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

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?

photo(10)

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.

Why I Retreat (Part 2)

(…the ‘to be continued’ from Why I Retreat Part 1…)

As the saying goes, “Leap & the net will appear.”

I leapt.

To be honest, I felt like I was falling for some time.

Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I’m not exactly sure I knew where I would land, or when. The period of time of nearly a whole year that I was ‘looking for It,’ did not always run smooth, but I persisted.

What I didn’t always see at the time was that I was planting seeds.

One of the seeds I came to nourish, develop and fall in love with during that time of transition was with a group of yoga teacher friends. My dear friend Anita and I tossed the idea out there that it would be cool to try our hands at putting together a retreat. Fueled by the idea that we could share this transformative experience (as in Part 1) with others, I saw beauty in this organic formation of a group of good-hearted people who would come together in a magical place to unwind, practice and grow. Whoever these people would be, I knew they would be joining us in a similar manner to how I dove into all my own retreat adventures – by feeling a strong call to be there, whether to heal, to rest, to have fun, to get re-inspired or to simply feel reprieve from the snow and cold.

Inspired, we approached our  yoga teacher friend Jeff Mah with our idea. The intention was pretty clear: a yoga getaway in a place that would take your breath away, opportunities for people to practice, eat amazing food, soak up the beauty of nature, re-connect with themselves (and some new friends!), and return home feeling like a million bucks.

One year after Bali, One More Breath Retreats (a team comprised of Jeff Mah & his partner Hilary YoungAnita Athavale, me and our incomparable chef Brett McDermott) brought a group to Maui. Bringing this dream to reality involved countless hours of e-mailing, phone calling, coordinating and gathering around Jeff & Hilary’s kitchen table, or (one of my most favourite ‘tasks’) sitting on Brett’s living room floor sampling the kinds of foods he envisioned serving up to our guests. (Drool.)

When the retreat arrived at last, I remember stepping off our flight and walking out into a classic, balmy Hawaii morning. The sight of the palm trees and feeling of the soft, warm, humid air turned us all into mush. We had only been on this island for a matter of minutes when Jeff said, “Guys, we’re totally coming back here.”

And we did.

As we had expected, the nicest, down-to-earth group of people came together and willingly agreed to be our guinea pigs for two very different experiences that I am positive none of us will soon forget. No matter how each participant chose to spend their time, our hope was  that each person who joined us would leave on departure day feeling that they had found even a sliver of what they needed.

Our first retreat (in 2012) fell over the Leap Year and one of our cherished retreaters celebrated his leap year birthday half way through our week together. That night, I remember looking around at this big-hearted group that had banded together to kick off John’s upcoming year with laughter and good cheer. As this community-away-from home celebrated their new-found friend, I saw another layer to this Leap Year celebration.

Each and every one of these amazing people had seen themselves in our dream as vividly as we had seen them in it. They saw us jump, and had whole-heartedly jumped in alongside us.

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 Still flying high from the second Maui trip in 2013, a new opportunity to retreat presented itself in our own backyard.

My Dad had been raving about his multiple return experiences to a hidden gem called Maurelle Island off the coast of Vancouver Island, BC. Go With The Flow Adventures is the luxury kayaking dream/brain child of a wonderful couple named Brody Wilson & Cristina Fox. Brody was keen to marry the meant-for-each other activities of Kayaking and Yoga. We would paddle the calm waters of the Discovery Islands during the day, have daily yoga practices both at the luxury base camp and out in nature on our paddling trips, eat delicious home-cooked food (again, good food — very important!), and allow ourselves a week to simply, well, go with the flow.

We were SO in.  Kayak + Yoga = Kayoga! Then Mother Nature threw an unexpected test our way.

Just over a week before we were due to leave, Southern Alberta was hit with a devastating flood.

Our hometowns of Calgary & Canmore declared a state of emergency.

No matter whether the flood affected our own neighbourhoods directly or not, we were all in shock.

Our hearts were torn. Was this really the time to skip town when the entire city was putting on gumboots and venturing down into the affected areas to help out with the clean up?

Two of our guests who were to join us on the trip were feverishly working with a host of volunteers to save their family home.

The highway between Calgary & Canmore was a mess.

