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Top 6 reasons to do Viva La Lemon Yoga

If you have been thinking of doing yoga but are apprehensive or nervous then embrace those feelings and give this a read. If you have been practicing asana (poses) at home but are interested in finding deeper connections to the ancient practice then give this a read. Yoga truly is for everyone.
Here are 6 reasons you should consider practicing yoga with Viva La Lemon.

1: Expertise

• Nicole is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT, 200 hr) who received her training from a Yoga Alliance Certified School receiving certification in Hatha Yoga.
• Nicole also has a certificate in 'Core Strength Vinyasa' (CSV, 25 hr) Yoga and enjoys being a student of yoga through her own daily practice. Additionally, Nicole enjoys attending a variety of different styles of yoga sessions in the area.
• With over a decade of experience in the health care world as a nurse, Nicole is very knowledgeable of the human body including anatomy, physiology, and even pathophysiology. She also has a deep passion for wellness and self-care.

2: Grounded in Yoga Philosophy

• Nicole has a way of taking ancient Yogic teachings and applying them to modern day life.
• Nicole uses the 8 limbs of Yoga to facilitate her classes and encourages the learned experiences to transcend out into our daily lives off of the mat.

3: Relevance

• Nicole encourages students to stay sensitive and vitally aware of their body. Ahimsa, the first Yama or yogic ethical principle, means non-violence. Nicole helps bring awareness of the body's limitations and promotes ahimsa; yet encourages curiosity in opening body, mind, and spirit more deeply in poses.
• No two bodies are the same, therefore no two poses should look the same. Nicole encourages students to find relevance to each pose on their mat moving them along with verbal cues, offering variations or modifications along the way. She promotes a caring, safe, non-judgemental environment where each student is celebrated.
• Nicole makes space for students to stop along the path at anytime and work their edge. Nicole's deepest desire as a facilitator is for each student to seek and find their truth, their growth, and their full expression each day.

4: Connection

• Nicole believes in the power of connection, union, and community.
• Yoga is a Sanskrit word which widely translates to union. This has many meanings in yoga. However, Nicole believes that yoga unites the mind-body connection with Divine source through the practice of the 8 limbs of yoga.
• In Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras (3rd century B.C.E.) – considered to be one of the core texts of yoga – he begins with a simple sentence: Atha yoganusasanam. This is translated as 'in the present moment is the teaching of yoga' or more technically: 'now', not later, but right here in the present moment begins the instruction on Yoga, as laid down by the ancient sages, that is available to everyone. It means that anyone who wants to can begin the path of Yoga. Which is why Nicole is so adamant that yoga is for every body! That by connecting to the present moment anyone can benefit from yoga, helping everyone live their best life.
• Even though yoga is so much about going within, and connecting with our center, building connections both on and off the mat is Nicole's vision. Following class Nicole encourages students to introduce themselves to one another. Enjoy a cup of warm tea or cold refreshing infused water (depending on the class location). Having a short visit connecting with other students begins to spread positivity and that deeper inner connection with the present moment outward off of our mats. Of course there is no obligation to stay.

5: Wellness

• Students have many personal reasons for practicing yoga. Yoga is not a cure for the multitude of ailments out there or a quick weight-loss fix but it helps bring wellness and healing into your life when you practice with ahimsa. Bringing both mental and physical health to the body, mind, and spirit; you will be sure to find what you are looking for.
• Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true Self and understanding the boxes we are trapped in. This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom. "Know yourself so well that you will grow into your wholeness and greatness." — C. Lewis
• The 5th Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana, which means to surrender. Nicole reminds us that life knows what to do better than we do. Through devotion, trust, and active engagement students can receive each moment with an open heart. Rather than walking against the current, surrendering is an invitation to move with the current, enjoy the ride, take in the view and feel well.

6: Authentic & Personable

• Nicole has been practicing yoga for 4 years. She is not affiliated with big marketing companies or big yoga studio chains. She brings her own understanding of the ancient practice of yoga to small rural communities in south-western Manitoba. She also adds other special touches of wellness to her class such as use of essential oils, healing crystals, soothing music and energy purifying smudges.
• At a Viva La Lemon class you will find Nicole to be approachable and personable. She does her best to cater to individual needs. She also offers private sessions to those who are interested in a more tailored practice.
• Nicole isn't interested in changing anyone. She believes in embracing our authentic selves, encouraging students to be unapologetically themselves in the present moment. "Everyone is perfectly imperfect in their own ways, when life throws us lemons, we embrace it and still find love and grace for our one precious life" — Nicole Barclay

We would love to see you out at a Viva La Lemon class. Check out the yoga page for upcoming classes.

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From running to yoga – A quest to find inner peace.

In my twenties I despised running. Actually what I probably dreaded most was cardiovascular training. Ugh! That word, ‘cardio’, still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The thought of sweat stinging my flushed face as I struggle to catch my breath. Just something I did not look forward to. But after the birth of our son, I was atleast 20kgs overweight. At first the love and care for my newborn stole my heart and attention but as the year went on my negative attitude toward my body only grew. Looking at myself in the mirror was like a scene from a horror movie; I closed my eyes and tried to avoid looking at the scary parts. My selflove and confidence went to an all-time low. So my type-A personality and I began looking for solutions.
I started as I often do by looking around (and comparing) to the people I knew at what worked for them. A couple of family members were into running but that was a big ‘no way’ for me. There was absolutely no way I could run for more than a minute let alone finish a 5k without dying! But thankfully there were local friends who took part in a bootcamp and had lost a lot of weight and looked amazing and had the confidence boost I was looking for. So off I went to get my butt kicked by a professional body builder. It worked. Temporarily. I lost some weight. I felt a little more comfortable in my own skin but it hit a plateau. I became frustrated with all the hard work especially while trying to juggle my career and a family and getting absolutely nowhere. So it petered off.

I began to wonder if it wasn’t my body image that was causing so much disharmony as other aspects of my life. I took a step back and realized I felt extremely unhappy in my current job position. More than half of all my shifts were nights. Since sleeping habits change as you become a new parent my ability to sleep properly after a nightshift became a huge problem. Money was constantly a stressor. I felt unempowered in my place of work. I felt stuck! With no chance of change if I didn’t upgrade my education. I began to think that if I got a better ‘job’ and made more money, that maybe then I could afford to spend more time on my body image which in turn would make me feel happier.

