Ego vs Spirit...

I’ve been writing a lot about Super-Charging September. There has been a lot of energy around this, both my own and that of others, and it’s been inspiring and invigorated.

It may be my love of alliteration that has inspired me to writing another S-themed post this month, but this time it’s about Sacred, Spiritual Sobriety...

It is, of course, all relevant. You wanna super-charge? Try slowing down. Get spiritual and aligned with your purpose. You wanna the clearest path to do so? Try cutting out addictive behaviours and co-dependencies, whether it be alcohol, sugar or food.

There is a theory that addiction come to people who do not know their purpose, or are disconnected from it. I also really resonate with the idea that co-dependency is the disease of the lost self.

So can you connect with your purpose? How can you connect with self?

According to Yogi Cameron, a spiritual practice helps locate purpose.

If your mind is occupied with higher thoughts, and your heart is at peace, you reach for that addictive substance less.

In a talk I listened to recently, Yogi Cameron broke it down like this:

We are Spiritual beings... with Ego.

Spirit is always saying “HEY” and Ego says “Shut up, I got this.”

The Spirit guides us to purpose, never avoiding the challenges along the way.

Ego says, “Skip this part!! (the hard part)”

As we know, Ego is also directly tied to addiction. Addiction (or any kind of dependency on a substance or food) can be a great way to avoid pain, ie “the hard parts.”

How does this show up?

In my client who is unfulfilled in her day job, socially isolated, and not living her purpose and binge eating at night. Food replaced alcohol. Both are taking the place of meaningful connection to self, others, and higher purpose.

In another client who abandons her morning ritual (which includes meditation) once things start going good. (Ego says, “I got this!”) Without maintaining the focus on her daily practice, things start to unravel and she disconnects from her centre, and slides quickly back into her familiar anxiety.

In my family member, who after a year of sobriety, is finally feeling pain that was avoided for years - and is now finally ready to answer the question: Who am I and why am I here? Yet still very much trying to control, and with Ego making it all about him, he isn't able have faith and to trust Spirit to take the lead.

For myself, my spiritual practice helped me step outside of my ego-driven decisions and fear. I experience less anxiety, more confidence, and more peace. 

I heard this quote awhile ago, and it really resonated with me.

“I am content to see a mountain as a mountain and not as a comment on my life.” (If you know the source of this quote, please let me know!)

Spirituality helps me get out of my own way... And to not make everything about me. My connection to Spirit helps my Ego take a backseat. With Ego firmly in her place, I am a lot more free from addictions. With Spirit taking the lead, and connecting me with my authentic purpose AND the inter-connectedness of us all, I am more free from dependencies.

Pretty nifty.

However, as we all know, there’s no magic enlightenment pill. My spiritual practice is a practice, and something I have to remind myself to practice.

I write it down. It’s part of my “to-dos” in my morning ritual . Sunrise meditation has become an increasingly important part of my spiritual practice. Sometimes I’m not able to or can’t wake up, but I always feel better when I do. If I miss sunrise, I try for sunset. Sometimes I do both.

My boyfriend reminds me to pray at night. Our versions of praying are different and so are our versions of God. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we pray out loud for and with each other, sometimes side by side in silence. It is another ritual I have come to appreciate.

Swimming, restorative yoga, humming and tapping have all become important practices to keep me present, “in the moment," and at the same time connected to a source much larger than myself (call it my Higher Power, God, the Universe, the Divine... insert whatever works and feels meaningful for you).

Being in nature is one of the post powerful ways for me to connect with myself and Spirit.

What about you? What does your spiritual practice feel like? What does spirituality mean to you?

I would love to hear in the comments!

xoxo


From nightmarish chaos to clarity and calm...

Have you ever had one of those epics dreams, where you are trying to do everything by yourself and nothing works? The phone won’t turn on, then you can’t dial the right numbers, you keep missing the connection with the person you are supposed to meet, you go the wrong way into traffic, you realize you aren’t speaking the same language as the person you are trying to communicate with, you can find the thing you are looking for. And for hours it seems like you are running around trying to complete a task that should only take minutes...

I had one of those dreams last night. I was so relieved when my alarm went off and I could wake up from this exhausting nightmarish saga! I glanced out at the sunrise and immediately felt thankful to have my morning practice ahead of me to help clear this chaotic energy and ground and focus for the day.

I remember quite clearly when this feeling happened in real life, not just in dreams. 

Always feeling rushed, like there was never enough time.

Foggy and unfocused from lack of sleep or being hungover. Quite often both.

Lack of clarity and calm when approaching my day, always feeling like I was forgetting something.

Forgetting something important in the morning, or sleeping in, which snowballed into a day of trying to play catch up.

Making excuses for submitting work super last minute, or needed extensions on deadlines.

Does this sounds familiar at all?

Even though in the end it all got done, (in fact, the overachiever in me often ended up over-delivering), there definitely could have been a better, smoother way.

I used to get sick a lot. I would go go go at this frenetic pace and then crash.

When I finally did burn out completely on my work/career at the time and life in general, I had to take a long hard look at the way I was living. 

I wasn’t even thirty years old yet and I’d tired myself out. 

I set about learning new practices to help me live life in more balance. These practices not only help me stay focused and productive with my external life, perhaps more importantly, they give me inner peace and clarity as well. 

This actually requires quite a bit of organization. Creating systems and rituals that prioritize YOU and your well-being first, so that you can better serve your higher purpose, your loved ones and your external responsibilities.

And here’s the best part.

You don’t have to figure this out all on your own. If fact, it’s better if you don’t try to.

Just like the dream, you could spend hours and days and weeks running around trying to figure it all out on your own, buying into the illusion that you have to.

Or you could ask for help.

