Top 4 Hiking Spots in Toronto

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

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Courtesy of Pinterest

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.

More info: http://bit.ly/RU6kZY

Location:  61 Under Cliff Dr, Scarborough, ON

2. Evergreen Brick Works 

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Courtesy of MeetUp

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.

More info: http://bit.ly/2yo6fVj

Location:  550 Bayview Ave #300, Toronto, ON

3. High Park

high park

Courtesy of blogTO

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.

More info: http://bit.ly/2xI4Tmc

Location:  1873 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON

4. West Humber Trail

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Courtesy of City of Toronto

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.

More info: http://bit.ly/2zbGkPI

Location:  Martin Grove Rd, Toronto, ON

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Shedding Perfectionism

11048717_10153111717658439_8785418631710248317_n-2I’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.

Namaste. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn Challenge into Opportunity

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.

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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:

REFLECTION

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.

PERSONAL GROWTH

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.

RESILIENCE

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.

imagesI 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.

 

Namaste. ❤

4 Ways to Create Mindfulness

outta

Support mindfulness & mental health by purchasing one of my mindful partner’s wicked tanks. Outta donates 10% of proceeds to mental health initiatives. 

 

We must have an awareness of something in order to change it. It’s just that simple.  We can’t create shifts in our lives if we spend most of our time in the dark.

Enter: mindfulness. The ‘M’ word is taking over the world, one industry and community at a time and I’m loving it. It excites me and ignites my drive to keep fostering it in myself and the world around me.

So, in the name of supporting the global mindful movement, let’s look at some simple ways to cultivate more of it in our everyday lives. Well keep it to a ‘Top 4’ to accommodate all attention spans.

  1. Breathing Exercises- The Sanskrit or yoga word for this is pranayama. There are a ton of videos on Youtube, like this one, with tutorials on breath work. If you want to go it alone, you can easily sit down and practice breathing in through your nose for a count of 3- holding your breath at the top- and then exhaling out 0f your mouth for a count of 3 – holding it at the bottom- and the repeating. You can increase your breath count as you sit for a few minutes.
  2. meditateMeditate- Our silent, sitting time can be just as simple as our deep breathing time- and basically consists of the same thing. We’re chilling on a pillow, chair or block, softening our eyes, tuning into our breath and committing to stillness. The only difference here is the added focus on observing our thoughts– the content of our mind. The work is to notice our thoughts and let them flow on, becoming more aware of the stories that are on repeat.  With time, we can create more distance between each thought and cultivate more mindfulness.
  3. Journal- Write it all out and then write some more. In your journal, on your laptop or a sticky note or piece of napkin- whatever you have- express yours11705178_10155980986665495_1146161965346441686_nelf. I’ve built up a collection of about a dozen journals over my life and each contains a piece of my soul I could no longer carry or needed space from. Writing is transformative and safe. It’s another platform for creating clarity around our
    thoughts and actions, with new possibility for change. No censors, no apologies- all you and your truths.
  4.  Mantras –  It’s really true that our words create our world, so why not make them more positive? Mantras are amazing. When we repeat a word or a series of words to ourselves that empower us, calm us down or keep us focused we actually help to rewire the neurological pathways in our brains that usually support our self-limiting beliefs. My personal mantra at the moment is ‘I Live My Truth.’ So, when I feel like I’m speaking or behaving in an inauthentic manner out of fear or discomfort, I repeat the mantra in my head, breathe and come back to myself. Check out this list of mantras to get started.

Breathe. Slow Down. We are here, right now and we’re right where we need to be.

Namaste. ❤

 

 

 

2 Life-Changing Words

Many of us form strong attachments to the people, places and things around us. We craft our identities out of what we do, how we do, who we know, where we’ve been and are expected to go. We create identities for all the other characters in our stories, too. Labeling is easy. Categorizing is automatic. Attachments make us feel safe- but they keep us limited.

Identities, attachments, judgments and labels all have one thing in common: limitation on freedom of the self. When we see ourselves and the world around us through black and white lenses, we feed an addiction to analyzing, processing and categorizing our world. This may make us feel comfortable and protected, but it also has a counter-effect: it keeps us in the cycle of egoic suffering- of feeling as if we never have enough, do enough and are being enough.

Ego-Mask

The ego says I have, I want, I am this and that. It says you and I are different and what separates us is categories. The higher self- consciousness or essence – doesn’t need to identify with the body, with roles, with time or much else really. It doesn’t see the difference between you and I, because it’s unified, connected and part of the greater whole. It just IS.  If ego is attachment, consciousness is freedom from attachment.

How do you describe yourself to friends and family? The words that follow the phrase ‘I am’ hold clues about how you view yourself and what you identify with as a human being on earth, during this time. Do you see yourself as a worker, healer, parent, lover, taxpayer? Are you attached to certain aspects of your self-created identity? Or, do you see yourself as a combination of all that you are: a human being and a human doing? If you’re able to adapt the latter perspective, you can see yourself as one who exists for the sake of existence and experience, as well as one who accomplishes much by action, inaction and creation- by doing. You are a human who is and does. 

