Friday, December 23, 2016

Relfections as I turn 36

I wrote a post on Facebook and Instagram yesterday but hit the word count before my thoughts ran out. Realizing I only broke the surface of what I wanted to say about turning 36 this year, I decided to expand with a blog post.

Missed it? Here's what I wrote:

Today I turn 36. What a year it has been. It has been one of truth for me, unable to exist with the drapery of safety. I have been stripped of pride and cloaked in vulnerability. I have forced myself to keep an open heart when my entire being was desperate to contract into a small little ball, shielding myself from hurt. I have looked long at hard at the qualities I don't love about me and worked my ass off to change them. What a challenging year it has been but what gifts I have been given. What wonderful, beautiful gifts.

I think back to my life 20 years ago. I was a teenager then. And just getting out of a very deep depression that intermingled with eating disorders and various other self loathing acts. I struggled to enjoy anything and I couldn't stand the sight of myself. I hated many things about me - from my curly hair to my shy personality. I floundered through my days, feeling comfort in anything but my own thoughts and feelings.

I think back 10 years. Just 26 years old, I had buried my Mom 3 years earlier and was still reeling with grief. I would be married that year and assumed marriage just existed after the vows. I hadn't realized the work, appreciation and dedication it required every single day. I was afraid of everything back then and managed to find a quiet little bubble I could seclude myself into. Anytime I felt my anxiety approaching, I would step back into my comfort zone and be okay again. I shrank lots around this time and only wanted to do what I felt others wanted from me. I found my joy from morphing into the person I thought was expected of me.

At 36 year of age, I never imagined my life as it is. I never knew I could feel such freedom, both from living an authentic life and from just learning to love and be ME. I never imagined I could find so much joy from everything and nothing at the same time. I am filled with gratitude every single day. I enjoy silence and a hot cup of tea. I like my own company now.

I never would have such an appreciation and thirst for life had I not gone through so much. Grateful for my struggles that have lead me to this amazing life surrounded by soul inspiring people of all ages & sizes

36. Freedom.


Birthdays in the past have largely been spent in a great big funk. I've never been able to pinpoint the source of my discontent. I never knew if it was due to disappointment from expectations, or the fact that my birthdays would cause me to miss my Mom desperately. I would miss the over-the-top ways she celebrated the day I was born. I knew this day was more important to her than anyone. I selfishly miss that appreciation and love. Or maybe it was witnessing another year passing, further from my youth and knowing I can't turn back time to change the things I would maybe like to change, or learn faster, knowing full well that it was always my age itself that brought about that clarity anyway.

This past year as a 35 year old I have struggled. I have struggled with facing parts of myself I am not proud of. I have run hills so hard I've almost vomited, in an effort to face things in my past that have haunted me and that I have covered up through trying to be perfect. Some of the darkness I have carried inside could only be acknowledged if my body was moving hard. It felt more tolerable to me. I made a conscious effort to stop hiding. Stop pretending. Stop covering. I let my whole self come out to the world. My anxiety peaked, and I clung, white knuckled, to the armour I always so readily put on in the face of hurt feelings and vulnerability. But I left it all on the floor. It was me or nobody, I promised myself. I meditated on keeping my heart open. My yoga poses were all heart opening poses. When I felt the tug to close, I opened my arms wide, even when tears were falling down my face. I spread my body on the ground, taking up as much room as I could, promising myself I would not close anymore.

Have you tried this before?

Exhausting. Terrifying. So much work.

But on the other side of it all? Once you work through your crap and live with the fears, doubts and emotions rather than behind them?

Freedom. Joy. Peace.
Empowerment.


And finally...after 36 years on this Earth, I have found things I have been striving to find my entire life.

I enjoy being alone because I finally like who I am and the company I keep.

I finally appreciate my quiet nature. Without it I would never be able to hear my inner voice, which has been loud and clear and so obviously guiding me toward great things.

At one time in my life, it served me well to shut down and stop feeling. I learned this year that that this response no longer serves me and I have discovered ways of living without that protection. And the quality of people that have walked into my life because of this willingness has more than been worth those moments of fear and uncertainty.

I can be soft. I don't have to be tough and ferocious and hard as nails to be appreciated.

I don't have to take on the world by myself. It's ok to ask for help. It's necessary even. It will save my sanity and allow others a piece of me that I so often kept under lock and key.

I don't have to be perfect to be liked. In fact, people who see me as perfect feel they can't connect to me on any level. Admitting my weaknesses and showing them to others in truth and honesty has created deep bonds and friendships that never would have happened otherwise.

Sometimes in life I just need to let go and trust. I'll never have all the answers. And if I wait to have them before I act, I will always be stagnant. This year I moved myself forward in my career and my personal life. Even as anxiety threatened my sanity.

This year I felt as though every tool I have developed throughout my life to feel safe and secure in this unstable world was ripped from my knowledge base. And I had to stand; bare, weak and beaten to the core, shroud in the hauntings of my childhood that were presenting themselves in different clothing. And all I could do was face it all, completely naked and swimming in vulnerability. I would choke and sputter and kick and protest. But eventually the strength and depth of the waves required me to surrender. If not, I'd never make it out alive. Surrender. Let go. Two themes that stood so prominently for me this year.

**********
After all this, here I sit. I'm now 36 years old and peace fills my heart. I have finally reached shore after swimming through so much - my childhood, my fears, my insecurities, loss....so much loss.

And you know what?

I am okay.
I am more than okay.

I have faced all my fears. I have been torn down and have managed to build myself back up. I have accepted my responsibility for the areas of my life that I am not happy with and I have changed it all. I have faced massive resistance and finally threw my hands up in the air, telling the universe I was handing it all over.

I am free.
I am free to be me.

I used to hate being called stubborn. It's being stubborn that has allowed me to accomplish all the goals I set for myself, both big and small because I refuse to quit.

I used to hate getting anything less than an A+ on my report card. Now I take those less than perfect spaces in my life and learn from them. They excite me, because in them, I grow.

I used to look in the mirror and see every flaw, real or imagined, that plagued me. Now I can finally look in the mirror and smile at myself, feeling connected to ME, and feeling love and pride for the way I've handled my life.

I used to hate my body and would notice every ounce of "fat" it held. Even at 90 pounds and starving myself for weeks and months at a time. Now I honour it and appreciate it for all it has done for me - from carrying 3 babies to allowing me to move strongly and freely.

I used to neatly pack myself into a tight little comfortable box so I could avoid anxiety. I now finally have learned to live outside my comfort zone because I am thirsty to grow and to learn. I live with anxiety and thank it for reminding me where my edges are, so that I can continually expand them.



As I enter this new age, I am feeling content. And at peace. And free. I am the designer and the executor of my life and I am creating a beautiful one.

At first I felt like I was becoming the person I've always wanted to me. But now I know better.

I am finally shedding the built up layers of illusion that I have created to protect myself.
And underneath?
Underneath it all is the true and authentic Rachel. The one I was born to be. The girl I was before I allowed the world to tell me who I wasn't.

And you know what?
I kinda like her.


My Birthday wish for you is that you too, feel this freedom in your own life and in your own body.

Not sure where to begin? Message me. I have so much to share with you.

xoxo <3


Friday, December 9, 2016

Will I ever compete again?

I competed in a fitness competition in 2013. My daughter was 3 and a half years old, and my son was 18 months old the day I stepped onto stage. I had trained a good year, half with a trainer and half on my own. My diet was super clean for that year and started getting really strict about 4 months out. To sum it up, I worked my ASS off every day. The hard work paid off. The day of the competition, I looked aesthetically better (by the industry's standards) than I ever had, even after 2 kids. I rocked a teeny tiny bikini and felt GREAT in it. It was such a freedom for me, as body image has been an area of my well-being that I have struggled with since I was 8 years old. My cellulite that I'd had since I was 10 was totally gone. The social anxiety I suffered with for years was a distant memory as I stood on stage alone in front of 300+ people as a panel of judges picked me apart silently.

And you know what? I felt fucking awesome. The pride I had for myself engulfed any fear or insecurity that may have threatened to rise. I was invincible.





Since that time I have had another baby and my body has again changed dramatically. I am fluffier than my "normal," and my motivation to stick to a strict diet has never returned. I am asked on a very regular basis if I will ever compete again. I usually answer with "I don't know" and give a lengthy list of why I may or may not. I did love the journey and motivation I felt and I may or may not be a chronic goal setter. However, it is only recently that I have decided that no, in fact, I won't ever compete again. While I have respect for the work these athletes put into the craft, I have a lot of my own personal reasons why I'll never go through that process again.

1. Hormone Imbalances

Here I am one day before I stepped on stage


I looked damn good. My belly was flat, my muscles were defined and my ass rock solid. So what was the issue? In this picture you don't see the month I went without my period because my body fat had dropped so low. You don't see the clumps of hair that would come out every single day because my adrenals were totally taxed. You didn't see the nights I couldn't move off the couch because I couldn't muster up another second of energy to move. When you begin restricting your fat and caloric intake, hormones, energy, moods and overall well-being begin to suffer. My cortisol levels shot through the roof because I was putting my body (and mind) through so much stress, creating chronic inflammation within my body.