I have worked with coaches, therapists, teachers, mentors, spiritual guides, masterminds and accountability partners to get the training and support I needed to shift patterns I had spent a lifetime living.

This kind of support is available to you as soon as you decide that you want it.

One of my clients who just finished a month-intensive put it this way:

“Something inside was telling me to make changes in my life. Something was wrong, and many things negative things kept happening, so it was kind of in a bad way I realized it (the need for change).

I wasn't on the right path of my life. 

Everything started to connect a month ago, when I decided to change. The Universe put people on my way to help me, and I started to see what I could learn from them.”

Setting clear intentions for yourself is one of the key 6 strategies I will be talking about during my free Tele-Class next Tuesday. 

I’m really looking forward to sharing them with all of you... I see how much of an impact they have on my clients life, and how much they changed mine, on a daily basis.

Click here to sign up for the class. Even if you are not sure you can make it, I’ll be sending out a recording :)

I'd love to hear in the comments. What is one intention you'd like to set for yourself for the upcoming month? What kind of support do you need to fulfill this intention? Remember, ask and you shall receive.

xoxo


I became my own worst enemy...

A few days ago, I spent the afternoon curled up in a ball in my bed, weeping.

For several days I had felt that sneaky underlying anxiety welling up inside of me. Tears squeezed out at the slightest provocation. My heart was beating faster than it should and I felt a queasiness in my stomach.

I’m familiar with this feeling. I used to experience it a lot. I also used to be “better” at ignoring it, by keeping myself so busy I didn’t have to notice or ask myself questions, and then turning it off or escaping with alcohol or other distractions.

Though the feeling was familiar, I was caught off guard.

I’m supposed to be happy right now. Everything has been going so well. My partner is amazing and supporting, as are my family and friends. My health has improved and I am feeling stronger than in the past 5 months.  I have wonderful clients to work with. I have travelled to Canada to receive some of the best health care in the world, and am eating an abundance of delicious, home-grown food.

Yet there I was a few days ago, unable to stop crying. Feeling super triggered emotionally, and overwhelmed.

I was allowing fear of the unknown engulf me. I was future-tripping and trying to control the uncontrollable.

I could chalk it up to hormones, or loneliness, but I knew that it was deeper than that. I had let my own self-care rituals slide while traveling, and though I was giving great advice to my coaching clients, I wasn’t walking the talk.

All this just days before my self-proclaimed “Super-Charge September” was about to start. A month of intensives with clients, tele-classes and interviews lined up.

Of course I began to feel like a fraud. Self-doubt crept in... Who I am to help my clients with this stuff when I’m a disorganized, crying mess?

And then the inevitable comparison game started... where I started noticing all of the other coaches who were so much “better” than I was,  and I suddenly felt small, insignificant and incapable.

WOW - what a slippery, nasty, ugly slope I slid down.

How quickly I became my own worst enemy, again. 

Thankfully, after allowing myself a good solid sob (or two, or ... five) , I was able to begin grasping at some of the tools that have served me so well in the past few years.

I put on a pair of sunglasses over my puffy eyes and hauled my ass outside. I know how healing fresh air and the ocean are for me. I took myself for a walk by sea.

I found the perfect “reality-check” totem, to keep me grounded in the present. I’m a very tactile person, though I can get completely swept away by my run-away thoughts. When I’m feeling anxious, I used a physical object to bring me back to the hear and now. Have you seen the movie Inception? Where they bring a totem into their dream quests to remind themselves that it’s a dream? Kind of like that.

I sat on a rock and took deep breathes and made a mental gratitude list.

I reaffirmed by commitment to my morning rituals, which help me start my day grounded, peaceful and focused.

Later in the day, I tapped. I soaked in the tub, stretched and luxuriated in some solo sensuality.

I decided to make “sober september” a sugar-free month, as I’d been noticing that without alcohol in my life, I was reaching for sugar and emotional eating for comfort.

I forgave myself for my “melt-down” and focused instead on treating myself with the same compassion and understanding I would have offered a client or loved one who was experiencing the same thing.

I spent the next day nurturing myself and putting both the emotional and organizational systems together to get back on track.

The systems that I am so exciting to share with my clients over the next month. 

More than that - I am again reminded of why this work is so meaningful to me: through my professional role, I get to do the personal work. And when I'm not doing it, for whatever reason, I am reminded in the way I was this weekend that I need to practice what I preach. I am a work in progress. We all are.

Anxiety and overwhelm, such as what I was experiencing this weekend, can stem from concern about the future and unmet needs.

The remedies include living in the moment, while also taking small but decisive steps towards our goals, ensuring that our needs are being met and every night we can go to sleep reassured that we were able to feel our desired way that day.

I’m so excited to Super-Charge September with you with a mix of my best self-care tips and systems to help you identify, plan and stick to the changes you want to make. With 'real-talk' reality-based support, because I know how challenging this work can be!

If you’d like to hear more about my own journey and the tools I try to use on a daily basis, click here to sign up for my free tele-class next Tuesday. 

If you are ready to jump right in for a month of super-charged coaching (includes four weekly 1-1 sessions and unlimited email support), click here for a free info session. 

xoxo

“if
the ocean
can calm itself,
so can you.
we
are both
salt water
mixed with
air.”
— meditation, nayyirah waheed.


How can I create Heaven on Earth?

When I read this question yesterday, I realized with a deep sense of awe and gratitude that my life has been moving in the direction of Heaven on Earth for the past few years. I hadn't really considered it in this way - but the question resonated with something deep inside of me.

So I started thinking, how can I consciously and actively continue creating a little piece of Heaven here on Earth? My own little paradise.

And equally as important, how can you?

Here are some examples of what this looks like, for me.

