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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Bother to Celebrate the Holidays?

I don't have cable TV to watch news broadcasts. I don't read the newspapers.  I avoid getting involved in social media complaining and bullying. I choose my news by searching online. If I can do something about a situation or I am curious, I may read more, listen more, do more. If I cannot, I will continue to be informed by choosing to read what I wish without being bombarded with negative news. However, I still see it and feel it.

We are surrounded by so many horrible world and local events.  People are starving.  People are dying.  People are fleeing from their countries in fear.  War is erupting.  Hatred, racism, and bullying pepper social media.  Suicide rates are on the rise.  Layoffs are rising.  Taxes are increasing.

It seems a bit selfish and naive to celebrate Christmas - or whatever other holiday you celebrate this time of year.  Even Pope Francis said celebrating Christmas when the world is full of hatred is a 'charade'.

So I had to think about why I celebrate... if I will... and if I do...  how?

I am celebrating Christmas.  Actually, I was raised Christian and now I believe in many things so I don't really consider myself 'Christian'.  I believe in love and peace, though.  And for me, that's the key for celebrating Christmas.

I believe that love and peace begins with yourself and spreads to those close to you... who then spread it to those close to them... and on and on with the ripple effect.  Social media has been wonderful at this.  I see that someone has done something wonderful, and I get inspired to either join them or do something else kind.  

So I believe that celebrating the holidays is more important now... in these times of turmoil.  I think it is also important to bring love and peace to the celebrations.  I will give presents.  I will have some holiday 'spirits' at parties.  I will smile.  I will share.  I will hug.  I will laugh.  I will find compassion. 

I will not complain because the photo machine is broken and there is a long line-up of people waiting to print photos.  I will not frown at the cashier in the supermarket who is working overtime in order for us to have fancy food on our tables for the celebrating.  I will not bi**h at the drivers who are butting in front of me trying to get to their destination faster.  

I will show my children how to love and live in peace.  I will demonstrate to them that kindness and compassion can change a person's day... life... including your own.

We will sing and dance because it is uplifting and maybe it will bring joy to others.  We will bring that uplifting spirit to others through our energy and smiles and conversation.

We will have a delicious Christmas dinner with a dozen or so people around the table because we are investing in being with and sharing with our family.  We will also spend a day cooking and serving food for those in need.

We will open presents on Christmas morning because it is a tradition, it brings joy, and it demonstrates giving.  We will also give presents to others in the form of purchased items, homemade items, and time.... some of those others we do not know but know they are in need. Some of those we know and know they are in need.  Some of those we know and know they are not in need but we are simply spreading joy and giving our presence.

A letter to Santa was sent.  It included asking for items for others in addition to a request for something special.

We will clean the house and put up a tree and decorate.  We will have a few special items in the pantry for treats.  We will also meditate and breathe and invest in our wellness during the 'hectic' days.  We will not make the holidays about having the perfect house, rather create a celebratory and loving environment.

I realize not everyone shares in my enthusiasm for celebrating the holidays.  I realize the holidays bring sadness and strife to many.  I will help those people when and if I can, and I will be mindful that we all have different experiences and not to assume anything.  I feel it is my responsibility to live the fullest life I can, and if I have been blessed with a good life, isn't it right to celebrate that?  Both by being the love I want to see in the world and by sharing it with others?

I'm celebrating the holidays because not celebrating is stopping the spread of love and peace.  And our world needs love and compassion now more than ever.

Merry Christmas!  Here's to spreading Christmas spirit <3 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why We Opt Out of Self-Care

"Take care of yourself first."
"If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of others." 
"Focusing on self-care changed my life."
"Take time for you."
"Self-care is self-love."

Have you heard any of these things or anything similar? We all believe them.  We all agree.  But why don't we follow this advice?

