Words on living mindfully
The start of a new year can be exciting with the promise of good things to come. It can also create anxiety with the unknown and a "clean slate" ahead of us. I have been told that 2019 will move us forward at a great speed if we are following our passion and travelling a path with purpose, and promises to be a challenging year for those not yet aligned with their life purpose.
We often start the new year with clarity and set goals with the intention of doing everything "right". But what if we aren't sure of what "right" means as we face challenges through the year? Life rarely goes exactly as we plan and when obtacles arise, we often revert to old patterns to get around them. It's in those moments that we can lose our focus and it becomes difficult to get back on track. It's helpful if we have tools to help us move through our challenges with the same clairty that we started the year with.
For the past several years, I have followed the practice of choosing three words at the start of the new year that act as my vetting tool or compass point when making decisons. These three words help bring clarity to the decisions I make in work, my personal life and even to my creative process. They also help remind me of how I show up on a daily basis by acting as a guiding light to steer me through some of the trickiest situations I might face. For 2019 one of my words is integrity. It's not that I don't normally live my life with integrity, but I feel like it's time to put it to the test and see how authentically I live by this word.
When I looked up "integrity" to get a good understanding of the word, I came across the following definition. "Concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions."
I like the idea that it's also described as a "personal choice" to hold one's self to consistent standards. So when I act with integrity, these are the standards that I hold myself to:
- consistency - to act with integrity, requires being aware and making concious decisions to react in a consistent way no matter what the situation is (thankfully, meditation helps me with building awareness).
- honesty and truthfulness - this may seem pretty straight-forward but requires even more awareness and understanding of how our energy affects people around us. Recognize the impact you have on people. We don't even have to speak to someone to affect them and we can make the concious choice to affect people in a positive way.
I wish you well for the year ahead and hope your journey finds you on a path of awareness and peace. When you're challenged, I wish for you to have the wherewithal to respond with authenticity and gentleness, and stay on course.
The moments that shape us
It’s Christmas Eve and all I can think of is that we buried my father this week and the anguish that his wife must be going through. The process, not the death, was fast. He died, he was buried, she gave us his stuff and then it was done. But I’m not ready for it to be done.
The death wasn't sudden and I think, for the most part, this is why it was easier to take. We had time to say goodbye and we even got to the point where we prayed for him to let go as he was in so much pain and was suffering greatly. Nobody would want to live like that and for anybody to want to keep him on this earth in a state like that, would be cruel. So he finally passed and we knew his suffering was done.
I think the part that is the hardest to articulate is that even though I saw him a few times before he passed-away, and I had time to tell him I loved him, it wasn’t until after he was gone and I had to gather my thoughts on what I might say at his funeral, where it hit me how much I am like him. I had often been told that I was a "chip off the old block", but it became so apparent to me as he lay in his hospital bed, just how much I am like him and how he has had so much influence on my character. You could say I am a younger, female version of him. And I wonder if he knew that. I know we were close and out of the three children in my family (me being the youngest) I got to experience the best of him. I got the creativity, the genius, the wanderer, the road tripper, the honest to god, good guy right down to his bones. I don’t know if it was my position as the youngest, or maybe the way I saw him, but we connected.
I also realize that so much of the picture that was painted of my father in my younger years was coloured by my mother. It saddens me that the story that was told for most of my life wasn’t the right one, or that it was someone else’s story. Perhaps it was the truth for my mom or brother or even my sister but it wasn’t for me.
We did have quite a tumultuous childhood and he wasn’t always calm and he certainly had his “dark” side (when provoked and I probably deserved it), but I received so much love from him and his perspective has influenced so much of what I do.
At the celebration of life, I showed 8 simple photos that I managed to find in my old photo albums from when I was growing up.
The first one was one of my Dad when he was around 20 years old, before he had met my mom and before the onslaught of life, career and a family would start to change him. He sat on a mountain top among piles of broken rocks and held a pair of aviator sunglasses in his hands. He looked very self-assured and cool.
The next image was one of him holding me when I was two years old. I had just had a bath so I had a towel around me. We both look unbelievably happy sharing a sweet moment.
The third photo was a photo of my dad standing in front of the house we lived in when I was growing up. He had a big grin on his face and looks incredibly amused. The photo is slightly out of focus. I realized that at 6 years old, he had handed me his camera. I had taken the photo.
The next three photos were creative projects that he worked on with me (or should I say, he basically did them).
o The grade three costume of a package of spearment gum- highly creative and beautifully rendered, but a death trap that I couldn't get out of on my own, and forget about sitting down!
o The grade five Sports Day bike decorating contest that he did all in newspaper (“we” won second place!)
o The snow woman we built (he couldn't ever do just a regular snowman), complete with bustle on the back and a large breasts with carrots for nipples on the front
He always looked for ways of doing everyday tasks differently. We never received a gift from him in store bought wrapping paper as he usually wrapped them in old city planning blueprints (he was a planning engineer)
The last two images I showed were a postcard from a Mexican bullfight that he took me to on one of our epic roadtrips and an image of as stretch of road from Highway 50 in the US known as “The loneliest highway in America”. The write-ups on the highway warn you to have your survival skills in order before you hit the nearly 500 mile stretch through Nevada and Utah as this highway is long, sparse and towns are few.
On that epic road trip, we would both come back changed, our eyes opened with wonderment to a new world of opportunity.
This was the trip where I experienced the culture of Mexico and my wanderlust was born. Four years after that trip I returned to Mexico to study and live and began an annual sojourn.