 So off to school I went. Adding even more to my plate as ‘student’ became another responsibility. As the stress compounded so did my weight and further unhappiness with body image. I kept reminding myself of the end goal. Finish school first, worry about my body later. I kept repeating that over and over as I’d toss back an energy drink and a bag of chips at 2am while studying for another exam the next morning. It was no surprise really that my health took a major downward spiral. At age 28 I was hit by the metaphorical 2×4 when my doctor had to prescribe a medication for my blood pressure that was out of control. Talk about a wake-up call.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my health. It couldn’t sit on the back burner any longer. Fear became a motivating factor. On my summer break before the final year of my degree program I made some huge changes. I completely cut out meat from my diet. And refined sugar. And basically anything processed. I tried to stick to a raw diet and started walking every day. As the weight melted off that summer I began to feel like my body could handle more. As a broke student, mother, wife etc. I knew I could not afford a fancy gym membership or private trainer or bootcamp session. I had to find something I could do from home.

Running crossed my mind again. And since I was desperate to get my health back I figured I had nothing to really lose. I found a running app for free and started a couch to 5k program with no real intention of actually running a 5k race. Except the body is a fascinating machine. The more it is used the better it runs. So naturally running became easier. I kept it slow. I kept it do-able. After awhile it became an addiction. There really is such a thing as a runner’s high. Haha that was something I always found myself rolling my eyes at whenever I heard anyone talking about it. But it’s the real deal. The endorphins kept me motivated enough to sign up for my first 5k race. The second I crossed that finish line I wanted to sign up for another one. I no longer needed medication for my blood pressure.  The 5k goal turned into a 10k one. And as if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to run it by my 30th birthday, just a little over 5 months way. 

So I finished my first 10k race. It was 2 months after I turned 30.

I’m proud of my accomplishment. But I’m not proud of the conceited, over-confident, self-destructive attitude it rendered. My family took a backseat to my priorities. I was doing things with my new healthier body that I wanted to do and could do for a change. But deep down inside I still felt lost. Even though I felt healthy. I was not. Not in a holistic way, that was for certain.

Because I didn’t see it that way I pushed harder. I signed up with a running trainer and was forcing my body to the point of pain. Determined as ever, I would find a quick fix from a massage therapist, chiropractors, or acupuncturists just to get back out on the trail again. I dumped piles of money I didn’t have into custom orthotics and fancy running accessories. I became so attached.

Until one morning I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed.

I literally had so much pain in my hip I couldn’t walk, or sit, or lie down. I was crying in pain and ended up in the emergency department where I was diagnosed with hip flexor tendonitis. So needless to say I was cut off of running for weeks. Just like that. I was so freaking angry. How could something like that happen?!! I was finally getting the body I wanted, down 30 pounds, off bp meds. It wasn’t fair. But it was a sign. Looking back I’m grateful for it.

I spent those three weeks caring and mending my aching body. Not because I wanted to but because I didn’t really have a choice. I found a youTube video called ‘Yoga for Runners’. It was impossible. I remember watching the screen and thinking ‘you want me to put my foot where?’ My body was so inflexible. So I figured I should start with the basics. I found another video that was a little more suitable for my current body condition and gave that a try. I remember laying flat on my back and stretching my arms overhead and feeling my entire back clench up in a gut-retching spasm. Wow! 30 years old and it felt like I had the body of a stiff 90 year old. (I mean that in the kindest way). I remember laying there in the meditation part of the video not being able to have an in-breath for the count of 8 and thinking that was so ridiculous. Downward dog; as if they called that a resting pose!!! I never considered stretching before a run. Or any exercise for that matter, let alone holding a certain position for more than 30 seconds even during my brief post-run stretches. Needless to say, I was a huge skeptic.

I have never been a sit still kind of person. Type-A, adrenaline junkie, to-do list expert. I’m always on the go physically and mentally. So at the time yoga seemed to be a good counter-balance.  I accidentally fell into yoga unintentionally but it could not have come at a better time. I stuck with it and eventually I was able to do that ‘Yoga for Runners’ video. Once I was able to get back to running I felt much more resilient. My obsession with running faded and quite frankly I was scared of injuring myself again. It came as no surprise when I read the statistics that over 60% of all runners will injure themselves at least once. I had only been running for less than 2 years and was already a statistic. So I quit being so hard on myself and just tried listening to my body. I began running for the fun of it. It didn’t matter if I ran 2k or 10k. When something started to hurt or cease up I would just ease back a little. I tried focusing on my intention in the beginning which was to just get healthy again. That didn’t mean I needed to go out and run every 10k race that came up in the area. Don’t get me wrong for some people having that goal in mind is great motivation but not injuring myself became more important than a metal or a new personal record.

Not surprisingly my love for yoga grew. I started attending a local hatha beginners yoga class one night a week. I could feel the benefits in my body. What surprised me more was the benefit I felt on my mind – my frantic consciousness. The holistic wellness approach was much needed. I became more and more curious. Like I had opened up the door to a whole new world. Once I learned that yoga was more than just the poses, that it truly was a lifestyle – I became hooked.

Several years later I find myself teaching both my passions. Running and Yoga. I will forever remain a student of both these practices. Additionally, I have the humble honor of sharing them with others who are interested in selfcare. Running and Yoga support each other just as the mind supports the body. In my world, one can’t survive without the other. As my practice grows deeper I am able to develop that stronger sense of inner peace not just because of the physical benefits but because of the benefit it has in all aspects of my life. Harmony really can exist in all the chaos life has to offer. Those moments when you are out on an early morning run: you hear the sounds of nature, feel the movement of your breath, and your body is gliding along the trail. When there is no finish line, no competition, no membership or fancy equipment, no pain, no thoughts, no to-do lists just you and the road ahead. When the body, mind, and spirit are in pure equilibrium – those are the exact moments I cherish for the rest of the day. Essentially that is yoga. A state of being in the doing. In yoga the whole point of doing the poses or asana, a very western focus, is to prepare the body for meditation. Which is often how people become introduced to yoga. And the whole point in doing meditation is to find enlightenment or self-realization, liberation, moksha, or awakening. It is not just something you do for an hour on your mat but rather a practice for everyday life. Of course this is very simplified. It is no easy process. But it is a process, one that takes time and effort, a certain appreciation, and patience for the unraveling. It’s not a self-help, quick-fix fitness program. It’s a way to find inner peace and acceptance for the self and the world around us. “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” (Bhagavad Gita). 

This is why I love being a student and teacher of Yoga. To spread this ancient, incredibly life-changing practice and hopefully have an impact on others as I move through this sometimes chaotic yet beautiful world. From running to yoga to my vocation as a nurse: both the practice and promotion of selfcare and wellness — that is what gives me purpose and meaning. For what is the goal of life if not to share and connect and to love and create peace. To live awake in the perfectness of the imperfect. “The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to soar, stumble and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence. We were born to live my dear, not to merely exist” – Becca Lee

As always, thanks for reading. 

