The Healing Power of Celebration

My parents have just pulled away. It was a fun, noisy, food- & laughter-filled 5 days of family coming & going through Easter weekend. Now that we’ve moved to a different city, these pockets of both familiar comfort and reacquainting are an important part to keeping me grounded in this new life.

Sure, there are times when my brothers and I still rub each other the wrong way, but these first relationships remind me of where I come from, help me reaffirm who I am at my core and give me an extra glimpse at who I don’t want to become.

Sometimes daily life can do that as well. The part about who you don’t want to be. You know, when you have those days that feel like life is living you: when the kids’ activities and work deadlines and the laundry…the shoulds are driving the boat, and it’s like you’re just being pulled along for the ride?

At times like those, I can lose sight of my own values and needs, as they get trampled by the schedule.

I know that I’ve fallen into that mode when I literally feel breathless adding one more item to my to-do list. My heart pounds like I’ve run a race. Like I’m scrambling to catch up with myself even though I’m not sure where I’m headed.

When my sense of overwhelm is through the roof like that, I usually feel quite down on myself. OK, that’s putting it mildly. When stress gets the better of me, whatever self-confidence I have flies out the window and, depending on the day, anxiety or depression hook right in – I’m running on fear, a ball of insecurity.

Inevitably, as stress will do, those are also times when my minor ailments (asthma and digestive woes) get a little louder, or I hurt myself with small accidents – a head bump on the cupboard door or a twisted ankle on the stairs. Though, of course, there’s no time to rest or see someone to help, because there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I have a recurring dream of frantically packing or trying to find a cab for a flight to Paris that leaves in an hour. When that dream shows up, I now know it’s telling me to take the stressed-out foot off the gas and reassess.

One thing that has become unfailingly clear when I take a step back on those days is that most of my focus is on the stuff that has yet to be done. Or the stuff that needs to get fixed because I did it wrong. Which only adds to the list, and the snowball grows.

It took years of noticing to be able to catch onto that piece of awareness, but what to do about it?

 

Thank Goddess for the circles I hang out in, and their penchant for soulful activities. Like my family, they are among the relationships that ground and remind me who I am, yet they also hold space for the woman I want to become.

You see, the world of work and family and kids necessarily involves deferring to the other, looking outside for information. I mean, our role as women was all about keeping the tribe safe within the village, which meant a constant vigilant gaze while stirring the pot and tending the children, right? That’s great, but then we get stuck in that mode,  forgetting that tribal life also involved a great deal of ritual – honouring and gratitude and allowing stillness in the ebb & flow of the days & seasons.

So, we need to take time to turn back inward. In the 90s I used to hear people talk about “finding their edges” and I had no idea what they were talking about. That’s probably because I didn’t have a good sense, at the time, of who I was inside; my edges just blurred with those of others around me.

Turning inward is more involved than simply putting your feet up and taking a break in the midst of the turmoil. As a matter of fact, if I try to take a break when I’ve got an overly full plate, it just stresses me out more as I sit there thinking of all the nitty-gritty details that will keep all the balls in the air.

Turning inward is the magical celebration

Turning inward needs a sense of ritual, in that it needs a deliberate intention.

Perhaps it turns into a meditation practice or a daily gratitude journal or plain old journaling or affirmations. First off, a specific intention focuses your attention on something other than the list, which will truly allow your mind to rest. Like a good nap, you will have more energy to tackle what’s next.

The effects of that rest then trickle down through your physiology, as the stress-induced chemicals wash away. Enter the reset of your mood AND your immune system given a fighting chance. The clouds will drift and you’ll spot some clear blue sky in your day.

Turning inward also allows you to turn around, in a sense. Rather than obsessing over what you have yet to do, you can take a moment to ponder what you have done. How often do you complete task A, only to jump right into activity B?

There are all those sayings about how the small steps lead to big changes, and you get that, you take the steps one at a time, but then you forget to look at the benefit it had. I see that with clients all the time: it’s been 2 weeks since her last appointment, she’s started to shift her habits, and she comes in telling me that her belly still bloats after certain meals. She completely bypasses the fact that her face hasn’t broken out or that she didn’t need the Advil this month.

Taking that pause on a regular basis – daily, weekly, hourly if you need it – is a moment of celebration.

Sometimes I feel like we’re all waiting for that perfect moment to celebrate. As if celebration can only be the cork-popping party at the end of the big deal, which you probably know by now, may never actually come. Goals and intentions are out there to lead us in a specific direction, and we can take whatever steps we learn and believe will get us there, however, we have no control over the actual outcome.

