Mindfulness can help manage your stress and anxiety

I wrote a guest post for Rethink Breast Cancer’s blog this week. The post offers some tips and info about mindfulness and how it can help with stress and anxiety. Rethink Breast Cancer is a charity that offers support to young women living with breast cancer.

Click here to read the post.

I am a big fan of mindfulness because it is such a powerful self care tool for living with a chronic illness of any kind, stress, fatigue, anxiety and the list goes on. It’s something that you can do for yourself to help your own healing journey.


Exploring the present moment

In May I was lucky enough to attend a weekend retreat at Omega with Pema Chodron. She is an American Buddhist nun and meditation master. She has written many books about dealing with fear, pain and uncertainty in everyday life. She teaches on how to cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself, others and the world around you.

I was so excited leading up to it. I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course she was amazing, even in a room of 500 people her energy totally set the tone and could be felt throughout the entire space. 

We dove in to the idea of touching the present moment. That in fact was the title and theme of the entire weekend.  She covered a lot of material and this blog post would be way too long if I did them all. So for this month I picked the concept of labelling and being present. The concept of ‘labelling’ is universal. We all do it.  I feel that it applies to so many things in my life.

The teaching explores the fact that we all label things as soon as they are happening to us, sometimes before they even start to happen. We label people, events and experiences and then we fixate on them as a way to keep control of our lives and resist change – even though change is inevitable.

A quick example: We meet someone new and based on the way they look, a few things that they say or what we may have heard about them, our mind creates a label of who we think that person is  or what their intentions are. We stick that label on the person and then it becomes very hard to take it off. We do this with new people and we do it with people who have been in our lives for a long time. Sometimes we do it to those we love even more. We also do it to ourselves when we say things like “ I could never do that” or “I’m not good enough for that”. Or we label situations too like “today is going to be awful, I hate going to that place”. In a way we have already set the stage by giving a label to something that hasn’t even happened yet.

Once we have labelled something we tend to put it in a box and not allow it any room to change. For example “ She always does that” or “ I won’t even bother because he doesn’t care”. Then instead of seeing that person, place or event as fresh and new each time, we see it through the lens of our label. That is ok, that is human, we all do it. However our labels keep us rigid, the more we want control of our lives the more we use our labels, the more tight and wound up and fixed we become.

Over the weekend Pema was asking us to look at this process and think of how our labels can make us like hard like ice. She challenged us to try and find the water in the ice. Try and become aware of when we start to label and then instead of letting ourselves become rigid and wrapped up in how we think things should be, explore becoming fluid instead.  Notice when it is happening, become aware, then allow yourself to be in the moment to see what is truly in front of you instead of the concept you have set in your mind about it from previous experience.

“ You need to be present with yourself and not give yourself a fixed label. Our stress comes from having a fixed idea of ourselves and how we want things to go.”  – Pema Chodron

So what do we do with this?

Being mindful and returning to the present moment as often as you can is a really good place to start the process of becoming more fluid, more open to what is truly happening around you. Once you become more open and caring towards yourself it becomes easier to start doing the same for others.

“Feel tenderness for your human-ness and everyone else’s human-ness” – Pema Chodron

Try experimenting with the idea of letting yourself and others exist in open space. Space that is full of possibility and empty of judgement and pre conceived notions. It’s not easy to do. It really is a practice that we can work on every day, several times a day. The more you pause to be aware of the present moment the more you get out of the story in your head and into the reality of life around you. Meditation is one of the best ways to find space within you.

 In addition to sitting down and meditating here are 3 quick, simple ways to get into the present moment:

  1. When you feel yourself getting worked up – stop whatever you are doing and go look at the sky.  Enjoy that sense of spaciousness all around you.
  2. Use your breath – stop what you are doing and just take 3 slow, deep breaths. Repeat as often as needed.
  3. Look around the room you are in and try to see 2 things that you have never noticed before. Using a beginners mind. 

I have been playing with this concept ever since the retreat weekend. Some days are easier than others but the more I do it the more I love it.  When I feel myself getting worked up or starting to label so I can keep things in a box and under control, I just pause and breathe, even for a moment, in awareness. I give myself some space.  I try to be a little more fluid, a little less rigid and see the world without my agenda overlapping it. It is a work in progress and it gets pretty interesting once you start to notice your emotional habits.

Life will always be full of wonderful experiences and incredibly difficult ones. That is just how life works. Change really is inevitable. Having a few tools in my back pocket to ride those waves instead of resisting them seems to be making a difference in my life. It feels like a good start. Thanks Pema.


Wise Little Ones

Lately my 6 year old and I have been doing some yoga together. She also likes to do it on her own following the pictures in her kids yoga book. I must admit as a yoga teacher it makes my heart smile to see her starting to explore her own yoga. But the part that has really taken me by surprise is that in her own 6 year old mind, on her own level she understands yoga. She also know when to use it, or rather when to remind me to use it. 

