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 to Connect your Body & Mind

 

When big things are happening in my life, when I feel the most busy and in danger of the to-do list being in charge, the most effective way I know of getting back in control is to sit in silence for 10 minutes each morning.

It took a certain amount of discipline – ok, let’s be honest, a good deal of conscious effort – to start getting up early for this, but it has been worth it. If nothing else, I love that the house is all mine, that the time is all mine, that the quiet is all mine to enjoy and use as I need & desire.

This is something I do before I get dressed or check my phone/email/Facebook or my to-do list; before I even think about making breakfast or lunches. I spend 15-30 minutes getting clear on who I am in this moment, and rewiring the disconnect between my mind and my body, before any of the outer world starts its inevitable invasion. As soon as I get up, I meditate.

This isn’t something that came to me easily.

Every time I tried, in a yoga class or because I knew I “should”, I would get squirmy and my ever-chattering mind would take me down rabbit holes of whirring thoughts & worry. I figured, “I’m just no good at it,” and gave up on myself far too quickly.

Of course it wasn’t working. Those occasions were so few and far between that I never got any real practice. How many times have I explained to my kids that skating or drawing or swimming or guitar or spelling gets better the more you do it. As with any of those activities, the more often you try, the better you get, the more it evolves with you, hence the word practice for meditation, for yoga, even for professional services. It’s about the repetition, as much as it’s about testing out different techniques, stretching your limits and honing your skills. If one way doesn’t work, try something else.

My homeopath directed me to a website that got me over the hump. It had straightforward explanations and a simple guided audio to follow for 8 days. (headspace.com if you want to give it a shot – I’m not trying to sell anything here, just sharing resource that’s free and effective.) Their analogy of thoughts in relation to self, like the clouds covering the sky, was the lightbulb I needed to understand and be able to follow. The blue sky is there regardless of the size, shape, density or colour of the clouds blocking it from view.

It took quite a few tries – religiously practicing every day for 10 minutes – before I got past all the clouds (thoughts in my head) to the blue sky beneath them. What I discovered there was the most remarkable place of grounded, open, strong and vulnerable beauty.

I was in touch with Me, my soul, my being at its very core; my power.

Sometimes the contact is fleeting, other days I can sink into it fully. Even if I never get there at all on a given day, knowing that it’s perpetually present in me is enough to fuel my day. “I am here!”, no matter how good or how shitty things might get later on.

Now that’s the other remarkable par: days don’t get too bad anymore. This shift was entirely unconscious and so subtle it took a while for me to notice. It seems that knowing my truth is there and constant, the rest of life’s ups & downs don’t hold the same barbs that would get me caught up in drama or anxiety. I am better able to ride those waves of life with more flow.

In the 2 years since I truly started a meditation practice, it’s grown and evolved to include prayers to the natural universe for support (usually while I walk); petitions for concrete help when I need it; pulling Tarot and other cards as inspiration, motivation or a theme for the day’s mantra. I also nourish my soul and enrich what has come out of meditation with affirmations and journal writing.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time for myself, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing how to stay focused despite the emotional whirlwind that is your life right now. (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

What do you do each day to connect the different parts of your self? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone else who needs permission to focus on herself before the day gets away from her? Send her this post using any (or all!) of the buttons below.

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How to Have a Wholly Healthy Holiday

 

It’s mid-December. Life just got a tad more hectic and will stay that way until the kids go back to school in January.

You kick yourself for not having honoured last year’s vow to be organized earlier. You harp on about the excessive consumerism and the social obligations – loud office parties and stilted conversations with people you only see once a year. There’s cooking and shopping and wrapping and planning. There’ll be food from your naughty list on offer everywhere you turn.

Your belly clenches in anticipation, even as you fear you won’t get it all done, so you run too fast, stay up too late, say yes to more events and volunteering than you know is good for you. You start to feel your life getting away from you; you’re scrambling to keep it all packaged in a manageable bundle. (Writing this, I picture my arms flying through the air, trying to gain control over some invisible chaos.)

How can you get it all done without burning yourself out? How can you actually enjoy the celebrations after all the work?

How can you maintain the spirit of the season without compromising your own spirit?

The hustle and bustle of Christmas tips so easily into stress & overwhelm when there’s no connection. If you’re anything like me, a certain amount of what you do at this time of year comes from outside expectations – your husband and kids’ needs, of course, but also what your sister-in-law or your mother expect of you, office obligations, and maybe a small dose of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’.

When you lose sight of the meaning behind the traditions in favour of trying to do it all, you end up losing sight of yourself in the process.

The other morning I headed out the door for an early appointment, into the soundless dark of that first deep snowfall. Because I’d taken on an extra contract recently, my time for all the Christmas necessities became suddenly limited and I felt that panic welling in me by the minute. My thoughts threatened to spin out of control as I walked to the bus. There was something about the peace of the day, however, that drew my attention more strongly.