In putting off the celebration, in only seeing the end result as the acceptable finish, we’re setting ourselves up for failure on a daily basis. And then we wonder where all the anxiety, depression and stress-related ailments come from!

Which gets me to the point: I encourage you, I urge you, I implore you to take a breath after each beat of your day. Celebrate yourself all day long! Maybe you treat yourself to a nice meal or a happy dance or glass of lime-infused water or a walk around the block or a bouquet of flowers or a self-hug or a fist-pump and an “I did it!”.

At the very least, put a hand to your heart and take in what you did. You wrote that email, you cooked veggies with breakfast, you didn’t yell at the kids, you planned supper before 5 pm, you planned out the next quarter, you told your father the truth. It can be anything. Take. In. What. You. Did. In this moment, that’s all that you really have.

Those tiny moments will accumulate and gain momentum when you give them your attention, just as the shoulds usually do. That’s when the magic of celebration shows its true power, in that it makes the overwhelm, the frantic thoughts, the fear-driven scramble disappear.

Granted, there’s still stuff on the list – there will always be stuff on the list – but it’s now infused with ease. Heartbeat settles, shoulders drop, exhale.

The true benefit of turning inward, of celebrating where you’ve been, is that it helps to ground you back into who you are. This is how you grow the key relationship in your life: the one to You.

 

If you’ve lost sight of who You are in the sea of shoulds, let me light your way.

I invite you to join a series called Spring into Celebrating You, in which I walk you through 3 rituals & explorations to (re)connect with that most fundamental relationship of who you are and how to feel at home within the needs of your body.

If there’s one place that you deserve to be comfortable, it’s at home in yourself.

Learn more about this basket full of essential garden tools right here.

 

How Your Body Tells You What It Needs Right Now

 

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who’s being overwhelmed by physical issues since her marriage fell apart – constant nausea and pain from an old wrist injury acting up.

Our conversation had a more personal focus, but she did ask me my professional opinion about what she could do to help remedy one or the other of those symptoms. As always, I suggested she talk to her wrist and stomach – listen to what they have to say, listen to what they need.

At which point, she very kindly asked, “Ok, I get the idea of listening to my body, but how do I do that?”

Of course! Here I am, constantly spouting off about something that’s obvious to me – and to someone who’s already worked with me – but that idea on its own may mean nothing to you, or you might have a notion that’s only somewhat related to what I’m talking about.

 

Let’s clear that up right now. What do I mean when I say “listen to your body”?

Starting with the obvious

Your body speaks to you on a daily basis. When you get hungry or tired or have a pain, your body sends you a bunch of signals to indicate that something needs your attention. Ideally, you eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired, and step away from the computer to rest your wrist when it hurts: that’s you listening to your body.

If you’re well tuned into your body and actually heed its signals, it doesn’t need to speak very loudly.

Sometimes, though, you ignore those signals, or you’re not in touch enough to actually hear them. In which case, your body starts to speak more loudly: you feel faint and irritable from low blood sugar, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or your wrist is so badly inflamed, you can’t work for 3 days.

Your body acts like a little kid looking for loving attention. Do you see what she needs after the first gentle “Mom?”, or do you ignore her until she’s escalated through “Mom. Mom? Moom. Mooo-oooom! MOM!”

 

Listening as a way of fixing a problem

More specifically, you need to listen to your body when trying to sort out how best to address a certain ailment and to understand if certain remedies are working. Let’s say we’re talking about my friend’s nausea. I would ask her to take a few days to notice if there’s a time of day it acts up more than others, if certain foods or activities aggravate it or make it better. Then, once I’ve made certain suggestions about her eating habits and herbs, she’s going to check in to see if there’s any change – for better or worse.

One issue that comes up often with clients is women who graze mindlessly or fall into some other aspect of emotional eating. There again, it’s a matter of understanding if there’s any actual hunger involved. Is the hunger for food, or for a deeper need? Maybe the need for food is a way of avoiding something else. (This is a big topic, and I’ll come back to address it more substantially in another post soon.)

 

Listening to your Body is a way of hearing the needs of your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s a how-to audio for this part at the end.

The other concept I throw around a lot is based on that Teilhard de Chardin quote about us being souls having a human experience: the idea that the body is a container which allows the soul to move on the earth. The body is how we interact in this existence. So it stands to reason that if the soul wants to send us a message, it’s going to do so through medium of the body.

The sensations you feel in your body are your soul speaking to you in a language you can understand.