2. Disconnection with the Body
As a Holistic Nutritionist (I wasn't at the time), it is most important for me to connect with my body and to listen to all it tells me, because I know that's how I will stay healthy and vibrant. Training for a competition like this takes away any connection with the body, as you follow a food plan no matter what. 4 ounces of broccoli mixed with 4 ounces of tilapia and maybe a few ounces of sweet potato. It didn't matter if I was craving peanut butter (because my fat intake was so low). It didn't matter if the sight of tilapia made my stomach turn. Those were things I ate. Day in and day out. No matter what. I stopped listening to my body's wisdom and instead became impatient, even angry with it, for saying things to me that counteracted what my plan was saying. It took me a long time to nurture that relationship again.

3. Body Dysmorphia
I will admit that in the few months before the competition, I would have jumped at any opportunity to saunter around in a bikini. I had a body that I was proud of and wanted to show off to anyone even slightly interested. The stricter my diet got, the more workouts I put in, the more my body changed and the more pride I had. So what happens when the competition is over? Well, typically there is a backstage loaded with treats - cookies, cupcakes and muffins. The second the competition is over you can find dozens of athletes stuffing their faces uncontrollably, making up for the months of deprivation experienced during training. And if you aren't used to the process of reverse dieting, you go home, open the cupboard and stuff your face full of all the things you hadn't been able to eat for months. And don't stop. And very quickly gain weight. Truth be told, the way athletes look onstage typically isn't a sustainable look. And putting on weight can really mess up your sense of self worth if you have so much of it tied into the way you looked on stage. Again, for me, in the end, competing created a big rift in my relationship with my body. I started disliking the way my body looked and felt. When my pants no longer fit (they were a size 0 and still a bit big), my self esteem suffered greatly. Coming back around to a regular weight and size felt like obesity to me, for I had become accustomed to being so small and defined.

4. Playing into Society's Standards
Rock hard glutes. Glutes that don't sit on the hamstrings. Defined shoulders. But not TOO defined. Flat abs, Curvy hips. Chiseled back.
These are just some of the qualities judges look for when deciding who looks the best amongst a stage of athletes. Everyone stepping on to stage is fully aware that their hard work, sweat, tears, dedication and discipline are about to be picked apart by watchful eyes. For me, I didn't care. The fact that I was on stage in front of hundreds of people after battling serious social anxiety was enough. I had no concern for what anyone thought of me. Me, at 31 years old, in a line full of 20 years old....I had won. However, after the initial elation of the first competition, many go on to compete with the goal of placing. They work harder, eat stricter, work out longer...and it becomes a very slippery slope between dedication and obsession. Almost without notice many athletes pick apart their body, wondering if their shoulders are round enough, if judges will notice the defined lines along the back...appreciation of the body evolves into either being satisfied or disappointed in a feature that others will approve or disapprove of. The standards of the profession becomes the barometer for which self approval resides. And if I am honest with myself, I am not entirely convinced I can avoid that downslide. And I certainly don't want to test it to find out.



5. Creating Unhealthy Habits
Binge eating once a week. Chewing sugar free (aka artificial sweeteners) gum nonstop to deal with severe cravings. Drinking flavoured BCAAs (aka more artificial sweeteners). Weighing every morsel of food incessantly. Avoiding social situations so you don't have to be around the food. Drinking flavoured water crystals (aka total crap) to give your diet some taste. Dehydrating yourself. Pushing the body through illnesses. Giving up sleep to get a second workout in....the list goes on. Now that I know the things I know about health and well-being, I see so many unhealthy practices that I at least indulged in during the year or so that I prepped for my competition. And I knew at the time (to some degree) that those things weren't things I would normally do, but...when your body is so deprived of calories, fat and enjoyment from food, you'll do some atypical things just to get through. I'm not willing to sacrifice my health for my appearance.

6. Nutritional Deficiencies and/or imbalances
As I mentioned already, my diet was super strict. My food choices were very limited, to mostly vegetables, sweet potato and white fish. Without a variety in the diet, you are bound to run into some sort of deficiencies in a vitamin or mineral necessary for optimal body functioning. Also, such intense training puts the body under a huge amount of stress and creates large amounts of inflammation. Without addressing that, every system within the body starts to become affected - hormones, adrenals, thyroid, immune system, digestive system....everything.


So now that I know better I can do better and the idea of a competition just doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps there are better ways of approaching the sport that I could create for myself. I'm sure of it actually. But I feel as though my body and mind are still trying to recover from the effects of restricting my diet and depriving my body of things it really needed at that time, especially as I was raising 2 small children and breastfeeding one of them.

I do not, however, regret for a second the journey I took to get on stage. There were so many benefits for me - to prove I could accomplish whatever I want to, to prove I had the dedication and drive, to prove to myself I didn't have to allow social anxiety to drive my life, and so many more lessons. I met lots of people, I discovered a deep passion I had for fitness, which brought about my business and has brought many ridiculously amazing women into my life.

However. I kind of have a "been there done that" type of attitude to competing. It served it's purpose in my life, and while there are times I miss the intensity such a lofty goal provided my life, I know there are other goals and dreams I have to work toward that don't include threatening a relationship with my body that I have poured myself into strengthening over the past 4 years.

Stay tuned. Goals in progress :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What The F#$k Makes Me Happy list


Earlier this year I was going through some stuff. Let's just leave it at that annoying, standard, non-specific explanation that drives everyone crazy :) Forgive me for being vague.

Anyway, amidst this stuff, I analyzed a lot, as I tend to do. You know when you're going through something really difficult and you suddenly feel like you're in the middle of a foreign country? This results from a changing perspective, from going through something so challenging that clarity strips away all the superficial priorities that once defined your time. It can get rather annoying how suddenly you lose all sense of who you are and what's important to you.

So that's where I found myself months ago and I was taken aback at how suddenly I stopped caring for certain things - friendships that once mattered a great deal to me, having a clean home, perusing the internet, social media, even the work that once filled me. I just didn't give a shit anymore. The problem was I had no idea what I DID care about, other than the obvious answer of my children. But in my funk I knew I needed more. I couldn't rely solely on my kids to fill my cup and my sense of purpose in the world. What a burden that would be for them.

The good thing about these times (or should I say ONE of the good things) is that the false securities we hang on to in order to feel fulfilled are completely unmasked and it becomes apparent what we really need in order to serve the world and ourselves.

During this period, I sat at my computer and opened up a brand new document, titling it:

WHAT THE FUCK MAKES ME HAPPY???

(yep, it really was all in capitals, with many question marks at the end. I was annoyed that these answers didn't come so easily or naturally to me.)

I started with one thing. I won't share with you my entire list, just the first few to give you an idea.
But I wrote down the first thing during that time that had managed to create even the faintest spark in my heart:

1. Family time and creating new memories

That was about it. The time I had with my family was what made me happy. Anything else could take a hike and I would be content. But I knew I needed to add more because I couldn't spend all day every day with my family, and I knew that ultimately that wouldn't completely fulfill me either. I needed to look more internally.

2. Challenging my body (like hill runs).

Yep, during really emotional times I like to be in my body. It causes me to be fully aware of the present moment and live within it rather than in the past or the future. And, pushing through physical discomfort amps up my adrenaline like nothing else. I feel powerful and strong when I push my body.

3. Surrounding myself with amazing women.

I somehow managed to hit the jackpot in the friend category and it's only been a recent win. All my life I have actively chosen to surround myself with only a handful of girls. I'm such an introvert I could never handle large groups of friends nor was I ever willing to open my heart up to that many people. So as I was shifting into this difficult space this year, the door opened up and this large gaggle of ridiculously supportive, encouraging, uplifting women wandered in and insisted on holding my hands and my heart through it all. They cried with me, laughed for me, did my laundry, fed me and held space for me to process whatever emotions popped up. Without questioning or fixing or shrinking. And I am insanely grateful for them all, who inspire and encourage me to always be my best and never allow me to settle for anything less than joy.

So those are the top three things on my list that came into my head as things that kept me feeling alive.
I have 11 things on my list (which took a good week to brainstorm) but I don't want to share them all with you. Instead, I want you to look inward after stripping away all the time killers you indulge in to really zone in on what's important to YOU. I would love for you to try this and share with me if you're comfortable doing so. It's like a de-cluttering of your life. Like becoming a minimalist of your spirit. Oh and feel free to title it something else that resonates with you...perhaps something a little more on the pleasant and positive side??

