Our Planet Needs You Now

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We are living in turbulent times.  Our planet is burning, people are enslaved for the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies, animals are slaughtered for our overconsumption while being housed in horrific conditions, and wars have degenerated into immeasurable human atrocities seemingly for the engagement, or perhaps entertainment, of our 24-hour news cycle.  It can be easy to explain everything for our own insular self-affirming self-righteousness, reject those who don’t think like us, and surround ourselves in the comfort of isolationism; however, this is the opposite of what we need to confront these issues.

I am a United States Citizen who grew up in a military family.  We lived in communities around the United States and abroad. Over seven years ago I became a Canadian immigrant through my marriage.  I am privileged – white, middle-class, able-bodied, straight, healthy, late 30s, well-travelled and well-educated.  I recognize what this privilege affords me on a daily basis as I move through the world, traveling to different places and meeting and working with people.  This privilege has kept me safely in a bubble of like-minded souls for way too long.

It can be easy to “other,” to keep “doing as I do.”  It can be easy to only speak to those who think and act like me.  It is “comfortable”.  It is “safe.”

However, comfortable and safe will not stand against the multitude of injustices in the world.  What we require is activism.  We need those courageous enough to march, picket, boycott, and protest.  We need the leaders in politics and our corporate world to openly and firmly reject policies and programs that suppress, exclude and destroy. These leaders must openly support those that flourish in the name of inclusion and creation.

As a yoga practitioner, I sometimes get frustrated when I hear the “we are all one” and “go within” as the mantras for our time, as though they are a soothing salve for the tragedies that befall us on a daily basis.  Yes, these are true and heartfelt sayings and they can make a difference in our internal mental states; however, the yamas and niyamas, the true foundations of our practice, ask us to work from a much more active and radical place.

They ask us to seek non-violence in all we do – toward all living beings, including ourselves.  They ask us to be truthful and to not cheat, steal, or covet.  There are aspects of contentment – to truly value what we have in opposition to overconsumption.  To be disciplined – especially when faced with situations, groups, or individuals that take us away form our truth.

Most importantly, these foundations ask us to be students of ourselves.  In my mind, this immediately invokes the phrase “history is doomed to repeat itself” when in reality, it doesn’t have to.   Self-study means we take time to examine our habits and patterns, to see what works for the benefit of ourselves and for the benefit of our fellow humans.  It also works on a community-consciousness level.  When we see people acting in recognition of previous damaging habits, patterns, and systems that caused pain and suffering, there is a shift toward another and much more beneficial way of behaving, do-ing, and be-ing in this world.

This is what I am hopeful for during these challenging times.  That there are enough of us on and off the mat, who work with consideration of these powerful foundations.  That the yamas and niyamas can serve as the grounding pieces so needed during a time of great upheaval.  They can be the motivating forces behind compassionate, but forceful, action against destructive forces all around us.

This Friday, a new leader is taking the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States.  I am personally devastated by the outcome of this election and I am terrified for what the next four years mean for our planet and people around the world.  At the same time, I am buoyed by the spirit of hope and change that continuously pervades in political, economic, and social landscapes.  Movements like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and the Women’s March on Washington all serve to remind us that while we could stand silent, we can also be positive forces for good in this world.

In addition to these macro-movements, we must also take it upon ourselves to invest in the micro-movements of our daily lives – to have conversations with those we don’t agree with; to give money, time, and energy at local levels; to support those who need love; and to show compassion for ourselves, others, and this beautiful Earth.

We are merely passing travellers in this lifetime – stewards of our land, environment, and institutes. It can be easy to pretend that our personal lives won’t make much of a difference.  I am here to tell you they can.  So, choose to speak out.  Choose to be brave.  Choose to reach out.  Choose to stand with others.  Choose to be active in any way you can and that feels right for you, and pushes your personal comfort zone.

This world needs you, Brave Soul.  Now more than ever.

Pinecone

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I went for a hike this past weekend.   On my own. To get away and to be surrounded by nature. To know I could go on my own, feel the sun beating down, the cold air fuelling my lungs.

I came across a pinecone…lying there in the path and I thought of just how symbolic it is.

