This past weekend I watched Brene Brown's Call to Courage on Netflix. It was excellent of course! I recommend watching it. There is so much great material in it. There's one piece that's been sticking with me that isn't even the main point of the show. Near the end she mentions that women most often feel shame around their body image and men most often feel shame around their role as providers. I have since been reflecting on this.
As women I know we are so much more than our appearance. SO much more. And I know there is some good emotional material of my own to dig into here. For now though I'll say that it angers and frustrates me to think that we still live in a culture where a women's appearance is so heavily emphasized and that it is something we still experience so much shame around.
A friend of mine said "if only eyes could see souls". I agree.
As if it isn't enough to feel pressure to look a certain way and be a certain size, how about the thousands of us who just purely don't feel safe in our bodies? Energetically many of us are not grounded in our physical bodies. Our energy is in our heads most of the time, or even beyond our heads and outside our bodies completely. Whether that's for the simple fact that you're a woman and that might not feel safe to you; or because you don't fit the particular mold set out in magazines, television, runways, social media, or even family and friends. Or perhaps you have experienced physical or emotional trauma that's left part of you believing that it's not safe to be in this body. Energetically, even the experience of an emotion that we don't want to feel can leave our energy sort of hovering above us - "Nope, don't want to go in there, don't want to feel that." Not to mention the pace of life that surrounds us, the disconnection from nature, and the constant bombardment of wifi, cell phone signals, environmental pollutants, a culture that emphasizes knowledge over embodiment, etc etc.
Let's switch this up to something a little more positive. I invite you to close your eyes and take the time to ask yourself the following questions. What would it feel like to live in a world where people feel safe in their bodies? How do those people interact with you? How do they interact with themselves? How do they move? What do they look like? How do they speak to themselves? How do they speak to you? How are they in their relationships? How are they at work? How are they in their general lives? How do they treat their bodies? How do you feel when you feel safe in your body? And how do you treat your body when you feel safe in it? Does the way you feel in your body relate to the way you feel in the world?
The above paragraph is available in audio below so that you can really feel into this and notice what comes up.
For now, put your hands on your belly, take 3 deep breaths, and say to yourself "It is safe to be in this body. It is safe to be in this body. It is safe to be in this body".
How do you feel now? How do you feel in your body? How do you feel about your body's appearance?
You are beautiful. I mean it.
Since the weekend before last my intention has been: Listen.
Art I created with this intention in mind
Beyond feeling and knowing how important listening is, I've been dealing with some ear issues. When I was a kid I had really bad earaches and as an adult, mild tinnitus, and lately some eczema and blockages. My go to with something physical like this is Louise Hay's Heal Your Life. It was one of the first books that set me on this spiritual path. She sees the ear as a representation of our capacity to hear of course but also "not wanting to hear".
For a while I have been craving a silent retreat and with so much gratitude, the Universe brought me one. I spent this past weekend at La Solitude, a silent retreat center, with Jacynte Leger and Terri Hall for a Kundalini Yoga Retreat. I have friends who have gone to La Solitude and I've been wanting to go myself. I know Jacynte through a few different circles, and met Terri in Souris, PEI where she teaches and where I have been going every summer since I was a child. Not only all of this wonderfulness, but the retreat was called Discover Your Inner Wisdom. Inner Wisdom, connecting to it myself, and helping others connect to it is a passion of mine. It was an amazing weekend!
Photos of La Solitude by Jacynte Leger
In between the morning and afternoon session on Saturday I was cozy in my little cabin with the woodstove going. I began to focus my awareness on my ear and asked "what is it that you don't want to hear?" I suppose it helped that I was in this very quiet place physically and energetically, that I was surrounded by nature, and that I had practiced Kundalini Yoga the night before and that morning because I received answers. The first answer I heard was "I'm fat" and I realized that my spirit didn't want to hear the things I had been saying to myself. The second answer I heard was "I'm ugly". I know! Why would I say these things to myself? I guess I didn't realize that looking in the mirror and thinking these things could have such an impact. And I don't think I've been doing it all the time but it seems that thinking it even once in a while can affect us. I would never say those things to someone else so why would I say them to myself?