When you find yourself in a funk and engage in an activity that brings you a smile, write that down. It's easy to forget what brings us joy when we're in the throes of a pity party. Notice what warms your heart and arouses your curiosity. And during those times you just feel like cocooning from everything in life, open up this list and spend time doing one of the things on it. I promise your heart will fill in a very sustainable way.

xoxo

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ensure: Perpetuating Illness One Sip at a Time

Once a month I host a workshop at a local cancer support center. I present on a variety of topics within the field of nutrition that would be beneficial for those living with cancer and/or their caregivers. This past month I taught them quick and efficient ways to prep foods and how to create nutrient dense freezer meals that will sustain them the weeks they're going through chemotherapy (i.e. the weeks they have no energy to cook nor no desire to eat).

Part of our conversation included smoothies, which I promote like mad because they are so easy to customize, can be loaded with nutrients and superfoods, are easy to digest and make very portable snacks or meals.

In our area, doctors recommend to both those living with cancer and the elderly population that they drink something called Ensure, a prepared drink that touts high protein and calories. The idea is having a quick and easy drink available to help these people keep on weight and provide their body with nutrients, as there are a bunch of vitamins and minerals added to it.

So obviously upon learning this, I got straight to work researching. When someone is facing a life threatening illness, what they consume becomes even more important. Chemotherapy is supposed to wipe out cancer cells but it also wipes out all the good bacteria in the body. You know...the entire immune system. Because of this immune suppressing effect, so many people living with cancer end up battling secondary infections or illness which threaten their life sometimes more so than the cancer itself.  So when dealing with cancer, what should be a priority is strengthening the immune system, feeding the body loads of nutrients while keeping protein, calories and fats high to avoid losing unhealthy amounts of weight. It's also a good idea to consume foods that will provide the body natural and sustainable energy while being easy to digest so the body can focus on healing. Quick and simple is key, because honestly, who wants to exert any effort prepping food when already feeling worn down and sick? I sure wouldn't.

The first thing I did was go to the grocery store and find the Ensure containers. A small pack of six 235 ml. bottles was $12.29. Pricey if you ask me.
Next of course I looked up the ingredients. And wow, was I sickened. I can't say I was surprised but it was probably worse than I was expecting. And it made me angry. Angry that medical professionals can recommend such CRAP to people whose lives are on the line. Here's the ingredient label:




Let's break down some of the basics on this label:

SUGAR
The second ingredient on the label is sugar - meaning there's lots of it in this drink. One teaspoon of sugar can suppress immune functioning for up to 6 hours. This is NOT what you want to consume when your body is fighting such a serious disease.

OIL
In terms of oils, Ensure contains high oleic safflower oil, canola oil and corn oil. All of these oils are highly inflammatory in the body. Inflammation occurs within the immune system as a response to a toxic or harmful substance entering the body. Repeated, or chronic inflammation leads to many health risks and concerns such as DNA damage, higher risks of cancer, autoimmune disease and joint pain. Why, why, why put oils into your body that will create an inflammatory response which (chronically) is directly related to illness?

CORN & SOY
Soy protein isolate, soy lecithin and corn oil are all listed on the ingredient label. Corn and soy are not only amongst two of the top allergens food-wise (so eating them will promote inflammation within the body) but they are both two of the most highly sprayed and processed crops in the world. This means you're ingesting large quantities of pesticides which has been linked to various cancers and other health concerns ranging from minor fatigue or mood changes to major concerns such as neurological damage. Clearly not a good match for someone trying to get well from cancer (or anyone period)

NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS
I won't get into this one too much but just think about this - do you really want to be putting something that's labelled artificial into your body at any time? And natural flavours really aren't much different from artificial since labelling it as such only means the source it originated from needs to come from nature, but whatever happens after that is fair game (and lots happens afterward). Either way, "flavour" is a composition of chemical, preservatives and solvents which are NOT things you want in your body, causing disruptions of hormones, further inflammation and stress on the liver as it works to detox these substances

CARRAGGENAN
This ingredient has been directly linked to cancer. While the research (like with any topic) can be found to support the opposite, it still triggers and immune response and is linked to digestive disruption including ulcers, higher rates of GI cancers and irritation.


The good news is that Ensure is packed solid with vitamins and minerals...right?
When you first glance at the numbers, they look promising - vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, iron etc.  But when you look at the ingredients, it's clear that the percentages of vitamins and minerals within Ensure aren't coming from a specific food themselves, the product is being fortified (or added in when it was never there to begin with) with these vitamins.  When a vitamin/mineral is isolated and added in this way, they aren't as bioavailable as they are when they come from an original source (meaning your body isn't able to absorb it as well). So the amount of minerals and vitamins are almost irrelevant since your body isn't benefitting from them as it could if they were found in real foods.

So what can you do? If you know me at all, perhaps you've guessed - you make your own version of Ensure - one that's made from real foods and has a benefit to and within your body. I saved you some work though. I created one of my favourite smoothies, full of nutrient dense foods that PROMOTE health and have broken down some (approximate) comparisons as far as the nutritional profile goes. Let's examine that first and then I'll share my recipe with you.

Ensure                                                                    Smoothie

225 calories                                                             465 calories (this is GOOD calories)             
15 g. protein                                                              27 g. protein
6 g. fat (not a healthy source)                                   23 g. fat (HEALTHY fats!)
25% DI of iron                                                          85% DI iron
25% DI of calcium                                                    35% DI calcium
25% DI of B12                                                          45% DI B12


I didn't break down the differences in every single trace mineral and vitamin listed, however, I think you get the idea. Not only are the numbers better in my smoothie, the quality of the ingredients, and therefore the positive affect within your body will help support and heal you in becoming well. I shared this recipe and handed out samples during my workshop last week and everyone said they loved the taste. Here it is:

1.5 cups filtered water
1/2 cup frozen organic mango
1/2 cup frozen organic raspberries
1 T. flax oil
1.5 T hemp hearts
1 t. blackstrap molasses
1 scoop Vega vanilla nutritional shake

That's it. Blend it all together and voila - your cells will sing with joy. AND it's way cheaper than Ensure.

A couple more tips when it comes to smoothies:

1. Once a week or whenever you feel you have energy, lay out a dozen or so glass containers and add all the dry ingredients to them (except the protein powder) and freeze. On the days you are lacking energy, just pour the water into your blender, and add in the flax oil, Vega and molasses, making it a bit simpler since everything else is measured and mixed up.


2. Canadian Tire (for us Canadian folk) sells these screw top containers here. You can make extra smoothie and pour the remains into these containers, screw the lid on and put in the freezer. On the days you aren't feeling great, pull it out of the freezer and either eat it with a spoon like ice cream or let it thaw out before drinking. (*note: I prefer using glass. If you are able to find a better alternative using a glass container, please let me know *)

I hope that was informative, and I hope this helps create conscious awareness and thinking when it comes to the recommendations from others in regards to what's best for your health. ESPECIALLY when you are already struggling with a serious illness.

It is my hope that you take the time to learn the tools and ideas that will serve your health, leaving you with energy and hope.

xo
Rachel

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Busy Life Versus a Full Life

People ask me all the time how I manage to juggle all that I do. A few weeks ago a client of mine told me she had no idea how I did all I did every day and that she would never have the energy, nor the desire, to tackle my life. I laughed.
I forget how radically perspectives can differ based on the lens the landscape is being viewed from.
I admit, some days I feel wiped out by the time I crawl into bed.
But most nights? Most nights I crawl into bed, full of gratitude for the opportunities I am allowed, the love I am surrounded by and the freedom I have been provided to create a life that is meaningful to me.


I'm a full time Mom to 3 kids (7, 5 & 2).
I teach 9 classes a week between yoga and Bootcamp that I also spend a decent amount of time planning for.
I run at least one workshop a month.
I meet with clients for one-on-one nutritional plans and spend a few hours designing the perfect plan for them.
I create customized at home workout plans for clients
I meditate daily.
I workout 3-5 days a week.
I blog as often as I can.
I pack lunches.
I cook dinner.
I do laundry, wash dishes, get groceries, take out the garbage, run errands, clean our house and tidy up nonstop.
I juice most days and make smoothies daily.
I create programs and challenges for whoever cares to access them.
I am available to my clients (mostly) whenever they need me, and I get LOTS of emails and questions regarding health and wellness that I try responding to in a timely manner.
I volunteer at my son's school twice a month.
I go on field trips when I can and lug my kids around to appointments, the grocery store, the market, and basically wherever else I need to be, they're always with me.
I try to read every single day, which is usually in the area of self development or wellness.
I have both short term and long term goals that I am working toward, that, for now, shall remain quiet :)

I get it. It sounds like a lot, and heck, some days it FEELS like a lot.
I don't love promoting the concept of being busy. I don't find honour or pride in a laundry list of to-do items that I've successfully ticked off (ok, sometimes I do!). Nor do I admire those people who have their children in 11 different activities a week (yep, I've seen it).
I don't place high value on filling time with activity despite the way my life might appear to others.
Actually I do.
Kind of.

