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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clean Up - How I Successfully Completed a 30-day Cleanse

I just finished a 30-day cleanse.  I have never been able to stick to a 'diet' nor did I ever want to.  And even when I began eating clean about a year and a half ago, I had to have a treat every day.  So going 30 days without sugar, processed food, wheat, alcohol, caffeine (my main addiction), and other foods seemed like an almost impossible task.

Well, I actually (miraculously) made it through the entire 30 days without one cheat.  I started drinking coffee on day 24, but that was the only cheat:)  I may have chosen one of the most difficult months to take this on with my Dad in the hospital, business picking up, Thanksgiving dinners, and several family functions with food... like I said, it was a miracle.

It wasn't always easy.  But it was far from difficult.  It actually wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  And I believe that is due to my mindset and methods of getting through.  Here are some of my insights that may help you if you decide to give this a try:

  1. Get assessed.  Don't assume you need a cleanse off the shelf because it worked for your friend.  Our bodies are unique to us and a professional can help you identify the right cleanse for you and then guide us through the process. Can you imagine if you completed a cleanse only to find out you needed to do a different one?!  Sweet lord, I'd cry for sure.  I recommend meeting with a Naturotherapist or Naturopath for an assessment.  Some great ones in St. John's, NL are Deanne Dietz of The Healthy Root, Dr. Laura Nurse, Dr. Tanya O'Brien, or Dr. Eddi Boyd.  All of these wonderful women are amazing at what they do.  Find the one that suits you.
  2. Decide on a few 'go to' foods.  My biggest go to foods were brown rice cakes with almond butter, roasted veggies, boiled eggs, and bananas.  I roasted a pot of root veggies every Sunday and ate them for snacks or a quick lunch throughout the week.  I brought brown rice cakes with almond butter everywhere I went.  I boiled 4-6 eggs at some point throughout the week so they were there to grab and eat.  It's true, I wanted a little more variety, but when I had these easy 'go to' snacks and lunches, I wasn't forced to have to eat for convenience. 
  3. Eat lots.  I wasn't hungry.  The point of a cleanse is not to be hungry.  It is to clean out toxins in your body.  My cleanse allowed for almost all 'clean' foods.  I admit that it was easier for me since I had already been practicing eating clean.  However, there is no need to do anything fancy or have any fancy ingredients.  If I am hungry, I cannot think.  I find it difficult to make healthy decisions.  So I was careful to eat my meals and eat lots... and I did not skip a snack if I felt like having it.  I ate a healthy snack if I even had a thought that I might crave chocolate later.  And if I was still craving, I ate another allowable snack.  
  4. Understand your 'why'.  Like anything, if you don't know the reason you are doing something, it is pretty hard to stick to it.  My reasons were firm.  I want my life back.  I want to be able to be physically active again.  I want to have the energy to build my business.  I want to be actively involved in my young daughter's life and not watch it from the sidelines.  I want my passion back (it was there but when you are too tired and not feeling well, it wanes).  I want to have the energy and wellness to be involved in giving back to my community.  These things aren't happening when I'm not well.  And I really want this life because it's what drives my happiness.
  5. Don't try to change all habits at once.  I am a night-time snacker.  So instead of trying to not snack at night, I replaced my snack with an allowable food.  I learned this one from my good friend and colleague, Christa Steeves of Well Being Coaching.  At first, I ate brown rice cakes with almond butter every night.  Then I ate a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries each night.  And the last week or so, I ate a fruit smoothie with strawberries, mango, and banana or a beet, pear, and ginger smoothie.  The smoothies were great because they took some time to finish... almost as long as eating a bag of chips.
  6. Experiment.  Well.... if you are following me on Facebook, you probably know that I burnt supper five times over the past month!  And I ruined a few recipes in other ways too.  But it was all fun and I now have more knowledge about using ingredients, such as almond flour, that I hadn't used before.  I didn't try something new every day... but knowing that I could have a muffin if it had the right ingredients in it motivated me to bake them!  
  7. Choose to be that person.  My wonderful husband reminds me of this.  I am that person who eats healthy.  It's a choice.  Remembering that helps.
  8. Treat yourself.  A treat when you are on a cleanse is not the same as a treat when you are not on a cleanse.  Typically, a piece of dark chocolate every day is my treat.  However, that was a no-no on the cleanse.  My food treats throughout the cleanse were really the new muffin recipes with allowable ingredients.  Yesterday, though, on my final day of my cleanse, I went to one of the healthiest restaurants in town, Eat Clean Restaurant and Grill.  I had a wonderful conversation with Megan, who was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about a cleanse.  She helped me choose a meal that was allowable!  And it was delicious.  Eating out is pretty much not an option when you're on a cleanse, but if you can find a restaurant that has even one item on its menu, you can go there and eat that while on your 30 day cleanse and still socialize.
  9. Don't feel bad about feeling bad.  I talk about this in a lot of my training and coaching.  I was able to get through the 30 days without cheating.  Had I cheated, I would have had to begin from the first day.  That was a motivator for me.  However, this time last year, I'm not sure I would have succeeded the first time around.  And that's OK.  Feeling bad about messing up doesn't get us anywhere.  If you don't pull up your socks and start over, you will be that far behind again.  So mess up if you must.  And then get back on the train.  Every day is an opportunity to begin new. 
  10. Share.  When you share what you're up to, you create a bit of accountability for yourself.  You also can celebrate with others when it's over.  And usually support comes along with your sharing.  I didn't do this with anyone, but I didn't keep it a secret.  And I shared many of my mishaps (burnt suppers) with Facebook friends.  It helped to keep it real.
I am totally happy I finished the cleanse.  For me, it got me back on track with my eating habits... but more than that, my headaches have decreased, my digestion has improved, and I have higher levels of energy and more focus to live my life and do my work.  

