Thursday, November 8, 2018

Allowing Others and Ourselves to be Real


Why is it so hard to simply be ourselves? 
Why do we feel the need to always be "pretending" to be fine?
How do we break the cycle of shallow relationships?

These are some deep questions which have come up in several different discussions I have had over the past few months with different people...It would seem that as a society we have created an environment which demands that people show the world a false identity, and that leaves people feeling ashamed of what they are actually feeling and afraid of being seen for who they really are...The message is that being ourselves is simply not good enough - we have to put on a show of what we think the world wants to see.

While in the past few years we have begun promoting wonderful messages like "It's okay to not be okay" and we talk about opening up about our true feelings - Do we really? Is it really okay to not be okay? Or is this just lip service...I believe we as a society need to start backing up what we are saying here.

When was the last time you had a friend tell you that they were having a bad day? When you say "Good morning, how are you?" Have you ever had anyone answer you truthfully, or are you always given the same response "Oh, I'm fine...How are you?" Do you ever pursue that further and ask if they are really fine? How often do you really seek to know the truth about what's going on in the lives of those around you...or is it easier for you to not know and to just assume its all good?

I ask these questions just to spur you on to care for others in a deeper way. I encourage you to start looking at relationships from a deeper perspective where we can learn to really do life together - the good and the bad parts of life. There is some real community and unity that comes from being vulnerable with one another and truly caring for another person on a deeper level.

Personally I feel that some of this comes from a lack of "Oneness"...a lack of unity. We see ourselves as separate/individual/unique...Our Ego is forever trying to stand apart and show the world what we've got that makes us better or stronger, or smarter than the next person. It is this comparison that divides us. If instead we could begin to see ourselves in others we would begin to break down those walls that separate us. When you observe in others your own vulnerabilities, your own failings, your own desires for joy and happiness then you can start to see yourself in them and start to accept with more love who they are in this moment - and not need them to be something else. Perhaps in seeking this oneness we can begin to lessen the need for "pretending", and address the feelings people have that they need to live up to someone else's expectations.

My challenge to you is this: Do you allow others to be real? Are you willing to do life with them, or are you a fair weather friend? What steps do you need to take to make changes in your life that would allow for more acceptance and unity with those you are in relationship with? 



"Embrace oneness by seeing yourself in everyone you encounter" ~ Wayne Dyer


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Impermanence

I used to think that making plans and establishing goals was the true sign of being on-track; you know, taking responsibility for your own future and achieving well...

As I further understand the concept of impermanence and simply living in the present moment I am learning that this is not at all true. When you live by plans and expectations and you rigidly are unwilling to budge from those ideals you have set in stone, this is when planning and goal setting becomes unhelpful.

For me personally, things rarely go to plan! This has actually been a beautiful thing in my life though, and because I was willing to flex and flow with whatever came along I have experienced joy beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. This lesson is something that has taken me a while to understand and apply to my life. I used to hold so tightly to my dreams and plans for my future, and I used to find it so hard to let go of those ideals when life didn't go as I expected. Through gaining a better understanding of impermanence I have learned that what caused my suffering years ago was my own desire to hold onto those ideals that were not my reality.

Holding tightly to those we love and fearing their loss, holding onto dreams of what job you imagine you should have or what house you would live in, holding onto relationships that have long ago ended...This holding is what brings suffering. This attachment to what is either lost, or has never been, is what causes us pain.

When you accept that every single part of life is impermanent you can learn to embrace the present moment with full gratitude for all that this moment brings you - regardless of whether it is as you imagined it would be. You can truly say "It's like this now", knowing that it will not always be so.

I encourage you this week to look closely at the concept of impermanence...truly take a look at what that means and how it fits into your understanding of yourself and the world around you...I bet you will find it incredibly freeing once you truly embrace it.

"Today I accept whatever this day brings me, knowing that it is only here for a moment and then will pass." ~ Namaste




Monday, September 3, 2018

Understanding Others

This summer has taught me many important life lessons, and I am grateful for every lesson/challenge/experience. I also hold a huge amount of gratitude in my heart for the people who crossed my path and helped me to learn and grow. We really are a product of the people and experiences that we face and the way we develop and grow is by moving through these moments that shape and change us.

I had one of those "deep and meaningful" conversations last night with a dear friend and we were discussing our own minds and the minds of others. (You know, sounds like completely normal Sunday night conversation! haha...) I have been reading a book by Nicholas Epley called "Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want". This book focuses a lot on the theory of Egocentrism and how we often misunderstand others based on our own perceptions.

For me the take-home message was to recall and to understand that we are all on some level the same. We all struggle, we are all seeking, we all ultimately want to be happy and at peace in our lives. Finding that place of shared-humanness where you can recognize this in another person is how you move past the Ego. Naturally our Ego causes us to believe that we somehow are better than another, or don't struggle as much as the next person, or that we are more responsible, or more skilled, or simply MORE.....Living in humility means that you come to a place where you are "nobody" special. Where you acknowledge that you are just like everyone else. This is a huge life lesson to grasp.

One great outcome of our conversation last night was that we both realized how important these conversations are to have. (And challenged ourselves both to have them more often with more people.) To self-reflect and to have someone to talk to on such a deep level where you can hear other ideas and perspectives. It is important to surround yourself with people who build you up and challenge your thoughts and allow you to learn and grow. In our society a lot of people shy away from these deep conversations, so it's not always easy to find someone whom you can trust well enough to talk about the "real" stuff with. Equally it takes a certain level of trust to open yourself up to these conversations and to connect on such a level with someone else.

So, I encourage you today - take the time to have some real conversations....Take the time to dig a little deeper into your own thoughts and to do some self-reflection. Remember that when you think you understand another person and you think you have them all figured out - you don't! haha....😉 You are only seeing them from your own mind's eye.

"May I see in another person today myself - that we are the same; we are one." ~ Namaste




Saturday, August 11, 2018

Friendship

What does true friendship look like to you?
What does real love and compassion mean? 

