"Trust and self-assurance, that lead to happiness...." Don Henley 

                                                            View from my bed here in Yelapa.

 

Trust. One would think that this is a relatively easy emotion/way of being for me, looking at my way of being, where my life has taken me, and all of the spiritual practices I delve into. Sometimes it is easy, when I’m in flow and things are rockin’ and I’m feeling good. Other times (more than I’d care to admit), not so much. Last week was one of those times. 

As some of you know, Costa Rica has been my home base for almost a year now, and to NOT travel, and to NOT be on a plane for a year is actually quite unprecedented. This hasn’t happened since grade ten. I’ve loved it. The feeling of rooting into one place, being able to say “yes” to events that are happening a couple of months away, and knowing I’ll be there to attend. It’s been amazing.  True to form, the gypsy soul began to sing and sigh in late November, urging me to move a bit, and so I travelled to the Pacific beach town of Santa Teresa and then the central mountainous region of Chirippo to shift it up. I landed in great places, met great people, did some offerings, and continued to heal deeply, all because I was in a state of trusting in the unknown, and trusting that the universe continues to support me. I was fully in the flow. 

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I had to make a decision about more travel, when my heart actually just wanted to stay in Costa Rica. We tourists have been lucky that for the past year, the need to leave the country to do a visa run every three months was pushed ahead...several times. Thus, I haven’t had to leave. This changed and we were told that we had to leave before March 2nd, and were allowed to re-enter after this. For some reason, this put me in a state of stress. First off, the thought of travelling and being in airports wearing a mask and being around a lot of other people wasn’t exactly enticing. My other concern was that I’m not exactly travelling “light” right now, and am travelling with a gong and a shitload of supplements that friends from Canada brought down. In addition, the burning question was, “WHERE to go?” For many of you in Canada who would relish the opportunity to travel, particularly in Central America, I know this may sound trite. That being said, I kind of freaked out. I wanted to go to Nicaragua, but the land borders to return were closed, which meant an expensive 23-hour trip stopping in Miami, which didn’t really feel good. And so, I decided on Mexico because the flight route was easy, cheap, and Mexico does not require a Co-vid test. 

Right up until the last minute I was in a state of fight-or-flight about my decision. It’s weird, but for some reason when it comes to travel, I get stressed and question my ability to make a right choice with flights, times, places to stay. It’s like a dentist who is afraid of teeth. I’m a traveller afraid of travel. I’ve been looking at this (with the help of a friend who sees my patterns) and see that it comes down to a lack of trust in myself. When I look further, it means I have a lack of trust in the universe and in Spirit. This isn’t great. It has caused me a lot of suffering in my life, and I’m ready to shift it. Now. 

Early this month, I spent an amazing two weeks at Posada Natura near Manuel Antonio with a group of awesome light-workers from Toronto, and their energy was contagious. With their help, I was ready to dive back into Trust again. Being with a group of like-minded community really helped me to move through my blocks and fears. A reminder that I don’t need to do this all on my own, and that my Lone Wolverine days are finito. As Spirit would have it, once I made my plan to travel to Mexico for my visa run, and committed to trusting that it was the “right” one, it was smooth sailing from the get-go. 

My friend Jesse dropped me off at Brigitte and Freddy’s place(friends from the Kootenays) in Esterillos just outside of Jaco...door to door service. I spent a couple of days with them reconnecting, doing yoga, being on the beach, deep stimulating conversations, eating good food and enjoying each others’ company, which I know is a rarity for many people right now, who are confined to one or two people. My friend Karen (also from Canada) drove me to San Jose the day of my flight, whereby I stayed at my friend Janine’s place for the day to do some city things and store some of my “stuff”. My fear of schlepping all my stuff and arduous travel had dispersed, and as a result, my travels were super smooth and actually enjoyable. I did have a minor panic before I headed to the airport. The Uber that I pre-ordered didn’t show because of the driving restrictions in San Jose. As the fight or flight started to kick in and my mind flashed forward to no cabs being available at midnight, missing my flight, dealing with airlines etc. I stopped myself and said, “No, this is not how it’s going to be. My day has been WAY too smooth to have this happen” and I calmly googled a cab company in my friend’s neighbourhood, made a call, and the dude happened to be a five minute drive away. He whisked me to the airport, no problems, no being late. Easy peasy. 

When I arrived at the airport in Puerta Vallarta, my dear friend of 20 years Tisana was there, with her beau to greet me. This rarely happens in my life where I’m actually met at an airport. They helped me with my stuff, and we had a smooth day of enjoying fish tacos, art galleries, then catching a ferry to Yelapa, where I am now. Smooth. Easy. In flow. 

My place here is stellar. It’s a huge new beautiful house that I’m renting a room in for super cheap due to the fact that no one is coming here. Also a good thing. It’s really quiet and calm. There’s only one other woman who is in it (sometimes) and she’s awesome. It’s right beside Tisana’s house so we are getting a chance to catch up and spend time together after a three-year hiatus of not seeing one another. There are musicians who live next door and we’ve already jammed and performed a bit. The drummer is a pro with Ableton and has offered to help me get my new MIDI controller set up to create new  music. There is an amazing group of women here and we’re doing a boat trip to a local beach on Friday. There is dance. There is a sweat lodge each week. There is live music. There is yoga. There are no cars here and I walk around barefoot. A woman at the local bakery is making me gluten-free and dairy-free treats upon my request. I’m not saying this to gloat by any means. My intention is to show how when I place trust in myself, I say to the Universe that I trust her as well, and she provides. Big time. By dispelling my fear, I see that whatever decision I make, I can trust that all will be well. Had I chosen Nicaragua, that would have been amazing as well. It doesn’t matter so much where I am and what I choose, it’s the fact that I trust in the unknown, KNOWING that I am supported by Spirit always. It’s my invitation for us all to put our energy into trust, despite the chaos and the unknown. Trust and gratitude in and you all. Gracias, gracias, gracias.

(Doggies) are a girl's best friend....(NOT diamonds). 

Me and Scoobs

A few new moons ago, I wrote down some intentions. I thought about what new experiences I wanted to call into my life. Kind of cliche, but I know we all do it; the ubiquitous New Year’s resolution, the beginning of a yoga class, sitting in ceremony or simply setting new goals for ourselves. Very new-agey I know, but also very profound. 

Usually I have similar intentions each month, revolving around health, clarity, peace in my mind and body, and that sort of thing. However, several months ago I wrote down, “Furry friend”. I was calling in dog energy, and wasn’t exactly sure how that would manifest. Originally, my friend in Puerto told me about a litter of pups born recently at her neighbour’s place. I went to check them out, fell profusely in love with ALL of them, and then settled on two in particular that I really vibed with. I left on my month long birthday adventure in the middle of August and would decide which pup I wanted on my travels, and he’d be ready for me when I got back in September. 

During my travels, I was staying with a good friend (and fabulous healer) Kristen Grayce, in the mountainous region of Chiripo. She literally lives in the middle of nowwhere amongst a smattering of small local houses. One morning I went for a little stroll and as I was walking by a small house I heard, “Senorita, hablas espanol?” (asking me if I spoke English). I replied yes, and she quickly and bluntly said, “Do you want this dog?” as she pointed to her front porch where a large chocolate lab was sitting, beside a small mutt. “The big one” she clarified. I went on to tell her I had a puppy waiting for me in Puerto and couldn’t possibly take him. I glanced over and saw he was on a really short rope, but he seemed pretty content, smiling and panting away. She explained that it was her daughter’s dog, and her daughter had been sick so she was taking care of him, but couldn’t afford to feed him. I told her I was sorry, but couldn’t take him and wished her luck. 

