2018 reflections, plus one word, a vow, and a blessing for 2019

With the holiday season, and all the excess that comes along with it, rapidly drawing to a close, it feels only natural to reflect on the past year in preparation for transitioning to a new one.

And while we’re talking about excess, I don’t know about you but my body is certainly feeling the effects of “too much,” particularly heavy, rich, gravy-laden food and boozy coffee. Too much noise and too much hustle and bustle have also taken a toll. I chalk it up to having a highly sensitive nervous system, because even though I knew it was coming, my efforts to brace myself and proceed with caution seem to have been for naught. 

As I languish in the slow, soupy, drawn-out days between Christmas and New Year’s, the in-between time when time is pretty much irrelevant, I’ve been hit hard with the awareness that I’ve gone pretty far out of balance. My body has been talking to me and reminding me it’s time to return to healthier ways again. And as I reflect on my journey through the past year, I can certainly see how ‘going out of balance’ in order to figure things out is a common theme that’s reflected in each of my key learnings. 

You may recall I chose three words to guide me in 2018: intuition, intention, and inspiration. Little did I know the starring role these words would play in almost the exact opposite way I had expected…or perhaps I knew precisely what I was doing all along? Ya, right. That’s it…

Hits of Intuition – I can see quite clearly in retrospect how, on numerous occasions, my intuition was giving me some serious warnings signs and signals that something was amiss. And I‘m certain I made things more difficult for myself by not listening and trusting the simple signs before me. As my chest tightened and my entire body constricted in the presence of individuals whose intentions were not the most honourable, I was literally being shown how energy doesn’t lie; only people do, and my body definitely knows the difference before my mind has a chance to catch up. I’d like to think I’ve learned a valuable lesson—the importance of trusting myself and my gut, beyond everything else—but I suppose time will be the judge of that. Still, I’m not giving up. I will continue to work on building up my intuitive capacity, flexing it like a muscle, and learning to listen to what it’s trying to tell me. 

Honouring Intentions – The biggest lesson I’ve learned about setting intentions and honouring them is that the time and action (or the energy) you commit toward nurturing their growth are what matter the most. And again this is something I had to learn the hard way. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve squandered countless hours, many of which were consumed with mindless scrolling on social media, to the extent that I decided to remove the Facebook app from my phone for most of December. And you know what? This may have been one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made in my life to date. It has clearly shown me the value of limiting my exposure to the impressions I take in from social media, and that I have much better ways I can spend my time, not to mention my life is better lived in real life. I also know now with greater certainty than ever that, if and when I decide to wade back into the Facebook world, I will certainly be treading lightly, and will do so only with very clear restrictions in place.  

Harnessing Inspiration – In the simplest terms, this year I learned that when I’m not trusting my intuition and not honouring my intentions, when I’m preoccupied with drama and negativity, when I’m emotionally exhausted and not taking proper care of myself, or wasting my life away on social media, inspiration is an elusive wench, plain and simple. And that’s really all there is to say about that. Except for maybe that I’m curious to see how I may be able to cultivate more inspiration in 2019, when I’m better aligned in other areas. 

The good news from all of this is I’ve learned which areas of my life I want to refocus on and place a greater amount of emphasis, and also with whom I want to spend my time and energy going forward. I know I am better poised to enter 2019 with awareness, the ability to set firm, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that I‘m no longer willing to trade my authenticity for someone else’s acceptance or approval. 

I’m also aware that all these failures and deficiencies sound quite negative. Let’s face it: 2018 wasn’t entirely kind in many ways. But as I’ve said before, I can see how the situations that brought me the greatest pain in 2018 were a necessary catalyst for my personal growth, and I can now look back with deep gratitude for the refreshing new perspective it brought me. Also, by being brutally honest about what really didn’t work well or serve me in 2018, I absolutely know what I need to move forward, which brings me to my word for 2019: 

FC36BC0C-A90A-4F24-8857-768C82BC249DAlthough there are many food-related connotations around this word, and even though food/nutrition is very much an integral component of the healthy life I am focused on creating, I actually chose this word, or perhaps it more accurately found its way to me, because it feels all-encompassing of the way I want to approach every facet of my life in the coming year—with the love, care, attention, and nurturing that I so want and richly deserve for myself. 

Just as a seed needs fertile soil, water, and sunlight to sprout and grow, my life needs the proper nourishment for me to grow into the fullest expression of my highest self in the coming year. 