In that regard, listening to your body involves so much more than noticing your symptoms after certain foods. Listening to your body is part of a healing conversation.

 

When you tune in and hear what your soul is saying to you via the body, you are engaging in a conversation with your self. You are deepening the relationship to your self – in the same way that conversations with the women in your life have turned them from acquaintances into friends into besties.

Conversations aren’t one-sided. They are a back and forth exchange – speaking as well as listening, asking as well as answering; giving and receiving.

When you speak your concerns aloud, whether to yourself or a friend, you draw them out of the shadow of fear and into the light for release.

When you share the experience of what you’re feeling in your body with your practitioner, you’re giving her a fuller picture of why your body is reacting the way it does and how to best approach its healing.

 

What I teach women is based on a technique known as Focusing – developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin. Some people refer to it as hearing your inner voice or your soul voice or your higher self. Basically, you’re talking to YOU.

Learning how to listen to your body – having a conversation to better understand how it works, how you work – what lights you up and what drags you down – is an essential part of the healing journey.

Put your info in the grey box to access the audio guide which walks you through the steps.

In my next post, once you’ve had a bit of time to practice and get to know yourself in a new way, I’m going to offer a key to making this work as a more effective tool for how you heal and grow. (And let you know what happened with my friend and here wrist.)

Know anyone else who wants to understand how to (re)connect with her body? Share this post using any (or all!) of the buttons here.

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How to Find Hope & Motivation after Divorce

 

There’s something about life after moving that has reminded me so much about how things were after I got divorced, 17 years ago.

There came a point when I knew what I had to do, when I couldn’t live as I had been. When I understood I’d be better off on my own than in a marriage where I was expected to bow to all his needs with no expectation of return. A marriage where I spent an awful lot of time alone, feeling like a single parent, and furious with him for landing me in that situation.

Then came the flurry of activity that is divorce – thankfully it was a relatively amicable split, but there were still legalities to work out, stuff to sort and the kids to consider and nurture in a new way.

I lay awake at night worried I’d never be able to support myself and 2 kids (albeit part-time) on my own, until life eventually settled into something I could handle. As sad and as difficult as it was, I took a certain pleasure in being able to stretch my wings more than I ever had with my parenting and the house, without judgment or accusations of being inconsiderate.

That’s when it reality hit.

There I was, 34 years old: I’d been through school and had a steady job. I’d travelled a bit, been married, had kids. All the boxes I’d wanted to tick as a girl had been ticked, or at least the ones I believed should have been ticked.

Was that it?

Will this be my life from now on?

With a few health issues no longer content to stay in the background, it started to feel like it would even start heading downhill from there.

This happens after a move or a big career shift as well as with divorce, that once the stress calms into a routine, there’s a lull.

A wise woman will recognize that lull for what it is: a well-needed break, the calm after the storm. Time to rest, rejuvenate and gather your resources for what comes next in this life on the other side.

Sometimes, we’re not so wise.

There were days when I came face to face with the same issues as before. I was alone, having to do it all on my own. Some days I wondered why I’d even bothered.

Am I really better off than before?

Did I really need to upend the kids to still be in the same place?

And I was still blaming him for it.

It was my garden that spring that taught me the lesson I needed to learn: it’s possible, even inevitable, to start over.

Every year, the flowers wither and die. Fields go fallow and leaves rot. After the snow melts, the world’s all muddy and smelly. There’s a moment when you almost doubt anything will ever actually grow. And then it does.

Look out the window and it’s all dank and colourless. The sun warms up that much more and poof! It’s orange and yellow and violet. Robins chirp. Crab apple blossoms and lilacs fill the air with their perfume. Pea shoots herald crisp green sweetness.

Something had died in my life; come to an end. That didn’t mean I needed to stagnate in the fallout.

It was time to let the seeds of what I wanted for myself to take root. It was time to notice the colours in me, and ask myself: What form of sunshine would help them to bloom?

I started to focus the warmth of my attention on just that: people and activities and food that lit me up, that excited me and nourished me to my very core.

I started to trim away the branches that were holding me down – the blame, the regret, the self-flagellation.

I had done all this, kept putting one foot in front of the other through the previous year because I needed to make me a priority. I chose this life so that my needs, my values would have space to grow in a nurturing environment. How else could I expect to be truly healthy, effectively raise my sons and be of any service in my community?

When you’ve lost motivation for what you want most, when you can’t find the hope of a better day, I beg of you to try this:

Open your senses to the world around you.

