Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The true measure of success

(c) Free nature photos

Just got an email from Hay House promoting a book about success.

"Success is not about driving yourself harder; it is about letting go of what blocks your heart," writes Robert Holden, author of Success Intelligence.

In my on-going search for the best use of my talents, I have recently decided to offer a retreat for women called "Heart's Rest, The Power of Doing Nothing". My heart and soul have been telling me ever since I hit menopause that writing poetry and trying to get published in a literary environment was no longer fulfilling me. But I wasn't sure of the next step.

Today, I visited a new Yoga Space, called H-OM, near Montreal. Standing there in the middle of the wooden floor, basking in the reflective colours of red-orange on the walls (my favourite colour), I whispered to myself, This is what I want to do. This is where I want to be.

I am not a yoga teacher, nor do I want to be one. But I fervently want and need to rest, to create space for my heart and soul, to stretch and move my body to inspiring music, and do writing exercises that allow me to reach inside to where my authentic self lies and dialogue with me. And to share this with other women needing the same thing.

So, the path widens, or at least becomes a little clearer. I am finding Home.

There is one home, of course, that I carry with me, within me, and every time I flounder and look for direction, I can use the homing device that's built in to find my way back. To ground myself, get centered, find the comfort of peace inside. But to know what and where I want to manifest that peaceful feeling in the world is a big peace of my mid-life puzzle. It's all coming into place, and I remind myself once again, I am OK. I have everything I need.

It seems that little steps are all that is asked of me, or all that I ask of myself. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Stop and rest by the side of the path anytime I am confused. Sleep in, take a nap, trust that the path unfolding is the right one. That if my heart and mind are aligned, and my body is well taken care of, and the compass points towards Home, all is well.

My path is not in striving, nor in pushing myself harder towards some semblance of 'success'. The success I am looking for is the one that smacks of comfort, of being here now, of acceptance of myself exactly how I am in this moment. I am not a high diver, I am not an adventurous person or risk taker, but I can take small risks - small steps into the Unknown, and make success from the heart real.

Making the Unknown Known, my mission.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Designed for joy

Someone told me, look within.
Someone showed me where to look.
Someone, a beautiful someone, makes sure I get lots of reminders
of my true design, true address of home.

To see video, Designed for Joy click:

have a great day,

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nebulous thoughts and feelings

Middle of the night, sleepless (again!) and wildly thinking, thinking, thinking.

Ok, it was too much wine, a very rich dinner at a gala event, and my liver on overload that woke me up.

But the subject of my thoughts was something I am not sure I can put into words. I'm reading a book called The Heroine's Journey, which is awakening all kinds of recognition in me, about this quest or journey of finding wholeness.

For the longest time, underground or under my conscious awareness, there has been a desire to stop all outer influences, and spend time with myself. I imagined it as a white room, bare of colour and all distractions. A space to recover and discover who I am.

As a mother of two teenagers, one dog and two cats, living that way has not really been an option, but as I have described elsewhere on this blog, I do get time away as often as I can, on retreat or with my chorus, for a weekend or as long as 10 days, if I'm travelling afar.

But in spite of feeling satisfied with my surface life, underneath, this niggling feeling is still there, and in the middle of the night it returned. What if I could just shut off the outside world? what if I could take a sabbatical from being 'mom'? And what if I don't want to be a wife anymore either?

It's terrifying to consider this much change, and let me reassure friends and family reading this that I am not leaving my family. It's the roles I want to leave behind. I want to honour this call from within, this ever growing need to sever the connection with my 'servant self' as I want to call the part of me that puts everyone else's agendas first. Usually it's innocuous: a birthday party, a gala supper, a social event we've planned for, but over time, it bends me and shapes me into a person I'm not sure I want to be anymore.

My inner critic's voice is saying, but you can't cut off all ties, you can't live as if you are alone, you can't be selfish, the utmost mortal sin for a woman.

