Sacred

I’ve come to an extremely important and potentially life-altering realization. The seeds of this knowledge have been with me since birth, but have remained hidden from sight, and yet somehow nurtured, even in their dormancy, by every experience I’ve ever had. Every hardship and every triumph along the way has fertilized the soil of my life and been integrated into my growth, leading me to this place.

And when I look back in reflection on the myriad of experiences that have brought me to where I stand now, I can easily see the evidence of this one indisputable fact: my life is sacred.

Please, don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. With this statement I do not assert myself to be any more important or special than you or the next person. Rather, I am hereby staking my claim to being a physical manifestion of a Divine spark of light. I might add for the record this is something every human being can say of themselves, because it is the absolute truth for all of us. All you need to do is choose to see it, acknowledge it, and believe it to be true.

I was born unto the Creator of all things (call it God/Source, or whatever other moniker suits your fancy), and by virtue of this, I am an extension of the Divine. The ever-present universal energies of love and light from which I was created are always with me, and part of me, because it is my essential nature and the ultimate truth of who I am.

“What if you were to simply take in the entire world in the same spirit as if you had just walked into a holy place?
Because we are in a holy place.

The divinity that you see outside you is also within you.
Know this.
Don’t doubt it or question it—just for today.”

“I am everything you experience.
Your life is my gift to you.
And you—you are my most beloved creation.”

Panache Desai, Discovering Your Soul Signature

This realization represents a considerable shift in my thinking. It has left me feeling shook, with literally no option other than to accept complete responsibility for my life and everything in it. For better or for worse, my life is a masterpiece of my very own design.

Speaking from recent experience, the level of love and attention I focus on myself has a direct impact on how I choose to spend my time and energy. Subsequently, the energy that ripples out from the decisions I make in every moment is what creates my reality. Placing myself last on my own priority list has shown me, time and time again and in no uncertain terms, how to feel like junk and live in diametric opposition to a purposeful and intention-driven life.

However, the idea of regarding my life as sacred single-handedly places such emphatic emphasis on my raison d’être that it brings every other detail into focus and becomes a yardstick by which I’ve started to measure my thoughts, words, and actions. Knowing that when I begin to veer off track or lose my footing, which will no doubt happen because I am human, SACRED is the compass that will bring me back to my true north.

Sacred is, at once, holding myself to a higher standard while allowing myself grace to make all the mistakes. It’s a lofty and ambitious—even holy—word to focus on, but it’s appearance on my radar screen of life is a beautiful, divinely-timed, and completely necessary occurence. I may even dare call it a miracle.

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The rub of choosing to see the Divine in my human self is the obvious and interesting point of contrast, and the challenge of navigating the complexities and potential pitfalls of this duality are not lost on me. If I’m being completely honest, which I know no other way to be (honesty is an important core value), the deep sense of devotion, dedication, reverence, and veneration to myself above all, as the word sacred connotes, is a foreign concept to me for a number of different reasons.

I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious or church-going family, and aside from a short-lived stint of curiosity around the traditional Christian God, religion, and the bible when I was seven, I’ve never really worshipped any particular God or deity. The idea of worshipping at the altar of myself on the daily, quite frankly, seems a little bit cray-cray. Yet, by the very same token, it’s likely the exact thing I need at the moment. And on the brink of one year—and a decade, even—ending, and another year and decade about to begin, I’m willing to give sacred a try.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Alexander Pope

Yes, I’ve realized the error of my past ways (I am still human, after all), and as I continue along my path of learning and evolution, I’ve chosen to forgive myself for my previous misgivings. Standing in the present and looking toward the future, I’ve wiped the slate clean, and I couldn’t be more clear about my desire to invite sacred to a very prominent seat at my table. And as I do the work of crafting my intentions, goals, plans, dreams, and vision for the coming year, I will create sacred rituals and allow myself the luxury of reveling in the feeling of holding myself, sacred.

I am in the process of deciding where to direct my energy and how to spend my time in 2020, getting clear about what feels good and right to my soul. Although I’ve completed similar processes a number of times before, this time around is a bit different as I am guided by the knowledge that I am sacred. From this deep sense of reverence, I am inspired to move forward with both confidence and purpose into the year ahead.

And when I begin to slip back into doubt about who I am and why I am here, as I know I inevitably will, I will say a little prayer and gently remind myself:
I am luminous. I am both a wave in the infinite ocean, and the ocean, itself. I have access to infinite creativity, boundless potential, and the field of infinite consciousness. I am grateful to have my own unique set of gifts and talents that I am meant to share with the world. All of this and so much more is true because I am a spark of the Divine.

The life I have been given is sacred.

Yes, friends, the time has come to honour myself and my life as sacred.

SACRED.