Notice:

what flavours make you swoon

which aromas make you sigh

which colours energize your mind

which music makes you dance

Remember: The most beautiful bounty grows from the humus and rot.

Don’t give up on yourself!

 

If you need more help putting self-care at the top of the list, let me know, I’d be glad to help. Click here and we’ll set up a time to talk.

 

If you know someone who’s stagnating in the fallout of the life they’ve left behind, help them to blossom using any of the share buttons below.

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Read This When Your Heart is Breaking

 

You have to be as blind as Cupid not to notice that it’s Valentine’s Day, but how do you celebrate a day of love when your heart is breaking? I don’t mean the Hallmark, boy-just-broke-up-with-you heartbreak of adolescence. (Painful, yes.)

I’m talking about the energy-draining way your heart breaks when you have to fold your business, when you sell your house, when your period stops for good, or yes, when your man walks out on you (or you leave him). A breaking heart carries with it the heavy sadness that makes you want to curl into a ball, close your heart off from any more potential for hurt, and hide under a blanket for the foreseeable future.

Yet, you’re expected to be happy about the changes in your life (sure some are indeed for the best), to let go and move on, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I mean, aren’t we all about being healthy in our processes – doesn’t being healthy mean feeling good?

The decades of twists & turns, ups & downs of my life have taught me differently. Circumstances like divorce, loss, injustices, as well as triumphs, opened me to the rainbow of emotions I hadn’t always understood before. Mainly, I hadn’t understood how they were connected to my health.

I often talk about how I learned that emotions are felt in the body, from a book. These weren’t separate phenomena going on in my head that had no practical bearing on me. They were actual, physiological responses altering my moods, my eating habits and essential to my survival. (Read more about the impact of emotions on your eating habits here; read more about the necessity of the core emotions here)

I learned – through joy and sorrow, success and hardship – that allowing the flow of all my emotions is part of the quickest path to renewed health, inner strength, productivity, and to love…loving myself, that is.

All that to say that even if you’re not bursting with thoughts of romance and crepe-paper hearts this week, that’s ok.

You’re feeling what you’re feeling and that’s not only ok, it’s necessary.

When you give yourself the time and space to literally curl inward, sleep a few extra hours, watch too much TV and only talk to your journal, you are performing a beautiful act of self-love. If your daughter was heartbroken, you’d make her tea and let her cry on your shoulder – chances are that’s what you need as well.

It’s extremely difficult to allow yourself that kind of wallowing; trust me, I know. When you’re the one who keeps everyone going, when you’re the one in control of the situation, it can seem nigh on impossible to fall apart. Perhaps you even harbour a fear that if you let go, you’ll sink into a rabbit hole of sadness and self-pity, even debilitating depression, and never find your way out.

That won’t happen. Emotions are simply energy-in-motion. Given the freedom to move, they do what they have to do and subside, like a wave. The times I surrendered to the depths of how I was feeling, I’ve always bounced right back within a day or two, recharged and motivated to take whatever necessary steps were next.

Sometimes you need to get to the bottom of the well before you can turn around and see the light.

If your heart is breaking – scratch that, WHEN your heart is breaking, because it will break, there’s no getting around that in this life – be gentle with yourself.

Listen deeply to what your body and your heart truly need in the moment and give it. Treat yourself with the loving care you would offer your best friend in the same situation.

Make your favourite, creamy soup and eat it 3 meals a day.

Spend the hours you need curled in bed pouring your sorrows into your journal.

Call the one person who will listen without judgment or advice.

Put on some heart-wrenching music; sing at the top of your lungs, dance in whatever way you’re your body wants to move, and let the tears flow when they come.

If nothing else, breathe. Connect to the one certain thing in the moment and the rest will follow as it needs.

Need help opening the doors to your heart again? Here’s a little ray of light you can let seep into the cracks and get things started.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. Next time I’ll discuss how to stay focused even when things are falling apart. (Sign up in the box below if you want to hear more.)

What nourishes you the most when your heart is breaking? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Have a friend whose heart is breaking this Valentine’s Day? Pay the love forward by using any (or all!) of the buttons below.

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The Missing Ingredient from your Meals

Aside

You’ve a plate full of colourful vegetables, a tasty protein, maybe a bed of hearty grains, all chosen and cooked with care. You add a sprinkle of fresh herbs and some grey sea salt. Lovely.

But you worked late and the kids have hockey, and so you forget the one ingredient that ensures this meal is as healthy as it can be.

You forget to breathe.

Not just at mealtime.

