I've always thought of empowerment as this massively influential, monumental concept. It's honestly quite intimidating to me. Feel empowered, be empowered, help empower others - that's big stuff.
The practice of yoga is often tied to the idea of self-empowerment. And as a student and guide of the practice there are times that I can't help but feel confused, and conflicted, and a little worried. Am I self-empowered? Do I help self-empower others through teaching? What if I don't? What if I'm a non-empowered individual who doesn't help empower others at all?
If my mind were a car it'd definitely be one of the fast track racing kinds with the massive wheels, all aerodynamically constructed. It's wired for speed (for better or worse). My mind gets going and it gets going fast. I've learned that the only way to reel myself back to steady mindedness is to stop and go back to the roots of my thinking...
I ask myself, what is self-empowerment anyways and what does it mean to be self-empowered? For my own sanity, I've got to break it down and remind myself what empowerment is all about and link it to why I am the way I am and why I do what I do.
To me, self-empowerment is being secure in your beliefs, values, morals and consequent actions. Being self-empowered means you know who you are, you're ok with who you are, and you think, speak and act in accordance with who you are. To be self-empowered means to be you and to feel damn good about being you - no apologies.
For me, helping to empower others means engaging in constructive discourse about the self - both myself and the self of the person I'm conversing with. I am who I am, and they are who they are, and through words, listening and action we accept and embrace each other exactly as is. This process of accepting and embracing is how we can help empower others - by seeing them and appreciating them for all that they are - body, mind and soul.
So, am I self-empowered? Well, I wouldn't say I'm fully self-empowered, no. I'm learning about who I am and I'm attempting to align my thinking, speaking, acting and being with the beliefs, values and morals that I view as dire and unmovable. But I don't think I'm at a point where I can shout, "I AM SELF-EMPOWERED" from the rooftops. I feel like I'm at a stage of becoming self-empowered. And I'm aok with that, for now.
Language is so important to me. Wording things in a way that is conscious, intentional and deeply thought-out can make a huge difference in how we make ourselves and others feel. I always say, "helping to empower others" and not "empowering others" because I honestly think we're the only ones who can ultimately empower ourselves. I think it comes from within, not from outside. So, I think we can help empower others by engaging in dialogue about who we are and who they are and accepting and embracing each other. From this, I think that one doesn't need to be fully self-empowered in order to help empower others. I think we can be in the process of becoming empowered ourselves and still help to empower others. It'd follow from this that any two people conversing whether empowered or becoming empowered (exception of being utterly ignorant of which there may be a select few in the world), are positively contributing to the empowerment of themselves and the person they're with.
My intention when I write, when I guide yoga, heck when I interact with others in general, is to be as much myself as I know to be in the present and to accept and embrace the person I'm with as they are. Empowerment is about inner strength spawning from an understanding of yours and others authenticity. I strive to help empower others when I think, speak, act and be, and I hope that I do so effectively.
Empowerment is definitely a monumental concept. It's the relationship we have with ourselves. A relationship, which influences every other relationship in our lives. But it needn't be so complicated. Self-empowerment and the act of helping to empower others is actually quite simple in retrospect. After slowing my mind down and thinking about it...
Self-empowerment = Just fully being (talk about power)
Becoming self-empowered = The process of coming to fully be
Helping to empower others = Accepting and embracing others as they are so that they move through the becoming empowered stage to the self-empowered one
Ok, race car is officially slowing down 😌
Let’s be honest - when we’re on vacation our daily practice wanes a little bit (ok, a lot). I mean yoga is my muse, but when I’ve traveled home to visit family, when I’m sitting on a white sand beach, when I’m hiking a trail I’ve never been on before I’m admittedly not fitting in a full yoga asana practice. Meditation and mindfulness -maybe, but asana -no. I might do a pose for a picture in some picturesque location, but again, not a full asana practice. And that is absolutely, without-a-doubt, no strings attached ok. It’s normal for our practice to wane when we’re on a break from our normal routine. I tried to keep it going, but naturally when my routine changed so did my practice. That’s because the practice is part of my regular routine. I’m proud to say that. When I’m in my routine I’m practicing daily, when I’m out of my routine, not so much.