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A deeper look at Self-Love

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha.

I once believed that the act of self-love was just the same as narcissism. I have come to understand the difference. And I can clearly see now that they are nowhere near the same. I think most of us know that narcissism manifests from arrogance. It usually stems from envy and then in turn encourages others to feel envious. Narcissists have grabby hands and want to pull others down in an effort to feel superior. Self-love, on the other hand, is way more personal. It does not involve others. Pure self-love encourages positive self-esteem but still this is very different from a narcissistic attitude. Self-esteem illuminates humility and accepts equality. It leads to the perception that all humans are of equal value. That nobody is superior or inferior (Firestone, 2012).

I once believed that proving your worth was more important than loving one’s self. That somehow quantifying my perceived value and using that as motivation to better myself was acceptable. But what standards was I striving for? Honestly. Every. Single. Day. I catch myself in this trap. Who makes these standards? I suppose our society as a collective does. It’s a communal effort we have all been a part of. As children we grow up learning the values, morals, and standards within our social circles. So nobody is really to blame. And we grow up either feeling good about meeting these standards (For example: big house, fancy car, important job, body thinner and firmer than a two-by-four) or they can be so unrealistically attainable for the average person that our self-esteems are crushed making us feel small and unworthy (Firestone, 2012).

“Feeling good about yourself as a person and acceptable for who you are allows you to move through your life with a sense of purpose [and meaning]. The acknowledgment that our physical selves all share the same fate (one day merely a container of organic matter), that our time on earth is fleeting; we accept that reality which gives each action more weight, each moment more poignancy”(Firestone, 2012). Radical acceptance of ourselves and our fellow human beings just as we are – that is self love in its purest form.

My struggle with self-love is real. It happens every day. Some days are worse than others. But this is not new to me. Growing up I was continually guided by my inner critic; callously harassed, judged, and bantered. I just assumed I was flawed. Never really measuring up to society’s or my inner critic’s standards. And of course my mind would continuously scan for proof of this. A walk through the playground as a young girl had all kinds of proof. ‘See she said your hair is frizzy, you must be flawed,’ my critic would say. So then I would try everything I could to smooth down my frizzy curls before school the next day. But it never stopped, something else would come up as substandard in comparison to ‘the rest of society’ which lead to a driving force of fervently trying to do better, trying to fit in, to be accepted by others. Always seeking approval from the strong inner critic. I tried desperately to avoid the pain from lack of self-love but in reality kept creating more of it; the wounds only grew deeper.  Becoming addicted to the need to feel accepted. The constant seeking of approval continued to grow even throughout my adult years.

What I didn’t really figure out until recently is that we have a choice to stop comparing, to stop listening to the inner critic, to stop the shaming of ourselves. A choice to accept ourselves and life just as it is. When we take responsibility and ownership; “when we practice radical acceptance, we begin with the fears and wounds of our own life and discover that our heart of compassion widens endlessly. In holding ourselves with compassion, we become free to love this living world” (p. 24,Tara Brach, 2004). And what a sweet breath of fresh air that freedom brings. We don’t ever need anyone’s permission to love who we are, just the way we are. We don’t need permission to accept where we are in life. We don’t need anyone else’s acceptance except our own. It’s not to say we don’t keep striving for our dreams if they will truly serve our dharma. But to prevent suffering it is important to let go of the attachments to the outcomes.

As the Dalai Lama once said, “The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” And I often wonder if attachments cause fear, anger, suspicion, etc. Our grabby hands clinging on to something with white knuckles – perhaps our attachment to looking a certain way, or being with a certain person, our attachment to our jobs or the white picket fences – the minute these ‘things’ are pulled from our little finger tips we experience anger, fear, hatred, resentment, etc. and this is what truly causes suffering, not the physical act of letting go itself. “ Letting go of the various forms around us. Letting go of our obsession with ‘stuff’, with ‘looks’, with the ‘acheivements’ – we can get a glimpse of ‘the most important dimension of human existence: the sacred, the stillness, the formless, the devine”( Eckhart Tolle, 2006).

Last year at a retreat, we spent basically the entire weekend working on an intention, also known as a mantra, vow, or in yoga – a sankalpa. It took countless hours unfolding the layers to discover what our own personal intention would eventually look like, constantly questioning and searching deeper. On day one I thought I wanted to find more spark in my life, to stop living and feeling like a zombie. But that was just a superficial layer of wanting to feel more appreciated. Which was just a superficial layer of wanting to feel loved. And by day three as we worked all the way back to our childhood, past the ego, the senses, the conditioning, when those feelings of lack first started, what I discovered is that all I really needed was my own unconditional love. That the suffering I feel now was really from a lack of loving ME even as a child.

So my intention became to love myself unconditionally. And later my sankalpa became “I am loved unconditionally.” This took a long time of self-reflection, of turning inward, of listening to my hearts deepest yearning. And even a year later, I find my inner critic looking for ways to prove my higher self wrong. But with daily practices I am able to slowly break down the brick wall of defense. And as I am able to love myself easier, peace and equanimity are slowly beginning to settle in to my core. As my compassion grows for myself from an authentic place I have this deep sense of wanting to share. Because maybe the whole world could use just the same. More love, compassion, acceptance. I truly hope I can give back in this regard. To promote radical acceptance of self. To encourage seeing the beauty of our authentic being, just as it is. Even just in some small way, whether through teaching yoga, writing these blogs, or just saying outloud – “Me too!

So to you my dear friend’s – choose love. Even when it feels impossible. Don’t hold yourself hostage; give yourself permission to live whole-heartedly in love with yourself. This you deserve. “Know that you do not need to effort to be loved or accepted for anything other than what you are. You are allowed to feel; you are allowed to BE as you so simply, perfectly are” (Sarah Blondin).

 

Thanks for reading, much love!

 

 

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There is Always a Choice

I have to apologize for my hiatus from writing for a while. I had put it on the back burner as I had experienced some negative energy and attitudes toward my previous posts. Eye rolling and sarcastic remarks; I knew it was inevitable but I guess I thought I was better prepared for it. Of course it was just all my perception of other people’s opinions. It is after all their birthright, to have an opinion, to judge etc. I had been getting better at not letting my feelings of unworthiness and shame rattle me. But in the right environment, with the right people, with a lack of self-love, acceptance, patience, and compassion – things can go awry.