Showing up with integrity and honesty in all of my interactions, even when it’s hard.

Only saying YES to people, places, things and activities that feel good for my mind, body and soul (yes, all three).

Taking risks in Love.

Eating the best food I can find/buy/grow/cook. Yes, trying to find local and ethical sources, eating fresh clean nourishing foods that have the least impact on the Earth in terms of their growth and/or production. For me, this means a largely plant-based diet. 

Treating my body like an exquisite temple. 

Only exercising in ways that feel good. 

Practicing moderation and seeking balance, because excess was a path that took its toll on my mind, body and spirit. 

These are just a few examples.

And in case you are wondering, I’m not perfect. I am not a saint or angel that walks the earth. Creating Heaven on Earth is HARD WORK sometimes. And sometimes I have really shitty days. And experiences or interactions with people where I look back and say... damn, why?? Why did I do/say that?

In the past couple of years, I have had conversations that I’m not proud of. I’ve made choices regarding my health or how I spend my time that aren’t aligned with my longer term vision the paradise I seek to create for myself and my family.

Upholding this higher vision for myself allows me to learn for these slip ups and get back on track. 

Now before you start thinking - well, this is great for you Caitlin but I’m stuck in a relationship that I’m not sure is good for me, my job sucks and I have no energy to get around to making even small changes in my day (or insert whatever your struggle is at the moment) - I want to tell you - I get it! I do. I have had my share of shitty relationships and heartbreak (including in the past year) and I have not always had a job situation that I was in love with.

My life has been a series of ups and downs and I’m pretty sure that will continue even in my paradise-seeking.

What I do know is the power of taking small steps... doing one thing a day that gives you that blissed-out, over the moon, carefree, peaceful, Heaven on Earth feeling (or whatever that combination of feeling would be for you). 

See what sights, aromas, tastes, textures, flavours and sounds you can add to your day to make it a little more special, a little more sumptuous. 

Summer is the perfect time to start creating Heaven, as we are surrounded by so much natural beauty and an abundance of fresh, tasty food.

I’ll give you an example from a client of mine.

Her work situation was stressing her out. She rated it a 0-3 out of 10, because some days were only slightly better than others. She felt undervalued and stress out most days. Her colleagues were mostly men, she had a hard time interacting with them, can’t stand their jokes or music and is pretty low on the hierarchy.

She realized that she couldn’t change her entire environment or the people around her.

She can, however, control how she feels and what kind of an environment she can create for herself.

She brought her own music and plugged in her headphones. She allowed their ignorant comments roll off her like rain. She got there early and worked quickly so that she could rearrange her schedule and be a bit more flexible.

The sister of a friend, who is a renowned painter in NYC, was visiting. My client went out on a limb, and asked if she would teach a workshop.  The painter agreed, as long as my client would find and purchase all the materials needed.

My client spend 3 days in what she described as excitement and happiness as she drove around town on her moto in her free time, seeking out the supplies. It took her mind off work and was a welcome break from the routine.

During the workshop itself, which I had the pleasure of witnessing, I watched my client go from a tightly-wound perfectionist to relaxed, at ease, playful and HAPPY!!

The next day, during our 1-1 session, she described the feeling of being able to “let go of her serious side,” turn off her mind for a bit, and dive into the experience.

She had found her Heaven on Earth for the afternoon.

The more we can intentionally create our own Heaven on Earth, the less we need to escape ourselves and our reality, by quick fixes such as sugar high, alcohol binges or nightly bottles of wines, toxic television, vapid sexual encounters (insert your distraction of choice). 

The more we can love and appreciate where we are, right now in this moment, the less we dream of escaping into something else. 

So tell me, how are you creating your Heaven on Earth? What does that look like for you?

I’d love to read in the comments!

xoxo

ps. Want to know more about how you can start creating shifts and receive more support in your life? Click here and book a free discovery session with me! Let’s chat!


Are you ready to be vulnerable with me?

I received an overwhelming response to my last post “Early pregnancy, health challenges and lessons learned.”

One of the most reoccurring comments, both on Facebook and on my blog, was about what others perceived as the courage it took for me to be so vulnerable in sharing my story. Here’s a couple of the comments:

“Caitlin, this is amazing that you have so much courage to write all of these! This is not easy at all and it made me cry. I struggle with one thing now and it is so hard to talk about being vulnerable.”

“Inspiring advice Caitlin. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. I always fear that showing that part of myself makes me seem weak but in the end it makes us all stronger.”

It wasn’t my intention to set out to model vulnerability. My process was more about exploring why such a dramatic and difficult set of challenges was created for me, trying to understand it, and to make something meaningful out of the experience, both for myself and others.

The comments led me to reflect on how I got here, to the place where I can take a risk and be honest about the times I struggle.

I know that I wasn’t always like this. In fact, during my teens and early 20s I was so afraid of seeming weak, I projected a false sense of confidence and was often perceived as either unfeeling, desensitized, or untouchable.

I was so afraid of admitting when I was hurt, afraid, lost, lonely or confused. I had convinced myself that as soon as I admitted even a fraction of these feelings, my carefully constructed facade of cool self assuredness would come crashing down around me. I would be seen as a fraud.

Around this time my mother and I, who were close when I was younger but had a huge falling out in my teens, started reconnecting in a big way. I remember we were walking in the forest one day, and she admitted to me that she had made mistakes. She admitted that some of the things that were said to me when I was a teenager were unfair, that I had been pushed away during a time that I needed my family the most, and that the adults had been in the wrong, not me.

I could sense how hard it was for her to say these things to me. She was practically choking on the words, trying to get them out. I felt a floodgate open inside of me and was finally able to feel the hurt, pain and disappointment that I had kept bottled up inside for years. This was a turning point for both of us.