There’s no point in feeling guilt, shame or disappointment over this. It’s merely reality and it’s done and over with so it’s utterly useless to dwell on the fact that I didn’t practice for the past week and a half while I was in Ontario. The break felt good, but now I’m back in Alberta and I’m honestly itching to get back into my groove. Ok, I NEED to get back into my groove haha (for my sanity/safety and also the sanity and safety of those around me). But whereas before I left on vacay it was customary and second nature to fit in an hour or two practice on my own every single day, it now feels laborsome and demanding. I feel so hard pressed to take care of every other obligation (emails, scheduling, overdue posts, class planning, registration, plus scheduled work shifts and now university course work) that my asana practice feels back-burner.
Been here, done this. I travel a bit, and although I always take my yoga mat I usually practice for the first few days and then I let it slide because we’re on the road or I’ve got events booked, or whatever reason. And then I find myself in this same place upon coming home. I find myself with a mute practice over and over and over and over again - I’ve gone through this process of trying to rebuild my practice post break multiple times...
So, this time I thought I’d actually write out what it is I do to bring my practice back to life after being on vacation. Perhaps having the steps written down will be of benefit to myself now, in the future and also to anyone else who is in the same boat as me.
A step-by-step approach to bringing your asana practice back to life post vacation…
Again, maybe these steps will work for you, maybe not. Maybe one will and another won’t. I’m sure there are a plethora of ways to bring your practice back to life after being on vacation that I haven’t mentioned or ever done. With that being said, I’d love to hear what you do to get back on your mat after a period of waned practice! Share your advice in the comments below, write it out in a post, email me haha! I'd love to hear what works for you :)
Ok, off to diffuse some cedarwood, watch Steph Gongora flow it out and downdog my morning away!
It's early - really early. But I can't sleep anymore.
I'm home. And it feels like there's so much to do, to say, to feel before I leave in less than a week. It's never long enough. I just start to feel reconnected and then I have to leave. And then there's this disconnect that surfaces as homesickness. It usually lasts weeks. And in those weeks I'm caught questioning the choices I've made - am I supposed to be here? Is this the life I'm supposed to be living?
These are honest thoughts.
My family is together. I'm camping at the parks I spent my summers exploring. I have a niece and a nephew here. I haven't seen these friends in years, but we talk as if no time has passed at all. I drive past my child hood home and I cry tears that are innocent and real - there are so many memories on that driveway alone. My dad built that garage and in each corner of the cement foundation our names are etched. My high school doesn't exist anymore, which I'll never get used to. I entered those doors on my first day as a freshman and my senior brother shouted my name across the auditorium, over the heads of nearly every other student and I thought my life was over. I said goodbye to my Gaw in this hospital, held his hand and learned for the first time what it meant to really let go. I sit at my Grandma's dining room table where she offers me a slice of "the most beautiful cheese bread" with "the loveliest fresh tomatoes". My Pops gave me this painting when I went to treatment for the first time; my cousins and I study his signature, which will never again be written. I see the table in the Irish Pub that Nick and I sat at on Canada Day when he told me we were dating. The closets are still a mixture of both mine and my sister's clothing (wearing her sweater as we speak). Marlo instinctively crawls underneath my parent's old pine bed just like she's done since she was seven weeks old (although she barely fits now). So much history...