Other things my spirit didn't want to hear:
I'm not good enough
I'm too sensitive, emotional, etc, etc, etc
There's not enough to go around
I have been on a long journey of lowering the volume of my inner critic's voice and changing it's words. I guess I didn't realize how loud it had gotten again and how the negativity of what it's been saying has affected me. I had also forgotten the importance of the words we put after "I am...". Wayne Dyer talked about that. I love this meditation of his. Might be time to start practicing it again. :) I know so well the importance of honouring what we're feeling instead of stuffing it down and the suggestion was to say "I'm feeling..." instead of I am.
The Kundalini session that afternoon was all about connecting with your soul and listening. Near the end of the session Terri said something along the lines of be careful what you put after "I am" because it will come for you. And then she recited some of the things we often say to ourselves and no joke, the first two things she said was "I am fat" and "I am ugly", the very first two things my spirit let me know it does not want to hear me say to myself anymore! I nodded internally. Message received and confirmed, Universe. Thank you.
Ode to the Ear
PS. The awesome Practitioners at Forever Healthy are helping me with my ear and I am so grateful. <3
Have you ever seen the Yin and Yang symbol and wondered what it meant?
To me it symbolizes balance.
The two sides of the circle represent Yin (the darker side of the circle) and Yang (the lighter side of the circle).
In Yoga we can think of our practice in terms of Yin and Yang. Yin Yoga is a slow and passive practice; poses are done on the floor, held for longer periods of time (2-5 minutes) and we are working with the deep connective tissue of the body. Yang Yoga is a bit more active or dynamic; some poses are done on the floor and many are done standing, poses are held for 1-5 or more breaths, and we are often targeting more superficial tissue, muscle, etc.
You can think of the breath in terms of Yin and Yang too. When we are breathing slowly, deeply, steadily, into our bellies like we do in diaphragmatic breathing and Durga pranayama (three-part breath) that would be a more Yin form of breathing compared to when we our breath is shallow and we are breathing into our chest. Kapalabhati pranayama (fire breath) at a rapid tempo would be an extreme example of breathing in a Yang way. And from the breath we can look into our physiology. Slow, steady belly breathing induces the relaxation (Parasympathetic) response while shallow, rapid chest breathing kicks the the stress (Sympathetic) response into high gear.
Here's a bit of a summary plus some other ideas for Yin and Yang:
We need both Yin and Yang in our lives; both are important in their own ways. Check in and observe, notice, be a witness to the balance or lack of balance in your life. How much time do you spend at rest? How much time do you spend exerting yourself? Consider this in terms of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self.
And join me on Wednesdays from 12:05-12:55 at the Brookside Wellness Centre where I share a class that includes both Yin and Yang poses. Typically we begin with flowing, active, Yang movement and then we settle into more still, grounded Yin poses. We lift up the energy and move with breath and then we calm the energy and ground into breath. Come try the balance for yourself. This class is suitable for beginner to advanced Yogis.
PS. If you look deeper into the Yin and Yang symbol you will notice that there is some Yang in the Yin represented by the white circle in the darker half, and some Yin in the Yang represented by the dark circle in the lighter half of the symbol. Even when we are lying completely still in Savasana (a very Yin pose) the body is still moving because we are breathing. And even when we are in the most Yang pose (let's use handstand for example) there is still some part of us that is still, otherwise we would topple over. There is always the grey area. ;)
So, you've decided it's time to begin practicing Yoga? Or to come back to it after some time away? Or to try out a different teacher? Congratulations! Yoga is that wonderful friend who welcomes you when you're ready, understands when you need space or time apart, and is happy when you explore. Plus, you always feel good when you're around Yoga. :)
If you are coming to class with me for the first time, please come 10-15 minutes early so we can be introduced; so you have time to fill out a health history form and discuss any injuries, conditions, or concerns with me; and become familiar with the space you'll be practicing in.