And just in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is the word I have chosen for 2020—the year when, no thanks to corrective prescription eyewear, my vision is crystal clear and everything is coming completely into focus.

If you’ve made it all the way through this post, bless you! I know it’s been a long one! Please accept my sincere wish for you to make 2020 your brightest and most beautiful year yet.

And if you’re interested in choosing a word for yourself to guide you in the coming year, or visioning/planning your goals and intentions, or creating a vision board (I’m doing all of these, by the way, because…why not?), I’ve compiled the following list of questions to guide you through the process. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Rather, it is a process of inquiry compiled from a number of sources to be used as a starting point in planning and creating a life of intention and meaning.

Before jumping into the questions on this list, I recommend you first get comfortable and still, whether seated or lying down, and become very quiet. Do a guided meditation or simply focus on your breath for about five minutes, or however long you’re able to focus. Then begin the process of listening deeply to what bubbles up and what your heart is telling you. Grab a journal and a pen and start writing down whatever comes up for you, without editing or censoring yourself. Above all, enjoy the glorious ride, knowing that you can create a life that looks and feels exactly how you want.

Questions for Reflection:
Looking back at the previous year, what worked for you and what didn’t? What were your some of your wins and your losses? What did you learn from these situations?
How did you use the past year to grow (or stay stuck)?
Is there a goal that you didn’t achieve that you still would like to work toward?
What are you grateful for from this past year (or even the past five years)?
What do you want to keep from the previous year, and what do you want to throw away? (consider habits/routines, relationships, material possessions, and more)

Present Day Assessment:
Are there any commitments that no longer feel good and right to you?
What are your core values?
What are your strengths?
What do other people tell you you’re good at? What lights you up and what do you love to do?
In a very general sense, what does feel good and right to you? List it all…
Who are your role models and why? What traits do these individuals possess that you aspire to?

Looking Ahead to the Future:
In which areas of your life would you like to learn and grow in the coming year?
Which areas of your life require more attention and focus?
If you won the lottery tomorrow, and no longer had to work to earn an income, how would you spend your time?
How do you want to make the world a better place?
What does your ideal day look like, from start to finish?
Do you have a bucket list? Create a list of 25 things you’d like to do before you die.
Going into the year ahead, how do you want to feel?
How can you look to align your life with your strengths, core values, likes/dislikes, and how you want to feel?
What do you want your life to look like in three years time? Five years? Ten?
What are three things that are holding you back from accomplishing your wildest dreams? Choose one of these obstacles/impediments and write an action plan to overcome it.

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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 Long Way

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For as many times as I’ve heard the song, Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp over the years, which coincidentally was released in 1979 when I was a mere babe of three, I never actually paid much attention to the lyrics. And while I may never know why this particular song made a very peculiar, out-of-the-blue appearance in my consciousness yesterday, now that I’ve taken a closer look at the lyrics, I’m pretty sure it’s about a heck of a lot more than a guy who’s not so eager to get home to his less-than-loving wife.

Taking the long way is often perceived by the lazy as an inefficient waste of time. To those who suffer from chronic impatience, doing so seems plain silly. And to the faint of heart, taking the long way in anything can be daunting; every single step an unbelievably grueling grind.

But when we come to think of home as less of an actual physical dwelling and more an idealistic place of peace and comfort within ourselves—a way of living and loving from the heart, if you will—perhaps taking the long way actually does have its advantages.

It certainly calls to mind some important questions. For example: What would you do if you had more time? And, moreover, if all those things you want to do are really so important to you, why aren’t you doing them in the time you have right now?

The funny thing about time, though, is the realization that it has less control over our lives than most of us would care to admit. The truth of the matter is time becomes an easy target, a willing scapegoat of sorts, when it gets away from us, or when things don’t work out the way we plan. I am certainly not immune to this flimsy belief system, having fallen prey to its clutches on more than one occasion.

After only recently making the switch to seeing my life as a long game, I’m still trying to shake this belief system all the way loose and out of my consciousness. Because I’m no longer buying into the need to beat the clock or believing the perception that I’m running out of time.

And that’s why this year I am celebrating a different type of birthday than I have in the past; one that more accurately reflects the person I’m becoming with each twist and turn on this long and winding road. This year, my birthday is not about hoopla. There will be no confetti or balloons, and most likely there will be no cake. I am not looking for fanfare, because I’ve come to the point where this day is about much more than being showered with attention and gifts. And I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, it is exactly the way I want it.

Instead, this year I am choosing to celebrate the depth of the person I continue to become, the complexity of my journey, and the bittersweet richness of doing this life my way.