It's not as though I don't have monumental appreciation for the life I've built out west. I am truthfully in awe of all that myself and my boyfriend have accomplished together in Alberta. I think back to the day we left this house, the very house that I'm sitting in right now, I remember my little silver Toyota Matrix packed to the brim with vacuum sealed bags of clothes, road snacks and a few house essentials. A space for Marlo's bed was carved out between Rubbermaid containers and I barely had enough room for my feet in the passenger seat because we crammed in all the textbooks that we might need for our pending "careers". I remember the drive through northern Ontario, which seemed to be endless, I remember cruising through the prairies for the first time taking pictures of miles on miles on miles of sameness, I remember crossing the Albertan border for the first time and Nick and I's first ever apartment together in Grande Prairie on the street where Marlo would run away for the first time and I would call home to Ontario looking for answers, which hardly made sense but never-the-less felt right.
Now, we're in another town. Have been for some time. We've met people that I know will be part of our lives forever. We've started things. We've finished things. We've got a lot of things on the go. We each have cars now. Marlo's got a little doggo sis. We've travelled more. Nick's faith is fishing, mine is yoga. I know what to expect when I think about the Canadian Rockies. BC is just a little road trip away (in comparison to the multiple cross-country roadies we've since embarked on). We've watched relationships grow, knots become tied, smiled with our family and friends as babies are welcomed to the world. I'm officially back in school, like actually registered now haha. And Nick and I are strong, a result of going through the highs and lows of it all. Also, history...
Chapters - these are life chapters. Freshly 27, I've taken many breaths on this earth. Each breath is different and each insinuates history in the making. I've got more breaths to take, hopefully many more. And just as each breath before this moment has been different, each to follow will be as well.
I can ask myself if this is the life I'm supposed to be living. I can wonder if I should be here and not there. But, time will pass and things will eventually be so different again - another chapter will manifest without me even realizing it's happening. It might be there, it might be here, it might be somewhere completely unforeseen and unanticipated. This is the adventure. Life.
It's early - really early. I can't sleep anymore. And I don't want to. I've got a week to make even more memories on this soil before I make more memories in Alberta before I eventually return here, in some capacity, to once again make more - it's home to so many of my life chapters. I'm crazy to think I'll get away without feeling homesick. I wouldn't want to. Homesickness is a product of love. How lucky I am to experience it.
I went to Banff last week for five days and although the original purpose of my trip was to attend a friend’s wedding the trip ended up being one, which felt like a stepping-stone in life. I camped solo for the first time ever (a testing endeavor for sure), I read, I wrote, I had some crucial conversations with loved ones, I went to multiple yoga classes at the beautiful Rocky Mountain Yoga studio and I had my cards read for the first time.
The stepping stone piece for me was realizing how important it is that I stick to the things that make me happy. I need to stay true to myself despite the ability of life and our busy-bee minds to pull us in every freaking direction imaginable. I hit a point during the alone time where I couldn’t make sense of anything that was going on in my head. It was all a mumbo-jumbo mess of random thoughts, half considered ideas, visions of a life that I wasn’t sure I wanted, and torturous anxiety about the relationships that are most important to me. I read some of my writing from that day and it honestly scares me - there's a hopelessness in my words; I can hear my heart hurting.
I’ve never been a believer (or perhaps I am a believer and it just terrifies me) in what I’ve come to call “spiritual psychics”, however a friend advised that I meet with a teacher in Banff who reads cards just to see what came of it. She reasoned with me that it’s less about predicting and more about opening me to alternative ways of thinking. I obliged and went to see the reader with the intention of listening but with a skeptical ear...
The session was fantastic, and although I take the entire concept of life predictability with a grain of salt, it DID get me thinking about my life in a totally different way. It inspired me to make changes, to talk about sh*t that needed to be talked about and it fuelled my desire to take the next step in my yoga teaching and in life. It confirmed some things I think I knew were there, but I needed a push to come to terms with. It confirmed the mentality I've held for a while now - you make things happen to you.
I've become a little idle in the last few weeks. Sitting quietly, letting life confusion take over. It's not a good feeling to feel lost in the way that I've been feeling lately. Whereas normally I embrace lostness as a benefit, this lostness is one I don't care to know. It's different. The lostness I'm open to is rather navigation and adventure. This - this is hopelessness.