What I don't value is filling time with activity for the sake of avoiding stillness.
I don't value running from one thing to the next in frantic mode because it is in such a space that feelings are hurt, emotions run high and the value of relationships gets lost.

And unfortunately I see this far too often in the women I work with - their need to tackle the world. Their need to DO rather than BE. And guess what happens when these women show up to see me after years of living with this Superwoman syndrome? They have no idea who they are, what they value or what direction they want to take in their life. Despite devoting years to raising children, they lack a sense of purpose. When I ask them the question "what are your interests and hobbies?" every SINGLE time, they hesitate as a look of disbelief crosses their face because they have no idea. They literally struggle to find an answer to that question.

Why?

The answer is twofold

First, Mamas tend to give, give, give and put everyone's needs before her own. Eventually depletion sets in and her identity is so wrapped up in caring for others that when their needs change, she is left feeling undervalued, overworked and at a loss for where she should turn next. The antidote for this is SELF CARE, which I promote non-stop so we won't zone in on that here.

Secondly, Mamas tend to get caught up in our Western culture's idea of what success constitutes - being busy. All the time. Because lack of productivity equals laziness. And laziness equals lack of worth. We feel pressured all the time to do more and give more. We lose touch with our inner guide and the lines between who we are and what society expects of us become blurred.

So what's a girl to do? Well, first, practice self care every single day in as many ways as possible. Secondly, stay authentic to you and your values and fill your time with more things that inspire, rather than expire you.


What's the diff you ask? Let's pause for a moment of reflection and introspection (my faves!) and ask yourself these questions:

1. Does it deplete you or fill you?
There's a stark difference between spending your time doing things that fill you vs. deplete you. Check in on how your body is feeling and where your energy levels are at. Check in on yourself in the middle of whatever it is that you're doing - is your energy up? Are you more animated? Are you feeling a high or are you feeling lethargic and worn out? Follow the things that raise your vibe and soon enough your cup will begin to fill.

2. Are you feeling overwhelmed or motivated?
Within your life in general: are you feeling in over your head? Like you just can't keep on top of anything? Or are the things going on perpetuating more motivation and excitement? Overwhelm stems form too much of the stuff that doesn't fill you - from the BUSYness of your life, not the meaningfulness behind what you do. Tune in - what is the overall tone of your days?

3. Are you cranky or joyful?
Moods are a reflection of many things, including the state of your overall health and well-being. Do you find yourself snapping at everyone and feeling irritated on a regular basis? Do you walk through a crowd of people envisioning punching them all in the throat? Or do you smile at strangers, appreciating the interconnectedness around you? Because guess what? When you fill your life with busy, there is no room for tolerance as the threads of your patience are already beginning to snap. Pay attention to the way you interact with those in your life and use that observation as a reflection for the quality of what fills your life.

4. Are you making room for gratitude or negativity?
Chances are, when you are living a FULL life, you easily find gratitude and positivity within your day, even when things aren't going quite the way you want them to. Alternatively, when your life is BUSY, there's a tendency to find the negativity more often than not. Notice where your attention goes

I hope these 4 questions help you in recognizing what your own life is filled with. And, like anything in life, it doesn't have to be all or nothing, or 100% one way. I try to keep my diet at 80% foods that nourish me, so that I can allow for 20% of whatever foods without affecting my overall well-being. I find a parallel to my time - 80% of my time is spent doing things I adore, that fill me up, and that allow me to create and serve from an authentic space. That allows for 20% of my time to be spent doing things that don't necessarily fill me but aren't prominent enough to deplete me.

See the balance?



Friday, October 21, 2016

Capable of More

Last week I was in my gym, ready to work on my arms. I always write down my workouts so I can see my progress, change things up and improve something about my previous workout. So I glanced back at my previous week and noticed I had curled a specific weight for 8 reps. My goal these days is to stay in the 8 rep range so I decided to keep that weight for this workout. I began to lift, noticing how heavy the weights felt. After 6 reps my muscles weren't capable of lifting anymore, I had reached my max. Disappointed with myself, I wondered why I fell 2 reps short of my last workout. I glanced back again and realized I had written down the wrong weight! In fact, this day I was lifting heavier than I ever had in my entire life and I still managed 6 reps! I felt proud and at the same time, shook my head at myself because I should know better.


One thing I adore about running fitness classes for women and working with them one-on-one is the evolution I witness daily. In the beginning I hear and see:

"I'm not enough"
"I can't do that"
"I'm not capable"
"I'll never be able.."
"That's impossible"
"There's no way!"

After working together for a period of time and with some pushing, encouraging, cutting through excuses and nonchalantly counteracting all their rebuttals, I then begin to see and hear:

"I can't believe I did that!"
"I never would have imagined.."
"I've noticed how much stronger I feel"
"I could never do that before"

We work together to cut through all the crap that's been in their psyche from childhood; their deep seated (false) belief that they aren't capable. So much of what I do has to do with holding space, words and tools for allowing these women to heal, find confidence, and grow at their own pace. I believe in them more than they believe in themselves. It is in this space I witness both breakdowns and breakthroughs.

Magic happens when a woman starts to see (and own) her power in this world. In the field of my work, it often begins through the gains she develops physically, but those lessons she learns in the gym undoubtedly carry into other areas of her life.
It is then I begin hearing and seeing:

"I'm strong"
"I've got this"
"I could do that"
"I have a goal.."

And in those positive affirmations what I also hear is:
"I love myself"
"I appreciate my body"
"I am worthy"

Women transform from not believing to strongly believing.
From afraid to empowered.
From hesitant to ready for action.

And it all has to do with witnessing and understanding that they are capable of more than they had originally believed themselves to be. I am constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zone, and while sometimes they curse me for it, I know the benefits long term that this practice will have. We are always capable of so much more than we believe we are. Sometimes we need a little push or accidental discovery as I had last week to recognize that fact.

So last week when I unknowingly curled my heaviest weight yet and felt shocked by that fact, I realized I still have my own roadblocks to success and freedom that were put there by none other than ....... ME! I still have preconceived notions of what I am capable of, which is not something that should ever carry a ceiling. I had my mind made up that I could lift xx number of pounds when in reality....I can lift more! I wonder when I would have made this discovery had it not been an accidental one. Months? Years? Never? Because lifting this amount would mean something new for me...a new possibility. And if I can curl this weight when I hadn't believed myself capable....well what else in this world can I do?

I finished a workout earlier today and I lifted those super heavy weights and smiled through the grimace.
"Hell yeah I got this."
"I am capable of more than I give myself credit for."

It was a gentle reminder that I need to believe in myself and stop setting those limits that prevent me from evolving.

Let me ask you this: What limits have you set in your own life? And are you willing to test them?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dear Grief

Dear Grief,



I know we haven't really been friends in the past. When I saw you coming I would avoid you as though my life depended on it. Because I believed it did. I met you a few times in my childhood and you weren't pleasant to deal with, so I learned how to avoid you in whatever way I could - hardening, disconnecting, closing, avoiding and denying. I wanted nothing to do with you and anytime I felt your touch I would recoil from you and run away. I couldn't look you in the eye. I hated you to be honest and blamed you for many things - my inability to feel like I was thriving in life, my need for security and validation, and my hesitation to love completely.

For years I thought you were gone. I had this false belief that because I had met your acquaintance so many times before that you would spend the rest of my life visiting others and harassing them. I thought I had put in my time with you, that somehow I had earned a life without your presence. I was wrong. Somehow, despite still feeling your touch from the last visit, you showed up again, unexpectedly, and slammed me to the ground. I wish I could put a bell on your ankle so that I could sense you coming and somehow prepare my mind, body and soul for your visit. Though I suppose then I wouldn't feel the full effect of your assault. And I can find gratitude in that because every time you snuck into my world and shattered me to pieces I failed to see why you did so. I hadn't realized you were there to show me things I couldn't see. After the shattering I would pick up the pieces of my previous self and put them together again. In a new way. Always a new way that was stronger, lighter and more compassionate. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to transform myself.

More recently you have entered my life again in a new form, so new I almost didn't recognize you. When I first understood it was you in the corner of my heart, my immediate response was to kick you out and tell you to never come back. I wanted to rip your fingernails off one by one, because of the absolute terror your presence stirred in me. I was all too familiar with the discomfort you bring to my life and I was desperate to step out of that. You stir up things in my soul that would rather stay dormant. Yet through this recent experience you have drawn attention to my white knuckled grip on people and things around me, and in stomping on my fingertips grasping the edge of the cliff, you have reminded me that the grip isn't really mine to take on anyway. You have not so subtley reminded me that I am not in control, and in order to survive with you I needed to be willing to let go and allow. Because I can never control you, I can only learn to live with you in a space of growth and love.

