Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gift of Stillness in the Midst of Chaos

“Art,” wrote Saul Bellow, “has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos… an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.” quoted from World Enough and Time by Christian McEwen.

Thanks to Suzie Banks Baum, for introducing me to Gwarlingo, who posted an article about Christian McEwen and her wonderful, inspiring book, and thanks to Michelle at Gwarlingo for reminding me again this morning in her newsletter about the importance of finding stillness in the chaos.

It's not even Christmas yet, and we've had two big Christmas parties, one with friends and neighbours, one with family, some of whom drove 10 hours to come and be with us in a pre-Noel party.

It is always wonderful to be with close family, see the new babies and rock them to sleep on my knee, cook comfort food for the guests, and as this was a potluck Shepherd's Pie party, with champagne, the preparation was only getting the house ready and getting out a few dips and snacks.

But in the days after, with a scattered brain and nervous edginess that linger, I am needing to find the stillness again. This is my challenge in the coming 12 days of Christmas....

My kids are both home now, the house is more full of their presence and good-natured helping out (yes, after age 20, they do become human again). I love that they love this home, the full fridge, food appearing on demand, warm blankets and all the amenities of "home". 

So I'll be nurturing and providing for the family, as well as wrapping presents and stuffing stockings, and my reading and writing time will be curtailed. The SoulCollage cards sit in their special bag, keeping each other company, but far from my eyes. The only 'art' I create will be my presence, what I choose to speak, or write in a card perhaps. This heartfull presence needs nurture and care. I felt it ebb very low yesterday, and this morning I sat a bit longer in meditation, needful, and mindful of filling the well.

I wish you that awareness, and a few moments of stillness in the coming celebrations. Take a moment to watch the ducks fly by the window, or the cardinals in the cedar. Step outdoors and look up at the cloud formations or the night stars. Breathe a little peace into your day, into your heart. And know that in the slowing down of the season, the winter darkness, our bodies too need more rest and stillness. Try and find that, if you can, and make peace with the need to be still.

happy Solstice
ps there is a free sample of a meditation from my Relaxation CD on my website at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December Light Celebrations

Ok, it's an auspicious day, 12-12-12. And the ice has newly formed on the lake outside my window (actually a widening of the St-Lawrence River). Winter has finally arrived.

What I want right now, in this moment, is to breathe into this little quiet spot, this brief oasis of tranquility before the holiday parties are unleashed (well, we've had two already, but the crunch will be Dec 24-Jan1). My classes are over, my shopping is almost done, and I'm taking a break today to bask in the sunshine (even if it's freezing out there), and take a minute to be thankful for all that has come my way this year. All the new friends, and the new learnings.

I am celebrating peace in my heart. I can't wait for the whole world to find peace, but I can practice peace, now.

I am celebrating more joy and happiness, after a lot of self-work, self-love and body-work, to release the holding and negative thought patterns of yesteryear.

I am celebrating my children's accomplishments, as they wind up their busy exam and project schedule.

I am celebrating having a warm home and hearth to cook in, eat in, and to enjoy the company of my spouse at the end of the day in.

I am thankful for all of you who pop up on occasion to read Musemother's thoughts and articles.

May your world be a quieter, gentler, inner-directed, peaceful place this holiday season.  May you go at your own pace, and follow the rhythm of existence, slow down and enjoy yourself with all your company, family and friends.

Merry Holidays, Solstice, New Year,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking Stock of 2012

The calendar is rolling around to the end of 2012, but we still have 12-12-12 to look forward to. What will you be doing on Dec 12, 2012 at 12:12? Maybe you’ll be sitting down with your journal looking back at the year’s highs and lows.

There’s a lot to be grateful for, isn’t there? For myself, in spite of having faced several huge challenges this year, it still feels like a very heart-full, healing year. Wouldn't that make a great journal exercise I thought, as I read a newsletter from a life coach who was celebrating her year with her business. Why not look back at January 2012, instead of forward at 2013, (not yet, not yet). How did the year start? If I go back and read my journal entries from that month, will I find my hopes and desires were fulfilled? Did I have a clear idea of what I wanted to explore and expand and bring into my life?

If you could make yourself a little ritual for the end of this year, sometime before the Christmas holidays get you ramped up and over-scheduled with baking, cooking, shopping and wrapping, it might just make your holiday season that much more gratifying, as you give thanks for everything that has come to you, all the projects you manifested, the actions you took, the rest you gave yourself, the time you allotted for self-care and finding balance in the mad rush of days…the love you shared with family and best friends.

Last year, my sister Sue, who does astrology charts, told me that my purpose was to learn how to nurture myself better, then to teach this to others. I found that in my journal from January 5, 2012. What a good reminder….must nurture self first, so I can walk my talk. I take a look back to see how I did this year…

In January, I was preparing to launch my book for women, The Tao of Turning Fifty. How could I forget those crazy months of proofreading and sending in corrections, waiting impatiently for the book to be ready to go to print so I could hold my book launch? Fifty lovely people came to the launch party at Enoteca Mozza in February. Within one hour of my Press Release, Mitsumi Takahashi from CTV had called to book a live TV interview (which ran in April). That was a good feeling! I had a few reviews and write-ups in local newspapers. Book sales are coming along, slowly but surely (about 200 sold online or directly through my classes, and speaking engagements).  On the way I’ve met lots of fascinating women, attended workshops on publicity, networked and blogged and twittered and Facebooked away the hours, connecting with menopausal women and women turning fifty. One more milestone on the recently revamped website – 100 subscribers to my newsletter!

I feel it’s time to thank you for all your encouragement and support in this, too. A writer without an audience is like a lone mountain climber calling his name into the canyons. She may get feedback, but not a sense of connection, which is really why I write.

In my forties, I had no idea what my fifties would look like. They have turned out to be the most creative years – something to do with kids growing up and leaving home, for sure. They were both away at school this year, one in Architecture, one in Interior Design. My daughter made it through Hurricane Sandy in October, and my son made it through a serious ATV accident in Greece earlier in July. In spite of having his jaw wired shut for 6 weeks, he was ready to get back to school in September, with not too many consequences. I was very close to my Vitamix blender all summer and back to motherhood 24/7. Time to practice what I teach about getting enough quiet time and rest. Looking back at 2012 has made me tired!

