“I put my wounds in a shoebox, taped it shut, bubble-wrapped it, taped it again, and then hid it in the back of a closet. Then, I moved a couch in front of the closet so I’d have no way of getting in there. But that wound, that little hurting me, was still in there asking to be let out and heard.”
This is my most raw and real article to date. Thank you to Elephant Journal for publishing it. Please click the link below to give it a read. Like it. Comment on it. Follow me on there. Share it. Thank you. Much much love.
I invite you to stop whatever you’re doing. Take a seat. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to absorb what you’re about to read. You deserve it.
Relax the space between your eyebrows. Soften the little muscles around your eyes. Unclench your jaw. There you go….feel a bit better?
I’m no expert in the art of letting go, but I’ve acquired some really simple and powerful tools for relaxation as a Yoga and Meditation Teacher and Student. These practices – which I’ll get into in a moment – have helped me step away from the rat race and into a space of ease.
It’s a daily practice and it’s not perfect but, I’m making progress. It’s not about giving up, as my once ego-driven TypeA, Aries personality would have me believe. It’s about softening into the moment. Meeting ourselves where we truly are. And going with the flow of our lives – rather than always swimming upstream.
Afterall, life’s a marathon not a race, right? Let’s take our time with our tasks, relationships and goals so we can actually enjoy the process.
Here’s a few things we can all do to chill out when we’re up against it:
I have a laminated cue card with my chicken-scratch handwriting on it that says, “I am right where I need to be.” Sometimes it’s hanging out on my dresser, sometimes it’s in my bag, sometimes it’s in my pocket. Wherever this little guy goes, it reminds me to come back to the present moment and trust that whatever needs to get done, will get done in perfect timing. You can write, say or sing your own mantra – whatever makes you happy. “Be here, now,” “just breathe,” “you’ve got this,” are some examples of sayings that can keep us grounded. What resonates with you?
Be Smart with your Schedule
Don’t cram a 4 hour business meeting into your calendar, if you know you’ve only got 3 hours to spare, okay? I know, I know – easier said than done. We want to do so much with so little time because it gives us a sense of control and power (or, at least that’s how I felt). But, we’re not getting anywhere any faster by doing this. When you’re mapping out your day, week or month, try to look at your schedule as if it were a friend’s. Would you tell them it looks manageable or completely insane? Give yourself the same advice. Schedule buffer times in there – you know, to get from that coffee date to that yoga class across town with a few minutes to spare. Be realistic and be kind to yourself.
Set boundaries with your Phone
Who knew such a tiny, little shiny thing could bring on so much stress! A HUGE time-stealer and tension-bringer for me is my phone. If I don’t set limits around when and how I use it, I can easily spend hours upon hours scrolling through my social media feeds, refreshing my email inbox and reading mind-numbing content online. It’s information overload and my mind and body eventually resent me for all the stimulation. So, I turn my phone on “do not disturb” every night around 9 or 10 pm and that’s it. No more calls, texts or surfing. Just me, myself and I. I also refuse to check my phone right when I get up. I hit the off button on my alarm, and then put it away. I take the next 15-30 minutes to stretch, meditate and shower.
Do Some Yoga and/or Meditation
I didn’t put this one first on the list because I didn’t want y’all to think this post was geared to yogis. These self-care practices can work for everyone – the bendy and inflexible alike. Take a gentle yoga or meditation class and see what it feels like to welcome a sense of surrender into your mind and body. If you can’t do Downward Dog like Acrobatic Ally can, no sweat. Meet yourself where you are and do what you can. The goal is to breathe and be compassionate with thoughts and how they’re showing up in your body. Soften where you can and do your best. Nervous about taking a class with real humans? There’s countless videos on YouTube for free that teach you how to stretch and breathe from the comfort of your own home. One day, I swear I’ll share some on there.
The long and short of it....
…Okay, the long of it (I swear I meant to make this post shorter). We don’t have to feel overwhelmed and out of control. It is within our power to slow down, create a lifestyle that brings us ease and say no to the people, places and things that don’t. Take a deep breath and keep moving forward at a mindful, gentle pace knowing, really and truly, that it’ll all get done eventually. And, you are right where you need to be.
I’ve starved myself, over-exercised, hid under clothing 10x too big for me, and hurt my body in so many other ways. I’ve also fed it well, rested when I needed to, made self-love a part of my mental and physical health routine and recovered from a serious and deadly eating disorder. But, it took me a long time and a lot of help to get from A to B.