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When we remove all the labels and identities we normally put after the phrase ‘I am,’ all we’re left with is well, just that. I AM. I exist. Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ But, what if it were, ‘I am, therefore I am.’ I exist, therefore I have meaning, purpose and value.

When I meditate on that phrase- I AM- I acknowledge my ego’s desire to connect with form (identity-I) and simultaneously awaken the formless and potentiality that lies within consciousness (the higher self or essence).

Whenever we become overly obsessed and distressed by our roles and the demands of the past and future, also know as living in ego, we can remember one true and powerful fact: I am. You are. We are. To be is enough- all the rest is extra. If our essential nature is to fully embrace our beings, to live and love limitlessly, we can step powerfully into the present moment- the place where joy and peace reside. We can breathe deeply and remember our true purpose is to live. And just for today, that is enough.

Namaste.  ❤

 

 

 

 

Dropping To-Dos

to do list

Hello. My name is Eryl and I’m a recovering To-Doer. I’ve spent the better part of my life making checklists, crossing tasks off and looking for more to ‘get done.’ To the outside world I’ve likely seemed super organized, goal oriented and/or pretty damn anal. To the inside world, my world, I’ve been drowning in obligation and rejecting the natural flow of life. Feeling stuck and uptight.

Now, I’m not saying there’s no value in writing down what you want to address because there is– there can be HUGE value in putting paper to pen and creating intention. However, when your lists become the lens through which you see your world and your present moment you give up the ability to BE. The ability to trust the process. The power to see that it will all get done…eventually, one way or another. Such is life.

To be or not to be…that’s truly the question. You are either in this moment, right here, right now, facing and responding to what’s directly in front of you, or you are in the past or future non-reality. As I’m learning, it’s all about balance. Taking care of past concerns, preparing for the future AND living in the now. It takes awareness and presence to find the sweet spot in the middle of your timelines but the reward is incredible: alignment with the universe and all that you deserve- love, space, freedom, peace and joy.

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Creating lists serves me when creating goals, addressing what I need to address professionally, mentally and physically but it doesn’t serve me when all I do is see what needs to get done ie: laundry, bills, emails. It doesn’t serve my higher self to obsess over my non-necessary to-dos because I begin to view myself in the same way- as someone who must do, not be, not live, not love.

I used to write checklist after checklist down in my journals or my phone or computer, whenever and wherever I could. As if I couldn’t trust my own brain to remember what’s really important and what needs attention. I’d get a junkie’s high from crossing items off the list. But, the adrenaline would be followed by a quick low- the realization that there’s always more–it never ends. It became my hell and not my saviour.

How have I let go of my attachment to doing? I’ve recommitted to my daily meditation- 5, 10, 30 minutes or whatever I need to feel grounded and connected to the present moment. I keep my external gaze closed and my internal gaze focused on my third eye- the centre of my forehead- my and your centre of intuition. I connect myself to my innate ability to know what my next steps are and where I need to place my attention. I feel my breath fill my body and create space for possibility. I get anchored to my now.

yoga anywhere

I practice yoga daily, regardless of how many classes I’ve taught. I’ll whip out my mat for 5 Sun A’s or a 2 hour flow- whatever my present moment allows. I do this with intention, to repeatedly choose my now.

One of my favourite spiritual leaders, Eckhart Tolle, talks about ending our self-inflicted suffering by making “the present moment into your friend.” So, I do that. I choose to accept where I’m at, however many things I’ve accomplished and checked off and listen to what my body needs today. I am friends with my present moment and my to-dos of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

If you’re in it right now, tearing your hair out because you believe you haven’t done enough, take a deep breath. Sit back. Remember all you have done to date and the way in which all eventually gets taken care of. Take a break. It will be there for you tomorrow and the next day…or not, that’s up to you. Go live. Love. Be.

Namaste.  ❤

 

 

Fuego.

Daily dose of wanderlust, with an exotically-infused perspective.

Thank you for this share my soul sister!

Pura Vida by Claire Cole

Fuego.
A Mayan Ceremony.

You must take pause when something incredible happens. When you are moved. When you learn something new in a culture and feel it as your own. You might not fully understand it, but there is an energy and something shifts in you.

The day began by visiting the market to gather supplies for the upcoming ceremony. The market was busy and filled with brightly coloured fruits and vegetables that made you dream of recipes, excited your creativity and the result, of course…salivation. We resisted this time and made our way to a small stall to buy candles, corn husks and compressed dried plants to use as coal for the fire. Each candle colour represents a sentiment, aspiration, and intention. We chose to bring white, yellow and blue candles. White signifies the North, purification, peace and protection of children. Yellow represents the South as well as the…

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Fear Surfacing Post-NY’s Resolutions?

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Many of us felt like we set the world on fire with our New Year’s Resolutions this year- I know I did. In truth, I really feel that way. I’m going big and being bold in 2016. Does this sound familiar? The only thing standing between me and abundance is mindset. FEAR. It’s likely the case for you, too.