My mother’s willingness to be vulnerable gave me permission to do the same. Her ability to start telling the truth, even when it didn’t make her look like the good and perfect mother she wished to be, allowed space for healing and growth. She became a better mother for it. I can’t speak for her, but I imagine from my own experiences of vulnerability that it also probably brought her a sense of peace and calm that was missing during the years of pretending.

Right around that time, I was training to become a facilitator, working with high risk youth and addresses some pretty challenging topics, such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS, injecting drug use and sex work. One of our trainers consistently reinforced the point - you don’t have to be right all the time. You don’t have to know all the answers. Be yourself, be honest, and the audience will not only relate to you more, they will trust you. 

Shortly after that, I was reading a facilitators guidebook and I came across this quote:

Courage is to speak one's mind with all one's heart.

I don’t know who wrote it but I had the words scrawled in my journal and burned into my mind and soul. The statement was so powerfully simple and freeing that I committed fiercely to learning how to be courageous in this way.

Years later, after listening to Brene Brown, I came across this quote, which so beautifully connects vulnerability to courage. If you haven’t heard of Brene’s work yet, check out her Tedx talk on the power of vulnerability (click here). 

Here are my own top 3 tips for “getting good” at vulnerability:

Practice!! Yes, it is a practice. Particularly when starting out. Pick something about yourself or a topic that is hard to be open about. Maybe it’s a past experience, or a current perceived weakness, or something you perceive as a character flaw or weakness. Start by sharing with a trusted friend. Notice what sensations might come up in your body and be forgiving with yourself. It is likely that the person you shared this with will respond in a desired way, and that will be an affirmation. However, even if they do not provide the response you are looking for, celebrate taking this risk and lavish on a little extra self love.

Use affirmations. Often, fear of being vulnerable is really a fear of others’ perception of us - that we may be perceived as weak, crazy, lazy, incompetent, unlovable, unattractive, or whatever. These negatives are the “shadow side” of the positive trait we do want. Craft an affirmation around the positive trait or quality you wish to embody.

I am enough, and loveable just as I am, even when I am not doing anything.

I am strong, even when my physical self is challenged, I can thrive.

Letting go is safe, I am safe.

Expressing my truth is safe, I am safe.

Self-love!! This takes affirmations one step further. I don’t think I was able to be truly vulnerable until I stopped being paralyzed by what others might think of me. And in order to release myself from this fear, I had to learn to love myself to such an extent that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether I “scared someone away” or if someone stopped liking me as much because of what I revealed in my vulnerable, i.e., authentic self. This has taken years of dedication, trust me, it didn’t happen over night. It has been the evolution of becoming a woman who I admire and respect daily.

Self-love manifests in my choices around what food I eat (fresh, clean, plant-based, local when possible, home cooked with love, full of living energy), to the way I treat my body through loving and pleasurable exercise (moving in ways that feel good, connecting with nature, sensual movement, dance, slowing down), to sleeping more, to choosing presence every day instead of numbing or distracting myself with alcohol, drugs, over-work, or adrenaline, to developing a spiritual practice, and finally, to learning to be really honest in intimate relationships (ahem, vulnerability!).

I would love for you to practice your vulnerability here. There are two ways you can do this. The first is to be bold and take a risk - in the comments section, post something you are afraid to be vulnerable about, and a positive affirmation to counteract the fear.

If posting on the interwebs is too much (trust me, I know how terrifying it can be) than click here to book a free 1-1 session with me. During these 45 minutes together, we will talk about your biggest challenge/fear and look at immediate steps you can begin taking to create change in your life. I have received feedback that after just one conversation, people have experienced major shifts where they were previously experiencing blocks.

As always, please share this with anyone you know how might be looking for a little more vulnerability in their life.

Remember, the more we allow ourselves to take the risk of vulnerability, the more we encourage those in our lives to do the same. Being vulnerable is being courageous, and is all about creating space for growth. 

xoxo


Early pregnancy, health challenges and lessons learned...

Along with the happy news of my pregnancy came a series of the most challenging months I’ve ever experienced, health wise. The first bleeding started at 6 weeks and I went for an early ultrasound, learning that I have a bicornuate uterus, which is also known as a divided or heart-shaped uterus. I also learned I was pregnant in both sides, and having a miscarriage on one side of my uterus while the other embryo struggled to hang in. After that was a series of subchrionic bleeds, heavy bleeding caused by a hemorrhage (hematoma) so large it took up a third of my uterus (almost as big as the fetus and placenta combined). I spent weeks 10 to 12 of my pregnancy in and out of the hospital, and weeks 13 to 16 on bed rest, the first 2 weeks of which I was complete bed-bound, only able to get up once a day to shower.

For those of you who know me personally or have a sense of my through my blog, I am an incredibly active person. Learning to surrender completely to my body, my pregnancy and the process I needed to follow to heal and help my baby survive was a huge challenge and something I obviously needed to learn. They say that your life changes forever when you have a baby, and I experienced this massive shift from way before the baby was born. Life as I knew it has definitely changed.

The following are five lessons that were reinforced to me during the first 4 months of my pregnancy. I’m sharing them because I believe that these lessons can be applied during any time of need, whether it be sickness, a time of emotional strife, or a time of transition. 

1. Ask for EXACTLY what you need. 

If you don’t ask and spell it out for people, you won’t get what you need. This also serves a double function, it helps get your needs met while also providing your loved ones with some guidance as to how to help. Sometimes they want to but don’t know how. Here’s an example:

My father was really uncomfortable coming to the hospital. I would call him in the morning and tell him what I needed... a green juice, some fruit, a book, speakers for my computer, what have you. This gave him a purpose and a way to feel helpful - other than sitting in the hospital and keeping me company. It helped me so much because I knew I could count on him for the things I needed to make my stay more comfortable.