I have been reflecting on these questions over the past few days and I guess everyone will have their own understanding of what it means...For me, true friendship is genuine - it's both happy and sad, through the good times and the hard times. For me, it means accepting one another for where you are at TODAY in this present moment. Friendship means just being present with that person and not wishing things to be any other way...Sometimes that might mean waiting patiently on them when they are running late, laughing at their personality quirks and loving them for it, recognizing the unique differences that we all have...True friendship may mean washing their laundry or cooking them a meal when they are sick, it could mean any number of things...But I think it must mean more than just a "like" on a Facebook page. 

I have been observing a lot lately and just sitting back quietly contemplating how things have changed over the years in our culture and how we seem to be struggling to hold on to some of these really valuable concepts - like true friendship...We have seemed to exchange them for quick/fast results. Like the more "friends" you collect the more popular and awesome you must be in this world. I think we have lost sight of what it means to actually BE a friend. (When I say, "we" of course I am speaking collectively of our society, and that certainly doesn't mean that there aren't valuable friendships happening every single day. It just would seem that we are drifting further away from this place where people used to really care about one another on a deeper level)

I challenge you if you are reading this to take a moment and just think about the relationships you are in. What part have you played in deepening that relationship? What have you done to truly reach out and genuinely show you care? Do you have meaningful conversations with that "friend" or do you just discuss the weather or the latest TV show?

What steps could you take to move your relationships into deeper waters? Do you need to start asking more meaningful questions like - "What is God doing in your life?" "How have you been challenged this week, and how did you choose to respond to that challenge?" "What have you done this week that moved your spirit and made you feel alive?" 

Do you need to make a phone call and check on someone you care about? Do you need to send a card or a gift of love to just let them know that they aren't alone in this world? What actions do you need to take in order to move away from this new culture of "social media relationships"...and how can we as a society get back to the place where folks genuinely took time to care for one another?

This week I was so very privileged to meet up with two of my dearest and oldest friends, and it rejuvenated my soul like nothing else. Being with these two women this week just lifted me up so much and encouraged me so deeply. To love and to be loved - BY CHOICE - what a powerful thing that is...THAT is true friendship!!
*As a side note, I just offer up so much gratitude for the incredible weather and beautiful moments of these past couple of days. I feel so refreshed and alive! I had the most wonderful walk this morning with Helen through the Botanical Gardens at UAF - if you haven't been, you should really check it out!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Choose to live kind


 One of the greatest freedoms in life is that we get to choose how we live. We have control over how we think and behave. We get to choose how to respond to others and what actions we, ourselves, will take. Of course, whatever choices we make in life we also have to live with the consequences of those choices; but the ultimate freedom is in knowing that the choice was ours!

I had a conversation recently with someone regarding "being right". We were discussing how just because you are right doesn't mean you necessarily have to verbalize this....In other words, sometimes speaking about how right you are could cause harm to the other and damage a good friendship or cause a serious disagreement. Sometimes it's best to choose "kind" over "right". Sometimes the act of keeping quiet even when you know your way is right, is actually the best action in that circumstance. Just because you know the right way doesn't mean you have to always speak it outloud. This is a valuable practice of living in Spirit and living a life of humility versus living in Ego. The Ego needs for others to see and recognize that it is "right". I once read from Wayne Dyer a wise quote,“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”....I love this, and it's a great reminder in life.

So far this summer has proven to be a wonderful experience and full of many life lessons. Daily as I reflect on my own reactions and interpretations of circumstances, I learn new things about myself. (These observations can simply be and don't necessarily require changing, but it is good to acknowledge them.)

My intention this summer in starting a new role and working in a remote environment was to stay humble and seperate from my Ego as I worked in service to others. This is not always as easy as it would seem. (I acknowledge that at times I have not been so great at living out this intention, but each day I set the intention again and keep trying). Our human nature draws us to seek approval/acceptance from others and to constantly be self-critical or judging of our own actions. Particularly when working in a new job, one likes to have positive assurance that one is doing things well/right. This is often where Ego steps in and where it is important to keep that Ego in check. One thing that has been helpful for me has been my mantras and loving-kindness meditation.

I am sure I have mentioned loving-kindness meditation on this blog before. (If you don't know about it, google it, as there are some great videos on you tube you could try, or you can make your own script up like I do!) It is a wonderful way to calm your mind and bring your focus back to the grace and humility that your Spirit is seeking to live in. When people frustrate you, or when you feel you are judging yourself, when you disagree with someone and you feel sad by their responses/actions, or simply when you feel your mind is racing and needs some time to re-set.....loving-kindness meditation is an incredible practice. It has really helped me so much this summer.

Loving-kindness meditation has also helped me on multiple occassions find compassion for those in my life whom I may not fully understand. Recognizing that people are experiencing things that we often know nothing about. We can often judge another person based on their actions/reactions without really understanding where they are at in their life and what other private things they may be trying to cope with. Offering love and kindness towards them even when we do not know what is going on in their life is a special kind of compassion that I am learning more about.

"Set your intention today to project love onto others." ~ Namaste


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Emotional Intelligence and the Ego

While I have internet connection, I thought I would take a quick minute to share some thoughts related to several conversations I have had this week. 

It is always interesting to me when you talk to several different people about completely different situations in life but realise later that they are actually all rooted in the same basic concepts. To me this is usually a sign that it is something the Universe is trying to teach me or open my eyes to the reality of. My eyes have been opened widely this week to the fact that we need collectively to gain a better understanding of ourselves in order to appropriately relate to and interact with one another.

This week the underlying theme has been two-fold. Firstly, the need for training and personal work to be done around emotional intelligence; and secondly, the need for training around living outside of the Ego and inside of the Source of Spirit that is within us. If you are at all in any type of leadership position, I would really encourage you to do some research around emotional intelligence and how to teach those skills to those you lead. (Parents and those who mentor others, this would include you as well!)