Barbs on the outside protecting the precious seeds – those starters of life – on the inside.   Only unveiling that soft, fragile interior at just the right moment, the moment after the long fall from the highest branches above.

We all have to go through that fall at time in our lives. The drop that impacts our sense of self, our foundation shaken, all that we have known turned upside down. That free fall enables us to transform into just what we were meant to be…

That free fall is a terrifying journey – one that requires trust and a knowing that others have gone before and many more will follow after. That this fall is part of what is meant to be in our lives, so that we can give more, be more, and give back in a much greater capacity than we ever thought possible.

I’ve been in this free fall for a while know…wondering when my feet will hit the earth below. Wondering when it will be my turn to share, and give back, and flourish in the ways I believe I can. Every time I think I’m just about to land, I have another few more feet to go.

That falling is scary, sometimes lonely, and requires a patience that I am continuing to cultivate. It conjures up a longing for the familiar, but a knowing that once I land, nothing will be the same.

This journey from the upper branches to the earth below is also my preparation. My time to ponder what is to come and ensure that I am truly ready. It is a chance for me to ready myself to spread my wings and open wide…body, mind, and soul. It will be the moment when the barbs no longer will provide me with the armour I’ve had on for so long, but I will instead allow the glow of inner light to spread far and wide…just like the seeds of the pinecone do.

We all have our “pinecone moments.” Some last a moment, and others can feel like they are lasting a lifetime. We may have more than one journey in our lives.

Trust. The ground underneath will catch you…

 

Finding Daily Inspiration

I’ve been there.  In a rut.  Feeling less than inspired, not sure where to turn for motivation, and having the sense that everything around me -especially my goals and dreams and intentions – are getting lost in a deep haze.

When I did my yoga teacher training in Bali, there was a small altar set up in one corner of the room.  A small table covered with a beautiful piece of cloth, a statue of Ganesha, incense and candles burning, and flowers as a reflection of the bounty of nature all around us.  Each morning, a small ritual was performed in which the candles and incense were lit and those of us in the training were invited to add elements of our own lives to the altar – photos of loved ones, notes and letters, and elements from the earth (stones, shells, flowers, and leaves).

Every morning when I entered the space, I would take time in front of the altar…to set an intention, to ask Ganesha to assist me in clearing obstacles from my path, and to remember why I was there.  This daily practice touched me deeply.

For so many years, even the word “altar” inspired complicated feelings in relationship to religion.  Growing up as a Roman Catholic (and now no longer identifying with that faith), the altar always had a sense of being a forbidden space – especially for women.  I grappled with this as I meditated and experimented with a different approach to what an altar could and can be.  A space that is welcoming for all.  One where my intentions and beliefs can exist alongside others.

I brought this practice home and created my own little altar at home.  I included a candle, a small statue of Ganesha, some rocks, stones, and crystals from my travels, and an image of the White Tara.  These small objects remind me of my purpose.  They are items I cherish and they inspire me each and every day as I take time to meditate in front of this sacred space I’ve created for myself.

This space helps me get over my ruts, is my motivator, and clears out the haze.  It is a place for grounding, observing, and listening to my deepest truth.  When I make time to sit in this space, I am nourishing my body, soul, and spirit and giving myself the gift of inspiration.

I encourage you to create your very own “Altar of Inspiration” to see what it can do for you!  I’ve created a little guide that contains five simple steps for manifesting your altar.

I hope it helps you create a space that is nourishing, welcoming…and inspiring!

To receive your free guide, just click on the image below or click here!

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What I See On The Mat

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I see your good days and your bad ones.

I see your laughter and tears, your strengths and your fears.

I see your light and your dark.

I see your comparisons to others and your belief in yourself.

I see your doubts and your assuredness.

I see your transformation and the places where you may feel stuck.

I see your happiness and sadness, your joy and your heartache.

I see your ability to keep going and your knowledge of when it is time to rest.

I see you supporting and encouraging others, and your struggle to support and encourage yourself.

I see you trying something new and your comfort in those things that are familiar.

I see your body, soul, mind, and heart.

I see your moments of brave.

I see you.