Asking for what you need can also extend to what you need on an emotional level. For awhile, I needed my loved ones to not talk “worst case scenario” with me. It wasn’t helpful, though I understood that some of them were trying to understand the gravity of the situation and to plan accordingly, my head and heart were filled with enough fearful thoughts that I didn’t need more. So I asked for what I needed, which was to be surrounded by positivity and hope (more on this below), and to leave it to the doctors to plan for the worst.

2. Embrace the power of prayer, positive visualization and reframing. 

You’ve probably heard this from me before but I really learned to lean into this powerful trifecta of tools. And - coupled with #1 lesson of asking for exactly what I needed - I got super specific.

As per my example above, I asked people near me to reframe if I felt the conversation was slipping down the negativity slope. Each time a fearful or negative thought or image popped into my own brain, I would actively expel it and replace it with a positive image or thought. Sometimes it even required me saying it out loud, or meditating with that image in mind for several minutes.

I asked the doctor and my mid-wife exactly what needed to happen for everything to go RIGHT, for the hemorrhage to heal and for the baby’s optimal development. They painted the picture for me with imagery and words. I wrote these details into an email and sent to my closest friends and family, along with a prayer and visualization guide. I attached a picture of my belly and asked that they rub their hands together, close their eyes, reach out towards the mental image of my belly and then visualize the hemorrhage healing, the baby continuing to grow, etc.

This can work for any ailment, or any tough situation. Ask your friends and family to help you uphold the highest vision for the best possible outcome.

During one of my hospital stays, around week 11. I had participated in Liz Dialto's #ishineyoushine experiment a few weeks earlier, and this was a reminder to myself and others that no matter what, my soul shines.

3. Break the silence. 

In order to do #1 and #2 - you’ll have to reach out and be honest about what is really going on. I understand that this can be hard - but if you keep everything bottled up inside and try to maintain your superwoman facade, you’ll never get the support that you need.

This was tricky for me. I was very early in my first trimester - a time when many women are still advised to keep quiet about their pregnancy. While I understand the importance of discretion when there are still so many variables in the early stages of pregnancy, and I certainly wasn’t going to go posting all over Facebook just yet, there did come a time when I needed to share with my closest friends and family what was going on. I also shared with several online groups of women I am a part of and received a tremendous amount of support from women I had never met, yet offered me strength and hope. I am ever grateful for this. (If you want to know more about these groups, ask me in the comments!)

This was hard though. I had to again challenge myself and learn to be vulnerable. What was happening in my body was also a direct conflict to the belief I had about myself - that I was strong, healthy and fit and “shouldn’t” be having these types of problems. I had to be at peace with myself and understand that these problems did not mean there was something wrong with me, and to get cozy with vulnerability in order to ask for support. The same goes if you are struggle with alcohol or other addictions, or other health issues. Don’t keep the people around you guessing - help them help you.

4. Get out of your head. 

If you are anything like me, this is easier said than done! It’s a great concept, but how does one do it, especially during long days of hospitalization, sleepless nights of worry, weeks spent in bed, immobilized with a body in forced repose and an overactive brain?

I learned that I needed a variety of tools for this, because what worked one minute might not the next. Here are a few of the “turn down the brain” tools I used regularly:

  • Aromatherapy: relaxing, stress relieving and sleep inducing blends worked wonders.

  • Accu-pressure: My practitioner came to my bed side and worked on stress points - and was so successful that I often fell asleep before she finished working on me.

  • Drawing: I don’t usually draw that much on a regular basis. I was gifted some nice paper and coloured pencils and I made myself to suspend judgement on whether or not what I was doodling was “good” and allowed my mind to drift as I played with colours, words and shapes... I made drawings for my body and for my baby. Maybe I will share them one day maybe I never will, it doesn’t really matter. It helped.

  • Humming and listening to music: Soothing piano worked wonders. I had several songs that I would play on repeat and would allow to carry me away. At night, I often hummed songs to myself. Something about the vibrations through my body was incredibly relaxing. I would place my hands on my belly and imaging the hums as healing energy moving through my body.

5. Patience, faith and surrender.

I surrendered to the love and support of my partner and loved ones, and worked on my self-limiting beliefs around vulnerability/perceived weakness/being dependent.

When it came down to it, I had to trust. I learned to surrender to the process and have patience. To trust my body and have faith that there was a higher plan at work. To be a peace with “not knowing” all the answers or why these challenges were presenting themselves to me, and to appreciate the lessons as they revealed themselves to me.

I hope that these lessons and tools will be as helpful to you as they were for me! As always, if you know someone who would benefit from these words, please pass this along to them.

xoxo


The lost art of communal meals

Two things this happened this week that got me thinking about the importance of preparing and sharing food.

I was speaking with one of my clients who is doing her best to make positive changes.  She works 6 days a week, is an amazing mother to her one and a half year old son, hustles to get to the gym several times a week and is trying to incorporate more balanced, healthy food into her diet.

As part of her unique 1-1 coaching with me, we did an exercise together called “The Circle of Life,” where she rated different areas of her life based on how fulfilled/satisfied she felt in each area. The areas where she felt most challenged were Relationships, Social Life, and Home Cooking. It came as no surprise to me, as her busy schedule meant that by the end of the day she was often too tired to think creatively about food, or to make plans with friends. When she and her husband did plan social activities, it was often dinner out with friends, and usually to restaurants that her friends chose, and not necessarily the healthiest options.

We brainstormed ideas together of how she could reasonably, within the schedule and demands of her life, start both cooking and socializing more.

