Go with the flow

It’s been so long since I’ve written a post, I feared I would have forgotten how to, or that it wouldn’t be as easy as I usually found it.

After staring at my screen for the past 4 hours, I know this to be true. It is good to be back, but a little strange after our mini-break for all things wedding, new-job and regular family chaos mixed in.

So bear with me, I may be rusty.

I’ve had these past few months off from work in which I’ve had to face down my own ego on quite a few occasions. There was a lot of swallowing my pride and observing my natural patterns to find areas where change could take place. I was stuck and getting unstuck isn’t always the easiest feat, but much like being determined to run a half marathon without really training (more on that later), I was determined to use the blessing of time to my betterment.

Throwing myself into my practice was the thing that saved me, I truly do believe. Saved me from my demons and gave me permission to be kind to myself about where I was in life. Learning to let go during class, to be present, mindful, to slow down in my daily life, to live in the moment and accept what it brings and work with it, no matter how the world presented itself to me. I could go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned in the hot room, dripping in sweat, breathing through the movement of the postures with ease or at my edge filled with effort, really forcing myself to internally scan where I needed the most of my self love.

The one thing all of these lessons has had in common though, is that the more you go with the flow of life, the universe if you will, the easier a time you will have.

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I do not mean that you will not struggle. I do not mean you will not hurt, ache, cry, or feel heartsick at any time. I do mean that you will find greater ease when you let go, and go with the flow.

I do not mean you should not pursue your passions or goals and things that set your heart on fire with relentless thirst. I do not mean that you will get everything you think you want, when you want it. I do mean you will have a greater chance of finding the REALLY right path if you do. You will be where you are meant to be, truly.

It’s the act of tapping into synchronicity – the more you pay attention to the little directives, signs and signals you’re being shown regularly, and do your best to quiet your ego and its hunger for centre stage as the main driver, the flow becomes more apparent, your path more clear. And I know from experience that the more you listen for the signals the stronger the frequency becomes. The more you pay attention, the more sense everything eventually makes.

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Growing up, and (let’s be honest) even into my early adult years, I learned a lot of tough lessons the very hard way, by being my own worst enemy and pushing my own plans and agenda on my life. Pushing so hard to get to where I thought I ‘should’ be, where I was convinced I belonged, what my ego told me I wanted, needed and could not live without. Life has a funny way of letting you get only so far and then shutting you down before redirecting you – in my case, always with great force that taught me a lot about putting yourself back together after you’re busted apart for regrowth and redirection.

As I look back on these lessons, I can see if I had applied even a bit of what I’ve learned about synchronicity through yoga, the harm and pain would have been notably less. I am sure the scars from those events would have healed quicker too, maybe might not be so apparent today.

I heard recently that the true act of yoga itself is not in the hot room and really starts to transform and change your life when you begin to practice what you learn on your mat in your life. In all of your relationships, in your employment, in your head with your running commentary to the world and ESPECIALLY to yourself – even in line at the grocery store. The conscious act of slowing down, breathing, actively quieting your inner monologue and literally going with the flow of your day, or the flow and direction of your life, can make or break the kind of life you have.

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As it unfolds in front of you, accept it as if you had chosen it, do what you have to in order to change what you’re able, but for the most part relax, be still and try to work with it.

~ Toni

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Welcome, new Yogi

I watch you cautiously enter the studio – a place that at first glance can seem so intimidating, I know. You’re not sure what to expect or if you wore the right thing, or if you’ll even be able to make it through the hour you’ve set aside for you. I can see you are nervous, almost timid.

You’re greeted with warm smiles from the volunteers and instructors gathered hospitably around the front desk, waiting to help you sign up for a class, answer your questions, show you where the facilities and different tempered rooms are. These friendly faces put some of your fears to rest, at least for the moment. You can feel the shift of energy in the air as more students flow into the studio.

I  keep observing you from across the airy, open, sunny front room. I see your shoulders relax down your back slightly, ease entering your eyes and recognition of something almost home-like about this place  flashes in them. We catch each other’s gaze and share a small, but sincere smile.