I heard the card reader speak of my ability to make positive change. I heard her talk of how it's so important to act, to push fear aside and to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to me. Did I already know this? Yes, I did. But it took me hearing it aloud from someone on the outside to feel assured in the way I've chosen to live my life.
I believe in making things happen to you. I believe that the power to make the world a better place rests in each of our hearts. And NOW is the time to release that power and watch it grow and blossom into something that is of benefit to all who come into contact with you. That idea you're considering, that thing you've been thinking about, that person that you can't get out of your head - GO and move with that.
"We don't grow from idle living."
So, don't be adle - ACT.
Thank you to that friend, and to the reader who gave me a swift kick in the butt and made me realize that I've been failing to take my own advice. Since realizing this I've started to get back on track, and I'm starting to feel lost in the way I like to feel lost again.
I want to thank the individuals who have come to me in the past couple of weeks seeking support and advice for loved ones struggling with mental illness. You reaching out to me has made me realize that there is immense benefit in sharing experiences and being open and honest. You've made me realize how silly it is to be quieted by fear - fear of being judged. This post is for you...
I don't think it's a secret that I've had my fair share of run-ins with mental illness. Ongoing run-ins I'll say. If you know me personally I might have had a brief moment of courage and chatted with you about it. If you read some of posts, bios and photo captions I allude to the struggle openly at times.
I've called it the struggle for years - never actually saying the words. For the purpose of this first post I think I'll call it that - the struggle.
I've gone through life periods where I've become very open about my experiences and conversely times when I've shut down and shut-up completely. Admittedly, moving out west was one of those shut down and shut-up times. And you know what? It made things worse. I moved out west and thought I could start over - start fresh as someone without a mental illness. But moving out west only gave the disorder a change of scenery. And when I stopped talking about what I was going through I became a lone soldier. And it's really, really, really hard to wage a war in solitude.
Here's the thing - secrets make and keep you sick.
Although I haven't got to the point where I'm completely ok opening up about everything (I feel that day nearing), I feel a need to let others know that I've experienced mental illness first hand and that I'm here to listen, talk, help and provide support in whatever way I can whether that be through yoga, meditation, recreation therapy, outdoor therapy, writing or just sitting down and talking over a cup of coffee.
Put simply, I get what it feels like to struggle with mental health and I'm realizing that the only thing keeping me quiet is the fear of being judged.
I say that and realize it's ridiculous. If people are judging me for being open and honest about reality then they aren't people I need in my life. And if I let fear run the show I will never experience full recovery because I'll be living in an illusory world of secrets forever.
So, this is my first step in becoming fully and completely open. Saying the words, I struggle with mental illness.
And saying that is all I've got in me for right now.
But I needed to say that in order to talk about the presentation I had the honour of giving last week...
In December of 2016 I had a moment of sheer anger at the struggle, at the disorder. It was becoming relentless and foreshadowing of relapse. I got so damn angry at it for sneaking back into my life and at me for letting it sneak back in. I received a call for presentations from my national professional organization, the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association. CTRA was accepting presentation proposals for the upcoming national conference in Kelowna, BC. In what felt like a whirlwind of brainstorming, linking and typing I submitted a proposal based on ongoing research I had been doing on the connection between leisure identity and eating disorders. To my surprise it was accepted. And I went back and forth, back and forth about whether I wanted to actually go and present.
But the decision had been made and I knew it was something I had to follow through with. I needed to go to Kelowna in May and share my story, my theory of connection, and my evidence-based research with therapists from Canada, USA and Australia. I needed to go and use the first-hand knowledge I had, combined with the first-hand knowledge of other individuals facing mental illness for benefit. I wanted to offer first-hand insight in an attempt to help therapists provide increasingly effective intervention for clients diagnosed with mental health issues. And my BIG hope is that eventually the profession will be focused on preventative therapy as opposed to interventional therapy.