I suggested potlucks, group dinners where everyone brings a dish or two, and shares the meals. I also suggested themed dinners, such as trying vegetarian dinners, or trying a raw food dinner, as her friends were not as health conscious as she is trying to be. Another option is everyone contributing ingredients, and preparing the meal together based on what ingredients are available.

A certain level of education and creativity may be required when your friends are new to this kind of thing, however it can be presented as an exciting challenge.

Preparing food, cooking and eating together is such an important part of so many cultures and traditions, and unfortunately in today’s busy world, this beautiful and nourishing medium for social connection gets lost to the hustle and bustle and isolation that many people have become accustomed to. 

A couple of nights ago a group of new and old friends who had all traveled to my town to surf a big south swell decided to organize a “family dinner” in celebration of each other.

It was decided that the meal would be cooked at my house, and then enjoyed at my neighbour’s. I eagerly jumped into coordinating the menu, delegating grocery lists, and organizing my team of “sous-chefs” with their various tasks of chopping, mixing, tasting, cooking and then carrying the food from one kitchen to another.

After a long bout of health challenges, it had been quite awhile since I had shared meal-making and eating. I had forgotten how much fun it can be, and what a wonderful way it is to connect with people.

The expression “many hands make light work” certainly ring true here, as the more hands the are to prep, cook and clean takes the pressure off the host.

Summer is also such a wonderful time for meal-sharing. The weather allows eating outdoors, and the body desires cooling foods with minimal prep and there is an abundance of fresh and local produce.

Consider different themes for potlucks and challenge your friends to try a raw meal, or a “salad bar” theme, or a veggie BBQ. Bonus points for making it a “super detox meal” and leaving out the alcohol... easing your friends and family into your decision to drink less alcohol can happen through the gradual introduction of concepts like this.

Creating a Facebook invite for your dinner can also be a great way to share ideas, and coordinate who is bringing what.

I’d love to hear about your adventures in summer social cooking and eating. Share your menu ideas here, including what yummy non-alcoholic bevvies are served, and how you got your friends and family involved!

Cheers!

xoxo


Feel your way to what you want...

“I believe in your power to manifest and visualize, more than anybody I know,” one of my best friends recently wrote to me.

Humbled that she felt this way about me, it also got me to thinking... Where did this ability come from?  How could I share it with others as part of my holistic approach to health and happiness?

As I started thinking more about it, I realized that there were two very powerful tools that I had been using more and more over the past couple of years. Both have helped tremendously with my own healing process and with creating the life I want to be living, every day. I thought it might be helpful to share a few examples of how these work, specifically with health and alcohol-related goals, however, they can be used in any situation for any desired outcome.

The first tool is taken from The Desire Map, developed by the brilliant Danielle LaPorte. It’s a concept called Core Desired Feelings which are also described as a means to achieve ‘goals with soul.’ The basic premise is to base goal-setting (and life!) on how you want to feel, rather than being attached to a particular outcome. 

While Danielle outlines a process for distilling 3-5 core desired feelings that are consistent and over-arching guides to your decision-making processes through life, I have also used this concept with more fluidity to adapt to specific days and moments.

An example. I find that we often focus on what we don’t want, versus what we DO want. My clients come to me saying things like:

“I don’t want to feel insecure.”

“I don’t want to feel stressed.”

“I don’t want to feel ashamed about my drinking/body/decisions etc...”

A more detailed example might be: “I have an event coming up. I usually drink way too much when there’s free wine and I don’t want to get drunk this time. At the same time, I don’t want to feel like an ass and the only one not drinking. I’m worried that I’ll be too shy and introverted and won’t be as witty and entertaining as when I'm drinking.”

With a gentle reframe and a focus on Core Desired Feelings for the evening, we can turn this negative self-talk into positive self-talk, which will magnetize positive results.

Think about how you want to FEEL throughout the evening and arriving at home after the event. Use the negatives (such as the examples described above) as teachers, they are the shadow-side (opposites) of the positives.

An example could be: I want to feel confident, charming, witty and wise, and I want to feel this way with ease and grace. When I arrive home, I want to feel accomplished, happy and peaceful.

After defining your Core Desired Feelings, it is time to experience an Embodied Visualization of these feelings - which is the second tool that I use. Many of you may already be familiar with the concept of visualization... embodiment simply takes the mental pictures a step further by locating the desired outcome, aka feeling, in your body.

Combining core desired feelings + embodied visualization = a powerful imprint to reset your patterns and achieve different outcomes.

Instead of spending time agonizing and stressing about all the things that could possibly go wrong, how hard it might be, how stupid you might feel etc, take some time to focus on all the thing that can go right.

Here's a step-by-step exercise in Embodied Visualization: 

  • Find a comfortable position, either sitting in a meditation pose or laying on the ground.

  • Start deep breathing, inhaling all the way to your fingertips, down into your toes.

  • After a minute or so, imagine a beautiful white gold light entering through the crown of your head, and with each breath, that light shines brilliance through your entire body.

  • Keep channelling light through the top of your head and now focus the light as if it were beaming from your third eye. Keeping your eyes closed, imagine the light as a projection, lighting up a silver screen suspended in front of you. The image will start coming into focus, and you will see the image of what you are preparing for.

  • Let’s say it is a networking event that has been causing you anxiety. See yourself there, embodying your core desired feelings. You move through the room with seemingly effortless confidence, you exude charm, you are quick with your witty repartee. You sip your spritzer made from fresh juice and mineral water, enjoying the effervescence of the bubbles and refreshing flavors. You delight in the fact that your senses are extra tuned in, you have a heightened awareness of everything and everyone around you. Perhaps you are more selective of whom you are speaking with, honouring your intuition in terms of when to engage and with whom.