I have discussed emotional intelligence many times on this blog because essentially that is the foundation of the "personal work" we are doing within ourselves when we read these kind of blog posts or seek to understand our own experiencs and how they impact our behaviour. This work that we do within ourselves is paramount to our ability to interact with others and have meaningful relationships. When people do not self-reflect and understand how their past experiences impact on their behaviour, they project emotions onto others in a harmful way and this often leads to the distruction of those relationships. This is what I have seen in the examples given during several conversations this week around how the harmful words and behaviours of others negatively effect/traumatize/harm the other person involved. People living from their Ego often do not even realise that they are living in this state. Because they have not reflected on their own experiences and what drives their actions and words, they do not even realise the harm they are causing by projecting these emotions onto others. I believe that the skills of self-reflection are some of the greatest skills you can ever learn in your life. Learning how to look deeply at your own self . (Your thoughts, emotions, past hurts etc.) Whether it's through journaling, talking it all out, meditation or whatever tool you choose to use, I highly encourage you to take some time today to think about the ways in which you could do that "personal work" that needs to happen. It would be my hope for our world that this skill eventually gets taught on a large-scale and that people start to understand the impact that this can have on relationships of all kinds (both personal and professional).

Many times on this blog I have also touched on the subject of living from Ego and what that really looks like. This week the examples that were shared with me really highlighted how this negative projection happens and how harmful it can be to those involved. When someone lives in a state of Ego they are highly offendable, jealous, gossipers, put others down to make themselves feel better, confrontational and generally difficult to work with/be in relationship with. The Ego is not just about pride (which I think is the mis-conception). The Ego is also about projecting emotions from past experiences and hurts onto another. When your actions are Egoistic you are thinking only of yourself and how things impact you personally (If you are jealous it's because of the feelings you have about your own current situation and discontent within that. If you are confrontational it's because you believe your way is the only right way. etc) The complete opposite is living In-Spirit where your actions come from a place of humility and grace. Where you have a un-offendable Spirit because your pride is not involved in your emotional responses, where you are genuinely happy for others because you are content with your own life circumstances, and where you don't need to gossip about others or drag other people down. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence and self-reflection to get to a space where you can live In-Spirit, but when you get there, you are no longer projecting negatively onto other people and your relationships improve tremendously. The more people that learn to live from their Spirit rather than from their Ego, the more peaceful and loving this world will be.

It is my personal view that our current society is much too focused on things that don't matter (people spend an enormous amount of time on social media, watching TV, doing meaningless activities because they are tired after work or need a "mental break".) If we each took even just 15min a day to stop and do a bit of self-reflection and look closely at how we responded to various people throughout the day and what we were thinking/feeling at the time and where those feelings may have come from. I believe it would be the start to some really powerful changes with the way people relate to each other. It seems like we are somehow losing touch with how to have those significant interactions with others. I feel like in our modern world we have lost touch with how to communicate with one another and how to relate. (This is likely linked with the high use of technology for communication, but that's a whole other can of worms.)

Perhaps through this sort of work we could come back to a place where the Spirit of love and peace is what drives our words and actions. I encourage you to give some thought to emotional intelligence and the Ego this week. Take a few moments to do the "personal work" that needs to be done!

"Today I take the time to stop and reflect on my true nature - remembering that the Spirit has already provided everything I will ever need. I am compassionate, gracious and humble. I am one with my Source." ~ Namaste





Sunday, April 8, 2018

Three Great Treasures

As I approach a new transition time in my life - from Nurse in Te Anau, New Zealand to Cook in Galena, Alaska...I conclude my month-long focus on rejuvenation and now move into a continued practice of living out the "Three Great Treasures" (Mercy, Frugality, Humility). This time of rejuvenation leading up to the transition has been amazing. I have really spent a lot of time focusing on my physical wellbeing and also doing some good soul-searching and emotional healing work which has brought me a lot of peace. I have slowed life right down and it's been a truly wonderful time. (Mind you, I took this time of rejuvenation WHILE working and volunteering, so I encourage you in this - you do NOT have to quit your job or stop attending to your daily activities in order to have some restful rejuvenation time....simply make it a habit to slow down and take time out of your day to reflect and do some of the work needed to heal - that might mean going for a long walk instead of watching a movie or calling a friend instead of reading that novel....These are simple things you can do while you are still attending to your daily schedule.)

As I move forward I keep in the forefront of my mind the concepts of Mercy, Frugality, and Humility. To me Mercy incorporates compassion and loving-kindness as well. It's about not giving that which is deserved - so if someone deserves your scorn or retribution etc., you are instead offering them loving-kindness, compassion, forgiveness etc.

Frugality is not referring to spending less money as such...but rather it's about living simply. In Wayne Dyer's book "Change your thoughts, change your life" he talks about the beauty that comes from living a simple life and how this attitude of being satisfied with less results in greater generosity towards others..."The less attached you are to your stuff, the easier it is to be generous; the more you cling to it, the more you feel you need, and the less concerned you are with the welfare of others".

Another beautiful treasure is Humility. To me, this is about having a heart open to serving others, it's about letting go of the Ego and the need to be elevated to a place of "success", and rather to be content to simply live each day loving and serving those around you.  Humility is also about recognizing the shared humanness that we have and the unity of our spirits with those around us - not believing ourselves to be somehow greater than, or even so very different to the person next to us. This is moving away from the ideas of separatism and division, and seeking more unity in life.

So, I leave you with these three treasures to ponder this week...How can you bring these concepts more to mind this week and how can you apply them more in your daily life? Who in your life do you need to show more mercy to? How can you live more simply and give more generously? When the Ego wants you to show how much knowledge you have, or wants you to dictate to someone else how they should be living their life - stop and take a breath and think about how you could maybe take a step back and live humbly in that moment.

*Just a wee side note that I may not be online that much over the next few months as internet connection is not fabulous in remote Alaska.