I believe that mental illness (no matter the mental illness) uses symptoms as a means to cope with distressing emotions and experiences, just as we use leisure to cope with distressing emotions and experiences. And I believe all this spawns from a differentiation between artificial happiness and authentic happiness (a 90 minute introductory presentation condensed into one sentence haha).
I had 26 pages of presentation writing and I looked at the pages maybe five times for the purpose of citing statistics. I just started talking, relaying my theory, answering questions and being me.
And it felt good. It felt so good.
It felt good to be totally open about my life. And to not only be accepted and embraced but to be viewed as an opportunity for advancement in professional practice.
I felt hopeful. Hopeful for my recovery and for the recovery of my peers. Hopeful for the implications and applications that first-hand insight might offer mental health care. Hopeful about continuing to give fight stigma.
I sit here now in Lac La Biche ready to take the next step. Ready to work towards becoming open and honest about my life - about who I am. I want to help those families who came to me expressing the need for support. I think I'm ready to use my voice. And maybe be a voice for those who aren't yet ready to use their voice. I've found some ways to cope with disordered thoughts, feelings and behaviours - yoga, meditation, pranayama, nature, paddling, hiking, camping, writing. I've found some peace and solace in identifying my vision of authentic happiness and developing my leisure identity as a means of moving towards that vision. And I want to put a focus on helping others identify with their leisure interests as a means to cope with stress, tension and disordered thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Secrets make and keep you sick.
Break the silence.
I won't say it's easy. But I know in my heart that it will be worth it.
I look to the future excited about what this openness can and will warrant. With the weight of the secret coming off of my shoulders I can support in a way that is honest, integral and hopefully warranting of forward movement.
It's been a while since I've written here. A result of being busy - really 'effing busy.
And while I was that busy I let the very things that help me cope with the stress of being busy go. My personal yoga and meditation practiced waned, I stopped eating properly, I wasn't sleeping, I stopped communicating with those close to me, I quite literally wasn't making time for the things that make me healthy and happy. I was letting myself burn out physically, mentally and emotionally.
Letting myself - those are the key words. I was letting myself burn out.
So, I stopped letting myself.
It crossed my mind earlier today that most things in my life happen because I make them happen. So, if I want something different to happen all it takes is the decision to make things different. Done and done. My mind complicates this equation a lot, but if I really stop and consider what the true me needs and wants the answer is usually pretty clear. When I stop the train of what ifs from pulling into my mental station I can usually hear what my heart is telling me - that it's time to make things different.
Different can be scary. It can be terrifying. But it can also be amazing and uplifting and transformational and joyous. And if we decide to not make things different - when we listen to the what ifs - we risk never experiencing the ups that can come from taking a different path.
These intensely moving and life changing ups are what fuel greatness. We make the decision to embrace something different and no matter what we move forward. It'll rain and puddles will undoubtedly appear on the road, but you put your rubber boots on and you stomp through them to the other side. You make the decision to make things different - you make it to the other side of that puddle - a side that is different from the side you were first standing on. Growth.
This week there was a death in my family and instead of running from the grieving process (like I normally would) I tried my very hardest to sit with the feelings. I made the decision to try something different.
This week I quit my job because it didn't feel right, my heart was somewhere else. I made the decision to try something different.
This week I hummed and hawed over the new yoga schedule, wondering if people would like what I was planning on offering until I just said teach what feels good to teach. I made the decision to try something different.
I was letting myself burn out. So, I stopped letting myself. I made the decision to try something different.
And although I don't anticipate (maybe, but I withhold expectation) that anything unbelievably amazing will happen right away as a result of these decisions to try something different I am not standing where I was before. I'm on new ground. I've moved forward and now there's the opportunity for exploration, adventure and those profoundly inspiriting ups to manifest. It might not happen right away but good will come from making the decision to try something different.
I took part in Bell Let’s Talk day. I love the idea of generating awareness and raising funds to support those affected my mental illness. I hope those funds go towards what Bell says they’ll go towards – the 48 pages of organizations involved in mental health research, outreach and support.
