A Sign

A song played at the end of last week’s episode of This is Us. The lyrics stirred up something from deep inside me, like I’m talking on the level of my soul.

I grabbed my phone and quickly opened the Shazam app. The result came up in about 2.3 seconds: 42 by Mumford & Sons from the band’s 2018 album Delta.

I did a slight double take when I noticed the song was called 42.
Well, that’s very interesting, I thought…

I hit the button to purchase the song on Apple Music without hesitation. And I’ve pretty much been listening to it on repeat ever since.

As much as I love a nice melody or sweet harmony, the soulful strum of an acoustic guitar, the unexpected twist of a bridge, or the dynamic rise of a full orchestral crescendo (special thanks to my college Music Appreciation class for this knowledge and terminology), it’s usually the lyrics, or the message a song imparts, that evoke emotion and make it memorable, keeping me coming back for more.

I’m actually kind of obsessed with song lyrics. Case in point: I recently told a friend how I constantly think in lyrics, like pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. My husband and I have entire conversations in song lyrics, both by text and in person in a call and response fashion. AND I have a secret dream about writing song lyrics. Oops, I guess the cat’s out of the bag now and it’s really not a secret anymore.

The words are layered over chords played on an organ, as the song begins with a feeling reminiscent of a church hymn…
“Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make? And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?

Building…
“I was so sure, oh, of it all. And what if I need you in my darkest hour?”

Fear. Uncertainty. Isolation. I have been marinating in all the feelings, and it often feels like a certain type of darkness. So many questions plague my mind, yet so few answers have appeared.

An electric guitar is layered in over the baseline and back beat…
“And what if it turns out there is no other?”

I’ve been doubting myself again lately, in all the majorly important ways, and then I this song comes along, so unexpectedly, as the punctuation mark at the end of my most favourite TV show. Really, the only show I watch religiously each week. And it feels a bit like a hug from an old friend, as if it was played specifically for me.

Quieter, with guitar strings plucked to a staccato beat…
“If this is our last hope, we would see a sign, oh, we would see a sign.”

I’ve scoured the Internet, and I cannot find any indication of why the song is titled 42.

My mind trails off, as I think about how I am building a new foundation—one that’s based on a strong sense of my truest self. As I process and grow through my challenges, I continue to learn I am wise and wonderful and capable of anything I want to do. And I am doing everything in my power to integrate this knowledge into my way of being.

Yet, I find myself needing to learn and relearn these truths. Repeatedly teaching myself as I attempt to believe—fully and completely—in all that I am. I remind myself that I am everything I need, and that all of the answers to my own questions are already within me. I also know that as I follow this path—my yellow brick road to freedom and peace—I will continue to stumble, and to forget, from time to time.

I suppose it’s quite normal, really, for those of us who identify as seekers to look for answers, validation, and signs beyond ourselves. I believe it’s our humanity that makes it so. We are wired for connection to other humans, after all; we are literally programmed to seek out others to whom we can relate and with whom we can share this human experience. It’s a fundamental part of our existence. Through all the joy and the pain, we just need to feel like we’re not doing this life all alone.

Louder again (mezzo forte)…
“If this is our time now
we wanna see a sign, oh,
we would see a sign…”

I am exactly 42 years old (and two months plus a handful of days, if you want to get technical), and dare I say, albeit strange, this song is a very timely reminder. It’s a sign so simple and obvious that I could have easily missed it had I not been paying attention.

It is a true beacon of hope. A clear signal of inspiration. A symbolic guiding light, if you will, giving me the courage and strength I need to continue on.

Everything has been building to this precise moment. It’s a sign that, in spite of how I’ve been feeling, I am not alone. I know I am loved and supported. Life is giving me what I need in each and every moment, and everything is working out for me exactly as it should.

THIS IS MY TIME.

I thank the universe for this message of gentle reassurance, delivered in the best possible way, at the perfect time for me to hear, all while lovingly wrapped in the beautiful poetry of the special lyrics of this song.

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This is also a sign. Clever, isn’t it? Found while on vacation in Paia Town, Maui in 2017.

And, for what it’s worth, I also strongly believe this isn’t just about me. I feel compelled to share this story with you, for the universe works in strange and mysterious ways, and just in case you may also be looking for a sign of hope or reassurance, too.

