Making Yourself a Priority. Not Selfish – Vital.

As a working mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, teacher – I know all too well what it means to live for others. And, I didn’t even realize how detrimental that was to my identity until I felt completely and utterly empty. I became a void. I felt nothing and it didn’t matter because as long as the to-do list was done and everyone else was okay – then I had accomplished my job.

I didn’t even see how poisoned I was until one little Instagram post last summer. I discussed my deep gratitude for the life I created; however, I couldn’t help but feel exhausted by all of it’s demands. The responses tremendously echoed my sentiments of feeling like all we – as working, married moms – were good for was to serve others.

How had this happened? How had two university degrees, a wonderful career, life-long learning through travel, reading and establishing meaningful connections been boiled down to cooking, cleaning, mountains of laundry, managing a household while still having to look good, keep up said career and aspirations and be gleeful about it? Fuck.

I have never not been happy. Even during the most trying times of my life – I have found an inner joy which kept me going. When I felt that flame was extinguishing – I knew I was in trouble.

Fortunately, the universe brought into my life a chance encounter with a woman whose malas I’ve purchased. And, she, with her deep intuitive knowledge, instantly read my lack of joy, my blocks and gave me some brief direction on how to deal with it.

A plan of action? Sign me up! If there’s a problem I’m the type who needs to find a way to fix it – and fast. I dove in.

Daily meditation. Daily gratitude practice. Daily journaling. Daily excavation of all the things I had buried in order to be the best mom, wife, home owner, guidance counsellor, friend…this led me to Yoga Teacher Training.

But, there were so many BUTS…the time away from the kids and home, the imposition on my husband, mother and mother-in-law to hold things down at home, the amount of reading and work and yoga practice which would take me away from my family.

BUT, the need to do something solely for me was too loud. I somehow worked things out by asking for help, by outlining clearly the time it would take, by allowing my husband to be the father I know he is and my children to know they are just fine without me. I relinquished control on the weekends I was gone – and it was amazing.

I’m just finishing up the in-class portion of my yoga teacher training. It has been a journey of self-discovery unlike any I have ever been on. Yoga has changed my life. I am deeply grateful for the women who encouraged me to go for it, for the women who were by my side for the intense 22 hours every other weekend, for my husband’s humor and complete support at home and our mothers who were there for me by being there for my family.

When I heard the words spoken by Rachel Hollis during my listening to the book, as seen in the excerpts in this post, they resonated in every cell of my body.

The message about being good for others first is delivered so quietly as we grow up, we never think to object. But it slowly eats at our soul and it is up to us to end it. Our children and husbands are happy when we are our best selves because we show up differently. The boundaries I’ve established around mommy’s meditation time and yoga time have been difficult for my children to understand – but they are slowly adjusting. And, I am so bloody happy and full when I finish meditating and my practice – that I mother & wife whole-heartedly. I am once again full of the joy I’ve always felt in my life.

I don’t want to put out the message that my life is perfect and all problems have been solved. Far from it. My struggle now lies in making time to write when my family is at home. That is a big one for me. At least I can see it and acknowledge it. And, do something about it.

In putting my needs first, most of the time(this is still a practice, after all), I can be for my family from a place of love – not obligation, not guilt, not shame, not trying to prove something…but just because I love them.

As hard as it may be, I encourage all of you to find the one thing which sparks you so brightly you feel like you want to explode. And, do it. See the excuses for what they are and lay them to rest. Be the best version of yourself for you, and magically you will be the best version of you for those you love.

Tell me what your journey has been like in the comments below!

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Book Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

If you have a goal, a mind-blowing dream, and haven’t done anything about it yet…

Get. This. Book.

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image courtesy: goodreads.com

I heard the audio book during my daily commute and I literally felt like Ms. Hollis wrote this book for me. Maybe not the entire book, but definitely the chapter on “Not Having Enough Time” in the excuses section of the book.

Ms. Hollis is straightforward and bold as she encourages women from all walks of life to finally get themselves into action and make, yes MAKE, their dreams come true.

She addresses excuses we all use to avoid tackling on a project head-on. And, chances are, there is at least one excuse which resonates so deeply with you, Ms. Hollis will unpack and dismantle it in minutes.

The audio book is rich with examples from her personal story of success and she keeps each point relevant to the pressures women face in modern-day society.

A print copy of the book would be useful if like me, you love to underline, note-take or highlight sections to remember. However, if you’re also like me and have your day pretty much planned out between work and family, the audio book delivers her message rather effectively during your commute.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels stuck or is unsure of where she’ll find the drive to truly go after her goals. Ms. Hollis will fire you up and get you going! (I hope).

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Living Your Life With More Ease ~ Yoga Lessons

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Yoga Lesson 1: Keep Your Eyes Open

When the pose is tough and kicking your butt, focus on one spot. Concentrating on the one spot helps you to ignore the screaming muscles. They call this Drishti.

When I first started practising, I would fall into pigeon at the end of practice, feeling the breath ripple through me and my body thanking me for making it to class. My eyes were always closed as I took in each sensation. One night the instructor said, keep your eyes open. Don’t close yourself off, even during the relaxing, releasing part of the practice. Feel everything. Keep your focus.

Hmm. We all hear about people’s fear of failure…this reminded me of fear of success. Keeping your eyes opens tells your inner self that it’s ok to enjoy the fruits of your labour, to take pride in reaping the rewards of your success. At the end of a challenging practice, we shouldn’t close ourselves to the amazing feelings of having made it by going inward and closing our eyes.

In life too, keep your eyes open and enjoy all for which you have worked.