I spent some time thinking about what feels nourishing to me—mentally, physically, and spiritually. And while by no means is the following list exhaustive, it will definitely serve as a guidepost for me as I look to bring the energy and spirit of ‘nourish’ into all areas of my life. And you’d better believe this stuff is going on my vision board, too.

I am nourished by:

  • Meaningful connection and deep, soulful conversations about the nature of the universe, life, and humanity.
  • Creativity and new ideas.
  • Movement—the mindful kind.
  • Introspection, quiet, solitude.
  • Helping others.
  • Positivity.
  • Time spent with good peeps, soaking up the good vibes.
  • Nature and beauty. Trees are my favourite, followed very closely by mountains and water.
  • Singing and dancing.
  • Music.
  • Writing. Reading.
  • Learning. Growing.
  • Sleep, glorious sleep.
  • Water.
  • Hugs.
  • Feeling supported by my peeps, knowing they believe in me and always have my back.
  • Riding my bike.
  • Movies.
  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Fresh air.
  • Walks.
  • Baths.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Simplicity. Order. Organization.
  • Doggie cuddles.
  • Beauty.
  • Sunshine. Rainbows.
  • The sky, the moon, and the stars.
  • Travel. Exploring. Adventure.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Presence.
  • Surrender.

As I dive, head first, into the blank slate that is this New Year, rather than making resolutions that come from a place of fear or inadequacy within myself, I am choosing to focus on what feels like a more positive, growth-based intention setting practice. That’s why, in 2019, I plan to  nourish myself deeply; my overall physical health, as well as my emotional and spiritual well-being. I want to devote energy to nourishing my creativity—tending to it and cultivating it as I would a garden of beautiful flowers. In all these ways and so many more, I intend for 2019 to be about choosing only to engage in what feels good and brings nourishment to my soul.

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Along with making NOURISH my faithful companion, and of course based on everything I learned from this past year—the good, the bad, and the ugly (because there was all of that and more, and I’m grateful for every part), this is my solemn vow to myself for 2019:

May I always remember my life is worth a billion blessings to everyone I meet on my journey. But I am not for everyone, and everyone is not for me. And that is ok. 

I was born of the heavens and am part of all that eternally exists in the sky above.

I am the vastness of my greatest thought,  and the infinite power that sources and sustains the entire universe.

On this day, I remember who I am, what I am here for, and why I chose the experiences that have come to me this past year.

Today, I promise to leave the smallness of my darkest thoughts behind and melt with open arms into the love of my highest self.

I surrender to the endless possibilities 2019 has in store for me, allowing each day of the coming year to surprise me and NOURISH the deepest desires of my soul.

I will remind myself to always return to the spark of the divine from which I was created, using my innate power to light the way forward, for myself, and for others, should they choose to follow.

This year, I will give to others what I want back for myself. If I want love, I will find a way, however small—a smile or silent blessing, to love every person with whom I cross paths.

If I want peace, I will think peaceful thoughts, say peaceful words, and pray for peace for all those experiencing chaos.

If I want success, I will work diligently to help those around me succeed. And I will focus on and honour the commitments I make to myself.

If I want respect, I will begin by respecting my own life—body, mind, and spirit. I will respect those around me and those who work to make this planet better for all of us. I will respect the earth, my body, my past, and the unique gifts I possess that I am meant to share with the world. 

I will surrender judgment in exchange for reverence, and in doing so, I trust that what I give to the world will be echoed back to me.

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As we all ride the wave of the last hours, minutes, and seconds of 2018, I extend my sincere wish for each of you to receive the  things your heart desires most in 2019. 

May you accept the love that is extended to you. May your heart embrace it fully and may it warm you to the depths of your soul. 

May your spirit know the deepest sense of peace.

May you be blessed with good fortune, and if not, may you be resilient enough to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on with even greater strength and determination. 

And may you be healthy and know what it feels like to be completely nourished in all the ways that bring you the greatest joy in the year ahead. 

With all my love,

my Phare Lady

unbecoming

There’s something special about the approach of autumn. For me, the feeling is unique to this time of year, and is entirely different than the change over of any of the other seasons.

Maybe it’s the promise of relief from the heat of summer with the cooler weather we know is surely on its way. Maybe it’s the return of some much-needed structure as the kids go back to school and resume the routine of their organized activities.