So, here we are. The day after Bell Let’s Talk day. The day after the day when my newsfeed is populated by stories from my family, friends, co-workers and community members about their struggles with mental illness. Stories about how the illness(es) manifested in their life, how they fought, how they overcame or how they’re striving to gain strength, charisma and confidence while being ravaged by an invisible nemesis. Stories about the difficulties they’ve experienced with the mental health care system. Stories about highs, lows, joy and suffering,
Did you read them? Did you hear their words? Were you moved?
Here we are, the day after Bell Let’s Talk day and my newsfeed has become shockingly quiet. Yesterday, aspiration for a better world spread across my computer screen like wildfire - today there’s stillness. And it’s this stillness that worries me. It’s this stillness that convinces me we’ve still got a long, long road to walk. A road that is absolutely walkable, just long.
I read those stories yesterday; I honestly tried to read as many of them as I could, because I think it’s important to understand how serious the issue of mental illness has become. And the only way to understand how serious it is, an epidemic of this magnitude, is to appreciate how many people came forward declaring their experiences with mental illness.
What the fuck are we doing to ourselves? After reading all those stories that is the question I’m left with. It becomes so obvious and undeniable that we are in a period of mental chaos. Yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel that more of us deal with mental illness than not. We’re an ill society. We are watching ourselves destroy ourselves. And by this I mean we support a world of conflicted intention, first leading to mental illness, then supporting mental illness, then not supporting those with mental illness. We create an environment that nurtures the growth of mental illness, then we shush the mention of mental illness giving consent for those who are sick to become sicker, and then we are inaccessible, unavailable, unaffordable or absent, which again perpetuates illness.
Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk day and I’m happy to see that we’re trying. We’re trying to make the world more open, more understanding, more willing to accept that this issue is present and that we need to start fixing it. I’m happy to see people sharing their stories. I’m overjoyed to see the world becoming a place where people feel safe and secure to share. This is a step in the right direction.
I am thinking of you - each and every one of you who has felt the pillaging effects of mental illness first hand. Those left without choice because they are sick. Those forced to spend hours a day vomiting into a toilet, cutting their skin, chasing pills with alcohol, confined to the house for days, to be the ping pong ball between polar opposite feelings and thoughts. I am thinking of you. And, I am thinking of you - each and every one of you who has watched a loved one suffer the harsh reality of what it means to live with mental illness. Watched a loved one drift further and further and further away unsure of how to bring them back or if they can be brought back.
I am thinking of you. Please, think of them too.
And then, do something about it. On Bell Let’s Talk day tell your story, share the posts, send the text messages – support. And then, fucking act. Today, the day after Bell Let’s Talk day don’t let the fire die. Don’t let that portal of compassion close, only to reopen next January. Your daughter won’t start eating because it’s January 26th, your brother won’t stop drinking because it’s January 26th, your neighbor won’t get out of bed because it’s January 26th, your best friend won’t seek treatment because it’s January 26th.
When will they do these things?
They’ll do them when they’re ready and they’ll become ready when one of two things happens; they feel safe and comfortable exposing themselves leading to help or they hit rock bottom. It’s an unfortunate reality that the second does happen, and sometimes it takes being knocked down to stand back up. But the former? We - ALL of us - can help those people starting right now. We can help them to feel safe and comfortable exposing themselves so they can move towards recovery.
Self-love. Self-fucking-love! Learn to love yourself, all of you! Protect your mental health by nourishing your mind, your body and your spirit. And then love others. Love all others. Even if you hate them, love them. We all got to where we are by being exposed to experiences, feelings, thoughts and behaviors so make those experiences, feelings, thoughts and behaviors LOVE. Communicate. Tell your story. And then listen to the stories of others. Talk about it, talk about ALL of it. Let’s slow down and give each other the gift of time.