Lots more happened, of course. I filled up two ring-bound notebooks with pages of soul searching, questing and seeking for inspiration. Listen to your life calling was the name of 2012 journaling class. And it’s been calling me loud and clear. New classes in 2013 will be called The Creative Circle, as I welcome women into the circle of journaling and SoulCollage®.  I hope reading this blog will help encourage you to listen in to your life too.

Journaling is such a great, totally inexpensive, accessible way to find out who you are and what you want. As long as you have a pen and some paper, it’s the cheapest form of therapy I’ve found. In those pages, you learn how to be your own best companion, how to let the answers bubble up of their own accord, and how to tune into your inner guidance system, just by sitting and breathing, grounding and centering, then listening in for the gentle nudging and whispers from your soul… Here’s a short exercise for you to practice with:

What do I need today?
What do I want?
What am I grateful for? 

Three questions to set you on the road to wellness and self-knowledge.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Feminine Goal Setting at Mid-Life

“In this culture we are told to set goals. We are supposed to know where we are going and then take specific steps to get there. But this is not always possible, or even wise. It is the male model of linear, rational thinking. But the life process of women…is more chaotic and disorderly, more circular and intuitive. Sometimes we can’t see the next horizon until we step out of the old life. We don’t yet know where we are going. We may not know the place until we arrive.” —Joan Borysenko A Woman’s Journey to God  

I received an e-newsletter from coach Jan Carly, all about how goal setting sometimes trips us up. It really made my heart glad to read this from a coach who uses goal-setting as an important tool. Personally, I have some large perspective very big goals that are sometimes a bit vague, and several smaller detail oriented or focused goals, but I don't always find it possible to sit down and plan my day or week with a calendar, in fact my brain resists this kind of linear thinking like crazy (by going foggy and nonfunctional). I have the luxury of structuring my days by following my intuition (most of the time), on which projects are calling me or are my priority. And yes, I do have appointments, meetings and other people's calendars to deal with too.

But something about goal setting really rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps its the rebel in me, but I in spite of my circular paths and methods, I do manage to get a lot done. I have discovered that I need to leave a lot of room for spontaneity and last minute changes - like this morning for example. I had planned a cleaning day at my chalet - my niece was going to come with me. Our contractor had also picked this day to fix some shingles, inspect water damage and do caulking (it's a nice sunny day here, no rain in sight). But I was also dead tired after a very full weekend, with two supper parties and a full-day retreat I facilitated yesterday. So....although my goal for the day was set a week ago, in the end, my niece cancelled due to a hospital emergency, my contractor still hasn't showed up and is sick at home himself, trying to round up a crew to come here, (it's 11 am as I right this), and instead, unplanned,  I spent the morning listening to soothing music and writing my evaluation of the retreat, and perusing my SoulCollage(R) cards.  Which felt really 'just right' and just what I needed today.

This doesn't mean the shingles won't get done, or the caulking (I hope), but my schedule usually flows like this, and when I flow with it, I am a lot less frustrated.

Here's something that struck me from Jan's newsletter:  "Achieving a goal is a finite moment in time. The real living is in the journey. Success lies in being fully who you already are. Do you want to define yourself by one external moment? If you have the mindset that nothing is worthwhile until you reach a goal then what is day-to-day living really all about?"

Exactly! The day-to-day living in the moment, enjoying the circular, labyrinthine journey while remaining grounded, connected to the steps I am taking and the earth I am walking on, is paramount.  I find that, especially in mid-life, women discover they can't multitask successfully anymore (and new brain science tells us that our brains can really only focus well on one thing at a time anyway). I do need to promote my work, get out and meet readers at live events, plan for writing time and research time, but I don't see it happening in straight lines, from point A to point B. It works with synchronicity, spreading my web of contacts, woman to woman, attending conferences and workshops, remembering the local community I am living in and offering my services there. I can jump in my imagination to some far-future goal of being a famous author, and despair at the low number of book sales, or I can enjoy the journey.

So I make it my goal to be centered, and work with flexibility. Going in circles or spirals, doesn't indicate lack of forward motion. It is just a more intuitive way of working. Time is an illusion anyway, and the boxes we like to build around time usually get knocked down. You will know the place when you arrive, as Joan says. Allow your feminine wisdom to guide you, even while you are setting goals.

Have a great week,

Monday, November 05, 2012

Heroine's Quest at Mid-Life

If you haven't already, read The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock It's the perfect companion for a woman at mid-life who may be feeling that, in spite of her successes and achievements, she is tired of feeling like she is 'never enough'.

Women have their own quest, she says, and it is not the same as the Hero's quest (as described by Joseph Campbell). It is often a more circular, less linear journey. In spite of succeeding in a world where masculine values are more prominent and productivity is honoured at all costs, women at mid-life may experience a disconnect with their feminine selves - the connection to their emotions, feelings, intuition and relationships. This can manifest as exhaustion, burnout or just feeling dried up. Sometimes we lose our connection to the inner fire, our sense of purpose and meaning; we feel like we no longer know who we are.

Part of the challenge for women is that it is in our nature to give, to nurture, to tend and befriend. Women give and  give to all around them; but we end up with either a sleep deficit or an energy deficit, as we try to balance work hours and home hours, children, spouses, elderly parents; in spite of  being expert at multi-tasking, sometimes the juggler loses herself in there. The ball that says "joy", or "contentment" is not in the air anymore.

In the feminine quest for wholeness, in the need for reconnection with her authentic self, a mid-life woman needs to learn how to stop doing and learn how to just be.... "Being is not a luxury, it is a discipline. The Heroine must listen carefully to her true inner voice. That means silencing the other voices anxious to tell her what to do."  Murdock.