Today, I will refrain from spending time on Facebook or Instagram, instead setting my phone to airplane mode. I will use my time intentionally and wisely. I may choose to do some writing or complete an art journal spread. I will almost certainly spend time outside, walking, enjoying the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air, and simply being in the calming presence of the trees. I may indulge myself in a handcrafted latte, some luxurious chocolate, and a gourmet lunch prepared just for me. I will, no doubt, sit in silence, listening to the wisdom of my heart. And I may just go ahead and dream up a list of 42 random acts of kindness to be completed over the course of my 42nd year on planet earth.

Continuing in this spirit of giving generously, I also commit to doing something meaningful for me: making myself a priority and giving myself the gift of time, not just today, but for the next 42 consecutive days:

  • 10 minutes of meditation
  • 20 minutes of writing
  • 30 minutes of movement/yoga/exercise

The idea and meaning behind this gift to myself is two-fold:

  • Writing down these intentions (and declaring them out loud for all the world to hear) is a major maneuver in holding myself accountable; and
  • Doing these things for 40 days in a row will set me well on the path to establishing these priorities as part of a nourishing daily ritual for myself. (I’m basically just sweetening the pot by adding on a bonus two days!)

In the place where I stand now, I’d like to think I’ve become at least a little wiser over the past 42 years. (If my grey hair is any indication, I should be very smart. You can ask my stylist. lol) But I’ve said it before and I’m not afraid to say it again, right here and now: I can be a slow learner. And so I continue to learn my lessons as I take the long way on my journey through life, all with the intention of finding my own unique way of living and loving from the heart.

One such lesson I’ve needed to receive on more than one occasion is about allowing what comes, to come; what stays, to stay; and to simply let go of the rest. And although I suspect I’ll always crave meaningful connections with my fellow humans, I’ve come to see the futility in grasping and clinging to people and circumstances that were perhaps never meant for me in the first place. And of course I continue to see the tremendous benefit of practicing gratitude on the daily. I am endlessly grateful for every single person and situation that has come my way, realizing they each held an important place in my world, whether in my life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

So, as I round the corner to 42 Street, it feels like I’m inching ever closer to finding my ‘heart home’ and tapping into a more permanent place of peace within myself. And as I do, it occurs to me that maybe birthdays are merely time and route markers on our journey. And then I wonder if maybe we’re all just taking the long way home?

After all, maybe it’s the long way—with all of its peaks and valleys, detours and dead ends, speed bumps and plot twists—that makes this life worthwhile.

xo

Take the Long Way Home
Supertramp

So you think you’re a Romeo
Playing a part in a picture-show
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
‘Cause you’re the joke of the neighborhood
Why should you care if you’re feeling good
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
But there are times that you feel you’re part of the scenery
All the greenery is comin’ down, boy
And then your wife seems to think you’re part of the furniture
Oh, it’s peculiar, she used to be so nice
When lonely days turn to lonely nights
You take a trip to the city lights
And take the long way home
Take the long way home
You never see what you want to see
Forever playing to the gallery
You take the long way home
Take the long way home
And when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable,
Oh unforgettable, how they adore you,
But then your wife seems to think you’re losing your sanity,
Oh, calamity, is there no way out, oh yeah
Ooh, take it, take it out
Take it, take it out
Oh yeah
Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy
When you look through the years and see what you could have been
Oh, what you might have been,
If you’d had more time
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who’s to blame if you’re not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
Took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, so long
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, uh yeah
You took the long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Songwriters: Richard Davies / Roger Hodgson
Take the Long Way Home lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Full Circle

At the risk of sounding cliché, I have no idea what happened to the summer of 2017. It seems like it was just yesterday my kids had just finished school. It literally feels like yesterday was July 1, and my kids were both excited to participate in our local Canada Day parade. Then I blinked, and there must have been a disruption in the space-time continuum, because this morning we were dropping the kids off at school again for Grade 6 and Grade 4.

Time flies when you’re having fun? Maybe so. But my perception around the passage of time certainly seems to have accelerated along with my increasing age. At first glance, making sense out of where the heck the time went was tough for me to swallow.

But as I took some time to reflect on the summer of 2017, I can see how our precious time together wasn’t wasted.

As a family, we went to the lake, rode our bikes and ate ice cream, and walked in the river valley as we watched the goats munch on grass. We took a weekend trip down to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains. We basked in the glow of a crystalline mountain lake on a sunny summer day as we marveled at the beauty that surrounded us.

We went to the movies, and I ran outdoor yoga classes one night per week.

While my husband and son traveled to Philadelphia for a hockey tournament, my daughter and I spent some quality one-on-one time together, shopping for back to school clothes, baking, and making homemade popsicles from Kool-Aid and Jell-o, just like the ones my grandma used to make when I was a kid. My son and I went to see the Emoji movie the night my husband took my daughter to the Bruno Mars concert.

