Grieving Through the Holidays

I have always heard that the holidays are a hard time to be missing someone. Up to this point, they have been difficult, but this year has been the hardest. This is now my fourth Christmas without my husband and I am finding it to be one of the most difficult!

I am not sure why this is. At first, I tried to figure it out. Why is this holiday so hard? After all, it’s not new for me. I almost felt a little angry at myself for feeling this way, but then I paused and thought it’s not about the “why” or about beating myself up about it. It is what it is, and it is part of the process! I reaffirmed my vow to own the grieving process in all its ups and downs.

Grieving Through the Holidays

Be in the Present

I have noticed in my own grieving that when I forecast the future or dwell in the past, the grieving becomes worse. When I am present in the moment, it seems much more manageable. What this means is, when I catch myself thinking about all that I am now missing or how the future will look, it takes me into stories that put me in a worse, more emotional place. Don’t get me wrong I do think about previous holidays we had together and reminisce about the good times, I don’t live in the past though. I smile at the memories that I have and then return to the present.

The same happens when I start to question whether I will be single at future holidays, or if I will ever have a significant other to share the holidays with again. I continue questioning if the holidays will ever look the same. Again, I take myself into a place of fear about the future and what that will look like. Both of these situations cause me unneeded sorrow.

When I find myself getting stuck in the past or forecasting the future, I gently bring myself back to the present moment by taking a couple of deep breaths and grounding myself in the present moment. The thing is, I will always have the memories and I have no idea what the future holds, so I choose to not let these bring on more grief than I need.

Grieving Through the Holidays

Honour Yourself

I have practiced this one since my husband first passed. I honour where I am at. I feel into the feelings I am having at that moment so that they don’t build up and take over me. If I am having a sad day, then it is a sad day!

I honour my feelings and I recognize that they too will pass. How I do this is different depending on how strong the feelings are sometimes, it just takes acknowledging them and letting it pass. Sometimes it takes a mindful practice of recognizing the feeling, having self-compassion, and acknowledging myself and what I am going through. Whatever it takes, I stay with the feeling until it naturally passes. And that’s just it, it does pass, and another one comes rolling in like a wave, sometimes it’s a positive one and sometimes it’s a difficult one. Whatever it may be, because I am choosing to let them pass and honouring them when they are present, they do not become overwhelming.

If you are struggling with your emotions try honouring your feelings, let them happen and don’t try to push them aside or stuff them down – it only makes things worse. You can do this by saying “I am sad today and that is ok”, or “I am grieving today and that is ok”. This gives you permission to have the feeling and acknowledges what you are going through.

Reach Out

One of my most profound lessons from the grieving process is that there is healing in reaching out to others. I have some pretty amazing supports in my life who are there for me. The people that I choose to share with are specific people who do not try to fix me or do not offer unsolicited advice, rather they are people whom I trust and know are there for me. They do not try and make things better, they just offer their presence and a shoulder when it is needed. They support me in the way I need to be and that is priceless.

Grieving Through the Holidays

Previously, I had always felt I needed to be strong and that I was burdening others when I asked for support. It is through the grieving that I realized I have so many wonderful people in my life who are there for me, I just need to reach out. Realizing this has made such a difference! As I said, the people I share with are very special people who I know can offer me the support I need. If you are struggling this holiday, I encourage you to share the weight of your grief with people who can support you. If they are true supports, it won’t drag them down, and it certainly will take some of the load off of you.

To find these supports, be clear on what you need and ask for it. So many times, others feel they need to fix us and they try to offer unsolicited advice or try to show us that it’s really not that bad, or they try to change the focus back to them. I believe that most do this because they feel it will help, but, for me, this makes things worse. Set your boundaries on what support you need and ask for it! If you just need someone to listen, then ask for that. If you need someone to help you in completing your holiday to-do-list, then ask for that. If you need someone to reminisce with, then ask for that. Be clear on what you need and ask for it from the people you trust. I have found there are so many people who are willing, we just need to reach out.

Grieving Through the Holidays

These are three of the things that I am practicing this holiday and it seems to be lightening the grieving and helping me through the holidays. Grieving is difficult anytime, but the holidays have this expectation of being joyful and bright and, sometimes, they just are not…and that is ok! Love yourself through this difficult time!

Sending you much love and hope this holiday season!

The Spirit of the Season

I have been working with people for a long time and, for most of my career, I have worked with people who were living in poverty. I started to notice very early that, despite budgeting with them and setting limits on spending for the holidays, my clients would go overboard and purchase things that were way out of their limits buying gifts for family and friends. It wasn’t long until I realized that there was a lot more behind purchasing gifts than just the gifts themselves. For the most part, these clients were motivated not just by the Christmas spirit, but they had a deeper drive pushing them. This pattern of behaviour is not limited to my previous clients. I see this type of behaviour in all people from all walks of life. I have even noticed it in myself!