It was one of those mornings when the carpet of snow muffles every sound. The only thing I heard was my breathe, so I settled into it and the way it shifted and vibrated with my steps. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds, sending the bare trees into dramatic relief against the lightening grey. No birds sang nor squirrels chattered – they were still huddled in their cozy nests. Even my usual morning petition to earth and trees for support through my day fell flat as I felt their own energy had settled deeply below the surface.

I heard a voice inside me say, “Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the absolute peace.”

To use traditional Chinese terminology, this is a yin season – we’re approaching the most yin day of the year on the 21st – inward moving, cold, dark, moist, introspective and receiving. Your instinct is to follow that energy –the desire to curl up under a blanket with a book, have more nights in with your family, make pots of soup – that’s you putting yin into action.

Christmas is an affirmation of the return to more yang – outward, hot, light, expansive and giving. A natural celebration of those qualities we so love; they help us connect to the world around us, and traditionally offered survival as people share limited resources for food and heat through the winter. Yet, as we North Americans love to do everything to excess, the holidays are over the top, to the point of frenzy.

The stress of the year comes, in part, from the struggle between the two poles of energy clashing.

This year, in order to maintain your energy, your sanity and your joy through the season, balance those the seasonal extremes regularly.

Connect daily – hourly – with the yin energy of the natural season (of which you are an integral part) to offset the yang of the seasonal holiday.

Here’s how:

  1. Soups, stews and congees – food cooked with water or other liquid – nourish deeply with their easily assimilated nutrients and gentle warmth. Eat one or the other daily. Squash soup, with a hint of curry, apple and coconut is my favourite, like a warm blanket in a bowl. Bonus points for drinking/using bone broth.
  2. Foods that tonify yin include millet, barley, rice (eaten as whole grains, not in flour products); beans, especially black, kidney, mung or green; beets, black- & raspberry, seaweed. Easy on the red meat, sugar/refined carbs and alcohol; remember the gratitude for the bounty along with the indulgence – celebrate conscientiously.
  3. Turn inward daily with quiet practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, put on a fire (or a candle) and get lost in its flames. Give yourself an opportunity to turn off for a few minutes every day. Trust that it will all get done; trust that what gets done is enough.
  4. Take a walk in the early morning or the evening. Let the quiet penetrate you, and notice your limbs soften as the frenzy drops away. Though the earth is frozen, you can still tap into its energy by consciously feeling your feet connect with the snow and pavement at every step – imagine red roots running into your soles, nourishing you with the distant warmth of the core.
  5. Balance the giving with a healthy dose of receiving. We’re good at the first – not so much the second. Practise receiving compliments, an offer of a cup of tea or help in the kitchen. At a recent party, several people commented on how good I looked – after the 2nd or 3rd time, I noticed my shoulders curled in and my chest collapsed even as I thanked them. Open your heart and let the love, the gift, the compliment in. As Dr. Northrup says, it gifts the other person with the joy of having their words and other offers of love accepted. (You can start right now – see below for my present to you.)

What gets you the most stressed out at this time of year? What practices help you stay balanced? When you share in the comments, you open the opportunities for others.

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My Christmas gift to you:

Over the last few years, I’ve found a word to be my touchstone, my intention and my guide for the year. Better than a resolution, it creates a container in which to take action with healthy practices, it creates a filter through which to set my priorities and make decisions, both personal and professional.

On the 21st, the darkest day of the year, I will be posting an audio guide for helping you connect with YOUR word for 2017. Solstice is the perfect time to explore your needs and priorities and set that intention, so that it can come into the light as we head to the new year.

Access will be exclusively for the community in the Whole Health Dinner Party space. Learn more and join here.

Now practise the joy of giving: Share this post with 2 of your friends using any (or all!) of the links below.

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A Healthy Expression of You

 

I’m so glad I embraced that new tradition of coming up with a Word of the Year. It has so much more staying power and room for possibility, rather than resolutions for things you’ll jump into whole-heartedly for 3 weeks, then let fizzle out and gather dust with those last few Christmas ornaments you keep forgetting to pack away.

For 2015, I chose Trust. It held a place of honour on my first-ever vision board (unless you count my adolescent bedroom wall). It underlay the decisions I made in work and life. It peppered my parenting. Trust allowed me to take a step back from the worried, need-to-control-every-outcome-in-my-life thoughts that spin around my head at 3 am.

A year based on Trust opened the space for more possibility and best of all, those possibilities showed up!

  • As deep connections with new colleagues and clients;
  • As more clients (aka more income);
  • As fewer stress-based knee-jerk reactions when the shit hit the fan;
  • As fewer inner battles around eating “good” food and steering clear of the stuff that does me harm;
  • As professionals trusting me to be the person they needed to flesh out their projects – a reflection of my own trust in having the ability to step up and be that person;
  • As fewer arguments, more ease and fun, with my sons;
  • As a more honest look at who I am and what I want/need.

As magical as the power of commitment to a word is, there’s magic in the discovery of the word in the first place.

How to Choose a Word

There are plenty of business and life coaches around with tools to help you find your word for the coming year. Some of them are based on core feelings, some on core values…or a combination of the two. (If you want a specific reference, let me know and I’ll send you some links.)