Something in me wants to let the wild in, let the spontaneous expression of my soul out. I don't know how, I don't know where it will lead me, but its discomfort is causing me to quest for time alone, to discover what I need. To be my own person, to be authentic, to be able to respond from within instead of relying on societal convention to guide my behaviour.

In my journal I wrote:

I am releasing old self-doubt. I am calling on self-confidence to help me move forward. I am a fox, invisible in my lair, observing the hunters on horseback as they search for me. I am a bat, hanging in this dark stillness, moist air cool and musty. Wings folded close together over my heart. Eyes closed, resting, restlessness fading, twitching eyelids, feet. Prayer-like, the way hands are folded at the heart. Dreaming a vision of what I want to be."

I remind myself, I am OK, I have everything I need. Release the need for struggle and suffering. Be well. Be well. be well.

And I continue to journey towards knowing.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Anger and Menopause

Before having children, I was not aware of all the anger simmering inside. If it was ever provoked, it came out in tears. A situation at work or in a relationship could make me feel helpless, teary, overwhelmed, but not like hitting someone or yelling.

Once children came along the floodgates were opened. All kinds of emotions rose to the surface, comfortable happy giddy, or irritable, cranky and angry. Was it because of the hormone release in childbirth? was it because there were now vulnerable small people to take care of and I had no idea how to deal with their crying fits or tantrums? their obvious disregard for my needs? or simply because my own emotions were so raw from lack of sleep, nursing babies, being on call 24-7?

For whatever reason, it was always a shock to see my anger burst out, to find myself slamming cupboard doors, or needing to take a brisk walk around the block, get out of the house, let off steam. It felt even worse when I saw a white handprint on my 2 year old's red behind.

I needed to find out more about anger. I was part of a Babysitting Coop and Moms and tots group that welcomed speakers, so I found a psychologist to speak to us. She described anger as an iceberg, with sadness underneath the surface of the water. I saw a therapist at the university where I taught part-time and began to uncover the legacy of emotional hurts from childhood and the connection to mothering. A book was born along the way, "Little Mother".

A pattern emerged. It seemed that 3 days before menstruating, emotions were definitely peaking. As I grew closer to menopause, my episodes of PMS grew longer, more intense. I especially felt bad when I would blow up for no good reason, some small disregard of 'rules' or schedules by the children, now pre-teens. After one particular shrieking incident where I lost it completely, I began to see a family counsellor again, for help in dealing with my emotional overload. My father had just died and I was two years away from complete menopause.

Now, in reading about peri-menopause, I find references to anger as being a signal from our inner wisdom. I found another speaker on PMS, who also describes it in these terms, as an ally, a messenger, a loud voice that won't be shushed, uncovering the wounds and slights that I have shoved under the carpet the rest of the month. It's the way my inner self calls out for attention.

Instead of giving in to anger, or allowing it to control my relationships, I want to find out what is underneath these uncomfortable feelings, because although the outburts are less frequent, my children still receive the brunt of it, now that they are teens and mood swings are affecting all of us. Here is why it's important to act:

"Your emotions are your inner guidance system. Your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs have a most profound effect on your health", says Dr. Christiane Northrup. "Listen to your anger, discover the underlying issues and take action or it may turn inward and cause depression - a risk factor for heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis." (Wisdom of Menopause)

If I don't learn to speak up about what is bugging me, if I avoid conflict and confrontation and act like a people pleaser to keep harmony and balance in the household, if I allow myself to 'do too much for others', it always backfires and ends up exploding out of me anyway. Or I feel sad and not listened to, like I have no voice. This is no one's fault but mine. It estranges me from the people I want to be close to.

When I am courageous and say what I feel, when I stop hiding my real emotions from others, and simply state what I need in a non-threatening tone, I am surprised by the change this provokes in others. We find a closeness, a connection that is nourishing. It may be that my programming for serving others first gets in the way of my truth-speaking. Maybe I can let go of 'feeling selfish' about staying in bed one morning instead of getting up to make coffee and toast for fully grown people who know how to work the coffee machine and the toaster....