When our spirit of the season is not about the feelings of the season and rather is motivated by some underlying energy, it can take our holidays from something fun and enjoyable to stressful, chaotic and even self-loathing. There are three motivating factors that I have noticed in myself and others that can wreak havoc on your holidays.

Any of these sound familiar?

Guilt

I think this one can be especially true for parents. Guilt is evident when we

  • Exhaustedly scouring stores for hours
  • Fight with shoppers because we NEED that item
  • Go overboard and have a million presents under the tree.
  • Or by putting ourselves in debt to make sure you have everything on the list.

In these cases, the energy behind the action is not just wanting a good Christmas, there is something more It feels more like a ‘need’, like you have to, or the holiday will be ruined.

I think the guilt comes from personal perceptions of short fallings as a parent, wife, friend etc. Like my clients, they felt guilty about their kids living in poverty, so they compensated by overspending. For others, I think that the driving force is guilt around not being a ‘good enough’ parent, friend, or partner. They perceive that they have fallen short in some area such as too much work, too little family time, too strict, too preoccupied, generally not being a good enough parent, friend, or partner. This guilt fuels the insanity that is Christmas shopping for many of us. We are motivated not by the spirit of giving or the joy of the season, but rather feeling like we ‘need to’ compensate because we don’t measure up in other ways.

Perfection

Another driving force that I have observed is the need to make the holiday ‘perfect’. Some people NEED the holidays to be perfect, for whatever reason, and they won’t settle for anything less. The results are the same they may put themselves in debt, drive themselves crazy trying to find that perfect gift, run themselves ragged trying to make everything perfect. The thing is, the harder we try to make things perfect, the more we notice that it’s not perfect! Therefore we can either surrender or keep pushing and driving ourselves nuts.

I have observed this perfectionism playing out at family dinners. People spend hours to set the table so it looks just right, spending the whole day prepping and cooking, fixing and adjusting, then collapse at the end of the night from exhaustion. Meanwhile, they missed out on the joy and fun of the day! If we are in this mindset, then I hate to tell you, but there is no such thing as perfect and all the energy you use to make it perfect could be spent enjoying the holiday instead! (Sound like you? Learn more about the problems with perfectionism, here.)

The Spirit of the Season

Compensation

This one is similar to guilt and can go hand in hand, but the energy behind it is a little different. From this perspective, gift giving is viewed as a time to compensate. For example, getting the right gift so that your children, family, spouse, etc. know that you love them because throughout the year you avoid sharing your feelings and yourself with them. This can be either a perceived shortcoming or actually not giving them all of you because your energy is focused elsewhere. Whichever it is, you take Christmas as a time to share all the things you haven’t said, how much you care, how grateful you are for them, how much you love them, how important they are to you. And again, you drive yourself crazy trying to find the perfect thing to express all those locked up emotions. The pressure on getting the gift is immense because it is no longer a gift, but the way to communicate your feelings because you haven’t or feel you can’t do it throughout the year.  That is a lot of pressure on a purchase!

What we are really doing

The ironic thing is if the energy behind our holidays is any of the above, what we are actually doing is spending the holiday doing exactly what we are trying to avoid. Our spirit of the season is not about love, and connection rather it is guilt-ridden, chaotic and stressful! Needless to say less than enjoyable.

Now what?

There is nothing wrong with wanting a good holiday or to find your loved ones gifts that bring them joy, but if you are finding you are killing yourself and stressing yourself out over it, then you need to ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’.

Then really check into the motivating energy behind your actions. If it is guilt, compensation or the need for perfection, then you need to ask yourself if this is really what you want from your holiday. If it’s not, change it!

How to Protect Yourself from Negative People

Have you ever spent time with people who live the glass is half empty lifestyle? No matter what is happening, they ALWAYS have something to complain about! I have to admit I struggle with people like that. I am definitely the glass is half full personality. Through my years working with people, I have come across this personality trait many times. It is still one of the hardest ones for me to deal with.

 

 

 

I find when you are around a negative person it just feels draining, it’s like they are sucking the energy right out of you. Or is that just me? With the holidays around the corner, we are all bound to run into some negative people – angry shoppers, annoyed drivers, stressed out coworkers – all of which can dampen our holiday spirits, but only if we let it! Here are a few ways to protect yourself from the negativity and help you have a happy holiday season.

 

It’s Not About You

I think this is one of the hardest things to come to terms with. I think a lot of the time we tell ourselves that it is maybe something we did or said that put this person into a negative mood. We think if we would have been nicer, smiled more or were friendlier, then they wouldn’t act this way. This couldn’t be further from the truth! When someone is in a negative place they are choosing that. Maybe not consciously, but it is their choice and you are not responsible! You are only responsible for yourself. No matter what you did, or did not do, you can NOT make anyone feel anyway. The reverse is also true they can NOT make you feel anyway either. So, when you encounter one of these negative people, remind yourself “It is not about me”. If you do feel that you have offended someone, then apologize but don’t take the responsibility of their crappy mood, they have a choice!