Over the last few weeks, however, I have finally overcome this little bump in the road. I have come to welcome and embrace this negative energy. To hold space for the suffering I felt inside. And because of it I have found this new place of gratitude, knowing deep down that the universe was showing me this for a reason. That within the good there lives some bad and within the bad there lives some good. It’s called life. And thankfully along with the negative energy was lots of positive too. I was just too caught up in resisting and defending all the negative to appreciate all the good. And I’ll be honest fear still lives in me some days. Fear that I’m not doing the right thing. Fear that I’ll cause my family to suffer because of other people’s reactions. It’s real but it’s not my focus anymore.

So often we are faced with these challenging environments and situations.  But I truly believe they are meant to be an opportunity for growth. A lesson in finding grace. Finding love and acceptance. Acceptance of ourselves, of others.

And something I find fascinating is that we always have a choice in these types of situations – in life. A choice to call upon our warring self or our infinite self. Sarah Blondin explains:

“Movements like blades: sharp, short, deliberate. Carrying the weight and fierceness of a million invisible warriors behind her. She is angry, defiant, raging against her reality. Her breathing short and shallow – she breaths fire. She is the one who starts war. She is the part of you that is capable of burning down cities and waging war against the ones she loves. She is the part of you that hides under the surface. The part of you that surprises you when she shows her teeth. The part of you that you deny, push away, pretend does not live there within you. She is your darkness. The woman who dwells in the shallow waters of your being. She is in every one of us. She rides up on the back of the wave of your righteous ego, she feeds on the ideas that you deserve more, better, different. She lurks in the thoughts and emotions that keep you small. The notion that you have something to fight for, to reclaim, to preserve. She is the face of war. The part of us who can understand how we fight others. How we ruin our lives, how we can kill in the name of our beliefs. She is who we must look to when needing to find compassion for others who are captivated under her spell. She is who we must hold lovingly in our hearts when we see those caught in her grasp. She is who we must learn to love into gentle submission, for she only lives and breathes on our un-love. She can only survive when and where we have forgotten to love.

Then there is the soft one. The woman with long white hair, who moves like liquid, glides on her step, floats on light. She is tender – always tender. She comes when you ask for help. She comes when you fill your lungs with a conscious breath. She lives there beside the wicked. She is shelved beside the one who wars. There they stand within you, both hands open – a choice. The one who sees as an owl: able to look from all perspectives, gentle, hands soft as the skin of a plum, heart her language and tongue. She is able to withstand storms. She catches the furious pain of others, the difficult experiences you face, the things that make you want to fight, and she cradles them, swaddles them in unconditional love, over and over again. She loves all. She is the bottomless source of light, love. She is your essence. Pure and wise, she lives in your greatest depths, deep in your tissues. She is your greatest ally. She is who you can choose to embody, to call forth as you navigate your life.

Tightness in breath, sharpness in movement, darting in eyes – means you are calling forth the warrior within you to rise. You are bringing her up on the waves of contempt. One conscious breath inward, into your very depths, and she will fall. You have the power to call the soft one into form. You can choose.

There is no question which feels better, which one breathes us more alive, more vivid. It is up to you to choose the powerful choice of living as the soft one. Whenever you feel lost in a sea of raging thoughts and waves, she is there. I promise you! She serves where the other severs. She heals where the other wounds. She replaces, replenishes, restores where the other robs, pillages, eradicates, and steals your love. The same love of the world. It takes great strength, and determination to choose her when you are in the fire. It is not just a choice, but your choice. Nothing will suffer more than you, if you continue to choose war. A part of us enjoys the fighting arguably more than the peace. Such intensity and emotion is very powerful, palpable, weak and root but alluring in force. The gentle softness of the other is far less intense; it requires a dropping down and rooting rather than a rising up and spinning. They are two polar energies; forces living within you. The choice for you to make at every triggering moment in your life…. Notice all of the places you choose to fight instead of resting in your divine source. Anger and warring shows us we are afraid. Shows us we are trying to protect our vulnerability and softness. Your walls are there to stop you from feeling, to distract you from hurt. But feeling your softness, returning to your nature is the only thing that will set you free. The only thing that will feed your life in the ways that you are asking. Resist the reflex of protection. Your heart needs you to not be afraid any longer. It will heal your anger, your wars. It will save your world, your life…All war large or small, fought in the quiet of your mind, in the words you say to another, in the language you speak with your body, in the way you treat even the smallest of discomforts – is still war. Fight long and hard enough against your life, your circumstance, the people in your life, and you will begin to see the war first starts within you and spreads through your body like a tsunami of hate, and drowns any chance for wellbeing. Any chance for harmony. Any chance for grace. How tremendously powerful you are dear one. Don’t you see how much love you can create for yourself. How much suffering you can obliterate. How you can quench the dry, cracked earth around you by breathing the soft one within you awake. The world around you and within you needs you to be her, to stand in her unbeatable force. You are capable of being both, but please choose wisely dear one. For your quality of life and love depends on it. ” (2016)

So I made an effort to choose differently. The choice to call upon the soft one within my being. To wrap love and compassion around my darkness and others who may be under their dark ones’ spell. Filling my lungs with a conscious breath I choose to do my best at swaddling myself and others with unconditional love. For we are all one. The universe is as much inside of us as we are inside the universe. There is no separateness.

And thankfully this too shall pass.  A buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (2010) explains, “Impermanence is the very heart of life” (p. 103).  Everything and everyone, is constantly changing.  I am not the same person I was just one second ago. And neither is any other living thing in this world. This is why growth is possible.  “Thanks to impermanence, we can change suffering into joy” (p. 64, Mcleod, 2012). We can choose peace knowing tomorrow brings endless possibilities. So whether I receive love or hate, I will continue to write. Write from a place of love and compassion, understanding and curiosity.

And just to clarify a little…

I am not writing with the intent to preach. That is not the point of creating this space. I am not a psychotherapist or Buddhist teacher. I am just a human pondering my purpose and meaning in life, learning to find happiness here, and sharing that with those who may have similar desires and interests. I am a student of this work, of these practices. I always will be. Always reaching new questions along life’s journey that has me thinking and feeling deeply, or seeing situations with a new light. And it is a vulnerable place but there is value in it for me. So thanks for reading dear ones. My only wish is that you may find some value too.
Much love VivaLa🍋 followers! So much love.

