Life in the Fast Lane-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

 

Saturday afternoon as I padded around the little cabin in my bathrobe, a leftover cheddar smokie drizzled with mustard and rolled up in a napkin in one hand and a Krispy Creme donut in the other I felt content. I unabashedly slept in, waking to roll over, stretch out and sleep again on repeat. It seemed like it had been forever since I had been able to do that and I wasn’t going to ruin it by feeling guilty. I happily had no responsibilities except to relax.

I had gone to visit my husband out of town and meet his work crew. He convinced me to stay an extra night but in the interim I had a whole day to myself to do as I wished. I was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to fill my time so I decided to just slow down and enjoy the quiet.

I was watching a Ted Talk with Carl Honoré about his bestselling book In Praise of Slow, about the slow movement. Carl explores the idea that if we actually slow down, in our speed obsessed society, we can actually accomplish more, be happier and create greater success.

Our culture of speed takes a toll on every aspect of our lives; living in the fast lane is damaging to our health, our diets, our well being, our communities and our relationships.  When we live our lives in fast forward, we are missing some of the most important things.

“Everybody these days wants to know how to slow down, but they want to know how to learn to slow down very quickly!” ~Carl Honoré

In the last couple of years since I started the W.I.S.E. Project one of my greatest challenges and desires was to be more mindful and learn to live in the moment. My entire life needed a complete overhaul to learn to live in the present moment instead of speeding through to the next. I learned that I wasn’t really connecting to myself and to the world around me, I was literally racing against time to accomplish everything I could possibly get done in a day. It made me ill, unhappy and detached. I longed to have deeper, richer and stronger relationships and wanted to take an active role in my own well being and pursue activities that I was passionate about but the truth was that I didn’t have time. To be clearer, and more honest; I didn’t make time and I equated a great deal of my self worth with how much I could do and how much I could achieve in a short amount of time.

The message of ‘less is more’ has many meanings and can seep into several areas of our lives. We collect things, more and more things that don’t matter; that clutter our lives and fill voids. We subscribe to the notion that time is money and we race against the clock, busying our lives and barely taking the time to just breath.

I do believe it is possible to slow down but it is an undertaking that requires careful thought and an honest desire for change.

“There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Personally, one of my greatest tools in my battle against time and practicing mindfulness has been meditation. A daily meditation practice has allowed me to achieve something that I have always longed for; a strong and resilient mind among the chaos that is my life. I have discovered the luxuriousness that is silence and I crave more and more quiet and unhurried moments to ease my burdens and feed my soul.

Being still can seem strange at first. Most of us run on autopilot and we are trained to constantly be doing. For me, I often have to overcome the guilt that I should be doing something. Slowing down is healthy, silence is golden.

The World Health Organization has identified noise pollution as a global health hazard affecting both developing and developed nations. The impact includes hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, mental-health effects, hypertension and increased blood pressure. People surrounded by noise are often in constant states of stress, which can degrade their immune systems.

Slowing down and taking the time to embrace a quitter and yet more fulfilling existence is a healthy escape from the everyday that can be life changing for you and your loved ones.

Do you think your life could benefit from learning to slow down?

How do you find moments of calm in your busy life?

What do you value above all else in your life?

 

Three Little Birds-W.I.S.E Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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A few years back, possibly more as I am at the age that time is flying by in warp speed; I used to love the waterslides at World Water Park. They were exhilarating and I felt a sense of freedom and abandon as I was rushed feet first at insane speeds into the cool water. With age comes an awareness of our mortality and that feeling that we are invincible begins to fade away. Some people are very successful in defeating that feeling and proving that age is nothing but a number but as I stood at the top of the slide uneasily awaiting my turn to go on the slide aptly named “Are you fucking kidding me?” I imagined nothing but terrifying things and plunging feet first to my tragic death. My turn came way before I was ready and as I pushed off the side I was thrust into immediate darkness as the sides of the slide were completely enclosed. I struggled with several feelings that rushed to me all at once and though my mind and my body seemed to be going at a wild speed, some things seemed to be happening in slow motion. I coped by balling my hands into fists and squeezing until I was white knuckled, closing my eyes and bracing for the worst. Seconds passed which felt like years and I decided that if I was really going to die right now this would be the last exciting thing that I ever got to experience. I willed myself to open my eyes and embrace the darkness, I took a deep breath and un-clenched my fists and felt my body being rocked from side to side, the rushing water lifting me to the right side and then the left. Within seconds my entire body was dropped into cool water, rushing around my body and head. I felt this feeling of relief mixed with euphoria that filled my lungs and my limbs and shone through my heart. I didn’t just survive, I thrived. I had stared my fear in the face and on the other side of my fear was joy.

So many times over the years I have told my daughters that joy is on the other side of their fears. My oldest seemed to be so unwilling to embrace uncertainty and looking back seemed to have all sorts of irrational fears. Little things would cause an argument or a great deal of anxiety but for the most part she seemed like a loving, smart and athletic girl who had big plans and hopes for the future.