In the space between kids’ activities, play dates, swimming lessons, camps, and their certain chronic boredom, I continued the work of ‘working on myself’. And when I dig a little deeper into the events of this past summer, I can detect some definite themes around challenges, lessons, and growth—both for myself and the members of my family.

One evening per week in July, I spent time in a circle of women, digging deeper into the relationship I have with my body. Through journaling, meditation, and sisterhood, I unearthed a whole bunch of unexpected sticky spots I was previously unaware of. Through these realizations, I am working to heal with the intention of being able to stand, comfortably and confidently in my own skin.

I completed 40 consecutive days of meditation practice, with the intention of softening the walls I’ve built around my heart, and encouraging myself to be more open and receptive to the love that already exists in my world.

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I focused on deepening the awareness around the reasons for my own discomfort, and I’d like to think I have made strides in learning how to be present with these less than pleasant feelings.

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And to top everything off, we started a fairly major bathroom renovation in August that will likely leave our master ensuite unusable until sometime in October. If you want to talk about feeling discomfort, there’s probably no better way of making myself uncomfortable than to throw my family into a state of upheaval by eliminating a bathroom.

This work has been challenging and difficult in every possible way, but I know with every part of me it is also absolutely essential to my continued evolution and the metamorphosis I forecasted and committed to for myself in 2017.

Another notable highlight of the summer was celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary with my husband. We had a beautiful dinner at the Hardware Grill, and on a whim decided to go to a movie at the VIP theatre in southwest Edmonton afterward. For those who aren’t familiar, the VIP theatre is 18 plus (because they serve alcohol to you in your seat), and offers a deluxe movie-going experience with reclining leather seats that feature personal drink holders and adjustable side tray tables.

There are separate washrooms for the VIP theatre goers, and each bathroom stall features quotes etched into the glass door. The quote that caught my eye was from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and the message emblazoned into the smoky glass read:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ironic? Just a little.

In as much time as it took my brain to register the meaning of the words, my world shifted a little. In that instant, I replayed the events of the night I had just shared with my husband: the amazing meal—the taste and lightness of my sea bass contrasted with the decadence of the truffle oil potato crepe, the smoothness of the wine, the conversation (the laughter and the tears), and the cute older couple dining across the restaurant whom we said we be us in another 35 or 40 years time.

In another moment, I relived our summer and the past 18 years of marriage and our life together—all the adventures and the highs and lows of raising our two children. The time before we were married. My teenage years, youth, and childhood flashed before me, flooding me with a lifetime of memories.

Maybe it’s not exactly what Ferris Beuller had in mind, but I agree that sometimes life can seem to move very fast. That’s why it’s so important to me to pause—to notice and appreciate—and to stand in the fullness of my life.

Summer 2017 may have, indeed, gone by quickly, but I have no doubt it served a very important  purpose. I look back over the past two months with a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for the challenges, the growth, and the memories, and for bringing me back around to what’s important in this life.

I can see so very clearly how, with every breath we take, it always comes back to love.

Full circle.

beuller

 

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

 

 

Reinventing with a Single Word for 2017

The practice of choosing a word to guide us into and through a new year has become quite common—sort of a more fluid update to the alternative resolution setting, if you will. The word should be something important and meaningful, and serves as a thematic focus or guidepost for how you want to live. As the underlying intention for your choices and actions, the word represents a feeling, sense of being, or something else you’d like to attract or create more of in your life.

The process of choosing my word for this year was surprisingly efficient, which hasn’t always been the case for me, as I am prone to chronic over thinking and analyzing these types of things until the cows come home. But this time was different. On December 29, a friend posted on Facebook asking who had chosen a word for 2017, and while I hadn’t given it much thought at that point, my word hit me very suddenly—entirely organically and with almost frightning velocity.

But it felt right. It also felt enormous and heavy, and if I’m being honest (which I generally am because it’s the only way I know how to be), it made me a touch uncomfortable. But that’s also the reason why I knew I had found the right word for me this year.

In science and biology, metamorphosis is an incredible process of change that a living creature endures after its birth, transforming it from one physical form to another entirely different state. Most commonly, we think of it as the process that changes a squiggly little tadpole into a mature frog, or a slimy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

caterpillar

While all of this science stuff is unquestionably true, my word for 2017 has a slightly different meaning to me. I am madly in love with the idea that we as humans can be ever-evolving and changing. We can even completely reinvent ourselves if we choose. With this in mind, I can no longer stay inside the comfort of the container in which I’ve been living. I’ve become too much for the shell that surrounds me. Shedding layers and a “skin” that no longer feels like home, this is the year I will emerge, transformed—a new and improved version of myself. Cha-cha-changes!