Not Your Responsibility to Lift their Mood

I felt for years it was my job to “fix” peoples moods (there is still a little voice inside me at times). I felt it was my responsibility to make them feel better. To help them become more positive. I used to try and point out the silver lining, or try to show them the positive side. This is a skill that works well in my own life, but when someone is being negative they often find ways to rain on anything you may point out, which can be frustrating and draining. What I realize now is it is not my responsibility to “fix” other peoples’ moods. It is not even my business how they are choosing to feel. This may sound harsh but unless I am given the invitation, I try to leave people to it. This revelation has mainly come about from the fact that I realize now we all have to face our feelings and that we if we choose to, we can learn from every situation. Therefore, by me trying to fix their mood, I am robbing them of the opportunity to learn and grow.

 

Try Compassion

Despite being able to see how much pain and suffering negative people are in (knowing it is not my responsibility to “fix” them), I still want to help. Having been in a negative frame of mind from time to time, I understand that this is an uncomfortable, unpleasant place to be. Therefore, I understand, that on some level this person is suffering. I choose to use compassion. Either out loud or in my mind, I send the negative person compassion for their suffering. This is as simple as stating “May you find peace”. This simple statement can sometimes switch their mood. Even if it doesn’t, it feels good to hold a space of hope and compassion for them, even if for just a minute.

 

 

Remove Yourself from the Person

 

You have a choice when faced with negativity: You can choose to remove yourself from the situation, by simply excusing yourself or, if that is not possible and you are forced to be in the situation, you can choose to not allow their energy to affect you. This can be done by simply making a conscious effort to not let their energy cloud over you. Say in your mind “I choose not to let this energy affect me.” Or “I block all negativity from affecting me”. By saying this, you are setting the intention to protect yourself. It’s almost like you are putting up an energetic barrier to protect you.

Set Your Boundaries

If you don’t like it, set your boundaries. Tell the person the truth. If you don’t like the behaviour, tell them; if you want them to be a part of their life but don’t appreciate the negativity, tell them that too. You deserve to have boundaries and they deserve to know the truth! Be kind but firmly state what you want. Maybe it’s saying something like “I enjoy our friendship, but when you are being so negative, I struggle to be around you. I would appreciate if you kept your negativity to yourself when we are together” or “I find it difficult to hear you always complaining, I like spending time with you, how can we make this work?”. Trust yourself, you will find the right words. If you really want this person in your life but are having difficulties with the negativity, tell the truth! Check this out, for more tips on setting boundaries.

 

These 5 steps can help you protect yourself from the negativity around you. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be positive and reduce the negativity in your life. You deserve a happy, positive life! Try these tips over the holidays because there surely will be people you will run into who are in a negative frame of mind!

3 Ways to Honour this Remembrance Day

In honour of Remembrance Day, this November 11th, I thought it would be fitting if I shared 3 ways that we can truly honour the sacrifices made by so many for us to enjoy our freedom. The great thing is they are not limited to one special day but that we can carry out throughout the year. These three things are part of living an authentic life and enjoying the freedoms we have because so many sacrificed.

Included with each suggestion is an action step that you can use to practice these lessons in your life.

 

3 Ways to Honour this Remembrance Day

 

  • Be grateful – Others sacrificed for all that we have.

Gratitude is not limited to only the good times. It is also recognizing that no matter how life is going at the moment, there is always something to be grateful for. I think this is especially true where we live. There are so many freedoms that we have, and so many amazing people on this planet that are doing spectacular things that there is always something to be grateful for. As I have previously mentioned, I think that we focus too often on the negative aspects of both our lives and what’s going on in the world. When we talk about the atrocities, we feed the fear monster with stories of the anger, hatred and suffering going on in the world. Some of us even focus on the negative in our lives and spend most of our time dwelling in this dark places. This is not living a grateful life. This is living a life that perpetuates the belief that we live in an unsafe, scary, nasty world. Being grateful does not mean that we only focus on the positive or bury our heads in the sand. What it does mean is making a conscious effort to recognize what we have to be grateful for and there is a lot of it!

Action step:

This Remembrance Day, be grateful for all that you have and all that you are able to do. Try making this a day where you will openly express your gratitude for all the things you enjoy in your life. Tell your family why you are grateful for them, tell strangers who hold the door for you that you are grateful, tell that friend who always supports you, you are grateful. Whatever it is share your gratitude today … out loud!

 

3 Ways to Honour this Remembrance Day

 

  • Enjoy your freedom – become really free!

Freedom is an interesting word… we say that we are free, but I think a lot of us do not actually feel free. We are bogged down by obligations, by commitments, by beliefs about how we should live our lives and we feel that we “have” to do this and “have” to do that. This is not really the definition of freedom. For so many people, freedom is just a word that has no power in their lives. They work in jobs that are not satisfying, they settle for relationships that they are not happy in, they wake up in the morning going “Ugh, another day”. Does this sound free? It sure doesn’t to me.