So let me do a quick recap just in case you might have missed it:
You are strong enough to get through anything life throws your way.
And you are enough, period. Exactly as you are.

xo

Do you believe in signs from the universe? I’d love to hear from you!

Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make?
And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?
I was so sure, oh, of it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
If this is our last hope
We would see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
Well I’ve been running from the ashes we left
Forgiveness begs for itself but how can I forget
When there’s a stain on it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
We had it all
If this is our time now
We wanna see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
So give us a sign
I need some guiding light
Children of darkness, oh
Songwriters: Benjamin Walter David Lovett / Edward James Milton Dwane / Marcus Oliver Johnstone Mumford / Winston Aubrey Aladar Marshall

Soul Growth // Next Level Life

I’ve made it my business—my mission and sole purpose, really—to become the best me I can possibly be in this lifetime.

This is serious life work. It is bucking the trend toward mediocrity and refusing to be a slave to the status quo. It’s a rejection of merely going through the motions of a cold and robotic existence—one in which all responses are set to autopilot. And it’s a definite vote in favour of living with awareness and staying open to the full spectrum of what life has to offer, all the way from unspeakable bliss to excruciating, heart-wrenching pain and everything in between.

This commitment means being present with my feelings during the best of times, and even more so, the worst of times. By allowing my heart to remain wide open throughout times of my own pain and discomfort, I’ve learned that magic does, in fact, exist in this world, and that beauty can be found in the least likely places for anyone who is determined to find it.

Take it from me: there are many valuable life-affirming, soul expanding lessons to be excavated from the bottom of even the largest rubble heap, although it may require some serious digging, and perhaps also a very large shovel.

Living consciously and with awareness is no joke—and it’s definitely not something I get right 100 per cent of the time. Not even close! Being a student of yoga and meditation has given me some valuable tools for making the most out of my human experience. And these tools never fail to remind me that life itself is a practice, and the universe always delivers the circumstances that are in the best interest of my soul’s continuous growth. In other words, in spite of what things may look like on the surface, I know life is always giving me what I need to become the next best version of myself.

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But how do you explain this concept, or even propose to justify it, in light of why bad things happen to good people?
Well, I’m certainly glad you asked, because I recently had a conversation with a friend around that very subject…

And it went a little something like this:
Friend: “Have you ever noticed how good, honest, self-aware people seem to experience challenge after challenge and hardship after hardship, and yet there are others who do the most immoral, inhumane (and even illegal) things and somehow always seem to escape without having any consequences imposed against them for their actions?”

I was very intrigued by this subject, and got pulled into the conversation even deeper by the demands of my heavily bruised ego, having recently been a player in a number of different situations in which I felt like other people, who don’t seem to have any reservations or remorse about their own unscrupulous actions, had grossly abused their power and left a plethora of pain and suffering in their wake.

This is where I entered my default of the victim mode mentality. Over time, it has become increasingly easy for me to recognize this, as I’ve gone there many times before and I went there again in this particular moment. As someone who makes an honest effort to be a good person, to make good choices, and to always be kind to my fellow humans, I find it perplexing and hard to digest when I think about the injustices I’ve seen, both up close and from more of a wide-angle lens in the last while.

BUT when I take a step back and allow a moment (or two, or five) to process my feelings, rather than operating from my default or reactive mode, I am able to see another side to this story:

The challenges that get placed along our path—and the associated discomfort we  experience—are good for us. Although often painful, these experiences are gifts that help to move us from who we once were to who we are becoming. When we remain open, willing to feel, and ready to receive the lessons that are meant for us, our pain can be transformed into something greater, and our challenges become a powerful catalyst for helping us advance to the next level of our lives.

Consider your own answers to the following questions:
Is your pain and suffering ruling or serving you?
What if you were able to stop judging and labeling an experience as either a good or bad?
What if, instead, you deeply knew and truly believed that, no matter what experiences life gives you, it is exactly what you need? (Yes, and I do mean ALL types of experiences, including adversity, illness, job loss, accidents, financial stress, and even death.)

