"We belong...we belong, we belong together." Pat Benetar 


How a Mexican Mutt transformed a Former Commitment-phobe

“Okay, so it’s only been two years, is it too late to give her back?” My higher self knew that yes, it was definitely too late to give Zafi back. And to whom would I actually give her back? Her original owners ditched her when she was a puppy, and the gal who gave her to me was travelling between the UK, India and Mexico, so that clearly wasn’t an option. I had to accept, that when I said “yes” to this little scrappy scruffy being two years ago, it meant I was in.

Something happens to me when in relationship after the two year mark. I’m talking about romantic relationship, but still. I’ve noticed that my longest relationship (there have been a few in succession) is just over two years. The break ups have been for different reasons of course, but I’m seeing a pattern here. When the going gets tough....Zarah gets going. Granted, the relationships weren’t in alignment, but there is some truth to ducking out a little prematurely. And so, with Zafi, I’m getting to experience a whole new level of commitment. And that feels good.

Since I never had kids, having a fur baby is the closest thing I’ve had. Getting the Zafster ready for her international travels hasn’t been super easy. The first time around, two summers ago, I had to prepare her for the trip by losing a little more than a pound before the trip. She was weighing in at 21.2 pounds, and the limit is 20. So, the week before our trip I became her personal trainer and fed her smaller portions of food, and had her chase me around on my motorbike. I call it the “Redneck Run”. Please don’t call PETA. It was that, or leave her in the sweltering heat of Mexico, just a month after I had adopted her. We had to bond. She had to come with me. By the time our flight rolled around, she was in accordance with the weight limit of 20 pounds, but in reality was too tall for the bag. If you’ve seen her, she looks like a cross between a gremlin and Wilt Chamberlain. That bitch has seriously long legs for a small dog. If they had asked me to open the bag and let her walk around, we would have been done for. I drugged her sufficiently before we got to the counter, and bragged to the Air Canada person that she was so excited to go back to Canada, and how she just loves flying, as if she was an old hack. The Air Canada representative just smiled at her through the weaving in her back, cooed, “what a sweet little doggie!” and asked no more questions. We were in.

Fast forward two years later, and that little doggie ain’t so little anymore. It could be all the chicharons she finds on the sidewalks in our town (amidst all the other garbage she loves foraging), but it’s most likely that she was actually a lot younger than we thought when I first said “yes” to her, and now she’s full grown. Regardless, there is no way that “sweet little doggie” fits in that bag now. Hence, the crate and having to go in cargo. Hence having to do a detour to San Francisco, or somewhere else that Air Alaska flies. They are the only airline out of Puerto Vallarta that doesn’t have a “heat embargo” for animals travelling in cargo. Westjet and Air Canada stop flying animals the beginning of May, which I didn’t know, as I went to book flights May 3rd. I sussed where I could have a stopover and chose SF because I have friends and family here. That was sorted. What wasn’t sorted was Z’s skin issues just before we left.

Three weeks before our travels, we were camping on the beach and she must have got some sort of bacteria from the damp sand at night. As a result, she ended up with three hot spots which she was licking obsessively, resulting in removing all of her fur, and left her skin raw. I took her to two different vets, who told me to use a cream that didn’t work, and then took her to another vet in La Penita. I needed to make sure she was good to go for the trip, because the USA needs a certificate of good health to enter the country. So, she was on a course of antibiotics and steroids to clear up the skin thing, and my plan of training her to hang out and relax in her crate was foiled becuase she had to wear the cone of shame to avoid licking her spots. Man. Navigating galore. Luckily, the drugs worked, and she got the clean bill of health a couple of days before getting on the plane. And no worries with her crate because I lined it with her favourite blanket, and put a few of her fave things in with her, a pair of my shoes being one of them. Ah, the comfort of the smell of the mistress’s tootsies.

On the first morning after we arrived to SF I was worried that I had traumatized her with the trip in cargo. Turns out, she was just cold. And so am I. Wasn’t it Mark Twain that wrote the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco? Word. Each morning, she’s shivering under the blankets, and I’m strolling the streets wearing my touque (Canadian for hat) and down jacket amongst all of these native San Fransisco peeps in T shirts.

I remember experiencing this variation in climate years ago in the south of France as a student, but in an opposite way. We Canadian students were basking in the late April sun in our bathing suits, and the ladies of the Riviera were eyeing us suspiciously in their fur coats. Seems like my blood has become more Mexican and this weather is taking a bit of getting used to.