 

 

 


Blondin, Sarah. (2016). S02-OUR WARRING SELF VS. OUR INFINITE SELF (RELEASING ANGER). [Audio file]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/liveawakepodcast/s02-our-warring-self-vs-our-infinate-self-releasing-anger   
Mcleod, Melvin. (2012). The pocket Thich Nhat Hanh. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. (2010). You are here. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

 

 

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Coming home…

As I drove home I could not help but worry a little about how it would be. Worried that all the unfolding and new growth that took place at the retreat would quickly wilt away as I entered into my old life. A little terrified I might end up in my old way of being. But the condescending voice in my head was not as loud anymore. The fear and worries were counter-balanced with love and excitement. My heart was yearning to embrace my husband and little boy. I missed them so much, not just because I was gone for two nights but because in reality I had been gone for years. Now I felt like nothing else really mattered. Just me and them.

The drive home felt nothing like the drive to the retreat. It wasn’t rushed or frantic. It was peaceful. Breathing in – I knew everything was okay, that I was going to be okay. Breathing out – I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be. I could feel a smile enter my body, not just on my face but one that penetrated deep within my bones. My heart was not beating erratically anymore; my knuckles weren’t white from gripping the steering wheel. I felt relaxed, and warm, and myself again. I actually enjoyed the drive. The scenery was beautiful. I had the window down a little and the air smelled earthy and wonderful, like a fresh rain. And instead of blaring the music like a dirty old habit, I just listened to my breath. I didn’t have a single ounce of urgency left inside of me. I just took pleasure in the moment.

As I pulled up into the driveway, I could feel this ache in my heart. I’m sure if I had any cry left in me I would have cried tears of joy. The house was perfect. The paint was peeling on the outside. The 1970’s look used to bother me. But right then it was perfect. Because it was home. It was my home. The flowers I had planted only weeks ago were blooming in full force; shining their colorful, smiling heads at me as I walked up the steps and opened the door.

Inside the house everything was tidy and quiet. The sun was shining through all the windows warming everything it touched. And there were my boys – sitting on the floor in the living room, building Lego. I didn’t say a word. I walked over to my 7-year-old boy knelt down beside him and scooped him up into the biggest hug I had in me. I held him tight. ‘Ugh this was everything that ever mattered to me’, I thought. My heart swelled.

Time stood blissfully still and I was speechless.

And they both just stared at me. Like I was perhaps a stranger. You could see the pondering in my husband’s eyes, he was quiet but I sensed he was eagerly trying to figure out what was different. And our little boy was curious too. “Mom you seem… different.” I smile and roll my back onto the fluffy white rug beneath us, staring up at the ceiling with a smile on my face and joy in my voice, “I feel different!”

Then my husband and boy laid their heads down beside mine. And we all stared up in silence for a few minutes. It was pure bliss. I was home, surrounded by my people.

All along I thought I would be going to the retreat to check out of my life, to check-out of the stress. But much to my surprise, I actually took the time to check-in. To realize I had been sleep-walking through life, one ordinary day after another, completely unaware of the treasure that lied within. Trying to cram 36 or 48 hours into a day that only ever had 24, in a constant quest for a better tomorrow. Going for weeks on limited sleep, strung out on trying to do more and more. Then at times when I felt defeated; when a better tomorrow never came, I’d completely throw in the towel. Try to numb myself out. Sometimes with a bottle of booze until the wee hours of the morning with friends who felt the need to unwind too. Only to start all over again in the morning. Running on a hamster wheel, like a zombie.

But finally, I was done. Done searching for a better tomorrow. No more sleep walking. As I laid there with them by my side I let out a big sigh. “We are going to be okay. Together. Here. Now!” And it was in that moment that I knew I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need people or things. I just needed to love myself, and what was right in front of me. It was time to stop chasing after what I thought I wanted, and start wanting what I already had. It was time to stop investing in crap that wouldn’t matter in 5 years and start investing in myself and my family. It was time to get well again. To become whole.

My days looked very different after that.

I took time to work on myself. To find beauty, love and light in the little things. And I said ‘no’ a lot more. But only so I could say yes to myself and my family. Our home became a sacred place for me that summer. Waking up I always felt happy to be home. There was less yelling, less hurrying. Deeper more attentive conversations. There were more hugs and laughter. Things were better – life was better.

Every morning I would have tea in the sun-room and create space for myself. Whether it was 10 minutes or 2 hours, I made time for just me everyday. It became a ritual. And as I learned more and more about myself, about my truth – life got a little easier. And surprisingly it felt like I had more time. It felt like I could give myself more genuinely to those I loved. My practices became deeper as I learned more about coming home. Not just the structure around me but to the sweet space inside of me. Yes it got messy at times, and yes I spiraled into disintegration as things unfolded from time to time but I never got stuck there anymore. I had strength to pull myself up again. I had courage to reach out, to not bear it alone. I could breath deeper and sleep more soundly. I felt happier.

Of course I had a lot of help with that practice. Finding connection with a sisterhood of women who also had similar intentions was a tremendous help. I also worked more with the leader from the retreat, as she coached from a distance for another 6 months. I never felt alone. And for that I will forever be grateful.

Coming home was and always will be a warm welcome.

Thanks for reading.

If you are ever interested in having a mentor along life’s journey, or for extra help unveiling your true intention, or letting go of false beliefs that keep you stuck – check out my dear friend and life coach Micheline Green. michelinegreenlifecoach.com

 

 

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The Retreat

Have you ever been so deprived of stillness you forget what it feels like? Do the tiny seconds of stillness you might experience during your day cause pangs of anxiety that make your chest feel like it’s being crushed? When the world stops even for just a second, does it feel like a barren landscape with no vegetation, no light, no warmth? Do you immediately find something to fill the space, to wipe out the barren view? Check your phone, watch TV, read a book, go for drinks, go to the gym, anything but give in to the stillness? This was a dirty old habit of mine. Running from the stillness. Terrified of being alone with myself. To just be, to feel.

I remember driving down a winding dirt road, splashing through the mud puddles at high-speed, racing to get there in a timely fashion. Like a familiar habit I went through the checklist in my head the music was blaring to blast out any silence that might sneak in. I’m an over-thinker just as I am an over-planner, over-packer, over-controller. Enough bags packed in the seat behind me to last 3 weeks let alone 3 days. But as I headed down that road to the unknown, to retreat myself for 3 days, I tried to reassure myself I was prepared. Prepared for anything I could think of. Prepared for the unknown. I ran through all the lists in my head, and the ones that I had left at home for my husband too. The constant need to feel control fervently rising as the anxious fear of the unknown for the weekend became more apparent.

Yes I felt awake, yes I was ready for change, yes I was ready for the hand that reached out, for the big invitation – but at what cost? I felt like I was in a nightmare, naked; desperate to hide so that nobody would see.