My story is not particularly unique, but it still saddens me when I think about how I used to treat myself. Today, I look at that version of who I was with so much kindness, not judgement or regret. I send her love because that’s what I needed to show myself so badly when I was a teenager. I was diagnosed with Anorexia when I was 16 years old, after making the land of denial my home for well over a year….
Ahhh, the F word – and no, not the one you’re thinking of. I’m talking about forgiveness – a formidable word and resentment’s sworn enemy. But, the truth is, it ain’t all that powerful if we don’t practice it on ourselves, as well as others.
What’s the outcome of holding anger over someone for something they did? Suffering. What’s the outcome of holding anger over ourselves for something we did? Suffering. So, it seems the old phrase, “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies” has some merit to it. Who it’s directed at doesn’t matter – resentment keeps us stuck and in mental-emotional purgatory.
A Mantra for Forgiveness
As part of my healing and growth, I’ve been working on forgiving others who’ve hurt me, while simultaneously forgiving myself for how I’ve hurt myself. My main tool: the Hawaiian practice of forgiveness, Hoʻoponopono – it translates to correction in English. The mantra goes like this:
I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.
When repeated, the words are seen as a form of mental and spiritual cleansing that corrects negative thought patterns connected to sickness in the physical world – and karma, in the non-physical world.
Putting it into Practice
Hawaiian psychologist and shamanic practitioner, Dr. Hew Len, used Hoʻoponopono in his work with the criminally insane by holding his hands over their files, repeating those words and accepting 100% responsibility for their actions.
As he worked on himself, the patients began to heal. A year and a half later, those who’d been shackled at the ankles and wrists for violent behaviour became unshackled, free to leave the premises in short-spurts. Their levels of medication dropped dramatically. Their behaviour improved drastically. The cause and effect here aren’t necessarily clear, but it’s something to think about.
The Bottom Line
I’m not sure that we have to accept responsibility for the actions of someone else, but it can’t hurt to own up to the things we’ve done. Where there’s acceptance, there’s freedom to act and freedom to change. Forgiving someone for their painful or unjust behaviour towards us doesn’t mean we’re saying that it’s ok. It just means we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to let go of the heavy weight of blame and our connection to that part of our past. It’s a crucial component of healing and moving forward. We can’t do that until we cut the string.
When we apologize to ourselves for self-blame, self-harm, self-destruction or something along those lines, we open the doors to self-love or at least, self-like. I’m learning that we simply can’t become the person we want to if we stay connected to these limiting ways of thinking and being. What I’m trying to say is, forgiveness can be really tough but it’s the next step for all of us to heal in the present moment and let go of the past.
What you resist persists. I used to think that was an overused, empty saying but recent emotional work has shown me the truth of it. Shame is one of my favourite self-conscious emotions to tuck away in the dark corners of my mind. It carries a heavy weight and a dirty core that often feels too overwhelming to look at. I think this is true for many of us.
We resist acknowledging the sense of inadequacy, unworthiness, regret or disconnection that comes with shame because we somehow convince ourselves that it will dissipate…disappear over time – if we turn our attention elsewhere. This couldn’t be further from the truth. That which we avoid sits festering in our minds and bodies, begging to come to light for acknowledgement and clearing. It’s not going anywhere, at least not without a fight.
Healing Old Wounds
I’ve spent the past few years dedicating a lot of my “me time” to self-development work like therapy, meditation and yoga. It’s proved incredibly powerful for healing many past wounds and traumas. Now that I’ve created some new space and a container for that which surfaces, my psyche’s bringing all sorts of new treats to my door. The latest flavour is shame – the shame I’ve attached to many of the experiences I’ve already looked at. It’s like the last piece of the puzzle for emotional recovery.
It’s not fun and it’s certainly not easy to face our demons, whatever they are. Shame can be a really tough one because it’s often tied to some core beliefs we have about who we are and how we’re supposed to respond to situations – ideas we’ve usually developed in childhood. It takes time to shake them and a strong support system. But it’s a crucial component of positive mental health and building resilience as a human being on this sometimes trying planet.
Releasing shame can be a beautiful process. Every time I look at an incident that triggered a shame response, I feel a little shaky at first, a little gross, maybe even a little embarrassed but then… I feel relief. A new space opens up in my heart to let love in – a space previously occupied by feeling undeserving of such a thing. One breath, one day and sometimes, one moment at a time, I can let that heavy weight go and replace it with positive beliefs about myself and my worth.