Freedom for me is having each and every moment to choose happiness, to choose a life that excites you, to choose to live authentically. How can we say that we are free when most decisions we make are guided by stories that we tell ourselves about what life “should” be, rather than what we desire? We live in a society that, in theory, allows us the freedom to live a good life, but then we restrain our choices because we fear the consequences of stepping out of our comfort zone. We feel we need to work our butts off to save for retirement so then we can enjoy freedom. We struggle in relationships so that we are not alone because alone is undesirable. We work in jobs that we hate so that we are being a good member of society. We put off vacations because we have too many obligations. We don’t take care of our mental and physical health needs because there is no time for that “stuff”. Does this sound like freedom? I get that there are things that must be done, but wouldn’t it be liberating if the have to’s were the rarity and want to’s were the rule?

Action step:

Today is a great day to start living your freedom! Take some time in self-reflection today and notice one thing in your life that you are feeling (“Ugh, I have to do this”), and either find something about that thing that you can love, or change it. Here is what I have committed to doing. I strongly dislike doing the dishes they are one of my “have” to’s and I try to avoid them like the plague! So my agreement in the name of freedom is this – I know the dishes need to get done so I can either replace them all with paper plates (not going to happen), so I have decided that I will make a “doing the dishes” playlist on my phone and choose songs that I love that I sing and dance to and that will make this mundane chore a little more exciting and fun!

Your ‘change to freedom’ item can be simple like mine. Or perhaps it’s something bigger like looking for a new job that satisfies you. If that is not in the cards yet, maybe you could find a hobby that you love that makes your long days more bearable.  Whatever it may be, choose something that you can do this weekend to honour those by living a truly free life!

 

3 Ways to Honour this Remembrance Day

 

  • Promote kindness – Make our world a better place.

When we get stuck in our lives, we often miss out on the opportunity to make our world a better place. Kindness is one thing that we are all capable of doing that makes our world a better place. There is a Random Acts of Kindness day where we practice doing a random act of kindness. I love this idea, but I say why not do it all the time? Imagine what our world would be like if everyone did at least one act of kindness a day! I know it sounds kind of love-in and hippie-like, but seriously, if we all practiced kindness on a daily or weekly basis we would feel better and others would benefit too!

The idea behind a random act of kindness is that it is for no other reason than to be kind to another. You are not doing it for gratitude, for recognition or for reward, but simply to just share the kindness. Some of you may be thinking that you don’t have time for this, but that’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be some big grand gesture. It can be small and simple and fit into your daily routine. Like a pebble thrown in a pond, your act of kindness has ripple effects that reach far and wide in our communities and in our world.

Action step:

Choose something that you can commit to doing to demonstrate kindness to someone on a weekly basis. Here are a few ideas:

 

Leave the money in the shopping cart for the next person

Buy a coffee for the next person in line

Give up your parking space

Volunteer with your favorite organization

Shovel a neighbor’s snow

Anonymously buy someone flowers in the office

Bring in treats anonymously to the office

 

There are countless ways to show kindness, if you have other ideas please add them in the comments section; let’s get a good list going!

3 Ways to Honour this Remembrance Day

 

So, while you are honouring and observing Remembrance Day/Veterans Day this Sunday keep these 3 things in mind: practice gratitude, enjoy your freedom and promote kindness. Let’s really honour our veterans and make our lives and our world a place that is truly living free and happy!

 

Thank you to all of those who have sacrificed. I respect and honour your sacrifices and I am deeply grateful!

Behind the Mask!

With Halloween approaching, I started to think about costumes and masks. The fun of playing with masks (and costumes) can be witnessed by watching kids and some adults who know how to play! They love Halloween because they get to dress up and play different roles or characters, like the video I received last night of my nephew. He is dressing up as a dinosaur this year and in the video, he was roaring and shaking his tail and stomping around like a dinosaur. He was, for that moment, a dinosaur! That’s the fun part of dressing up – being able to “play” someone or something else for a while. This trying on of different characters or roles is fun and can teach us a lot about ourselves and others!

 

 

This got me to thinking about the masks that people wear daily, myself included. It struck me how sometimes these masks become such a part of our identity that the thought of taking them off is too much to bear, it is like they are no longer a mask but they now define who we are.

In this case, we are no longer playing a role – we are that role. When we over identify with a role it is no longer a mask, rather it becomes a part of our identity. We start to define who we are,  and judge ourselves based on the idealized version of the mask. This is where we get into trouble! It’s like we lose ourselves and struggle to become this idealized version of the mask. The problem here is that we lose who we truly are, and define ourselves by the a role we play we stop embracing all of who we are!

Common Masks

For women, masks that we wear are “good girl”, “nurturer”, “good wife”, “problem solver”, “beauty queen” or “good mother”. For men, common masks are “provider”, “protector”, “good father”, “good husband” and “can shoulder anything”. There are countless other masks that we wear but these are some of the common ones that I have found.  Again, none of these are harmful or negative, if we try them on at times, but when they become a definition of who we are, they are out of balance and that is not healthy for us.