Well, some do.  And they got it.  They have found their balance... until tomorrow when things change and they have to find a new balance.  Some will fall over then.  But some continue to find a new balance each day, riding the oscillations of life.  They may not need to read this post... of course in mindfulness, we are always curious and approach things with a beginner's mind, so maybe they will anyway:)  

Others continue to do their best... sometimes taking a walk in nature... sometimes drinking lots of water... sometimes eating healthy.... sometimes being very prepared for each day... sometimes getting enough sleep... sometimes exercising regularly... sometimes meditating.  That kind of describes me... the 'sometimes' girl.

Here's some of the good news... This is OK.  Because life is a roller coaster.  Life is not about staying the same each day.  Nothing is constant but change.

We find something that works, and then we have a month of kids' concerts, and work deadlines, and maybe the seasonal flu goes through your entire family.  And you feel like you've lost it.  You spend so much time caring for everyone else and barely getting enough sleep that you have lost your self-care.... and self-loathing may even seep in.

What if I told you caring for others CAN be self-care.

It's about how you approach it all in your mind.  When we have a lot on our plates... kids, jobs, activities, wellness, special occasions, etc., etc., etc.... we tend to let our self-care activities and attitudes go and then stress about letting them go.  This stress causes suffering, and this suffering heightens our lack of 'self-care'.  Yeah... beating yourself up about not taking care of yourself results in taking even less care of yourself.  It's called 'feeling bad about feeling bad' in my mindfulness training.

However, what if taking your kid to her soccer game was part of your self-care?  What if cooking supper for your family was part of taking care of yourself?  What if meeting a work deadline was a piece of fulfilling your passion, hence self-care?  

So many of my coaching clients get caught up in the busy-ness of life and create the idea that, 'I don't have time for self-care'... hence, are not self-loving... which just results in a spiral downwards. This is the advice I give to them (if they want advice).  Your life is full of your choices.  Lots of things are not in your control, but you can choose how you perceive them.  You may choose to dislike the fact your kids activities or work deadlines are taking you away from the gym or your time cooking a gorgeous supper from 'Oh She Glows'... or you can choose to like the fact that you value giving your kids these opportunities or you value putting your full energy into your work that you love or you value giving others your attention. 

This IS self-care.  

When you are behaving aligned with your values, you are caring for yourself. I'm not saying eat crap and never exercise.  When I ask a room full of people at my workshops what they value, pretty much everyone says family and health.  So, physical care (and mental and emotional care) is part of self-care because it pretty much always is a personal value.  But when you stop expending so much energy on beating yourself up for not going to an exercise class or not having enough time to cook a good supper or having to take care of your family so you cannot attend a weekend retreat... you then have more energy to be physically healthy and you will enjoy (or at least find contentment) in all the activities and deadlines that you believe are taking you away from your wellness... because they are actually part of your whole wellness.  How you treat your mind and how you manage your emotions are part of your self-care.

So the key to self-care is being aligned with your values and knowing it.  Knowing it and finding joy in it.  Understanding your attitudes and managing them.  When life gets busy, taking on an extra fitness class may not be the answer, but changing your mindset can change everything (and just may allow you to take on that extra fitness class:).

If you DO have time to attend a retreat and tend to yourself a little this Nov. 20-22, check out Tina's Unleash Your Creative Spirit Retreat in Ochre Pit Cove, NL (1hr, 45 mins from St. John's).

If you'd like to realign yourself with your values, check out the next workshop on Re-Creating Your Vision on January 14th, 2016, in St. John's, NL.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life's Worth

My mother-in-law passed away last week.  Everyone experiences this kind of loss at some point.  It is never easy.  But I have to believe the difficulties life brings are worth something.

After a four year struggle and many near death experiences, she lay in her hospital bed for over three months.  We noticed her decline on every visit.  She was in pain.  She eventually did not get out of bed.  She eventually accepted her fate.  She did not go home again. She slowly lost interest in all things that brought her happiness.