The hardest thing to deal with in the mid-life transition is the acceptance of no longer being able to 'do it all' with aplomb, like the Superwomen in the commercials and ads, who always have perfect hair, perfect clothes and perfect skin, in spite of working 24/7.  We feel there is something wrong with us for not being able to juggle all our roles without extreme fatigue. But in our mid-forties to fifties, often the proverbial 's...' hits the fan, and our bodies force us to slow down - all we want to do is rest, garden, chill out, so we can find our way again.

This is normal, and part of trying to live authentically. As Murdock says, to be true to ourselveds, we have to stop acting to please others and find out what nourishes us. A woman may even go through a depression or a dark time of voluntary isolation, descending to the inner world of body, emotions and intuition, in a sacred journey to excavate her soul. It may involve a search for her inner child, digging deep in dreams and memory for her lost 'magical' child self.

Often, women describe having dreams of crying babies, neglected or almost dying, who need to be fed. And Murdock sees this as a symbol of our connection with the feminine. How can be get back in touch with our own wisdom? not through the mind, but through the body, through getting in touch with our cycle for instance and allowing a rest day, by eating healthy food in a conscious fashion, by healing and feeling and dealing with our emotions.

Don't feel guilty, in other words, if you are extremely tired and can't 'do it all' anymore. Give yourself a break before you have a breakdown.  For more on this topic, read The Tao of Turning Fifty, What Every Woman in Her Forties Needs to Know. There's a chapter on Courage to Face the Dark, and Going Down and In that may particularly speak to you. see my website, for a free excerpt.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PMS, Menopause: My Beauty My Beast author

Interview with Pauline Houle, psychotherapist and author of My Beauty & my Beast, Mind, Body and PMS (and Menopause). Pauline came and spoke to my women’s circle years ago, and I found her approach to PMS fascinating. It also applies to menopause. Read on.

Musemother: Women at midlife sometimes notice increased PMS. From your work on this subject, why do you think that is?

Pauline Houle: There is one thing I have found for certain is that for some women it does, for others it disappears. If for any reason, a woman doesn’t take care of certain things, it comes back with a vengeance. Menopause doesn’t have to be a curse, but if stuff is kept under the carpet for too long, it will come out, not only as menopausal symptoms, but as cancer, or other diseases.  All the newer research and my training in New German Medicine, along with all our understanding about the mind-body-spirit connection, give us ample examples of such diseases and their intimate connection with our own life.

Life brings to consciousness or awareness what we haven’t dealt with. Emotional issues are unique and different for every woman. Our limiting beliefs are not the same; it is an intimate quest, our own path, so it must be different for each woman.

M: Body guidance is an important tool for intuition – listening to the messages from the body. What is the end of menstrual cycle about for women?

PH: It’s a different kind of freedom; it’s not just that I’m aging, or that I’m going to lose my husband, my kids are gone and I  have an empty nest – it doesn’t have to be like that. It is a time of changes. There is nothing on this planet that does not change. We have been so brainwashed to get rid of our natural cycles that pharmaceutical companies got the message loud and clear, hence enticing women to stop their menses. If women only knew the potential damage they are inviting in their life.  We have to relearn how to accept our natural cycle.

M: What blocks women from listening to their own wisdom?
PH: We block ourselves from a very young age; we listen to medical gurus, publicity, we try to keep up with the pack. And we become victims of the environment, including all the artificial hormones we breathe in, through air, water, food. I feel human beings, not only women, have lost their souls – we’re disconnected from our health. Women are working way too much, two-three jobs – at home, on volunteer committees, at work. We try to be Superwoman, and we’ve lost ourselves.

It’s an attitude, a mental attitude. I know I have changed. I can rest much more easily now than when I was thirty. But above all, I hold myself accountable for all that happens in my life. Taking full responsibility for all that happens is a great master. It never lies.

M: What about the Inner critic: how does this hinder us at menopause?
PH: From a very young age, we internalize those voices. We hardly revise it as we get older, in some areas, but not in others – we will undertake a path that got shown to us early on, and we rarely revise what is our true essence. PMS and Menopause both serve as a wake-up call – we ask ourselves, what’s important? And take a look at the symptoms that show up nowadays – women lose concentration, their memory, the ability to multi-task – what if this were really a blessing?

M: Do women get better at self-acceptance as they age?
PH: If we look at the results of the survey to determine if PMS is a result of subconscious states linked to our personality, in my book My Beauty & My Beast, Mind, Body and PMS, the majority of women say their mental attitude will affect how they experience menstruation. From what I’ve collected, 77% of women believe our mental attitude affects how we prepare for menopause, and only 11% say it does not. “The belief that each one of us has inner power seems to be on the rise.” (MBMB) In my book, in the last few chapters I discuss menopause:

“My experience has been that medical science has rarely invited people to understand and make pertinent links between their emotions (invisible) and their physical symptoms (felt or visible). The bridge has but started to be built…If PMS can sometimes find its source in a biochemical imbalance and sometimes in the psychosomatic field then the same goes for menopause.
…body pains and symptoms are but a signal to let us know we have something to take care of, something to heal and transcend.

…I think menopause should allow all women to reorganize their lives so that they can do the necessary cleaning up of those untouched dreams that have been unattended for too long. All our limiting beliefs have infiltrated themselves into the smallest cracks. The time has come to refine and clean up.” (MBMB)

PH: In conclusion, menopause has a biochemical component, the body has to readjust, but once it has readjusted – it’s fine. But the more you want to get rid of it, the less you embrace your reality, the harder it gets. The menstrual cycle and menopause are part of our make-up as a woman. When the doctor told me I was menopausal, he was ready to write me a prescription, but I knew this was not for me (HRT). Even my husband thought I should look into it, but I said no. One month before my book came out in 2000, he said, I want you to look at this, how right you were. It was a scientific study in the JAMA journal, a study with 10,000 women showing the link between HRT and increased risk of breast cancer.