The sheltered state of being and the span of time during which I have been inwardly focused on deep growth has served its intended purpose in bringing me here. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it were not for taking the time and space to process, heal, and grow beyond what I once was. For the most part, these changes have happened in darkness and isolation, just like the pupa stage in the life of a butterfly. And now, as a result of having undergone the lessons and changes, the time has come for me to emerge from my chrysalis, with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in myself.

Trusting the timing of my life and summoning all the courage I have inside, the time has come to push my way out of the walls that have enclosed me. And as the light seeps in through the cracks of my cocoon, I’ll slowly begin to make my way out. Once free from my enclosure, I will follow the cue of a butterfly, gracefully spreading my wings to show my true colours. And then, I will fly.

metamorphosis-023

And so it happened just like this: the question was posed and I quickly found my word, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my word found me. All of this transpired in the same day, maybe even the same hour. Energized by this newly cemented positive intention, I had created a new vision board for myself, with metamoprhosis as the central focus, before the time I went to bed on December 30.

visionboard

As the board reflects, my transformation has and will continue to include regular yoga and meditation practice, writing, learning from nature, listening to the voice of my intuition, along with generous doses of fun, happiness, simplicity, confidence, grace, balance, inspiration, power, and of course love.

Now that I think of it, metamorphosis is more than my word for 2017; it’s the real and powerful process in which I’m currently immersed. It’s my intention or drishti (focus) and my mantra for continued growth during the year that lies ahead. It signifies both where I am and the direction in which I want to go. And I think it goes without saying that I’m super stoked to see what will happen next. It also doesn’t hurt that, according to numerology, 2017 is a “1” year—a year of manifestation and new beginnings, as well as creation, love, intuition, and success. I have a feeling it’s going to be an amazing year!

Have you chosen a word or theme for yourself? What plans and goals, resolutions and intentions will you be nurturing this year? I’d love to hear from you about what you’re cooking up for 2017!

56 Intentional Days

Although summer technically started a couple of weeks ago, in many ways I feel as though  summer with my family is just beginning. And with the kids slated to return to school on August 30, we have eight weeks, or 56 days to be exact, to enjoy our summer to the fullest.

Now, I don’t mean I’ll be scheduling and over programming every moment, because that certainly is not the case. That would be tedious and grueling and pretty much no fun whatsoever.

However, I’m also cognizant of going to the other extreme—not making any plans, flying by the seat of our pants, and leaving everything to chance. I speak from experience when I say this approach is dangerous. This amount of boundless freedom has a tendency to lure me into a state of submission, inducing an intoxicating false sense of security, which in the end only leaves me feeling lazy and lethargic.

I’ve finally come to appreciate that I’m a creature of habit. I crave routine and structure. I thrive on predictability and order. I’m at my best when I’ve got something specific to hold my attention and focus.

When I contrast my affinity for structure and routine against the fact that I’ve habitually been making time my arch nemesis, it’s really no wonder I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a continuous loop of “there’s never enough time in a day to do all of the things that I really want to do.” And as I’ve been working with a fantastic coach to help me unravel this and some other limiting beliefs, I feel like the time has come for a 360 degree turnaround and re-framing of my opinion about time.

I know some of you may be nodding your head in agreement with my time-as-enemy mantra, but I honestly believe this is just one of those things we all say to make ourselves feel better.

Because the truth is there’s plenty of time available when we: get intentional about scheduling our time according to our priorities, minimize the negative effect of distractions (insert social media here), and don’t let our limiting beliefs cloud our vision.

I’ve suddenly been able to put the pieces together and see, with amazing crystal clarity, my blockage about time for what it really is. It’s not that I don’t have enough time. Pppffffff! The truth is I have trouble putting myself and my needs ahead of everything and everyone else. And because of this, all the stuff I’ve been talking about—my deepest desires and the whispers of my heart—often end up at the bottom of my list.

With this new understanding I see an opening—an opportunity to form a new habit of making myself a priority, more often. As I see it, I have 56 days ahead of me right now when I can both be present for my children AND make myself and my needs a higher priority on my to-do list.

This summer, I am choosing to make friends with time by seeing it as a gift. No longer will a replay the broken-record soundtrack of “not enough time” over and over again in my head. This summer, I am choosing to be intentional about how I spend my time. And this summer I will value myself and my self-care needs by making time for me a priority.

Over the next 56 days, my intention is to dedicate some time every day to my passions and the activities that make me feel more alive and whole.

Starting today, movement (yoga and exercise), stillness (meditation), and words and language (reading and writing) have moved from the bottom to the top of my to-do list.

No attachment to objectives, no entanglement in specific outcomes. Just a dash of intrigue and a touch of excitement to see what changes and possibilities the next 56 days will bring.

Coincidentally, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my perceived lack of time to do all the things I want to do in life. It’s kinda cool to see how much I’ve grown and how much my perspective has shifted from October 2013 until now.