Or maybe it’s something far less tangible…the mere glimpse of hope, possibility, and new beginnings I feel waiting in the wings.

There’s a special type of magic in the air in September, and the feeling is even more pronounced for me this year than any other. While I may not be able to put my finger on what it is exactly, I know with great certainty change is coming. I can feel it in my bones.

It began several weeks ago with a restless ache in my body. What started as little more than a twinge in the pit of my stomach has grown much larger and is taking shape from deep inside. The structure of my cells is being altered as this ‘thing’ takes root in my core.

Having wiped away the dust and residue from the stories of the past that previously clouded my vision, I’ve started to see with fresh eyes. I no longer need to be shielded from the truth; no more distortion or protective filters required to paint a more palatable picture of the prevailing reality for my ego self.

I think it’s human nature to seek out evidence—a sign, or better yet, some type of actual physical proof—that supports our hypotheses and assertions. It’s normal to want to be able to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something before we can truly believe in it. But sometimes, before a thing comes to life, before it’s actually manifested in the physical form, you just need to put all of your trust into its becoming.

And yet, evidence of change is all around for those who are willing to see it. Watch the leaves show us the wisdom of the natural world, as they change from their deep, glossy greens, to the glorious shades of golds, rusts, and purples. This is the leaves way of demonstrating their trust in the knowledge that their season of life is over and the time has come for them to surrender. Although temporary, the results are remarkably beautiful, even breathtaking to behold.

Not long after the beautiful display of fall colours, we also know the trees will shed their leaves to help conserve energy for the winter. The leaves that hang on will, no doubt, be torn from their branches by a swift autumn wind eventually.

As evidence of my humanity, on a purely physical level I can see my skin is changing and I’m shedding my hair like mad. I am releasing physical and mental clutter in every corner of my life. I am more committed than ever before to my own evolution and metamorphosis, and at the very least, I continue to become increasingly aware of my actions and reactions.

And I suppose that’s how I know with all I am that the time for harvest must surely be nearing. The seeds that were planted within me long, long ago are sprouting with the beginnings of new life. It’s a life that’s bursting with the hope that anything is possible—even really difficult things and maybe even miracles—when I believe and put my faith in the power of love over fear.

Through the infinite wisdom of a universe in which everyone and everything is connected to everyone and everything else, I am aware of the change that is occurring, both all around and deep within me. I trust not only in what I can see, but also in the less quantifiable feeling of what has not yet materialized.

Like the leaves, I am immersed in the surrender of my own unraveling. As I continue to challenge old beliefs and peel away the protective layers, I’m removing the costumes and masks I’ve worn. This is the real me; exposed and vulnerable. Just being.

It’s messy and complicated, and may not look like much on the outside, but when I get very still and quiet I know that a space is being created for something significant to enter.

I don’t know what it is yet, but I trust in whatever it will be.

This is the season of my unbecoming.

Moving Toward a Healthier Me

I’m a little riled up and I need to get something off my chest…

I’ve spent a lot of time focused on self-improvement and personal growth over the past five years. I’ve made no secrets about this. My own physical fitness has been a significant part of this journey, and I’ve tried a number of different approaches.

I’ve been quite open about my love affair with movement. I’ve done outdoor bootcamps, running, group fitness classes, yoga, and a whole bunch of different home workout programs.

And I’ve even hinted at how I increased my physical activity while severely restricting calories in an attempt to lose weight, inches, pant sizes, and the shame I felt around certain parts of my body being bigger than they “should be.”

But what I’ve never really talked about openly before is how I’ve done a lot of different things with the goal of making my body into something it’s not, and may never be. How I’ve tried with all my might to take up less physical space in the world, with all of my efforts stemming from a deep-seated desire to correct my perceived flaws and imperfections.

Despite successfully losing nearly 20 pounds and close to as many inches in one particularly rigorous cycle of diet and exercise a few years back, buying into the vanity side of the health and fitness industry has left me hollow and jaded. I think I may have actually lost a piece of my soul as some of my fat melted away, but then it just came back again, with a vengeance (the fat that is, not my soul). The worst part is, at the end of it all I still feel as though I don’t measure up to society’s expectations, or my own.

I’ve been on this tireless quest to reshape my body into something that more closely resembles the ideal woman, with toned arms, flat stomach, firm legs, and of course, a thigh gap. But after trying and trying and trying, reaching and striving, grasping and clawing my way through the thick of my own dissatisfaction with myself, I just have to say I’m tired. Like, exhausted.