She has created a little sequence that she calls Sky Pose. She says it helps her when she gets frustrated and that I should try it when I am frustrated. One day when I was losing it with her little sister for something totally ridiculous I felt a little tap on my arm. Kaia looks up at me and says, “maybe you should do skye pose”?

Of course my first reaction was ,”are you kidding? Don’t tell me what to do when I’m angry, stay out of this. I’m the mom, I’m in charge.” ( Yes I said that in my head of course).

 She was looking at me in such earnest that I sighed and said, ” sure ok fine let’s do skye pose”. I did it with her. Then we took 3 deeps breaths together and my anger was gone. Just like that. My need to yell and scream was gone. I still wasn’t happy with what her little sister was doing but I looked at her and instead of wanting to yell I felt like I could keep my cool and navigate my way through the incident with more patience.

All we did was stop, breathe, stretch our arms overhead and bring our palms together down to our hearts and deep breathe again. So simple and so effective. It was made even more powerful for me because it was my 6 year old daughter who recognized what I needed in that moment and guided me through it.

Yoga was the example for me but beautiful lessons from children come in all shapes and sizes. They show up in many different situations.  Children, no matter what age are incredibly wise and have so much to teach us. We just need to make sure we are listening.



Essential oils to help ease the winter blahs

It’s  about this time of year that I really start to feel winter. Yes I know we live in Canada and we always have winter so it shouldn’t be a surprise.  True, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take when it gets so cold out that your nostrils freeze 30 seconds after you go out the door and you waddle down the street hoping you won’t slip on ice and break something.  There are many beautiful parts to winter like skating, skiing, building snowmen and drinking hot chocolate. There is also something that comes with the not so nice part of winter called  SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it’s real. I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. I think most of us have experienced it at one point or another, they say even kids and pets get it.

For many this is the time of year when you might be feeling more tired, lethargic, unmotivated and  generally crusty. You also might find you are catching more colds and flus or that they are lingering longer. One thing I like to use to help me get through this blah time are essential oils. Depending on the oil you use they can uplift your spirits, boost your immune, clear you head and give you a bit more zip to make it through the rest of winter.They are all natural, inexpensive and pretty easy to find.

Here are some winter power oils I like:

Lemon – Lemon smells amazing, reminding us of summer sunshine and that alone can make you smile. Lemon helps to defend the body against infection because it stimulates the production of white blood cells. It can help with bronchitis and flu.

Sweet Orange – Orange is an anti -depressant. It is incredibly uplifting and also can help against colds and flu.  Orange can be used around the house as a deodorizer. It also can help calm nausea.

Ginger – Ginger keeps you warm and cozy. It is great for arthritis and rheumatism. This oil is great for travel sickness, cold, flu and fevers. It can also help with cramps and muscle spasms. *Ginger is a very strong oil so you need to make sure you mix it with a carrier so it doesn’t irritate your skin.

Thyme – This oil works with the  immune, respiratory and muscular systems. It can help with coughing, bronchitis and pneumonia. It is a stimulant that helps boost the immune system. It helps reduce feeling of fatigue and can boost the energy of people who are recovering from illness. * This is a very strong oil which should not be used during pregnancy, if you have high blood pressure or very sensitive skin

Remember pure essential oils are powerful and need to be used properly. Here are some safe ways to use your oils:

  • A few drops on a tissue and inhale as needed
  • Mix a few drops into an unscented body lotion or carrier oil like grapeseed and apply to the body
  • Add water and 10 drops of oil to a room diffuser ( the kind that has a tea light in the bottom, or the plug in kind)
  •  Add some oils to all natural unscented cleaning products and use around your house. Baking soda and vinegar are great all natural cleaning options.
  • Make a room mister with essential oils.  Mix the oils with  grain alcohol or glycerin and add filtered water. Shake well and spray.

I leave you with the thought that spring is less than 2 months away. Yay!

Happy 2015!

I read an article this week that I loved and thought I would share it with you as we start of off this new year. It is the speech zen buddhist monk Norman Fischer gave as his Baccalaureate address at Stanford University in 2014. I like it because it is so simple and so true. It brings it back to basics, yet fills you with hope and excitement about moving forward at the same time.  It is about being present, being of service and bringing it back to love.

Here is a passage I really liked:

“Your life isn’t and has never been about you. It isn’t and has never been about what you accomplish, how successful you are or are not, how much money you make, what sort of position you ascend to, or even about your family, your associations, your various communities, or how much good you do for others or the world at large. Your life, like mine, and like everyone else’s, has always been about one thing: love.”

Click here to read more

May this year bring you closer to love on all levels.