Bring your Yoga mat if you have one (there are usually mats for you to borrow if not), and a water bottle if you'd like but it's not necessary. Wear comfortable clothing. It's suggested that Yoga be practiced on an empty stomach so if you need to eat before class, choose light snacks and save your big meal for afterwards.
Now, to take the pressure off....I believe that if you can breathe, you can do Yoga. You don't need to be flexible. You don't need any prior experience with Yoga. All you need to be able to do is breathe. In fact, if all you do is sit and breathe with awareness during the whole class, that's okay; that's still Yoga, and I believe it's the most important part of Yoga - breathing.
I welcome you to a safe space where you can release all expectations you've placed on yourself and get to know your body, mind, and spirit: your 'self' better. I am your guide, your body is your teacher. You don't need to do anything that is uncomfortable for you, does not feel right in your body, and definitely not anything that causes you pain. If any of these come up for you, find stillness, and come back to your breath.
Often in my classes there are students who have been practicing for years, brand new students, and everyone in between. What your neighbour is doing may be completely different than what you are doing and that is okay. I encourage and give everyone permission to follow their body wisdom; if you don't know what that is, that's okay too, it's why Yoga has found you. What a fun journey ahead!
If you're running late, relax, you are on your way to Yoga after all. I don't mind if you arrive late, just be respectful of the fact that we may be in silence, so please enter quietly. If you need to leave early, please let me know before class so that I am not concerned when I see you go before everyone else, and please leave quietly. During class, give me a little wave if you have a question, concern, or need a suggestion regarding a pose that is not feeling right for you, and I will come over.
Please contact me with questions, comments, or feedback at anytime.
Always be respectful of yourself, other students, and me while in the studio space, and hopefully beyond. :)
Welcome to our community!
Oh, Great Mother,
I wish to love my body,
Always with "sing" and "love".
Lately I've been attempting to eat mindfully...not an easy feat for a food lover/devourer but enlightening none the less. This evening as I was eating I thought to share the experience with you by taking a photo of my delicious pizza! And no, that is not being very mindful of eating and only eating, but I choose not to judge myself because of it. :)
I see mindful eating in three steps:
1. Before eating ~ I sit down (no standing and eating!), I turn off electronics and put my cell phone away, and I pause. I think about my food and where it came from. My pizza is on a gluten free crust (made in Edmonton), with feta cheese (Montreal), balsamic vinegar and olive oil (Italy), and black pepper (India). The shitake mushrooms are organic, from Ontario I think. The arugula, broccoli sprouts, chives, parsley, and sage are all local and organic, some right from my backyard, or pots in the sunroom. I think about the work that went into these things and how they arrived on my table: the farmers and their hands that worked the soil, picked the harvest; the trucks and the drivers that drove long distances to bring some of the toppings to the store; and then the supermarket or farmer's market where I purchased them. I give thanks to all these people. I give thanks to the soil, to mother earth, to the sun and water for helping these things to grow. I give thanks to the divine/creator/spirit for supplying me with the money needed to purchase these things, for allowing me to do a job that I love, and for the clients and students that I share my work with. I could give thanks forever! I look at my food and how beautiful it is and the pleasure that went into preparing it.
2. Eating ~ Yay!! I take a bite and try to tune into each flavour, each texture, and taste separately and then combined all together. I try to chew mindfully and lots! Chewing is one of the first steps of digestions, very important. I try not to rush to swallow it down and get to the next bite but instead take my time and s l o w d o w n . I set my fork and knife down between bites. I try to keep my mind on the food and not other places. It's interesting to watch my urge to grab my cell phone to see if anyone's sent me an email or text. I think I've realized the reason for this but that's a whole other blog post. Other thoughts that come up often are work, family, men [it is spring time! ;)], friends, etc.
3. After eating ~ I sit and breathe. Another very important step in digestion. I continue to breathe and sit in the same spot where I ate my meal until my body tells me it's ready to move on. I notice how full I feel or if I want something else to eat. I notice if I have the urge to reach for something sweet or if I don't. I notice if I feel light or heavy. It's all very interesting. It's also neat to observe the thoughts that come up when I'm eating on a schedule, with someplace to be, or something to do very soon.