You wander down the hall into the change room, where I am sure you’re talking yourself into class. Not sure what to expect, not sure if you’ll like it, not sure if it’s for you. Scared of the heat, the poses, the unknown.

I know this feeling all too well. I think every new yogi does.

What I want to tell you is that what you will find in the heated yoga studio upstairs is going to surprise you, maybe even scare you a little.

I want to tell you of the life-altering feeling you are about experience, the wash of emotion, the shift in perspective, the gains in confidence, compassion and strength you will feel.

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I want to burst at you with stories and antidotes of feeling yourself truly shut your brain off for the first time and the exhilarating calm that comes with that freedom.

I want to tell you, that if you just let it, this practice, those poses, this studio, will change your whole life and lift up your soul in ways you didn’t think were possible.

I want to tell you that it will only take a moment for you to fall so deeply in love with your practice and you’ll know exactly when it happens.

I want to tell you that it is okay to let go, especially here, and sometimes that very act might even come out as laughter or tears in class – and that’s okay.

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I want to share with you that the people that live, work and love here will become a second family to you, this studio a second home, if you let it, if you welcome it with open arms.

I want to calm your fears with tales of the incredible lives that have been changed by this bit of magic you’ve found, allowed into your life.

I want to warn you that you are about to challenge your ego, but it will be the best thing you ever do for your soul.

I want to tell you that you’re going to find out things about yourself that you didn’t know existed, had forgotten once were, and feel more you than you ever have in that 60, or 75 minutes of pure bliss.

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I want to tell you about the calm in your soul that will come when you become more aware and more present, at first in class, and then soon every area of your life.

I want to tell you that you will feel more in control and out of your mind in the most calming way, at the same time, in that room.

I want to tell you that when you adopt the true practice of yoga in areas of your life outside of the studio will be when you will truly understand what you’ve found.

I want to tell you to breathe your way through class and that you’ll soon realize that it’s necessary to breathe through life in the same way.

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I want to tell you so many things about what you’ve started by stepping onto your mat for the very first time.

But I don’t.

Instead I share one more silent smile with you as we both enter the room. I watch you find your place on your mat, sprawl out on the floor, fidgeting a bit as you start to relax. As I settle onto my mat myself, I say a little prayer for your practice and mine today, sending a little love, light and energy your way.

I can’t wait for the journey that lies ahead of you, the breakthroughs and breakdowns, the freedom from what is resting on your shoulders. I am so excited for you and your practice to unfold and the blessings it will so abundantly bring.

Welcome, new Yogi.

~ Toni

Finding the beauty in the breakdown

In the grand scheme of life’s available disasters, losing my job this past November is really not that big of a deal.

Really.

It was just a job.

Just a job at a very terribly run company.

Just a job with my department being managed by the type of woman I loathe. The kind of woman that feeds the reputation that generalizes how terrible women are to each other.

It was just a job.

Then why did I completley lose my shit?

I let a terrible employer take advantage of my work ethic and then make me doubt myself on a personal level. Why had I been such a pushover, and why hadn’t I walked away?

A friend of mine pointed out that it could be like a bad relationship – you loved it at one point and it stopped serving you long ago, but you don’t want to be a quitter – you want to fix it, make it better, get the joy back. Sometimes the work pays off and you find it. But then sometimes you end up sacrificing a bit of who you are and the things you need to actually live, the real important things, like moments with family and friends, and missing your workouts that keep you sane and then you STILL lose.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed

I think it was the fact that it didn’t matter what I did, the outcome that came would have been delivered whether I wanted it to or not, or whether I worked harder or not.

I hated that I couldn’t control it.

I crumbled.

The months following were very dark for me. I had built a certain ideal of what my life should look like by now and I struggled with the very real reality that not only had I followed the wrong path, I was completely fucking lost, with no sense of direction and not a thread of hope in sight for understanding why.

I had chosen a career path that I thought I wanted.

I took time between high school and college and worked to get a better understanding of what I was good at and what I liked.