I’ve spent the past few weeks journaling, brainstorming, meditating, declaring, clarifying, breaking down, breaking through and being in action towards my goals for this year. I feel like this golden light has filled my soul and it’s energizing my mind and keeping me in alignment with what matters most to me: balance. So why the hesitation?

I know this sensation in my chest and stomach all too well. Tightness…unease…nervousness…tension. It’s fear a knockin’ and its seductive fingers promise to grip the life right out of me. You know it, too. Maybe you feel it in your throat or chest, but you feel it. For me, it surfaces most when real, possible, attainable, long-standing success becomes a part of my present or future path. That’s because an old fear-based story I have consists of not deserving or trusting success.

I’m reaching out to some big names, big brands, incredible people, places and events to take ME to the next level…and guess what? Part of me wants to throw up. Hide in a corner. Pretend I never dreamed these dreams and had the tools in my toolkit to get there. Ignore the truth that not pursuing my higher self would lead me empty, constantly looking to be fulfilled.

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The power we have to overcome our FEAR and ‘stick to resolutions’ stems from that mighty muscle upstairs: our brains. I see this fear for what it is- a story- and that means it is no longer attached to me. It has been identified. Made out. Caught red handed. It cannot exist as long as I’m pointing my mental flashlight at it and telling it to skip town.

Fear is at the base of many limiting beliefs and it can prevent us from getting to where we want to be and feel this year, tomorrow, in 1o years or whenever. We fear change, judgement, joy, love, connection, presence, power, acknowledgment, forgiveness, hope. We fear all sorts of things because of our library of stories.

Those books we carry around in our heads that we pull out time after time-their pages tattered from overuse, stained with dirty fingerprints- tell us who we are. They tell us stories like we’re not good enough, we’re awkward, we’re alone, we don’t deserve _X_, bad things happen to us, we’re not loveable, we’re not safe etc, etc. It’s all about the ‘good’ things we are not or the ‘bad’ things we are. They’re never nice bedtimes stories, they’re fear-based audiobooks on repeat… and we play the part of both the voiceover artist and the listener. 

Don Miguel Ruiz describes these stories as lies. Lies that we’ve created or absorbed from other people, over the course of our lives. The more we believe in them and use them, the stronger they are. The more we challenge them, the weaker and less likely they are to survive. If you can pause and hear that voice, you’re already-in a way- identifying it as something that’s separate from you. It’s your Ego talking and your Higher Self is listening.

It takes real patience and presence to change our behaviours and beliefs. It takes awareness to catch ourselves when we’re letting this abstract thing with an ugly intention, called fear, take us over. But, it’s worth it. On the other side of this mental work- this discipline and perseverance in identifying our limiting beliefs- is freedom. There’s unimaginable possibility and potential. There’s joy.

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So, I’m diving in headfirst. I’m giving fear the middle finger and I’m tuning out those stories each time they surface, or as often as I can. One step. One breath at a time. It won’t be perfect. I won’t always be triumphant against fear, but I’ll do my best. I’ll keep facing fear with an open heart. That’s my New Year’s Resolution.

Namaste. ❤

 

 

First photo: ZombieGerbil

Second Photo: Claire Cole Photography

Third Photo: Crystal Hahn Photography

 

A Love Letter to Nature

“I’ll never recover from this day,” a smiling stranger announced, with her jacket unzipped and arms outstretched on the boardwalk bench.

As I passed her by with my dog leash in hand and a breathtaking scene of the lake in view, I thought to myself- how perfectly true.

Normally, it’s below zeScreen Shot 2015-12-17 at 4.25.09 PMro-or close to- this time of year. In past years, this woman would quite possibly be commenting on the chill in her bones with a scarf covering her rosy cheeks. This winter, not so.

Life is made of up beautiful, unexplainable moments. Many that cause a stir in our souls because of their natural foundation.

It’s moments like this, where the sun’s golden shimmery rays dance on the winter lake and strangers smile at the ethereal glory around them, that awaken my senses and strengthen my heart.

Thank you, Mother Earth. Thank you, Sun and Moon. Thank you, Stars and Sea. Thank you for reflecting the pure beauty of humanity back to me.

Namaste.

 

Energy. 

She has a glowing soul and a talent for encapsulating what I can only imagine is the ethereal beauty of Guatemala. Miss you, my kindred spirit. Thanks for sharing your new chapter with me and the world! Here’s your daily dose of Wanderlust.

Pura Vida by Claire Cole

The full moon lights up the sky behindme. It is so bright and I can feel her energy beaming on me, lighting me up, lighting my path. I don’t know where it leads but there is light and I have glimpses. Some obstacles reveal themselves in the moonlight, and some lay in the shadows – waiting.

The stars are like fairy lights aboveme. Standing on the roof of Lisa’s house in San Pedro el Alto, the view is immense. The sky is vast and full of possibility. It is a reminder of life. Distance. Time. Possibility. Energy. Live and love loudly and the light from your life will still reach the Earth even when you are gone. The full moon has overtaken some of their brightness, but I have seen and felt a sky full of stars. I remember.

Volcan Fuego shows her power in frontof me…

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