At ten years old when I couldn’t help her with math because she became too frustrated, once flipping the coffee table over or kicking the walls in her bedroom repeatedly when put on a timeout I assumed that it was goddamn hormones. Watching her struggle through the teen years was difficult and I accepted the therapist’s recommendation that she was a normal teen who just needed coping mechanisms. I agreed with that advice and would hear it and agree with it several times over the years; from therapists, doctors, school counselors and friends. I never once considered that my only coping mechanisms were tears, white knuckles or wine.

In her early teens she fell in with a group of girls who had little to no supervision so when I said No to her and we ended up in a screaming match and she later crawled out her bedroom window making me frantic with worry I cursed the damn hormones and those other parents who didn’t set boundaries for their children. At fourteen she struggled with her sexuality, but we loved her no matter what and genuinely just wanted her to be happy. We prepared for struggle as she found her way in the world and a therapist would assure all of us that she was going to be fine. She just had to learn to cope.

Over the years she would suffer ups and downs, I would see her dedicate herself to a sport she loved fully and completely and be filled with immense pride. I would see the amazing things that it did for her self esteem and her confidence but it all seemed like it hung in a very delicate balance, as if one bad game, play or unkind word from a teammate or coach could take it all away. Through it all I tried to encourage her to be herself and embrace her individuality and learn to love her differences and she did for some of the time…and then she didn’t. I saw as friends came and went and I told her that if she became the kind of person she would want to be around the right people would come to her life at the right time. She welcomed new opportunities and challenges; growing and learning new things and finding new passions, but on some of the days everything was wrong, very very wrong. She called herself ugly and stupid and she directed a great deal of her anger at me. She became disconnected from the things she loved and I blamed it on Netflix binges and encouraged her to leave the house and be active. I took her to the woods on a hike recently and she said how great it made her feel. The earth, the air and the trees reconnected her to something she had lost. Her anger in the weeks following seemed to worsen and those in between times when she was my sweet young lady seemed less and less. She started to lash out at her sister and what we perceived to be small things would make her feel rage. She told me she wanted to talk to someone, that she just had a lot to get out. I encouraged her to do her research and find someone she thought she could connect with as she had called the other Therapists stupid. One afternoon she called me after leaving the doctors office and said she had finally found a good doctor that listened to her and he was referring her to a Psychiatrist. We lucked out being the first people to answer the phone on a forty person waiting list and she got in to see the Psychiatrist without the typical five month wait. I took her to the train and she went by herself so she could feel confident in being completely honest about how she was feeling. I held back tears as the Psychiatrist called me and told me that he was shocked that Morgan had not been diagnosed sooner and that his diagnosis was clear without any uncertainty all. My heart broke as he told me that she had ADHD with underlying depression and anxiety, that untreated had also led to conduct disorder. The screaming anger, bad decisions and struggles with school and self esteem were all a part of a larger issue. The diagnosis was a bit of a blessing, but the fact that she had suffered for so long caused me an immense amount of pain. I should have known. I know that we cannot go backwards and we decided together that we would go forward. The doctor said that there was no way around medication; though he fully supports and encourages a holistic lifestyle he believes wholeheartedly the medication is needed immediately to help her, especially in school. She and I both believe that our Western society is way too medicated but we are also both tired and hopeful for a reprieve from the daily uphill battle that rages on and on.

We have been on this road for several years but our journey has just begun. Everyday brings something new and we are trying to find a way to stay connected as a family and face our challenges head on, without curling up in bed with ice cream and tissues.

There are things that are hard for her, things I cannot quite understand but I am trying my best. She is going to meditation classes with me and the first one she was so incredibly anxious I did not think she would make it through it but she was able to control her breathing and her anxious mind and find a little place where she felt safe. She actually fell asleep in class, which was the most amazing result for a first time mediator. She now refuses to go to any classes that are not facilitated by this instructor, she found a bit of safety and I am trying to understand.

She allowed me to share our story with the instructor, who is also a mom, and such a warm and genuine woman that people gravitate to her. When I explained to her that she had been told for years that she needed coping mechanisms she took a thoughtful pause and said “coping mechanisms? I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. How about thriving mechanisms?”

That moved us and encouraged us at a time when we needed it. We do not want to move through our lives white knuckled, squeezing our eyes shut, binging on ice cream and wiping away tears. We want to be fully engaged in our lives, to encourage and support and love each other, even when things are hard.

When she is ready, my daughter wants to get involved on this blog and in the Podcast so that she can be a voice for other people that are struggling and do not know why. Right now she is busy learning how to thrive.

“Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise”

~Deepak Chopka

 

I have been working extremely hard on my own mental health, I know that if I am not healthy than I will not be good to anyone else. I find that floating (sensory deprivation) is an amazing way to clear my troubled mind and reset. I go to Modern Gravity in Edmonton Alberta. I have amped up my daily meditation practice by attending unlimited classes with Lifestyle Meditation here in Edmonton. They have a variety of different classes for relaxation, stress relief, movement, creativity and balance. I try to get enough sleep; the absence of good and restorative sleep can be harmful to our bodies and our minds. Our minds are powerful messengers and if something is wrong it will tell us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways and make us ill. Not enough sleep can keep us from leading full and happy lives. I do a sleep mediation nightly and I created my own Guided Journey Sleep Meditation as a gift to my Mom but I am hoping to convince my daughter to do it with me tonight after our hike in the woods.

