Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Heart Wide Open: The Journey of Feeling Real can't selectively numb emotions. Either we choose to embrace the whole experience, with all the emotions involved, or we shut down. We numb. And there are many ways we do this- sex, drugs, alcohol, food, over-busying, planning.

I've chosen to be open.

Sometimes it sucks because when we don't numb our emotion,  being open means we take the ups with the downs. It doesn't mean we don't have the power and choice to walk away, say "no" and set boundaries, but it does mean we engage with our truth.

It's important that we walk into the "arena" with tools- faith, good friends who will love us unconditionally, practices that bring us home- but more importantly, we walk in with courage. Deciding to be "all in" takes immense courage. And I can tell you that from my own experience.

There is no greater practice of courage than deciding to engage fully and be present to your truth.

The courage we practice to engage feels vulnerable, but it is also the birthplace of power, creativity, love, connection and belonging. Why? Because when we risk being real, when we can fully embrace where we're at, we also open up to these other parts that bring purpose, meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

Practicing courage may mean we face rejection, failure and hurt, but it's worth it. There will always be the risk, but to live a wholesome and fulfilling life for that risk is well worth it.

In the process of writing this article, I reflect back to a relationship I had in the past that didn't work out and needed to end. It hurt. It was shitty. But you know what? I don't regret one bit of it because I connected to another soul, learned more about myself (what I want and don't want), grew as a human and then walked away with peace in my heart. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Most of us don't have one perfect relationship for life. We live our lives and experience relationships so we can learn more, decide what we want more of, become more honest and loving beings and grow in the process.

Where we have a choice is in whether we grow from the experience or not. Whether we are willing to see the lessons that an experience is there to teach us and then apply these lessons to our lives and the choices we make.

This is what being engaged in the journey (while we carry the tools and supports that bring us home) is all about. It's about paying attention to how an experience makes us feel and then deciding if its aligned with our path or not. Then we get to choose what we do with this information. A question we might ask ourselves in this process is, "Is this _______ (job, relationship, habit..) making me a stronger version of myself?" Then we can choose to stay or walk away.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Climbing Lone Cone Mountain: Realizations 2,434 feet Above Ground

On my final days in British Columbia, about three weeks ago, I spent two nights on Vancouver Island. One in Tofino, a small coastal surf town and the second on Meares Island, where the 2,434 foot mountain called Lone Cone stands. I got there by water taxi in the early afternoon and dropped my bags at the only human settlement on the island, a small campground and hostel run by native people. I was on my own and I had to get started ASAP. The sun would be setting before 7pm. The hike is meant to take about 2 hours up the mountain and this was my first so I knew I had to hustle.

It would be me and the mountain. Literally.

I was the last one to go up.

The climb challenged me in so many ways, physically, mentally and spiritually. I wanted to give up. I cried. I got back up. But the key was that I faced myself, found greater faith and grew as a result. It was a process and I want to share some it with you.

The first third of the climb was quite easy. A good workout. And then I questioned my ability. The phrase "You can't do this Julie" came to my mind. And at first, I listened to it. I stopped hiking and broke down in tears. The shitty voices of people who discredited my dreams because of their own limiting beliefs came. The stigma and judgement around mental health and sensitivity came flooding. And then I realized I had a choice. I could let those voices define me or I could choose to see that I am more than someone's shitty opinion. I am more than judgement that is said by people who don't have experience around that which they are judging.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,....who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

And so I chose to continue climbing. My legs hurt, but something in me knew I needed to do this. And if I wanted to get to the top, I didn't have much time to linger. I had a transformation to go through and it wasn't ending halfway up the mountain.

I ran into the last two people to go up who were now coming down. They said I'd be at the top in about 30 minutes. Phew! It was good to have some reassurance. I was almost there and super sweaty.

When I was about 10 minutes away from the top I wanted to give up. Again, a silly thought that I could choose to believe or not. From my breakdown further down the mountain, I was starting to realize that I was more than those thoughts. I had continued to climb and I was choosing to believe in myself and listen to the voices of those who have supported and believed in me.

And so I continued to the top. What a feeling of accomplishment. I was following pink tape tied to trees and finally the trees cleared to make way to a cliff that literally overlooked a straight drop down 2, 434 feet. It was scary, but here I was doing something pretty crazy and I was proud of myself. I reflected on how much I've grown in the past few years and how my journey of personal growth has allowed me to open up to so much. I'm so grateful. Going on adventures like these has challenged me beyond who I thought I was to become who I really am.

