one of my dearest friends (who had just been through a break-up herself) held a mirror up to who I was leading up to “It’s Over”:

“I’ve watched you slowly disappearing over the past year and half, wearing yourself to a shadow over your relationship. I’ve been worried about you, because it always seemed that you were steadily turning him into the centre of the universe. I watched as the sweet, bubbly, always-positive girl I knew started to get bitter and anxious and jaded, and my heart broke for you, my darling friend, because I recognized the same self-destructive pattern I had with [my ex]. That’s the thing with these relationships; we work so hard for the men that we love, we strive and strain to be their dream girl, and it starts to eat away at the person they fell in love with in the first place.”

I know, sounds like I was in the weeds, right?

I was. My heart was in pieces. But I was lucky. I had undying support from friends and family. I also had a tendency to listen to my heart, and a solid guidance in my gut.  When those things became temporarily obscured, my dear friend advised that I momentarily turn my eyes & ears to the loving guidance of those around me who would lead me back into the light. Once I started to see the sun as not just a reminder of another day rising in my heartbroken life, but as a sign of promise for what a new day could hold, I was able to listen to my heart more intently. The guidance I received in that raw, uncertain time was strong and powerful. Some of the greatest things in my present life were born out of that time. I was lead where I needed to be, and my life, in all facets, changed significantly, and for the positive.

This year, in the anticipatory weeks before my love and I officially said ‘I do,’ I began to see the most beautiful things…

I saw a stunning tapestry of experiences had, people met, things that had happened all for a reason. Even the moments of uncertainty, doubt, fear or pain came into view as being absolutely on purpose. I saw the intricate road map of my life not as being all over the place, but as being beautifully connected. The “wrong turns” were right turns. The “pitfalls” were not so deep that I couldn’t surmount them. Whether I knew it at that moment or not, they were leading me in directions I was meant to travel, meeting people that I was meant to meet, that I could never have expected.

I had this ever-growing feeling  that all of the ups & downs were undeniably right. I may not have clearly been able to see what lies ahead (and still can’t a lot of the time), but I began to make sense of what had come before.

The sweet thing about hindsight (besides that it is 20/20) is that you get to actually experience yourself saying things that, years, months or days ago, when you were going through that thing that you just couldn’t envision ever getting out of alive,  you’d NEVER think you’d say. Ever. Or be grateful for. EVER! My 7-years-ago-self that was balled up under the covers sobbing her eyes out with grief couldn’t snap herself out of her saline-coma to assure herself that, years down the road, she was actually going to marry the man she was grieving the loss of. Not only that, she couldn’t have fathomed ever feeling grateful for the world of pain she was in at that time.

“Pre-wedding Allison” had a landslide of thoughts, feelings and revelations, but this one took the cake:

Thank God For My Broken Heart.

I dropped into child’s pose one day in a yoga class, and it came to me from a place of such certainty that I had to stop myself from actually saying it outloud. This phrase was echoing so clearly off the walls of my heart. I then inwardly poured out a list of all the things that I was grateful for that had led me up to this moment. Then even more strange, I smiled…and cried. I knew the reason for it all…

On the day we were married, I felt overwhelming peace. A mosquito bit my face that morning and it swelled into a red welt. I hadn’t put myself through bridal bootcamp. I stayed up late the night before connecting with my incredible friends. I don’t remember what the tables looked like. I had no concept of timing and anything being off or on it. A button popped off my bustle. It was hot and I got sweaty. My hair frizzed. Before I even got that dress on, or ‘prettified’ myself, I knew one thing for certain: the man I would see at the end of the aisle would marry and be married to me no matter what; he had already proven, through breaking my heart, letting me go,  and finding me again, that he loved me unconditionally. What’s more, he fell deeper in love with me when I clearly defined my strength of who I am — not who I am for him. Who I Am. Period. What will always stick in my memory of that day, however, was the feeling of being totally and utterly in love with everyone who has ever crossed my path, and grateful for the roles they have played and continue to play in my life story. I sat amidst the celebrating, the singing, the dancing, the toasting, and I smiled… and laughed… and cried tears of joy.

Thank God For My Broken Heart. Its once being broken has made me whole. 


“When there’s a disappointment, I don’t know if it’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.”

~ Pema Chödron