I went to school for three years at Conestoga College, hustled my ass off, got grades I had never dreamed of, accolades from my professors that enjoyed me being in their classes, got bumped into the co-op and advanced diploma program and landed a job all before graduating year.

I was set.

I worked in my field through from entry level to management and back down to events. For 9 years I put my everything into working in a marketing department at a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job that always meant 9 to 7, 8, 9, and sometimes (read: usually) even later nights and weekends. I took pride in what I did and what I had the training and skill set in. Safe to say I loved it at one point.

This is what I had been told my whole life success looked like: sitting all day in a stuffy office with some people that I really loved and some I would never dream of spending my energy on if I wasn’t literally paid to.

Please don’t get me wrong, I met some very important people in those offices – people who still mean the world to me, even if we’re not as close as we once were. People who taught me valuable lessons in life about love and following your heart and not letting anyone stand in your way when you want something. As with all tales of hurt, it’s only a waste if you don’t take the lessons and hold onto the blessings that were provided while in the struggle. It’s only a waste if you let your heart become bitter from it all.

So this was the path I was on, with the stuffy offices and the life revolving career that I thought I loved.

And then I was let go.

Three times…in a row.

Each for a different reason. Each with a different feeling of relief, grief or shock. Each being delivered in a different way, facing a different person doing the letting go.

Each horrible in their own way.

I had never been fired before.

What was wrong with me? Why did I keep picking these companies with failing positions and horrible management? Was it me? Was I not good enough at what I did?

Then I asked myself why I was letting it define me as a person? Why was what I did so attached to my identity?

It’s the first thing a person will ask you when first getting to know you – what do you do? As though that is the most important aspect of who you are to determine if you’re a person of value to know. What happened to care of community, interest in heart and soul, work-life balance? When did what I do become so important to me and whose values was I adopting? When did the bottom line become so much more than the people who helped you get there? When did a pay cheque determine who I was inside, and what I could do for my community?

No wonder I was so lost.

It’s just a job!

It didn’t mean I wasn’t still a kick-ass employee, an awesome co-worker and team member and it sure as hell did not mean I as a person was worth any less.

It was just a job.

Personally when I’m lost I take council.

So off I went, having lunches with mentors and coffee with friends. Getting to know me from their eyes again, having them ask me just the right questions to get me to think in the right way, to seek the answers I so desperately needed.

It helped a little for sure. Having one mentor ask me in particular to close my eyes and think about what a perfect day off would be to me definitely kickstarted the journey. I sat, at first feeling rather silly closing my eyes for such an extended period of time in a crowded sushi restaurant, but then I let go and saw getting up early while it’s still dark out and taking off for a sunrise hike in the Escarpment, catching the top before the sun really peaks onto the horizon, while sitting and drinking my coffee. “Now, in that feeling you feel doing that, lies your answer,” he responded like my very own inspirational bumper sticker.

Great. How the hell does one make a living on a feeling?

And then on a whim I returned to Moksha Yoga Cambridge for a Friday night Karma class.

I’d attended before and always liked them, but this time I felt a deeper connection. Chantal, the amazing soul who lead us in practice, had began the class by reading the following perspective-snapping verse:

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It hit me then: why was I wallowing over a job that had literally been stealing my life from me? Working 60, sometimes 80 hour work weeks, feeling empty inside…that was not a loss. I had gained.

By the end of class I had finally settled into a place of peace, where my brain was quiet, my mind was present, there was not a worry on my shoulders. My whole body humming from the release.

I had let it go.

I decided to sign up for their introductory month and attend as many classes as I could to get a real taste.

About two weeks in, I practiced with Wendy, co-owner and teacher at Moksha Cambridge. It was a particularly rough day where I hadn’t exactly felt the desire to leave the house, but knew I needed it. I sat in the parking lot right before practice and swallowed back tears, self-talking my way into calming down and getting my butt into the studio.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of practicing at MYC you will know the second you step in that door that it is an impossible place to have a heavy heart. The smiles from the front desk, and warm welcomes from the regulars that were starting to recognize me helped me to shake a bit of the worry off my shoulders.