There are so many ways I want to practice being true to myself, allowing myself to feel what I feel. In this role of 'housewife' and mother that I am growing out the perfectionist attitude that doesn't allow me to focus on my own work because I might be a bad the limiting belief that my joy, my expression of creativity is less important because it doesn't bring in as much money.

Menopause has taught me a lot about myself. It is the 'mother of all wake-up calls' as Dr. Northrup puts it. The emerging self is crying out for its own needs to be met. The solution is to learn to take better care of myself, find a balance between caring for others and caring for me.

"In truth, you are being urged, biologically, to pause from everyone - from mankind in general - in order to do important work on yourself.... [one of the most common feelings is] "the longing for time alone, for a refuge that provides peace, quiet and freedom from distractions and demands.

"Even if you can't charter a plane to a deserted island, odds are that if you acknowledge and validate your need for solitude then you can clear some time and find a private corner to which to retreat daily
." [away from telephones, noise, interaction with others]

This has been my medicine for anger: to rock my soul, soothe my body and mind, with precious time alone. It's not just for the hermit in me, but a good practice.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Mothering Your Self on Mother's Day

Dear woman reading this blog,

We can all celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, whether we are daughters or mothers. Whether you have physically birthed children or not, you probably mother others in some way. Maybe it's fellow employees at work, bringing them tea or coffee and a muffin. Maybe you give someone a shoulder massage when they're tense and uptight. Maybe you take the elderly woman next door a quart of milk and some eggs when you do your grocery shopping. Maybe you send someone's child home from school when they have a fever. Maybe you have three kids of your own, and need a sabbatical from mothering.

We all mother others in different ways. But this weekend, this day, how can you mother yourself?

This morning after the kids left, I made myself a one-hour mini-retreat with that theme in mind. I had a hot bath with lavender oil. I meditated, then lay on the floor and did some leg stretches, moved into downward dog, then rolled into happy baby pose down on the carpet. I stretched and yawned, feeling myself held and caressed by a loving presence. I wrote in my journal for two pages. Then I put on some Indian tabla and flute music and danced a little happy prayer of thanks dance.

You can make up your own self-care ritual; it doesn't have to be elaborate. It might involve doing something you hardly ever give yourself time for, like a mineral foot soak, or a special hair treatment. It might involve making yourself a healthy dinner with fresh green vegetables that your kids hate (asparagus, artichokes, green beans). Or lying on the floor in happy baby pose, rocking on your back and remembering that the universe is holding you up, you can trust in the power of love.

Whatever makes you remember that cherished, loved feeling, of I deserve love, do that.

Or follow the simple instructions below to practice the compassionate breath. Start by sitting, and inhale deeply. As you exhale, sigh out Aah. Take several long soothing breaths. Then with your hands one on top of the other over your heart, feel the drumbeat. Let youself become absorbed in the rhythm of its pulse.

As you connect to the energy of your heart, imagine it spreading across your arms, legs, torso and into your head.

Imagine the loving heart energy filling up every cell. As you inhale, gather loving heart energy into your heart and palms. With every exhale, let the energy spread to each and every cell.

Inhaling, collect this healing gift in your heart, As you exhale, allow it to radiate out and surround your body with its protective power. Feel it encompass your entire being, encircling your head, face, and neck all the way down to your sit bones.

Let it flood any part of your body that might feel uncomfortable, achy, tight .

From a deep inner smile, let a slight smile light your face.

When you feel complete return your hands to your lap. Notice the connection between yoour hands and loving heart even when they are not touching.

Inhale, exhale with a sigh, Aah. Repeat three more times.

Notice how you feel at this moment. Allow your eyes to open very slowly.