At the risk of provoking some and offending others, I’m just gonna go ahead and say what’s on my mind: dieting and exercising for weight loss and vanity alone is shallow and short sighted. That’s the simple truth. And I’m pretty sure those who go at it from this angle will find themselves in the same position of repeatedly regaining the weight they lose, just as I have. Because as long as we’re not addressing the underlying issues— the reasons why we eat crap, or don’t eat enough, and don’t move our bodies enough—we’re only masking the problem with a temporary band-aid.

The diet and weight loss industry is built on the fear and desperation of the people it serves; it preys on our vulnerabilities. The industry knows we’re all looking for a quick fix, and that’s why it packages up the promise of a better life for us in a shiny, irresistible package. The industry knows we’ll come back time and time again for more after the initial promise stops working. The industry knows there’s no such thing as a magic pill, but will sell one to us anyway. The long and the short is that anything that’s promising you extraordinary results in a short period of time is too good to be true. Period.

These are the lies we believe when we’re afraid we’re not enough as we are. This is the garbage we buy into when we don’t love ourselves, because we are motivated by our fears.

In my attempt to see this situation from all possible perspectives, I’ve run the full gamut of emotions—from frustration to anger and despair to resignation. And I suppose you could say I’ve reached a metaphorical crossroads in deciding that it’s time for something to change. The world around me isn’t going to budge, so I guess it’s up to me.

The only thing that makes sense to me at this point is the realization that taking care of myself needs to come from a place of love, rather than being instigated by my feelings of insecurity, my hatred of my thighs, and the fear of not being good enough.

Let’s face it, exercise is not punishment for what I look like, or what I may have eaten last night. And it most definitely is not something I should engage in from the standpoint of being disgusted by what I see when I look in the mirror. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been guilty of this attitude in the past, but I’m really starting to see not only how damaging this is to my mental health, but also how counter-productive it is to continue down this road.

The ability to move my body is a privilege not everyone has in this life, and is something  not to be taken for granted. I want to move my body in ways that feel good to me. I want to take the best possible care of myself. I want to feed myself healthy, nutrition-dense foods, because my body—my physical container during my time here on earth—needs the highest quality fuel to function optimally.

So, if I know what’s good for me (and I’m starting to think I do), I can see how approaching nutrition and exercise as self-care, coming from a place of love instead of fear, could make all the difference. Instead of exercising because I feel like I’m not enough the way I am and feeling desperate to change what I don’t like about my body, I need to change my mindset, instead.

It’s a strange place to be in, and one that I’m not sure I entirely understand yet, but my goal is to cultivate the energy of loving myself as I am right now while being open to improving my health and wellbeing at the same time.

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The words of affirmation that will guide me (please feel free to borrow any of these if they feel right to you) are:
I am active because I love myself.
My body deserves to be treated well.
I feel good when I move my body.
I nourish my body by eating whole, healthy foods.

As I’ve already suggested, the reasons for leading a healthy, active lifestyle run way deeper and are far more meaningful than vanity alone. And according to one article I found online, thinking of exercise as beneficial for reasons other than weight loss helps people stick to exercising more regularly—about three more hours per week than people whose primary focus was solely on weight loss.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with the following list of reasons to exercise that have absolutely nothing to do with weight.

  1. Breaking a sweat is super healthy, as it allows the body to release excess sodium, keeps blood pressure in check, and rids the body of some environmental toxins. Just remember to rehydrate with plenty of water during and after a good sweat session.
  2. Increasing your heart rate with exercise strengthens the muscles of the heart, as well as reduces the risk of heart disease. With heart diseases and other related conditions on the rise, this is a very compelling reason to look after the health of your ticker.
  3. Any weight-bearing exercise, such as running, dancing, or resistance training, will help with bone density, thereby reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis that increase with age.
  4. It has been scientifically proven that those who exercise regularly actually live longer. Just 150 minutes of exercise per week (that’s just five, 30-minute sessions) can add up to seven years to your life.
  5. If you’re feeling fatigued or lacking energy, consider that exercise can leave you feeling like you have more energy thanks to the effect of endorphins—the feel-good vibes and rush you get after exercise, also known as “runner’s high”.
  6. Stressed out? Working out helps manage and release stress by battling cortisol, the stress hormone.
  7. Feeling blue? Exercise is a natural antidepressant and mood lifter, improving overall mental health and helping stave off symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  8. Aerobic exercise can reduce both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS, alleviating mood swings, depression, fatigue, cramps, and even balancing out hormone levels.
  9. Regular exercise promotes improved restful sleep, lowers incidence of insomnia, and promotes higher quality of sleep.
  10. The habit-forming power of a consistent exercise routine is transferable. Some notable improvements you may notice as a result of engaging in regular exercise include increased ability to focus on tasks, boosting creativity, and fostering greater productivity in many areas of your life.