Throughout class, I connected to my practice in ways that I had only aspired to before. I experienced two breakthroughs in positions where I really had to trust in order to open up and by the end had tears of relief streaming into the sweat that dripped off me and onto my mat. I had experienced my first “Aha!” moment.

It was incredible.

I didn’t know how or why or what just yet, but I want to help people live their lives like this. To remove stress from their lives, the weight off their shoulders, to find balance, harness the power of peace and acceptance and to live in the moment – this moment – because it’s the only one that really matters, that we really have, ever. You can plan and predict and decide how you want your life to be as much as you want – but at the end of the day, if you’re ignoring your heart and ignoring who you really are, God and the Universre will find ways to re-direct you when you’re lost until you ‘get it’. If you’re open to it. If not, you will just keep hitting the same challenges over and over again until you are.

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I still don’t know how, or why, or what just yet, but I know that yoga, specifically Moksha, is going to play a huge part in it and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

~ Toni

This first

You will always remember your firsts.

First love, first car, first job, first time, first heartbreak, first real love, first accident, first kiss – all of the firsts.

This blog, my first time contributing to a personal blog, this first real and very public project with the sisters, turns a big huge ONE today. The Weather Vane Sisterhood celebrates its first anniversary. A pretty big first in my books.

I kind of can’t even believe it.

It feels oddly similar to the first birthdays of my precious nieces and nephew. I’m bursting with pride, but struggling to understand where all that time went.

It really does just seem like yesterday that we sat down at Jacqui’s house, gathered around her kitchen table, to determine what we wanted this to be, where we thought it could and might go.

I remember then feeling nervous and unsure if I had any writing chops at all – especially compared to my genius sisters. Somehow that feeling never truly goes away and I feel it flutter through my stomach at the scheduling of every post. Some posts are raw and honest, some are lighthearted and maybe even funny, and some may be deeply personal.

This blog has taught me that I am usually not alone in how I feel – not only through connecting with you, our fabulous readers, but also reading the insightful and inspiring stories from my sisters. I’ve learned so much about our sisterhood in this year and, as Julia expressed yesterday, no matter how small our readership may be, I am so thankful for you following along on this crazy journey of our sisterhood. I’m so excited to see what year two holds.

Now that the mush, love and gratitude has been expressed, I get to be Oprah and give away cars!* (here is where I will use the Julia-coined  *Oprah Clause: The word cars in this case represents small tokens of our affection and not actual cars or automobiles, or vehicles of any kind…please don’t sue us. We’re not actually Oprah.)

#WVSisterhood #Giveaway !!

#WVSisterhood #Giveaway !!

When it came time to choose what I’d like to give you, I had to reflect on the sudden, incredible, completely exhilarating love in my life: my Yoga practice and the incredible community of Moksha Yoga Cambridge.

I have chosen to give away an RBX yoga mat in honor of my passion for the practice of yoga. Between the peace it has brought me during the past few tougher months, to the inner growth I’ve experienced, I cannot put into words what it has done for my life. More than that, until you’ve tried it and let go enough to let it work its magic, I will never be able to describe it to you unless you’ve felt it. All I can say, with 100% conviction, it it’s totally worth it.

To keep you moving

To keep you moving

In addition, I would like to invite you to Moksha Yoga Cambridge  on Friday nights for their Karma practice. It’s $5, a great way to stretch out from your crazy week and, even better, all of your $5 goes towards a different charity on a rotating monthly schedule. This month the proceeds of the Friday evening Karma practice are benefiting The Bridges – Cambridge Shelter. So, even if you don’t win this mat, please grab one and join us at 8:00 pm every Friday to participate in a little good karma.

In order to enter any and all of the giveaways, all you have to do is leave a comment answering the question for that day. You’ll receive one entry for every comment on that day’s giveaway – you can leave one comment or 100 comments, just make sure you’re answering the question. Be sure to enter all of the giveaways before 12:00 am EST on Saturday, February 14th in order for your entries to be considered.

