Monday, 29 September 2014

self-love and nourishment

friends, its been an interesting month. lots of change, lots of newness, lots of challenge, lots of sadness and pain, and about 10 days of a nasty exhausting cold/flu. and though it seems so incredibly self-defeating, I go fast and hard into self-loathing and self-hatred in times like this.

today, I read a blog about self-love. that we need to spend time connecting with our own beauty, remembering why we're great, remembering that we are light and love and perfection and glory, just as we are. and I thought, yep. I need to step back into that light, and out of this darkness of self-judgement and criticism and guilt and extreme meanness to myself.

and I just had this thought, I will commit to the next 10 days of self-nourishment. to heal. to bring myself back to love. to an awareness of love.

so, for the next 10 days, I'm going to go on a journey of taking care of me and returning to self-kindness and self-love. I will ask myself, is this nourishing to me? before I do anything. what I eat, who I spend time with, how I spend that time, I will ask, is this nourishing? I will take good care of me by only choosing what is kind and loving and nourishing to my soul.

I will be conscious of my negative self-talk, and I will tell it firmly to Stop. I will spend time in nature. I will perhaps get a massage, cause that is always nourishing to me. I will see friends if I feel like that is nourishing. I will perhaps cook a really healthy yummy meal or two. I will be aware and present for myself in everything I do in the next 10 days. And commit to treating myself with kindness, respect, admiration, warmth and love. to nourish and heal.

and as I write this, is the worry, is this so selfish? focus on others! you must be so selfish to want to do this. see, the negative self-talk that happens so quickly?

but what I know is this - I'm a little worn out and worn down right now. I'm a little in the throes of heartsickness and sadness. I need a little fill-up of joy and self-love and kindness and compassion. (I've received so so much of this from wonderful family and friends. thank you. time to do it for myself too). And I know this too - once I'm filled up, I ooze love and joy and compassion for those around me. it just pours out of me. but first, I need a little fill-up of some love and kindness and nourishment:)

so this is my goal - 10 days of nourishment and self-kindness and filling up my tank of self-love. feel free to ask me all about it, keep me accountable in doing so!!  i'll keep you posted. and maybe you know you need a little of this too!

much love to ya

Thursday, 28 August 2014

what has this year been?

One year ago, I decided to go on this journey of change and space and exploration and discovery. I left my job at UOttawa for a year, and decided to see how things would unfold. One year has passed, and I have decided to sit down and process it all. I won't share all that with you, because it would be so long, and much of the learning and understanding that came from this year needs to sit inside me for a little longer:) But I think i'll write a little of it for those of you who wonder what this year was like!

So. I left my job, and I left my city for 4 months. I spent last September and October in Pennsylvania at the Himalayan Institute, a yoga and meditation centre. Many of you followed my blog during that time. It was a very different experience than I ever expected. a time of growth and healing and being challenged internally in ways I'd never even imagined. It was a beautiful place to be, and I loved being at a place where people were consciously thinking about health, wellness, healing, self-realization, and the inner life. I found my meditation teacher and learned a beautiful technique for meditation that now is such a vital part of my life. It was an important, life-altering time for me.

Then I spent 2 months living with my family, between my parents and my sister's homes. They were generous and kind, but it was a time of adjustment and discomfort for me as I left this idyllic yoga world and came back to my family of origin:) suffice it to say, buttons were pushed on both sides, but with communication and love, we all survived it. I had worried when I left the HI that all the growing and learning and sweetness of a spiritual journey would end when I left there. But I need not have worried - the work continues:)

In January I moved back to Ottawa. I spent the next few months teaching yoga and working at a fair-trade organic hippy kind of coffee shop. I had serendipitous meetings with old friends. I reunited and reconnected with my Ottawa people. It was an odd adjustment, because I was no longer living the 9-5 lifestyle, while most of my friends do. I wrestled with going back to live in Pennsylvania for a longer time, and finally decided that I would stay in Ottawa and see what life in Ottawa was like when I did not have a 9-5 lifestyle. That for right now, this is where I wanted to be.