It seems to me these are the real and meaningful reasons to treat yourself well with regular exercise. It all comes down to putting yourself first. Loving yourself and being good to your body are the only “why” you need.

So for the love of all that is good and holy, can we just give the diet and fitness industry (and all the superficiality and lies that go along with it) a great big collective middle finger? Can we all agree it’s time to break up with the idea of being defined by our weight, measurements, and dress size? And wouldn’t it be nice to just go for a walk or ride a bike or do some other type of movement that feels good to us, and maybe eat a few extra veggies somewhere along the way today? How awesome would that be?

I’m kind of done with hating myself. I know it may seem quite radical, but I’m going to try loving myself from now on and see where that takes me.

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What if, right?

As always, if you have any thoughts to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

Just for Today

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Is this thing even on?

Hi, it’s me. I know it’s been a while. Like 56 days, I think. But who’s counting?

So, the kids are back in school and it’s eerily quiet in my house today.

The sounds of doors slamming, footsteps thumping, and raised voices fighting have been replaced with the soothing nothingness of an ambient hum.

Today no one has expected me to referee an argument. No one has come to me hungry, looking for a snack only 20 minutes after they ate their last meal. And no one in my house is whining about being bored, eyes fixed on me as the sole proprietor of fun and entertainment.

Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this moment—secretly, or then again maybe not so secretly—and actively counting down to it for the past week.

I am basking in this glorious alone time. I love the peace. I relish these silent moments. I’m soaking it all in on a deep, cellular level.

I can be quite extroverted when the situation calls for it, but I am an introvert to the core. This time is very much essential to my sanity and overall well-being.

But much more than that, this time affords me the luxury to get quiet and listen to the tiny whispers of my soul. It is in these beautiful moments I remember that the truth of who I am is not who or what my ego self would have me believe. I have nothing I need to do right now other than to just be. Best of all, there’s absolutely nothing I must prove to anyone.

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The shift from doing to being—from living a life ruled by the voices in my head to being guided by the truth in my heart—is something I must constantly bring my awareness back to, over and over again. ‘Just Being’ is deceptively tricky, and it is perhaps the most important work I can do, here in this lifetime. It represents the totality of what it means to be the best me I can be. This is my commitment.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow hasn’t arrived.

So, even though the kids have returned to school and there’s at least a thousand things waiting to be completed on my to-do list, I am committing to the practice of just being.

Just for now.

Just for today.

Trust is the Word

Despite any appearance to the contrary, I’ve always been a fake-it-till-you-make-it chick. And when I stop to think about why this is so, all signs point to an obvious lack of trust in myself.

Through my personal journey of contemplation and self-reflection over the past several years, I have realized there are some major chinks in my armour, not the least of which is an inability to trust myself. Further, this has made me painfully aware of another vulnerability: I cannot fully realize my potential on this planet until I have completely embraced the radical concept of self-trust.

Trust is inextricably intertwined with some other equally nebulous ideas. When I think of trust, I also think of BELIEF, CONFIDENCE, INTEGRITY, LOYALTY, FAITH, COURAGE, and BRAVERY.

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I honestly believe my reasons for lacking trust in myself boil down to 1.) fear and 2.) having an overly active loud mouth of an inner critic. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario when I consider which of these came first, as they apparently fuel and feed off of each other.

But coming back to the concept of trust, turning this word back on myself has been an interesting exercise. I mean, it’s one thing when you realize that you’ve lost trust for someone whom you consider to be important in your life, but when that person is yourself, whoa!

I would argue that trust matters most in relationships of an intimate nature. And what is more intimate than the relationship one has with oneself? By this logic, trust is a biggie. It’s huge. The absence of it a major clue that, “Houston, we have a problem!”