Being open to life experiences is the best advice I would give. 
We need real, raw, heart-filled life experience to grow and become more of who we are.

I remember hiking down the mountain, smiling to myself.
"We are more than our mind-created doubt and the voices of people's shitty opinions."

Yes, I had those thoughts. Yes, I remembered some shitty opinions. But they weren't about me. They were about them. Because I kept climbing to the top anyway. And what counts at the end of the day is our willingness to do the things that scare us, despite the doubt. We become stronger because we do and in the process realize that the only person who gets to decide what you can or can't do is you.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

14 Comforting Mantras to Remember When S*#T Hits the Fan other day, I was talking on the phone with a good friend about recent transitions, changes and hurts I've been experiencing. Before I even had a chance to realize it, I found myself going through a breakup and moving to another living space while the seasons changed. And no, the two aren't related! Although I believe that what happened was meant to be, everything happening at once is a lot to process for anyone. In this phone conversation I had with my friend, we talked about feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and how these feelings often accompany a time of transition. We also talked about the importance of the "how" we handle these times. It is through self care, reaching out and surrounding ourselves with support and love no matter what we're going through. These habits make the process of healing from hurt and adjusting to transition much easier. We are more open to learn and grow if we can practice kindness to ourselves and realize that we are so worth it no matter what we are going through.

Two weeks ago, I came back from traveling. Along my travels, I was in North Carolina where I saw Brené Brown speak live. She is a well-known author, writer and TED speaker. Her talk, "The Power of Vulnerability" is one of the top 5 most viewed! She studies and shares her work on shame, courage, connection, worthiness and vulnerability. Her work has inspired me in so many ways and continues to help me in my own growth. Some of the mantras I mention here come from her work.

Also, I chose this photo of trees for a reason. I was also in British Columbia about two weeks ago for my travels and there, I saw many beautiful trees, as old as 1000 years. It struck me that we are like trees. We may sway in our lives when things happen, but our roots continue to grow and hold us to the ground where our true strength lies.

Be Authentic: When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending. Own where you're at, wherever that is.

Reach Out: asking for help is never weakness. It is strength. Connect with close friends (in person) who accept you for who you are. There is always support.  

Be Present: this is about allowing ourselves to feel our feelings (there is great power in dropping the resistance and just letting ourselves feel the hurt, anger, confusion etc. without judgement). All emotions are beautiful. 

Take a Step Back and Slow Down realize that "doing" can wait; feeling good from within is the most important thing. Rest, take a break, a nap, a breath. Letting our body rest is the best way to prevent burnout. 

Practice Self Care Every Day do small things each day to nourish yourself. Feed yourself, take a bath, sleep, exercise, do yoga. 

Take Off The Pressure let yourself be imperfect. Let yourself be silly, weird and not so serious. It's okay to mess up and fall down. We all do.

Be Kind and Gentle Towards Yourself often we can be our own worst critic. Try talking to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love. 

One Step at a Time rather than trying to do it all at once, focus on the one thing you can do right now to feel good. Many of us, including myself, can become addicted to over-busying ourselves. We get busy to numb our emotions. We get busy when we put our self worth into how much we're doing, rather than who we are. There is great power and freedom in doing less, I'm finding.

Focus on What You DO Have Control Over vs. what we don't. What we focus on grows. So when we focus on what we can affect and impact in ourselves, we are truly in charge.

Celebrate Every Single Step rather than steamrolling over the small things to get to the big things. The small things put together are the big things. The small things are the ones that matter at the end of the day.

You are Unconditionally Worthy of Love and Belonging no matter how much you're doing, what you're doing, who you're with or not with, YOU ARE ENOUGH. There is immeasurable love, power and strength within you, even when we may not feel it.

What Can I Learn? each experience is there to make us stronger. Every experience has a lesson in it if we're open to learning. Be open.

Life Loves You God, The Universe, whatever force you believe in, is working in your favor and taking care of you. Trust in your intuitions and the signs life puts in front of you. They are not random. 

This Too Shall Pass No experience, feeling or thought is permanent. No matter it is, it will pass.