The keys words in the dictionary definition of Cope are struggle, deal and face. The key words in the dictionary definition of thrive are prosper, grow and develop. Which would you rather do in times of stress? The answer is clear for me, even through my instinct during times of stress has always been to curl up in the fetal position and hope for it to pass I am finding healthier ways to deal with burdens and I am hoping to be an example to my family.

This morning I woke to three little birds outside my window singing a pretty song. I know that was the great Bob Marley’s way of reminding me that every little thing is going to be alright.

 

Be WI.S.E. friends and take care of yourself.

Our minds are powerful messengers and when the burdens that weigh us down rob us of the healing and restorative power of restful sleep we find ourselves sick with stress. Join me for a guided journey to create calm, inviting you to a deep and restful sleep.

 

Be yourself- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I don’t have any memories of being a baby but I recall this particular picture of me on my first birthday where I was standing on a chair staring at my birthday cake. My raven black hair was in disarray, framing my porcelain like skin. I was wearing this little red checkered two piece outfit with my belly peeking out of the top of the shirt. I have seen that photo so many times over the years and countless times over the years I have heard, “aww look how chubby you were.”, and “aww look at the belly” “so cute”

The dialogue that we use when we see babies is all pretty much the same, “look she is perfect” “look at those adorable chubby thighs” “he is going to rule the world someday” and my favorite (I might be quoting my mom) “she is so ugly, she is cute (because we all know that there is no such thing as an ugly baby) Babies are impeccable and we applaud their every milestone. Babies show up everyday and they smile at you even when they have sweet potatoes in their hair and a diaper full of shit. They are not self conscious, so a baby does not push you away when they are feeling gassy or bloated. They are little love machines, they want to love you and they want you to love them and they are generally quite enamored with themselves, and why shouldn’t they be? They get praised for pooping in a plastic pot.

Apparently when you are forty-three chubby isn’t as cute and way less people remark about my belly. (Thank god)

I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories. I was an imaginative child, I loved to play make believe and tell stories but I also liked to play outside all day. I loved to dance and do cartwheels and just about anything would make me laugh uncontrollably. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home with dirty or skinned knees from playing in the mud or falling off the monkey bars. The phrases I remember from adults during that time are all very similar; from parents, babysitters, teachers, grocers, “that’s not ladylike, be a lady, sit up straight, sit with your knees together, keep your dress clean.” At a certain point in childhood you start to become very aware of yourself; self-conscious if you will, and that wildly uninhibited sense of freedom and abandon becomes a memory.

When you are kid you always want to be older, I looked up to my cool cousins and desperately wanted to be like them. Then all of the sudden I was and Junior High was a whole new world to me, I had to leave the fun and safe environment of my elementary school to become a little face in a big crowd. I remember moving through the crowded hallways of my Junior High during class changes and seeing all of the pretty girls in the higher grades with their stylish clothes and puffy hairdos and for the first time I can remember not feeling “enough”

Not smart enough, not cool enough and not pretty enough. I can remember quite clearly admiring those girls in my brother’s grade. I was just entering this whole new world of Junior High but the Queens that reigned this new castle were very comfortable there. They looked immaculate and so comfortable in their own skin. I wanted to be them.

I lucked out ironically because one of the mean girls in grade nine took an awful dislike to me. There was no specific reason for her hatred for me, I just happened to be the in the wrong place at the right time and she took advantage of the opportunity to lash out at me. I became the object of her ridicule, anger and torment. It actually became one of the very best things to happen to me that very first year in junior high because I had an older brother and younger brother that harassed me constantly and toughened me up. This mean girl didn’t intimidate me as much as she annoyed me so I used my smart mouth to snap back at her and make her look stupid. That pissed her off of course and our chirpy banter stirred through the hallways during school and spilled over to after school hours and activities. I was secretly terrified of the bully’s best friend but way too cheeky and antagonistic to admit to that. My hutzpah attracted the admiration of some of those pretty grade nine girls that I wanted to be like. To have earned the respect of those girls awarded me a confidence that was unusual for a little fish entering a big pond. I have mostly fond memories of junior high but after a three-year stint it was time to move on to the huge pond, high school.

I met a guy that summer between junior high and high school and not just any guy; “the guy”. The summer of love quickly faded into the fall of responsibility and High School was a whole new ball game. That phenomenal confidence I had once had got lost in the endless hallways. I wasn’t the smartest or the funniest and I wasn’t the prettiest. I stumbled a bit and didn’t really know what crowd I fit into. The first several weeks of High School really sucked for me. I felt awkward, shy and lonesome for the first time in my school career. I eventually settled in and found several groups of people to pass the time with.

I can recall quite clearly that I used my smart mouth whenever I was feeling insecure or not enough. I felt like I was a smart girl, I had a passion for learning and I was an engaged student. I would spend hours in my bedroom studying, taking notes, highlighting and circling key words but that wasn’t always reflected during test time. I would second guess myself and erase things a lot; I rarely trusted my first thought. My oldest brother on the other hand sailed through high school barely opening a book. I remember getting a social test back and I was so excited to have gotten a 74 and a girl that I had gone to Junior High with was devastated to tears that she only got an 85. At this point I came to realize that I wasn’t the prettiest girl in this big sea and I wasn’t going to fit in with the smart crowd so I somehow had to pretend to be cool enough to get through school.