What I have been experiencing (besides culture shock) is a deepening of love and commitment towards this pooch. The pros of having her as my sidekick are definitely outweighing the cons of navigating getting her on buses and ferries. She has settled into herself as of late, and I’m guessing feels this sense of me truly being her human. As a solo woman who has been used to just taking care of herself for years, this is an opportunity to grow and evolve. There is a certain surrender that’s happening as I settle into the fact that I am indeed her steward, and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure she’s taken care of. Sometimes, it won’t be with me as I’m a creature of freedom and need some solo time, but it will always be with someone who loves her.  And there are plenty. She’s managed to steal the hearts of the hospital staff where my cousin is staying, and prances around making everyone who sees her smile. When I had a moment of grief at the realization that my cousin is now considered to be in palliative care, I sat on the couch and had a good cry. The Zafster immediately jumped up and began licking my tears, and making me laugh. Recalling my rollerskating days, I find myself singing Pat Benetar’s “We Belong”, (which I often do at Karaoke) and although I wish I could sing it for a lover/partner, who has yet to present himself, it currently totally fits with this little furry-faced pooch. “We belong together”. 

"...Lies the seed, that with the sun's love, In the spring, becomes the rose" Bette Midler 

A rose by any other name, still smells as sweet.  Shakespeare

And so what could naturally be related to this, “A woman by any other name is still a woman.”

It’s been exactly two years since I started using “Zarah” versus “Sarah”, and I’ve been reflecting on my name, and why I felt it was part of my journey to change it. I remember when I used to teach high school English, and getting kids to “get” Shakespeare was such a challenge. The language, the cadence, the intricacies of the rhyme scheme. And yet, this quote was easy to explain. The idea of the lack of importance in a name. What is, simply is. And how often, words get in the way.

I bought a pendant with the letter “Z” last week at a market, and it got me thinking about the notion of names and identity. It’s not like I’m not “Sarah” anymore. It’s just that I’m also “Zarah”. To relinquish my given name completely doesn’t resonate; it was my great-grandmother’s name, on my father’s side of the family. Apparently, when my mum went over to my grandmother’s to celebrate the news of her pregnancy, my Nanny handed her a glass of Scotch and water (her fave libation) and clinked my impending arrival by saying, “Here’s to Sarah”. Neither knew whether I’d be a boy or a girl, but apparently a boy’s name wasn’t even mentioned. They just knew a girl was on the way. After her drink, Mum went back home and called her own mother, my Nana, and asked her what she thought about the possibility of the name Sarah. To this, my Nana’s response was, “I’ve never met an unkind Sarah.” And so it was. And so it is, as I value kindness and particularly “loving kindness” within my Hakomi therapy practice. It’s one of the pillars of the modality.

In my studies at university, the name Sarah was immensely popular; I think there were about six of us in our small residence alone. Apparently 1973 was “The year of the Sarah.” When we introduced ourselves, we had to specify, if it was Sarah “with an ‘h’” or “without”. Clearly, the Sarahs “with an ‘h’” felt ourselves to be superior, for the Sara “without an ‘h’” seemed incomplete. I think it was more of a longing to belong, and kindredness in spirit to be connected to each other by a name with the same spelling. This is one of our inherent needs: to belong.

This university was comprised mostly of private school students from the Toronto area. Most of my peers had known each other for years, so it was pretty cliquey. From the get-go, there was a feeling for me of not really fitting in. The parking lot looked like a fine car dealership: BMW, Porsche, Audi and the like. I had my steed parked outside too; a red Nishiki mountain bike. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to attend a school in France for my third year, and finally felt like I belonged, outside of a conservative institution and in the land of different languages and meeting a new artistic and diverse community.  

After my mum died when I was 32, my life changed dramatically. I quit teaching high school, and went on to study jazz and did my Kundalini Yoga teacher training in New Mexico. It was there that I was given a new name: Amarpal Kaur, which means, “beloved and loyal friend”. This meaning and the essence of the name rang true in a lot of ways. I was definitely loyal to all my friends, and felt loved by them. What never really felt true for me, was the actual name. The fact that someone else who I never met chose a name for me. I was intrigued by how the name was chosen, by using numerology, but that’s about it. Also, when I told people my name, it didn’t really roll off the tongue, and I often had to repeat it. It just felt clunky and like it was never really mine. And so, I never really embraced it, nor chose to be identified by it. I released a mantra album under the name, because I thought it sounded more “spiritual”. Later, when I wanted to have all my albums on Spotify/Apple Music etc. under the same name as “Sarah Calvert”, I found I couldn’t do this, which proved to be frustrating. When I was performing, I never used my spiritual name and there were times when I felt I never truly fit into the Kundalini Yoga community. Most people who were really and truly “on the path” had changed their names and only used their spiritual names, so again, I had this sense of not truly belonging. Many years later, after several scandals involving the Yogi Bhajan, the “master” teacher of this yoga, was revealed, which devestated the community. I later reflected on my reticence to adopt my spiritual name. It just didn’t feel like me. It’s one thing to have a parent and ancestor give you a name, but to have someone else I’ve never met give me a name felt odd. I now see that I too was and am truly “on the path”, and see that it’s my path, and that I’m the one at the helm. No gurus for this gal. I’m my own guru. We all should be our own gurus.