Her eyes smiled when her 4-year old granddaughter jumped into the hospital bed with her - the last time being two days before she died.  As time passed, her feeble arms getting weaker, she continued to share food - dessert usually - with the little girl that brought her joy.  On every good-bye with her children and their spouses, she said, "Loves ya!"  The nurses were always "some nice."  She was present even when she was tired, until she fell asleep.  She befriended her roommates when she could.  She exuded love even as her body deteriorated and she could no longer take part in this thing we call life.  She had birthday cards for her loved ones until the very end.  She gave.  She loved.

Some say her life wasn't worth living in the end.  She was in a great deal of pain.  I want to believe it was worth living.  I want to believe her final days were worth something.  I want to believe she felt loved and enjoyed something out of the final time she spent here on earth... and it meant something.

I wonder if the worthiness had nothing to do with her own life and everything to do with everyone else's.  She touched people's hearts.  She was adored.  Because she was a decent human being. She put others before herself.  Always.  She is an example to the human race.  She accepted life as it came.  She never judged others.  She gave whenever she could.  She gave extra attention to those who needed it, to those who were down on their luck, to those who others may not have given the same attention.  She was happy.  She was content.  She continued to love even when she was in a great deal of pain.  She continued to bring a smile to others' faces.  She continued to bring her family and friends joy.

She had many visitors in that hospital.  My daughter pranced the halls and played tea party with the ladies who were deteriorating with dementia.  Her visitors were often jovial.  Her daughters helped the staff.  Maybe the worth was there.

Peace quickly came upon her when it was time.  Her children surrounded her.  You could not express the love in that room during those minutes.  Everyone was one.  Any differences of opinion or belief did not matter.  There was a tiny moment, a glimpse, of pure love.  Nothing mattered. Nothing at all except peace.

Impact.  That is what she did.  She made an impact.  She did not try to make an impact.  She did not purposely set out to find her purpose and fulfill it.  She just did.  She was authentic and simply took on whatever crossed her path.  She never announced her successes or difficulties.  She did not desire for things to be different or to stay the same.  I am sure at times she had desires, but they did not stand in the way of her contentment.  She loved her community, her friends, her family, and her life. And she influenced how others live their lives.  Her legacy will live on. People will remember her kindness and it will influence their actions.

Even in the end, when pain overcame her, her life was worth something.  She was in pain, but her suffering was limited.  Because she accepted life as it was presented.

And that is the most worth a life could have.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Tribute to Those that Leave this World Too Early

I remember thinking 45 was pretty old.  I was probably in primary school when my friend's mom turned 40, and I thought she was old.  I don't think so now.  Yesterday was my 45th birthday.  I don't feel much older than in my 20s... except for my aching body.  But my mind - other than foggy brain - feels young.  Oh, OK, I do feel a bit older than 25.  But 45 is still not old.

I have the spirit of a 20 year old.  I dream.  I laugh.  I am as silly as the next person.  I never believe I am too old for anything.  I love learning and continue to learn and change and grow.  I enjoy trying new things - for my 45th birthday, I started taking aerial yoga classes.  And I still plan to travel the world more than I already have.  I have a lot of dreams and plans for the future.

But imagine if you couldn't fulfill those dreams and plans. Imagine if all of a sudden, one day, they were gone.... taken away.  And it was impossible to fulfill any of them anymore.

I know too many people who have lost loved ones too early.

My uncle's partner, Tony, passed away in his sleep a day before my birthday.  He was 51 years old. He had plans and dreams.  He was well.  No signs of sickness of any kind.  His life is ended.  My uncle's plans and dreams of a life with his partner are now over.

So we remember the good times.  And the wonderful person Tony was.  It helps us get through.  He was always smiling - he even smiled with his eyes.  He was a successful entrepreneur.  He was a giving and respectful person.  He helped out my grandmother when she was alive - he cooked for her card friends.  He was an amazing cook.  He had a lot of friends - people liked him.  He loved my uncle.  One of the last conversations I had with him was one of their partnership and commitment. He was a wonderful person with a big heart and a big smile.