Over the next day or two, that lab popped into my mind several times. So, I decided to call the local shelter to see if they’d be able to find him a new home. I didn’t like the short rope he was on, and I also didn’t like the way she yelled at him to sit down. She was trying to show me he was obedient, but it was clear that she didn’t want him around and he was a burden. I heard back from the shelter and they were completely full and weren’t taking any more dogs. 

On my last morning there, I went for another walk before the long 8-hour drive back to Puerto Viejo and walked past the house again. The woman was there hanging laundry, and the pooch was there, lazing and dozing on the porch. I told her that I called the shelter and they would be in touch if anything changed, and hopefully he’d find a home. She thanked me and I continued my walk, all the while thinking that I had to take this dog with me. While walking back to Kristen Grayce’s, I stopped to give “Snoopy” (pronounced eh-Snoopy) a little pat. He was chubby, his fur was a bit matted and dull, he had some goop in his left eye, but his eyes shone. This dog had some amazing chilled energy and was just grateful that I stopped to give him some love. That sealed the deal. 

I went back to my friend’s place, called a few of my peeps in Puerto to see if anyone would take him. A good friend Luciana said she would babysit him for the two weeks I’d be away doing the Moondance then in San Jose, and then I could figure out how to find him a home after that. My landlords were cool with him staying with me while I did this. And so, I drove back to the house, chatted with the woman and her daughter on the phone (who was distraught and in tears, but grateful that he was finding a new home). As soon as I popped the trunk, he jumped into the trunk and sat there happily awaiting the road trip. A fellow traveller. I loved him already. 

During the ride home we stopped, had some pees and small walks and I just felt calm and happy in his presence. He’d pop his head up from time to time to say “Hey, thanks for getting me outta there.” When we got home to Puerto I took him to Luciana’s place, who also immediately fell in love with him. She and her roomate Milagros would be the perfect foster mamas and ended up taking him to the beach and parties, where he was a hit. EVERYBODY loves this dog. I mean, it’s crazy. 

When I returned from my travels, I brought him back to my place and we began our new journey together. And what a journey it was. I forgot to mention that when Snoopy jumped in the car to leave and I was about to drive away, the woman said breezily, “Oh, and when it rains and storms with lightning and thunder, you have to pat him.” I thought that was no big deal, a lot of dogs don’t like storms. I had no idea that he was actually a PTSDD (post-tramautic stress disorder dawg), and that we’d both be in for a ride with the tropical rains of the Caribbean. 

During the first rainfall (without thunder or lightning) I noticed that Scoobs was starting to shake and look around anxiously. Before I knew it, he bolted over to my next door neighbour’s house and hid under their bed. Luckily the two ladies there were quite understanding and liked dogs. I brought him out from under the bed, walked him to my place and put him under the bed there. I sat on my bed and read, playing some relaxing choral music and looked underneath from time to time to soothe him. He was like a Parkinson’s patient on coffee, the poor thing, for most of the night. 

He had several other “incidents” whereby he got off of his collar, jumped over my veranda when I had him in my room and his name immediately became Scoobdini...the escapist. Several times he went to Luciana’s which was great, as I knew where he was. But other times he ran off into the jungle, wide-eyed and panic-stricken, and ended up at random people’s homes in the middle of the night, or the local pizzeria, hiding in their kitchen. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to locate him each time and bring him home. My neighbours lent me a crate from their dog, and using that, along with some CBD oil (a little for me, a little for him), we were able to navigate the stressful storms together. Several months later, he had calmed down and was able to weather many storms in a place whereby he felt safe and protected. Such a gift for him. 

Of course there was reciprocity in the relationship and the gifts he gave me were numerous. His gentle, easy demeanour. His loyalty and immediate obedience; there were many times I’d just think, “get your stick” and he’d perk up, get a stick or coconut and bring it to me for a long game of fetch in the ocean. His joy of just “being”. His love of lazing around, which was crucial for me during a recent healing crisis of a crazy 3-month long ear infection and myriad skin issues. He taught me how to just relax. The fact that he’s 8 years old (the original owner told me about 6, but I think she told me that to make sure I’d take him and not have to face vet bills) was also a blessing for me. As most of you know, I tend to like the younger fellows, who are always so much fun, usually extremely handsome, and at the same time not quite mature enough to handle my woman-ness. Scoobs blazed the trail for me hanging out with masculine energy closer to my age. He’d wait for me on the beach patiently while I swam my lengths, often swimming out to me, and back to shore, to make sure I was okay. He had my back. When he’d take off to Luciana’s place, he taught me about my need for control and how to surrender. He had his own mind, and I totally get if he wanted to switch up his scenery. He encouraged me to loosen up. He reminded me what it was like to make a sacrifice in the name of love. I had wanted to attend a full-day workshop, and my dog care fell through at the last minute, so I couldn’t go. After so many years of being solo and a free bird, it was humbling to not be able to do what I wanted. And yet, this felt good. I was serving, and putting his needs ahead of mine in the name of unconditional love. One afternoon I brought him to my friend’s place about 15 minutes away in a Tuk Tuk. He LOVED the Tuk Tuk by the way. We were chilling in her house and one minute he was there, the next...no sign. The neighbours left the gate open so he got out to explore. Who could blame him after all those months on a short leash on a concrete porch? I got on my motorcycle and began beachcombing. I kept missing him by minutes. One person reported, “Oh yeah, good lookin’ dog. I just saw him ten minutes ago following two girls that way towards Cocles.” Another person said, “Oh yeah, he was playing with some kids for a while over there about ten minutes ago.” After an hour our combing the beach, I drove past the local soccer field where a game was going on. There was Scoobs. Sitting on the sidelines watching the game. If there had been doggie beer, he would have been swilling one for sure. I called him over, and he wagged his tail like mad, most happy to see me as if to say, “Dude! I had the greatest day!” I couldn’t get mad at him. I had to laugh, even in my frustration and after all my worrying. Guru Scoobs really helped me worry less. I had to relinquish control and accept that he was his own being. I love so many things about him but most of all, I remember the way he’d look up at me adoringly from time to time; we’d lock eyes and in that moment silently say  “Thank you” to one another. 

I haven’t experienced this kind of connection with an animal up until this point, and I now know how many friends say they can’t live without a dog. That being said, with my lifestyle, which is still a little nomadic, schlepping Scoobs (aka: eh-Scooby) around Costa Rica is quite unrealistic. and I’m back on the road. After 8 months in one place (unprecedented since university over 20 years ago) I had itchy feet and needed to get out and travel. As for Scooby, it’d be different if I had a car, but that’s not the case. I thought about getting him a sidecar for my motorcycle, but with the rains/storms, that’s not a great idea. And so, as I continue to practice non-attachment (for example, the experiment of shaving my head to not be attached to my looks), I’m taking it up a notch with the pooch. Luckily (for both of us), my awesome neighbours and former landlords (also from BC by the by) agreed to take him, and they are sending me updates, photos and I know that he is well taken care of. 