  • The idea is to get out of your head and allow your body to experience these feelings as sensations in your body, as if they were already happening.

Have you ever heard the advice to “act as if?” This is the first step. The same way a professional athlete prepares for the championship game, visualizing every play in exquisite detail and allowing the rush of adrenaline and elation rush through their body when they score the final point and the sense of pure triumph as they hold up the trophy in front of thousands of cheering fans. Feel that, for you.

The entire process of identifying your core desired feelings and practicing embodied visualization does not need to take more than 10-15 minutes. Of course, you can spend more time with this. You may also choose to make a daily practice of it.

While recently hospitalized, I used these tools several times a day, sometimes more. It was especially important as I found myself overwhelmed with fear and doubt. Of course, I couldn’t make myself magically “better” overnight based solely on visualization, nor did I immediately start feeling my core desired feelings specific as I was still hooked up to an IV and immobilized. However, I strongly believe that my committed focus on how I wanted to feel and the visualization of what needed to happen in my body sped the recovery process significantly. I focused on how I wanted to feel in the short term, how it would feel to be told that I wasn’t in critical condition anymore, how it would feel to have the IV taken out of my arm, how I would feel being discharged from the hospital... and the longer term of how I wanted to feel once I was strong and active again.

How do you want to feel? In your social life? work life? in your body? in relationship? after a date? after having sex? Let these feelings be your guide. You can use the tools I’ve described here for any circumstance in your life that you could possibly imagine.

I would love to hear how visualization has worked for you. Have you identified your core desired feelings? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo


Are you ready to surrender?

Am I the only one who has a hard time releasing control?

I have more than a sneaking suspicion that I’m not. In fact, I know I’m not. For any ambitious woman who prides herself on productivity and perfectionism (and isn’t that pounded into most of us these days?), letting go of control is Haaarrrd.

For many of us, control is a learned behaviour. It was modelled to me by my mother, and is the dominant way of doing things in this  business-driven world. “You want something? Well, you’ve gotta work hard to get it, fight for it and make it happen!!” “Why depend on others to do something (and can you even depend on anyone else?), when you can do it yourself?)”

I don’t know about you - but this approach to life wore me out. I used to go, go, go, go goooo, push, pull, wrangle, achieve, produce, perform, until I crashed. For years, the only way I knew how to escape from this largely self-inflicted pressure was to drink myself out of it.

Years ago, a therapist pointed this out to me. “Your life is so controlled that the only time you give yourself permission to release is by drinking. Only then can you shut off, only then do you let yourself relax and get out of your busy brain.”

Yes, I could surrender control to alcohol, but it was more like a momentary giving up or giving in... a big F-you to the pressure I felt but without really trusting that tomorrow I wouldn’t have to wake up and be even harder on myself. Unless I was too hungover. Then it would be the day after. And the cycle continued.

I was not connected to my divine intuition. I didn’t feel aligned with the Universe or a power greater than myself. I certainly didn’t feel like God, or any spiritual force, “had my back.”

After suffering complete burn out (more than once) and feeling that any fun that originally came from these escapes now felt hollow, empty and pointless... I started seeing another way.

A more feminine approach, a softer approach... one that wasn’t so consuming and exhausting.

I started seeking another kind of surrender.

The theme of surrender came up again recently during a call with a mastermind group. All of the women in our group were being seriously challenged in this area, to the extent that our brilliant coach joked that she should start another program called the “School of Surrender for Ambitious Women.”

Somewhere along the way, many of us learned that surrender was like giving up. Throwing in the towel. A sign of weakness.

Yet as we launched ourselves deeper into our extremely personal work as entrepreneurs (all of the women in my mastermind have businesses that directly relate to our own struggles and evolution) we were being tasked with surrendering control at precisely the time when our years of “training” was convincing us to hold on more tightly.

Whether it came to balancing work and family life, the care of our children, creative inspiration, technological challenges, our own health and bodies, external forces... we were being shown a different path to the one taken before.

How does it differ from “control at all costs”? What I’ve learned is that it is a three-part process:

  • Show up for yourself 100%, do the work (the inside work) and then...

  • Stop trying to force an outcome!! Which involves a lot of...

  • TRUST!! Trust the process, have faith in the outcome.

Yes, I know. A lot easier said that done.

When I finally decided to really re-evaluate my relationship to alcohol and to stop using alcohol as a tool for escape and brief moments of freedom, so much changed for me.

I really started to know myself, deeply. And with that authentic self-knowledge and clarity (which is what I mean by showing up for yourself), came the trust. And with trust, I was slowly able to start surrendering control.

I am still unlearning the lessons that were 30+ years in the making. I still get handed whopping learning opportunities that show me that I have a lot more to learn about surrender.

I can tell you that I’m loving the process. I’m loving getting to know what real presence feels like. What it feels like to wake up and go to sleep with the same me. I’ve stopped distracting myself from me. I’m not afraid to let go. I’m not afraid because I know with every ounce of my being that I am sending clear messages to whomever is listening (and yes I also mean Spirit, The Universe and God) that I am more ready than ever to receive grace, abundance, ease, love, inspiration and growth. Sometimes the gifts are unexpected, sometimes the outcomes are not what I might have predicted. Sometimes it is even better than the results I may have forced if I was still more attached to “making it happen.”

Showing up for myself and doing my part allows the Spirit/Universe/God to show up and provide. This is true divinity in action.

How does the concept of surrender resonate with you? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo


Why I hate the word relapse

Very recently, more recently than I even really want to admit, I “relapsed.” I really despise that word so I didn’t call it that. Exactly what happened is that I let myself down. I fell back on the commitments and intentions I had set for myself, and relived old patterns.