Vulnerable, weak, frantic, and scared.

As I got closer to where I was headed, the mud got deeper and thicker. I was forced to drive slower. To concentrate more on the road ahead of me instead of the lists running through my head. I could feel the grip tighten on the steering wheel. The list reviewing turned into a bantering conversation in my head. ‘What was I doing? Why am I doing this? I should be at home cleaning and making meals. I should be doing something more productive than slipping away for the weekend with a bunch of women I hardly know, doing goodness only knows. But they sent an invitation. They reached out. But I didn’t have to accept. What if they need me at home? What if my friends want to get together? What if work is short? What if? what if…’

Back and forth both sides would argue. This happened a lot when I was alone – the bantering. But in the end I was able to talk myself out of all the reasons I should turn back. As I slowly pulled my car into the parking area at the retreat center, I drew in a deep turbulent breath. Held it for as long as I could and then exhaled as I gave in to the fear – allowing it to wash over me like thick syrup.

I looked at myself in the rear-view mirror. I looked old. I could see the dark circles under my eyes, my skin was dry. There was this sort of sadness in the fine lines that draped over the sides of my mouth. And the darkness in my eyes felt cumbersome. I don’t remember looking that disheveled. My eyeliner scraped across my eyelids so people didn’t think I just rolled out of bed. The silvery hairs shining at my temples. What happened to me? When did I become so….so ancient, so unrecognizable.

I pushed the mirror aside and dragged all of my heavy bags toward the entrance. Before I could set down an armful, the door opened. And there she was, the woman from the restaurant. The women who was emitting light and reaching a hand out toward me. The smile on her face felt genuine.

It felt like the universe was shining down through her smile and whispering to me, ‘it is good you are here’.

After I put my bags away in my room shared with two other women, I hurried down to meet everyone. The energy was light and welcoming. I slowly set my controlling habits aside one by one, since I came to realize there was no chance of controlling the journey this weekend anyway.

I remember standing out on the dock with sixteen other women. The lake was glistening in the late afternoon sun. The warmth was charming. It held a sense of peace in it. I stood there letting go bit by bit. No connection to the outside world, no Wifi, no tv, no phone. Forced to be fully present. Forced to engage. I became curious of the other people who accepted the invitation. Curious of where I would fit in. Curious of what the plans would be for the weekend.

A few minutes later the retreat leader appeared. Everyone hushed in an eagerness to hear her speak. I felt like a kid at summer camp. But there was a gentleness in her voice. A welcoming gesture, that we were all in safe hands.

As she spoke I felt a smile settle into my tense face.

Yes! This was what I had been waiting for. This was my inner storm’s great call to growth. And as quickly as I fell into a comfortable place, I was abruptly startled with her voice ending with, “Let’s have a moment of stillness. Let us begin this weekend by breathing in deeply all the beauty around us in silence.”

I could feel panic seep back in through any crack it could slip through. ‘Stillness – oh please no.’  This fidgety need to do something, think of something, anything. I looked away from everyone in hopes they wouldn’t see that stillness and silence did not come easy for me. That not doing a thing was harder for me than adding ten more things on my to-do list. As a low hum rang in my ears, I forced myself to keep staring out at the lake. ‘What was I trying to hide?’ I felt crazy. Even the voice in my head rolled its eyes at me and muttered ‘oh you are so pathetic.’

We all kept standing there. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. Even my breath was too loud. The water looked like glass, not a single ripple. The birds sang off in the distance and every once in a while you would here the buzz of a dragonfly float by. The uncomfortable stillness became more bearable as we kept standing there. Then after a few more minutes everyone quietly turned and walked silently up the path to the main cabin following the leader one by one. Taking slow, steady yet gentle steps. The awkwardness felt acceptable since the whole group of women did it together.

Now what happened over the next three days was pretty magical. It was not a silent retreat (thank heavens! I am so not there yet.) But it was messy and emotional, well for me anyway. It was a retreat for women to come together both as one and as an individual. It was a place where the great invitation was to step out on the edge and truly focus on personal growth and development. So much introspection, so much reflection. And there were many times of stillness. Even during mid activity. I remember going out in the canoe one morning enjoying the movement of each row with the woman behind me working simultaneously. And then when the timing felt right we just sat there in the middle of the lake watching the sun rise.

It occurred to me that I had let stillness become a forbidden place. That I had worked so hard at not having to be still that the very thought of it caused extreme feelings of displeasure. That ‘busy’-ness became my way of coping.

Thankfully the stillness did get easier.

I learned so much that weekend. About mindfulness, living simply with authenticity, about connecting to my higher self. About identifying the old patterns that kept me stuck and creating a life led with intention that would endlessly fill me up. The unfolding of layer upon layer was no easy task.

I could not possibly describe all the magic that took place that weekend. Not that I would want to ruin the sacredness of it. But I can tell you that I felt a shift inside of me. I had developed this new perspective about myself, about my life. In fact, I learned that I didn’t actually know myself that well at all. That I had become this person I didn’t really like to be left alone with. That I had neglected the heart and soul inside of me for so long that they had hardened and developed this thick shield to protect themselves – even from me! That all the guilt, false beliefs, negative patterns, and the constant grasping out there left me feeling dark and empty inside.

So I surrendered.

And the most important thing I learned was that everything I ever truly wanted, everything I ever dreamed of, everything I was searching out there for, was actually right here inside of me. That I was enough!

The message that became so vital to me, the beacon that shed so much insight the first time the leader spoke of it, was that we only have this one precious life. We all know this. But do we all cherish the fragility behind its paramount meaning?  Our one precious life, our journey. Honoring that; living our best life – that is truly living.

So before I left for home that weekend, I took a vow. A vow to nurture the seeds that had been planted that weekend and care for them forever. I took a vow to love myself in all my messy, crazy, imperfect ways through sickness and health. I took a vow to put myself first, to practice self-care regularly, so that I could connect to the people I love in a more authentic, fully present way. And finally I vowed to never go back, to never let myself become unrecognizable, to never stop growing and unfolding, to never let myself feel uncomfortable in the stillness again – until death do us part!

And so it began…

Thanks for reading!

 

 

I want to share with you that going to a retreat isn’t necessary to begin the journey of finding your true essence, of undergoing deep introspection.  It just so happened to be a resource for me, as I was so oblivious to the very need for it in my life.  There are many resources out there, some of which I hope to discuss in future posts.

I also wanted to include this 8 minute audio piece from Sarah Blondin.  I discovered her after the retreat and her work has become close to my heart.  This particular one is about surrendering.  Somewhat of a theme I experienced on the retreat.  Enjoy!