I discovered that teaching yoga and working in a coffee shop meant a dramatic pay decrease from what I had become accustomed to, and that living alone would be a bit of a stretch. I also came home from my months in an ashram and my time with family, realizing I was ready to live with people again - I was tired of living alone. That perhaps when I worked in a job that was very stressful for me, I needed a place to run away and hide in, but that if I chose a life that had less stress, I might not need to hide - I might enjoy living with someone.

So in April, I moved out of my place. I lived with a friend and her two kids for one month, and then moved into a house with an older woman May 1st.

During this month, I felt a lot of uncertainty. Hell, during this whole year I've felt a lot of uncertainty!! But I'd just left an apartment I'd loved, I wasn't really sure what to do, work-wise, things were definitely in upheaval. It turns out that this friend I lived with for a month was doing her certificate in Executive Coaching, and needed some people to do some pro bono coaching on for her training. well, yes, thank you very much, I'd love some coaching!!! the timing couldn't have been better. She was wonderful, and never told me what I should or shouldn't do, but instead asked very poignant questions to help me uncover what I really wanted and hoped to do and have unfold in my life. It was such a gift, so timely. I did come to a deeper level of clarity about many things, and also, it was just so lovely to have some support, to be able to talk through things, to quiet some of the spinning in my mind.  Also, it was really fun to live in a vibrant loving playful family home with this friend and her teenage daughter and preteen son. It was a fun month.

In May I moved in to a house with this woman. I began to take on more and more yoga classes. It was really wonderful to discover that every time I was a little worried about finances, people would contact me about subbing their classes for a week or two. I was never without work or teaching! So grateful for that. Living with this woman was another kind of adjustment. I think mostly because I and my two furry cats were living in her home, with her furnishings and her kitchenware and her stuff. Most of my stuff was in storage. I was aware most of the time of having a level of anxiety, where I just could not feel like this was my home. It certainly helped financially, and she and I had many lovely and deep talks about life and some shared experiences and the struggles of life at times. I am grateful that she is gracious, and wise, and open to communication and discussions. But over a few months, I realized that I was really not happy living there. And began to consider moving out.

During this time, I also had a very interesting experience. A good friend of mine lives here in the city but is an immigrant. He was refused refugee status, and was told he'd be sent home to his country where violence is increasing every week and his life will be in danger when he goes home. Before this happened, I was very ignorant of our governments' policies and procedures and laws about immigrants and refugees. But being alongside my friend through this journey, I am so saddened and sickened by how it is handled, so often so poorly. I won't go into too many details, but it came to the point where his lawyers told him the only way to stay in the country would be to marry a Canadian. And guess what this "rescuer" and "saviour-complex" crazy girl wrestled with and struggled with and mulled over and over and over in her mind? Yeah. It was not a happy time. To see someone you care about go through something scary, to consider that if he goes back he may be killed, is such an intense thing. But after weeks of wrestling and discussing and processing for myself, I came to the decision that I could not go there. It is obvious that it is not my problem to solve, not my place to rescue or fix. But it was a deep hook inside me.

So within a week, I told my housemate that I would be leaving, and I told this friend that I could not help him in the way he'd like. Both of those things were so very hard for me! Here's what I know about me, and learned even more - I hate disappointing people. I hate doing things that I think will impact others in a negative way. I hate doing things that I think will  make people dislike me. and I'm very very afraid of other people's reactions, primarily their anger. I build up stories of how others will react to my decisions. most often I presume they will react with anger and disappointment and want to never speak to me again. that's an interesting place I go to immediately. during that week, I kept reading messages about having to make decisions that are true for us, regardless of how it affects others. Like, can you be true to yourself, even if it disappoints others? can you be "faithless" to others to remain faithful to yourself? certainly a concept I wrestled with. being raised in a judeo-Christian home, that was not the value that was taught. so this was a big one for me to wrestle with. is it selfish? is it wrong? should we stay in situations or do things for others even if they feel very wrong for us, so we don't hurt them, so we don't disappoint them, so we give them what we thing they want and need? I certainly see people doing that very thing all the time!