(taken from Yoga for your spiritual muscles, by Rachel Schaeffer )

Happy Mother's Day weekend,


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mother's Day Message

It was a privilege to have children, it was not a right. The elders, the women, they used to determine even who could have children. Had abortion medicines. And if somebody was abusing a child, they took that child, and the women couldn’t have children anymore. They determined that.

Children are sacred, living treasures, gifts from the Great Spirit. You always treated them as if they didn’t belong to you; they belonged to the Creator.”

Betty Laverdure, Ojibway elder, found in A Woman’s Book of Life, Joan Borysenko

Like any rite of initiation or test of endurance, giving birth is a heroic act. It is physically and emotionally exhausting, yet leads to a joyful sense of well being once the alien inside has been delivered. In facing pain (with or without epidural), we step through a doorway into another world. And give birth not only to a new child, but also to ourselves as New Mothers.

"To be a mother is an absolute mystery, which is relative to nothing else, comparable to nothing else, it is an impossible task and yet, gets done even by ‘bad mothers.’"
translation of text from Les Filles de Demeter, Chantale Proulx

There is a spiritual dimension to giving birth, recognized since ancient times as part of the Great Mysteries, the Blood Mysteries, the mystery of the cycle of life. Even our body’s make-up and physiology supports an experience of something ‘beyond’ or ‘above’ us in bringing a bond to this new, vulnerable little being.

“A woman’s biology is specially crafted to produce pleasure, excitement and joy for her in the ancient dance of relationship…a biochemically sustained infatuation gives rise to strong spiritual expressions of inter-connectedness and deep communion.A Woman’s Book of Life, Joan Borysenko.

And yet, often, the loneliness and lack of support, the lack of know-how, lack of sleep, and the demanding nature of the job can make us feel like we need a sabbatical from motherhood.
On this day of honour to Mothers, Mother’s Day, please write me with your thoughts on these questions:

What was the experience of becoming a mother like for you? What keeps you going? What support networks have you built for yourself to help you be a better Mom?

Remember how precious it is to be able to be a mother:

6.4 million American woman get pregnant a year
44% are intended (2.8 million); that leaves a majority due to failures in contraception.
4 million women give birth each year
1.6 million abortions/ 47% of women will have an abortion by age 45
7.5 million (13% of reproductive age) are infertile or have difficulty getting pregnant
2.3 million couples seek help with infertility

statistics taken from A Woman’s Book of Life, published 1996


Monday, May 05, 2008

Mothering Daughters; Hormone Replacement

If you haven't gotten it already, here is an excerpt from Dr. Christiane Northrup's newsletter, Monthly Wisdom, about mothering daughters:

Having daughters is about the most joyful thing going. If you’re looking for resources for raising a daughter and enhancing your ability to parent, I have the following suggestions:
Mother-Daughter Wisdom, the book and the Mother-Daughter Wisdom DVD of my very popular PBS show.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, the book and the movie.
A Time to Celebrate: A Celebration of a Girl's First Menstrual Period by Joan Morais.
Celebrating Girls: Nurturing and Empowering Our Daughters by Virginia Beane Rutter.
Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of her Body by Toni Weschler, MPH.
Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo.
The Mother-Daughter Project: How Mothers and Daughters Can Band Together, Beat the Odds, and Thrive Through Adolescence by SuEllen Hamkins and Renee Schultz.

for those of you in peri-menopause looking for an alternative to Hormone Therapy, Dr. Northrup has some information on bioidentical hormone replacement:

Seminar on Natural Hormones
I am happy to share with you an invitation to an educational audio Internet seminar hosted by the Center for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement (BHRT). The BHRT World Summit will help you understand how hormones can affect the health of your entire body, including your moods, sleep, and weight. Experts who have come together to impart science-based education to the public will also discuss ways to bring one’s hormones into balance. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity. Read for yourself about the BHRT World Summit by clicking here.

More on Mother's Day and what you can do to mother yourself, later this week.

take care