I was happily moving along with the motions in my life, comfortable with the pacing and unfolding that was happening. Until you showed up again. "Fuck" I said to myself as I felt the blood drain from my face. You showed up through a trusted face and made your presence known through a few simple words. My world exploded as all I had come to know and be comfortable with dissipated through a single email. I grasped. I pleaded. I sobbed. You wouldn't go away and there was nothing I could do. My world no longer looked or felt familiar to me and I struggled to see my worth in this space. Who was I? What did I care about? What is most important to me? What brings me joy? I hated that you took all my answers with you and left me fighting to find the right ones. I created a "what the fuck makes me happy" list, which never would have happened without you. So thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes to what my soul really craves, not the every day tasks that had been taking up my time through routine and comfort. Thank you for forcing me to answer these difficult but vital questions of myself, for they have led me onto a path that's much more meaningful to me.

Thank you also for forcing me to cut through the shit when it comes to love. When you are really close to me all I am aware of is love. Love without the ego driven qualities such as jealousy or insecurity. You make me see love for all it is - vulnerability, depth, softness and compassion. Without your recent visit I might still be seeing the doubt, anger, resentment and fear. Thank you for allowing me the ability to see the commonality between all living beings through the threads of love and pain that connect us all together regardless of appearances. Without you I would still be seeing the masks of others through my own.

There have been times in my life when you sat too close to me. So close that you began to consume me and I couldn't tell where you ended and I began. I associated myself with you and you became my entire entity. Back then I didn't know that you are very much like quicksand - the more I fought you, the quicker I sunk. I have learned to sit with you, listen to what you are telling me and hold you, knowing that we are not the same entity, that you are just here with me for a period of time when you will leave as sneakily as you came, and I will remain, different from all the wisdom you left behind.

So thank you grief. I know we are still getting to know one other but from now on I promise to sit with you and allow your presence in my life, because after you, I am never the same again. And how lucky am I that I get to choose whether that transformation is a positive or a negative one? How lucky am I that you keep choosing me because you know I am ready for the lessons? How lucky am I to know you so intimately?



Friday, October 7, 2016

When You Need to Cocoon


I have this tendency when I'm feeling vulnerable to hide inside my comfortable little shell I've created for myself to feel safe and secure. To others it often looks like anger, sounds like silence and feels like indifference. To me, it feels like the times when I was a child and a thunderstorm rolled in. I would quickly grab all the pillows, blankets and stuffed animals I could and created a shelter in my closet, behind closed doors, feeling untouchable. Even back then I hesitated to lean into others for support and comfort. I kind of grew up learning to rely on myself.

I'll put a hooded sweater on so I can cover up as much of myself as possible. I'll pull the strings of my hood to shield my face from the world and pull my sleeves long so my hands are tucked away. I'll cancel plans and stop interacting with people as much as I can. I'll appear subdued as I quietly process my emotions and attempt to figure out the root cause to my funk. One of my best friends once referred to this as "cocooning." And the metaphor is perfect.

Do you ever feel this way? Like you just want to hide away? Like you need a break from the world and all that overwhelm that comes with life? Like you just need to retreat into yourself and no matter how good the company is from others, you just can't tolerate it? Like you just need to numb and stop giving, being and doing so much every single day?

Yeah. I cocoon. I probably cocoon a lot. It comes with the territory of being a very introspective person who lives by her emotions.

I'm learning to ride the waves when this happens. Instead of judging myself and pushing myself to do the things I think I should be doing, I'm learning to sit back and allow, process, feel, explore and let go.

Because this has been a hot topic of conversation these days with one of my BFFs, I wanted to bring this up in case any of you are feeling this shift as well. What's a girl to do when she just wants to cocoon?

1. Honour your Needs

If I've learned anything in my life it's that the more you repress your emotional needs, the greater the breeding ground for resentment, anxiety & fear. Through yoga and meditation, one of the biggest things I have learned is to just sit with whatever I'm going through. Rather than trying to change it, expedite it or erase it...I sit with it and observe. I observe what childhood trauma is triggered. I notice how my body and mind react. I listen to the symptoms my body is sharing with me. I honour my need to cocoon because it's in the cocoon that transformation and growth take place.

2. Keep your Heart Open

This is about the most unnatural and uncomfortable response in the world for me. I learned from a young age to build up body armour quick as a wink when I needed it. Vulnerability couldn't touch me I believed (inaccurately). It became second nature to feel a bit hurt by someone and immediately turn off my emotions and harden myself. I would go numb and didn't get an eff about anything or anyone. I now refer to this as my "bitch face." I notice even now I pull it out at times. When I'm feeling vulnerable, there it is, and I throw vibes out that scream "don't talk to me!" to anyone within a 79870 mile radius. I've learned to recognize it though, and am faster at removing it and allowing people in. But it took me a very long time to see it and understand its purpose in my life. It served me well in my childhood. A few months ago I was in one of the most vulnerable places of my life and I was desperate to harden. It's my safe place, it's my go-to when I'm feeling unsafe. But I knew those defenses were destructive to myself and others so I forbid it from happening. Which meant opening the door to vulnerability and holding its hand. Yikes. Not a comfortable place to sit yet it's what will grow you the fastest. In Yoga, poses can be more or less classified in two categories - expansion or contraction. Even now, I force myself into expansion poses that allow opening, despite my sometimes desperate need to curl up into child's pose, safe in my little shell.

3. Ramp up your self-care practice

When you're sitting with vulnerability and leaning into it for growth, it's a good idea to increase the amount of time you spend in your self-care practice. When you're already feeling exposed and uncertain, the last thing you need is to be belittled and judged...by yourself especially. Take extra care in being gentle with you, in speaking kinder to yourself and in indulging in things that bring you joy. Epsom salt baths, facial masks, a walk through the woods, reading a good book...whatever speaks to your heart, do more of that. Always...but certainly in times of cocooning. Hold space for yourself. In love.

xo

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Unexpected Lessons From Grief Counseling

When my Mom died I went to see a grief counselor. It was a few months after her death and I just needed professional thoughts and opinion on what I was going through. So I made an appointment and showed up to an older looking home and followed the counselor up creaky wooden stairs to her office. We got through the preliminary information and awkwardness - small talk on the weather, followed by my name and my brief reason for being there. She probed for more information. As I stammered about for a few minutes, tears freely flowed down my face and I didn't have the energy to wipe them away. After I paused from my story detailing my Mom's death and what I had gone through emotionally since, I glanced up at her blurry face.

"So why are you here? What do you need from me?" she calmly asked.

I hesitated because I thought the answer was obvious. I was a mess. A complete and utter mess. I needed to be okay again. I needed her to fix me.

I answered with "I want to know if I'm crying too much. I feel like I shouldn't be crying this much anymore and I'm wondering if it's normal."

When you break down my need to the bare bones, I needed validation. Someone to let me know I was, and would be, okay. And space. I needed space to grieve, cry and yell. Permission if you will.

She questioned me on how long I was crying for at any given moment and how many times per day. She asked about my deepest feelings and how heavy they felt to me, as though trying to fit me onto a mental scale, 1 being a griever who is stuck and 10 being a griever who deserves an award for best ability to get over a loss. I felt like a 1. Her furrowed brows at my answers made me believe the same.

I remember nothing else from that hour long appointment. After I left her office, I knew I would never be back. She didn't give me what I had come for, which was permission to grieve. Instead, she gave me the laundry list of emotions that one processes during a loss which typically show up in some sort of neat, linear fashion. As if I hadn't read all of that stock pile bullshit already.

No. I didn't get what I needed. But on my way out the door to my car, I was struck with a realization that stirred my soul and I knew it to be my truth:

I could grieve however the fuck I wanted.

There isn't a researcher, educator or therapist in the world who was the same as me or who had a clue what I was going through. Because it was my experience from my perspective, built upon the ideas, thoughts and beliefs that have shaped me throughout my life. That cannot be replicated. While I get that us, as humans, like to label and pigeon hole everything under the sun...grief is different. I didn't want to hear that I would suffer from denial after the shock wore off. Nor did I want to be told that anger would come up next. I wanted someone to hold space for me, and let me know that whatever I felt was acceptable. But because I didn't follow this linear path that was laid out in clear steps, I felt like I was failing at the process altogether. When I was told from someone close to me that I needed to stop crying and move on, I knew that space was no longer available to me from others. I had to create my own space and hold myself there when I needed to.

I learned a lot through that experience, lessons that would grow over time. And I am grateful for the counselor's responses to my grief, because it has allowed me to shape not only my perspective but also the way I interact with my own clients.
Here's what I learned:

1. Toss the pigeon hole concept
I hate, hate, hate the "one solution for all" approach to ANYTHING in life. Ask my clients. The nutrition plans and fitness plans I create are all based on their own specific needs and desires and only after me asking a zillion probing questions. I will never create a diet plan and toss it out to a large population of people with the expectation that it is the best plan for all of them. We are all vastly different and I never assume one person's needs, challenges, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, ideas, goals, anatomy (etc. etc. etc) are the same as anyone elses. While I understand the grieving process model, I don't agree with it being used as a tool to determine if someone is falling outside of the norm to then require intervention. Just as even though I was a vegetarian for over 10 years, I would never push that type of diet onto all of my clients. They all have individual needs that require flexibility and space for growth and change.