I think I'm learning the answer is no. but it took a couple pretty intense situations to explore this. and I'm grateful for wonderful friends and a special counsellor who supported and listened and offered guidance in situations where I could not find clarity or peace in a decision.

This is turning into a little novella:) sorry folks, leave whenever you need to:)

Through this summer, I have done a lot of teaching and worked a couple days a week at the coffee shop. I love the teaching. Through the summer, I taught 7 classes at a studio and had one private client. I've loved getting to know my regular students. loved the discussions about yoga and life and health and learning. I've loved moving my body, sharing the teachings, feeling strong and healthy and balanced. I've loved that I've had space in some of my days to sit in parks, and read, and meditate, and be. but I've known there would need to be another shift, because my full teaching schedule would come to an end as the teacher I was replacing would come back from her maternity leave. again, that feeling of uncertainty settled in. and it's always accompanied by great fear and dread in my belly. fear of the unknown, fear of not having financial stability, big shaky fear. Happily, yoga reminds me to breathe and be present and show compassion to myself in the midst of all the fear and have faith that it will work out.

So I'd decided to move to a new home. I began that (dreadful) process of looking for places. I saw a whole bunch, some of which were ok, some of which were horrid. but I felt very strongly that I would find the perfect place in the neighborhood that I wanted to live in, and I wouldn't sign anything till I found it. AND I DID:) I found a beautiful place in the neighborhood that I wanted, bright, open, spacious, lovely, a place I could  make my home.

And all through this time my mind was trying to figure out what I'm going to do, workwise, once my teaching schedule became less and less. I'd spent a little time this summer really focusing on what it was I desired, what I wanted, what was important for me to have in my life. Then one day, about 2 weeks before I was no longer considered an internal employee at UOttawa, a past employee contacted me and told me that a position I'd previously held (and very much enjoyed) had opened up and would I consider applying for it? Immediately my heart and mind said yes!!! this is good!!! I called my old boss, to see what she thought about me applying. She told me she'd come to my coffee shop several times to ask me to apply for it. That I was the one she wanted. oh how my heart sang:) and all of this just two short weeks before I would no longer have been able to apply. If it had happened two weeks later, I could NOT HAVE APPLIED!!! ah serendipity. I do love you. So I applied, I interviewed, and I was offered the job:)

So after one year, I will return to UOttawa. I did not anticipate this! I will return to a job I enjoy. I will return to having resources to live the life I want to live. I now live in an apartment I love, a place I've made my home. I'm aware of and grateful for the beauty and wonderfulness and courage of the dear friends in my life. I'm grateful for my loving supportive family, and delighted with my two beautiful nieces my sister has brought into our lives, the newest just two months ago!! slowly I feel my nervous system settling down. slowly I feel a quietness settling in my psyche. slowly I feel joy and stillness and peace settling into my bones and consciousness.

What has this year been?

A year of growing. of being stretched
A year of loving. of having great pleasure
A year of spaces to think and feel and know and watch
A year of uncertainty and unknowns
A year of such beauty and exquisite moments
A year of being broken open
A year of vulnerability and humility
A year of exploring and playing
A year of discovery
A year of facing my deepest fears, watching them rise up with their monstrous heads
A year of developing courage and strength
A year of discovering softnesses and weaknesses
A year of making friends with the darkness and light
A year of life
Brutal and beautiful

and now, perhaps, a rest. ease. a season of stillness. a break from upheaval:) perhaps. I guess we'll see!!
thanks to all of you for reading along and sharing this journey with me.
wishing you all peace and strength as you continue on your own journeys!
much love

Thursday, 10 July 2014

loneliness - can you dig it?