For a moment there, it was hard to see how this was going to happen as we had hoped. But something inside me told me that the timing of this trip couldn’t have been more perfect. We were all emotionally drained. Stressed. Exhausted. Our city had been working around the clock to get life back on track for its citizens. As I visualized the quiet, island oasis that I knew Maurelle would absolutely be for us, I couldn’t help but feel that our perception of Mother Nature right now was a bit skewed, and that all we needed was to be reminded of the healing  forces of nature .

I searched  for a sign to validate my feeling that getting some reprieve from the stress and chaos of a city in crisis was actually a good thing and not something to feel guilty about.

Hallejulah. I found this quote (and promptly plastered it on top of a beautiful image that Brody had sent me).

nature restores

It was hard for every single one of us to not feel guilt-ridden about getting away, if only for a week.

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 It turned out that a week was all we needed.

Maurelle was pure magic.

There was laughter and tears.

There were groans as shoulders and hips were stretched.

There were sighs as we settled into Yoga Nidra and relaxation.

We couldn’t get enough of the quiet and stillness there, being out in the fresh air all day every day, rolling our mats out overlooking the water, the incredible food, the hot tub, the paddling, the fluffy white bathrobes, the stars that lit up the night sky…

It was the best medicine. 

When we saw the relaxed faces, bright eyes and contented smiles on our guests as they (somewhat reluctantly!) began their journey back home, it became clear to me why the retreat experience holds a value that can never be quantified:

When we give ourselves the opportunity to rest, relax, heal, and brighten our own inner light, we have SO much more to to give to the world. 

The photo below shows one of the most painful sunburns I have ever had the privilege of sporting. More than that, though, I snapped this photo in Bali as a reminder of why I retreat, and now, why I have felt inspired to share this experience with others. What I can see in my own eyes and face in this picture speaks volumes — that I took a leap and gave myself permission to let go, unwind, take care of myself, have fun, be quiet, rest, get grounded, explore, connect with my own heart and re-fill my tank so I could be a better person in my day-to-day life.

Call it cliche, but Morocco, Mexico, Bali — and then eventually Maui and Maurelle Island — have all changed the way I love, think, and live.

In each of these places, I have gotten to know myself better just as much through the exhilarating moments as I have through challenges on my yoga mat, or recently, in the kayak!  When I retreat, I dig deep. It isn’t always easy, but every time, I feel I have found strength and energy to make my life and world more meaningful.

Isn’t that what it’s all about — how well you lived, how well you loved, and how you shared your light to help illuminate the world?

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These Imperfect Works of Art

I always thought that “tapping into my creativity” was meant to look like a piece of art, with an end product I could hold in my hands, or read, or listen to, or look at and say, “Wow. I made that.”

I’m coming to find that a creative act does not always have to end up looking like a painting, a piece of music, or a perfectly choreographed dance. The time, energy, work and amount of heart invested is just the same, but the end product is something that cannot — and will not — ever be contained between the palms of my hands.

Slowly, I begin to see what is being created. It is a collection of experiences and opportunities to be fully in the world, in who we are.
To live.
To explore.
To marvel.
To learn.
To laugh.
To cry.
To be challenged.
To change.
To be connected.
To grow.
To transform.
To love.
To be.

These imperfect works of art hold the promise of all those things and more, if that is what is desired, if that is what you seek…

I do the work. And when the time comes, I allow the work and inspiration of the moment to move through me and through the steady, trusting, gentle souls who have graciously come along for the ride.

These are imperfect works of who I am, what I have learned and have yet to learn, and what I have in me to gift to a willing recipient.
I cannot, and will not, hold these in my hands. I grow them in my heart until the time comes, and when it comes, there is nothing to do but close my eyes and unlock the gates, trusting that what is waiting there is what is needed now.

Yes, I might fail.

But you have failed too once. You have made mistakes. I can only hope that, in my faltering, you catch a glimpse of yourself and know that you, too, can risk your heart. You, too, can bare your soul. You, too, can make mistakes and still be ok. You, too, can create.

These imperfect works of art make me as excited as they do nervous. If I could reach out my hand and touch them, I know I would feel their warm, steady hands meeting mine in a reassuring reminder that they will be, and that they will be as they are, not exactly as I wish them to be.
They are no longer mine.
Their beauty and magic can only truly come alive when they are held in the hearts of others.

You see, dear ones, I make these imperfect works of art because they make me come alive, and in my coming alive, I know…

I know that I am making these imperfect works of art for you.

Painting by Vladimir Kush

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