 

 

And you…are perfect, beautiful, strong, smart, and loved.  Even in those moments when you may not feel that way…especially in those moments.

If you ever need to be reminded of that, just let me know and I’ll be sure to tell you.

Choosing Respect in Yoga

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Folks, I need to talk about judgment in yoga.

We experience a lot of judgment in our lives.  We experience it coming from other people, from ourselves, from magazines at the checkout in the grocery store.  Judgment has a really great foothold on our psyche and generally ends up making us feel like we are coming up short.

The last place I want to see judgment manifesting itself or rearing its ugly head is in a yoga class.

I’ve been amazed over the past year by the number of people who have come up to me and commented that they find my classes so refreshing because they are free from judgment.  I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back.  I am, in fact, saddened that this has been said to me SO…MANY…TIMES.

Each person is unique…with their own individual strength, flexibility, emotions, and body structure.  I find that to be one of the most beautiful parts of teaching yoga…that I get a chance to meet all of these amazing people with their own incredible story written in their emotional, physical, and spiritual bodies.  I choose to work with each person in front of me, fully recognizing that each of us brings our own experience of movement, stillness, and the universe to the mat.

I absolutely love this part of sharing yoga, meditation, and breath with other people.  It’s my jam and I learn an incredible amount from every single person I practice with.

I am also writing this to let each and every person reading know that they should not stand for judgment…in a yoga class or anywhere else.  Motivation?  Yes!  Encouragement?  Yes!  Genuine guidance?  Yes!   Judgment?  Hell NO!

I urge you…

Choose spaces that allow you to come to your mat fully and authentically.  Do not shy away from your own talents and your own experience.  You are worthy of RESPECT and HONOUR (from your teacher and those you practice alongside).  Choose teachers and spaces that ooze this out of their pores.  Your teacher should take care with you and your physical, emotional, and spiritual presence and you, in turn, should expect nothing less.

Love, light, and peace, Heather

What I Learned From Falling

Tooth

This photo will make a lot more sense when you read below!

I woke up last Friday feeling tired…as in, really tired.  The bone-tired that makes it really hard even just to get out of bed.  I’d had a week battling insomnia and wasn’t feeling very motivated to do much of anything.  My body was telling me to rest, but I didn’t listen.  I convinced myself a that a short two-mile run was exactly what I needed.  Even as I was lacing up my running shoes, I could feel my eyes wanting to close and the muscle fatigue growing just a bit deeper.

9:30 AM  – Head out the door and start a slow jog down my block.

9:31 AM – Have an unsuccessful make-out session with the pavement.

In my exhausted state, I tripped a minute into my run, caught myself with my chin, took a hunk out of my left front tooth, skinned both knees, and bruised my pelvis.  I was shocked from the fall and must have made a sound as I hit the dirt because the older gentleman running in front of me (who I am so grateful for!) stopped abruptly, turned around, ran to my side, and between “oh no’s!” kept asking if I was all right.  He offered to walk me back to my building and to call someone, but in my embarrassed and hurting state, I told him “Thank you, no,” limped back home, washed myself off, got an appointment with a dentist that afternoon, and did what I should have done in the first place…RESTED.

Here are some things I learned from the experience.

Lesson 1:  Embarrassment causes tears before the pain does.  I felt foolish and clumsy and awkward.  I’ve run the same route for almost a year now and couldn’t believe that the cement under my feet could be that hard (note to self: pavement is HARD!).  It was amazing how much more painful my emotional state was versus my physical pain.

Lesson 2:  People are awesome.  There have been a number of times in my life where I’ve fallen, dropped something, or needed a hand.  Sometimes, people won’t stop.  They will be embarrassed for you and look away (or point and laugh).  The majority of the time – those times that restore my faith in humanity – people stop and check on you.  They offer to help you back to your feet, check out your shattered tooth and bruised ego, and offer to call someone if you need them to (even if the number is long-distance and their cell phone plan stinks).