I started hanging out with this beautiful girl that really seemed to have everything going for her. She had golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean and she just lit up any room she was in. I loved her and she quickly became my best friend. I remember laying in her basement bedroom at her Aunt’s house staring up at the Marky Mark poster above her bed and wishing I was her. She seemed to be just enough of everything and by just being her friend I felt that somehow elevated me. I seemed oblivious to the fact that she was living in her Aunt’s basement instead of at home because she had troubles with her parents and that she continued to make a string of bad decisions because maybe her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I saw only what I told my mind to see. She is pretty, she is great, I need to be like her.

The summer before grade 11 I was still playing a cat and mouse game with “that guy” that I had fallen for the summer before starting high school. When he called me to come see him one hot July day I jumped on my bike and pedaled all the way there. That day changed my life!

I spent a good chunk of grade 11 pregnant after that hot summer day,  so when my friends and peers were going to parties and making great memories I was home on Saturday nights in my bedroom eating heavenly hash ice cream and watching my teenage belly  grow round; contemplating the future and decisions that no sixteen year old is equipped to make. Grade 12 was a blur at best, not only was I mourning the sudden death of my father before he turned forty years old but I was also grieving the loss of the baby boy that I had given up for adoption.

My best friend had moved away and would soon start a family at a very tender age and I struggled to fit in with people that I had nothing in common with. Their teenage struggles were so different than mine. I had tipped the scales between adolescent and adulthood and as much as I would have liked to pretend that I was the same, I never would be.

I endured some destructive judgement from my peers after I put my son up for adoption, and a decision that I had come to terms with as being mature and the best for him was turned into something ugly. There is no question that I had supportive people in my life, but the voices that made snide remarks to me about giving my baby away and those that stared at me and whispered became the loudest, but none of the voices could drown out my own voice in my head and I wasn’t really my friend anymore. I think I was truly never meant to fit in anywhere, I was meant to stand out; in a way I think we all are. We spend so much of our lives trying to stuff ourselves into boxes that were not made for us, dulling our sparkle so we are mere copies of the people that we stand next to.

I spent so much of my life afraid to stand out. I wanted people to forget that I was “that girl” so I just stayed small and followed along. When I had my girls I wanted to be a great mother, they became everything to me; leaving very little room for a relationship with my husband and no room for a relationship with me. I equated my self worth with how busy I was and how much time I dedicated to other people, I thought that self love was how much love I gave to others. I really never considered taking the time to love myself.

To be enough, I thought I had to keep giving to others and I was so tired at the end of the day that I didn’t have anything left over for me.

The months leading up to being reunited with my son that I gave up for adoption at 16, I was tormented. Would I be enough? I had these terrible feelings of inadequacy, that I should be more, do more, have more. Those feelings subsided for me immediately when we were united once again. It felt even silly that I had ever felt that way. He accepted me; he believed that I was enough!

Several years later I found myself in a spot where I was so miserable that I could barely get out of bed and I was in tears constantly. I had some wonderful gifts in my life but I wasn’t sure who I was and I still had those old feelings of shame and worthlessness. Those old voices that used to tell me I wasn’t enough came back when I was still but I was too mentally tired to keep being everything to every body. I finally realized that for my well being I had to dedicate some time to myself. That was all new to me of course but if I could tell you the single most important thing that I have learned it would be that life is all about love, it is our fundamental purpose to move through this world. We need to learn to love ourselves first, that is vital. We spend a great deal of time trying to get others to love us and wondering why things do not work out. If we do not feel we are worthy of time and love and investment in self care and self worth than why would we assume that others should invest in us. You can only give so much before your cup is empty and we all know you cannot pour from an empty cup. When we take the time to cultivate love and appreciation for ourselves, that love grows and touches every thing and every body in our lives. Instead of envying people and wanting to be them, we learn to admire them for the qualities that they possess. Most likely we see glimpses of these qualities in ourselves and when we appreciate them in others we are actually seeing a reflection. We can make choices to manage and grow these qualities that we desire to see more of. When we learn to love ourselves we don’t want to be anyone else, we can be happy for others and their accomplishments but also be quite happy to be ourselves. Comparison is the thief of joy, when we constantly hold our lives up against the lives of others we are literally stealing our own hard earned happiness.

This weekend I attended an I am enough workshop here in Edmonton hosted by Wellness on Whyte. One of the keynote speakers was the owner of Wellness on Whyte Dr. Geha Gonthier, B.A., LMT, ERYT, R.Ac.

Surviving her first cardiac arrest at 7 years of age, the doctors did not hold much hope for Geha. Through Europe’s integrated medical care, Geha met a doctor that advised her to come off western drugs and use diet and herbs to manage her chronic condition. Over time her condition improved dramatically and inspired Geha to make holistic medicine her life’s journey.