2. Trust Yourself
I find there is a tendency to look outside of yourself to find validation and/or permission far more often than looking inwards. We want people to applaud us, compliment us, be proud of us, and tell us if what we're doing is right. Clients want me to tell them how to eat. They want to know how to move their body. They want me to tell them how they should or should not be feeling during and after a workout. They want me to tell them they're doing awesome. Just like me seeing this therapist. I wanted her to tell me how I should be grieving (or so I thought) and from that, I wanted the permission to do what I was already doing. I wanted her to tell me it was okay.

What if we just said "fuck this?" What if we stopped giving a shit what Tom, Dick and Harry were doing and instead, looked toward our own needs/wants/desires to figure it out? What if we could tune into our bodies, hearts and spirits so that we KNEW what was right for US. This is what I teach when I run my "Intuitive Eating" workshops - how to tune into what your own body needs at any given moment (because it changes constantly!). Instead of asking "what should I be doing?" we could trying asking "what would be best for me right now?" Wow, what a shift there would be. In relationships, in fitness, in nutrition, in social circles and career decisions. What if we stopped giving a shit what we think is expected of us and just did what felt is right for us?

3. Hold Space
This is a term I have become familiar with somewhat recently and I adore it. Ultimately what we desire in our relationships and in life in general is to have space held for us. Space to be who we are, to create what is in our hearts, to make mistakes, fall down, succeed, fall apart in....whatever. We all desire that space that is without help, judgement, question, anxiety, fear....it just IS. Within that space we are able to move and breathe in a way that feels like freedom. And it is in that space we are able to grow, learn, thrive and find joy and peace. I have learned (slowly as a recovering perfectionist) that what my clients want isn't for me to hover over everything they do or say, they want me to provide some tools and guidelines and allow them space to try. A space where they're allowed to make mistakes, fall off their plan or quit working out while they're in a slump and still know that I'm cheering them on without judgement. Holding space means walking alongside and allowing emotions, thoughts and feelings to come about without denying or changing them.

And do you know the best way to learn how to hold space for another? That's right - holding space for yourself first.

How are you doing on that one?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Perspective Changes Everything

I met with one of my closest friends Saturday morning for a tea. As always we talked for hours, about everything and nothing. About big things and little things. Goals, dreams, ideas, plans and updates. We talked about the little mundane things in our lives and the big conversations that can only happen in a space of love and trust. And as always, I walked away a more enriched human being from her company and wisdom.


One thing we talked about was perspective and how powerful it is and can be for changing relationships, shifting your direction in life or even just in contribution to your overall happiness.

What you focus on is what grows in your life. If you focus on the negative more often than not, then what you'll end up doing is not only seeing the negative around you but only opening yourself up to those experiences. You will look at things around you and find the downside of all of them to reinforce your belief that misery prevails.

On the other hand, if you are able to find the positive in everything (or at least willing to try really hard), you will be open to that energy, allowing in more opportunities for learning and joy. You will feel happier and lighter, not so weighed down in dissatisfaction. You will notice more and more positive things, events and people being drawn into your life.

In the field of Psychology, this is known as a "self fulfilling prophecy," or the "Pygmalion Effect." We set up an expectation, whether intentional or not. Then we align our behaviour, beliefs and attitudes with that expectation and continue doing so until we've found that expectation filled.
What I mean by this is that if you begin your day deciding it's going to suck, chances are it WILL suck.

For example, you wake up in the morning at your regular time but had gone to bed with the intention of waking earlier to get some me-time in. You wake up already annoyed that you failed Day 1 into your intention and decide you blew it. Your day is going to suck, you're such a failure, you just aren't a motivated enough person and now the whole day is ruined because you didn't get an hour of quality alone time under your belt. You fly out of bed, hit your knee on your side table, reach for a towel to find the cupboard empty of clean towels, and hop into a shower that lacks hot water. You curse as you dry off with a smelly towel from the dirty laundry pile and scowl at the piles of clothes that need to be washed. You curse your spouse for not helping out with the laundry, and in the process, step on a hard toy that causes you to curse your children for being slobs. You make a mental note to yell at them when they wake up and wonder why you even buy toys for them in the first place, when all they do is leave them lying around, waiting to be broken. Your daughter enters the room during this thought, and you bark at her for the toy, and rant for a whole minute about her inability to clean up after herself. Tears form in her eyes as she hasn't even opened her mouth before being reprimanded.

You can probably play in your head how the rest of the day goes. Much the same stuff shrouded in different forms.

Let's take the same example.

You wake up in the morning at your regular time but had gone to bed with the intention of waking earlier to get some me-time in. You open your eyes and think to yourself that your body must have needed extra sleep. You stretch out in bed as you find gratitude for a day full of possibility. You climb out of bed slowly, pulling the blankets back over on your way out, smiling at how quickly you can make your bed look neat and tidy. You wander to the bathroom and, upon noticing the lack of clean towels, throw a load in the laundry down the hall to get it started. You decide you don't have the time to get a shower in without racing frantically so you throw some dry shampoo in your hair and call it a day. As you wander down the hall toward the kitchen, your daughter finds you, and you greet her with a smile and a "good morning." She smiles and embraces you as you head to the kitchen together.

What's different between these two scenarios?

1. Victim versus Empowered
Typically when people see the downside of everything, and choose only to focus on the negative, they often play the victim role in life. They blame others for what's going on in their life. They are drawn to complaining and blaming, without any intention of learning, growing or fixing the situation. Rather than feeling empowered that they have choices in their life, they hold on to the belief that bad things just happen to them and there's no way out (as they point their finger at anyone in sight, finding a reason to blame him or her)

2. Finding fault verses finding lessons
In any situation that causes discomfort, there is always at least one lesson to be learned, though typically many once you begin peeling back the layers of discomfort. In the first scenario, it is clear that blame and fault are found. In the second scenario there are lessons to be learned, such as not racing when you know it's going to just cause anxiety and frustration. When you go through your day, are you looking for lessons or fault?

3. Focus on negative versus focus on positive
In scenario 1, there is a clear focus on the negative. And once you zone in on one negative aspect of anything, other negative ideas and thoughts take the forefront of your vision. A dirty towel leads to frustrations with laundry, which leads to anger with the spouse. The negative thoughts continue to breed and expand, and at some point, they engross you. The only way to break free of that spell is to begin seeing the positive. In anything. In everything.


That sums up our chat from Saturday. Or, at least, 10 minutes of our 3 hour conversation.
Don't you love friends who continually inspire, grow and build you? Those conversations that keep you up at night, excited with ideas and new paradigms that will inevitably create shifts in your life?

Yep, those are the type of people I roll with. And I can find gratitude and positivity within those relationships without effort.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation definitely sits near the top of my list for tools that have changed my life.

As a teenager I used to wake up in the morning and come out of my bedroom to find the house dark. My Mom would be sitting in the living room in the pitch black, sometimes with a candle lit, in complete silence. I could not wrap my head around why she wanted to get up early only to sit in silence with no lights on. Turns out my wise Mother had much to teach me, which I am still learning, years after her death.

Part of her morning practice back then included meditation. Other than savasana after yoga classes and a few meditation circles after tai chi classes I took with my Mom, I hadn't had much experience with meditating. Until Yoga Teacher Training began in October 2015. Turns out a huge part of the curriculum included things such as the history of yoga, chakras, the Yoga Sutras and....meditation.

We were given the assignment of meditating 3 times a week (at least) for a period of 8 weeks. Alongside the practice itself, we were to reflect upon it in a journal. We had to write down which type of meditation we did, how long it lasted, what time of day, and any insights, thoughts, ideas that went along with it.

I hated it. I totally freaking hated it. I had shit to do. Seriously, who had time to just sit and clear their mind? It seemed anytime I tried to clear my mind, it got louder and more frantic. I was experiencing the opposite effect and I was totally annoyed by it all. I put off the assignment, as I do most things that cause me anything other than peace or comfort.

One Saturday afternoon our teacher guided us through yet another new meditation. The date was February 6, 2016. I remember the day mostly because I journaled about the experience but it's also an important date for me because I experienced an immediate shift in my relationship with meditation that day.

Our teacher called it the Transmitter Receiver meditation and it worked much the same way as the concept of the Law of Attraction. Basically you envision something you want in your life and allow yourself to feel as though you already have that item/event/opportunity in your life. You envision your third eye chakra opening and projecting your desires while then envisioning your heart chakra opening to receive it.

You mean, I can actually meditate but be somewhat productive at the same time? SOLD!