"May I be compassionate, gracious and humble and may loving-kindness and truth never leave me" ~ Namaste

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Work of Forgiveness




  • Could forgiveness be a key to rejuvenation? 
  • What exactly does forgiveness require of us? 
  • Could you bring physical healing into your life simply through forgiving others? 

These are some questions that have been rolling around in my mind for many years now, and as I have worked through finding answers to these questions over the years, I have come to a much clearer understanding of it...I believe that there is a connection between holding onto un-forgiven things and our ability to move forward in life - to heal...to rejuvenate.

This is very tightly linked with the blog I shared a few weeks ago around having the courage to look closely at the stories we tell ourselves of our life - our past, our present...the pain, the joy, the struggle...Part of the process involved in letting go of these stories and moving forward is forgiveness.

Often times these "stories" involve multiple characters/players. There will be many people who are involved in our past and whom we may have been deeply wounded by. Finding forgiveness for these past wrongs and offering love and grace to those who have harmed us is probably one of life's most challenging tasks. However, the peace that comes to us when we release that person from the bondage of our heart, and when we allow love and grace to flow from within us is indescribable. It is well worth taking the time to do the work that forgiveness requires.

Noting also that forgiveness is a process and sometimes it takes months or years to fully release all the pain associated with it. (The key point here is that once you have let go of that part of your story, you cannot take it back into your life again - letting it go, means it's gone and it's in the past...it no longer serves you).

From a religious point of view, I believe this is why Christianity and so many other religions put so much emphasis on forgiveness...because it releases and allows for so much more space in our lives. When our lives are consumed by past wrongs, we simply do not have the energy or space for the abundant life that should be ours.

Letting go allows for space to be created where beauty and love can then flourish. Until we can face the things we hold so tightly to, those burdens will grow heavier every day...What do you need to let go of today? Who do you need to forgive? (It could be that you actually need to forgive yourself).

I encourage you today to set aside some time to reflect on this and to start the process of forgiveness. It is not a quick and easy journey, but it is definitely worth it! Easter is an appropriate time to think about forgiveness and love. If Christ could forgive us of all the many wrongs that we have committed in our lives, surely we could use that example and forgive those who have wronged us.

"May I let go of all the things that no longer serve me; all the pain, all the suffering, all the sadness...May that space in my heart be re-filled today with compassion, love, and grace." ~ Namaste

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Making the Connection

I have a personal belief that when we feel tension, illness, fatigue or an unsettling within our body there is often an emotional link attached to that feeling. Sure there can be a physical cause (poor diet, traumatic injury like a broken limb, exposure to a virus etc.) but I think it goes so much deeper than that and I believe that if we can stop and take time to uncover what that emotional link is, we might just heal our body quicker. For me, it's about making the connection.

I started doing this recently when I would get a headache or feel fatigued, or when I recently got sick with a cold...I found it so interesting once I really stopped and took time to look more closely at my emotions and what was going on within myself at the time. When I started to work through some of the baggage of my past and let go of the pain, my healing would begin. I have now been doing this regularly and seeing a tremendous link. 

My challenge to you is this: The next time you feel tension in your back or neck...the next time you start to feel a cold coming on...Take a few minutes to really settle into yourself and start looking at where you are at emotionally in your life. Perhaps grab a piece of paper and jot down some thoughts that come to mind. What are you holding on to? What are you fearful of? What thoughts and worries are you ruminating on over and over and over again? What past hurt have you not acknowledged or spoken of? What sadness are you hiding deep within your own heart?

It is entirely possible that the worry, fear, distrust, and any other number of negative emotions we feel, could actually stimulate a physical response in our body. This could be through lowering your immune system, keeping you from sleeping properly or through causing your muscles to tense - leading to headache, back pain etc.

I share this with you to give you something to think on, I'm not saying that all physical illness stems from an emotional source...But just try it for a few weeks and see if you can find the connection within your own life. In letting go of these emotions we attach ourselves to, we can create the space needed for healing.

"May today be the day that I leave behind my old self and begin a new story. May today I release any power that my past held over me. In letting go of that, may there be a space created where new life, love and peace can flow freely." ~ Namaste


Friday, March 23, 2018

What does it mean to find courage?

I am reading a beautiful book at the moment by Mark Nepo called "Finding Inner Courage" and he proposes so many facets to the concept of courage and what it might mean in our daily lives. He looks at this from so many different angles and the contemplation that it provokes is very moving.

One of the things that struck me the most this week was his thoughts around our need to find the courage to look intently at our own lives...to dig deeper and look beneath the surface of who we really are - and that this does, indeed, take courage. He made a profound statement when he said "...facing, feeling, and accepting our own suffering keeps us from reenacting it on others." (A very powerful first step to living compassionately in this world is to truly identify with our own life experiences and move past the "stories" we tell ourselves and others about our lives.) He goes on to say that, "a central goal of inner courage is to bear our humanness and integrate our experience so that we might strengthen the bond between living things". His book really is a beautiful read and it does make you think about so many things.

I pose this question and challenge to you this week...Will you have the courage to set aside some time and do some self-contemplation? Have a think about the stories you tell about your life - about who you are, where you came from, what you have faced...Regardless of how real they are, or how much you cling to these stories...Regardless of how much they impact on how you live your daily life...Do you have the courage to let them go? Could you move forward in your life letting go of all those "stories" that previously defined you?

"May I detach today from the stories of my past making room in my heart for my true nature to grow. As my heart creates space, may it be filled with gratitude and compassion." ~ Namaste


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Transitioning to a nutritionally rejuvenating diet

As I have been discussing lifestyle changes related to practicing calmness, rejuvenation, and doing the things that make you happy...you must have known this blog post was soon to come...I want to share with you some thoughts around eating nutritionally to support your best life!

I promise this post will not be "preachy" or make you feel bad, it is merely shared to help your heart and mind be open to new possibilities, and if you are already on this journey then hopefully you will find this blog post encouraging. There is never any judgment on my part...I am a human just the same as you, and before I learned about this stuff I was eating the traditional "American Diet" same as most. You don't know what you don't know, and that is why education is empowerment!