I've just returned from a week with my family. as with all weeks with my family of origin, there were great joys and some interesting struggles. lots of laughter and playing and relaxing, and some arguments and tensions thrown in for good measure. ah family. delightful and difficult.

in returning to my life in the city, I am aware of loneliness threatening to overtake me. I'm not sure why - maybe just having been in the midst of the crazy noisy busy throes of family for a while, and then returning to a quieter simple life. definitely partly because my time with my family included the birth of a new niece and lots of cuddles with another niece, and I sure do miss them!! also due to the fact that I really love and treasure my brother and sister, and had great conversations and long walks with them, and I miss them. and I guess that it is quite a lovely thing, that I'm experiencing this loneliness, because it's making me realize how much I do treasure the relationships I have in my family. that's a gift, isn't it?!

yesterday I was feeling quite lonely, and all the friends I'd normally call or see are quite busy these days or have some struggles going on. I decided to spontaneously pop in on a friend's coffee shop to see if he was around. and he was. and we sat and had a latte and wonderful inspiring uplifting conversation. [so grateful for friendship when loneliness rises] and at the end of the conversation he asked if I was still writing, and I said I'd been away from it for a while, and he gently prodded me to get back to writing.

so here I am:)

today I taught a couple classes (I teach yoga) and then decided to go for a bike ride this evening. sat by the canal here in Ottawa for a little bit to soak up some nature vibes - watched the ducks, watched the water, soaked in the green. and I was so aware of the feeling of loneliness. thoughts always run to my single state, my desire for love and companionship, thoughts about singleness, coupleness, and what I desire in my life. oh so many thoughts. and the loneliness swelled. it hurt, so I grabbed my phone and texted a couple of friends. and then I set my phone down, and thought, can you sit with your feelings? can you sit with loneliness? instead of dulling the pain with phone/email/facebook/tv, can you sit with it? argh. it's a tough one. I thought of the writing of Oriah Mountain Dreamer, called "the Invitation", where she asks "I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it."

Can you?

As I sat there, feeling the waves and intensity of emotion, I realized that it takes so so much courage to do that. I had to dig very deep to do it. It's so much easier to dull it. To hide it or fade it. As I sat there with it, I found myself asking, what if this is life? What if it doesn't get better or easier or less lonely or more anything? And I thought, it's ok. I still choose life. I choose the joys and the pains and the awareness and the struggles and the bliss and the ups and downs and uncertainties and adventures and sorrows. because baby, this is life. it is raw. it is beautiful. it is wretched and hard and wonderful and terrible. and I get to live it. I get to breathe and walk and run and cry and laugh and play and feel and sit and fall and climb. what an amazing gift that is.

so, dear ones who may read this,  I wish you joy and companionship and love and a sense of belonging. and I wish you courage when you don't sense or feel those things, courage to sit with it. to breathe through it. to know you are strong and beautiful and perfect and delightful and wonderfully human.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

shifts in energy

Yesterday I was in a blue-black place. And needed to sit with that and vent against the philosophy that keeps bumping into me, about our power to change our situations and lives if we just stay focused on positivity and power and intention. And I vented because I find it challenging to work up any positive energy or send out any life-altering intentions when I feel down. And it may not be contrary to that system, that sometimes we need to acknowledge the sadnesses, the confusion, the hurt.

Sometimes, I think, when we've been in a dark place for a bit, maybe we need something to shift our energy. Yoga is a great place to go for this, because there are so many facets of a yoga practice that can do that very thing. Sometimes, it's a very physical thing - a strong asana class can provide a powerful shift, where you feel the body working through and releasing some anger or stress you're holding on to. That happened for me last night - I went to a class taught by my beautiful teacher, Roxanne Joly, (who I am so grateful for - her kindness, her wisdom, her generosity, her spirit of joy) and the physical practice helped me so much, by building strength and releasing tension in my body, and by giving me a time to just focus on my body. Sometimes, a gentle, releasing class is what you need to shift your energy, especially if there is a lot of anxiety in your mind. Sometimes we need a sweet breathing practice or guided relaxation to shift our energy. Sometimes, sitting in meditation can shift our mental energy by giving the mind a place to rest, when it's very busy. And sitting in meditation allows us to draw inward and connect with the Source where there is only light and life and no drama and no worrying. When we can remember that there is so much more to life than whatever is getting us down.

Maybe you've found other ways to shift your energy, when it becomes stagnant and stuck. Going for a run. Taking a long walk in the forest. Going for a swim. Talking to a friend. Helping someone in need. Cooking a healthy meal for yourself. Going dancing. Having great sex. Journaling. I'm sure the list is endless, and if we take time, we can think of something that does it for us.