Speaking of gurus, when I lived in India at an Osho ashram, I decided (very last minute) to become a “sanyasin”, whereby I partook in a ceremony, which also granted me a new spiritual name, “Ma Yoga chita”, which also felt like it resonated insomuch as I was a yogini and yoga teacher, but to be honest, it never really stuck either, and I never used it. I always went back to “Sarah”.

There was a book with the title, “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, and whenever I heard that, I thought it sounded like me. I was tall, and I felt a little plain. I was a bit of a tomboy who loved the outdoors and sports and never wore much makeup. I’d be ready to go out with friends, and my mum would always encourage me with, “Sarah, you look good, but put some lipstick on.” Now, years later,  I’ve now become accustomed to wearing lipstick, not because my mum said it looked good, but because I really like it. It’s a fun way to somewhat change your persona. If I’m playing with my band, I like to wear bright bold reds, if I’m feeling somewhat sultry and sexy, I opt for a deep romantic rose. And so, it’s also a propos that Zarah wears lipstick, whereas Sarah didn’t.

My family have been pretty cool through this process. I do however remember my sister in a moment of fighting, (only the way siblings can, with the intention to  hurt) mocked, “Oh my god, and ZARAH.....changing your name? It’s so embarassing.” She chilled out, and also warmed to the idea and now lovingly calls me “Z”, which I adore. My aunts and uncles try to remember, but still call me Sarah sometimes, and to be honest, I really don’t care. Many of them are in their 80s, so to remember what they had for breakfast is a challenge, never mind, knowing someone for 5 decades, then having to switch names. When I told my Dad a couple of years ago about my decision, he was honest and we had a conversation whereby he confided that he thought Nanny (his mom, the woman who actually named me, after her mom) wouldn’t be happy about it. I assured him that wherever Nanny was now, she couldn’t give a rat’s ass about names, and that she’d be raising her glass of Scotch and water to me, encouraging me to keep following my bliss and calling. “Zarah” is the Arabic version (usually spelled “Zahra”) of Sarah, so it’s not really that much of a deviation. My Jewish grandmother Nana, would have had something to say about changing my name from a biblical standard to an Arabic one I’m sure, but now, she’s probably up there (or wherever) with Nanny giving me a cheers and would sing one of her fave tunes we used to sing together, “You say tomatah, I say tomah-to....you say Zarah, I say Sarah. Who gives a shit?” (and she really would say that; she swore like a trucker with her Queen’s English accent. As the queen of one-liners, (usually crass) she was hilarious.

Prior to my name change, I lived in the small hippie town Nelson BC for much of my adult life off and on, whereby people changed their names more often than their bedding. Names like Rainbow, Jai Ma, Sunbeam and such were common, as many souls found their way there and found a type of utopia where they could be themselves, re-invent themselves and live in a more authentic way. What I liked about this, was that people renamed themselves based on where they were at the time, and as a way of being sovereign. When I was there, I never felt the need. I always liked the name Sarah, and lived up to my Nana’s prophecy about always being kind.

During the pandemic, I found myself feeling like again, I didn’t belong in some groups as I chose to not get the jab (I don’t call it a ‘vaccine’ because in the true definition, it is not actually a vaccine) and was often isolated and ostercized by (very few) friends and family. I managed to avoid most of the challenges that so many faced in Canada by staying in Costa Rica and being in a small town based in nature. Just before moving there, I had a soul brother I’d met on Salt Spring Island, who always introduced me to people as “Zarah”. When I’d question him, and say, “Dude, that’s not my name.” He’d always respond with, “I know, I don’t know why I said that!)

Fast forward a couple of years to me moving to Mexico, and doing a women’s retreat examining the archtype of the crone/grandmother/abuela. We did a ceremony on the beach whereby we were buried in the sane as a way to experience our death. When I emerged from the sand, my partner said, “I just love the name Zarah.” She had misheard me, and also, in Spanish, saying Sarah and Zarah are almost the same. In that moment I had a feeling of identifying with “Zarah”. It felt more powerful, warrior-like, sassy and spicy. I had just been kicked off of Facebook and therefore Instagram, for expressing some sentiments about travel restrictions and coersion, and was also blocked from using my WhatsApp number. I’d just joined a ska and punk band and moved away from my sentimental singer-songwriter stuff. It seemed like an opportunity to really create who I wanted to be and to redefine myself. I am Zarah. Hear me roar.