And my journey continues...

<3 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Why I Started Living Mindfully

Some may consider that mindful living is quiet and calm... making perfect decisions and being happy and content with everything in life... having everything in order and being in full integrity... being there for everyone every time for everything... and never being in conflict with self or others.  Well... it's not about being perfect... at all.

My life is anything but quiet, and chaos surrounds me just as much as anyone else; I do not make perfect decisions all the time - in fact, I mess up a lot; I'm a pretty happy camper, but I definitely experience the whole range of human emotions; I try to 'be there' for all of my friends and family, but the truth is, I am not always; and I definitely do not have everything in order, nor am I never in conflict with myself or others.  However, I have learned how to have a sense of calm in the midst of the noise.  I have learned to accept my imperfections as being human - sometimes it takes a little extra work (laughing at myself helps:).  I have learned that my mistakes make me stronger.  I have learned that, although I don't have it all together all the time, I can still be happy and let things roll.

Five years ago, I sat in a seat across from a bankruptcy counsellor.  My business had failed and I was terribly in debt since I had personally guaranteed many of my business loans.  I had a business partner who was not legally my partner, and he walked free, while I bared the burden of creditors calling and negotiating in order to manage the debt without ruining my daughter's and my lives.

I was a workaholic.  I was a single mom for 15 years and my life was pretty much fully dedicated to being a mom and working.  I had a full-time job with a team of seven, for which I typically punched a 60-70 hour week and traveled about once a month, and I had a business on the side with about six employees and a partner who was only a partner in title and not by law.  

Amazingly, I missed only one of my daughter's events, and she was heavily involved in extracurricular activities.  Somehow I managed to be that mom who did it all (yes, I even was the mom that brought Halloween fruit trays to school and volunteered backstage at dance concerts). I was also that highly engaged employee and business owner.  I sat on numerous committees and boards and somehow also got all of my work done.  If I had a few spare minutes, I worked.  I worked late into the night.  I read and responded to emails from bed before rising.  I was so passionate about my work that I even became involved in a workplace conflict.  It was handled mindfully, but the point is, it happened.  