Yesterday, I honored Tony by spending my birthday living life as much as I could.  I tried not to take anything for granted.  I dedicated my actions and activities to Tony and all those that lost their lives too early.  Sounds a bit weird now that I type it out... but it was my intention.  And here's how I did it.

  • I began my work day teaching a yoga class.  This is a new shift in my career and I love it.  When class was over, I took a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to have this opportunity to fulfill a dream in life.  I am a novice teacher, I have sooo much more to learn... but I can share what I know now.  And I currently still have the opportunity to continue learning.
  • I returned home to my hugging 21 year old daughter and her boyfriend.  I revelled in it.  I have an amazing relationship with my daughter.  I know not all parents can say that.  I know how lucky I am to have such a beautiful connection with this incredible human being.  She is my teacher in life.
  • I practiced yoga and meditated on the beach with my dear friend - who also brought me lunch for my birthday.  My meditation was one of gratitude for the pure amazingness of just being able to do that.  And for having a long lasting friendship with someone who never judges me... she totally accepts me.  Truly blessed.
  • I took a business call - on the beach - and was open and honest about my services and what I could do to help... and I secured the contract.  Thank-you.  Seriously, business is not easy.  I have struggled with my business, but I have learned to be patient and grateful for whatever is happening because there are a lot of lessons the first few years... and you have to learn them in order to be successful in the future.  There's that word again... future.  I still have one.  Thank-you.
  • I started my aerial yoga classes and I smiled at everyone in class as I learned how to fly.  I sometimes feel quiet and don't really want to be around people, especially when I attend classes alone and others seem to be in groups.  But I was committed to dedicating the day to Tony, so I smiled - like he would I imagine.  And I chatted.  And I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the class.  And, by the way, thank-you for the opportunity.  I drove home smiling.
  • I came home to supper with my beautiful family - my husband, daughters, parents, daughter's boyfriend.  We sang happy birthday and blew out candles on two cakes - well, a lemon pie and a chocolate cake because I love both and my husband is like that.  I could not be more grateful for having my Dad present.  He's had a difficult year with his health, and we are all so lucky he's with us.  And my husband, who worked all day, arranged, cooked, and cleaned... told me to sit any time I offered to help.  I lucked out.  A truly beautiful spirit of a man.  And my daughter, who decorated and simply makes sure I'm always taken care of.
  • I put my 4-year old to bed and fell asleep with her... actually, I think it was before her.  It really doesn't get much better.

As I turned 45, I contemplated on how quickly things can change.  I spent the day doing things I love with people I love.  Even things I did not love (my email went wonky and I spent over an hour trying to fix it), I did with gratitude... sort of... I did my best anyway... I did not freak out at least :)  Isn't that the way we can live every day?

I have learned that having an amazing life has nothing to do with doing BIG things.  It has everything to do with loving big with your heart wherever you are doing whatever you are doing.

Maybe I do feel older than 25.  When I was 25, I may not have seen how wonderful a day my yesterday was because I may have wished I was traveling the world or jumping out of a plane or eating a strange food in a strange land with strangers.  I still think all of those things are amazing. But so is being here now doing what I do with those I love.

Some people are taken from this world much too early.  Tony is one of them.  I believe the way to honor them and help live out their lives is to fully live ours.

Peace and love

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Desire Strips You of Happiness

Have you ever tried really hard to be friends with someone and the friendship never really came to fruition?

When I moved back to NL almost four years ago, I was starting new.  I was in a completely different place in life with a baby, I was beginning a new career and business, and most of my friends did not live here.  I met so many wonderful people; however, I have not made many new close friends.

I was yearning to make friends with certain people.  They seemed to be like-minded, fun, and 'real'.  But there was something missing....

They didn't include me.

That's not entirely true.  I was included in some events, mostly for business.  And everyone was kind to me.  But I wasn't invited out to dinner or for a girls night or to exclusive events.  I wasn't included on their list of 30+ like-minded friends tagged on social media posts.