Over the last twenty years she has apprenticed with various teachers both in Europe as well as Maui on the subject of Chinese Medicine and herbs. In 2007 she received her Acupuncture Diploma after completing the program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Geha has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Meditation for many years. The results of that are reflected in the gentleness and care she extends to her patients. The focus in her work is the integration of body, mind and spirit, encouraging profound healing in the most subtle levels of awareness.

I had read about Geha and was excited to meet her and hear her speak. After a glowing introduction that made me even more excited to be in her presence Geha emerged as this wonderfully warm, humble and beautiful woman who spoke of her life and experiences and that nagging feeling that had travelled with her throughout her life of “not being enough” I think it is always a little bit of shock when we hear from the people that we look up to that they face similar struggles, there is something very powerful and humanizing about it. During her talk she mentions a video by British Therapist Marissa Peer where she presents the idea of “I am enough”. I have watched the talk as well and I am not sure what segment of the talk resonated the most with Geha but for me there is a part where Marissa asked the audience to swing their left arm behind their back as far as it will go and hold it there a moment. She then asks them to drop their arm and relax for a moment. She then tells them she is going to again ask them to take their left arm behind their back but this time she is going to ask them to move it 1/3 more than they did previously, just a little bit more. She tells them to take a moment to think about it and then the audience all swings their arms back and manages to move them further than they did previously. Now if you recall, the first time she asked them to move it as far as it would go. She explains that their mind did that. They told their mind what to do and it obeyed. We tell our mind things everyday. Our mind obeys. “Don’t be foolish, you can’t do that. You are too thin. You are too fat. You are not smart enough. You are not good enough, pretty enough. You are not enough”

Our mind obeys.

What if everyday we told ourselves, “You are enough. I love you. You are amazing. You are doing a great job. You can do it. Go for it.” Imagine how different our lives would be if we all believed that we are enough. Maybe you don’t have a mansion and four fancy vehicles and a pool like Suzy in High School but you love yourself, your life has purpose, you are generous, kind, compassionate and full of love and wonder. That is more than enough!

Geha’s talk was followed by a forgiveness meditation by Mandy Trapp. I was very excited for this because Mandy is the owner of Lifestyle Mediation and I had attended her salute the sun yoga/meditation class the previous morning. Mandy is one of those sincere and buoyant people that others gravitate towards. Mandy graduated from Chopra University with their top distinction of Vedic Master Educator and has brilliantly woven her Chopra education with her athletic training education, various yoga certifications, and several trips to India and Nepal where she has founded the India/Nepal Yoga Project; a non-profit organization that empowers healing in those affected by the devastating effects of human trafficking. She has worked in the Wellness Industry for over 20 years and founded Lifestyle Meditation in 2012.

During Salute the sun Mandy reminded us that the no matter what goes on the sun rises everyday and even if it is cloudy and not able to shine it’s brightest light it still shows up every single day. She expressed to us that like the sun we are not expected to shine our brightest everyday, that some days just showing up might be our best. Life is hard and it really helps to have that articulated. We are way too hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves to always be just right when sometimes it is an effort just to put our clothes on right side out!

Mandy led us through a forgiveness meditation and I don’t know if you practice meditation or if you have ever been a part of group mediation but it can be very powerful. It is a pretty good assumption that people attending an I am enough workshop are seeking similar things so the energy in the room is mighty. The first group meditation I was ever a part of was during a talk with Deepak Chopra and it is a formidable memory.

Mandy presented a short talk on some of her own experiences and builds on Geha’s talk about being enough and that moment in our lives when things change for us. She asks us to go back in our mind to being a baby and introduce ourselves, she then asks us to find ourselves at that moment that things change, when the rules of the world have changed and look at and sit with and speak to that person. The meditation led us through the mantra “I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you. Thank you.” So, I found myself mentally sitting face to face with a fresh faced but scared and lost sixteen year old girl. I apologized to her, she forgave me. I love her and she thanked me. To say it was moving would be under stating it. That morning I had had a major blow out with my 17 year old daughter and I pictured her carrying around this hurt, resentment and anger and not really knowing or loving herself and my heart broke into pieces and tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks with my head bowed to my heart silently repeating I’m sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. . As I reunited with my 16 year old self, I searched for a way to help my daughter.

Geha had quoted one of her own teachers in what she told me sums up our human purpose in one broad stroke, “Tomorrow we die, today we love”

Love is the most important thing. We need to breath from our heart, communicate from our heart. Our heart is the center of our spirit, our inspiration and our soul. We crave acceptance and approval from others but we need to be able to love ourselves and embrace our enoughness without waiting for others to give us praise or tell us that we are good or loved.

My job right now is to love myself so am able to love my daughters and hold space with them through their struggles. To not sit in judgment of them, just in love and encourage them to always be their own best friend.

Tomorrow we die, today we love.

Love yourself. Be yourself. You are enough. You always were.