Rejuvenation is possible from the inside out. Science has proven that we truly are what we eat, and there is some fantastic research out now that shows the significant link between diet and disease as well as the link between diet and mental wellbeing (or mental illness). If someone told you that what you ate truly could have an impact on how you live AND DIE, and that what you ate made a difference to how you behave, how you relate to others, your memory, and your mood...would your heart be open to hearing about that message? Would you wonder, per chance, if maybe you DO have a choice about what your future might look like?

*Now I make note here before I even begin that this is all my own experience and I am not an expert, a nutritionist, or making any claim for curing disease or anything like that. This is my own personal blog about my own personal journey.

Very briefly I will share a quick version of my own experience:
I became curious about whether what we ate truly impacted on how we felt and how sick we might be about 12 years ago or so when I read the book The China Study which basically tore apart anything I had ever heard about nutrition! haha...I was so shocked by the information I had read that I didn't believe it and had to try it myself; and so I did. I went vegetarian for several years and at the time I was doing this based on what I knew at the time, but I really didn't know that much and it was a struggle. I didn't know enough about nutrition to do it correctly and I was so new to the whole idea of healthy eating that it was a hard slog. (I thought just giving up meat would make me healthy) I felt great at first, but gradually fell back into old habits and began eating meat again and my health really deteriorated. (It is important to interject here that you can totally be vegetarian/vegan and NOT be eating a healthy diet! Just removing meat from your diet does not make your diet nutritional or rejuvenating!!) I decided about a year ago to transition back into a vegetarian lifestyle because my health really wasn't good and I remembered how great I had felt when I wasn't eating meat...(The biggest things I notice are mental clarity, less mood swings, less pain, more energy, and WAY better digestion - not to mention the random benefit that my asthma and migraines are both pretty much gone.) This time when I transitioned I was better equipped because the past 12 years I have been studying more and more about nutrition, healthy cooking, and a whole new world of food I had never even heard of before. It has been a very large interest of mine since becoming a nurse as I really saw first hand the huge connection between diet and disease. (Particularly with mental health - I was very much interested in the research around this). Long story short, after much research I decided to give up dairy and all animal-based products about six months ago. I have honestly felt so much better within myself. Shift work has still been a challenge to my wellbeing, but the diet and nutrition side of things has been amazing. I also find on night shifts that eating vegetables and good grains really gets me through the shift in a way that I really struggled with in the past.

Having shared a little personal experience with you, I will get back to the point of this blog:
I believe that rejuvenation for the body and soul is something that each of us can achieve. 

It is something that in our modern society is absolutely necessary. If you look at the trends in health across the world it is obvious that we have a MAJOR problem that needs urgent attention. There is a solution! I'll be honest that growing up I thought it was simply my fate to have Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Alzheimer's Disease because that is genetically what my family history has laid before me...Growing up I believed it wasn't a matter of if this would be my fate, it was a matter of when it would happen and which one of these diseases I would die from. I didn't realize that I have a part to play in this and I can have a positive impact in prolonging/reversing all of these! That is empowering news right there! It has scientifically been proven that eating a plant based diet can reverse both Heart Disease, Diabetes AND Alzheimer's Disease too!...I won't get into a long discussion here, but my point being that this is exciting news!!! Now whenever I think, oh, "I sure would like that cheesy pizza" or "Man those French Fries look good"...I instead say to myself, "Do you really want Alzheimer's Disease" - stops me in my tracks.

Now that I have your attention and have you thinking a little bit about the empowering message that you can positively impact the outcome of your own health...Let's very quickly look at how you can make those changes in a realistic way.

If I were feeling "Preachy" I would tell you to throw away every processed food item in your home and start over from scratch! haha..But that's not realistic nor is it helpful. I think the journey to healthy living is such a long process, but one that can be started today in this very moment. With every tiny decision you make (whether it's to cut the oil content in half that you usually use in a recipe, or whether it's to substitute half the amount of honey for the sugar you would normally use...) Remembering that every single choice that you make regarding your food and lifestyle can impact your health for the better if you so choose. Disease that is already brewing in you (yes, cancer included) can be reversed...it is NOT too late. (*I am not claiming that diet alone can cure cancer, but I'm just saying that scientifically it has been proven to help reduce and reverse damage) It isn't something that needs to be an "all or nothing" mindset, and it isn't something that has to be strictly 100% all the time. My challenge to you today is to eat mindfully and think about what you are putting into your body. Is it going to fuel your cells? Is it rejuvenating and going to bring life into your body? If the answer is "no", then what could you substitute it with? Can you switch out that potato chip for some carrot sticks or that sugary cereal for some oatmeal? What small changes can you make that might bring you wellness!

In my opinion it's not about adding years to our lives and living longer. In my opinion it's about living WELL. It's about the quality of life!! Living to be 90 years old isn't really a good thing if you haven't been in your right mind for 10 years and have been suffering with Alzheimer's Disease and can't even get out of bed - how is that living? When Dr. Greger talks about "How not to die" he isn't saying that you won't die, he's saying these are ways we don't want to die!!! No one wants to suffer...No one anywhere wants that!

How to transition to a nutritionally rejuvenating diet?
Easy as...Start today by making small changes. Only you know what your current diet looks like. Start with the changes that you will find easiest...So if you really don't notice mayonnaise on your sandwich - leave it off! If you aren't fussed too much about creamer in your coffee - drink your coffee black. Every little choice you make will move you closer to a healthier heart and a healthier life! So what are we talking about substituting and transitioning here? Vegetables is the number one...bringing in more vegetables to your diet is probably the biggest positive change you could make. Fruits/Grains/Beans and Legumes are also great too and these are all things easily substituted in your daily diet...and then of course what we are transitioning away from is processed foods/junk food/processed sugars/fatty foods/animal products/dairy.