M: What can help women listen better to their own wisdom and what blocks us from doing so?
PH: Our Inner critic blocks us, the big fat lies we tell ourselves. If we never revise the recipe of our life, in any aspect or field we play in, we will keep harvesting the exact same result. Wasn’t it Einstein who said that: The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

Well, dear Jennifer, at times we are so blinded by our routine of repeating what we know best, that we have forgotten to ask ourselves enlightening questions such as: What else can I try or explore and harvest different results? What have I not been shown or taught that could make a difference?

And then, how can I go and get it? How can I change my belief system? Because after all is said and done, we are not who we think we are, we are who we believe we are, even if we have lost track of the beliefs behind it.

M: Thank you Pauline for this enlightening conversation.
Pauline Houle is a Social Worker and psychotherapist in private practice who loves to find the truth and the hidden reasons behind the psychological and physical symptoms of her clients. Visit her website

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Falling in, Fall

feeling the need to retreat this fall
my birth day only one week away
and turning inward
going down and in
quiet and solitude my desire
to listen carefully
to grow my roots
to nourish myself
and be more able to be present
wholly present
for my companions, friends, fellow travellers
may I be happy
may I be healthy
may I be whole
may you be happy 
may you be healthy
may you be whole
may we be happy
may we be healthy
may we be whole


Monday, October 22, 2012

Increased Intuition at Menopause?

Dr Christiane Northrup, in her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, says that hormonal changes at menopause are actually rewiring a mid-life woman's brain for greater access to her intuition ( "We go from an alternating current of inner wisdom to a direct current that remains on all the time after menopause is complete. During perimenopause, our brains make the change from one way of being to the other."  TWofMenopause.  But how do we get in touch with that intuition? In our busy, frenzied pace of life, sometimes that still, small voice gets drowned out.

Time alone, solitude and calm - these are the best ways to encourage listening to the inner voice. How do you get time alone? That is the question. Northrup suggests that we first acknowledge and validate the need,  and from my workshops with women, I can say that this is the hardest part. We feel the impatience and crankiness that results from not having time to hear our own thoughts without distractions, and that is the first clue. But we must be willing to allow ourselves to feel worthy and deserving of quiet time, because it will not be given to us on a shiny platter; we will have to push something else aside to make room for ourselves, so we can dialogue with or listen to the Wise Inner Self (my name for my intuitive side).

To court our intuition, we need to give ourselves the space and time to be away from whatever noise and activity is disturbing us and preventing us from getting in touch with our inner wisdom (cell phones, email, telephones, kids, work stress). It doesn't mean you have to book a weekend away on a desert island, although that would be nice. But you can clear a little private space in your home - after the kids are gone to school, or inside your cubicle at work with earphones on. What can you do that is absolutely practical and doable, to create a space, even if it's just an inner space, for you to court your intuition?

I think intuition is always available to us, but we need to learn how to tune in, to trust it, learn the language it uses through the body guidance we receive. Sometimes you may feel a sense of calm, a feeling of being in the  flow, the serendipity of the moment. Or you may feel a tightening in the belly when something is wrong, out of whack, and your inner senses or instinct is warning you. Learn to pay attention, be open, and act on the information you receive.

Here are some tips, from practices I do to help me stay in touch with my Inner Wise Self or intuition:

-        -   Cultivate your inner awareness through more downtime:  rest (naps), yoga, chi gong, relaxation
-        -   Spend time alone walking in nature, meditating, getting in tune with silence and calming the static
-       -    listen up and follow up – when you follow your intuition, it helps strengthen that Inner Voice
-         -  Write in your journal, start a dialogue with Inner Wise Self as in Writing down your soul. ask the question and wait for the answers to come. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting through it: Menopausal Minefield

How did I survive it, I wonder sometimes? Looking back at the time I spent in sleepless nights, feeling like I was going crazy, weeping in my bedroom or lashing out at my teenagers with impatience, feeling far away from my husband and just generally, not 'myself'; it feels like the long period leading up to menopause was a dangerous minefield.

What helped me through it? lots of different things - Promensil, a little red clover pill I got at the pharmacy, suggested by a woman friend a few years older, prevented hot flashes and melt-downs of heat. I know some women like to call them Power Surges but I could do without those, thank you very much.

There were ups and also Down times - I remember seeing a counselor for about a year, for talk therapy and anger issues. I didn't like the little explosions, the unexpected blowing up at my kids and spouse. Therapy took a few layers of defensive stuff off (and helped the shoulders), and gave me some practical tips for getting help and not burning out, but after going over the same childhood territory, sad, lonely teen with a chip on her shoulder from being little mother to her siblings, alcoholic mother, workaholic dad, etc etc, it was getting a little repetitive, so next I saw a Reiki therapist who also did reflexology and gave me very sound advice about how being a Mom, flipped upside down, was WoW. Energy work of any kind, cranial sacral, reiki, osteopathy, are all very healing.

I must have seen four different homeopaths and naturopaths, looking for the perfect mind-body health solution. It wasn't only menopause, but those aches and pains at mid-life - who ever heard of bursitis before age 45? or basal cell carcinoma? I also had a frozen shoulder from too much working on a laptop computer. Still bothers me, but an osteopath (saw several actually, before I found "the one") helped me unfreeze it, as the whole collar bone and neck was affected. There were nights when only a heating pad could help the pain.

Hmm, diet wise, a naturopath helped me discover low iodine was a problem for my thyroid, and the tendency to wallow in depression lifted. Losing the gluten was a miracle, discovered after a month-long diet where you remove things, one at a time, first no red meat, then no chicken, then no eggs or cheese, til finally I was eating rice and veggies only, with some rice protein powder smoothies. All those joint aches and pains, weeping sessions, weight gain and mood swings were not from menopause and aging, but from a gluten intolerance.

Low libido and sex life - this minefield is more slippery - pardon the pun - it goes up and down, and although I've taken oat tincture and Lorna whatzername's supplements, used the Ganga lubrifier and other JoyToy remedies, this one feels more like a communication issue. Still working on that one. Mostly, it's about speaking up, and allowing myself to enjoy mindless pleasure. Go figure!