Wishing you all a happy and intentional summer!

infinity-quote-a

Remembering: A Love Letter to Ko Olina

I’ve been blessed to visit Ko Olina on the island of Oahu with my family a number of times, although there is some debate among us as to whether this year was our fifth or sixth trip. Regardless, our series of tropical vacations to this idyllic Polynesian paradise have not only offered me considerable time for relaxation and introspection, but also given me so much for which to be grateful. And you may be surprised to learn my gratitude extends well beyond the predictability of the precious memories I’ve created with my family.

Still, saying goodbye this time is a touch bittersweet when I think of all the fun we’ve had together on Oahu. Visiting the Dole Plantation, North Shore, Pearl Harbour, a few too many trips Leonard’s Bakery, Waimea Valley, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, and countless hours of fun in the sun are definitely among the highlights.

Although it is difficult to capture in words the depth of what Ko Olina means to me, it’s nonetheless important that I try to do so because this place of joy has effectively changed me. It is the birthplace of my spiritual awakening, and I can honestly say I don’t think I would be where I am today without having experienced the elixir of its inexplicable charm and intoxicating beauty.

koolina

I’m not too sure exactly why it is or how it happened, but Ko Olina has woven some strange and powerful magic over me. Whether it’s the extreme relaxation it induces, the salty ocean air, being close to nature, the immersion in the Spirit of Aloha, or some combination of all of these, it’s nothing short of amazing how this place has opened my eyes to a world of possibility and led me to a deeper connection with my true self.

For anyone who may not be familiar (and even I had to look it up to be sure my understanding was correct), aloha is commonly used as both a greeting and a farewell throughout the Hawaiian islands. The word itself is difficult to translate, though, as it encompasses many different meanings ranging from love to a friendly attitude of acceptance toward all things. The definition of The Spirit of Aloha that really resonates for me is: To consciously manifest life joyously (or the joyful sharing of life energy) in the present.

It seems more synchronicity than coincidence to me that I’ve been working on being more conscious and aware, more joyful, and more focused on the present moment for each of the years we’ve been coming. As a result, I’ve softened in my natural state of being, yet I am more bold in my dreams and actions. My compassion for others has grown and my heart is more open.

Our trip in 2013 is particularly memorable, as it served as the punctuation mark (a semicolon) between leaving a job I had been in for 12 years and starting a new one. Then, by some further divine guidance during our trip in 2014, I began to hear my heart whispering that I needed to leave my corporate job if I wasn’t happy there. Not long after returning home I gave notice, and the time since has continued to be about listening and heeding my inner wisdom.

I’ve written before about the ensuing process, which has entailed digging deep to learn about myself, excavating limiting beliefs, and remembering the many enduring universal truths my soul always knew. Again, I owe Ko Olina a huge debt of gratitude for showing me the way forward and setting me on this path of self-discovery. At the very least, you could say she lulled me into a position of surrender, allowing my truth to bubble up to the surface and helping me find the courage to break free from my fears. It’s really incredible how, progressively along with each visit, this place of joy has amplified my intuitive voice and encouraged me to peel back the layers to reveal the more authentic version of myself.

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In her infinite wisdom, this year Ko Olina gently suggested that the big wide world is calling. With her blessing of loving reassurance, she signaled to me that the time has come for us to expand our horizons by changing up our Spring Break travel plans.

And with that I give thanks to this place of joy for the grace she has shown and all the many gifts she has bestowed upon me over the years. For it is here, right beside the vast blue Pacific, trade winds blowing and sun smiling down on me, that I found a magical place where my remembering and my light intersected.

heart

From this trip I am most grateful for:

  • Reading Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh, as it helped me to remember the energetic nature of our world, the remarkable power of thought, the importance of gratitude, and while I do not consider myself religious, that I am free to engage in meaningful dialogue with my Creator whenever I choose.
  • Two weeks of morning meditation and moving toward the light. In these moments of silence and stillness, I remembered I am not my mind.
  • Among a slew of scantily clad strangers lounging poolside and playing in the ocean, I remembered I am not my body.
  • Amid the lush vegetation of the Waimea Valley, I remembered my spirit is most at home in nature.
  • New friends, the kindness of strangers, and all the other signs that helped me remember love will always find me if my heart is open.
  • The realization that, when I set aside labels and judgments, I am free to remember the truth of who I am.

I remember I am (So’ham = I am that):

Expanding awareness.
Infinite potential.
Pure love and light.

I am not the same person I was when I first visited Ko Olina, and for this I extend my heartfelt gratitude to her for helping me remember.