When you are really ready to commit though, I highly recommend just going all in. Cold turkey, just give it up! If you have the motive to do so (for me it is Alzheimer's Disease, but for you it might be Breast Cancer or something else) if you have a powerful reason to change, you will. You will also find that each person has something that is so much harder than others to give up and that is interestingly linked to food addiction which is very real. (Do some research on that one, it's pretty fascinating! Particularly the addiction with cheese - the brain is so interesting!) The great thing about a plant based diet is that after you have worked through the detoxification process and moved past the addiction phase your body no longer craves any of those things and you actually don't even like it anymore! It's super weird, but it's true...

Some caution:
  1. When you decide to transition into a healthier diet, please be mindful that there will be a detoxification period (and this will be stronger depending on how poorly you currently eat!) Detoxing can be symptoms like headache, weakness, diarrhea, cramping, and increased acne. This is totally normal, and often puts people off if they aren't expecting it - so expect it! It's just part of the process. As your body is detoxing you can feel so much gratitude that you are riding your body of all that harm! For some people this time might only last a couple of days and others it might be for a few weeks. Once your body has come back into balance you will feel great! 
  2. Be aware that some foods may not agree with your digestion or may take time for your body to adjust to. For example if you aren't used to eating beans, do NOT start out your new plant based diet by eating beans twice a day! Your body will  not take well to that and you will likely have major bloating/gas/upset stomach etc. It's not because you "can't eat beans" it's because your body has never adjusted to eating beans before and it's a shock! Start slow and eat only a few tablespoons of beans over some vegetable stir fry or salad or something else. Gradually increase the amount as you go and your body will like them a lot more over time! You may also find that it's only certain type of beans that cause you this issue - so process of elimination is always a good way to see what works best for your body.
  3. Recognize as well that there may be foods which your body simply doesn't like at all - I personally cannot eat much beets! I can have a bite or two maybe once a week, but I cannot juice beets or eat two or three at a time- NOT a good thing! haha...Simply learn to recognize what works for you. Every person is totally different and just because something is very healthy doesn't mean it is necessarily healthy for you
Some food suggestions: 
  1. Did you know that eating Plant Based doesn't mean eating salad? I'll be honest that I haven't had a salad in probably about three months. I eat what's in season and what's fresh, and at the moment lettuce isn't it! Eating plant based is about ensuring your meals are packed full of nutrient-rich vegetables, but also whole grains too. So an easy way to start is to add as many additional vegetables to your current recipes that you can - if you are having grilled chicken and baked potato for dinner, cut up a bunch of spinach or silver beet or leafy greens and stir fry them in a little broth or water and put them over your baked potato along with some steamed broccoli! That's a very fast and easy way to transition into getting more vegetables in (even if you haven't yet chosen to give up the meat!) 
  2. Learn how to cook with different grains to enjoy variety in your life - ever heard of Quinoa, Amaranth, or Couscous? Those are some fun ways to start. A very easy meal is simply roasted vegetables with some grain mixed in....absolutely beautiful. 
  3. I am a HUGE fan of Nutritional Yeast (not brewer's yeast - totally different) Nutritional Yeast has a very cheesy flavour and is an excellent addition to any dairy-free diet. I sprinkle that stuff on everything and it's fantastic. I have also made my own "Vegan Parmesan" with it as I use it to make pesto and no one can tell that it doesn't have regular Parmesan in it! It's lovely...I also have a spice mixture that I have made with turmeric, Nutritional Yeast and other spices and that's lovely to just have on hand to sprinkle over vegetables or on a salad or whatever - anytime you feel you want a bit of cheese. Most Nutritional Yeasts are also fortified with B-12 which is imperative that you get if you are eating a Vegan diet.
  4. Experiment!! Don't be afraid of substitution and learning how to cook in a new and different way. It may not always turn out fabulous, but I bet at least 95% of the time it will. Find tried and true recipes that you love...Vegan Richa is my all-time favourite as I have never made a recipe from her that wasn't fantastic...Minimalist Baker is another great one. While it can be overwhelming with the amount of information that is out there these days, it is also very exciting that there are so many fantastic resources. Join groups, have discussions, learn and grow as you go! It is a journey.
  5. Learn to love Flax Seeds/Linseed. This is one of the best things you could do for your diet! Find a way to add a tablespoon a day of ground flax to your diet. You can sprinkle it on your cereal, salad or whatever, or add it into baking...learn how to make Flax Seed Eggs and use that as a substitute for all your baking needs - trust me it works!!! 
  6. Find a good non-dairy milk that you enjoy. Everyone has different preferences and some like to drink certain milks like Almond Milk, but then like to bake with Soy Milk...each type of non-dairy milk will have a different consistency and taste. Always look for unsweetened and preferably organic (As I mentioned, you can be vegetarian/vegan and be unhealthy...and there are certainly a bunch of sugary/flavoured non-dairy milks out there on the market)
  7. Read your labels and be aware that just because it's marketed as healthy does not mean that it is!! Try to buy things that have less than five ingredients. My rule of thumb is that if it's more than that, it goes back on the shelf...Partly what is making us sick is not just the foods we are eating, but how they are processed and what pesticides, stabilizers, preservatives etc. are in it! 
Some hang-ups people often have in transitioning:
  1. Time is the probably the biggest challenge people in our society today face. In my opinion this is probably one of the largest barriers to healthy eating and lifestyles (I haven't even mentioned here the need for exercise). I will not lie to you and pretend like eating healthy and preparing your own foods at home from scratch is quick and easy. It is not - plain and simple. It is a choice. I choose not to sit down and watch TV in the evening so that I can cut up vegetables to have ready for the following week ahead or the meal for the next day or whatever. I choose to give up something else in my life so that I have the time to make meals to freeze and take to work when I know that I will be tempted on night shift to reach for a muffin or piece of cake! It's my choice because I believe that in making this decision for myself and my family I am paving a way to a better future for us. That doesn't make me any better than anyone else, it's just the choice I have made. I want to add here that there is certainly nothing wrong at ALL with finding a really good resource for pre-made plant-based foods! There are some fabulous companies out there (Particularly in America) that will deliver beautiful meals right to your door that are whole food plant based! So if time is something that you struggle with and you usually pop around to the local fast-food shop or you eat out a lot - that might be a fantastic option for you and your family. There are also heaps of pre-cut or frozen vegetables available at the market. While you might pay more for it, for your family that might be the very best way. There is nothing wrong with finding short cuts to allow for this lifestyle to take root!! There are no "rules" on how to do life - you have to find your way.  
  2. Cost is another concern that people have when transitioning. I personally have found that a lot of the additional costs are tied up in pre-made meals or substitute foods. If you want the convenience of prepared menu items, then you definitely pay for it. Vegan cheese is like $10 a block! OMG...seriously...I think I will just do without that...Again, the choice is yours. If you want to eat plant based it does NOT mean paying more, it just means being smarter about your food choices. I only eat the vegetables/fruits that are in season. When avocados are $3.99 each (yes, that's for real) I don't eat avocados! That part is quite simple, and actually vegetables are way cheaper than meat and dairy. 
  3. Eating out is a huge barrier for people who are transitioning and I find this a real challenge, particularly with traveling. I will say that the choices are improving over the years and it's way easier to order a Vegan meal now than it was 10 years ago. However, it's not easy and I totally acknowledge that. It is a learning process for sure, but most places are happy enough to just serve the meal without meat or cheese or whatever it is you are wishing to remove. You also learn really quickly to always have your own personal snack stash in your car or purse! 
So, this was a super long blog post, but hopefully it has been encouraging to you in your journey towards your best health. I do hope you found some information or links useful and that you were in some way inspired to make simple changes to your daily diet. Again, this is just a snippet of information and this topic is incredibly vast and I could go on and on and on...but I won't. I haven't mentioned here anything about other lifestyle choices, the environment, or anything like that but do bare in mind that your food choices do impact every aspect of life.