Yoga Lesson 2: Go Into The Pose With Ease

Speaking of work, nothing should ever really feel like work. No matter how difficult the pose, nor how far you can get into it, the struggle automatically doubles when you fight it, or try to beat it into submission, or constantly think, this is so hard.

The instructor’s cues during difficult poses always include: take a breath, relax your face and smile.

The same thing happens in life, no matter how annoying the task. For example, God help me, making lunches is the last thing I want to do after a full day of being everything to everyone. So, I breath. And, I’ve actually started to express thanks for the food in my fridge which means I can feed my family, for the health to stand in my kitchen and use my hands to make this food, and for the children I’m feeding because I really wanted to have them. That’s when I smile. Voila. Instant ease. I’m still making the lunches, but suddenly, the task doesn’t feel so heavy. I’m not fighting it, but completing it with ease.

Yoga Lesson 3: Isn’t It Great That It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect?

Oooooh, this is a big one for me. BIG. The mat gets messy, and some days are ah-mazing. I    breathe, I flow, I move, I stand on my head, I nearly get my hips up for hand-stand….other days, ugh. Child’s pose please!

The point is…listen to yourself. Our bodies tell us what we need. The beat of our hearts, the pit of our stomachs, the sweat in our armpits, the ache in our guts, the constriction of our throats, the tightening of our shoulders….the list is endless. LISTEN! And, then agree that enough is just enough. And, that in itself is perfect.

Yoga Lesson 4: Have Fun

What’s the point if it isn’t? There’s always room for laughter, smiles, giggles. When we fall, when we soar…leaving room for fun is essentially what makes all of this worth it.

Any lessons you would add which have helped you navigate life with a little more ease and fun?

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The Thing About Aging

roses-3194057_1280Aging was okay when I was young

When I was 25, I swore I would grow old gracefully. I was young and naive and had great skin. So I couldn’t possibly envision an older version of myself. I also didn’t understand that there was so much more to aging than just wrinkles.

Aging in my 40s

Now that I’m 43, I see aging as so much more than the spots and lines on my face, the greying and thinner hair, the sudden, incomprehensible aches, the changing hormones and more pronounced, bizarre monthly cycles. Those are physical markers of aging. I do what I can to keep looking my best and keep physically healthy. However, I’ve gathered that aging has a little more to do with feeling my best.

Every day, there is a decision to be made. Either embrace life with the zeal I had in my early years or succumb to the cynicism and negativity which the world readily doles out. Therein lies aging. The moment I complain about the weight of my responsibilities and the pressures of adulthood, my life instantly feels worse. I feel worse. I feel weary and, well, old.

It’s not easy to talk myself into having a good day when I know it’s full of things which need to be done, have to be done, are waiting…to.be.done. And, just as I’m about to fall into the pit of aging, I’m saved by the reminder of a story I once read. A simple and very sad story, about a woman who lost her best friend and had to watch her friend’s daughters grow up without her. Every day at school, she met a father who claimed to be “living the life” each time he was picking up his children. And those words stuck with her, because her friend could no longer “live the life”.

To be “living the life” usually implies grand wealth and easy living. But, to most of us, that isn’t the kind of life we have. What is accessible is the life we have designed for ourselves. Which includes hard work in a career of our choosing (sometimes), endless responsibilities in the home, with our children, our parents, and trying to maintain a healthy relationship with our spouse in the hopes we will live out our years together.

I have begun to use this little phrase to break me out of my funk. I feel grateful to be “living the life” because it means I’m alive. It means I’m here to be with everyone I love. As soon as I recall this, I feel lighter and all the things don’t seem so burdening. I also feel energized and, well, young.

The thing about aging is that “it beats the alternative”

(one of my dear friends quotes this from one of her late relatives)

The thing about aging is that you’re either aging or you’re not. Procedures might erase the physical markers of aging, but the energetic feeling and endless possibilities you believed in your youth cannot be injected into you or carved out of you. I for one, choose to “live the life”, embrace the chaos and love every minute of it (or not, but at least somewhere in the struggle, remember I’m lucky to be living it).

I will also purchase the best anti-aging cream I can afford because great skin is nice.

How do you keep yourself youthful?

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Buh-Bye, January!

calendar-3045825_640When I rung 2018 in, I felt a definite shift in my life. I vibrated with energy, ready to focus on the goals I wish to accomplish over the next year.

Within a few days I was barely mobile due to major back and shoulder pain on the left side of my body. I refused to let it hold me back. I iced. I massaged. I decreased inflammation with ibuprofen and used every stretch I could think of to help alleviate the pain. This was when I started my #yogaeverydamnday

This was also when I finally understood the true meaning of listening to my body.

My practice was not the same. My body forced me to slow down and modify poses. My body also forced me to really feel the integrity of each pose so as not to aggravate my injuries, nor add new ones. I did it all without judgment. Each time I moved, I did so deliberately and patiently.

I used to hear my body try to tell me to slow down, but I just thought I was being weak and forged through. I would ignore the signs of fatigue and keep going because that’s how we get strong, right? *sigh*

My modified practice helped me to heal the pain. And, I learned first-hand how patient, gentle treatment of myself helps me to feel so much better. I can be there for me – physically, but more importantly, emotionally.

Then my son caught the flu…and then I fell ill to an awful cold. And, my practice stopped. In the past I would have forced myself to continue practising. But, this time I became curious about why I was so ready to just stop.

Could be January blues. Or, it could be that I was finally listening. Go slow when needed. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Rest when needed – really rest. This last one feels nearly impossible when you’re a mom, but it is absolutely essential. Critical even.

It has not been an easy January. And, while the lessons of this month will help to shape my course as I harness my energy again towards accomplishing goals, I am so happy to see it end.

Tomorrow, February and another chance to start fresh.

Will you be starting something new in February?

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