Yoga and meditation were my constant companions, and still are. There is just no way to find inner peace and balance without them, for me. That and journal writing have helped me negotiate the mine-fields and not get blown up in the process.

The skies are clearing now, the storm clouds mostly gone, and blessed be, my kids are studying in two different cities, so my alone time and hermit needs are more frequently fulfilled. I am so loving leading Creative Journaling and SoulCollage(R) classes, and discovering the company of other women on the journey. And now it's my husband's turn to navigate the mid-life minefields (he's growing a beard).

take good care now, and if you want to learn more about the peri-menopausal journey and self-care, look for The Tao of Turning Fifty, on my website or at

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Stress and the Mid-Life Woman

I'm so glad I'm not the only one eating whole bags of potato chips! yes, according to Women's Health Mag editors, here's what women turn to when we're stressed or under duress:

- Nutella or peanut butter straight from the jar - (guilty as charged)
- a whole bag of Oreos
- a whole pint of HaggenDaz ice-cream
- a pound of Twizzlers
- sprinkles by the spoonful (nuh-uh)
- a dozen ready-bake cinnamon rolls (baked!)
- chocolate in any form
- booze
- a bag of potato chips

(from poll and survey done by

What are your favourite de-stressors?

Recently I posted a quote on my facebook page from Gail Sheehy The Silent Passage ( about how rest and restorative relaxation are so important for women at mid-life. When I was 45, mother to two pre-teens, and running like a chicken with my head cut off from volunteer work to doctor's appointments to after-school chauffering, stress seemed to be a constant. Being in peri-menopause had a lot to do with it - juggling all my time commitments seemed more challenging and my patience seemed to wear thin more easily. Yoga and meditation were helpful, but I needed to stop pushing myself so hard. After I broke my leg skiing, at age 47, I began to take regular naps and give myself permission to rest more. With a leg in a cast, I had no choice!

So here's the thing about stress: you can eat your stress, or you can do some deep breathing exercises, take up jogging, or lie down for a nap every day between 5:30 and 6:00. So what if supper is a little later one or two nights of the week? Can you cut down on some extracurricular activities or carpool? What will make your life seem a little less crazy? Can you ask your spouse to pick up the slack?

Until I broke my leg I was doing all the errands, appointments and meal preparing, figuring that since I was working from home, it was easier on my schedule. Asking for help was hard for me, having been programmed to do it all myself, and having a strong control freak in my nature. But it was a very wise move - and it helped my husband feel more included with the kids' activities. He'd take them skiing on Saturdays while I rested with my legs up the wall, and prepared a hot meal for them and a roaring fire (while sometimes; my fire-building skills took a while to perfect).

"It is of utmost importance for any woman over forty-five, faced with high-stress professional or personal demands, to commit herself to some restorative relaxation measure. It might be biofeedback, prayer, yoga, or routine meditation. ...The single most important aid to continued health through the menopausal transition is proper rest." Gail Sheehy

by the way, I recommend this Women's Health Ultimate Yoga Guide, found at the local pharmacy. Great easy yoga moves to tone your body, food to help slim down and chill out, and more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Journal writing tips

Flipping through my files to find the Benefits of Journaling for a talk I'm giving Wednesday on Navigating the Mid-Life Transition, at the Pointe Claire Library I found these tips I use in my writing classes:

Pick a time and place: Find a Quiet Place to do Daily Journaling
Write at home or somewhere else, as long as it is comfortable, with space for privacy and time without interruption. Find a time that works for you – first thing in the morning is often easiest, before the day gets too busy. Or just before bedtime. There is no ‘right time’ except the one that fits your schedule. If we don’t claim this time, it won’t happen.  A few guidelines I found in Janet Conner's wonderful book  Writing down your soul, Janet Conner website :  Show Up, Open Up, Listen up and Follow Up.  

Start Each Journal Entry With a Date
This will make a difference, especially if you go back and read them later. Dates help pinpoint events.

Write one Word or One Line
Write one word that describes your day. Write one line that sums up something that happened. Write about how you feel today, what your body is feeling. Describe the view from your window. Or the bird that just hopped into view.  I dare you to write just one line.

Let it Go
No need to censor yourself; put the editor on the back burner. Write as it comes, without correcting grammar or punctuation. Look for the free flow, and use a timer for five minutes or ten minutes and keep your hand moving on the page even if you think you have nothing to say. (A little trick I learned from Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Be as Creative as Possible and Take Risks
Remember that nothing in this journal needs to be "finished" or complete. You can jot down drawing ideas, compositions, bits of dialogue, a story plot, a poem or quotes you love. The idea is to get the juices flowing!  There is no censor, no rules, no worries about grammar, and we write quickly so the editor doesn’t chime in.

Write what you’re afraid to say, write the taboos and silences that don’t get spoken. Write what your heart really aches to say to someone but can’t. Write like there’s nobody watching. Tell the inner critic to take a break for five.

Let your Journal be the launch pad
Use coloured pencils to draw in symbols and images. Add colour to express your feelings. Let your dreams come into your journal. Keep it beside your bed so you can write them down before they disappear (sometimes you’ll remember them if you get up to go pee in the middle of the night, keep a pen handy). Paste things in your journal, pictures you cut out of magazines, photos, stickers, piece of textile you love the feel of, things you love.

Visit Planet Sark to see examples of zany playful creativity and journaling.

Journal writing can help you to:

Learn to pay attention to the ordinary details of your life, observing & collecting beauty.
Gain perspective on where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going
Develop a stronger sense of who you are, what matters and counts
Become your own best friend: cultivate loving kindness for yourself.
Listen in to your women’s wisdom or Intuition, and dialogue with the inner voice.

NOTE: If you are worried about someone reading your journal, find a way to lock up your journal, put it in the glove compartment of your car, write at a library, shred the pages you are worried about; make it safe and private. 

Happy Writing

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let your heart be drawn by what feeds it

These days, I'm writing but not writing. Blogging, journaling, writing essays, lectures, sometimes lists, keeping a daily agenda filled with notes of things to do, but lately no poems, no spontaneous bursts of creativity. Sigh. My heart is not in it, I guess.