It’s hard to like someone you don’t trust, and it’s hard to like yourself if you don’t trust yourself.
Leo Babruta

But I’m here to tell you, straight up, there is a void inside my soul where the trust button is supposed to be. It’s like a vacuum in which there is no air for my flame to burn. Heck, there’s not even a spark to light the flame. For some reason, the visual of a motherboard with an empty slot where the processor is supposed to be comes to mind. There’s a label with an arrow showing exactly where the trust processor belongs, but it’s just not there.

This visual demonstrates how integral I have come to believe self-trust is to pursuing and achieving anything worthwhile in this world, because, even though I’m no technology expert, I’d imagine a motherboard without a processor is virtually useless. Haha, virtually, get it? Similarly, without that trust ‘processor’ functioning in me, it feels humanly impossible to follow through on my purpose with the serious work of this life.

Trust is a funny thing. You can’t see it, touch it, taste it, or smell it. It’s either there or it isn’t. You know when it is there and when it isn’t.

And that is precisely my reason for choosing TRUST as the one word to guide me in 2016. It is the one thing I know am currently lacking and that has the potential to change the course and trajectory of my life.

Trust is something akin to a special brand of blind faith. It is the unwavering belief that, in the face of adversity and against all odds, life is going to work out exactly how it’s supposed to. It’s that unshakable place of being firmly rooted in the knowing that life is always working in your favour.

For me, trusting myself implicitly would mean defeating self-doubt and being so thoroughly self-assured that my every move is guided by a very cool (yet non arrogant) sense of confidence. The reliable presence of trust in my life would translate to avoiding the urge to compare myself to others and bypassing the impulse to second guess my instincts. Perhaps most importantly for me, embodying trust would be like knowing with everything in me that, no matter what the universe throws my way, ‘I’ve got this.’

When baking a cake, you make sure to include all of the ingredients in the recipe. When you’re building a life you love, you’ve got to start by trusting yourself.

If I sit down to write not having a concrete idea in mind before hand, I need to trust the ideas will come to me, and through me. And it all starts by having that trust in myself in the first place, to get my rear end into that chair and just start typing.

Trust is the fertile ground in which I have planted my seeds of intention for 2016. With its constant loving attention, I am better equipped to nurture my seeds and encourage their growth. With trust as the foundation of everything I do, I believe there’s nothing I cannot accomplish. And with some good, old-fashioned hard work, my efforts will finally take shape and flower into reality.

2016: I trust it’s my time to shine!

Trust words

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?

The Summer I Changed My Mind

A funny thing happened on the way to (and from) summer vacation—I changed my mind. I am well aware of how odd this probably sounds, but I think all should become clear if you just keep reading.

I could have chosen to write this post about the misfortunes and mishaps along the way. In fact, I probably could have dedicated multiple posts to how our original accommodation plans didn’t work out and we had to adapt on the fly (twice); how, we were already passed Banff when we learned we’d left the city without any way for my parents to get into our house to let the dog out and therefore had to call a locksmith to come break in; how, in all our moving about from one place to the next we misplaced several articles of clothing and other personal items; or finally, how I got sick with a nasty cold that has lingered for weeks.

But instead of focusing on the perceived bad stuff, I’m choosing a different path. Rather than staying bogged down in my own stories and negative soundtrack, I am making a conscious decision to focus instead on the true gems—those rare and precious moments that could have easily been overlooked and gone untold. I’m excited to share the following five stories from my summer vacation because, after some time and reflection, I honestly believe that these are the stories worth telling.

1. The drive. It’s been many years since I completed the drive from Alberta to B.C. through the mountains and Rogers Pass, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the glorious wonder of it all. I mean come on…the winding roads literally cut into the base of solid rock, surrounded on either side by 200-foot tree walls. The layers of variegated green foliage covering the mountain faces, with only pieces of jagged rock peeking out in intermittent patches. And the crystalline mountain streams and lakes that sparkle in the sunlight. I am quite convinced that the stretch of road between Banff National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park offers some of the most stunning scenery on planet earth, and I can honestly say that I haven’t truly appreciated the breathtaking vistas and majestic beauty that is our country before this drive. I have a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature, in all her glory, and I hereby solemnly vow to spend more time with her on a regular basis.