My teacher last night reminded me of something I've let go of, in this season of uncertainty and change I'm walking through. She reminded us in our class to find joy. it was a challenging class, physically, and she continued to remind us throughout to find joy. even in the challenges. even when you think you're about to fall over. even when you feel like you have nothing more to give. can you find joy? that was a great energy shifter for me. a great reminder. wow. my life is a little uncertain right now. there is a certain amount of instability right now as I make major changes. BUT there is so much to be grateful for and joyful about, if only I can shift my mind to that! a new perspective. Instead of fear and worry and self-doubt, can I find the joy? The joy in having space and time to rest, to cook, to exercise, to wander in the woods, to write, to feel? The joy in all the little things in my day that I now have time and energy to notice and experience? The joy of the adventure of change, of creating, of the unknown? The joy of learning so much about myself and how I view myself in the world?

Can you find joy today? I'm making it my intention for today. and according to that philosophy, i'll likely find it :)

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

February blues and bright sunshine

oh friends, any of you experiencing February blues? or maybe even darker-than-the-blues time? Wow, every year, it seems, I forget that February is a hard month to get through. I know in my own life it is true, and as I listen to those around me, I hear the same stories. Of mental health struggles, anxiety, depression, darkness, heaviness, stuck-ness. There are many theories about why this is so, and I'm sure there is no shortage of reading material out there about it. I hope you are finding helpful literature out there to give some guidance and clarity about what is going on, if that helps you. There are great articles about this being the Kapha season (ayurvedic philosophies); there are great writings from a psychological viewpoint about mental health. Without a doubt, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere sure are missing Vitamin D - we need sunshine!! it's been a long cold lonely winter here in Canada.

But hang in there, dear ones - the end is in sight. Spring and sunshine and budding flowers and new life is just around the corner.

I've been thinking a lot about mental health. about depression and anxiety. both of which I experience in major bouts, at times. I've been thinking about dark times. scary times in my mind. i can get to some dark places in my mind, and the tendency is to go there and stay there. but i am learning slowly the importance of learning about my mind, noticing what is happening, and trying to remember that this is just a season. that spring and light and sunshine will follow. it always does. to be able to sit with the darkness and the feelings of heaviness and fear is an interesting exercise. i really want to run away. i really want to find some fix, some cure, some way of making everything better. but what if sometimes, all we can do is be present with it, knowing it will pass? i don't know. i don't know if this is the "best" way. but it is an interesting experience.

all around me, i hear these messages of "the secret" and "the power". the power of positive thinking. the philosophy that what you put out there, you get. where you set your energy is what you will receive back into your life. i think i believe this: I've seen it in action in my own life and in other's lives. but what about the times where you do just feel grief, or anger, or depression, and though you try and try and try, you can't seem to get of it? does that mean I'm not trying hard enough? maybe. [to be honest, I'm too fucking tired of trying so hard, to try anymore.] but, just a thought, what about the importance of accepting where you're at, sitting with whatever you're experiencing, and allowing it to be? I'm not talking about sitting in misery and soaking in the darkness. but i am curious about authenticity. do these philosophies of positive thinking and only putting out bright light happy power allow for the authentic experience of being human, which sometimes does include sorrow and disappointment and frustration and other less-than-shiny energies? I'm not sure. I'm not criticizing these philosophies, because i do value the importance of positivity, faith, beliefs and energetic exchanges. but sometimes, don't we need to sit with the parts of us that are sad or hurt or scared, validate them and show them compassion? I've found that when i do that, they tend to release more quickly, than if i just adopt the attitude of "buck up, think only on good things, don't think about those other things at all".

ah, who knows. i might just be spouting because I'm feeling a little low in this season. and really, what i think is, we all just need some compasison, love, tenderness and patience in these times. for ourselves. for each other. let's just all be kind to ourselves and each other in this season, until the sun shines again. it will:) thank god for that.

peace, dear ones. love to you all in the dark spaces.