I feel I was the bridge to get him off his short leash, away from the screaming woman and food-colouring-filled cat food he was eating. He also helped me to bypass getting the puppy, which was a good call. My puppy’s sister was our neighbour and she was and is a lot of work. With my healing crisis, a puppy would NOT have been a good match. He crossed my path and exactly the right time. He’s now a Puerto Viejo dog through and through. A beach bum. A slow-moving geriatric. A coconut-chomping, stick-fetching dog with whom everyone immediately falls in love. He’s special. Everybody sees it and feels it. And so, it’s with gratitude that I acknowledge that we were each other’s medicine, during a space in time where we needed each other. Even though I may not settle down in Puerto Viejo, I know that Scoobs will be there for as long as he can, following hot girls on the beach, rolling in the sand, swimming in the sea, wanting to take in an afternoon soccer match, and always bringing joy to the people around him who are fortunate enough to be his steward. Aho.

Time makes you bolder, children get older, I'm getting older too." Stevie Nicks 

                           Mum and I doing our "Calvert" face; many siblings on my dad's side of the family smile this way.


I begin this blog today, on September 14th, on what would have been my mum’s ?? birthday. I use the ?? because she didn’t want people to know how old she was. When she met my dad, she shaved a few years off her real age, and from that moment on, she was several years younger than she really was. The moment we found out about her real age, was like a scene from Seinfeld. We were in the synagogue in Toronto, just after my uncle Alan had passed away, and the rabbi asked Mum how much younger she was than Alan. My nana chimed in, “Five years.” My sister and I looked at each other, and were confused, doing the quick math in our heads. My mum then became irritable, “Oh Mum, shut up!” We then realized that our own mother had been living a lie. All in the name of love. All in the name of feeling too old for my dad, or feeling like she was not enough. At the time, we laughed about it, and even when she died, we refused to let anyone know her real age. It has become a family joke, and we honour her legacy by never exposing just how old she really was. Recently, I’ve been thinking about why she felt she had to lie, and how this little lie, and others like it, can be insidious with regard to self-esteem and self-worth. 

In the past few months I’ve been witnessing my own responses to the ageing process. Since I shaved off my long blond locks in April, my new tresses have been coming back in a whole new way: mostly gray. Sometimes when I’d look in the mirror I’d shirk and wonder who that old lady was in the reflection. Granted, the lighting in my bathroom is horrific and even Heidi Klum would look lacklustre, but I digress. The point is, there have been moments when I’ve been resisting my age, and actually even resenting my age. The whole point of me getting rid of my hair was to experiment with my identity and my ego, and I have to admit, I haven’t been feeling super elevated and self-realized all the time. Then the guilt and shame of feeling less than sets in, which can leave me feeling worse. What kind of a yoga teacher am I if I’m still attached to my appearance?! I’m a sham! Worse...I’m an old sham! And so on. 

Mind you, these thoughts are not always at the forefront of my mind; the majority of the time I’m doing really well, and feel confident and clear, despite the gray tresses (and the sun spots, and the new wrinkles around my eyes and lips). A few weeks ago I visited a wonderful healer in Chiripo named Kristen Grayce McGary. Together, she and I did some deep healing work, with focus on shifting some ancestral wounds and letting go of some “stuff” that isn’t even mine. I believe that the whole ageing thing was one thing that I had to let go of. I remember Mum looking in the mirror and drawing the skin on her neck back, and musing aloud, “See? If this was just a bit tighter...” I personally didn’t notice any difference. To me, she was still my amazing mother; stunning gray-green eyes full of light and fun, beautiful beaming smile and hearty laugh. I wondered why she thought that having her cheeks or neck a bit tighter would make a difference. Now, entering mid-life, I notice my own thoughts, and see that I have had moments whereby I thought that my face was starting to sag a bit, and I feel old. With the work I’ve been doing to set myself free of ancestral wounds and old beliefs, I’v been able to shift this. A lot. 

Immediately I now catch myself, and if and when those self-destructive thoughts arise, and reframe them into feeling “older and wiser” versus “old.” I’m so much more aware of what I like, what I dislike, where I want to put my energy, and letting go of old patterns that don’t serve me anymore. I see the freckles on my face and feel gratitude that I spend so much time in the sun. Every summer I spent outside at camp, and as a young adult teaching sailing. I see the wrinkles around my lips and eyes and remember all of those winter days skiing in the alpine mountains of Canada and France. Lips chapped from the cold, heart warm with the joy of swishing around in snow. This beautiful rich life and all the elements in nature have all left their mark on my skin, and etched their stories into my soul. The stories and essence of my ancestors also leave their mark, and it is only with this age and discernment that I can now choose which stories serve me, and which stories I can release. With love. With gratitude. With wisdom. Happy birthday dear Mum. You were, and always will be enough. A-ho.

"There's No Place Like Home" Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. 


"I Go Home" by Sarah Calvert


For the past few months I’ve been reflecting on the notion of “home” and what it means to me. Last week I celebrated Mum’s life on the anniversary of her death (I know, it sounds a bit contradictory) and brought in such feelings of gratitude, as I remembered so many memories. This grief has shifted immensely in the past couple of years, but particularly in this past year. It could be time, my spiritual practice and evolution, or just more and more acceptance of what is. Regardless, while I sat and remembered her, I had pangs of homesickness. I remember 137 Shanty Bay Road as the place where my life was formed from the time I was four until I left home at 19. There, we celebrated, grieved the loss of loved ones, danced, made music, ate many feasts, laughed and cried watching movies and listening to music. We spent days at the boathouse swimming, waterskiing, drinking Molson Export and having parties into the wee hours of the morning. Yes, this place was home for me. 

I then chatted on FaceTime with my dear brother from another mother who is living in my cabin in Nelson, and I could see on the screen my other “home” where I have so many fond memories of making music, sitting in my outdoor tub under the stars, snowshoeing with Babaji the mountain dog, walking along the creek in the shade during the hot summer months. I also have the not so great memories of having to kill mice, freezing my ass off in the winter and dealing with frozen pipes. That being said, this too has been a home. 

And yet, this feeling of homesickness was not for a certain place. I’ve made homes all over the world: Peru, Antigua, all over BC, Toronto, Nicaragua and now Costa Rica. But last week I came to the realization that these are actually just places, and houses to put my stuff. This unease actually comes from a place of not feeling at home in myself. I see that last week I wasn’t really meditating consistently, and have been extremely social with dance events, parties, potlucks and overall “busy-ness”. It’s been great to connect with so many beautiful people, and I’m grateful that here we CAN connect with each other in social ways, but I wasn’t taking time for myself. 

Mum’s anniversary was a great touchstone for me to slow down and take time to just be, breathe, reflect and do nothing. Of course I know the importance of going inside and taking time for stillness; I’ve been on this path for a long time. I guess I just forgot and got taken off track. I took a couple of days to be in silence (mostly) and a lot of stillness, journalling, watching a bit of Gangaji and Sadhguru, dancing by myself, doing yoga and breathing. Wow. What an instant way to recalibrate.

I have no idea how long I’ll be here in Costa Rica, but am not feeling called in the near future to head north. I’m feeling like I’d like to plant some roots here, possibly looking for another house to buy. No matter where this vessel may be though, I recognize the importance of being at home, here in myself. I wrote this song a few weeks ago as a reminder to myself that I am always at home. We are always at home, and this home is peaceful and filled with joy: our birthright and our natural state. 

Question for You: “When do you feel most at home?” 
I’d love to hear from you, as we are all in this together. 

As always, infinite gratitude for being part of this journey.
Love and Light, 
Sarah xo

"And now I feel so different..." Sinead O'Connor  

                              Sitting writing this blog post, finding the essence of the Goddess, despite how I feel I look.

 

Courage over Comfort.