My dad found his faith. While we were travelling on that lonely US Highway, our VW van broke down. Being hundreds of miles from any town, and not having seen anyone on the road for hours, all we could do is wait in the sweltering desert heat and hope someone would eventually come along. My dad carefully assessed the VW bus engine and determined the problem. All we needed was a twist-tie. A tiny, flexible, seemingly insignificant piece of metal, that could wrap around the valve that had slipped. We scoured the van and found nothing that could come close to repairing the engine and my dad grew more worried the longer we waited, hoping for someone to come along who might be able to take us to the next town to get help.
After some time, we saw a glimmer of what looked to be a vehicle coming through the mountains in the distance. Our hope rose and sure enough a vehicle was coming our way. When the car arrived at our location a friendly man got out to ask how he could help us. My dad explained our predicament and what he needed to fix the VW. The stranger listened and somehow, managed to have a twist-tie in his vehicle. Once he was sure we were going to be OK, and we were getting ready to leave, he handed my dad a book. It was a large book that had an angel on the front. My dad promised to read the book and from that day forward he was a changed man. The bus didn’t break down again and he found peace in religion.
Every day we experience small miracles or have the ability to create them for others. Whether it’s an act of kindness, shared creativity, or love, we can change someone’s perspective or possibly their life. We talk about how our lives can change in a second but usually relate these moments to a traumatic event. But the truth is, when we least expect it, or lives can change for the better. It’s often those small moments that have the most profound impact on our lives.
I wish I had the opportunity to re-live some of these moments with my dad to remind him of how many of those small moments had shaped my life in a positive way.
Who do we practice for?
"What's it all for?" they asked, quite perplexed. "You practice so much yoga: why, what or who is it all for if you aren't going to share it?"
This was a recent question I was asked by someone I know as a casual acquaintance who likes to speak in sexual innuendo most of the time. I was cautious and aware of what they meant but was still caught off-guard and didn't have a snappy come-back. I knew that what they were insinuating was that if I wasn't going to share it with them, then what was the point, or who else was it for? It's not for them to decide what I hold valuable in my life or how I should spend my time, but it made me stop to think about different perspectives, and ponder how I should articulate why it's important to me to meditate, practice yoga and live mindfully. The most obvious answer is to be healthier so we live longer but that's a simplified answer. There's so much more to it.
Why do we practice anything? We have ambitions to improve at playing a sport or instrument, to attain a goal, to hone a new skill or achieve recognition. A meditation practice helps us become a better version of ourselves and fine tune who we are so we can take on life's challenges no matter what comes our way. We can't control what life throws our way, but we can affect how we react.
So who exactly do I meditate for? To name just a few....for my mom (who suffers from Dementia and Parkinson's Disease), for my dad who has had several strokes, my brother who has had recent health issues, for every person I come in contact with throughout my day (and for the people they know, that I may never meet). And yes, the reality is that I even meditate for the acquaintance who passes judgment on me, so I am aware not to pass judgment on them. It's rarely easy but that's why it's a practice.
Why do I create this type of art?
When I finish a new meditation design and I am able to share it through my website or my social media channels, I often get asked why I create this type of art. The simplest answer is because I want to help people establish a meditation practice so that they can become the best version of themselves to affect the world in a positive way.
A meditation practice can help in healing or coping with an illness, and assist with how we approach every day challenges in life. Knowing first-hand the positive effects a regular meditation practice has made in my life, makes me want to help others.
After completing my treatment for cancer, I wanted to find a stronger purpose for my art and find a way that I could help others heal. Creating art to help others establish their meditation practice so that they can live mindfully and help themselves heal does just that.
When looking for helpful tips on meditation, breath practice, having a focal point, being comfortable, and choosing a special space that you can meditate, are key factors in aiding a practice.
If you have a space that you want to spend time in, you are more likely to establish a regular meditation practice.
Why is my work round?
My designs are based on sacred geometry patterns (the key sacred shapes that are the building blocks of creation). I start with the seed of life mandala that is contained within a circle. The circle shape represents oneness or wholeness, eternity and cyclical movement.
My designs start with the mandala and grow from there. The flowers, colours and foliage represent growth; both physical and spiritual growth. All the elements together, exude an energy that evoke different feelings for different people. Usually the design or pattern you connect with, or are drawn to, is the one that you need the most.
Women's March on Washington D.C.
In contradiction to what I would typically do on my sacred Saturday morning, I walked with 150,000+ people in Vancouver, Canada, and millions around the world, supporting the Women's March on Washington.
I'm not a big crowd person and although being in a crowd doesn't bother me, I would just prefer to not be where "everybody else" is. I hadn't planned on attending the march, but a yogi friend of mind reached out and suggested I tag along with her and a few people she knew - so I went.
It was an impressive turnout - especially for a city that tends to be very non-committal. The event was peaceful, the people were passionate and many of the placards were good humoured and poignant. I did question the impact that I would have by attending, here in Canada, but seeing a young girl with a sign saying "Don't tell me I can't" made me think of my daughters and the empowerment I have always tried to instill upon them. Witnessing such a diverse group of people coming together, in such huge numbers, for a common purpose, quickly quashed any uncertainty I may have had.
So what did I get out of it?
It was a reminder about the good that adversity can bring. It's the proof that there is strength in numbers and good is a force to be reckoned with. If the intention was to send a message of hope to the frightened, the worried, the marginalized and vulnerable, then the message was clear. But it also sent a message to the passive, the lovers, the non-demonstrators, that this is a time where we need to pay attention and speak up. Love has always required action and that is more prevalent than ever.
As we live in a time of unpredictability, we can find strength in demonstrating messages of hope, empathy and compassion. It's the knowing that we aren't alone in our feelings of fear and vulnerability that will sustain us and help us rise up.