Aloha & Mahalo,
Andrea

“Each soul is a Master—though some do not remember their origins or their heritages. Yet each creates the situation and the circumstances for its own highest purpose and its own quickest remembering—in each moment called now.”
Neale Donald Walsh
Conversations with God

P.S. If you’re searching for your true self, I encourage you to get quiet so you can hear what your heart might tell you. You may even want to try the So’ham meditation technique. Instructions can be found in this article on the Yoga International website.

Lessons in Gratitude For Our Modern, Stone-Age Family

The events that have transpired over the past few weeks have me feeling like I’m the matriarch of a modern, stone-age family. But unlike Fred Flintstone, I’m not feeling compelled to shout out with glee, Yaba-daba-doo!

It all started a couple of weeks ago when our dishwasher that’s slightly more than five years old kicked the bucket. More precisely, it began leaking buckets of water all over the kitchen floor, and then wouldn’t run a cycle past the 10-minute mark. Knowing the likelihood of being able to fix it was slim to none (because LG doesn’t make replacement parts for its appliances older than five years), we opted to save our time and energy and just go buy a new one. Now we’re waiting the two to three weeks for delivery and installation, and we’re doing dishes the old-fashioned way in the mean time. Scrubbing pots and pans and constantly having dishpan hands has got me feeling quite primitive. I mean, come on, even Wilma Flintstone had an octopus to wash her dishes for her!

Then, earlier last week, our house was a touch chilly, despite the furnace being on, or so we thought. My husband went downstairs to check, and not only did he discover the furnace wasn’t running, but also that he wasn’t able to reignite the pilot light. We placed a service call to our friendly neighbourhood furnace company, and when the technician came out the next day his assessment was that our furnace was destined for sheet metal heaven. This left us feeling a little blue—because we were cold AND were facing a huge, unplanned expenditure to replace our home’s primary heat source. And once again, just like cave people thousands of years ago, we sought warmth by fire while we we waited for our new furnace to be installed. Thank goodness for fireplaces!

In spite of all of this, and all kidding aside, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of viewing these trials for what they really are—challenges that are simply a part of life, without feeling oh-so sorry for myself, being too over-the-top dramatic, and creating all kinds of stories around what was happening. This may be partially due to the fact that I do my best to practice an attitude of gratitude, and my daily meditation practice may also be helping to keep me more grounded and centered. Whatever the deal is, I realize these kinds of things just happen and it’s really not worth getting bent out of shape over. Acknowledge. Address. Move on without any stories and attachment.

Nonetheless, these situations have, once again, presented me with the opportunity to see life from a different perspective. And, oh, the lessons they’ve revealed. Here’s just a few that I think merit being shared:

  1. While I had initially thought otherwise (probably because it gave me flashbacks to the numerous marathon dishwashing sessions of my youth), doing the dishes by hand hasn’t been as completely awful and tedious as I thought it would be. On the contrary. Washing and drying our dirty dishes by hand has very subtly provided time for me to bond with my husband and children. Surprisingly, everyone has been quite willing to help out, so that’s a HUGE positive right there. Plus, I’ve had some interesting and heartwarming conversations with my family members that I may not have otherwise had if not for our time washing dishes together. And, to my credit, we haven’t even resorted to using paper plates and plastic cutlery to eat our meals!
  1. Related to the point above, I’ve seen how our incapacitated dishwasher is teaching my children the value of hard work and doing something productive with their hands, aside from holding a device or playing video games. The situation has allowed us to explain to our children how not everyone in the world has all of the luxuries and amenities we do, which I hope will instill in them a sense of appreciation for how privileged they are. Also, having them help with the dishes gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. (My son now tells me he is a dish-drying expert.) I’d say this is a win-win for all of us.
Kids caught in the act of helping.

Kids caught helping. Who needs an octopus, or a dishwasher, when you’ve got these two?

  1. As I already alluded to above, these circumstances have framed and reaffirmed for me just how fortunate we are to have modern conveniences, such as central heating, air conditioning, and hot water, and the luxury of a machine to wash and dry our dishes for us. Much of the world’s population can only dream of having access to these things at some point in their lives, while it’s easy for us to take them for granted. And while it causes us some minor inconvenience to be without, I know we’ll have these things working again in relatively short order. Choosing to see beyond the initial inconvenience allows me to see how truly blessed we are.
  1. I believe it was Oprah that said, “You are responsible for the energy you bring” (to every situation). This is something I am aware of and watch closely about myself. The concept was further illustrated for me by our furnace installer. The first day, he was visibly frustrated from the moment he arrived at our house. As I was home for the duration of the work being completed, I observed his behaviour on that first day, noticing how he cursed when things weren’t going according to plan and how his mood mirrored the angry thrash metal music he had blaring in the basement. At the end of the day, he shared how his work truck had broken down on the side of the road the day before, he was without his regular helper, and the guy who had been assisting on our job was quite inexperienced. It was obvious to me what had been happening, so I simply smiled and told him to have a good night’s rest and come back the following day with a clean slate. The next morning he showed up with both of his helpers and a notably sunnier disposition. His music selection had morphed from the previous day’s death metal to The Beatles and other assorted softer classic rock music. And, as you can well imagine, the installation process went much smoother that second day. The shift in his mood and energy was palpable, and the trickle-down effect that had onto the installation process was nothing short of a miracle.