I’m not sure where this phrase came from last week, but I wrote it a couple of times in my journal, wanting to keep it my memory for either a song lyric or a blog post. I really had no idea I’d be using it as a prompt for a spiritual experiment last Tuesday afternoon: shaving my head. 

Yup. You read that right. Hair. Gone. My long silver/blonde/brown locks were shorn to the quick...then burnt up later that night in my fire pit in ceremony. I’d been toying with the idea of shaving my head for as long as I can remember. Every time I’d go back to Barrie to visit one of my best pals Jen, who is also the best hairdresser I’ve ever been to, I’d ask her if she’d consider shaving it for me. To this she always replied with something like, “Not in my salon! Get somebody else to do it. You have great hair dude!” (Usually sprinkled with some cuss words for emphasis; we are Barrie girls after all.) 

When I was in India, I thought about it for a couple of reasons: one being it was so bloody hot, and the other being that it’d be a sadhana of sorts (spiritual practice). I chickened out for a couple of reasons, the most prominent being I was in a relationship with a fairly famous cricket player, and was worried that without my long sexy tresses, he’d lose interest. He had Bollywood chicks throwing themselves at him, so I felt I had to keep my idea of beauty intact, stay on my game...keep my hair. 

Later, while living in Canada, I’d use the bypass of it being so bloody cold most of the time, which is actually true. Having a shaved head underneath a ski helmet doesn’t provide the most insulation. I’m usually cold in the best of times so the idea of using my hair to keep me warm made sense. 
Many of you know I’ve been living in warm climates for the past decade or so during the chilly Canadian winter months, and yes, I thought about getting rid of my locks during those times, but there was always another bypass: a music festival I was playing, a music video I was shooting, time spent in L.A. where the modus operandi is usually to look stunning at all times. I’m a bit humbled to say that I bought into that for many years. I don't wear much makeup, and haven't bought into that, but I have bought into placing value on my hair.

As a pre-teen my hair became part of my identity. My mum used to take me down to Toronto to Holt Renfrew’s upscale salon once a year to get my hair highlighted. They did have a great student discount, so there was that, but still...pretty extravagent for a kid from small-town Ontario. This highlighting business continued well into my 30s, whereby I’d often spend inordinate amounts of cash making my hair brighter, which I felt could not only lighten my locks, but lighten my mood too. 

I remember coming back to Ontario after a bout with severe depression in my late twenties, and my mum immediately took me to the salon to get my hair done in an effort to make me feel better. She always did the best she could and I love her immensely, so there is no blame, but there is a question of why didn’t we delve into the real issue of why I was depressed? And yes, looking good can make you feel better...temporarily. I remember the Saturday Night Live sketch with Billy Crystal who was imitating Fernando Lamas and crooning, “It’s not how you feel dahling, it’s how you look, and you look mah-velous!” I think many of us take that to heart, and often overlook what’s really going on that’s making us feel so shitty in the first place. And so, we go to the salon, we go binge shopping, we eat copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s, in attempts to feel good. 

I’ve decided that I wanted this to stop. Now. Not next week, after I do a photo shoot on the beach. Not next year after I release a new album. Now. I want to really walk my talk and continue with this “Camino” or journey into freedom. True freedom. Without attachment. I heard Shimshai’s beautiful song, Suddhosi Buddhosi the other day at a friend’s house, which made me stop and think about what I’m attached to most. I’m pretty good with giving up my “stuff” and can let go of material objects pretty easily these days, but when I dove into the notion of my appearance and beauty, that was another story. Everyone has always commented on how fabulous my hair is. It had become something with which I had identified my actual being, which is total bullshit. I can say in my workshops and writings/songs that “I am enough” and all that jazz, but can I live it? It’s pretty easy to write a song inspiring people to know that they are enough, despite their physical “flaws” or “limitations” when you are blond, tall and lean and fit into what our present day society deems “beautiful”. It’s another thing to inspire through living it. And that’s what I want to do. 

                             Embodying what I deemed a "Goddess" presence during my CD Release event in Canada.

And so, the other day, as I began toying with the idea of doing the full shave, I googled the spiritual significance of shaving one’s head, and up came an explanation by Sadhguru, one of my fave teachers, who said that if a woman shaves her head on the day before the new moon, it is super powerful as a sadhana, and that the energies will flow more readily to the upper part of the body. It was the day before new moon. My friend Fabrice came by to give me a massage, and he and his beloved both have buzzed noggins, so I asked him hesitantly if he brought his buzzers with him. When he replied that indeed he did, I burst out with “Shit. I think I want you to buzz my hair.” And so, after setting an intention and sitting with the idea for about 5 minutes in silence I said “yes”. A Jewish proverb that I use came to mind, “If not now, when?” 

That night it took me a few hours to look in the mirror, and when I did, I felt like I looked like an old man. The shorn hair close to my skull was super white, my face was so prominent, with all of its newish lines and wrinkles, and I immediately started crying. I realized that this was not a practice in trying to look good, channeling Sinead in her early days or attempting to be cool. I’m also not losing my mind (as my Dad feared when I told him). No. I’m actually experiencing a true clarity of mind right now. This was and is a practice in letting go and keeping my ego in check. It still is, and will be for some time as my hair will slowly grow back. Hair is powerful, energetically. I remember after Mum died I visited an Anishinaabe healer in Midland. She told me that my hair was holding a lot of grief, and that to get rid of this, I could wash it with cedar water as a way to cleanse and clear. I feel like last week, I took this to a whole new level. I feel very clear.

This morning I look in the mirror and see the silver stubble coming through...sprouting if you will. I see the lines around my eyes more prominently without all that hair masking them. Lines that show I have laughed a lot in this lifetime. And I mean, a lot. I will continue to laugh a lot. I see the lines around my mouth from half a lifetime of smiling, and on my forehead, I see skin speckled with discolourations and freckles from years in the sun. And I mean, many years. I’ve been outside for most of my life as a camper and camp counsellor, ski and sailing teacher, outdoor guide, and overall, worshipper of nature. I smile at my reflection. I look into my eyes and see within them, my own soul. The universe. Tomorrow I may catch my relfection in the window and be momentarily shocked and grieve my former lovley locks, but it will be fleeting. For I know that as I contine to choose more courage over comfort, I pave the way for my own life filled with beauty and love, and dive deeper into freedom. Sat Nam.
                               It's all part of it: the Light and the Shadow. The masculine and the feminine. I embody it all.

"Surf City here we come" The Beach Boys 

Floating around on waves in the ocean has been known to induce many insights and encourage life-changing epiphanies. This raw connection to the elements brings us into close relationship with the environment, and ourselves. Some may ponder life’s fleetingness and the sense of groundlessness. Some Buddhists have been known to see the correlation between waves and thoughts, and how they come and go. Perhaps not as deep and profound as those who have thought before me, I too had a  revelation in seeing the myriad of similarities between surfing and dating. 

Based on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua for half the year, I’m used to being on the lake and doing lake things like swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and the odd synchronized swim routine for friends when I’m feeling sassy. I do however go off island several times a year to catch some waves in Popoyo and Maderas on the western coastline of the country. It was there in Popoyo last week that my “a-ha!” realization came. 