I found a great quote on Facebook, (where I often steal quotes in beautifully photographed frames). This one has no picture around it, but just says what I feel in my heart these days:

It's not about figuring out what Big Thing you are here to do. It's about recognizing what is life-giving and turning your face in that direction. It's about letting yourself be drawn by that which feeds your heart and soul, about being present enough to turn away from that which has no life for you to turn toward that which makes you open and open and open, like a blossom reaching toward the sun, rooted in the earth.

I'm not sure what the Big Thing is anymore. It appears to have escaped me once again. But I just spent five days and more on retreat, listening to that which feeds my soul, and now that I am back home, I feel slightly different. It's not that I am not promoting my book, arranging speaking engagements, setting up classes to begin next week, but in my heart, I am happy to sit in silence for a wee bit longer, filling up the well.  I stand at the washing machine and separate the white from the coloured piles, get through the suitcases of laundry, but still my heart is remembering how full it feels. I don't appear to need to write about it.

My normal habit of doing three things at once is still on automatic, but I find myself stopping in the middle of pouring leeks, potatoes and broth into the blender to just savour the moment, take a breath and feel my feet on the ground. I look out the window at the loud wind blowing through the tall grasses and the oak tree, the sumac bending over double, and I feel calm, not anxious.

So may be I am feeling a tiny bit more present, more open to turning towards that which opens me up inside, like a sunflower turning towards the sun, but still rooted - as I am rooted in the everyday actions of cooking, cleaning, typing, doing laundry. I spent a number of days listening to Prem Rawat, a teacher of mine for almost forty years, speak in sometimes humourous sometimes deep and serious tones, about my connection to the Divine, and how important it is to feel it, and how easy to let go to it.

I don't feel like I need to tell you everything he said, I just feel in awe of the transformation that has come over me. A little disconcerting at moments, when I relish just sitting in the silence and letting the tender ecstasy take over. There is still a small part of me that resists, but it is getting smaller, being washed away by the love within, the strong pull of the human heart wishing, no, longing for connection.

So there, I've said it, I am turning away from flogging my 'products' and turning towards writing about the heart's need for connection and love. It seems very unworldly of me, almost naive in a childlike way. But there it is, the need for more admiration of existence, the need for something greater to fill my sails from within, the need to turn away from chasing fame, success, and glory, and just be, who I am. That is the shortest complete sentence in the English language by the way, and it's written on a cap I brought back from Amaroo - I am.

Thanks be, I am.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Yes, You Are a Teacher | Crazy Sexy Life

if you have ever wanted to teach but doubted your ability, your credentials, your sincerity,
read this by Jennifer Louden.

Yes, You Are a Teacher | Crazy Sexy Life


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Listening for my own Wisdom

Phew! After a very tumultuous summer, the house is empty, kids at university. Now for some quiet down time, some alone time with my journal for more than ten minutes. Listening for my own Wisdom.

As a workshop and retreat leader, I often have to come up with something new to present, a new title or descriptions of my classes (or rewriting my website, which I'm doing today).  It leaves me a little perplexed really. I feel humbled by the fact that I really  have nothing to teach except what I am learning very viscerally, in this human earth school.  What I learn over and over again is how important it is to find the still small center of me to hold on to, in all the busy, dizzy, turbulent, whipped around until your head spins world of daily activity. A place to stop, and ground myself by breathing. Or by taking a walk in grassy fields and wooded forests. Or soaking in a hot tub while listening to the red winged blackbirds.

But really, of all the ways that I practice finding my center, either through daily meditation, weekly yoga, tai chi or dancing in circles, the one that gives me solace every time is my silver mirror: my journal. It's my link to my guidance within, and it helps me develop my inner wisdom.

How does it do that? I'm not sure - I've read many books on journal writing, and visited umpteen blogs by authors  - really, though, the simple truth is that I sit down with a quandry, or a question, or a slight feeling of unease, or a desire to praise the day, and I confide in myself. I open a doorway to another part of me, call it a higher self, and I communicate with it. I ask a question, using a similar method as Writing down your soul author Janet Conner suggests (, and often by the time I get to the bottom of the page I have an answer or at least I feel more at peace with myself for having expressed my feelings. Is it angels answering me? some would say that. I prefer to think of it as listening to my inner wisdom, whatever the source.

Of course, sometimes I use my journal to jot down lists of things to do, or funny things my kids said, or write drafts of articles for the blog, but mostly it's my Inner Wisdom that I want to access. I like to use creative visualization to imagine meeting my Wise Inner Self, and that helps me get in touch with a wiser, seemingly older Self who often gives me good counsel. If you imagined yourself at 80 years old, talking to your forty-something self, you might discover your inner wisdom close at hand. That's the kind of exercise I love to do in my classes and retreats. You'd be surprised at how wise you already are, if you just take the time to consult your wisdom.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SoulCollage(R) and Journaling

Monarch Butterflies on Rudbeckia

Summer is still in full swing, but already I'm looking ahead to fall and what classes and retreats I want to offer. My newest discovery and training is as a SoulCollage(R) facilitator, so I'm going to combine it with the journal writing class. I have always used collage in different forms in classes I lead - we do found poem collages, life journey collages, soul as landscape collages - it's a fun way to touch the creative, artistic side in an easy, non-threatening mode that anybody can do.

Here's what I am offering in two weekly classes - one in the evening and one in the afternoon. 

Journal writing is a sacred way to slow down and notice your life, cultivate serenity and eliminate the obstacles to living the life you want. Every class we will play with words and images, for the joy of self-expression. Through journal writing we gain greater self-knowledge, find out how to connect with inner guidance and intuition, and how to hear and trust our own truth. Sharing with others is always optional, but a beautiful chance for learning and growth. The comments are often, I feel less alone. I am not the only one….