Live Awake – Learning to Surrender by Sarah Blondin

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You Attract the Energy You Emit

I remember sitting in a restaurant eating supper with my family and a close friend back in May. There was this old familiar hum of commentary along with a sense of complacency of the same old subjects. It was comfortable. Yet something inside of me was restless. Deprived.

At the table next to us there were a few girls laughing and smiling and having a genuinely great time. Their table was surrounded by lightness, voices full of cheer. The strength of their tribal energy could be felt in the air. Their eyes sparkled and their giddy laughter shot like a knife straight to my cold numb heart.

I remember several thoughts and emotions coming up as I stared at their table in awe. Resentment, jealousy, sadness, loneliness. I wanted that. I wanted to have a place in a tribe. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be loved unconditionally. I wanted what they had – joy, lightness, peace, laughter. I wanted to stop doing and start being. Tired of stretching thin, of having a hand in many buckets with constant to-do lists. Endless obligations and responsibilities. But never really feeling truly apart of anything, of feeling at home. Too busy with activities to really be fully attentive to anything. Running through life with blinders on, taking whatever new turn in the road I could find.

It became so blatantly obvious that I had become my own thoughts. That people become what they think. They become what they eat, what they do, who they surround themselves with. You attract the energy you emit. In a downward spiral my negative energy snowballed into more and more negativity. I thought I was living an inferior life, therefore my life felt inferior. I acted in a negative manner which caused my friends and family to act negatively. This in turn kept feeding my own negativity. It became a vicious cycle. I was choking on my own pessimism. Trending down into my own disintegration, one thought after another.

I stared up at the universe and begged for mercy. I was ready. ‘I am awake.’ Desperate for change.

Several weeks after the restaurant incident, I took a step out of my comfort zone and decided I would reach out. I would bravely throw a penny in the wishing well. So after a few days of stewing, I finally sent a text message to one of those women sitting next to us in the restaurant. Living in a small town, you get fairly acquainted with who people are. So I sat there holding my phone and my breath, my finger anxiously hovering over the send button. What door would this open, I thought. What would she think of me? A million thoughts entered my mind in those few seconds as I hit ‘send’. I put my phone down, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and walked away – wondering what the heck I had just done.

That is when I knew the universe answered my pleas. That finally something was getting through. Because the woman on the other end of that text responded with open arms. The warmth of her caring response touched my soul. And I have her to be forever grateful for. Because from there my life took a turn. Not just another to-do-list turn. Not another responsibility. Just a hand that reached out and said, ‘yes, I am here.’ From there I was able to cut the ties to my downward spiraling life. I was able to breathe in fresh air for the first time in a very long time. I was finally able to hold onto something, not knowing where it would lead, but trusting it would nurture my need to belong. Trusting that by letting go of the negative energy bit by bit, I would divert the downward spiral.

One text message led to another and eventually I found myself with a ‘big’ invitation. A big chance to say yes.

A spark had ignited in a world full of darkness.

And much to my surprise, I found myself headed to a retreat. Unexpected. Uncertain. Completely out of my comfort zone.

Next time I’ll tell you how that retreat changed my life.

Thanks for reading.

 

Waking Up


Some people have a major trauma or event in their lives that cause feelings of defeat, or profound suffering. It is so profound it causes them to wake up and take notice of life in an abrubt manor. Other people have many things that compound over years and years until one day the suffering becomes so heavy that they are pushed to their limit. They are forced to wake up for fear of tipping over the edge. Of course there is a broad spectrum of the degree to which people suffer. What may cause me great suffering might only cause the next person to brush it off and carry on with life unaffected. For me it was a combination of a few events and the compounding years of self-loathing, negative self-care and a lack of awareness that forced me to wake up.

In December of 2015, my family and I moved to a new home within our same community. We had full-intentions on a major overhaul of the house. While living in the basement, we planned on renovating the entire main floor mostly ourselves. In January I took on a new nursing position in a critical care area, one that I had worked towards for a year and a half through distance education. And to add to the stress, my husband was in a snow-mobile accident in February, fracturing his clavicle bone and developing further complications.

Disaster of a home life, new stressful career environment, down a co-pilot.

I agree it sounds like a very sad case of first-world problems. More than half of it was self-inflicted. The compounded stress derived from a long history of delusions stemming from the constant need of wanting more. I realize that this is nothing in comparison to challenges other people may experience. But for me it was enough to push me to the edge. It was enough to make me wake up.

It felt as if my life were an unbalanced infants hanging mobile.  Circling imperfectly in the air – each compartment of life hanging by a string. As each of the compartments became more stressful it would weigh down and unbalance the rest of the mobile. Then unexpectedly, one big blow to a single string sent the entire mobile in a frenzy – twisting this way and that, strings and compartments tangling in knots.

One forward momentum to a single string turned our entire life into an indiscernible mess.

I thought I could cope. I thought I could handle it. I had to be strong. I had to take care of my husband, of our son. I had to be a compassionate, competent, conscientious nurse. I was dishing out so much energy to everything else that I literally had nothing left for myself.

I was tired of sleeping in the basement while hammers and skill-saws were roaring on the floor above. I was tired of eating drywall dust for weeks on end. I was tired of fluffing my husband’s pillows as he lay in pain before heading off to my nightshifts. I was tired of hearing that Riley was in trouble at school again. I was just so tired of it all. I was defeated – completely ‘strung-out on the drug of efficiency’ (Shauna Niequist, 2016). I didn’t have a happy bone left in my body. I became someone I couldn’t face in the mirror – an anxious, unwanted presence. I couldn’t hang on anymore.

After the universe sent me a few whispers; after I experienced the storm, I started looking for change. I was abruptly awoken to my reality, standing in the middle of it all, not knowing which direction to take. I found myself saying yes to almost every new opportunity, every new invitation, every event, in hopes that I might find what it was I was looking for. That I might grasp onto something that would save me. Never certain I was actually where I was meant to be. Never certain of my path or even which direction I was headed. I felt vulnerable, and as I scrambled to find a ‘different’ way of being, of doing; I felt more and more at a loss.

I was trying desperately to manage two ways of living. Managing my old tangled life and trying to find a better way. A better path. It felt like a tug-of-war. I felt tethered between two rocks, being stretched beyond recognition. Pulled between painful exhaustion and mindless intemperance.

