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

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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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