The bottom line in all of this is, no matter how bad things may seem, we can always choose to find something for which to be grateful. It can be tough to do in practice sometimes, but it’s a choice each one of us has the power to make. And when we consciously choose gratitude, positivity, and happiness, the odds are pretty good that we’ll make life easier for ourselves and those around us.

What are you grateful for today?

Life as a Practice

I think most people are familiar with the terms ‘yoga practice’ and ‘meditation practice’, but has anyone ever heard of a ‘life practice’? I’ve been thinking it would be not only wise, but also prudent to view my own life this way—as a practice. Let’s just think about that for a moment, shall we?

Quite simply, a practice is something you do over and over on a regular basis. Practice. All life really asks is that we continue to show up, day after day, and give it the best we have. Practice. Life asks us for the consistency of showing up and putting in our best effort. Practice.

Many people live by the mantra that practice makes perfect, but I’d like to suggest that it’s really not about perfection at all. In fact, sometimes we’re so busy trying to be perfect in our daily lives that we miss out on the spirit of what it is to practice. In all our attempts to attain the elusive ideal of perfection, we forget that doing our best and then releasing—physically, mentally, and emotionally—is the better way.

By the way, I think this is the actual mathematical formula for the practice of life:

(Showing Up) + (Doing your Best) + (Releasing [x Infinity]) = The Practice

I am coming to understand how this is one of the most important (and perhaps also the most challenging) lessons we are meant to learn during our time on earth. It isn’t always easy, but that’s why we practice. Anything more than the practice is excessive and controlling. Anything less is a copout. Both extremes block the flow of life and the ability to surrender to our own inner guidance.

Distractions, challenges, and off days are guaranteed to come your way. But when we start to see these distrurbances as part of the practice, that’s when the magic starts to happen. They are gifts from the universe, lessons in disguise, if you will. They provide opportunities to dig deeper and learn to know ourselves better. They create momentum for our continued forward movement. And so, when we feel lost, tired, weary, or frustrated, all we need to do is have faith and keep showing up.

Having an off day, week, month, or year? No biggie. Be aware, assure yourself the world is not ending (because it isn’t), and then bring yourself back. You may figure out the lesson right now, or you may not. There’s no need to worry, regardless. That’s the beauty of the practice: as long as you keep showing up, life will keep giving you another chance to try again.

There is a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that says: Life is a journey, not a destination. To me, this means focusing on the here and now, or emphasizing the process, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and placing greater importance on specific outcomes. Rather than rushing through life, each moment should be given the proper care and attention it deserves. It means the whole of life is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.

Journey

The joke related to this quote is, when I met my (now) husband and he was still living at home with his parents, he had these words typed on an 8.5 x 11” sheet of paper attached to his bedroom wall. There was a typo on the page, and all I ever saw when I looked at it was the mistake. At the time the meaning was entirely lost on me. I suppose the punch line is that I’m finally getting the message over 20 years later.

Continually looking ahead and putting our energy into the next route marker or destination only robs us of today, whereas being here now for life allows events to unfold naturally. Approaching life as a practice is about enjoying the journey and being ‘all in’ for the ride. It is surrendering to the richness and fullness of the experience.

It goes without saying that I haven’t always had this understanding. Life as a practice is something relatively new I’m learning (and practicing) because I’ve lived the other way. I’d like to share this idea with others so they, too, can see how life is like a two-sided coin.

When you allow your life to be a coin toss and it comes up heads, you are ruled by the head (logic and ego); you resort to controlling; you need to be right; and perfectionism is your nemesis disguised as your ally. However, when you allow your coin to come up tails, you can be ruled by the heart; guided by the force of love and the knowledge of your soul; you open yourself to learn the art and magic of surrender; you trust life and go with the flow. This is what it is to practice life.

I’ve personally experienced the limitations of living from my head and ego, constantly striving for perfection, and being so attached to specific outcomes that I could no longer see the big picture. The costs were steep: losing my place in the present and sacrificing my happiness for some  far off place in the distance.

I now know better and I’m choosing another way—living from my heart. For me, life has become a practice that I must show up for every day. My practice is my commitment to let go, cut myself some slack while I hold myself accountable, and relish the sweetness of each day.

Do you approach life as a practice?

How are you showing up for life today?