So I kept trying.  You know... engaging on social media, sending personal notes, and working at the possibility of getting together beyond business.  And it just never happened.  This all did not bode well with me in my mind.  I have always been a likeable person and have not had to work so hard to make friends.  What was wrong with me?  Why didn't these people want to include me?

A couple of months ago in yoga teacher training, my teacher said, allow the karmic experiences to come to you.  And it struck me.  I've been pushing.  I've been desiring.  I've not only been searching for friends, but I've been searching for ways to help the world.  I've offered my time to a few associations and organizations and was turned down!  I've been seeking out ways to just do good.

I was filled with desire.  It was good desire.  Desire to help.  Desire to be around like-minded people doing good in the world.  But it was desire.

I had to surrender.  I had to stop desiring and start being in my life as it is.  Doing good starts right here.

Sometimes situations or people are not aligned with you even when it seems that they are.  This does not mean you or the other person is in a better place or that you don't deserve what you desire.  It simply means you are in a different place - right now.  That situation or person may very well come into your life at a different time - when you aren't pushing for it.

When your energy goes into desiring things to be different, you miss out on all the opportunities that enter into your world naturally.  Desire can strip you from happiness.  Desire results in wishing things were different.  But they aren't.  When you surrender to this moment, and you focus on all the things you CAN do, you find peace.  You find contentment.  You realize that you have choice.  You begin to put your energy into your own path, rather than desiring someone else's.  And it's far from selfish because you then have the energy to do good in the world.

In yoga practice when you do a balance pose... you must be grounded and focused or you lose balance.  If you look around the room and compare yourself to others or desire to be in their position, you lose balance... you might fall on your face (I have done that).  The key to a balance pose is drowning out the noise (literally and in your mind) around you and find focus.  If you wish you could be in a different place with the pose, you will likely lose your balance and not accomplish what you can do in that moment.

I began focusing on my own life.  I began focusing on what I do have and the beautiful people around me.  And I realized that there is a lot of good to do right here - I was missing opportunities to help that were right in front of me.

We all desire things.  Like in mindfulness meditation, though, if we can catch the desire... become aware of it... then we can take action to reduce and maybe even eliminate the desire.  Then you have the possibility to live the life you want.  You can't do that when you are desiring someone else's life.


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Magic of Music and Mindfulness

It had been a few years since I last saw the symphony.  I have always love going to the symphony.. in fact, I love almost any kind of arts and culture and theatre.  But music and dance are... my thing.  So, when I go to the symphony, I realllly love it.

My husband and I went to the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra a couple of nights ago and something magical happened.

I have been purposely practicing mindfulness and meditation now for several years.  As the years go by, I get even more committed.  Changes are definitely occurring.  They are often quite subtle, and one might not even notice unless they compare how different a reaction might have been in a similar situation five years ago.  But every now and again, you feel the difference.  You know you have created new pathways in your brain.  Your old conditioning is falling away.  

The evening began with a reception.  I was underdressed for the reception - most of the ladies wore dresses and gowns, while I wore pants, blouse, and shawl - at least I had heels and bright red lipstick on:)  I was there for the music, though, and it really didn't bother me.  Once we were seated in the auditorium, the orchestra played 'Oh Canada'. The audience stood in pride... and that was the beginning.  I got goosebumps. 

Whenever I hear 'Oh Canada', I feel a sense of community.  I am reminded of our great country and how privileged I am to live here.  So to get goosebumps was not unexpected.  But what happened next was.

Cory Tetford joined the NSO that night.  His first set was mostly gospel music, and his first song was 'Amazing Grace'.  It touched my soul.  Goosebumps times 10.  I closed my eyes momentarily so I could absorb the music without visual distractions.  Ever do that?  It can be truly amazing and full of grace.

So wow.  Big applause.  Feeling good.... and the next few songs made me smile.  I smiled out of appreciation and wow.  I watched a guy be completely in tune with his cello and a drummer become part of the rhythm.  I could hear each instrument as it chimed in, and each one struck me like I'd never heard it before and it was the most outstanding sound I'd ever heard.