I have wanted to share this post for such a very long time, but was always fearful of coming across "preachy" or like I have it all figured out or have my life all together...I do hope that you did not feel that. I re-iterate the fact that I am also still on my own personal journey of discovery and we are all the same. This blog is simply a platform to share my own experience in hopes that someone might be encouraged by it.

Some fantastic links to check out: 

For excellent up to date scientific research reviews - Dr. Greger's Nutrition Facts website is something I recently discovered, and it's fantastic. He also has some really eye-opening videos.

Of course Forks Over Knives is another great one if you haven't seen this documentary yet or read any of their information it's pretty life-changing.

*I have to add an update here (12-03-18) because I just came across the fantastic lady Dr. Yami. You should totally check out her incredible website for supporting families to eating better. (VeggieFitKids) Her videos are awesome, and she just has such a powerful message to bring to kids and to adults alike. Check out her blog section for sure, as she has some great topics!! 

If you found this blog post helpful or encouraging and would like to hear more tips for transitioning, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. We are all in this together, learning from one another and supporting each other along the way. 

"May the choices I make today positively impact on my tomorrow. May I be happy, healthy, and whole." ~ Namaste



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rejuvenation

NZ Tomtit
Warning: Long post to follow, you may wish to make a cup of tea first 😊

There are many views of what Rejuvenation is and what it looks like. Often it is thought of in reference to being young again, or having youth restored. However, I found this beautiful definition which I feel touches on what I think of when I think about rejuvenation:
  1. to renew the activity, erosive power, etc., of (a stream) by uplift or by removal of a barrier in the stream bed.http://www.dictionary.com/browse/rejuvenate 

Because I like to use the metaphor of water for life, I believe this is a beautiful example of not only what rejuvenation may look like, but also HOW we can have this for ourselves....The question is, What barrier needs to be removed from the stream bed?  

 Yesterday I took a long walk and jog through one of my favourite forest paths along the lake shore. I wanted to enjoy the beautiful day and just have a long meditative walk. I didn't want to feel the pressure of "exercising", so I just did what felt nice and did a combination of walking and jogging as it felt good. The path was quiet and peaceful and there were often songs from the native birds and sounds of their wings beating in the air above....The sun was glistening through the trees and occasionally you could see the water and the clear blue skies. I realized during this walk that this is life-giving to me. I realized that I felt both energized and freed by being out there and that I need more and more of this in my life. It occurred to me that there are "barriers" that need to be removed in my life in order for rejuvenation to happen. 

Water doesn't always just flow naturally without aid. Sometimes in order to renew the activity of the stream, a barrier must be removed from the stream bed.......Some of these barriers are mental and some physical.

Yesterday was Thursday and according to the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga it is a day to honour your Intention and Desires. Spiritually Thursday is linked with focusing on humility and grace and to follow Christ's example of love. Throughout the New Testament there are tons of stories of Christ healing people, breathing new life into people, and setting them back on their feet again. He was the "remover of the barriers".....If we want to live as He lived, than it makes sense that we would also seek to learn how to remove barriers....and what better place to start learning this than within our own lives? So, I decided to commit the month of March to REJUVENATION. This month it is my intention and desire to actively move a few barriers out of the way and to let health and wellness flow strong.  

I would encourage you to take a few minutes either mentally or on paper and write a list of the things that make you feel wonderful/energized/full of life, and make a list of the barriers that block you at times from doing those things.....My list is below, but everyone will be totally different, so you don't even have to read my list, it's just there if you need some direction or ideas for how to compile your own list. 