Every time you rush around clearing the list, shuttling the kids, meeting the deadlines, your breath takes a back seat.

Every time you let your worries get the better of you, and you get lost in your head, in a tailspin of overwhelm and fear, your breath is an afterthought.

You know from yoga, from Pilates, from running, from working out, from meditation, that the breath is how you stay connected to your body. It’s how you manage your pace. It keeps you energized through the tough bits. It’s how you stay anchored in the present moment.

Those same perks of breathing apply when you get home from the gym or the studio. They apply when you sit down to eat. Yes, taking the time to breathe between bites will slow you down, letting your digestive system get in on the game. It’ll give you a chance to notice when you’ve had enough.

There are also physiological benefits to conscious breathing before and during your meals.

Breath keeps you apace and holds you in the present moment

Taking a long, slow, deep breath reduces stress.

The stress response, aka fight or flight, isn’t conducive to digestion – you would never stop for a snack while being chased by a predator or battling a foe. Though there may not be enemy tribes pillaging your village, your body reacts the same way in the face of an angry customer, your son falling out of a tree or being cut off in traffic.

During a day when you’re always “on”, you’ve got to turn “off” for your digestion to function efficiently. Eating under stress contributes to heartburn, bloating, gas, dysbiosis, constipation, IBS, diverticulitis, colon cancer,…

Regardless of the quality of the food on your plate, your body can’t break down, absorb and assimilate the components effectively if it’s not relaxed. Taking a long, slow, deep breath engages the relaxation response, aka rest & digest.

You might even settle down enough for some pleasant conversation!

Breathing keeps you energized

Your breath – oxygen specifically – plays a major role in how efficiently you use your food.

Other than the nutrients that go into the maintenance & function of your body, most of what you derive from food is energy (calories). The carbohydrates get dismantled into glucose; under certain conditions, fat and protein get converted into glucose. Inside your cells, that glucose is burned by oxygen (in a process known as cellular respiration) to release the energy stored in its bonds.

Breathing consciously before and during a meal oxygenates your blood for maximum energy production.

Incidentally, if you’ll forgive me a little geek-out here, that energy is the sun’s heat and light that have been bound with carbon dioxide and water by plants eating and breathing. It’s perfect symbiosis: the plants had exhaled the O2 you need, now you exhale the CO2 they need, and you shine the sun’s light right back out to the Universe.

Breathing connects you to your body (and soul)

Your digestive tract contains a large part of your nervous system. As such, it works according how you approach, experience and react to life. Think of the times – like when you’re on holiday – and you can eat whatever you feel like without repercussion. Then you get home and you sneeze with the first piece of cheese or bloat from the first piece of bread.

Your digestion is also where you take in products from the outside world – plant or animal – dismantle them, and rebuild them according to your current needs. It’s how you literally create your (human) body. So, you could say that digestion is an expression of your humanity, of your uniqueness, of who you are.

Now the breath brings you into deep connection with your body; with its feelings and emotions. While you may think of those as secondary to your health, they are, in fact, vital to your survival.

Fear tells you when to move back. Joy & love compel you to move forward. Anger is how you protect yourself and your loved ones from harm.

The feelings (or your felt senses) are clues to what works for you and what doesn’t. When you sit through a job interview feeling tight in your chest, shoulders curled forward, it’s an indication this place may not be the best working environment for you. As opposed to an office that leaves you feeling open, with head held high.

Knowing how you feel in a situation, or after having eaten a certain food, is exactly what listening to your body is all about. It’s one way to get to know yourself at a deep level.

Noticed with this in mind, your feelings and emotions act as beacons to where you need to go – be it with food, other health-related decisions, relationships, work, where you live, how you play, etc.

Taking the time to breathe – to get in touch more fully with your body, to get to know yourself and express who that individual is – your body will in turn manifest who you are from the inside out. That manifestation happens through your digestion.

Breathe – fully and deeply – through your day, before your meals, in times of joy, in times of strife.**

You’ll have less bloating, better energy and feel more satisfied after your meals.

You’ll be connected to your body, be fully energized and stay anchored in the present moment. All essential ingredients for enjoying and assimilating your meals, your life, and moving more fully into vibrant health.

** When you sit down to a meal, before you make a difficult call, before you step into the big meeting or onto the stage: breathe in for a count of 7, hold for 7, exhale for 7. Do this 3 times. One minute to feeling more relaxed and grounded.

Take a deep breath and go ahead and tell us how it makes you feel right now. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Give your friends a taste of this simple health tip by using any (or all!) of the buttons below.

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