SoulCollage(r) : is a tangible way to know yourself in your diversity and depth, and also to show yourself to others. ... In like-spirited groups, you can share cards and work with them in many sacred ways. You can consult them intuitively and discover wisdom within yourself which will amaze you. Besides all this, creating them is just plain fun!  ~ Seena B. Frost, founder.   I will provide the images, glue and card backings. We will create and share cards together.

What I'd like to gently guide you towards doing: take time for you and refill your creative well through centering  and creative exercises; feel more worthy and deserving (put yourself on the list); learn to nurture the voice of the Inner Coach, let go of the Inner Critic; develop and trust your Inner Guidance. Explore and discover the meaning of the Feminine energies and life cycle.

ps these are offered in the Montreal area, and perhaps one day, on-line

Monday, July 30, 2012

Can you make it to Fifty?

You don't have to be nearing fifty or over fifty to know that life is fragile. But there is something about getting older that helps us realize our mortality and realize there are things we need to do or be before time runs out. I remember my GP congratulating me when I hit 50, and I thought, why would she say that?

Recently, my 21 year old son had an ATV accident in Greece, and while he came out of it (10 days later) relatively unscathed, miraculously not brain damaged or incapacitated, he was unconscious and intubated for the first few immensely scary days, in an intensive care ward far away in Athens and then later in Frankfurt where he was brought by air ambulance for an operation.

My husband and I flew to Athens to be with him, and entered that strange liminal space of not being sure from one day to the next what his condition was, or what his prognosis was. The second day we were there, they reduced the sedation and tried to remove the ventilator, and while he didn't open his eyes (or couldn't), he did squeeze his father's hand and give us a thumbs up. For which we rejoiced! Responding and all there, very good news.

Over the next week, we had many ups and downs, many conflicting pieces of information about what would happen or needed to happen next, as they performed CT scans and checked his brain for swelling, his many fractures adding up, from below his left eye, his left jaw, double fracture in front of jaw, a broken rib, a bruised lung,  two vertebrae broken, but not impacting the spinal cord....lots of trauma. We learned to live in the moment, and yet yearned to be able to bring him home to Montreal.

I remember letting go to panic and anxiety a few times, lying there with my stomach muscles all squeezed tight in a ball, having a hard time sleeping. Or crouching in a hospital hallway crying, not able to handle the uncertainty anymore. Thank goodness my husband is the strong stoic type and only broke down in tears twice.

Through that week, one thing held onto me. Or I held to it. Not sure who was doing the holding, but it was a great comfort to have a place inside to visit, to focus my mind and heart on, to not be totally swamped by the worst case scenarios playing out in my mind. Some mornings, since we were still jet lagged, it was hard to sit and practice meditation, and sometimes we just got up, showered and went to the hospital.  But the moments of relief that came, as we learned more about his state of health, also brought a deep feeling of gratitude and connection. I'm not sure I handled myself very well all the time, what with all the changing medical staff, nurses doctors and physiotherapists, night staff, morning staff; or the ICU staff dramatically walking us back to the door with the bell, where we needed to wait and not just walk in to their controlled environment.

Thank goodness a few personnel even spoke some English or we would have been more lost at sea. And for the insurance company logistics people in America, who had an open 24 hour line and revolving staff, who had a file on our son and knew where he was, mostly, and what he needed, mostly, and helped us decide where the best care for him would be and when it was safe to fly him home.

It's been two weeks since the accident, and my son can now sit up and walk, feed himself, is almost off the painkillers, does not need a second operation for his jaw, although it's wired shut for 5 more weeks. My friend and neighbour's Vitamix blender is my new best friend. It's like feeding a baby bird, but a 160 pound, 6 foot tall one, who needs protein and feeding every two hours. Our friends sustained us with texts and emails and support and a very large network of prayers was holding my son in the light all that time.

I'd like to say I have a new appreciation for my mortality, for all of our mortality, but I feel more like a first time mother with a newborn, noticing the dangers everywhere, slowing down and stopping fully at intersections, wanting to scream at anyone rollerblading without a helmet, noticing all the stupid ways we act dangerously, unconsciously, putting ourselves and others in danger.  I feel newly raw and overwhelmed with the knowledge that life is so fragile, that a bad break a few centimetres closer to his spine could have left my son paralyzed or a vegetable. And also extremely grateful.

I used to say when he was a teenager that I just wanted him to make it to age 21, to survive teenage-hood without too many broken bones and calamities. Now I want him to make it to at least 50, or older. I won't make any bets or deals, but I do want to appreciate all the moments we have left. And hopefully his GP will congratulate him when he turns 50.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


ok, a tiny bit of book flogging and self-promotion. There are at least five different ways to order this great book:

The Tao of Turning Fifty, What Every Woman in Her Forties Needs to Know - actually any one between 35 and 65 who wants to journal along with this workbook and discover exercises and prompts that encourage you towards taking better care of yourself, putting yourself on the list, and listening to your inner wisdom and body guidance, will benefit from this book.
Chapters Indigo:

Barnes and Noble online:
Kindle Version also available on for $9.98

Various prices, starting at $14.99 and in Canada around $15.15.

or see a free excerpt and link on my website:

I am looking for someone to review this book in a major women's magazine, so if you have any connections that way, please let me know.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Mid-Life Journey Through the Wringer

One summer, while vacationing in Nantucket, I went down to the ocean with my teenage kids, to watch them body surfing and jumping through the 10 foot high waves. It looked like fun, my husband was joining them, but I hesitated on the edge, watching. In one brave moment, I decided to dive through a big wave and reach them on the other side, thinking I knew how, from observing them.

Wham! I was pulled under, rolled around and sent into a spinning topsy turvy roll, struggling to get back to the sandy shore. My husband held out his hand to help me, only to get thrown on top of me, as we rolled over and over, unable to stand or catch our breath until the Wringer was done with us. Once I got back on my knees on the sand, gasping for air, I pulled up my bathing suit, shook the sand out of my bottom, and walked shakily back to the cottage to lie down for a while, thoroughly K-O'd by the ocean's powerful waves. A lesson in surrender, and a full Neti saltwater cleanse at the same time.