Due to the fact that I almost never date, and the same can be said about my surfing hobby in relation to real surfers, this is clearly a given similarity. But the connection between both activities runs deeper than that. The most obvious for me is that both surfing and dating induce a mild state of fear. I’ve had enough near drownings with my surfing days in Costa Rica to know that you don’t mess around with Mama Ocean. The first time I surfed was more than twenty years ago, and due to my youth, naiveté, and cockiness in believing that I was an athlete, I made the mistake of surfing in Playa Hermosa, south of Jaco, on a super big day.  One wave totally trashed me and left me feeling like I was in a washing machine with the level set for heavily soiled clothing, for about an hour. In reality, it was probably more like two minutes, but it was the longest minute of my life. And one of the scariest. Once I was washed up on the beach, I took some verbal abuse from my fellow surfers (rightly so!) and scampered away with my tail between my legs, vowing to not make the same mistake again and to find a beginner beach. 

The same can be said for dating in the sense of being fear-provoking. I’ve had a few dates that went on for perhaps an hour or so, and yet, they felt like a week: “Will this guy ever shut the fuck up and stop talking about himself? Will he ever and ask me a question?! Does he know that going into every mechanical detail about a specific piece of farm equipment is generally not that interesting?” And then I’ve had an experience with criminals, which is also scary. I met a dude on a surf trip years ago in Hawaii, and apparently after one rendez-vous under the stars one evening, he’d fallen in love with me. I was open (okay, maybe a bit desperate) so decided to give it a go upon returning to my home in British Columbia, Canada. After him not showing up for a date we had planned in the state of Washington, (I even crossed the border for this guy!) I googled his name to see if he may have been in an accident en route to our chosen spot. It was then that I saw all of his mug shots for various arrests, including spousal assault and carrying a concealed weapon. It now made perfect sense why he wanted to meet in the States. He couldn’t cross the border. I dodged a bullet there. Probably literally. I vowed in that moment be more discerning with dating, and to do some research in the future; I would not make the same mistake. Similarly if I’d had done some research all those years ago in Costa Rica about the waves in Playa Hermosa, I would have realized that they were way out of my league. Discernment is a virtue. 

My session out on the water the other day was also like dating in terms of waiting. Waiting to catch that perfect wave, and in the dating world, waiting to find the perfect guy (one should note that I am currently forty-six and the longest relationship I’ve had is 2 years). As I straddled the board (uh, no, I’m not going into any of those comparisons folks. I’m a classy broad) and looked out to the sea, I kept my eyes on any potential waves that would be appropriate for my skill set. Basically, giving my environment the once-over. It reminded me of being at a festival or gathering whereby I’ll let my eyes wander about, sussing out the potential man situation. A few times I’d see a wave or two coming in and think, “Is this the one? Could this be the one?” and then against my better judgement (and often impatience after having waited for a long time), I’d paddle, paddle, paddle, only to find that the wave was actually mediocre, and if I’d had waited another couple of minutes, the waves following that wave were actually much better in terms of shape and form. I’ve seen this lack of patience before with finding men too. In my gut, I always know when a man is right for me, but since my love life much of the time can be compared to the rains in the Sahara, I sometimes forget my gut voice and try him out anyway, drinking from the pool of mediocrity, only to end up feeling disappointed. During that dreadful date with the less-than-stimulating conversation about farm equipment, who knows if my true prince was somewhere else? He could have been waiting to find me and wanting to talk about George Martin’s influence on the Beatles, or the waves in Popoyo. The moral of the story here both on land and in the sea is: patience. 

The question is: is there really  a perfect wave or perfect partner? On the flip-side, sometimes I can miss a really great wave or really great dude waiting for the more perfect wave or more perfect dude that actually never comes along. It’s a fine line. That being said, I’ve also noticed that when one great wave comes along, a whole set of them accompanies. From seeming nothingness, and eons of waiting, here comes seven, at the same time, so take your pick! Which wave to choose?! It’s the same with potential love too. For ages there is nothing, and I start to consider becoming a lesbian again (you know what I mean lesbian friends...I don’t want to get into the being born a certain way argument!) , and then all of a sudden: voila! Seven guys knocking down my door and now I have to choose. Decision making not one of my strong points, this can often be overwhelming. Mostly, very few dates actually work out, and then I’m back to the whole contemplating becoming a Buddhist nun thing again. That’s usually when my friends chime in to assure me there are plenty more fish in the sea. And many more waves to catch as well.

"Day is done, gone the sun..." Taps 

“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the skies...God is nigh.” Most evenings at dusk I sit on my porch and sing this song, watching the sun sink into Lake Cocibolca’s horizon here on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. With every unique sunset in its intricacies of colours and patterns, I do feel that “God is nigh” or that Spirit is near.  Often, as I wake up to birdsong and see the sun rising over the volcano behind my home I’ll belt out, “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!” Last week I was chiming “Feliz Navidad” like nobody’s biz, to all the neighbours, recounting those August 25th mornings when Joe Vetro (the hunk we all adored at girl’s camp) would walk around the junior section with his guitar serenading us. Clearly, Kitchi has left its imprint upon me, and the music that I experienced at camp has shaped who I am today, and how I live my life.  

For me, music is associated deeply with ritual, and as a spiritual teacher and musician, this notion of ritual and music go hand in hand. When I lead my retreats, we always gather in the morning to do some sort of meditation or yogic practice to start the day mindfully, which is reminiscent of “morning thought” at flagpole. Before we eat, we gather around the food and sing songs of gratitude and thanks, a practice instilled at camp of course. We often have a night of devotional music and reflection, a ritual I revered every Sunday at chapel. On the last night of my retreats, we sit around a campfire singing traditional tunes. It’s a way to unite people, despite race, colour, creed and religion. Campfires for me are now seen as an informal “ceremony," and I’ve already had a couple here at my place in Nicaragua. My experiences with various ceremonies in Peru all incorporated some sort of music, whether it be shamanic drumming or singing. In India, many of the practices that resonated the most involved some sort of chanting and music. Music and sound has been the vehicle to help take me into an altered state. A place where I am most in touch with the universe, and most importantly, with myself. When I attended my first Kundalini Yoga class twenty years ago the class finished with a chant that left me in tears. I wasn’t consciously sad at the time; I’d just spent a killer day at the local ski hill. However, that music moved something in me that allowed me to have a cathartic experience, getting rid of subconscious garbage I’d been unknowingly carrying around. It changed my life. Singing and swaying in a group of people, tears streaming down my cheeks, I think back to that first class, and am reminded about other times like this: closing campfires at Kitchi.  

Here’s where the whole “Everyday people just don’t understand” theme really comes into play. Gary Bard so eloquently summed up our experiences in his song, in a way that is simple, and yet profound. I’d tell my friends at home about closing campfire, one of my favourite (albeit bitter-sweet) happenings at camp, and they’d be confused, “Um, okay, so you all just sit around a fire and sing and cry? That’s weird.” But we know that to be amongst like-minded souls with a love for Kitchi and its values, and to be open and vulnerable with each other through our tears at a young age was so rich and healing. I believe it set us up to be more reflective, to celebrate friendships and to be empathetic compassionate human beings. Those campfire songs told the stories of our lives. Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend solidified friendships in a way that we didn’t need to have a conversation; singing and swaying together was enough. I still call on Kitchi friends today when I’m “down and troubled”. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain inspired us to believe that indeed, we would see each other again. I can still hear Sarah Hill’s sweet voice coming in on verse two. When I close my eyes around a campfire today, I can hear Graham Weber strumming Blue Rodeo’s Lost Together. That music became a fabric, weaved by so many voices and memories, and I take that with me wherever I go in the world.  

And so, as a songwriter today, those songs from the heart informed the way I write. I allow myself to become vulnerable and to write as honestly as I can, knowing that my experiences, although unique to me, are actually universal: love, loss, experience, learning, growing. This is the human experience. I’m currently working on a musical theatre project, a “spiritual musical” if you will. Our morning anthem Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma set the tone for having a positive outlook and appreciating the day. It’s my hope that through music, I can convey much of what I’ve learned, from Kitchi and my journey, to encourage more kindness, compassion and love in this world.