Since that day, it's rare for me to go a single day without meditating. At the beginning I struggled through 8 minutes. Nearing the end of the program I managed to reach 45 minutes, something I never would have believed possible. Not with my monkey mind. Not that the length of meditation is correlated with the quality...but for me to sit that long was a miracle.
I noticed huge benefits in my life once this became a regular practice, and quite quickly, which was the positive reinforcement and validation I required to keep going.

Some of the benefits I noticed personally were:

1. Calmer disposition
I began to notice my ability to fluff off certain behaviours or events without them disrupting my whole mood. Fighting kids, a messy house, an unproductive day...I felt I had a better handle on my emotional reactions to these external things that allowed me to find my center amongst the chaos.

2. More open heart
For those who know me, or those who have encountered me, know I have this ability to throw up my walls of armour at any given moment when I face any type of vulnerability or unknown. I present a tough exterior that screams with "don't talk to me or acknowledge me" vibes, sure to ward off anyone even considering speaking to me. This superpower I possess had done me well in certain situations and became a quick and effective tool in managing my anxiety. But it no longer works for me. It has caused the disruption of many relationships that once meant something to me. It has effectively kept me isolated, yet also cursed me with isolation. It's just not good practice to use as an adult who wants to feel part of society. Meditating, in part, has helped me sit with my vulnerability and feelings of insecurity while embracing them and honouring them in a positive healing way. I noticed I felt closer to some people in my life, and that opening allowed relationships to flourish. Connections with women I never imagined, suddenly bringing an awareness into my life that I didn't have to carry the world all by myself. Perhaps I could allow people in by showing them ME and have them accept me for who I am rather than their perceived idea of who I am based on the false shit I always presented. Having an open heart builds and deepens relationships. It allows in opportunities that never before would have been allowed in with a closed heart.

3. Better Management of time
So you would assume that spending a half hour or so in silence day after day would really put a damper on the ability to get stuff done. Magically this wasn't the case and I'm not totally sure how to explain this one. I felt like my days were easier and that overwhelm didn't burden me every step of the way. I think it's because I was able to let things go - the thoughts that rattled away relentlessly, the expectations that I set so high they were unattainable before I even tried, and the to-do lists that were very much tied to my sense of self worth. I felt (for the most part) that I could float through my days feeling a whole lot more freedom than I ever had and didn't have a million pressing tasks needing accomplishment.

4. Clarity
I started noticing that anytime I had questions about something and focused on that during my meditation, I would either receive a clear answer or shortly after some sort of sign slapped me right in the face so hard that I couldn't deny it as my answer. For example, once I meditated on a niche for my business. A vision appeared of me sitting on a floor cross legged with a room full of women. No idea what it meant, and it certainly didn't help me find my answer. Within a few hours of that happening, the owner of a local yoga studio called me out of the blue to discuss the possibility of me teaching prenatal yoga classes for her. I almost dropped the phone. So many of those situations came forth for me. So much so that I couldn't deny the fact I was receiving answers in some form. Anytime the answer to something was plaguing me, I would sit in meditation and feel so much clearer by the time I was done. It became my personal Google, where I could access answers and information previously inaccessible to me.

5. Stronger sense of self
Oh...there you are! Was almost my exact thoughts a few weeks into a regular meditation practice. I was able to, for the first time in my life, see the clear defined lines between who I was and where everyone else began. I became more aware of my interests, my tendencies, my preferences, dreams, desires and goals. I felt good in my own skin and enjoyed many of the qualities I possessed. I felt secure in who I was and ready to toss away all the masks I had worn for so long.


I have shared all these amazing shifts in my life with anyone who will listen. Friends come to me wondering about meditating and the process to beginning. Most of them tell me they've tried but just can't do it right.

Right?

That's the problem with meditation if you ask me. Reading books, watching YouTube videos, hearing from so-and-so all about the correct way of meditating - how your hands should be, how you should sit and on what, no background noise, in the mornings, without distractions...all to enter a thought-free zone. If any of these conditions weren't met, or you weren't able to empty your mind of thoughts, you failed the whole damn thing.

Because I'm immersed in the benefits of a regular practice, I want everyone I know to discover their own practice. From this desire grew my rules for meditation:

1. Sit however the heck you want
Find a spot that's comfortable, in whatever way won't be causing you stress (is my back straight enough? I have a kink in my neck. My foot is falling asleep.....) If you're spending your time zoned in on how uncomfortable you are, you're just setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Sit comfortably and get on with it

2. Place your hands wherever they're comfortable
Forget the mudras and the enhancements they may bring to your practice. Sure, if you've been meditating for a long time and looking to up the ante so to speak, then you can research mudras. But for now, who cares where your hands are?

3. Let your mind race
So the goal of meditation, isn't, as most people think, to empty the mind of thoughts. We are human beings and that would be an impossible task. One of the goals of meditation is to observe your thoughts without getting wrapped up in them. Instead of getting frustrated because you're thinking non-stop, practice sitting with those thoughts as though you were an exam proctor, and notice. Notice what keeps coming up. Observe how your body feels in relation to certain thoughts. Notice the theme that is bombarding you. Imagine yourself a lotus flower, attached to a rock at the bottom of the ocean. The waves that travel back and forth are your thoughts. They don't sweep you up and carry you away. Instead, you remain grounded in who and where you are while just noticing them around you. That's what meditation is like. The ocean doesn't disappear, you just stop being carried by it.

4. Focus on your breathing. Or not.
Yes, focusing on deep belly breathing is very effective at calming and relaxing the body but it isn't the ONLY way to meditate. Focus on a mantra, or a feeling, or a word, sound. Or just throw out to the universe what you are hoping for "Please help me find some clarity in my business/relationship etc" Listen to a guided meditation, join a class....whatever. There is no right or wrong, there are just different tools that work for different people at different times. Do what feels right for you during that particular meditation.

Here are my final thoughts. Sitting with yourself in a way that will relax your body is the goal. All the added extras and pesky little details can come about if and when you're ready. Meditation isn't all or nothing, that's why it's referred to as a practice. There are days I can immerse myself completely in relaxation and others when my chattering mind drives me insane for half an hour and that's the end of my practice. If you sit there with the belief that you have to be an awesome meditator, I can tell you now that you won't bring this practice to your life on a consistent enough basis to ever see the benefits.

Just follow whatever the heck guidelines you feel are best for you and do it every day regardless of how you evaluate your own practice. 5 minutes...55 minutes...who cares. Just commit to sitting with yourself every day and wait for the shifts to happen.

xo

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'm a Selfish Mommy

Three years ago I held a small workout class based on the suggestions and requests of some friends. Six people came and without a formal name, I simply referred to it as a Plyo class. Lots of jumping , functional movements and laughter. I had no idea how to plan a class properly, and probably overestimated the ability of many of the participants. But you couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I took my role of a leader seriously, trying to ensure everyone got a great workout in a way that didn't feel (completely) like torture.


A few hours after class ended I received an email from a friend of mine who had participated. I'll never forget it. She had always known me to be a quiet person, coming into my life when my anxiety was really high. In her email, she thanked me for the class. She continued on, telling me she had never before seen me so confident, happy and secure in who I was and what I was doing. She said I had found my calling in life, and that she was happy she was able to witness me stepping into my life's role.

I bubbled inside with joy. As her words settled on me, so did the confirmation that I had absolutely started on a path very much authentic to me. It felt as though a light had been lit inside parts of me I hadn't realized were dark. That night I barely slept as excitement keep my brain working overtime.

That was the beginning for me. At the time I had a toddler and a baby. Since then I have added another baby into the mix. The growth of my business has been slow by choice, wanting to relish in the time with my kids while they were still small and enjoying my company. I have dabbled in different topics within wellness to decide what feels authentic to me. My focus has shifted and settled, only to shift again. As I have evolved over the years, so has my intentions for work. There was a period of time I was desperate for a niche, because that's what people tell you you need in order to run a successful business. I simply didn't know and beat myself up over this confusion.

I'm like that. I'm impatient. I want things done yesterday. I want answers a week ago. I have been told I'm a bit of a control freak (who me?? Can I refer to myself as a self-motivated woman instead??) When there's a problem, I make a list, create a schedule and make a detailed plan to solve that problem. So you can imagine my overwhelm when I didn't have this answer.

Turns out the answer wasn't what I was looking for. Instead, over time, my answer came from three distinct processes:

Time. Dabbling. Feeling.

I needed time to dabble in the various niches I considered a possibility for my work. Then I needed to immerse myself in those experiences and feel what landed with me. Which experiences stirred my soul, created energy within me and brought me excitement? Then I needed to continue on dabbling in those things while letting go of the things that left me feeling blah, unfulfilled and drained.

So I (slightly impatiently) did that and dabbled in many different things with a multitude of prospective clients in order to gain a sense of where I am meant to be.