Looking back I can see that this was my soul’s great call to growth. That it was the universe’s way of seeing if I was ready, if I was truly prepared to live awake. To travel a new path. But birth is no easy process. Transformation takes time. So while I continued to be stretched in opposite directions, as I endured the process, I developed a sense of knowing. I developed a sense of trust that I was going to be okay. That we were going to be okay. I had to trust the whispers. I had to trust that the universe had something magnificent in-store for this little life of mine.

So I hung on. Wide awake. Fully aware of the predicament I found myself in. Vowing to not give up. To keep moving forward no matter how heavy it felt.

Next time I’ll tell you where it took me.

Thanks for reading.

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The Storm

As I reflect on this first day of a brand new year I can confidently say that the year 2016 will be a year I will never forget. It is the year that changed my life. It is the year that pushed and pulled me in ways I never new possible. It is the year that stripped me of my delusions and left me standing on the edge of a cliff – vulnerable. And also the year that wrapped me in strength, gave birth to new connections, and grounded me deeply in my reality. It was truly magical.  Let me tell you how it all began.

In the previous few years I could feel myself slipping down a very slippery slope, gaining momentum on my decent. Stress, anxiety, and frantic disarray became my life theme; however it was well hidden beneath the layers. I was treading water and losing the battle at an alarming rate, completely ignorant to the source that was pulling me under.

I spent almost every waking moment trying to anticipate what was coming next whether in my control or not. I became a slave to the dreaded to-do-list. Always wanting ‘better’; needing more, and more, and MORE. Nothing ever felt good enough! I was not good enough, not healthy enough, and not thin enough. ‘They’ were not good enough. Life was not good enough. Parenting skills were sub-par. House was too small. Never enough money. I lived a fragmented presence as a friend, mother, wife, sister. The list went on and on. Seriously, I could rip apart my life in a heartbeat. Sadly this only fueled the constant need to do better, be better.

It was like driving a race car down the highway in the dark at uncontrollable speeds, unsure of what lied ahead. White knuckles, heart racing, eyes squinting to try to get any glimpse of hope. Yet somehow I managed to paint a very different picture for the rest of the world to see. I wanted people to see ‘I was fine’, ‘everything is perfect’, ‘I got this under control’. I was ungrateful, unhappy, self-loathing and living a counterfeit life.

Suddenly out of nowhere I was stopped dead in my tracks by a cement wall. It was March and I remember it like yesterday. What I thought was just an ordinary day, turned out to be quite the opposite. It hit me like a freight-train. I just froze. Could not move. My breath was shallow and on edge. I stood there staring at my life not knowing where I was. Everything felt so foreign, like ‘how on earth did I get here’.

The world was spinning like a dark storm all around me. My thoughts were churning and tumbling in a blur. They were chaotic. I could not bring a single one of them into focus. Then panic and fear began to creep in. ‘What was happening?’ The hairs on the back of my neck got that prickly sensation as they stood on edge. I had a sudden urge to just run. To turn the other way and never look back. To run as fast as my feet could carry me. But my feet felt cemented to the floor. Heavy and unshakable. As much as I tried to move, I couldn’t. I just stood there frozen for what felt like an eternity.

Slowly the volume from the swirling storm of blurry thoughts went silent. As reality began to set back in I could feel the steam from the pot I was stirring start to burn my hand. But I still could not move. Off in the distance I could hear a 7 year olds voice, ‘mom’, ‘mom’, ‘mom’, ‘MOM’. But I could not stop staring off blankly into the blur all around me. Somewhat curious but mostly terrified of what the hell it was all about. Then a stern voice in my head began yelling “report to the front lines soldier, you’ve got work to do.” I knew I had to snap out of it but my soul was begging me to just stay still for another moment. To just be quiet and hold that space a little longer.

After a few more seconds had passed, I was swallowed up by the cloud and thrown head first back into my reality. I turned to my son who was stomping his feet at this point. “Mom are you listening to me, I want to play skylanders”. I snap at him, “No, I already told you, you are still grounded.” He stomps off to his room and I instantly sink back into my old habits of hurrying – finish supper, pack our son’s lunch, pack my lunch, do the dishes, throw a load of wash in, shower for work, and race out the door for a night-shift.

The next morning after the dreaded drive home from work I pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition and just sat in the quiet. I tried to figure out the ‘storm’ I had experienced the night before. But nothing reasonable came to mind. The uncomfortable stillness began to creep slowly into my veins. Tightness began to ball up in my throat and then just like that I started to weep. I couldn’t control it. A tsunami of tears began to overflow and my breathing became shallow, rapid, and uneven. My heart felt like it was being crushed by a heaviness I cannot even describe. ‘I can’t do this anymore’. ‘I can’t.’ ‘I just can NOT.’ I was so exhausted. Defeated.

Waving the white flag, I continue to sit there sobbing, the cold spring air starting to rest heavily on any bare skin. Several minutes had passed. I began to see my breath in the air that was cooling inside the car. Then finally the familiar numbness started to settle in. The well of tears began to run dry. My chest was still moving in and out fiercely as I tried to catch my breath and force the emotions away. The voice from my head came in loud and clear again, ‘just go inside and get some sleep, you’ll be fine.’ I despondently oblige and drag my heavy body into the construction zone that was our house and fell onto the bed. Fully clothed. My breath slowed. My eyes closed.

I realize now that this was the universe sending me a message. A little whisper that something had to give. Something had to change. I had to change. I could not live that way any longer. I needed more space, more stillness, more silence. I needed for things to slow down, to find life’s sweetness again. But that was all it was – a whisper. Just a subtle hint. Not an answer. Not a hand leading me to the right path.

Over the next few months I spent time trying to figure out what the whisper meant. What I needed. Who I was. What the hell I was doing with my life. I aimlessly searched for ‘the right path’. I began a pursuit of happiness, in search of my purpose, in search of anything that was not my messy, exhausting life as I knew it.

I want to share this journey with you because I had once felt isolated and alone. I once felt terrified of what I had become. Lost in life’s unguided path; traversing through foreign landscapes – unsure of where I came from or where I was headed. Uncertain of anything. And if I can help someone else to feel less alone in the world – whether it is to relate, support, inspire, empower, or just offer a different perspective – then I will have met my yearning to reach out. I don’t have a set agenda. I am just telling my story as I live it, taking radical self-responsibility for my own well-being, exploring self-care, and finding happiness along my path.

So today I am grateful that 2016 awarded me sweet redemption. It brought me new hope, new gratitude, a new attitude and a new way of being. And I am filled with excitement to share with you how life is full of surprises. As I head into this new year with my intentions, I have a sense of peace that I am exactly where I need to be. I’ll leave the new year’s resolutions at bay and have faith that the universe will lead me where I need to go.

Thanks for reading.