I am (W.I.S.E. Project 2017)

You can accomplish anything and everything, as Nature does, effortlessly, just by Being – the world will offer itself to you, for it has no choice. –Deepak Chopra

 

Last week I had the extreme honor of meeting Deepak Chopka. I know that some of you do not know who that is; my own mother didn’t have a clue. As a thought leader Deepak and his books emerged for me as the “answers” to all of the questions I sought when I decided to live mindfully. I am very well aware that some of you make a conscious effort to dislike shiny, happy people but Deepkak might appeal even to the likes of you. He is quiet and humble, he is equally unmoved by criticism and flattery and he is an extremely intelligent and thought provoking leader in science and medicine. Even if you want to hate us Pollyanna types that try to get you to look at the world in a new way, Deepak can back up with science all of the reasons why you should be looking at the world and your own life in a different way.

 

About Deepak-

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor at UCSD Medical School, Researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. www.deepakchopra.com

I found out on a Tuesday that Deepak was doing a talk in Edmonton about the future of well being. Five minutes prior I had finished his book Quantum Healing on my Audible App. Since Facebook, Google and our brains are all somehow wirelessly connected it is no wonder that the sponsored post for the Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton Fundraiser featuring Deepak turned up in my suggested posts immediately. It was the next afternoon that I definitively decided to go. I shared the post on my Facebook wall fishing to see if anyone I knew was interested in going but nobody immediately took the bait. I decided that I was one hundred percent not going to miss the opportunity. I chose to do the VIP meet and greet so I could meet this man with the brilliant mind and get a nice picture for my Instagram of course.

I had a couple of friends encourage me to go solo, reminding me that I was likely to get a lot out of the experience by meeting like minded people. That is exactly what happened. A lot of people were there on their own accord as it is the type of event that if you do not follow his work, you are not likely to spend the money just to have a night out but if you do, you are not likely to miss out because you do not have someone to hold your hand.

It was a very informative evening and the energy in the room was amazing. People who follow the work of Deepak Chopra are enlightened, open minded and mindful people so I was in very good company (in case you were worried)

One of my friends suggested that perhaps Tupac was now living as Deepak Chopra which gave me a bit of a giggle, being a huge fan of the late Rapper, producer, actor and poet. Even my Mom knows who Tupac is!!! I yelled Tupac loudly and he flinched so it is a possibility.

Deepak’s talk on the future of well being was incredible but for me the most thought provoking park of the evening was doing a Deepak guided meditation with 900 other people. I am guessing that the majority of those people have loving and energetic hearts, alert and reflective minds and they understand and practice empathy and compassion. I can tell you that it is a much different experience than being in a social media thread with thoughtless and closed minded individuals. Having the opportunity to mediate, guided by one of the World’s top thought leaders, side by side with forward thinking, intelligent and genuine people was a moving experience to say the least.

At the beginning of the mediation Deepak had us chant in our heads “I am” and our full name.

“I am Michelle DeBay, I am Michelle DeBay, I am Michelle DeBay.

He did not instruct us to breath in a particular way, just to be aware of our breath. He told us to think of our heart and be aware of it.

After several minutes had passed he instructed us to drop our last names and chant silently.

“I am Michelle, I am Michelle, I am Michelle, I am Michelle…”

He reminded us to quietly be aware of our breath and our thoughts.

After several more minutes he had us drop our name altogether.

“I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am….”

It felt very powerful and he told us to be aware of our thoughts and to just let them come.

“I am a love warrior, I am powerful, I am kind, I am a leader, I am wise, I am compassionate….”

Those are some of the thoughts that rushed to my mind in the calm yet enthusiastic room.

After several minutes he told us to think of our childhood memories and to just let the thoughts come naturally.

The room was hushed. My heart was smiling. Some really fun memories came to mind.

After the meditation I felt physically, mentally and spiritually unburdened. The incredible lightness of being.

Deepak; who is direct, in a calm and non egotistical or sentimental way, mentioned Donald Trump a couple of times during the evening. His references were rather open-ended, draw your own conclusion remarks but their belief systems are not aligned and he makes no secret of that fact.

He told us that during the mediation when we chanted our full name that we were tied to our gender, our origins and in some cases our ethnicity and religion. When we dropped off our last name we freed ourselves of some of those ties. When we dropped off our name altogether we freed ourselves to any sort of ties that weighed us down. We became a whole person.

A person of the universe.

“I am the universe.” I said to myself, clutching my signed pre-release copy of Deepak’s new book about discovering your cosmic self.

He reiterated what most of us are already aware of, so much of our identity is tied up in stuff that we never had any control of. We spend a lifetime defending things that were decided before our birth; our gender, our race, our ethnicity, and in a lot of cases our religion. There are many scientific reasons to explain how at the core we are all the same. These things unite us. Unfortunately we are living in a time where hate and fear creates division. If we were able to see beyond the things that make us different and focus on our similarities and our relationship to the universe we might be able to embrace others in a kinder, gentler way.

Sadly we find ourselves in a time where fear breeds hatred and instead of our differences being celebrated, they are condemned. I am pleased to say that I am at a time in my life that I feel awake to the realities of the world and how I fit into it all. I find now more than ever people want to share their fear with me, their hatred, their bigotry, as if they are offering to save me from myself. A peaceful world is only possible if we interact with each other as peaceful, loving beings, one individual at a time. If we can teach just one person the importance of peace and love through our own harmonious and impassioned actions than we have made a difference. If we can be taught to hate, we can be shown how to love.