"Relax." Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 

Yoga nidra sesh while waiting for the ferry in Swartz Bay

 

So many of you know that I’ve been touting the benefits of yoga nidra for several years. My friend Jaya Leigh introduced it to me ages ago and I’ve been practicing it diligently, especially since I started to heal my adrenal fatigue issues. Yoga nidra is otherwise known as “sleep yoga," and come on, who doesn’t want to have a little more sleep in their lives? Particularly those of us who have babies and are completely sleep deprived? 

And so, I have a couple of downloaded versions on my phone in my music library that are my go-tos when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). One of my faves is Karen Brody’s rest meditation/yoga nidra recording from her book “Daring to Rest” . I read her book last year and followed her 40-day program which included three different yoga nidra practices, each building upon each other, and culminating with a sense of DEEP and PROFOUND rest. I felt amazing. The yogis say that doing a 20-minute yoga nidra session is equivalent to having a one-hour deep sleep. The brain waves that are activated during a yoga nidra session are the ones that slow our brain activity down. In the day to day, we access our beta waves, and that allows us to talk, drive cars, and fulfil our regular daily tasks. When we do a yoga nidra session, we access the alpha waves, and often the theta waves. In this place and space, there is less thinking and more rest. 

I’ve been known to do yoga nidra sessions in various places: airports, ferry terminals, park benches, friends’ couches, the back of my car, hammocks, beaches and other public places. All I need to do is find a place to lie down and put my headphones on. 

Several years ago I introduced my dad to the practice when we were in Invermere BC skiing. We were staying at a friends’ place and they have two awesome (and very busy)! kids. Since I don’t have kids, and Dad is old and lives solo, we were pretty pooped with all of the hustle and bustle of the household. Plus, we’d skied our butts off all day, so we were exhausted. We excused ourselves from the carnival (which is their living room) and shut ourselves into the spare bedroom for 20 minutes. After our session (we listened to Liz Hill’s practice) on YouTube, we emerged from our yoga nidra nap rested and replenished, ready to take on the rest of the day. Dad was amazed at how much energy he had, and how calm he felt at the same time, “What the hell was that? I gotta get that and do it at home.” I told him he’d need a) internet and/or b) a stereo system. Since he’s allergic to computers and doesn’t like technology, and his stereo only plays FM stations, this would be challenging for him. And so, he only does the practice when we are together. 
For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is, well, how shall I say this? Gruff. Rough around the edges. A Barrie boy through and through. His ex-wife had a chip truck called “Grumpy Mike’s” with his face on the side of the truck. Everyone who knows him knows this about him. He makes me laugh constantly with his grumpy comments and mannerisms, because underneath, he is a softy, with a huge capacity for generosity (he let a homeless man stay in his storage unit for years, and would often feed him) and love. I’ve posted many-a-story about Dad, and his unique and comical mannerisms in the past. He’s like the character of the father in A Christmas Story, particularly in the scenes where he’s fixing the furnace (Dad was a furnace and air-conditioning guy by trade) and you can only hear muffled sounds emanating from the basement (cursing and swearing). Every sentence Dad utters usually has the word “Christ” in it, and although he’s a Catholic, he’s not using his saviour’s name in reverence or prayer most of the time. 

Yesterday’s yoga nidra session with him should have been a Seinfeld episode. Here’s what went down: 
Dad was laying on the bed and I put my portable speaker next to his head between the pillows while I set up my computer on my desk. I guess the last time I used the speaker I was rockin’ out pretty hard because I left the volume on full tilt. When I pressed play, Jodi’s voice boomed, “Close your eyes.  Begin to feel yourself moving back from your everyday life....” and Dad, in his state of being startled by the volume shouted, “Christ! That’s fucking loud!”. Not off to a good start for tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that says, “Slow down.”) After adjusting the volume, I lay beside him on the bed and told him he should have his palms facing upwards towards the ceiling. With that, I gently took his hand and flipped it over, as I would when teaching a class. What was different in this scenario however, was that my students are usually in their 30s-50s and don’t have severe arthritis. When I flipped Dad’s hand over he shrieked, “Ow! Fuck! What are you doing?! My hands are sore!” Setting the scene was progressively going from bad to worse. After finally adjusting the volume to a peaceful level, and then getting him comfy and relaxed, I lay down and got myself comfy. It took me a few minutes to get into the meditation because I had a serious case of the giggles due to the schmozzle of starting the thing. After a few minutes, we were both super relaxed, and the sides of both of our hands were touching. This almost made me weep. In addition to being grumpy, Dad is not the most demonstrative person I’ve ever met. He’s not a big hugger per se (getting better in later years due to my insistence), so the fact he was comfortable almost holding hands was a big deal. 

After our session, we both felt much more relaxed and grounded, and I noticed he was a lot more present for the remainder of the evening. More inquisitive about me. Less grumpy. Now, if only I could get a yoga nidra recording to be broadcast from an AM radio station.

"You've got the eyes of a stranger." Toto 

"Excuse me Sir.....I don't think you should go up there!"

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” was a memorable line that came out of Tennyson’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s always resonated with me on so many levels. Being an intrepid world-traveller and constantly meeting “strangers”, I too have relied on kindness. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the role of the stranger, offering kindness. It was a cool and dreary Toronto fall day, where the gray sky seemed to envelop the whole city. I was going to get some blood-work done at a nearby clinic and after numerous attempts to make an appointment online for two days (Mercury in retrograde), I decided to just head on in and wait. When I got to the building, I was greeted with annoyed faces and numerous huffs and puffs from people in the lobby. All three elevators were out of order, and everyone had to use the stairwell. Not such a big deal for those of us with appointments on the second or third floors, but kinda a big deal for others who were on the eleventh or twelfth floors. I could hear people complaining, “I mean three elevators out of order? Why would they do that?!” When one woman complained to me just before I began going up the stairs, I calmly replied, “Well, I’m sure this is a pain in the ass for them too. I don’t really think that they want their elevators to not be running either.” She just gave me a “humph” and moved on to someone else who would commiserate with her. 

I started the jaunt up the stairs for the sixth floor (not so bad!) and it was like I was at the end of the Boston Marathon, for geriatrics. I was passing a lot of people with either silver hair or no hair at all, and were clutching the hand rails, stopping to catch their breath, and swearing. When I got to the second floor, there was a woman who was yelling at an old man who must have been very hard of hearing and was hunched over, clutching the handrail for dear life, “Sir! Sir! You can’t go that far! You have to turn around!” It turns out that the old man was not hard of hearing, but he just didn’t speak English. Nor did his wife who was toddling along behind him. I asked the woman what was going on and she told me that he had an appointment on the ninth floor, and that clearly, this wasn’t an option. She had followed him up one flight of stairs and had witnessed him almost fall several times, and had caught him. His wife was about 4’7”, so not much of a “spotter”. 