Nurturer Mask

An example for me is that, for as long as I can remember, I have always identified with the mask of a nurturer, that’s why I went into the human services field. For many years I was Tara who helps people, Tara the social worker! I so strongly identified with this role that I am sure that is how I introduced myself (or at least made sure in the first couple minutes of conversation I made that clear). While I was proud of the work I was doing, I now recognize it was out of balance I had lost “Tara” and I was just Tara the social worker. In my mind, my job defined me. This imbalance resulted in working late hours, taking calls and texts from clients in the evenings and on the weekends, always going above and beyond to see my clients succeed and when they didn’t, I was taking their failures as my failure. “I should have done more” and “bad nurturer” was the message. The thing is, when we over-identify with a role, this gives our inner critic fuel to start berating us because we have not measured up. On the other hand, if it is just a mask that we wear (at times), then there is room for mistakes and a perceived failure can be viewed as what they are a mistake, rather than, “you suck”. This also means when it comes time to change the role you are not faced with an identity crisis. You are still you…just changing a mask! I am sure lots of you can relate to this. Too many of us over identify with our careers. We think we are what we do, we let our work define who we are! But…we are more than our careers, we are friends, mothers, artists, wives, sisters, daughters … the list is endless!

Behind the Mask!

 

That is where I am now. I am Tara. I have many different roles, but before all of them I am me! This is a much healthier, happier place to be. It allows me the freedom to choose when and what masks I will wear. The best part is when the mask comes off, I know who I am without it, my mask no longer defines me!

Good Mother Mask

Another mask that I often see women over identify with is the role of “good mother”. This is definitely an important role, but if you have convinced yourself that you can’t be anything but a “good mother” then you are out of balance.

  • Does the thought of not baking the cookies for the bake sale (even though you are tired or sick), bring on shame?
  • Does the act of being late to pick up your kids send you into throws of negative self-talk and guilt?
  • Does the thought of your child not being perfect, make you feel like a failure?
  • Or probably the most common – Do you run yourself ragged taking care of your kids and feel guilty if you take time for yourself?

I would suggest then that you have over-identified with the “good mother” mask. If this is you then being a good mother is no longer a mask,  it has become a defining part of your personality! When this over identification happens, you are determined to succeed at the role at any cost! A mistake feels like failure, at a core level! You are no longer you, the person who is a mother, rather you are MOTHER. The role has become your identity!

The truth is, you were a whole person before you became a mother and you still are! Mother is a role you play, an important role for sure, but one among many others. You are still you, at your core – “good mother” or not.  If you have over-identified with this role, it won’t feel like that, it feels like the role of mother defines who you are, and that is not healthy!

Behind the Mask!

 

Don’t Forget Who You Are!

This Halloween when you are considering a costume, take a minute to consider the masks that you wear daily. Are there masks that you wear that have become too entrenched? Masks that no longer feel removable? Masks that you feel define who you are? Then it’s time to start looking at whether they are serving your overall wellness!

 Happy Halloween!

Hope is a Risk

As I sit here and reflect on the night before my husband passed away, I am struck at how much of a risk it is to hold on to hope. That night, I sat there holding (really grasping) on to any ounce of hope I could. I held a positive attitude that he would wake up from his comma, not that the forecast for him doing so was great, and still I sat hoping. I kept praying to myself just one more time to talk to him and to see his beautiful blue eyes. I am sure as I sat there, some part of me knowing the end result, but still I held on to hope, clung to it really. I couldn’t let it go… I wasn’t ready to face the inevitable truth.

Hope is a Risk

 

Now reflecting, it was not only my husband that I lost that day, but my hope faded away too. I grieved his loss, but it is hope that I was missing. To this day, I am not sure it has completely returned but I am a lot better now, than I was then. Even still, I find myself going into a fear state when I try to hold out hope for anything!

I believe that I feel this fear because I felt betrayed by hope itself. That night, I held on so tightly and I felt it let me down. I had faith in my hope (and I needed it), but it certainly felt like a risk to have it at all

I feel that when we hold a space for hope, it makes us vulnerable it puts us in a risky place, because we are hanging on for a way to see the good, we are holding out for the fulfillment of a dream, and that feels risky. But on the other hand, if while I sat there in that hospital room, I would have just surrendered to the fact that he was going to die, maybe it would have been easier, but at the same time if I would have let go of my hope I feel things would have felt worse. As difficult as it was to be hopeful, it would have been much worse to be hopeless in that moment!

Hope is a Risk

We need hope.  It is our light, it is our optimism. It is what keeps us moving forward in times of despair, it is the light on the path to our future. When we live without hope we live an unfulfilled, depressing life.  I am realizing now that after Woody passed it’s not that hope was lost I was just scared to hope again. That’s the thing there are no guarantees with hope.  That is both the joy in it, as well as the disappointment. That is the risk. It doesn’t guarantee anything it only offers the option for numerous outcomes. So as much as it is a risk, I still think it is worth taking the chance.