Lesson 3:  I am vain!  I’d only ever experienced this awareness of just how vain I am once before.  When I looked in the mirror after my fall and saw the gap in mouth and the giant swollen bruise on my chin…I started crying harder.  Again, embarrassment flooded my body.  The first time I felt this way was when I had emergency surgery on my right eye for a detached retina.  When they took the gauze off my eye, I was devastated at my appearance.  This whole event was a reminder to me of just how jaded I am by my attachment to looks, and not to what truly matters… my soul, my goodness, the light that is within.  A good reminder to check myself and a reminder that I am not what is on the outside.

Lesson 4:  Get up and try again.  I felt nervous going out for another run after Friday’s incident, but on Sunday, I laced up and after 2.5 miles, my stomach finally released its knots and I was able to get in some decent mileage.  In short, “try, try again.”  Whether it is meditation, yoga, surfing, a work project, being a good partner or friend…we almost always have the opportunity to get out there and give it another go.

Have you had a similar experience?  What did you learn?

Namaste, Heather

P.S.  My tooth – thanks to some quick work – is just fine (grateful for dentists with skill and open spaces on their calendars) and my body is getting less sore by the day!

The Search for Authenticity: A Journey to the Self

Keep Original

Authenticity (n.):  The quality of being authentic.

Authentic (adj.):  Of undisputed origin; genuine.

Genuine.  True.  Real.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating what it means to be completely authentic.  That contemplation has led me to question and a desire to search for what that means for me on emotional, spiritual, physical, and energetic levels.  What does it mean to speak my truth?  What is my truth?  What/Who is my authenticity and how can I fully show up as that self?

I’m spending this cool and rainy Sunday morning working on something super-exciting for you all! It’s going to include meditation, asana, soul-searching, and getting in touch with our truth. Stay tuned and I hope you will join on this journey as we contemplate and work toward discovering and uncovering our authentic selves!

 

Two Things that Inspired A Change

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I cannot believe it has been over a year since I worked full-time for a large national non-profit as the Manager of Diversity and Inclusion.  Most of the time, those days seems so far away and distant, like a fuzzy memory of a Heather that once was.  Every now and then, though, they careen back into my consciousness and I wonder what city I am supposed to be going to next and what deadline is approaching for metrics and reports and outcomes.

It was a very difficult decision to leave that life.  What I held in those spaces was a safe and sure recognition of who I was and where my path was taking me.  I had job security.  I had a purpose.  I was helping create change on a massive scale.  I was a part of something big.

That person knew her work and knew it well.  The love affair that I have for working in diversity and inclusion has not diminished in the least…if anything, I am now learning how to cultivate my own strong voice independent of the tethers of an organizational framework.

Despite that sense of security in my professional life, there was major upheaval in my personal life.  My husband and I had been married for five years, but in that time maybe spent just under a year under the same roof.  Our relationship bent under the weight of airport goodbyes, short weekend visits, and missed birthdays and anniversaries.  In addition, my health – mental, emotional, and physical – deteriorated as the strain of being on the road 90 percent of the time and without connection to friends, family, home, and routine began to take its toll.

I was torn.

With my work, I fulfilled my calling.  I was doing the job I was put on this amazing Earth to do.  I was also lonely, scared, and unsure of what was happening personally.  I wish I could fully articulate all that was happening during the months leading up to my decision to make a change.  My friends and family who know me best could probably describe it much better than I ever could.

In the end, as the pressure built and I began to falter, I knew I needed a change.

Two things – among many – inspired me to make a radical shift in my life.  In addition to the support, encouragement, and understanding I received from family, friends, and colleagues, these two things made me examine how I was living and what I was living for.

I’m sharing them with you because I’m feeling called to remind myself today of just why I manifested the changes in my life.  If any of you are contemplating a major shift in how you are living, maybe they will help you as well.

The first was the film “I’m Fine, Thanks: A Documentary” produced by Adam Baker and directed by Grant Peelle. This film captures stories of people from across the United States who choose to live a different life than the one expected of them by mainstream society.  It is funny, heartbreaking, and most of all, absolutely inspiring.

 

The second is the amazing poem by Charlotte Davies, “Revelation.”  This poem moved me to tears when I first read it and then when I witnessed it paired with Seb Montaz’s brilliant cinematography…I just knew I had to move, shift, and find a new path.

What inspires you to move, shift, change, get out of a rut?  What leaps have you made in your life?