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Captured this beauty shot somewhere west of Revelstoke, B.C. Love the ethereal quality of the low lying clouds and their reflection in the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. A day on Lake Okanagan. It’s no big secet that my husband and kids love the water. (I’ve often wondered if the three of them may have been fish in a previous life.) Early on in our trip, we rented a boat for the day and were able to enjoy a fantastic day exploring beautiful Lake Okanagan. Sharing the day with some of our BC and Alberta family made the experience that much sweeter. The kids had an absolute blast tubing, and the some of the guys gave wakeboarding a shot. While the water in the middle of the lake was pretty choppy, we found a bay where the sun was shining bright and the water was perfectly calm. We anchored our boats for lunch and stayed to play for several hours after, completely losing track of what time it was. A small rock island projecting out of the water about 10-12 feet at its highest point made the perfect platform for jumping in and provided hours of entertainment that day. With so much fun and so many memories created, our day on the water is one I don’t think any of us will soon forget.

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Climbing ‘The Rock’ and getting ready to jump in the water on the other side to cool off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. I fell in love with a tree more than three times my age. On the recommendation of friends and family, we had dinner at The Minstrel Café the one night in Kelowna that we were without our kids. We were seated outside on the patio, directly below the stunning 148-year-old London Plane tree for which the restaurant is known. I’ve never met a London Plane tree before but I can easily say this one was simply amazing; I’m talking regal, wise, all knowing, and breathtaking in its beauty. The size of its trunk a testament to the number of years it has been growing in the every spot where it was originally planted. With twisted branches sprawling out in all directions, it provides both a shady canopy for daytime patio goers and the perfect perch for the strands of white lights to twinkle like low-hanging stars above the heads of those who dine there. This tree had to be one of the most mesmerizing living creatures I’ve ever encountered, and it easily has to be the oldest. I can only imagine how much that great tree has seen in its years and the stories it would be able to tell! I wanted to caress its bark and wrap my arms around its body. If we hadn’t been in such a rush to leave for the concert and I had been dressed more appropriately for tree climbing, I most certainly would have found a way up onto one of its branches to just hang out there for a while. Although our time together was short, one thing is for sure: that London Plane Tree wove some strange magic over me and I left a piece of my heart with it that night.
Sidenote: the food at The Minstrel Café was also very good, and I would highly recommend going there if ever visiting Kelowna.

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Look way up! This was our view sitting under the magnificent London Plane tree.

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And here she is in all her glory from the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The road trip as a right of passage. Aside from driving to B.C. when our daughter was only nine months old, which doesn’t count because my son wasn’t born yet and she was too young to remember, this was our first major road trip as a family. Up until now I’ve been reluctant to take vacations that required long drives because I was fearful that all the bickering and whining from the backseat might drive me mad on the way. At the same time, I think a good ol’ road trip is a right of passage that all children (and parents) must be made to endure, um I mean enjoy, at least once. But I really must say the drive went much better than I anticipated. The kids did quite well overall. Granted, we came prepared with plenty of snacks and broke up the drive into smaller stints, stopping regularly for meals, bathroom breaks, and to sleep overnight. (And it probably didn’t hurt that we just got a vehicle with a built-in entertainment system and Bluetooth wireless headsets.) Regardless of the reason, there were minimal complaints of boredom, and we only had to make one emergency pit stop for my son to hydrate the foliage at a roadside turnout. Now that’s what I call road trip success.

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Our first road trip pit stop, lunch and a bathrrom break, in Banff, AB.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Lessons in receptivity and being present. The ability to experience a situation by staying present, fully processing it, letting it go, and carrying on without attachment is the very definition of receptivity. This is a muscle I continue to strengthen by doing the work. And although our trip didn’t go exactly as we had planned, I can honestly say I am grateful for its gifts—the realizations it afforded me to come to and the lessons it reinforced. Through this experience, I’ve been able to see with softer eyes the soul of all things in the world around me, and the invisible connections between everything and everything else. While it has taken me some time to wrap my head around it, I’m now able to smile with each breath, knowing I am part of the magnificent web of life.

It’s interesting how the way you choose to look at a situation can dictate how you feel about it, and maybe even determine what happens next. But this is profoundly true. These five stories changed the way I viewed my entire vacation experience, reshaping and reframing it from something undesirable to somewhat of a miracle. And so I guess this may just go down in history as the summer I changed my mind—literally changed it. It’s a bold statement, I know, and there’s a great deal of unfinished work on my part, but that’s the beauty of it. From a place of awareness and presence, I get to choose my reactions to situations and how I want to engage with the world. It really is a beautiful thing, and it’s only the beginning.