I do admit I used to be skeptical of those who changed their names. I thought it was kinda weird. Now, in retrospect, I think it’s strange that some people find it strange when people decide to re-name themselves. When women get married, or at least the majority of women in the past, they often make the decision to take the last name of their spouse. If I was marrying someone with the last name Dooshendingle, I might choose otherwise. But for eons, it was deemed socially acceptable that a woman would adopt a new name, that she could not choose, and even one that she detested. And one that could possibly sound like a feminine hygene product crossed with a schlong. Can you imagine?

As sovereign free beings we have the freedom to be who we want to be, and that includes, the ability to re-name ourselves, should we so choose to do so. Aho.

Question for You: If you wanted to change your name, which name would you choose and why?
 Please feel free to share in the comments. 
As always, gratitude for your presence alongside me in this journey.


"May the strength of the ancestors encircle you." Sarah Pirtle  

           Mum on my altar (her ashes to the left, which I constantly smuggle back and forth in my carry-on bag)

Happy Halloween...Samhain...All Saints Day....and all that jazz. I’m here in the midst of el Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations and festivities in the heart of Mexico. I remember when I heard those words as a kid, I thought it sounded pretty morbid and dark. The origins of pagan Samhain was a way for people to get dressed in disguise as a way to hide from ghosts. As a tween, I didn’t think much about ghosts, spirits or ancestors. I much rather would have walked the neighbourhoods at night, dressed up like a punk rocker, searching out free candy. All that sugar was such a perfect way for me to self-soothe any grief I may have had, and the punk rock personal allowed me to express anger and rage that in the “normal” world, I couldn’t really do.  
Later in life, after Mum died (about 18 years ago) I recognized the importance of grieving: fully. Thankfully I was in the progressive little town of Nelson BC where they had a grief support group, that helped me to recognize and realize the aspects of myself that truly needed to grieve. It didn’t mean that I had to be “stuck” in it and “wallow” (although sometimes it felt like I did), but rather that I needed to feel everything fully (the loss, the fear, the disappointment) in order to step into the Light and the joy of living once again. The two facilitators were such beautiful space holders, that they encouraged me to follow their path and become a grief support counsellor when I moved back to Toronto. And so, I trained with Bereaved Families of Ontario and briefly held space for children who had lost their parents or siblings, and saw how valuable it is to have these spaces and discussions surrounding dying.

Today, when I hear “The Day of the Dead," I embrace it fully, and no longer recoil in fear.  Reverence for all of my ancestors has become a part of my daily prayer and practice. Here in Mexico the streets are adorned with vibrant colour of flowers, altars, ribbons, crowns and skeletons (the iconic “La Catrina”). What moves me most is the personal altars people create for their loved ones who have passed. I started to create my own altars years ago after seeing this beautiful honouring practice. And so, Mum, Nanny and Nana sit upon my altar, where they are offered their favourite foods, predominantly sweets. Nana loved her chocolate covered ginger and Quality Street caramels. That woman detested vegetables, never exercised, barely drank water and lived until she was 100. My Nanny also lived until well into her 90s and drove herself to the hospital the day of her procedure, after going to the hairdressers; she wanted to look good if she was on her way out. She was truly classy. And such resilience. I feel like I’ve inherited some of those genes, and thank the matriarchal lineage of my ancestors regularly.

I find the past few days the grief is more present, as it comes and goes in waves. As I purchase home decor items to adorn my new home here, I miss Mum. She loved shopping, had great taste, and loved to find great bargains. And so, my heart feels heavy. I see families strolling in the park, and find myself a bit melancholy when I see the abuelas (grandmothers) being supported by their families as they hobble around, and watch their eyes shine as they watch their grandchildren playing. My choice to not have children comes with its own grief, although not regret as I realize they can both exist at the same time. Will I be an ancestor? I believe I will be, both here and in other realms as I do my best to “mother” my creative projects, be an empathetic ear and deep listener with my clients and kin and leave a legacy of love through my words and music. This helps to allow the grief to flow through me; I don’t repress it or try and get rid of it. I feel it deeply and express it in whatever way it wants to emerge (dance, yelling in my car, crying on the couch, singing in prayer) and am open to what’s on the other side, which is usually peace and joy. And isn’t that why we’re all here? To express all of these profound emotions?  
My invitation is for us all to honour and revere our ancestry, and pay homage to the world of spirits, not just today, but as a regular practice, even though it may be fraught with trauma and pain. I believe that we are all here doing our best, as were they, and we may not know all of the challenges and stories they navigated. And we can transmute this trauma when we ourselves rise in Love and carry forth a new story and legacy of forgiveness, optimism and Light. Aho. 