In the end, it comes down to being aware of what you say, what you write, which topics draw you in as you read – notice the words and themes that come up often. It’s the way that your soul gently invites you to explore what’s most important for your growth and healing over the next 4 seasons.

This is how it’s transpired for me in the last few weeks:

I’ve given a lot of attention to stepping away from letting the list of shoulds dictate my day, and moving towards decisive action.

Small moments of dishonesty – “white” lies, omissions, denial – mostly to myself – have been coming out of the shadows and tapping me on the shoulder for appraisal.

I noticed ways in which I held myself back from saying what I fully needed to say to a client, in a supervision group, to my child, to my husband. …Or let it out in a passive aggressive way.

I noticed ways in which I shied away from giving all I could have in a situation – food for a pot-luck, donations, gifts.

During an energetic medicine session, my throat became tight at the same time as the practitioner started coughing.

In part it was all about doing over not doing, saying over holding back. But as I sat with it, really let it all sink in as I journaled about it, the word came out loud and clear.

Expression

Perhaps it could be seen as an extension of the trust I built last year. Where trust required a bit more surrender, expression requires a verb. It’s the movement, the action, the saying of the words that come up when I trust myself. Expression is a fully honest manifestation of me – poured forth into a safe container held by people I trust to receive it.

I have a feeling it’ll prove to be the “master class” for what I learned about over the past year. As I prepare to commit to its development through 2016, I recognize it will also come with a more expanded sense of responsibility, as who I am is more openly expressed.

Regardless, I’m already excited about the magic it will create in my health, my relationships and my life.

What do you need more of in 2016? Would finding a theme word help you achieve it? Let’s find out: write your word here and open the possibilities for yourself!

Want accountability and moral support as you explore? Tell two friends (by using the share buttons below) and get them to join you.

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Vibrant Health: Better than a Magic Bullet

There was a moment with the client I had the other day – she’s by no means the only one who does this – when she was hit with the reality that there’s no magic bullet. She won’t leave my office with her pants feeling miraculously looser any more than one day without gluten will see her through every meal without bloating.

It’s the point when she realizes that achieving her health goals will involve choice and commitment every day. It’ll take effort and persistence both inside and out.

As we talk more, and I learn more deeply about what she wants – how she wants to feel – I watch as that sense of burden transforms into hope: she can do this!

It’s not only possible, it goes above and beyond her desire for more energy, less weight and easy periods. While it may take a couple of months to ease her symptoms, this is something she can have today.

That something is Vibrant Health.

Vibrant Health is being connected to your body – aware of sensations, emotions, likes & dislikes, and using them as beacons to where you want to go in life.

Vibrant Health is engaging with life sensually: with all your senses. Tuning into the colours, smells, sounds, textures, tastes all around you, and letting them guide your decisions.

Vibrant Health is a state of balance – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – the wherewithal to navigate daily challenges with grace.

Health isn’t static or finite. We act as if it’s indelibly lodged in a certain weight, a lack of disease or the ability to complete a half-marathon in under 2 hours. I watch people run the race for health in frantic attempts at perfection, fearing that one step in the wrong direction will have them tumbling back to square one, or worse, an early grave.

On the other hand, I see people (ok, women) put the priority of their own health way at the bottom of the to-do list, letting it get buried under a pile of kids’ and husband’s and work needs. (Read more about the wisdom of putting yourself first here and here.)

Regardless of how much you weigh, how many cookies you eat, whether you opt for organic (or not), it’s possible to be healthy.

Health isn’t an absolute. Like anything in life, once you arrive at your intended goal, more doors will open to lead you towards the next big thing.

This is natural and to be expected. As you create new habits and discover who you are underneath those symptoms – as you grow and expand into who you want to become – that new version of you will have a whole new set of priorities and desires.

Vibrant Health is the joy you feel knowing you’re doing everything you can, in this moment, to be as helathy as you can, to live the life you want.

Vibrant Health includes knowing you’ve got what it takes to make positive changes on your own.

Vibrant Health means being honest enough with yourself to know when to reach out for help from friends, colleagues, accountants, lawyers, health practitioners, body workers, contractors, a cleaning lady,…

Vibrant Health goes beyond food and exercise. Yes, whole food choices play a huge role; they’re part of the inner shifts that create the glow as you blossom on the outside. As promised by miracle detergents, Vibrant Health turns the washed-out version of your life into the vivid colours you’ve always imagined.

Vibrant Health isn’t a destination. It’s a journey.

Like any journey, it takes planning, time and perseverance. Like any journey, you get where you want to go one step at a time. Like any journey, you’re the one who has to take those steps. As with any professional who helps you along the way, my role is to act as your guide, showing you the simplest path.

Because it’s my desire to see women all over the world expand into a state of Vibrant Health, I’ve come up with a recipe to get things cooking. Enter your details here and I’ll send it to you.

In the meantime, tell us what your vision of Vibrant Health looks like. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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