Now I’m crying. It happens sometimes when I write about topics super close to my heart.
Don’t give up. Keep striving to thrive. Because you can and you will if you don’t give up. And because we now live in an all-loving world, asking for help isn’t scary. It’s what we do. And we do it because we’re met with kindness, compassion and a genuine desire to see each other be healthy and happy.
This world is real. And we can start manifesting it right now.
Bell Let’s Talk day was a testimony to the possibility of this world being closer than we realize. It’s within reach. We have it in us to be more open, to be more understanding, to be more loving. We have it in us to support each other through the highs and lows. We have it in us to make mental illness just another illness that is deserving of society's healing touch.
So, don’t stop talking. On January 26th keep the conversation going. Cling to compassion and move the world to be better. Make vulnerability a strength so we can all feel safe reaching out when we need to. Move, breathe and be love.
Some of you know me, some of you have never met me. Some of you know my story, others don’t. But if you’re reading this, we’re connected and I’m thinking of you. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a friend to drink tea with, I’m here. On Bell Let’s Talk day, on January 26th and on every day to follow, I’m here for you.
Keep sharing. Keep talking. Keep the fire lit. We’re making the world a more loving place. And love is the most healing thing of all.
I don’t always recognize what’s happening inside.
Often, until it’s too late.
Until I’m so confused I’m shaky.
Wondering how on earth I can make sense of the here and now.
Wishing I could intervene.
Hoping for an opportunity.
Attempting to infuse myself with strength.
And then I crack.
The vase that is my mortal being cracks and dissipates into a million pieces.
They lay there scattered on the floor.
Each piece taking on a different shape, a different feeling.
Their jaggedness reflecting the sharp reality of what is.
I, what’s left of me, stares at the pieces perplexingly.
Knowing that in order to exist I have to put the pieces back together.
In a way that is able to withstand the pressures of this life.
I’ve put the pieces back together before.
Only, I didn’t create a structure capable of tolerating this world.
In the long term at least.
I put the pieces back in a way that made sense at the time.
I was unknowing.
But life is full of change. And my pieced together vase didn’t adapt fruitfully.
How many times have I attempted to put the pieces back together?
I don’t know.
And yet here I stand staring at the fragments of my body and mind.
Recognizing that I need a new approach.
Acknowledging the beauty of a mosaic that can be created from the jagged pieces of my being.
Choosing to slow down.
And become aware.
Aware of clues that teach me how to put the pieces back together.
So my vase is steady, yet flexible.
Strong, yet soft.
Firm, yet understanding.
Safeguarded, yet vulnerable.
Going “home", it feels good. The word home now, after three years of living in Alberta, has a slightly different feel and meaning. The truth is I have two homes. My roots are in Ontario and my branches are now in Alberta. I use the word home for both.
I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with split feelings about this reality. It’s funny how as a teen I wanted to leave Owen Sound so badly. I was fixated on being anywhere but that small town at the mouth of the Bruce Peninsula. Then I moved to Alberta. We were planning on getting some work experience in the west and then moving back to be close to our families and our friends. A sort of breakthrough opportunity for our careers. We were pretty confident we’d find work in Ontario after beefing up our resumes.
Upon first moving I honestly thought that was exactly what we would do. I cried a lot. The homesickness sunk in pretty hard after a few months. All I thought about was the day we’d move home. The feelings were very convincing. I thought that moving back was inevitable and the right thing to do. It kinda just felt like moving to university for the first time. I knew I’d be home soon enough. No big deal.
Then we moved again within Alberta. To this tiny little hamlet whose name I figured I was pronouncing incorrectly. The very first time I drove through Lac La Biche I had a hard time explaining to myself that this is where I was going to live. I mean no - no I would not live here.
But everyone we met (truly amazing people) continued to tell us that they never planned on staying... and then the town warmed their heart and they met the love of their life and they found their dream job and there was opportunity... something in me was curious - maybe something in me wanted it to work. So, I made a conscious and solid effort to settle in to the community. I attempted to get involved. I made good friends (like really good friends). I participated in leagues, events and town traditions. I started to feel grounded. And it was better.