Recently I was looking at a SoulCollage(R) card I made called Transcendence or Coming Through, which shows a big blue tsunami sized wave, and a woman in performer's mode, arms up, as if to say, Ta-Da! I made it through in one piece.  Thinking back on my menopausal or mid-life journey, that is what it feels like now. Ta-Da! I'm ok now, I can breathe and stand on my own two feet.  Made it through! I know the mid-life transition can feel that way for some women. It's like a huge wave that sends you rolling, topsy turvy, no longer sure there the sky is, where the ground is, where your center is.

And make no mistake, you have to dive in to that wave, you can't really avoid it. But I want to reassure you, you will come out the other side, as long as you take time for yourself: lots of down time, slowing down to feel what you feel, taking notes, and allowing life to teach you whatever lessons it needs to show you. There's no point avoiding the work you need to do - there's no point shutting down your emotions, withdrawing from the process. This is major roadwork - renovations are underway. You are not the project manager, you are the house being renovated. Or so it feels like sometimes.

As Alexandra Pope says in her wonderful book The Wild Genie you have to go down and in before you can come up and out.  Face the fears, the demons, give yourself some stretching time to be in your body, do some yoga or tai chi, let yourself write down what you need, allow yourself to imagine what you love, what would really bring you alive, get in touch with your wild feminine landscape - your inner creative fire. Don't fall back asleep - this beautiful transformation called mid-life is a wake-up call to a deeper, more authentic you.

You will make it through the wringer - find some friends to talk with, read all the books and blogs you can find, and perhaps even look into The Tao of Turning Fifty, written by a woman who has been through the wringer and now can say, Ta-Da!

musemother  free book excerpt and link to

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Power of the Feminine

150 year Oak Tree, Galilee Center

My mind is being blown by a new book - The Wild Feminine by Tami Kent This is a ground-breaking book in so many ways. If you have ever felt your energy scattered, or wanted to complete a creative project - book, quilt, painting, drawing - and were unable to get back to it, if you ever have felt blocked or had stories to tell but no confidence to write them - you need to read this book.

Tami is a physical therapist, but she also works with energy exercises and visualizations to help women get in touch with and unlock the creative energy in their pelvic bowl. Yup, the container of our female parts, our invisible round as an orange uterus, our bulbous ovaries (she says they hold our creative sparks), our curving fallopian tubes, and all the apparatus inbetween. This center of the universe, this core of a woman, is where we hold our sadness and grief, our joy and our desire to create - not just babies, but books and art and goodness knows how many creative juicy projects.

I have read many books, been to many workshops, visited umpteen blogs about creativity and also about the power of the feminine cycle, but the exercises in this book made a difference in my body, and in how I feel energy circulating - this morning I was reading and doing some of the visualizations, and feeling rather scattered, drained, tired. She was suggesting my uterus needed completion after the end of a project, clearing out, and as I followed her suggestion to visualize energy like water flowing out of me into the ground,  releasing and breathing and letting go of what was still inside me, I began to feel calm, centered and at peace.

The power of ritual is a relatively new discovery for me. Coming from a heavily Catholic tradition with Church and incense every Sunday, I kind of didn't want to go there. But lighting a candle or taking a bath to clarify my thoughts and help me focus has become a ritual I love to do. Anything that honours the feminine qualities of rest and receiving feels very healing to me right now. Probably because I am so type A productivity minded that it's a challenge for me to slow down and rest up. Right now I'm exhausted - at the tail end of a cycle (and yes, women after menopause still have a cycle, and women who have had hysterectomies still have their energy center where the uterus was), and it felt good to let go, let down, and be at that end part. One must honour all the creative work, all the grunt work that comes with manifesting, labouring through a book publication, or a fundraising project, and just let one's field lie fallow for a while.

So that's what The Wild Feminine taught me today - I'm headed off on vacation and a fallow time of resting, music, wild grass and trees, the ocean's saltiness nearby and 'time off' of all my projects. (Well, I know I'll be reading and thinking and reflecting on my next retreat the Inner Garden, and some SoulCollage(r) cards, but that's not really work....)

Consider this, any of you who are women reading this blog, you have untold energy and creative potential inside of you - and you can contact it, stir it up, calm it down, renew it and find healing through it. Check out this book if I have made you curious.

ps a new Relaxation CD will soon be available for sale through my website - link on upper right hand corner of this blog. or send me an email.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Peace in the Heart

A discovery

Slow down, turn down the volume.
Begin to hear a sweet immortal sound,
played in the heart of every human being
on the face of the earth.

It is the most divine
of all meditations,
sweeter and more fulfilling
than any yoga.

Listen to that sweet sound.
It is the ultimate mantra
you don’t have to speak or remember.
the one mantra going on for every single being.

Listen. Within you.
It is the single-most profound poetry.
It is a song more rhythmic
than you can imagine.
Listen to you.

Listen to this beautiful, sweet sound.
Listen to that request.

Within you lies a poetry,
a song that is being sung every single day
in a language understood by every person
on the face of this earth.

It does not distinguish between rich or poor.
It does not distinguish between holy and sinner.
It does not distinguish between weak and strong.
It is the same for every single person.

Listen to that song that is in your heart.
Listen to that request that is in your heart,
like a little bee comes to the flower,
like the flower turns towards the sun, 

come with your thirst,
all you need is you. 

The above poem is from a collection of poems found in the words of Prem Rawat, that I am working on right now. It's been a pleasure to work with these words, excerpted from his live addresses, and barely shaped, just a little, by me. 

Listening to Prem in person is even better. He speaks in poems. He touches the heart. He speaks unscripted, from the heart, from his own experience.

I am very excited to let you know that he is touring North America this summer (in Europe right now, Denmark on Sunday), and that you can request an invitation to hear him, at no cost. He'll be in Canada in July : Toronto, Roy Thomson Hall, July 8, and Montreal, Palais de congres Wed July 11, 7:30 pm.

Please watch this short, inspiring video and at the bottom of the youtube screen is an address to click for the invitation request.

May your thirst lead you on!