If we are to agree that soul growth is always the highest goal and the ultimate purpose on this journey, we must be willing to take full responsibility for ourselves, knowing that blaming others for our plight is nothing but a cop-out. We must also come to terms, solidly and squarely, with the understanding that life isn’t always going to be easy, nor should we expect it to be. Rather, in doing so we only set ourselves up, time and time again, for major disappointment and failure. And if we insist on living comfortably and in a constant state of complacency, never faced with or willing to face our problems and difficulties, we are also never in a position of adapting or expanding into our next level self to meet the demands of any new situation we might be given.

However, when we learn to see our obstacles not as barriers or deterrents to our own progress, but instead as challenges to positively overcome, (and that the process of doing so will undoubtedly make us stronger and more resilient beings), that is growth in and of itself.

I am a student of life, and perhaps one of my biggest lessons has been in learning to be grateful for every experience, even the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. Even when it’s not obvious and I can’t see it, I am learning to operate from the belief that life is not happening to me, it is happening for me.

So, if you need me, I guess I’ll just be over here, focusing on being a good human, being vulnerable, feeling my feelings, and expanding in response to change as I continue to ‘level up’ in my own life.

But first I’m just gonna run out real quick and grab myself a great big shovel. 😉

MyPhareLady

Do you share this perspective on allowing your challenges to help you grow? I’d love to hear how you apply this concept in your life. Drop me a line in the comments below!

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The Seven-Day Change Experiment

Changing behavior and sticking with it over the long haul is tricky. What I really mean is that modifying habits and having them stick takes equal parts of both effort and mindfulness. In the absence of these, many of my own positive health habits and routines have fallen off the rails. Despite many repeated efforts to get myself back into a healthy groove, the results have been short lived. On the bright side, I’m starting to see the pattern that has been setting me up for failure before I even start…

I’m an all-or-nothing girl.
Totally and completely.

If my nutrition is off, why should I bother trying to fit in exercise?
I haven’t really been on my fitness game, so I’m just going to have that heaping helping of ice cream after dinner. Sure, I’d love to help myself to a giant handful of crunchy, salty chips.
I often drink too much coffee. Rarely do I drink enough water in a day.
My irregular sleep habits are wreaking havoc on my body.
I’m kind of a mess.

I’ve been on a slippery slope to sloth-dom. I started to accumulate some extra weight in all the wrong places. (Why can’t I ever gain weight in my boobs? lol) I’ve been lacking energy and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I know with every part of me it’s time to make some important changes and get focused on my health. But there’s so much to do, and I don’t even know where to start, and it’s all so overwhelming…

Thanks in large part to my all-or-nothing patterning, I’ve repeatedly made the mistake of trying to make too many sweeping changes all at the same time in the past. As you might expect, this approach has only resulted in frustration when I inevitably fall off of the proverbial wagon midway through the first week.

From a growing understanding of the importance of self-compassion and the knowledge that lasting, meaningful changes requires time and sustained effort, I had an idea:
What if I set one small, manageable goal per day for seven days?

This one simple idea—that seemed almost too simple—might just be the golden ticket to getting me started with making the positive, healthy changes I want and so desperately need in my life.

One week. Seven days. Seven goals.
I could totally do that.

Here’s what that week actually looked like for me, and perhaps even more importantly, what I learned from it:

The Early Bird Gets the Worm
Monday – I decided I would wake at 6:00 a.m. instead of my usual 7:00, 7:09, and 7:18 sleep-snooze cycle. I set my alarm the night before, and to my surprise I woke up naturally, before then alarm went off, at 5:57 a.m. Also to my surprise, I didn’t feel overtired throughout the day. Instead, the extra hour in the morning gave me time to focus and get organized, which allow me to be more productive throughout the day as a whole.
My take-away: From this one day I could easily see how being an early riser offers many benefits. For me, the key to successful early waking is to ensure I get myself to bed on time. That means lights out at 10:00 p.m. This is definitely one healthy habit I plan to work on cultivating further.