So, why am I doing this? Well, I struggle with digestion and food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are hard to discern but when you eat mindfully you become more aware of what settles well in your system and what doesn't, also what moves along in your system and what doesn't. This is one of the many instances of your body's innate wisdom sending you messages and when you are mindful you are more apt to receive them. And also, I believe that in general we need to slow down and be more mindful, that health and integration will not come to us in this fast-paced, high stress way of living.
Since I've started eating mindfully I've noticed:
~ Eating mindfully reminds me to be grateful for all that I have.
~ For proper digestion I need lots of time to relax both before and after eating.
~ I don't need to rush through my meal. I'm not starving and no one is going to come along and steal my food.
~ I'm eating less and what I do eat usually consists of high quality, healthful foods.
~ My digestion is better which leads to more energy, more exercise, more productivity and more smiles!
~ Food is one of our many connections to the source. If it weren't for earth, soil, sun, water, animals, humans, and divine love and energy we would all be very hungry people.
Thank you, source. Nandri.
(Nandri means 'thank you' in Malalayam, the popular language of Kerala, India)
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of mindful eating please visit: http://www.tcme.org/
Please feel free to share your experience(s) with mindful eating and any yummy photos that you may have. :)
"Please don't let me forget to be thankful for this breath, and this one, and this one; that I can pee and poop and eat and drink and see and touch and feel and talk and write and hear and move and walk and chew and be in love and understand; that I can roll over in bed and sleep without all these things (medical equipment) attached to me. "
"Thankful to be alive."
"For each day."
(Personal Journal, January 31st)
I recently had a family member in the hospital. It was difficult and awful and I do believe that I am still processing it on both physical and mental levels. She (family member) is merely happy to be alive and I so admire that in her.
It was a week at the hospital for her and three nights and most days for me. I couldn't bare the thought of not being there if something were to happen or if there was something she needed. Two of these nights I spent in the hospital's chapel. It was peaceful in there. Once or twice I felt that all I could do was get down on the floor and bow down. Bow down to what though? The divine I suppose. But not just the divine, to the earth, I needed to feel that connection, and in that connection feel the divine, feel whatever it was that was keeping her alive. And are these things not all the same?
In my last post I mentioned 'Namaste' ~ the light in me recognizes and honors the light in you. That light is the divine, is it not? Aren't we all part of something just a bit bigger than ourselves? I think so.
'Om Namah Shivaya' ~ I bow down to the divine. I bow down to you. I bow down to life and the journey, the web that brings us together. I bow down to the beauty of all that is.
What do you bow down to?
I've always had a hard time with writing. It's like there's a lot more going on in my head than I am able to put on paper, or to speak of for that matter. But in the past I've found that once I do it, the outcome is often not so bad. This past experience of writing has always been school related, something I had to do, not something I wanted to do. So when the lovely people of 'Weebly' (my website provider) shared with me that I needed to 'start a blog' for my website to be 100% complete, I pondered it...
Lately I've been experiencing surges of creativity, most often in the morning. Do you experience this? It's like I can't concentrate on anything else until I create something. Most often I need to do something with my hands, like cooking, or drawing, or painting. So why not write?
I have to pay homage to my throat chakra here. It is the chakra of expression and creativity. I take these bouts of creativity as a sign that the energy is moving and I am grateful. You see, every time we don't speak up for ourselves or hold back words that we want to or have planned to say, that energy gets stuck in our throats, the flow ceases, tension is created, and we lose our balance. It's that simple.
I will write more about balance in the future, and the chakras, and energy, and flow, and Yoga, and Reiki, and TRE, and whatever else may come to mind. This is called the 'N' Blog because there will always be a word beginning with the letter 'N' involved. Today it is Namaste....
Namaste is the traditional Sanskrit salutation that yogis and yoginis share at the end of a Yoga practice. Of course, it is used in other situations as well, but this is the most commonplace. Quite simply it means 'the light in me recognizes and honors the light in you'.
Thank you for sharing your light with me.
Natalie loves life, people, animals, plants, and trees. She believes in the flow of life and approaches each day with gratitude.