I asked the wife who the doctor was on the ninth floor, but she too spoke no English and answered in either Polish or Hungarian (or some other Eastern European language I’m assuming...it sounded like she said something about pirogies) and lifted her hands to show me nine fingers. Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going very well. By this time, another young man, whom I’ll call Freddy (he looked nothing like a Freddy, and actually looked Arabic, but I don’t want to give him a stereotypical name) came on the scene and asked if he could help. The woman asked me to stay with him while she went down to get security. It was really a bad idea for this man to attempt another seven floors. While we waited, the old man kept trying to climb the stairs. It was painful. Freddy walked in front of him and took his arm, and I stood behind him to spot him in case he fell backwards. By the time we reached the third floor (almost ten minutes later), it looked like the old guy was going to have a stroke. I stopped him and began playing charades in an attempt to dissuade him from going any further, “You can’t go up the other stairs!” I stated, looking into his eyes, and making hand gestures that were reminiscent of a bastardized Hokie Pokie, shaking my head and walking my fingers around in the air towards the upper floors. He just looked at me with kind pale blue eyes and smiled, nodding as he attempted to give it another go. Freddy and I resumed our positions as leader and tail runner. 

Finally, the security guy came to meet us, with a woman who worked in one of the offices who spoke Polish. She began talking to them in Polish, and again, nothing was understood. Could they have been Czech? Romanian? Regardless, the security man brought him a chair to sit on, and the other woman headed up to the ninth floor to find out who the doctor was. At this point, Freddy and I made our way to our respective appointments, smiled to one another and felt a certain unspoken bond in our brief, albeit meaningful camaraderie. 

Even though we were “in a rush” to get our business done and to make our appointments, we let this fall away as we attempted to help a fellow human in need, and to try to prevent harm. It really was a beautiful moment in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve found it challenging to be in a place that is so fast-paced and busy. I’ve been the recipient of serious road rage several times, and have been almost crushed to death while embarking a streetcar by people who are clearly in a rush. My moment with Freddy and the old couple yesterday has helped to fade those not-so-great-moments I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that by leading by example, some of those people who were running by us on the stairwell, complaining and swearing will be inspired to slow down. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us all to “be the lighthouse” and I’m hoping that yesterday I could shine my light and show what it is I can offer: my time and my energy to uplift and serve others. Sat Nam.

"Teach Your Children Well" CSNY 

I saw a woman wearing a tee shirt many years ago in a security line in an airport in Australia that read, “Oh no! I forgot to have children!” I had to stop and take her picture.  

I felt like I was in the same boat. It’s for this reason that I was hesitant to contribute for this month’s blog about raising conscious children. I’m not actually raising children for several reasons, the main reason being that I don’t have the dude in my life right now with whom I’d want to raise them, and I never had the maternal calling so much that it pulled me towards having a child on my own.  

That being said, I was a school teacher and camp counsellor for many moons before devoting my time to teaching Kundalini Yoga and creating music. During those years, I got many glimpses of how parents were raising their kids...some of those glimpses were beautiful, but sadly, many of them weren’t, at least in my experiences with teaching in the school system.  

I won’t get into the whole description of how lack of respect starting at home was then passed on to the teachers. Nor will I go into the many crazy events whereby I was a recipient of some pretty serious verbal (and once physical) abuse.  

I will, however, relay that when I spoke to parents whose kids were having issues, they were often quite defensive and would put the blame on me—that it was my fault their kids were behaving poorly. After many of those phone calls, I decided I could teach and serve in other ways, and left the public education system.  

What I noticed is that so many of these kids were really crying out for some sort of routine and sense of stability. I know when I don’t have any routine I behave poorly: missing doing my sadhana, eating a bag of chips for lunch, having Netflix binges. Many of these children were being moved around from parent to parent with no real sense of schedule or routine. There was simply no discipline.  

As a kid, I had the privilege of having routine with my schooling, my after-school paper route, piano lessons, practice time, dinner at a certain time, homework, connecting with mum time, then bed. I had discipline enforced on me with my piano lessons and homework, which of course I didn’t love, but it made me the musician I am today, and allowed me to see through experience that practice is valuable. Finishing things is valuable.  

On the flip-side, my experience of working with kids in a camp setting has proven to be amazing in terms of seeing how important it is to raise healthy conscious kids. I recently attended a summer camp reunion up in northern Ontario in Canada; I attended it from the time I was eight until I was 22 and worked on staff.  

We were celebrating its 100 year anniversary and people from all over the globe came back to be on Beausoleil Island to reminisce, reflect, share stories and songs, and give gratitude to the place that helped form us. The majority of the alumni have gone on to be successful adults in both their personal and business lives. Many are philanthropic and do acts of seva on a regular basis. Many are helping others in terms of teaching, healing and serving.  

I wrote an article last year for the camp’s publication about how my life at camp helped to set a foundation for my spiritual life as a Kundalini Yogi. We started each day with “morning dip” in the chilly Georgian Bay, which of course, is akin to the cold showers Yogiji recommended so many years ago. We then attended “morning thought” around the flagpole, whereby a staff member would read a poem or thought that was spiritually oriented, and we’d reflect on this as a sangat.  

The day was filled with healthy outdoor activity to keep our bodies fit, and there were times of song and rest. After lunch we’d have an hour to rest, which of course, Yogiji recommended doing after eating. Although there was no formal meditation at camp, there was a structure that encouraged mindfulness, activity, rest and reflection.  

Without parents around, we had autonomy to grow without their conditioning, and to make our mistakes, learn, grow and thrive. We were able to “feel safe and secure in our own unique identities," which Yogi Bhajan said was so important for children, and we learned to communicate clearly and consciously. This, I believe helped to create so many healthy, strong kids—myself included.  

That being said, although I don’t have children of my own, I do encourage my friends who have kids to send their kids to camp. My camp was a YMCA camp, with Christian values, but was non-denominational; my sister and I were Jewish, and there were many others with different backgrounds.  

The lessons I learned there were in line with the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the Aquarian sutras. I see the value in kids being together outside of the traditional school setting—in nature and being nurtured spiritually. I still go to camp...this year I went to Ladies Khalsa Camp in BC and felt like the routine of sadhana followed by learning, eating good food, resting and being in nature was so very valuable. Gratitude for camps.

"Relax." Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 

Yoga nidra sesh while waiting for the ferry in Swartz Bay

 

So many of you know that I’ve been touting the benefits of yoga nidra for several years. My friend Jaya Leigh introduced it to me ages ago and I’ve been practicing it diligently, especially since I started to heal my adrenal fatigue issues. Yoga nidra is otherwise known as “sleep yoga," and come on, who doesn’t want to have a little more sleep in their lives? Particularly those of us who have babies and are completely sleep deprived? 

And so, I have a couple of downloaded versions on my phone in my music library that are my go-tos when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). One of my faves is Karen Brody’s rest meditation/yoga nidra recording from her book “Daring to Rest” . I read her book last year and followed her 40-day program which included three different yoga nidra practices, each building upon each other, and culminating with a sense of DEEP and PROFOUND rest. I felt amazing. The yogis say that doing a 20-minute yoga nidra session is equivalent to having a one-hour deep sleep. The brain waves that are activated during a yoga nidra session are the ones that slow our brain activity down. In the day to day, we access our beta waves, and that allows us to talk, drive cars, and fulfil our regular daily tasks. When we do a yoga nidra session, we access the alpha waves, and often the theta waves. In this place and space, there is less thinking and more rest. 

I’ve been known to do yoga nidra sessions in various places: airports, ferry terminals, park benches, friends’ couches, the back of my car, hammocks, beaches and other public places. All I need to do is find a place to lie down and put my headphones on. 