I’d be honoured to share my love of Yoga with you! To get started, all you have to do is answer the question: what is your favourite yoga pose and why? If you’re not a yogi per say, what is your favourite exercise and why?

I look forward to hearing from you, our dear readers. My heart is grateful for this, our very first year.

~Toni

February check-in

Ah, February. My sweetheart month.

It’s my favourite for the obvious reasons, as it is my birthday month, but also because it’s a good check-in month for any goals or resolutions that you may have set for your 2015.

From a health and fitness perspective, it’s far enough into the year to see a pattern or a trend beginning, and  still fresh enough to know where you’ve strayed or started to fall back into old habits. If you let it go much longer, you may not get back on track and then find yourself staring down another New Year, starting over, again.

I find it a good time to take look at your habits – an honest, hard look of course – and see where you need improvement or change that just isn’t happening in order to reach your goals.

No matter what you find – whether you’re more off-track than you thought, or you’re kicking 2015’s ass – I’ve got a few tried, tested and true pointers for keeping yourself on track and helping you to make permanent lifestyle choices that will benefit you long-term.

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, right away: Think of this like a marriage, but instead of a partner, the lifelong commitment is to yourself. Think of it as a choice you make every day, until it’s just second nature to life more healthfully, making a small change until it is habit and then making another small change until it’s habit, and so on. Building towards a goal or just improving your standard of living overall is more sustainable this way, and you’re more likely to be a success story than if you tackle everything (diet, exercise, quitting smoking, etc), all at once. The trick is to improve without overwhelming yourself.

2. Do what works for you, but MOVE: It really doesn’t matter what you choose for your method of physical activity, whether that be lifting weights at the gym, sweating it out in Moksha Yoga, running a half-marathon, going for a walk, or grabbing some girlfriends and heading out for a hike – just MOVE. As a society we lack movement from sitting all day in a chair at a desk, craning your neck while hunched over your smartphone, or laying on the couch watching television. We sit and slouch and lay far beyond what our bodies were ever meant to. Do you live in town, but drive to the store? Figure out a way to walk more, cutting out on drive time.  Hiding inside because it’s cold? Bundle up and get outside! Winter is so enjoyable when properly dressed! Move.

Mike and I went on a challenging 6 hour hike for this sight... Totally worth it.

Mike and I went on a challenging 6-hour hike for this sight. Totally worth it.

3. Patience: Big changes will take time. It really is true what they say, “The bigger the struggle, the better the blessing.” You’ll be really surprised by what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it, give yourself grace and credit for your effort, dig in and do the work. Remind yourself that the bad habits you’re trying to improve upon didn’t only take a day to become bad habits and that it will take time to get it right. You will wake up one day and wonder why you didn’t start sooner, or why you were so scared being so unhappy with your situation. It’s incredibly rewarding to look back and see how far you’ve come in such little time, with so much more ahead of you now.

4. Educate yourself: Not only about which form of movement is right for you, but also what you’re fueling and recharging your body with. For this, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable and learn how food is made, processed and what you’re injesting. Some of your favourite foods are poisoning you, slowly but surely. Refined white sugar is in the majority of processed foods and is directly linked with obesity and a multitude of other health issues and diseases – my reading more about this has Mike holding his breath knowing our eating habits are going to start changing…again. The more you know, the more you will subconsciously start making better decisions when it comes down to your plate.

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5. Find your people: I cannot stress this one enough – get a buddy, or if you’re lucky like me, a whole group of like-minded people that ‘get it’, are determined for themselves and provide good team support and encouragement. If you have strength in numbers, it will be easier to feel accountable and inspired to reach your goals. Personally this helps to trigger my commitment to myself too, knowing I’ve got some kickass people cheering me on in my corner.

Some of my people on a sunrise hike

Some of my people on a sunrise hike

What about you? What are your favourite tips for staying on track in these pesky winter months? Wherever you are in your health and fitness journey, I wish you continued determination, drive and success for all of your 2015 goals.

~ Toni