These are the things I have identified that bring me life-giving energy and help me feel my best: 
  1. Good Food - Eating healthy, Plant-Based Foods that nourish (And being a lover of food this is also a barrier so it goes both ways for me! haha)
  2. Yoga - Taking the time for a daily practice is absolutely life-giving to me.
  3. Being in Nature - Going for walks/hikes, jogging or whatever I do outside is very energizing for me, especially if I can find a quiet place with good levels of green vegetation and birds...I do love the wildlife!
  4. Seeing wildlife - I find being close to nature and seeing birds and other animals just so invigorating. 
  5. Essential Oils - The various uses do really strengthen me emotionally
  6. Reflection Time - Taking time to sit and think or meditate or read and journal etc.  (This is usually the first thing to go when I get busy! - a note to self )
  7. Anything Warming - Hot baths, Hot Tubs, Saunas, Wheat Packs, Cups of Tea - these things give me a sense of grounding and wellbeing. 
  8. Painting or taking time to be creative in some way 
  9. Gardening - to watch something grow from seed is very life-giving. (But can also be a barrier as sometimes the time it takes to manage/harvest a garden can become a barrier to the other life-giving things on my list!)
These are the barriers I have identified: 
  1. Time - When I fill my schedule too full I have no time for the things that actually bring me life and energy. When I am too busy I don't have time to walk/yoga/paint/read etc.
  2. Food - When I spend too much of my energy focused on cooking and on food it takes away from the other things I enjoy doing and that also bring me joy. 
  3. Mental Blocks - When I have been working too hard, or working odd hours and not sleeping well then the mental blocks come in and keep me from doing the things that WOULD actually give me energy. My mind plays tricks on me and tells me that I'm "too tired" to walk or jog or even do yoga....and when listening to those thoughts it is a barrier to the thing which would actually rejuvenate my soul!
  4. Energy - When I'm not sleeping well or I'm working too much, I have no energy to even think about doing the things that I enjoy.  
One last observation that I had on my walk yesterday was about a beautiful little bird that I love so much...The NZ Tomtit...(I will make my connection to this blog in a moment - bare with me)...Like most places, New Zealand has it's "famous" birds that people just go crazy over. The key ones being the incredibly beautiful Tui bird, the Kea and the ever-famous Kiwi Bird...People pay big money to see these birds and they get a LOT of attention from tourists and locals alike. I am guilty of it myself because I am such a huge lover of the Tui bird and I paint that bird a lot for it's beautiful colours...No one much mentions the Tomtit (or a ton of other native birds) Not many really go out searching for it or take pictures of it or paint it etc. It doesn't really get much notice...But in truth it is just as precious. I love it so much. It's tiny, delicate features and little fluffy body are so beautiful.

The connection I make here is that part of the rejuvenation process is about not worrying what other people think of you. Not living your life for their approval or filling your schedule with the things you are "expected" to do. Not seeking fame and to be the beautiful sought-after Tui bird....but to be content with being the sweet little Tomtit happily flitting away in the forest...Rejuvenation happens when we stop worrying over living up to everyone else's expectations and start bringing life into our souls by doing the things that make us happy and free. By moving away the barriers and letting the water flow.

"May this day bring me all the love and light that I seek, and may my soul be rejuvenated." ~ Namaste

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Cease Striving...Choose Calm

Every now and again there comes a day where I learn a great deal...where life seems to just want to teach me something significant.

Today is such a day, and I thought that I would share what this day has taught me with the intention that perhaps it might lead you to think about your own life and what motivates your own thoughts and behaviours.

I have been sick for about a week now and have been really relaxing and allowing my body to heal. I have been doing absolutely nothing but looking after myself and at first I felt really pleased that I had taken the time to this. I have been eating extremely healthy, doing good yoga, long hot baths, lots of essential oils, drinking lots of cups of tea, taking lots of beautiful herbs and spices to heal myself, etc. etc.....However, the fatigue and lingering cough are just staying with me. This morning I was feeling super frustrated because this has caused me to be out of my exercise routine now for a full week. I haven't felt like doing anything and didn't want to push my body. I had decided yesterday that this morning I would DEFINITELY be well and had planned to go for an easy run......that was NOT happening this morning when I woke up!!....Thus came the feelings of frustration and annoyance at my body for not being healed yet and not being strong enough to meet my expectations.

When I sat down to reflect on where this frustration was coming from, it opened up a whole doorway into myself. I realized that I was expecting change in my life, but still holding onto old thought patterns of goal setting/striving/sticking to "routines" and expectations etc. I realized that while I want peace and calm in my life, my old thought patterns are preventing these changes from taking place.

Two of the key thought processes that I am holding onto are:

1) Expectations - Frustration really only comes when we have a set expectation of what we think something "should" be and when life doesn't meet that expectation...Thus, if you remove the expectation, you naturally will remove the frustration

2) Goals cause us to STRIVE...striving causes feelings of not being good enough, not making it to our goal, not achieving enough, not hitting the mark. I was personally raised to set goals, raised to strive, raised to always be achieving more. This has been ingrained in me since as long as I can remember. Quite frankly if I ever want to change my life I HAVE to change this way of thinking. (When I tried to find a good photo on google for the title of this blog I was amazed by the surprising quotes and photos about how the ONLY way to find success in life is to set goals and strive for perfection etc. Just an interesting side note as I believe this is how our society wishes us to live our lives - consumed by the need to "succeed" and to be better than everyone else. )

I am not saying that goal setting and living with ideas of what you want your life to be is wrong. I am not saying that there is not value in striving for a good outcome and to be your best. This isn't about being right or wrong...What I am saying is that for my life and for the changes that I want to see take place for me, to live calmly and compassionately and to be at peace in my daily life, I have to change. I have to choose to let go of goals/striving and to let go of expectations. This may not be everyone's path and that's why I'm not saying this is the only way to live or the right way. I'm just sharing my personal realization that for ME, this is the change I want to see happen. I want to live at peace and to remove the frustration, the disappointment, the EMOTIONS

So, in letting go of the striving and the frustration, I went for a long meditative walk and enjoyed the beauty of this day. I stopped and enjoyed the breeze on my face, the birds singing, the water washing up on the shore. I know that this was what my body needed today, and I feel okay with that knowing that in this present moment this is where I'm at. Tomorrow may be very different, but "It's like this now". 

What thought process are keeping you from the life you want?  What changes do you need to make today in order to live at peace within yourself?