The moment of knowing something had to change really came when I had some sort of attack and my friend thought it was possible a stroke.  I'd been experiencing heart palpitations and dizziness for months.  My boyfriend thought I was suppressing stress because I never let it show and people perceived me to be calm and together even though I had a load of s**t going on.  I thought I was fine.  I was highly productive and a good mom.  I did yoga and ran and generally took care of my health (it was inconsistent of course).  I knew all about how important the mind is for wellness.  Ha!

A stress test showed that I was physically fine.  But I knew I had to change my life.

I sold my house and paid off almost all of my bills with the profits.  It was bittersweet since buying a house for my daughter was a huge accomplishment for me when it happened.  I'd struggled financially and had to live with my parents in my 30s.  The house was a symbol of being able to provide for my daughter and selling it to pay off business debt seemed like a huge failure.  I had to quickly let go of that attachment if I wanted to progress in life.  I will be forever grateful for my boyfriend, who later became my husband, for his incredible support, and for my Dad, who gave me financial advice that was worth more than any advice I’ve ever received.  He saved me financially.  They both saved me.  Period.  It was a long journey, but it gave me a lot of insight.

Once the house and almost all of its contents were gone (I gave almost everything away), a fresh start was in order.

I packed a few suitcases and hopped on a plane to Singapore.  Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, but off to Singapore to begin a new chapter we went - my daughter, my boyfriend, and me... six suitcases, three laptops, and a guitar (I think you could write a song about that!).

Upon arrival, a whirlwind ensued.  There was school, and transportation, and a place to live, and furniture, and jobs, and crossing the street (they drive on the other side of the road there), and food, and, and, and.... to figure out.  It was super exciting.  It took a month to kinda sorta settle in.  Then I crashed.

For the first time in all those years, I felt like I couldn't think.  I couldn't get off my *arse* to get things done.  I couldn't find a job (I applied for hundreds), and I wondered if I could even be successful in a job.  I began to doubt myself, feel like a failure, and wonder if I had anything to offer to anybody.  I was experiencing culture shock, but it was much more than that. 

I was in 'burn-out'.  

It finally caught up to me.  And I had all the signs... exhaustion, unable to solve problems, unable to be creative, disinterested in things I used to be interested in, withdrawl, and also cynicism.  I was always that person who saw the positive in situations... and now I was that person who was stuck.  

I didn't like it.  I knew better.  I practiced meditation and yoga... how could I be this way?

Well, that's when I began to truly learn about mindfulness.  It took a long time, but I learned to be OK with whatever I am feeling.  Beating myself up for feeling bad made me feel bad for longer.  When I began to accept that I felt like crap, and I took care of myself by resting and reading and taking time to just 'be' and not feel guilty for that (it was sooooooo hard!), I slowly healed.

One thing at a time changed.  It did not happen overnight.  The first thing to take care of, though, was my mind.  I had to stop feeling guilty for not being a workaholic and not having it all together and not being perfect (perceived) and not being there for everyone all the time.  And for the first time in my adult life, I had to depend on someone else to help me get through my days and weeks - my now husband.  (He rocks:)

As a fiercely independent career woman and single mom, I had to completely shift who I was (who I 'thought' I was) into a woman who needed someone else to help with parenting, paying bills, and figuring out how to open a bank account.  It landed heavy and took a long time to shift.  

With mind shifting, though, I have ALMOST figured it out.  I am almost to the point of interdependence.  I now have a 3-year old and a 20-year old, and my husband takes on parenting and taking care of the house, etc. 50%.  It still amazes me.

And one thing at a time changed.  I began to think of my life differently.  I began to choose how I treated the environment differently (although I was not too bad in the past).  I began to cultivate an interest in true health and wellness for myself, my family, and the world around me.  I began to choose to meditate each day, more consistently than in the past.  I began to choose who I spend time with more.  I began to create my own life on my own terms, but with compassion and respect for the people in it... and that is on my own terms because that is what I want.