I have done personal training with men, which was always a bit awkward for me.
I have held Bootcamp for Kids classes, which was fun but sometimes, as a Mama of 3, I like to get away from kids in general and actually interact with adults.
I've had bootcamp classes with women ranging in age from 17-65.
I have taught various yoga classes ranging from easy Hatha to really challenging Vinyasa classes to both just women and mixed genders.
I have presented workshops on Nutrition to just women, to men and women of all ages, to a cancer support center.
I have presented interactive programs at schools, creating and implementing fitness programs coinciding with the concept of resiliency and self-love.
I have taught an exercise class at a long term care home, for residents confined to wheelchairs.
I have gone into my son's preschool to run a mini Bootcamp class with obstacle courses and themed games for 2 and 3 year olds.
I've taught mini classes on journaling, meditation and morning routines.
I've been guiding pregnant women along their journey through specialized yoga classes.
I've also been guiding brand new Mamas and their sweet babes in a Baby & Mama yoga and fitness class.

Seriously, I've dabbled like my life depended on it.

Through it all, there is a clear theme underlying what I am drawn to and what people request of me. There is a single thread woven through all of these experiences that fills me up and motivates me to reach more and more people.

It's not necessarily health in and of itself.
It's not just strength and fitness.
It's not solely nutrition and wellness.

Wanna know what it is?

Self-care.


I came to a realization somewhat recently that I am an advocate for self-care...especially for busy Mama's, to which I can absolutely relate.
Unfortunately, people outside the realm of wellness view self-care as a selfish act. As though our jobs as Mamas is to pour everything we have and are into everyone around us without expecting anything in return. I call BS on this. And if you want to argue this, then let's just call me a selfish Mama and get it over with.

It is vitally important to practice self-care every single day in some way big or small ESPECIALLY for the busy Mamas. Without a full cup, how is it possible to be fully present for anyone else? It isn't. It simply just isn't.

Nutrition is a big way to care for yourself. What you put into your body will affect how you feel, how you interact with others around you, how much energy you have to put your craft out into the world, your motivation levels, your moods...so many things.

Exercising will do much of the same and possesses other benefits both in the short term and the long term. From reducing osteoporosis, to reducing the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To reducing stress and strengthening the heart...and the list goes on.

Yoga is beneficial for the body, spirit and the mind. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping relax the mind and body, producing a huge number of benefits. It's an opportunity to trust in yourself, connect with yourself and open the doors to creative flow. Flexibility and strength are added bonuses while instilling mindfulness (a very much needed practice in today's over scheduled society!)

Reflexology also initiates the rest and relax response while removing energetic blockages within the body, promoting better overall health.

I have immersed myself in a multitude of trainings and research on every topic regarding wellness I can consume at any given moment. During quiet times alone I can be found listening to inspiring podcasts. If not that, then reading books on nutrition, leadership or self development. I am obsessed (in the best way possible) with learning every morsel of information I can find regarding well-being. My mission is to teach people how to care for themselves. Whether that's through weekly Bootcamp classes with me or encouraging them to spend 5 minutes a day meditating. It could be creating a personalized meal plan that will no doubt support their health or it could be an Epsom salt bath weekly.

It blows my mind how often people come to me and admit that seeing me for whatever it is I am providing is the first thing they've done for themselves in xx number of years. YEARS!

So...let me provide you this. The permission and the space to start taking care of YOU. And if you are unsure where to start, I happen to have a multitude of tools and a wealth of knowledge in my tool belt to help you along. Once you begin, you'll wonder how the heck you ever lived any other way.

Just begin. xo

Monday, September 26, 2016

Take Yourself Out of the Equation

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at a local cancer support center on the topic "Healthy Eating 101." It was a two hour interactive workshop with a dozen or so people in attendance. It included those battling cancer currently, those who are survivors of the disease and caregivers to people living with cancer.

Once 10:30 came around, I closed the door to signal our start. As I turned to walk back to my computer where my presentation was, the energy in the room was palpable and I had to take a moment to gather myself before speaking.

As I gazed out to the faces watching me, an immense pouring of love swept over me. I could feel their openness and for the first time since my Yoga Teacher Training, I could make out auras surrounding some of the participants. They were open. I was open. Allowing a holding space for connection, learning, sharing and supporting.

I inhaled the experience deeply as a smile formed on my face. I liken this energy to that I feel while I'm guiding savasana. A room full of people who have chosen to hang their insecurities and reservations at the door. They are there open and vulnerable, ready to accept and share. I cannot explain how this energy fills the room. You'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had the blessing of experiencing it.

I continued holding this space during my presentation and allowed it to fill me. Previously I had sat in my car before it was to begin, I had closed my eyes and silently set an intention for the next couple hours, "Allow me to authentically deliver whatever message or information will resonate with these people, guiding them toward better.

While I planned my presentation and organized it with a slideshow and handouts, it was important to me to feel the room, reading each participant, being open to understanding and recognizing what they might need outside of my planned information. I went with the flow, willing to release the crutch of my slides in order to serve the audience more authentically.

It turned into a beautiful couple hours of engaging conversations, heart felt personal stories, admissions of shortcomings, and a profound level of respect and nurturing amongst the group. I left on a high.

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I was 17 when I first experienced symptoms of anxiety. I had a test that morning that I didn't feel totally ready for. My chest was heavy and my breathing wasn't coming easily. I curled up into the fetal position with my forehead pressing into my mattress, willing my breath to slow down. It wasn't very effective.

I was 20 and in University. I chose classes that didn't have seminars, only lectures. Seminars included an hour long class of sharing and conversation as a whole group. Unfortunately within my program there was only 1 class I was able to do this with. The first week was awful. During seminars I sat in a corner, quiet as possible, the entire time battling the nausea that overwhelmed me. My face would turn a dark shade of red at the mere thought of having to speak. I would sweat and wring my hands out, terrified at sharing. My goal those classes was to survive. I tried telling myself to put my hand up once during class and speak just one time, but that thought alone made me want to vomit. I skipped every seminar the second week and told myself I didn't need to go the rest of the year. I gave up 10-15% of my grade just to avoid these situations and to relieve the crippling anxiety that was starting to affect my life in many ways.

The next year in a Social Psychology class we were given an article to read and report on. As I sat in the back row taking in the article, I felt the blood drain from my face. The article could have been written about me. Words jumped off of the page, slapping me straight in the face. Words like difficulty breathing, deep feelings of fear, panic, sweating, blushing, wanting to hide. Holy shit. THIS is what I had been dealing with for years, not realizing it was a thing, just believing I was inherently different from everyone else. I believed I was just shy and I hated it about myself. Why couldn't I just have a conversation with someone in Walmart without wanting desperately to run away? Why did I cancel plans with friends on a regular basis to avoid being in public? Why couldn't I raise my hand in class and share a thought without believing sawing off my arm with a butter knife to be a better option? There was my truth on that page - Social Anxiety.

Armed with a label, I went home and researched all I could on the topic and found that I wasn't alone in the world after all. Yet knowing these things and battling it were two very different experiences. It wasn't until a trip to Walmart that left me paralyzed in my car, unable to open the door and enter the building because of my peaking anxiety, that I finally sought assistance from a therapist. The journey has been long. My tendency to hide and shut out everyone around me still appears when I've faced a fear or criticism from someone else. Yoga Teacher Training was very challenging because we needed to share of ourselves every class, staying open and vulnerable in a way I hadn't imagined possible.

But I did it. And I did it well.

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Fast forward to my life now and events such as my workshops. Never in my life would I have believed this person to be me. There were years I couldn't fathom the concept of standing in front of others without collapsing and dying. I still marvel at my ability to deliver content confidently and comfortably. Not shrinking. Not wavering in who I am. Not allowing fear to guide me.

Aside from my numerous therapy sessions, my dedication to living a life of freedom and my hours of research, self challenges and continual commitment to growing outside my comfort zone, I have come up with a simple concept that helps me immensely when I'm standing in front of a room full of people.


Take yourself out of the equation.

Wait. What?

Yes - take yourself out of the equation.
What I mean by that is that every time I deliver content to a group, I simply consider myself as a vehicle for information that may transform their lives. I envision words, ideas and concepts coming from a space in the universe to these people's ears. It has very little to do with me. I am there to serve these people. As a conduit. How can fear overtake me with that perspective?

Rather than thinking:
Will these people like me?
Did I work hard enough?
Do I even know what I'm talking about?
They're all looking at me.

Instead I think:
How can I serve these people?
Help me find the words that will resonate with them.
What can I give them that will be meaningful in their lives?

I am taken from a place of fear to a place of love. There is a shift from insecurity to hope. I move from a sense of inadequacy to a place of dedicated determination.

Fear cannot exist in a state of love.
So for 2 hours I delivered content. Eyes stared at me. Conversations happened. And not once did I want to shrink. Not once did my voice shake. Not once did I desire the comfort of the hole I bury into when things get uncomfortable.
I left energized. My cup was full. My heart was bursting. And as I walked to my car, gratitude swept over me as tears formed while I silently whispered to myself, good job Rachel. you served them well