Decaffeinating My Morning
Tuesday – I’ve tried, with mixed success, to eliminate coffee from my diet on a number of occasions. I even wrote a blog about it here. With that idea lurking in the back of my mind once again, I opted to swap out my usual morning java for a traditional home brewed yogi tea, which is made from black tea and therefore still contains caffeine. According to Ayurvedic medicine, though, the spicy brew is believed to offer a variety of amazing health benefits, including helping with digestion, strengthening the nervous system, increasing energy, as well as supporting joint health and mental health.
My take-away: I enjoyed the yogi tea both for its flavor and health benefits; however, it took quite a bit of work to prepare. I could definitely see myself making yogi tea from time to time going forward, but I think it might be more practical and realistic to consider reducing my coffee consumption to a maximum of two cups per day, limited to the stuff I brew myself at home in the morning, rather than eliminating coffee from my life altogether. I think that might be what they call balance?

homemade-yogi-tea

Don’t Be a Hater
Wednesday – I chose no complaining as my change challenge and goal for Wednesday. I’ve done a lot of work over the past few years to steer clear of this dangerous habit, and since I knew I was going for a morning run with my friend and my husband would be away on a business trip, I would have had the perfect motive and opportunity to get sucked into a black hole of complaining. Instead, by setting the intention and staying mindful of the gravity of the ego’s desire to air grievances in front of a sympathetic audience, I’m happy to report I made the choice to lean into the positives.
My take-away: My life is better and so much happier when I do not dwell in negativity; when I don’t allow myself to indulge in the habit of complaining. Like everything else in life, this is a practice. But with focus and mindfulness, it gets easier over time. I’ve simply come to the point where I’d much rather build my positivity muscle with a focus on gratitude, rather than my negativity through complaining.

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Ditching Devices for Zen Time
Thursday – Knowing it was a school holiday and my kids would be at home with me, I was looking to get a positive start to the day. In the morning, I invited them to put their electronic devices down and do some yoga with me.
My take-away: Have you ever heard the saying: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink? Similarly, you can invite your children to do yoga, but you can’t make them stay and do it with you. This endeavor was a serious exercise in patience for me. I think my daughter lasted about four minutes, and, surprisingly, my son stuck around for about 12. It didn’t take long for me to remember it’s best for everyone if I don’t have any expectations around their participation. After all, they are 10 and eight years old, and they have their own personalities, agendas, likes, and dislikes. And that’s ok. This yoga momma will let it go and maybe try again another time.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green
Friday – I’m a food lover and breakfast ‘eater’, through and through. Those who know me well will probably have heard me say I prefer to eat my food vs. drinking it, but I had a few different reasons for wanting to try a smoothie bowl. Of course, I wanted to see what all the hype was about, plus I’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables into my diet. And finally, I recently came across an article that basically touted the breakfast smoothie bowl as a healthy sundae, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
My take-away: This was a good idea, in theory, but the execution was definitely lacking. The recipe I used called for a frozen banana, so I used one of the many I have on standby for making banana bread in the freezer. This, in a nutshell, was the problem. The smoothie bowl tasted like freezer burnt banana. EEEEEEWWWWWW! I am happy to report I have since tried again with a non-freezer-burnt frozen banana, and thankfully it made a world of difference. The fun toppings are where it’s at and are what will bring your smoothie bowl to life. Using a variety of different flavours and textures for toppings is a great way to add interest, so go ahead and get creative! (I used fresh berries, shredded coconut, Chia seeds, and sliced almonds.) Green smoothie bowls have already become a once per week staple for my husband and I at breakfast.

Expanding Dinner Horizons
Saturday – This was the day I wanted to try a new recipe for dinner, and One-pan Honey Mustard Chicken and Potatoes was just the thing. This sweet and savoury dish offers the added bonus of being cooked all in one pan, which makes preparation and cleanup way  easier. Yay!
My take-away: Sometimes I get stuck in a rut of making the same meals over and over again, which gets boring and tired. It’s nice to try new recipes from time to time, and if they turn out to be a crowd-pleaser in my house, they might just make it into a regular rotation. My husband and I both enjoyed this recipe, but unfortunately my kids were not as enthused (who knows why: they’re kids, they’re weird, they don’t like mustard?). Sidebar: taking time to meal plan and ensure you have all the proper ingredients on hand can be a lifesaver, particularly for busy nights, which is pretty much every night when you have kids.