Generations of creative and enduring people have torn down walls and fought for the freedoms we often take for granted. Now is not the time for silence.

Once the fabric of a just society is undone, it takes generations to weave it back together. ~Deepak Chopra

Going to Carolina-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

Deepanshu Arora -Moraine Lake Banff

It has been so bitter cold here the last couple of days, here is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and though we are fairly used to the winter cold here in the great white north it has been more than cold. It has been exceptionally way below freezing temperatures all week and the wind chill is so intense that it feels like the cold has icily embraced your bones. It is not very motivating to say the least and hot showers, fuzzy blankets and good books have been my evening reprieve. 

 Today I was listening to James Taylor’s Going to Carolina in my mind and literally trying to get my mind to take me somewhere warmer.

On Sunday I went for a float. I have been floating for over a year now so I am kind of a professional as floating goes. This basically means that I am experienced in the art of doing nothing and laugh all you want but I am pretty damn proud of this fact. No joke, discovering sensory deprivation has been a wonderfully serene addition to my life. I still struggle on a daily basis with trying to fill my brain with way too much stuff. I get excited about something and I want to jam all of this new information into my brain as fast as possible and often I get overwhelmed. I used to be that mom that went to bed at midnight but at 2 am I was still making my grocery lists, planning my schedule around the girl’s activities, calculating bills and making endless to do lists in my head. To those of you that can’t sit on the toilet without reading the back of the shampoo bottle I can relate. We have hardwired ourselves to constantly receive and process information and nowadays with social media our brains are busier than ever. We are excessively over stimulated. We do not know boredom and we certainly do not know what to do with silence. We crave silence yet the moment we get a taste of it we spit it out and sprinkle it with noise to make it palatable, or at least what we perceive to be most familiar.

I started meditating last January and though I do not always practice it daily as I would like to, it taught me how to find the beauty in silence. Silence benefits our well being in countless ways with abundant advantages to our physical and emotional well being. I often do a guided sleep meditation at night or a five minute mindfulness mediation in the middle of my work day. Mediating was a great benefit to me the first time I entered a float tank because though my mind wanted desperately to crowd the
silent space with thought I was quite quickly able to resist. 

The float tank expedites theta waves so it is doing some of the work for you already by taking the stimulation away.

Theta brain waves are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming and barely conscious state just before sleeping and after waking.

If you truly want to experience getting away from it all I highly recommend floating. The solution unlike bath water is very dense, in fact approximately five times denser than the Dead Sea. It is mainly Epsom salt, it feels silky smooth  against your skin and you are effortlessly buoyant. You are literally floating in the darkness with no outside disturbances. When you don’t have the pressure of gravity on your body and you are not responding to stimulus (such as email and texts, noise of traffic etc) your blood pressure decreases and your cortisol levels drop (those are your stress hormones). Your mind and your body are experiencing a state of total freedom, you cannot feel the water and you are quite literally in the optimal environment to experience complete relaxation. There is an eventual increase in your endorphins which I am sure you all know is your happy hormones. We all want more of those, more is good!!

When I said I am now a professional floater you all either snickered or rolled your eyes but let me explain my excitement about how skilled I have become at doing nothing. My last float I was able to relax quite quickly. I don’t eat within 2 hours of a float; I may grab an apple if it is in the morning and some water to hydrate but nothing that is going to be hard to digest and no coffee to stimulate my mind. I start by clearing my mind with a short meditation and moving my body around languidly
in the warm water. Within minutes I had drifted off and I was in the middle of a lake in the mountains. The water was neither warm nor cold, I couldn’t feel it at all, as if my body was totally one with it and I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. I felt indisputably blissful. Above me the clear sky was the most magnificent shade of dark navy blue littered by an explosion of endless stars and decorated by magical spiraling flares of electric green clasped by hints of pink and deep violet that seemed to erupt from the mountain peaks in a
miraculously enchanting way. It was the esteemed Aurora Borealis in a way that I had never experienced before. I was captivated by the mystic beauty of it and moved almost to the point of tears. The peaks of the mountains surrounded the lake in a protective hug and I felt untroubled and safe. I have no recollection of the amount of time that passed as I lay suspended in virtual reality in that picturesque mountain oasis enjoying the Northen lights. 

It is such a hard thing to put into words, anything I write seems slightly inadequate, but as I sit here thinking about it I am once again overwhelmed by the memory. 

The gentle music that plays as your float time is ending startled me awake and I had that feeling of falling slowly from heaven and when my eyes shot open I  thought I was still in the middle of the lake but all of the sudden I was keenly aware of the darkness. It was unnerving for a second until my mind caught up with my body and I realized where I was. For the remainder of the day I felt weightless, like I was floating through my day without a worry.

I have wanted to recount this experience for awhile but I really didn’t know how in the world I would do it justice without sounding like I was floating on LSD. I was divinely at ease and I was able to experience something in that state
that was as exquisite as it was memorable. I will never forget and though I know that I can never recreate that exact experience I am really excited to know how far my mind will allow me to go in the future. For days after I would think about that wondrous place in the mountains and when I opened up my computer there it was on my home screen; Moraine Lake in Banff, Valley of the Ten Peaks. I am in love. Swoon.