Then Shelly Neville came on stage and joined Cory and the NSO.  She's a local celebrity.  We all know how beautiful her voice is.  That's when I realized I am in the middle of magic.  My eyes welled up and the tears began to flow.  I was in a state of awe.  The fullness of the orchestra, the harmony of the voices, and the energy... the magic... enveloped me.  And I didn't care what anyone thought.  I was just in that moment.  And it was perfect.

The remainder of the evening saw more amazing talent with Barney Bentall and Mark Critch (comedian).  A new (beautiful, heart-warming, touching) song written by Cory and Alan Doyle was performed for the first time in public.  I cried a few more times.  The lyrics were brilliant.  The music was phenomenal.  The talent was outstanding.

But most of all, I took it all in.  I allowed myself to close my eyes and feel the music... the energy... the vibrations.  I experienced it.  I opened to it... and not only did it flow in, but it burst out too.  

Music really is good for the soul.  When you are mindful, you take it all in and it fills you up.  My husband and I both had a similar experience that night.  We carried on our night talking about how important it is to allow those moments in.  Life is short and full... and taking the time and allowing yourself to really fill up your soul with music is no different than filling your car with gas.  

It was magic.  We were both incredibly mindful of that.  Maybe we will purchase seasonal tickets next year.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Metamorphosis: It was the best of runs, it was the worst of runs

I can count on my two hands the number of times I have run in the past 2 1/2 years.  After an injury in a half marathon, another injury three weeks later in the famous local 20k hilly run - Cape to Cabot, and the onset of chronic pain and fatigue, every run put me out for days.  And I had a toddler to care for.

So I essentially gave up running (among other things).

Last week, I participated in some more Mindfulness training (which was awesome... more on that later).  Another participant mentioned that she was in excruciating pain when she ran; however, she read a book in which the author spoke about being mindful of the pain as something separate from you.  She now says to herself, "Something inside me is experiencing pain." And she runs.  Three times a week.  She said every step is painful, but she does it.

I figured, if she can do it, so can I.

Soooo... yesterday, I tried.  I picked one of the the easiest routes in town.  A 3.8k flat trail around a lake, half with a boardwalk, half with crushed stone.  Indeed, for a runner, this seems pretty easy. And for a non-runner, it seems like a wonderful run.  For me, I just wanted to finish it.  And then not have pain afterwards.

I started very slow and easy.  It felt good.  But, I really felt like I was holding back.  I wanted to go faster, let it flow.. but I wouldn't, in fear I wouldn't last or I'd hurt myself.

Then something different happened.  I have had some issues with my knees, but they haven't caused me to not run.  One time a lady who performed healing touch on me said I need to take care of my right knee.  I was surprised because I'd had some minor issues with my left knee but never any problems with my right knee.  Until yesterday.

My knee began popping.  Every time my heel hit the ground it popped.  The longer I went, the more it popped... and it began to hurt each time.  I shook it out.  I stopped and stretched.  I swore.  I even texted my husband and told him how frustrated I was.  He lovingly asked if walking might help.

I walked a bit.  Ran a few steps... pop, pop, pop.  F**k.  I said it out loud, and I think someone heard me.  Then my mind spiral kicked in...

Seriously?  I can't even run 2k now?  Really?  No wonder I've gained weight.  No wonder I'm tired all the time.  I can't exercise because I'm going to hurt something.  And if I put my knee out, how will I care for my family and practice yoga and hike - the only physical things I can do at this time - without hurting myself?  I will gain even more weight.  I will be even more tired.

Really?  Am I seriously going down this path of thought because I have a popping knee?  !!!

Then I remembered what the lady in Mindfulness class told me.  And I said to myself, "There is something inside me experiencing pain and telling me I have pain."  I realized how much fear I had about this.  I didn't want to hurt my knee.  But I also knew this was a bit of an irrational fear.  I'd never had a knee problem before.  What are the chances my knee is going to totally give out?