Several years ago I introduced my dad to the practice when we were in Invermere BC skiing. We were staying at a friends’ place and they have two awesome (and very busy)! kids. Since I don’t have kids, and Dad is old and lives solo, we were pretty pooped with all of the hustle and bustle of the household. Plus, we’d skied our butts off all day, so we were exhausted. We excused ourselves from the carnival (which is their living room) and shut ourselves into the spare bedroom for 20 minutes. After our session (we listened to Liz Hill’s practice) on YouTube, we emerged from our yoga nidra nap rested and replenished, ready to take on the rest of the day. Dad was amazed at how much energy he had, and how calm he felt at the same time, “What the hell was that? I gotta get that and do it at home.” I told him he’d need a) internet and/or b) a stereo system. Since he’s allergic to computers and doesn’t like technology, and his stereo only plays FM stations, this would be challenging for him. And so, he only does the practice when we are together. 
For those of you who know my dad, you know that he is, well, how shall I say this? Gruff. Rough around the edges. A Barrie boy through and through. His ex-wife had a chip truck called “Grumpy Mike’s” with his face on the side of the truck. Everyone who knows him knows this about him. He makes me laugh constantly with his grumpy comments and mannerisms, because underneath, he is a softy, with a huge capacity for generosity (he let a homeless man stay in his storage unit for years, and would often feed him) and love. I’ve posted many-a-story about Dad, and his unique and comical mannerisms in the past. He’s like the character of the father in A Christmas Story, particularly in the scenes where he’s fixing the furnace (Dad was a furnace and air-conditioning guy by trade) and you can only hear muffled sounds emanating from the basement (cursing and swearing). Every sentence Dad utters usually has the word “Christ” in it, and although he’s a Catholic, he’s not using his saviour’s name in reverence or prayer most of the time. 

Yesterday’s yoga nidra session with him should have been a Seinfeld episode. Here’s what went down: 
Dad was laying on the bed and I put my portable speaker next to his head between the pillows while I set up my computer on my desk. I guess the last time I used the speaker I was rockin’ out pretty hard because I left the volume on full tilt. When I pressed play, Jodi’s voice boomed, “Close your eyes.  Begin to feel yourself moving back from your everyday life....” and Dad, in his state of being startled by the volume shouted, “Christ! That’s fucking loud!”. Not off to a good start for tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that says, “Slow down.”) After adjusting the volume, I lay beside him on the bed and told him he should have his palms facing upwards towards the ceiling. With that, I gently took his hand and flipped it over, as I would when teaching a class. What was different in this scenario however, was that my students are usually in their 30s-50s and don’t have severe arthritis. When I flipped Dad’s hand over he shrieked, “Ow! Fuck! What are you doing?! My hands are sore!” Setting the scene was progressively going from bad to worse. After finally adjusting the volume to a peaceful level, and then getting him comfy and relaxed, I lay down and got myself comfy. It took me a few minutes to get into the meditation because I had a serious case of the giggles due to the schmozzle of starting the thing. After a few minutes, we were both super relaxed, and the sides of both of our hands were touching. This almost made me weep. In addition to being grumpy, Dad is not the most demonstrative person I’ve ever met. He’s not a big hugger per se (getting better in later years due to my insistence), so the fact he was comfortable almost holding hands was a big deal. 

After our session, we both felt much more relaxed and grounded, and I noticed he was a lot more present for the remainder of the evening. More inquisitive about me. Less grumpy. Now, if only I could get a yoga nidra recording to be broadcast from an AM radio station.

"You've got the eyes of a stranger." Toto 

"Excuse me Sir.....I don't think you should go up there!"

“I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” was a memorable line that came out of Tennyson’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s always resonated with me on so many levels. Being an intrepid world-traveller and constantly meeting “strangers”, I too have relied on kindness. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the role of the stranger, offering kindness. It was a cool and dreary Toronto fall day, where the gray sky seemed to envelop the whole city. I was going to get some blood-work done at a nearby clinic and after numerous attempts to make an appointment online for two days (Mercury in retrograde), I decided to just head on in and wait. When I got to the building, I was greeted with annoyed faces and numerous huffs and puffs from people in the lobby. All three elevators were out of order, and everyone had to use the stairwell. Not such a big deal for those of us with appointments on the second or third floors, but kinda a big deal for others who were on the eleventh or twelfth floors. I could hear people complaining, “I mean three elevators out of order? Why would they do that?!” When one woman complained to me just before I began going up the stairs, I calmly replied, “Well, I’m sure this is a pain in the ass for them too. I don’t really think that they want their elevators to not be running either.” She just gave me a “humph” and moved on to someone else who would commiserate with her. 

I started the jaunt up the stairs for the sixth floor (not so bad!) and it was like I was at the end of the Boston Marathon, for geriatrics. I was passing a lot of people with either silver hair or no hair at all, and were clutching the hand rails, stopping to catch their breath, and swearing. When I got to the second floor, there was a woman who was yelling at an old man who must have been very hard of hearing and was hunched over, clutching the handrail for dear life, “Sir! Sir! You can’t go that far! You have to turn around!” It turns out that the old man was not hard of hearing, but he just didn’t speak English. Nor did his wife who was toddling along behind him. I asked the woman what was going on and she told me that he had an appointment on the ninth floor, and that clearly, this wasn’t an option. She had followed him up one flight of stairs and had witnessed him almost fall several times, and had caught him. His wife was about 4’7”, so not much of a “spotter”. 

I asked the wife who the doctor was on the ninth floor, but she too spoke no English and answered in either Polish or Hungarian (or some other Eastern European language I’m assuming...it sounded like she said something about pirogies) and lifted her hands to show me nine fingers. Clearly, our conversation wasn’t going very well. By this time, another young man, whom I’ll call Freddy (he looked nothing like a Freddy, and actually looked Arabic, but I don’t want to give him a stereotypical name) came on the scene and asked if he could help. The woman asked me to stay with him while she went down to get security. It was really a bad idea for this man to attempt another seven floors. While we waited, the old man kept trying to climb the stairs. It was painful. Freddy walked in front of him and took his arm, and I stood behind him to spot him in case he fell backwards. By the time we reached the third floor (almost ten minutes later), it looked like the old guy was going to have a stroke. I stopped him and began playing charades in an attempt to dissuade him from going any further, “You can’t go up the other stairs!” I stated, looking into his eyes, and making hand gestures that were reminiscent of a bastardized Hokie Pokie, shaking my head and walking my fingers around in the air towards the upper floors. He just looked at me with kind pale blue eyes and smiled, nodding as he attempted to give it another go. Freddy and I resumed our positions as leader and tail runner. 

Finally, the security guy came to meet us, with a woman who worked in one of the offices who spoke Polish. She began talking to them in Polish, and again, nothing was understood. Could they have been Czech? Romanian? Regardless, the security man brought him a chair to sit on, and the other woman headed up to the ninth floor to find out who the doctor was. At this point, Freddy and I made our way to our respective appointments, smiled to one another and felt a certain unspoken bond in our brief, albeit meaningful camaraderie. 

Even though we were “in a rush” to get our business done and to make our appointments, we let this fall away as we attempted to help a fellow human in need, and to try to prevent harm. It really was a beautiful moment in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, I’ve found it challenging to be in a place that is so fast-paced and busy. I’ve been the recipient of serious road rage several times, and have been almost crushed to death while embarking a streetcar by people who are clearly in a rush. My moment with Freddy and the old couple yesterday has helped to fade those not-so-great-moments I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that by leading by example, some of those people who were running by us on the stairwell, complaining and swearing will be inspired to slow down. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us all to “be the lighthouse” and I’m hoping that yesterday I could shine my light and show what it is I can offer: my time and my energy to uplift and serve others. Sat Nam.