We all have hope inside of us. Hope for a better life, a better relationship, a better state of health, a better understanding of ourselves.  We risk every day when we dream for these things. That night I was just hoping for him to wake and that did not happen, but I can see now all my other hopes were answered. I had long held a dream for a better life, a more congruent life with my beliefs.  A happier, more satisfying life. I didn’t know it then, but my authentic life and that is exactly what I got! This most likely would not have happened if he did live. I would have returned to my comfort zone and continued to hope that one day… I would be happier and feel fufilled!

Hope is a Risk

What I have now is my authenticity, the real me. What I didn’t realize then is that I was holding on to hope for him to live out of fear. If he lived that night, it would not have been in either of our best interests. He was suffering, the last weeks of his life and he had come to peace with his passing (other than his worries about me) and for me, I just didn’t want to face the emotional and life upheaval, that was inevitable. So, the hope I had was from a place of fear which is why it was so devastating when it didn’t happen. My hope on the other hand, could have been for the greatest good for both of us, rather than for him to just live so that I would not suffer.

 

Suffering, like hope, is a part of life and it is that suffering that provides opportunities for us to grow and evolve. Without it most of us would stay stuck in our OK, comfortable lives, never truly happy. The suffering in my case was a big one, but we are all suffering. If we are in relationships, jobs or a life that doesn’t totally satisfy us, we are suffering. Most times we stay and hold out hope, like me, out of fear of the unknown.

What I realize now is that it takes real courage and strength to hold a space for hope, embrace that fear and move forward into life. In our culture, we often associate strength, bravery and courage with standing our ground, and aggressive type behavior; being brave in the face of enemies.  But the thing is, in my opinion, bravery is much more subtle than that. It takes courage and bravery to hold true hope! It takes courage and bravery to face your fears and give them space. It takes absolute strength to truly feel into deeply emotional situations, to question your life and make changes. Following your heart and soul takes courage, strength and bravery. And it is our hope that guides us through.

So, to all you brave souls, continue to hope, continue to be brave and face each day with courage and strength; keep moving forward towards the authentic you!

Hope is a Risk

 

Thanksgiving Promise

I speak about gratitude often, and with this weekend being Canadian Thanksgiving I am reminded of how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude all year round.

Thanksgiving Promise
I have found in my practice, both my own and with my clients, that practicing gratitude is life changing! Here are a few ways how gratitude helps you:

 

1) Switch your thinking from a negative space to something lighter.

We are naturally hardwired to focus on the negative, that means that we spend a lot of our time in negative space. We look for the bad, we look for all the things that can harm us, but the fact is we are not at risk all the time, we don’t NEED to be constantly on guard. Therefore, when you notice that your mind is in a negative place you can retrain it by shifting it towards gratitude. Instead of being focused on the negative, be thankful for the fact that you are safe. Be thankful for Mother Earth, be thankful for your families and loved ones who support and help you; really anything that you can think of. Turn your negative thoughts into thoughts of gratitude and rewire your negative brain!

2) Move through fear.

I am sure I am not the only one who has been in an overwhelmingly joyful situation and suddenly a wave of fear rushes over and ruins the moment. We feel this joy, like when we are having a romantic evening with our spouse or a play date with our kids and all of a sudden, this wave of fear comes over us. We fear that our child could get sick that our spouse could leave us … that something horrible could happen to take away our happiness. When this happens, you can turn your mind towards gratitude. Instead of letting fear rob you of the joyful moment you can be thankful and joyful!

 

3) Recognize the good.

Just like training any muscle in our body the more we can turn our thoughts towards the good the stronger that muscle gets. By focusing on what you can be grateful for rather than what is going wrong we train ourselves to see the good. We build that muscle and after a while (when that muscle develops) we will automatically see the good in all situations. This even applies to life’s hard lessons when we are suffering. Because you have trained your brain to be grateful, you will be able to see beyond the suffering and recognize (no matter how small) the good in the situation. There is always something good in any situation, train yourself to see it. With every storm comes the rain that nurtures the Earth.

Thanksgiving Promise

 

4) Grounds in the present moment.

When we are practicing gratitude, we are grounded in the present moment. Living in the past or forecasting the future causes us grief. When we are ruminating on the past, thinking and rethinking about what went wrong, what we could have/should have done; or, we are forecasting the future, let’s face it, it’s usually forecasting doom and gloom; we are not in the present, we are not living mindfully. When you practice gratitude, you are firmly grounding yourself in the present, you are using your powerful mind to focus on what is good, in the present moment, and that is exactly where we find peace.
I can’t speak enough about the power of gratitude, but I also know this can be a struggle when we are in the middle of a stormy time, but that is precisely when we need it most! All I can say is you won’t understand how powerful this practice can be unless you try!

Thanksgiving Promise

 

 

 

This Thanksgiving make a promise to yourself that you will practice gratitude daily; take that Thanksgiving feeling with you into the future and see how life changing it can be! And remember there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for!