I changed how I ran.  I began engaging my quad muscles as I landed and this was working.  My knee wouldn't pop.  Then my left hip hurt.  Then I walked a bit more.

At some point, I decided to run faster and stronger, rather than gentle and easy.  And it worked.  My knee stopped popping.  I ran the rest of the way around the lake.  I splashed in the mud while other walkers and runners gingerly stepped around the mud puddles.  I felt strong.

I finished my run. I wanted to go further, but I knew that was not the answer.  Like I tell my clients... baby steps.  I decided to just be with what it was.  It was a horrible run in so many ways.  But it was a run.  I did it. And I felt OK at the end.  My heart rate hardly went up, but my muscles felt it (oh, how quickly our muscles can deteriorate!).  And I trained my mind a little more.  So it was a great run too.

What is fabulous is that I began my run wondering if I could do it.  I ended it knowing I can.  I need to take a different approach than I ever did before.  But I can do this.  Maybe not every day.  Maybe not long distance.  Maybe not fast.  Maybe with more self care than needed in the past.  But I'm transitioning, and my running is proof of it.

And today, I have slightly sore quad muscles.  Yes, after about only 3k of running.  What a great feeling! :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Breaking the Chains that Bind Us

I learned to snowboard about eight years ago.  I fell down a lot at first, but when I learned how to transition from side to side, it was magical.  I flowed down the hills with snow sprinkling in my face.  I even managed to learn how to jump...  a little bit.  It was like a ride of freedom.  I thought I'd never return to a pair of skis.

Fast forward to two years ago.  My family and I went on a ski/snowboard vacation in New Hampshire.  We'd been there before and loved it.  We typically spent about 4-5 consecutive days on the hills of two different resorts.  It was magnificent.  We really found a special kind of joy in these experiences.  Until that year.

If you follow me, you know I experience chronic pain.  About three years ago, it started to get worse. I managed to get through life in dull pain but never having to negotiate any of my physical activities. Until that year.

After my first day boarding, I thought I was done.  I managed a 1/2 day the following couple of days. I think I took a day off.  And on my final day, I changed to skis.  I was falling and my neck was in so much pain that I succumbed to taking pain killers (something I rarely do... except when boarding).  I just couldn't do it anymore.  The magic was gone.  So I hopped on a pair of skis.

Skiing was dreadful.  I couldn't find my ski legs.  It had been several years since I'd been on them. Fear of hurting myself built up inside me.  I had never been afraid of a ski hill... until then.

It was my last time on a ski hill until this past weekend.  I just couldn't bring myself to go last year. As my husband and I glided along in the ski lift, my heart actually started to pound.  I was nervous!?!? I'd been excited in the past.  But this was different.  I was full of fear that I wasn't going to make it down the hill.

The first ride was a bit tough.  I had to stop several times.  I went slow.  I felt like a beginner (although I wasn't falling so all was well).

The second ride was better.  The third ride was joyful.  I turned on my tunes and flowed down the hill in harmony with the snow and music.  I rested when I needed to, maybe once.  And I stopped comparing myself to how I once was.  I stopped trying to be a great snowboarder and started just being the snowboarder enjoying the slow transcendence down the hill.  The remainder of the day was more of the same.

I was beginning to break the chains that were binding me for two years.  I was enjoying the moment. I was managing my body.  I was doing what I could and not forcing it to be different.  And I wasn't afraid anymore.

I had a 1/2 day on the hill.  That was it.  I was wiped afterwards.  The next day I was sore and tired. But it was a breakthrough!  It was worth it.

I reminded myself that I need to be where I am... but I also need to find the cracks and break the chains.  I felt like I was learning a lesson on the hill from my mat (yoga mat).  Stirum sukum - steady and easy.  A yoga pose is best when steady and easy.  My boarding was best when it was steady and easy.  I couldn't force anything more than what I could do, but I could push just to the limit.