I’ll write more on my own personal experience a little later, but first I want to talk a little bit more about the word relapse and what it’s important to find alternatives.

I can’t remember when I first developed a distaste for the word relapse- but I do remember a specific instance about 12 years ago that solidified the feeling.

I was working at a Safe House for at-risk teens. I was in the final semester in my Child and Youth Care Counseling certification, and had been specializing with youth substance use/abuse and street youth. There was teenager of about 16 or 17 staying at the Safe House. She had already lived a rough life by then, having been on the streets and heavily using methamphetamines (crystal meth). In the past 5 months, she had made huge progress. She had stopped using drugs, was regularly attending recovery meetings, she was a healthy weight again and was beginning steps towards reconciliation with her family.

One night she came back to the Safe House very distraught. “I F’d up! I went downtown and I smoked weed. Now I have to go back to day 1 again. I had almost 5 months sober days and now I’m back to zero.”

We talked about the incredible progress she had made in the past 5 months. We talked about the fact that she had been downtown, where her former friends and dealers were, and that she had decided not to use her drug of choice. She had come so far and I encouraged her focus on the positive. But she was so hung up that she had relapsed and would have to announce this in her meetings and go back to “day 1” as if all of the personal growth and awareness she’d gained along the way didn’t mean anything.

This bothered me, and looking back, I’m sure this contributed a lot to my personal path of seeking out alternatives to traditional recovery models.

To me the word relapse negates any positive progress or growth. We grow, we live, we “make mistakes,” we learn, we change, we make some more “mistakes,” we learn some more... we EVOLVE. 

This is why I seek out and base my practice on alternatives that honour awareness, that value the journey as much (or more) as the destination, and that take into account the fact that we are all individuals, and as such, we each will have our own path to follow.

I was so proud of a client of mine who recently experienced a “relapse.” She had set clear intentions for herself around her drinking (max 2 drinks in an evening) and had been doing quite well honouring her intentions for more than a month. Last week she went through several really big and emotional changes in her life and on the weekend decided to go to a party. She consciously released her agreement to herself until she drank to the point of not having to be think anymore, about anything, blissfully checking out for the evening. The next day, she felt a familiar anxiety rise as she tried to piece together conversations and events from the night before.

Instead of getting stuck in regret and shame around the “relapse,” she quickly reframed, instead using it as re-affirmation of her commitment to herself. During our session a few days later, she said to me: “You know, maybe I needed that experience to confirm that I really don’t want to feel that way anymore. I don’t want to wake up hungover, and not remember all the details. I really don’t want this in my life anymore. I want to be fully present. ”

That is why I am proud of her. We talked about bringing awareness to the intention behind the behaviour, that she still had work to do around her tendency to want to “check out” when things got hard. We talked about alternatives for her to use to calm and relax her mind, and work through emotional times, instead of getting wasted. We celebrated the positive change I had witnessed in the 1.5 months since our first 1-1 call together.

I’m also proud of her because I KNOW how easy it is to let a relapse negate or somehow cancel out progress. This happens when we focus on the behaviour and allow it to define us.

This *almost* happened during my last "relapse." After drinking very little to nothing for months, I had what I considered to be a major regression. I was in a big city for a health coaching conference and I found myself sliding rather rapidly into some old behaviours. I went out drinking with some friends (drinking friends) and hid my drinking from others (health coaching friends). I had previously joked with the friend I was staying with that I was so happy my “partying until getting on my early flight” days were done, then I proceeded to do exactly that. I forgot my telephone in the bathroom of the bar I was in, thankfully realizing in time to go back and get it, then I forgot my phone charger and favourite travel mug in my friend’s apartment, and I don’t really remember checking in at the airport.

Hazy and hungover on my flight home I had resisted the urge to be completing self-shaming. It was hard not to slide into that regret and to start questioning my purpose and ability to be coaching others on this topic (even though I KNOW I'm a fantastic coach and that ALL of my experience is valuable). I resisted this urge because and reminded myself that I know am armed with an incredible amount of self-awareness, which I didn't have before when I was in my heavy drinking days. I consciously made the choices that led me directly into repeating past patterns, and I wanted to understand why. 

I was about to launch my business online, therefore outing myself and my experiences, and I realized that was scaring me shitless. I was afraid I wouldn't live up to expectations (largely my own) and that I wouldn't be able to be vulnerable. I was resisting being a leader and role model, for one more weekend acting out in a way I thought would make me feel “free.” Not surprisingly, instead of allowing me the false freedom I had previously accessed through that wild child part of myself, I wanted more than ever to free myself from alcohol.

I was recently discussing  my distaste for the word relapse and my desire to find a more meaningful term with my friend Maylene whom I also consider to be be one of my spiritual teachers. Here’s what she had to say:

“The mind (ego) wants us to feel like we ARE our behaviours and we do not change, which is completely untrue. Awareness automatically alters the power those behaviours have over us.

I think the most critical thing is to emphasize that it's not a punishment or a failure but a sign that there is more to work with and examine in that behaviour, there's more that wants to be seen before we get free of it. It's a reminder to be mindful and present with the actual feelings that underlie the actions. We don't just 'act' mindlessly, there is an emotional seeking or avoidance under it. If we are courageous enough to really look and feel it, we can get free. If we ignore it or pretend it's not deeper than the action, it grows and requires avoidance of some kind.”

We started trying to come up with other terms that take into account the accumulation of our experiences and evolution. A few that we thought of were “temporary regression,” “temporary set back,” “reminder,” “wake up call from the Universe,” “growth opportunity.”

What do you think about the word relapse and the experience of relapse? Do any of these terms resonate with you? I loved having this conversation with my friend, and would love to continue the conversation here.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

xoxo