If there is anything I would say to you now.  Take the path less traveled, go places you’ve never seen and stretch the limits of what you believe to be possible.

Living Your Personal Yogic Life

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What does it mean to live a yogic life?

Does it mean we meditate every morning; get on our mat every day; only eat plant-based foods; abstain from alcohol, sex, drugs; wear certain “spiritual bling;” and use only Sanskrit to talk about yoga poses?

Um, no.

For me, living a yogic life means I live in full understanding of the connection I have to everything else in spirit, body, and mind.  It means living with compassion and kindness to myself and others in full recognition of the connection I have to everything .  It has nothing to do with what I eat or what yoga pants I put on.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve meditated a day in my life or if I can sit in lotus pose for hours on end.  Living a yogic life has nothing to do with a brand name or mantra, it has everything to do with your personal brand and your personal mantra of how you will live a connected, whole, and nourished life.

Some of the most yogic people I know in my life have never rolled out a mat.  They are people with integrity who live true to their word.  These are people who literally shine with life because they strive each and every day to be fully aware of the awesome-ness that resides within themselves and in others.  They celebrate success and learn from mistakes.  They speak honestly and openly and only when it is necessary for them to do so.  They listen fully, with their hearts and minds – not just their ears.  They give back when they can and ask for support when they need it.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this lately, especially as the call of my mat has become more quiet and my meditation practice becomes stronger.  HAVE I been living a yogic life?  Have I been failing myself and others because I’m not doing what I feel is expected of me in regards to yoga?  Can I not belong to a yoga community because I don’t have the right bling, right pants, right mantra, right…whatever?

Absolutely not.

I am settling into what my yogic life means for me…in this moment and at this time in my life.  Life shifts, changes, and demands different things from our bodies, minds, hearts, and breath at various moments.  In times of upheaval, of change, and even in times of quiet, our yogic life may not look like those we see on social media or in the magazines.

And that is okay.

It is okay to practice our version of a yogic life.  It is okay to listen to what we need and then give ourselves that.  It is such a privilege to be able to do that and not something I take for granted.

Live YOUR best yogic life.  Make it the most awesome version of your life…and don’t take it too seriously!

Mindful Moving Latte Meditation

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For most people, the idea of working in Bali conjures up ideas of bliss, ease and sunny days.  While that is true, there is also the day-to-day of work and still getting caught up in to-do lists, expectations and working within a team.

Ove the past two days, I found myself slipping back into full-on-work-mode Heather (FOWMH).  This person moves fast, reads fast and works hard to get everything done on time and above and beyond expectation.  When this happens, FOWMH can experience the exact opposite outcomes…missed deadlines, muddled communication and the feeling as though things are falling through the cracks, whether in Bali or somewhere else!

In response to that, the universe can send us little signals to slow down and move, think, speak and act with more intention.  My signal came in the form of a latte yesterday morning and I am so grateful it did!

I was in the midst of work swirl…those moments when the to-do list feels like it is getting longer and the ability to manage things seems to slip out of control.  My next item was to order a latte and ensure it got down to the person who was teaching the next part of the course I am assisting on.  I ordered the latte and waited for it to be prepared.  That was the first lesson to slow down…waiting patiently for something to come and not jumping behind the counter to make it myself.  Recognizing that there is a team of people who makes that latte – and all the other ones made in a day – and that I am dependent on them and their schedule in that moment forced me to slow down, take a seat and just breathe.

I then had to walk with the latte and my heavy bag down two sets of stairs and over uneven earth to the studio where the session was held.  I balanced the latte and my bag, slowing E V E R Y T H I N G down.  I needed to focus to not spill a drop, move slower to avoid jostling myself and the cargo I carried.  I was able to concentrate on this one cup of joe and my body and mind moved only in response to that cup.

It was a mindful moving latte meditation.

I needed to slow down, to breathe, to move with intention.  If I didn’t, I risked knocking the whole thing out of balance, just as my work morning had been.  So, for the rest of the day, I worked to balance, breathe and practice being intentional with everything I was doing.

In the end, it ended up being a great day.

How do you bring intention to your thoughts, words and actions?