So needless to say if you have ever considered floating, or even if you have never heard of floating, you should. It is the ultimate way to hit the physical and mental reset button and to find the beautiful and powerful healing energy
of silence.

I float at Modern Gravity here in Edmonton and it is a pretty unique place. They have actual float rooms instead of pods so if you are worried about feeling claustrophobic there is no need. The atmosphere is comfortably calming and the rainfall showers are such a nice treat. Floating is a gift that you give yourself that requires zero effort for substantial gain.

Modern Gravity, Edmonton Alberta

There are many things you can do to ease stress and recalibrate your body and mind, Floating is a very good choice. 

Be W.I.S.E. friends. 

Take on me-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

Photo credit: Louie Schwartzberg
Photo credit: Louie Schwartzberg

Beauty and seduction are nature’s tools for survival because we protect what we love. ~ Louie Schwartzberg

You may have noticed that a lot of my blog titles are also the titles of classic songs. Yes this is on purpose. I love music and usually the title is something that just pops in my head very quickly. Take on me from the Norwegian band Aha is out of the 1985 vault. That is how I feel today, telling the universe to Take me on, because I am happy and nothing that happens today is going to change that.

Often when I write to you I have these A-ha moments and yesterday I said that I was once told that you will be what you think of most of the time and I always wanted to be happy. In seeking out those opportunities to create happiness every moment of every day it changes your entire focus. It doesn’t mean that I am never sad or angry but it means I know what happiness feels like and though I experience sadness  like everyone else I no longer dwell on it. In the dictionary dwelling is described as a place of residence. Do not dwell in a place of sadness and anger. These are places you visit quickly and leave.

Once again this  months W.I.S.E. Principles are WOW, incredible, stimulate and enthusiasm.

I found just the thing today that was expressive and awe-inspiring, it encouraged further interest and activity and I intensely and eagerly enjoyed. Not bad for day two of June.

Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.

~Louie Schwartzberg

I want to share it with you and I am asking you to take ten thoughtful minutes and watch this. It will stimulate your brain, bring beauty to your eyes and calm over your entire being. If it doesn’t you are cold and dead inside and I cannot help you. Not that I can claim to help you anyway, I am not a doctor. As a regular person giving advice to another regular person here is my prescription for joy today. You’re welcome!!

Friday I’m in love -W.I.S.E. Project 2016-Journal Notes

It is really freeing to be able to be open and honest in a relationship and to be all in, to know that you are worthy of love and therefore you can give it freely as well.

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My W.I.S.E. principles for the month of may are warmth, intimacy, serenity and enrich.

I feel like I should get a sticker and a high five for not just chooosing these principles but for taking them seriously and learning so much.

Warmth is that good feeling you get by sharing and being kind to others. I have done well, except to bad drivers and the plumber that showed up at my work with just a flashlight to fix a leak and asked me what I wanted  him to do. I myself am not a plumber nor do I claim to know anything about plumbing but I will say that waving a flashlight around a well lit room doesn’t seem like the way to fix a leak. But all in all I have had some wonderfully warm encounters so far this month.

Intimacy is something I really wanted to work on. My husband and I have been together for 18 years and we have had a huge transition with him working away for 8 years and now being home every night. There is a huge difference in the dynamics of a relationship that is lived in stolen moments than one that you struggle to keep connected even though you are together everyday. I am focusing on relationship studies and have had a million ‘aha’ moments. It is really freeing to be able to be open and honest in a relationship and to be all in, to know that you are worthy of love and therefore you can give it freely as well. I had an incredible epiphany this month about the power of vulnerability and I discovered a Researcher/Storyteller named Brene Brown who does a wonderful Ted Talk on the subject. It is life changing.

Serenity-I have continued to go floating and I am continuing to meditate. I try to add five mindful minutes each day and I have found a wonderful guided meditation that is calming and helps to centre me.

Enrich-thinking about, working on and creating happiness has been very enriching. I love Robert Waldingers Research on What makes a good life, I am studying relationships and emotions as well as meditation which has led me to research Budhism.  I signed up for Brene Browns CourageWorks ecourse on the Anatomy of Trust. I have seen her Super Soul Sunday talk on Trust and it was fantastic. I put together an actual binder and a journal about The W.I.S.E. Project but my purse, desk and bedside table are full of hand scribbled notes I have jotted down.

I feel good. There were some trying times this month and I feel like I have learned and grown from them. I feel that knowing how I want to feel and recognizing what it takes to make me feel that way has and will continue to have a huge impact on my life.

As you continue your mindful and happy journey this month don’t forget to visit the new Facebbok page https://m.facebook.com/WISE-Project-236710606685815/

It is a place where we can share wisdom, happy thoughts and interact. I am sharing a couple of links below to some amazing content that has changed my life.

Remember that happiness doesn’t find us, we need to create it and choose it, every moment of everyday. Be W.I.S.E. friends.

Brene Brown on Vulnerability

Robert Waldinger on What makes a good life.

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