Drink More H20, Yo
Sunday – My intention for Sunday was to get on board the train at the Hydration Station first thing in the morning and then ride that train all day long. I actually don’t mind drinking water, but my greatest barriers to doing so are 1) remembering to actually do it, and then 2) ensuring I’m never far from a washroom. So I filled up my water bottle and drank, and drank, and drank as much as I could throughout the day. I estimate drinking about three 17 ounce bottles of water, which still falls a little short of the suggested daily intake.
My take-away: I know how much better I feel when I drink water and how yucky I feel when I don’t (tired, headachy, sluggish digestion, etc.). I still have quite a bit of room for improvement when it comes to drinking enough water each day, but I also need to cut myself some slack, because drinking some is better than drinking none, or worse yet, filling up my bladder with coffee and other liquids instead. I will continue to focus on drinking water, and planning to be within 50 metres of a washroom at all times. And if I don’t quite reach my water quota every day, that’s ok, too.

Reflecting on both the successes of my seven-day change experiment, as well as acknowledging the areas that could still use improvement, the following points seem to form a smart blueprint for developing healthy behaviours (both for myself and others):

  • Pick somewhere to start and just do it.
  • Start with small, manageable changes.
  • Avoid overwhelm and maximize success by choosing only one or two things to focus on at a time.
  • Wait until changes are well established into your routine before adding more to your plate.
  • Be gentle with yourself, and remember that progress is more important than perfection.
  • When things don’t go as planned, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again. A good sense of humour and lots of self-compassion are huge assets.

After this week-long experiment, I can literally see how change is a process that inherently contains both progress and setbacks. Change isn’t all or nothing and it doesn’t need to be. But starting small and focusing on only one or two manageable things at a time, instead of getting swept up in the all or nothing mentality, is a great way to build positive momentum and set the foundation for success.

Truth be told, I’m hoping I’ve stumbled onto the secret-sauce-for-me mindset that will help me foster healthy, lasting changes (at least until they don’t and I have to start again). With that, here’s to getting plenty of rest, reducing my caffeine dependency, focusing on the positive, releasing what I can’t control, eating plenty of veggies, trying new things, and drinking all the water…forever and ever, Amen. And most importantly, to remembering  there will be days when I simply can’t do it all, for one reason or another, and on those days I will remind myself that I’m ok and I can try again tomorrow.

Peace out.

What changes would you like to make in your life? What have been your successes, setbacks, and learning? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

A {Digital} Postcard from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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It occurred to me early on in our fall break getaway that no one really sends postcards any more. In today’s world, which is so thoroughly dominated by convenience and immediate gratification, it seems they’ve gone the way of the dodo bird. So, in the absence of a post-marked card featuring the stereotypical photo collage or palm tree and sunset vignette from our vacation, I thought the next best thing would be to create a {digital} postcard. But, just as this is not your traditional run-of-the-mill variety, send-it-in-the-snail-mail-and-wait-three-weeks-for-it-to-arrive kinda card, I suppose it only makes sense that my rendition of our family vacation be equally untraditional.

They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans and I suppose I’d have to agree. You see, even though I should have been sitting in an airport waiting to board our fight home at the time of writing this, instead I was taking refuge from the heat of the midday Punta Cana sun in a cabana with an iceberg (beerguarita) in hand. We had other plans, but this was what life gave us. Tough break, right?

Because of the unanticipated delay of our flight home, there was some question from other vacationers around the pool as to whether we poisoned our pilot to evade our planned departure. While I can assure you we had absolutely nothing to do with the pilot’s untimely illness, I was nonetheless grateful for the found time it afforded me to reflect on our week at the picture-perfect Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana resort. (In case you haven’t already noticed, this {digital} postcard is brought to you by the letter “P”… and the number seven.)

We took an approximate seven-hour flight to arrive in our tropical paradise. Once there, my family and I spent seven days participating in a variety of activities, including bungee jumping, ping-pong, rock wall climbing, riding bicycles, making crafts, playing games, and aqua gym and spin classes in the pool. My daughter produced a gorgeous finger-painted masterpiece on her own with only a few simple instructions. (Move over Picasso, there’s a new painter in town!) My son loved dressing up as a pirate and searching for treasure around the resort with his friends from the kids’ club. My husband and “babies” went parasailing for the first time and I marvelled at their bravery, as my little daredevils absolutely loved sailing 400 feet in the air.