If you’re struggling with shame – whether it’s attached to the way you reacted to your friend, a trauma that you’ve experienced or something more benign – know that you’re not alone. It’s a universal emotion that we all feel at one point or another and, just like mental health, it’s not a dirty word. It has a place in our emotional wellbeing. Get support. Reach out to a therapist, a trusted friend or some kind of support group to start looking at it. Write it down. Every. Nasty. Particle of it. Then, take a few deep breaths. Take a walk, shake it out, dance it out and keep trekking. Release the belief that you deserve to be shackled by shame and take tiny steps forward into the world of self- love.
I kind of feel like a hypocrite as I write this because – much to my surprise – it’s been 5 months since my last blog post. I know how healing journaling can be, whether it takes shape online, in a lock-and-key diary or some type of recording. I also know how challenging it can be to keep up with it.
I took a little time off from my blog during a recent transition in my life, favouring a beat-up paper journal I’ve poured my thoughts into on and off for many years. I needed to process and reflect privately and that’s okay, too. But, here I am now: ready to re-enter the public sphere with a newfound appreciation for this self-reflective art. Have a look at my top 5 motivations for journaling. I hope they encourage you to get your thoughts down on paper, keyboard or phone and free yourself one step at a time.
Seemingly insurmountable problems become doable challenges when we go from thinking to self-expression. By putting it all out there, we can shift our experiences into the bigger picture and often, see what needs to be done to move on in a calm and mindful manner. Inner peace and relief are for the taking.
Let’s great real: it can be hard to speak the truth when we’re stuck in our minds or try to explain ourselves to others. Journaling gives us the opportunity to be honest about what we’re going through without fear of judgment or shame. If we want it so, our entries can be completely private and for our eyes only. Where there’s privacy, there’s freedom to be exactly who we are.
3. Emotional Distance
If we give ourselves the time and space to reflect on our past or current experiences, we can create some emotional distance from them. Instead of feeling consumed by our challenges we can take the time to gently understand what’s happened or is happening and heal, one day at a time. Traumatic, difficult or life-altering moments can be hard to talk about, let alone move past from, so journaling gives us a safe space to look at the hard stuff, at our own pace…and slowly separate it from ourselves.
Growth goes hand in hand with the above 3. When we take the opportunity to express the stuff we’re facing we can ultimately learn from it. Much like in meditation, we can observe our experiences from an outsider’s perspective, non-critically and discern where to go from there. We’re the masters of our lives, so we can create and re-create anything we’d like, choosing to step forward and not stay stuck in what was.
How cool is it to be able to look at your journal and get a snapshot of where and who you’ve been in the past? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read entries from a month, year or many moons ago and laughed out loud or applauded myself for how far I’ve come. We can’t truly appreciate our progress if we don’t look at our journey. Journaling gives us a picture of our life story and that, my friends, is priceless.
I haven’t hit the keyboard for this blog in a while. I’ve been going through some major transitions and craved time to process it all. I found a lot of healing along the way by visiting nature, like I often do. So, I thought I’d share some of the magical trails I’ve explored to soothe my soul and feed my mind and body.
Here are my top 4 favourite spots to hike in Toronto – the place I call home and love so much.
1. Scarborough Bluffs
Soak up a fantastic view of Lake Ontario and visit pristine trails and and gardens along the 15 kilometre stretch of the Scarborough Bluffs. It looks like paradise, and rightly so– it really is. There’s almost a dozen parks along the east-end nature hub, one of the best being Bluffer’s Park. The not-so-hidden gem is live with some gorgeous trails, picnic spots, and lookouts for your frolicking pleasure. Need a Vitamin D boost? Plant yourself on any of the many beaches, below soaring meadows and walking paths.
Take your everyday hike to another level when you visit Evergreen Brick Works- an eco-friendly hot spot in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley. Hit the trail and then take a detour to the centre’s garden markets, or wet your whistle with a tasty bevy at Cafe Belong (onsite).Signup for a guided group walk to learn more about Evergreen’s ecology, architecture and hidden rivers. Getting to the green hub is made all that easier with a free shuttle bus Evergreen runs from Broadview Subway Station every weekday.
Located in the heart of Bloor West, this majestic park spans 399 acres and is home to some of the most fantastic cherry blossoms arguably in the GTA.High Park is one of the most accessible trails in the city, with easy-to-follow hiking spots along the Spring Creek and West Ravine trails. Wildlife fan? You can expect to see plenty of it during your date with nature here. Over half of the park remains in a natural, wild and wonderful state.