I still fall down a lot.  I still feel the affects of burn-out four years later!  But I am aware of it.  I see the signs.  And I take the pauses needed to shift my mind.  So that I can live my life in awareness.

I smile at people more.  I interact with people at a deeper level.  I hug more.  I send my love more.  I speak my mind more.  I catch myself in judgement and respect more.  I walk to the beat of my own drum more.  I reach out to people for help more.  And I'm far from perfect.  I also still judge and frown and disconnect and put up walls.  But I become aware of it and shift back to the way I truly want to be.  

Mindful living is not about being perfect.  It is not about not working hard.  It is not about being in mediation all day long.  It is not about being 'pollyanna'.  It is not about growing your own vegetables and cattle and always eating from the earth.  It is not about always feeling in harmony with the world and never experiencing the darkness of life.  It is about being and accepting where you are, having respect for yourself, others, and the world around you, and being aware of and cultivating the true you.  You can still work 60 hours a week.  You can still be super mom.  You can still choose to not have a vegetable garden.  But you are in the moment.  You are living in respect of yourself and others.  Your life may be 'busy', but you choose how to fill it.  Living in respect of yourself and others, then, has the spin-off effect of wellness... often complimented with mindful eating, mindful relationships, mindful conversations, mindful activities... and a whole lotta love <3

As they say in the mindfulness community... it is simple... but not easy.

Namaste
<3 

Friday, October 3, 2014

O-Me-Ga!

Over a year ago, I was getting ready for my big trip to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY for my Search Inside Yourself mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training.  It was being facilitated by Google's 'jolly good fellow' Chade-Meng Tan and co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in the U.S., Mirabai Bush.  Needless to say, I was excited.

My flight was supposed to leave on a Friday morning and I had train tickets booked from NYC to Rhinebeck.  I would arrive just in time for the Friday evening session.


Well, I live in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.  My flight was delayed.

At 9 or 10 pm the flight finally left and I was on my way.  I'd miss the Friday night session, obviously.  I felt a little disappointed, but I'd been practicing mindfulness for years by then and I'd managed it all with ease.  I could not take the train, so I had booked an expensive taxi for the two hour drive to Rhinebeck in the middle of the night.

The taxi driver was falling asleep I am sure... and we swerved all over the road.  But, I was in a little bubble of happy because I was finally fulfilling a 15 or 20 year dream to visit the Omega Institute. Nothing could take me out of my bliss.

I arrived at around 3 a.m.  When I stepped out of the taxi to pick up my key (on a bulletin board) to my tiny room, O-Me-Ga!  The silence in the air brought joy to my soul.  I could have stayed in that moment forever.

The driver was nervous to let me walk up the pitch black path to my room, which was about a 5 minute walk in what felt like wilderness.  I didn't have a nervous bone in my body.  We said our good-byes and I turned on my headlamp, swung my small pack on my back and began walking as mindfully as possible so I did not miss a moment.  I felt like I'd come home.

It's a little difficult to articulate the next two days.  It was filled with beauty.  I meditated in the amazing meditation centre, I meditated with about 100 people for 2 hours one night, I roamed the beautiful gardens, I ate organic foods from the centre's garden, I received a massage with enlightened conversation, I met powerful women from all over the world because there was a Women's Leadership Conference on at the same time, I got a glimpse of Brene Brown, and... the best of all... I learned about mindfulness and emotional intelligence from the masters.

Chade-Meng Tan and me

Mirabai Bush and me

It's a year later, and I'm just writing about it.  Maybe I had to let it sink in.  Or maybe it's time for another experience like that one.  I was so completely present and in a state of bliss the entire weekend.

Or maybe I had a fear and decided to bury it.... us humans tend to do that.

We all dream of something.  My dream is to have that kind of centre right here where I live.  I've dreamt of it for so long that I don't know when it started.  But when I visited the Omega Institute, I knew I was in my dream... just not in the right location.

Every experience leads us into our future.  It may be a year after my experience, but I had to go through all that I did this year to take the next step.  More steps will follow.  That's how dreams happen.