While the rest of my family was swimming or busy with the aforementioned activities, I could generally be found lounging poolside and catching up on some reading, often with a drink in hand. I particularly enjoyed the book A Man Called Ove, and the story of the curmudgeonly old Swede who lived a life of precise routines, always strictly following the rules, and letting logic and order dictate his every move as a way to protect his fragile, broken heart. I could certainly relate to Ove’s character, because I also thrive on order and predictability. I operate on the premise that most things in life should be done in a certain way or not done at all. And I, too, can be quite guarded—perhaps even cold—with my heart. But just like Ove, I am learning to open myself to love and possibility.

With this in mind as I reflect on our vacation, what strikes me most is how it was less about the location and more about just being present to enjoy the time with my family. The luxuriousness of sleeping in every day and awaking to find both kids in our giant bed for a family cuddle-fest. Seeing my daughter take great pride and pleasure learning to do a back flip on the bungee cords. Witnessing, first hand, what social animals my kids are, as they cheerfully interacted with the resort staff (fist-bumping, learning new phrases in Spanish, and faithfully uttering the “polo” echoed response to the drinky-drinky guy’s “Marco”), as well as effortlessly making new friends from all over the world. These are the precious moments I want to remember long after the tan lines have faded.

As part of my regular daily meditation practice that I continued faithfully during our vacation, I was reminded about how we have the power to create our reality through our own conscious awareness, and that what we choose to focus on expands. For this trip and beyond, I am making a conscious effort to shift my focus to noticing and appreciating the good in people. We had a fantastic vacation experience, and this was thanks in large part to the marvelous resort staff who took such great pleasure in ensuring our comfort and happiness. We were also very fortunate to meet many wonderful people from all over Canada and the US. To Ed and Lori, the lovely couple from outside of Toronto who will make the most amazing grandparents: despite our thanks, you may never know how much your kindness meant as you shared some of your vacation time with us, having fun with our kids at the beach and around the pool, and giving them each a token gift from the Dominican market. These seemingly simple connections with people from as near as Calgary and as far away as Brazil warmed my heart in a way I never thought possible.

It’s a curious thing for me to explain, but I feel as though a bit of magic happened when I dipped my toes into the sparkling blue-green water in Punta Cana. The tide came in, and when it rolled back out like the complementary exhale to my inhaled breath, my feet sank a little deeper into the ground as the sand that was taken back out to sea took a bit of my troubles with it. As I filled my lungs with the salty, tropical air, I had clarity in my otherwise busy mind—even if just for a moment. The only thing that mattered was the certainty of my breath. And somehow I was left knowing it was all part of nature’s miraculous give and take, the process of renewal—creating space in my heart for more love, and within my soul for greater peace.

I am grateful and forever changed for having had the opportunity to meet such wonderful people and to know Punta Cana’s beauty.

Finding Gratitude, Part 2

This is a continuation of an earlier blog post. It might make a little more sense after reading Part 1 here.

After seeing how grateful my husband was to return to Saskatchewan to play against the Montreal Canadiens Alumni, it occurred to me that I’m not very good at the whole gratitude thing. In fact, I have some serious work to do in terms of nurturing my own gratitude.

That’s why, starting right now, I will make a concerted effort to become more aware of opportunities to be grateful.

I am pleased to share the following things in my life for which I’m grateful:

  • I have an amazingly loving and supportive husband, who treats me as an equal and encourages me to follow my passion.
  • I have two amazing children who are smart, healthy, and happy.
  • I have a beautiful home, which provides me with both shelter and solace.
  • I have money to provide for the needs of my family and myself.
  • I have a job that allows me to make a contribution by applying my skills in a professional setting, as well as providing flexibility and balance with my home life.
  • I have opportunities to travel with my family.
  • I’ve learned how important the mind-body connection is to me.
  • I have physical activities that I enjoy, such as running, hot yoga, and Sculpt Barre.
  • I am in relatively good health.
  • I have the knowledge and ability to take care of myself with proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, and sleep.
  • I am able to enjoy the rights and freedoms of living in a democratic society.
  • I am free to express my innermost thoughts and opinions without fear of repercussion.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Melody Beattie

My hope is that, as I make a conscious effort to notice and appreciate the things for which I am grateful, my gratitude list will continue to grow. Stay tuned…

I also invite you to share what you are grateful for in your life.