The major river valley is a hiker’s haven – or biker’s delight – or walker’s world. You get the point: this trail accommodates pretty much any type of physical activity you’re little heart desires.There’s six kilometres of a mix of paved and hard-packed trails, offering variety both in challenge and landscape.Don’t worry about packing your hiking boots away come chilly season- this trail is accessible year- round.
I’ve been a perfectionist for just about as long as I’ve had boobs. It’s just a fact. Actually, now that I think about it, the two painful P’s-puberty and perfectionism- may be linked for a reason.
Like many young girls, I was overwhelmed by sudden changes in my body back in grade school and I quickly took to ‘working’ on it as a project. I adopted the belief that my body and me-I- wasn’t complete as I was. I walked into a mental prison and didn’t get partial release until recently.
I’m now aware of the external and internal forces that may have contributed to this self-destructive behavior, but instead of focusing on the why’s today I want to focus on the how’s. The how to let go, shed and give up the perfectionist’s way.
Letting go of long-standing, obsessive thoughts is not an overnight job. It’s a process. Say it with me friends: PROCESS. If saying or thinking about that word brings you into a dark place, switch it up with something more geared to your sensibilities like ‘journey,’ or ‘story.’ Either way, get comfortable with the idea that you are entering a marathon, not a race, to drop your perfectionist ways. Your tools for making it through? Deep breaths…and an overwhelming dose of self-love.
This is my journey. My path. My process. I’ve developed awareness around my obsessive, need-to-contain, perfectionist ways in recent years through observing my thoughts in meditation and talking it out in therapy. I needed to know how I was operating and the way it affected me before I could make any changes. And that’s just the way the cookie crumbles folks–we need to shine the light on our $h*! so we can see what’s really there before we deal with it.
I’ve let go of many of my obsessive behaviours over the years, but some still linger and that’s okay. I accept. I love. I move on. Currently, I’m working on repeating the mantra “Good Enough” to myself when I’m at work, so I’m reminded to show myself compassion and acceptance at every turn. I breathe. I remember. I show gratitude for this chapter in my book of life and keep truckin.’
My advice to you? Pick your own loving mantra to guide yourself back to love when you dive into devaluing. Next, start to pay attention to how you treat and talk to your close friends. How do you react when they’re hard on themselves? I’m guessing it’s with a lot more understanding than you would show yourself in the same situation. Remember that and remember to treat yourself like the very bestest friend you ever had.
All of our experiences come with opportunities, we just don’t always see them. That’s because our brains are too busy categorizing and defining these moments as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ to be able to see the bigger picture. When we jump out of the present, we block our ability to see potential opportunities that can come from it all, especially the challenges we face.
An awesome way to open ourselves up to possibility in times of upheaval is to remember that we’ve also been given an opportunity here to learn, love, reflect, build strength and live more authentically. With this in mind, problems seem to transform into solutions and we find new ways of being in the process. The less energy I put into resisting adversity, the more space I create to receive guidance, direction and eternal love from the universe when I really need it. Here’s just a few doors that can be opened by the winds of challenge for all of us:
We can react with fire when we’re faced with the hard stuff or respond with water. Either way, we can learn a lot about ourselves when we reflect on how we’re behaving in challenging situations. This part of the personal development puzzle involves pure self-expression in whatever form works for you (mine’s journaling), as well as observation and inquiry. We ask ourselves questions and then sit in unanswered silence.
Challenge can throw us off balance, which is actually a good thing because it requires us to consciously re-stabilize before moving forward. Self-reflection can be very powerful when we’re getting grounded in the wake of the storm. It gives us a moment to pause and catch our breath.
Reflection paves the way for personal growth. When we step back from a challenge and observe how we’re behaving in it, we have the opportunity to respond differently in the future. It’s not about judging ourselves, it’s about becoming aware of how we are and taking the steps necessary to be the best human being we can.
The lesson I seem to be learning over and over again is about self-love and total self-acceptance. Therefore, each challenge and experience I have brings me the opportunity to grow my heart muscle. In this way, I view many traumas, changes and pains as balancing, necessary and fueling.
Just like we bulk up in the winter, we build strength in the darker hours of our lives. Challenge asks us to find that inner reserve and keep going, stronger than ever. In this way, uphill battles provide us with opportunities to build up our superpowers within.
I learned about resilience when I lost my Dad a few years ago. I mourned, crumbled, cried and then eventually…I found gratitude. Losing him made me profoundly grateful for the people and relationships I still had in my life, and ever more aware of the fragile nature of existence. I was given the opportunity to fall in love with my life all over again. If you ask me, that’s a pretty big silver lining.