With much gratitude for your following, Happy Thanksgiving!

 

A New Reflection – Transformation Mind, Body & Soul

I had an interesting experience in my yoga class the other week. I noticed my shadow when I was doing a pose and at first glance I didn’t even recognize it! I found this interesting, as over the past three years I have been doing a lot of work in the area of personal growth and spiritual awareness. It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t recognize my reflection because it was new, I was new!

 

A New Reflection

 

Looking back over the past three years I am proud of the steps I have taken to move my life in a new direction, a direction towards creating a life that I love. It has been a lot of work and at times it has been difficult but it has been all worth it…I have a new reflection!

Seeing this new reflection has reminded on a literal level how our bodies carry our experiences. What I have found is once I started to sort through all my old patterns and beliefs, my body physically started to change.

I see it clearly now that as I was physically, emotionally and psychologically letting things go, that no longer served me, I was changing., my reflection had changed!

On an emotional level, I used to get quite teary at times, it was like my emotions were pouring out of me. I understand now that as I was at maximum capacity for stuffed emotions and, when something happened slightly emotional (that really wasn’t that significant), my emotions would run over. I no longer do this! Instead, I have learned to feel through my emotions, I used to stuff them down, so as not to appear weak and emotional, I can see now how unhealthy for me that was. This is something I think a lot of us do. When we stuff our emotions, they don’t just go away. They build up in our bodies and, at some point, we just explode. Perhaps that looks like anger, maybe it’s self- abuse, a “nervous breakdown”, or maybe it is acts of numbing; which I think is most common. On the surface, we may look like we are coping, but really, deep down, we are suffering! Now, that I allow my emotions rather than stuff them, my reflection now shows a less stressed more flexible, happier person. And that is pretty cool!

 

A New Reflection

 

Perhaps the biggest way my reflection has changed is psychologically. I have learned to love and accept myself; this has probably been the hardest. I have learned that the thoughts running through my mind are not an absolute … I have a choice! I have learned that “I am who I am”. What I mean by this is I have learned to embrace the shadow aspect parts of me. The ones that I was previously, desperately tried to hide. I did this because I worried I would be judged and I was scared to show them. Now, I have learned to be compassionate with myself, to tame my perfectionist, befriend my inner critic and challenge myself. This awareness has been the most profound in my life. If you would have asked me three years ago if I even thought this level of self-awareness and happiness was possible, I would have doubted you! I believed this is just how life is but I realize now that this is just another story our minds tell us! It is not an absolute truth. I think a lot of us play the tape that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, and therefore we hide parts of ourselves and wear masks to try to prove to others we are OK. Without a doubt, this is what I was doing in the past, and it led to a very stressful, unhappy life. The thing is I didn’t even realize how unhappy until I started doing this work. When I stopped playing the tape that something is wrong with me, and I really started to see things clearly then I understood what real happiness was.

A New Reflection

So, going back to my new reflection I am proud of the work I have done, I am happier because of the work that I have done and I embrace this new reflection! I am now in a much better place in my life. I know that I will continue to grow and learn, but now I am doing it from a place of curiosity and strength rather than a place of thinking there is something wrong with me and “I need to be fixed”.

This voyage is something anyone can do! I am no different than any of you. If you are willing to put in the work, willing to dive deep into yourself and willing to question your perceived reality, then you too can have a new reflection! Trust me, it’s so worth it!

If you are ready to get a new reflection, join me for a supportive body transformation class. Over the 7 weeks, you will be to given the tools you need to build confidence, love yourself for who you are, and get a new reflection! Ready for your new reflection, just click here. 

When ‘Thank You’ Just Isn’t Enough!

I had heard the word Namaste and used it at the end of my yoga classes and just took for granted that it meant “thanks”. It does in a way mean that, but it means so much more. What it actually means is really quite beautiful, so I have decided to use it outside of yoga class. It is such a great way to honour others.

So what does it mean?

Namaste means “I bow to the spirit in you”, I found one explanation that really spoke to me which was ‘the light (beauty, soul) in me recognizes and honours the light (beauty, soul) in you’. Beautiful, right? That is why I have chosen to use it more often!

When 'Thank You' Just Isn't Enough!

 

What I decided

This whole realization came from a conversation with a coaching friend of mine, whose relationship has supported me in so many ways. We were having one of our in-depth conversations which was helping me see a new perspective and “thank you” just didn’t seem to be enough. I so value her awareness and wisdom that it felt like “thank you” just didn’t even come close to reflect the gratitude and respect that I was feeling. It was at this point that I bowed and said “Namaste”. This lead to further discussion on how I wanted to start using that blessing in my everyday interactions more. And then I decided I would! At first it felt like I was being a bit of an imposter because, although I practice yoga, I am not a yogi, but the message “Namaste” speaks is so genuine and universal, I don’t think you even have to practice yoga to use it!

