Pay attention, be astonished.

Pay attention, be astonished.

You may recall the 2007 story of internationally renowned American classical musician Joshua Bell performing as a busker in Washington D.C.’s Union Station. It was a social experiment orchestrated by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten to see if people would pay attention to a world-class musician playing in an unexpected location. For 45 rush-hour minutes, Bell gave an all-out musical performance. He played some of the world’s most intricate pieces on his 3.5-million-dollar violin and later noted that it had been some of his best work. Only six people stopped to listen to Bell that day and the musician (who is used to filling concert halls) made a total of $32.00. 

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On Being Fierce.

On Being Fierce.

Last week I had a phone conversation with a woman who is powerful beyond measure. She is a leader, a problem solver, and someone who others look to for inspiration and guidance. This woman’s vulnerability was palpable. She was clearly feeling worn down by the weight of overwhelm and exhaustion, brought on by staying too long at a job that demands too much. On the day we spoke, she had had enough. Enough of being the one to put out the fires. Enough of being there for everyone else. Enough of a system that didn’t recognize her humanity.

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Harnessing mindfulness: A lesson in slowing down

Harnessing mindfulness: A lesson in slowing down

Last week, I headed into the heart of British Columbia, on a rock climbing trip.

At the outset, the trip was designed around the desire to take advantage of the warmer and drier climate of B.C.’s interior as a kick-start to the climbing season. Now make no mistake, I am not really a climber. At least, in the past seven years (or so), my love for riding my mountain bike has far eclipsed my desire to climb on rock. But in a previous time, climbing was something I loved to do. I was drawn to the presence that it required. For me, the perceived (and sometimes very real) risk of falling allowed me to access a quality of focus I struggled to connect with in the rest of my life. 

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Feeling stuck? 5 steps for getting out of a rut.

Feeling stuck? 5 steps for getting out of a rut.

Do you ever feel like you are in a rut? Stuck in a pattern that feels old and out of date? The truth is that most of us, at some point in our lifetime, have felt like we are caught in a way of being that has felt limiting or even stifling to us. It can feel like we are in a holding pattern of sorts, a cycle of behaviour or experiences that don’t match the life we imagine for ourselves. We can feel misaligned or detached as aspects of our careers, our relationships, our lifestyle or simply our patterns and behaviours feel out of sync with what truly matters in our lives.   

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Why self-care isn't selfish.

Why self-care isn't selfish.

When I was a young girl, my mother had a specific tree just behind our house where she would occasionally retreat to when she needed a break from being a full-time mother, trapped on a 100-acre farm with four boisterous children. It was her place of refuge. For a few short moments, with a cup of coffee and her thoughts, my mother would sit quietly, hidden under the droopy branches of a spruce tree.

Usually she was able to slip away while we were out playing or otherwise occupied, but a few times I remember my siblings and I running around the house and the forest, trying to find that special tree and our mother who had taken her brief reprieve from us. 

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Tapping into the intelligence of our body.

Tapping into the intelligence of our body.

Last month I took a yin yoga teacher training course, despite the fact that I am an unlikely candidate for yoga training. After all, I own only one pair of yoga pants, I can barely touch my toes and for most of my life stretching has been low on the priority list. Yet there I was, for two weekends, immersed in learning everything I could about the philosophy, physiology and structure of yin yoga.

In Taoist philosophy, the yin yang symbol embraces the complementary forces of light and shadow, action and inaction, moving outward and inward. It is a symbol that reminds us of the balance that is needed in our lives. To embrace both of these forces is to recognize the changing (rather than static) and cyclical experience that is life. 

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Why being alone terrifies us.

Why being alone terrifies us.

In 2014, a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin explored whether modern-day North Americans are capable of being in a room—alone and without distraction—for 15 to 20 minutes. Their findings were resounding, but not surprising. While the studies showed that most of us prefer doing “something” rather than “nothing,” it also showed that many of us would prefer just about anything over the prospect of spending time alone. In one of the studies 67% of men and 25% of women opted to self-administer an unpleasant shock over experiencing 15 uninterrupted and non-distracted minutes by themselves (one participant actually shocked himself 190 times in the 15-minute time period).

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The power of retreat: Allowing your soul to catch up.

The power of retreat: Allowing your soul to catch up.

I stumbled upon this quote as I was flipping through Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath, in December and the words really struck me. The idea of just staying in one place for a few days, with the sole purpose of allowing my soul to catch up sounded so alluring to me. It had been a crazy but interesting fall, and despite the infusion of mindfulness and slowness in my day-to-day, there was still an influx of frenetic energy going into the various projects and plans for my business. When I read this quote, it sunk inside me like a stone as I realized (once again!) that I was living too far in the future and I needed to stop and let my soul catch up.  

So, at the beginning of the new year, I decided to book a rustic cabin in the mountains (no electricity, water or heat!) for a retreat of sorts; an opportunity for me to get away from the distractions of my day-to-day life and really slow down and get clear about what was really important to me. 

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Less fear, more action. Intentions for a new year.

Less fear, more action. Intentions for a new year.

In 1933, the new President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttered the now famous words, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inaugural speech to a country caught in the grips of a deep and terrifying depression. It was a time of great uncertainty. Economic instability, drought, high unemployment and fear were rampant across the western world. 

Roosevelt's words were powerful at the time, and they still ring true today. 

Biologically, fear is a highly useful emotion. After all, when we feel fear it triggers a fight-or-flight response - a physiological reaction that shoots an evolutionary cocktail of dopamine and adrenaline through our body, honing our senses, our intuition and our ability to react. 

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Living life on autopilot: How to get yourself back in the driver’s seat

Living life on autopilot: How to get yourself back in the driver’s seat

I have to be honest. I am a little bit freaked out about the advent of the driverless car. Last weekend, I read an article on the projections by most major car makers that driverless (autonomous) cars will be on the market by 2020. Despite the argument that these cars will be safer than cars with drivers, I can’t help but shudder when I think about them. Maybe it is because they feel too futuristic (I mean, even the Jetsons drove their little spaceship), or maybe because I am getting to the age where nostalgia trumps novelty (I hope not!).

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