At the end of the day, I had forgotten I was fearful of the hill earlier that day.  I felt like I had overcome a huge hurdle.  It was just the beginning, but that's how the chains that bind us are broken.  One clasp at a time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why Meditation is Important for Being Mindful

I have spoken to or taught many groups about mindful living, mindfulness in the workplace, meditation, and mindful leadership.  Something common to all participants is that most are not willing to begin a practice of meditation any time soon.

Even after a 4-hour workshop, I ask how many people will begin a meditation practice, and most people say they think it's a good practice but they don't think they will begin one (and the many excuses begin).  I offer a free 30-day meditation challenge, and typically about 25% of the participants open most or all emails.

Why is this?

Well, meditation is a habit, like anything else.  It's difficult to quit sugar, begin an exercise program, or consistently take five minutes at the beginning of your work day to plan the day... when these habits are not already habits.  So it is not surprising that taking on a meditation habit is just as difficult.

The other thing I have found interesting is that many people feel they are already mindful.  They feel happy and content enough and do not think they need to meditate because they already 'got it'.  And maybe they do already 'have it'.  In some cases, though, these same people complain, are too busy to spend time with loved ones, are not living the life they want, or live in chaos.  Often, they are operating on autopilot.  The problem is that they do not know it and society is such that this has become the norm.

A runner does not run a marathon without training.  A hockey player does not make it to the NHL or even the community recreational team without practicing skating and shooting skills.  A guitar player does not make the band without practice.

AND.... a mindful person does not become mindful without practicing.

Here's the thing.  Mindfulness IS a practice.  You don't learn it from reading a book or watching a movie or listening to a speaker.  It is learned from your own personal practice, and it is unique to you.  It is experiential. There is no other way to learn it.  And it is a life long way of being.  You don't learn it, put the book down, and then be it.  Mindfulness is the practice itself.

There are a variety of ways to practice, of course, such as yoga, tai chi, journaling, or meditation.  Yoga is actually a form of meditation.  It means unity of mind and body.  The physical aspect of yoga is really a preparation for meditation.  Tai chi is similar.  It is meditation in movement.  Journaling is really a journey into your mind, so, in my opinion, it is a form of meditation as well.

There are many forms of meditation itself - mindfulness meditation being one of them.  It develops mindfulness skills.  Mindfulness meditation trains your brain to become aware of moments, of what is happening, how you are feeling, what the impact of your words or actions are, or how others are responding and feeling.  Mindfulness meditation develops concentration and insight.

Trying to live mindfully without meditating.... well... it is akin to running a marathon without training.  It wouldn't go so well.  You likely would not make it.  Your muscles and heart would not be able to support that distance.  If you tried, your heart will be stressed and you may injure yourself.  This is like saying you are mindful without having a practice.  Your mindful muscles cannot support it because they are not trained to do so.  Hence, the result may be stress, lack of focus, disharmony, and potentially injured relationships.

So we practice.  We meditate.

Mindful meditation does not always feel blissful, although it can.  When we meditate, we dive into all the layers that have covered up our true selves.  We do not always like what we discover.  But mindful meditation helps us become friends with all the things we like and all the things we do not like.  That practice helps us be truly mindful.

Without meditation, you cannot discover these parts of yourself.

Even with practice, though, being mindful does not mean being perfect.  In fact, we begin to see ourselves more clearly as we explore and investigate, and we realize our imperfections.  It is when we can see these, accept them, and continue on the path of mindfulness that we find perfection.  When we are mindful, we continue to make mistakes.  We continue to react when we'd rather respond.  We continue to have human emotions such as jealousy, resentment, and unworthiness.  However, when we are truly mindful, and we meditate, we have tools to become aware of these things and allow them to pass.  We will always have 'imperfections'.  Perfection is in our attitudes and responses and ability to be peaceful in the most chaotic situations.

Meditation is the tool for doing all of this.