I am fortunate, (as I am sure you are) to meet and work with so many amazing people and this is the perfect way for me to show my gratitude and respect to them. Whether it be through a casual conversation, an in-depth client interaction or a good chat with friends or family –  whatever the situation – I find that when I want to honour someone for showing up and being authentic, thanks just doesn’t cut it!

When 'Thank You' Just Isn't Enough!

Now, I have even found myself wanting to use it with people with whom I have less than desirable interactions with (maybe not all the time) but when I come across someone who is in a negative space and is taking that out on me, I still want to honour where they are at in their journey. So, I silently bow and send them the blessing.

What I have noticed is …

that when I do bow and say “Namaste” the energy that accompanies it is warm and wonderful for both me and them. Maybe it’s because I have this understanding of what it means, but I truly feel like in that moment I am honestly speaking to that person’s soul. Who they are, beyond their stories, challenges and present situations. The message goes so much deeper than all that mind chatter. For me, it is the perfect way to recognize and respect them for their authenticity, for who they truly are at their core.  And really who doesn’t want to be recognized and honoured for their inner beauty and light?!

When 'Thank You' Just Isn't Enough!

Why am I writing about this?

Because I am encouraging you to give this a try. See the reaction you get! It may be a curious look or maybe even a negative response, but the thing is, I am sure you will personally feel the positivity and connection that this simple, yet powerful message and gesture carry with it. The next time you feel you really want to show someone your gratitude, respect and honour them, simply put the palms of your hands together bow your head and say ‘Namaste’. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised at how it makes you feel.

In closing, Namaste!

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

We spend the majority of our time and energy at our careers. Therefore, a really important question you need to ask yourself is, “is my workplace healthy for me?” Here are some ways to help you answer this question:

Fear

Is your workplace characterized by fear? Do you and your co-workers live in fear of making a mistake? or Does your work place see mistakes as an opportunity to grow and learn? Does it foster a sense of security? Where you can challenge yourself to grow and take risks? or Is it marked by anxiety; where you live in a state of fear that you will be reprimanded, ridiculed or fired for any misstep.

Workplaces that are covered with fear are missing the opportunity for growth, improvement and harmony. People need to feel safe, to be willing to take risks and think outside of the box. When we are in a state of fear then we are not willing to take risks; it’s unsafe.

Another consequence of a workplace cloaked in fear is that people are unwilling (because they are scared) to take responsibility. Employees feel unsafe to admit when they have made a mistake or things didn’t go as planned; no one wants to be accountable. To save themselves people blame others and “throwing others under the bus”. This is not a supportive environment instead it pits everyone against each other, as everyone is in fear/survival mode.

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Let You Shine

Does your place of employment recognize your strengths, and let you shine those strengths! Are you empowered to be creative, to use your strengths, to try something new because you know you are good at it? When we are allowed to shine it benefits everyone. For example, if you are really good at writing reports are you given the opportunity to demonstrate a new format for yearly reports or is that “not part of your job description”. Do your co-workers and superiors recognize your strengths and foster your growth?

 

When we are allowed to shine we thrive. When we feel that we are respected, and our talents are being utilized we are more committed; we feel like we have purpose.

 

Focus on the Positive

Does your workplace focus on the negative or the positive? Yes, I understand things go badly, but do they focus on moving forward, or do they focus on the negative and keep you there. For example, when something goes wrong do they take a holistic view, or do they continue to focus on what went wrong rather than what needs to happen to improve? Is it more about reprimanding people and keeping them in line or is it about moving forward?

 

Even the overall feel of the place, are people more likely to speak negatively about the organization and coworkers or are they more likely to have positive things to say. Does the energy of the place feel heavy and dark or is it generally light and enjoyable?

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Valued

Do you feel valued? Do others on your team make you feel valued no matter what your role is, from Executive Director/CEO, to the mai room or admin staff. All people on the team have value, and the whole organization would not work if everyone wasn’t doing their tasks. If people on the bottom of the totem pole are treated poorly because they are considered replaceable this helps to create the fear I already talked about. It also causes issues at the foundation of the organization. A strong foundation is the building block and if that is shaky because employees are not valued at this level then it will crumble.

Can you Communicate Honestly

Are you able to communicate honestly with others on your team? There is nothing worse than having to censor yourself because your honest communication is not welcome. Of course, we need to choose our words, and be professional, but if we are not able to be honest, this weighs on us. Lying takes a lot of energy and requires us to constantly be on guard. If we are not able to have honest communication in our workplaces it adds a lot of stress to us and the overall feeling of the organization.

There are always things that can improve, and if you feel that you can be honest and open about it then you are more invested and feel valued by the organization. Even tough conversations are easier when we can be honest!

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

We spend most of our time at work. Shouldn’t our workplaces be overall a positive experience for us? If you find when you are reading this that your workplace might be toxic for you, then you need to ask yourself ‘is this job more important than my well-being?’ You can imagine if you are feeling it is toxic then others are too, and you have the power to change that, even if that means you just change your own perceptions, perspectives and attitude!