When I let my mind adjust to life away from “home” I felt better. When I let my mind accept that this is where I was here and now I experienced an ease of being. Trust in the present allowed me to feel some contentment despite being far from what I knew was home.
Two and half years later I’m still here. And when I reflect on the happenings of this time I am honestly taken back by the growth I have experienced. In this small town I finished school, a task that had been ongoing since I was 19. I realized and followed my passion for yoga and became a teacher. I am co-opening a dedicated space for the practice in just a few short weeks. I have made connections with truly amazing people, making friendships that I am absolutely confident will last my whole life long. I have learned more about who I am as a person in this time than I ever thought possible. And even though I know there is infinite growth to come I am excited for what the future holds. I am ready to live life to the fullest.
It’s still hard at times. I still cry sometimes. I still experience homesickness. I still wish my family and friends were closer. But I know these feelings are normal and they’re not going to go away, probably ever. This is all because Ontario will forever be my home, my root home.
Being ok with the nostalgia and sadness has come from realizing that Lac La Biche has also become my home, my branches-home. A new kind of home that only people who have moved far from their roots and embraced the newness of their whereabouts know. It's a warm and empowering feeling that comes from knowing you left what was familiar behind and made peace with change. It makes you realize that you are capable of adjustment and of finding meaning in your being.
I say I'm going home when I leave Alberta for Ontario. I say I'm going home when I leave Ontario for Alberta. Both are my homes for very different reasons. And what I am appreciating now, sitting at the table in my family home in Ontario, is how fortunate I am to know what it means to have a home and to have people in both Ontario and Alberta that make going home to so beautiful.
Life is utterly fragile. We are really just glass boards and every day is a hammer against us. How we dodge the blows and endure the hits is what maintains our constitution. We are at risk of being shattered at any moment, life forever changed with a single swing of the hammer. And so there are two ways we can exist...
1. We can live in fear of being broken.
We can be scared all the time of something happening to us, to the ones we love, to the life we know. And from that we can shelter ourselves. We can create safety. Yes, you can be safe. You can be safe by taking the travelled path. By walking in the footsteps of others, learning from their experiences. You can learn from the mistakes of others and choose not to make those mistakes yourself. In doing so you are less likely to trip and fall. You're better able to predict where you'll end up. When we choose this path we are often destination focused, which isn't a bad thing, it just means we're a little more obligated. When living in fear of being broken you take steps to be secure, safe and at ease. You consider what might be and you put in place things that promote your ongoing success. Out of fear of being poor, homeless, lonely, depressed and faithless, out of fear of those hammer-hits upon your glass wall; you're able approach life systematically to avoid these situations. You can live in fear of being broken and be safe.
2. We can live in the moment - from broken pieces a mosaic is born.
You can take risks. You can face the hammer and not know what the outcome will be. Maybe you'll break, maybe you won't. The process is an adventure. These people, the risk takers, the ones willing to accept mistakes as their own, are the ones who change what it means to be a glass board. Shattered pieces can be reinforced with the confidence that comes from being broken and putting yourself back together. From risk taking comes empowerment. This isn't a safe life, I won't lie. You will live never knowing what comes next. But in living this way you are open to all possibilities and opportunities that come your way. You will stand in front of all the hammer swings, the ones you persist through and the ones that break you, and you will experience life first hand. You'll look at the mistakes of others and wonder if you could do it differently, what would the outcome be then? You'll live and you'll learn. And you'll grow and you'll become stronger. This is the life of a risk taker. There is no destination. There is no better life than right now. Because there is only right now. And right now you might break. But you also might not...
There is no right or wrong way to live. There's only how you choose to live.
Be you. Be real. Because life is fragile.
The honest learnings and raw reflections of my practice and my life. Unedited.