**Please enjoy the accompanying track, “From Where I Stand” honouring Mum and her eternal spirit**

"On the Road Again" Willie Nelson 

                                                             Me and the Zafinator, happily “stranded” in Ajijic

Wow! What a Week! Some of you may remember my old article I had with the Express in Nelson, with the same title. That same caption applies to the past week I’ve had. All good. Just totally unexpected. And Wow. Spirit showing up and having my back in a big way.  
I left Canada last Friday morning, after an amazing summer of writing for festivals, hanging with old and new friends and connecting to family. Truly, there is nothing like summertime in Canada; particularly being on the lake. I’m so incredibly blessed to be able to spend time at my boathouse, immersed in nature, and hang out with my pops everyday. Truly a gift. It was such a beautiful time to just be in my own rhythm, and to take some time to truly be in flow. Canada’s summers are so short, that there tends to be a “pack it in” mentality with planning, which of course I get, but I really wanted to veer away from this, and ended up making plans somewhat last minute, and deciding what I wanted to do in the moment. After a long period of not feeling so strong (with adrenal issues, fibroids/anemia), I’m realizing I really have to honour my body and myself with the gift of choosing what to do in the moment. And thankfully, I’m feeling super strong, and could choose to do A LOT of amazing things. So grateful.

Back to last week; I landed in PV where my dear sister Tisane picked me up in my car that had just been “repaired.” You’ll see why there are quotes around that soon. The drive back was smooth, no clunks (as there had been en route to the airport when I left for Canada in June), so I thought all was easy breezy. I spent a few days at my house in lo de Marcos organizing, cleaning, sweating like nobody’s biz, and packing up for San Miguel de Allende; it’s still crazy hot and humid on the coast. So I loaded up the car with my guitar, new electric piano, some stuff and the pooch and headed out on the road. Ready for the road trip extraordinaire.

The plan was to stop in Ajijic Jalisco for the night, to break up the eleven hour drive. Soulshine sister and fellow mantra musician Brenda McMorrow graciously offered her place to me for the night, while she finished her tour in the States. Long story short, one night turned into almost a week. After hitting the road, my car started clunking again about two hours into the drive. I just cranked my audiobook to mask the sound, then turned up the Naad (sound current) and chanted protection mantra to get me here. It worked.

The mechanic said a new part from the dealership would be 30-60 days. Shit. I asked if he could try and locate the part in Guadalajara instead, and he obliged. Luckily, it came in Monday. Luckily, I had a beautiful place to stay whilst I was there. Which got me thinking about the notion of “luck”. Is it really luck or just fate? I truly believe there are no accidents, and Spirit guided me to be here. I used to get triggered when people would say, “Oh, you’re so lucky! You lived _______ “or “You’re so lucky! You do _______.” For me, it’s not really a matter of luck; rather it’s taking risks, booking flights, and searching for places to live. It’s about setting a clear intention about how I want to live my life with a sense of adventure and joy. No lottery tickets are being bought. I say this with hope to inspire those of us who want to make changes and live a more full, rich authentic life. If we trust and are open to the guidance and take the first steps, Spirit will be on our side and help. And so much help came here in Ajijic. I was immediately taken in by Brenda’s neighbours who helped me find a good mechanic, and were so generous by taking me to and fro. Her other neighbour told me about several awesome hikes nearby. I’m so grateful that I got stranded here. I never would have been able to take in the beauty of the area in just one day. The hikes here in the mountains have been glorious, and since I was such a mountain girl for so many years, this really filled my soul. And Zafi’s. When we left the coast, she was basically just laying around, moving from cold tiles to cold tiles (that weren’t really that cold) and panting in the heat. Here, she came alive. As did I. It was beautiful to have a quiet space to just integrate all the travel, the time in Canada, and the healing and growth that have taken place in the past few months.

I’m feeling extremely grateful today (very apropos after our Thanksgiving weekend) for the fact I had the summer to rest, enjoy and take care of my body as it rebounded and recovered from my hysterectomy I had in the winter. Man. That was one doozy of a surgery. So humbling. And I’m so amazed at how the body can heal. I’m feeling stronger now than I have in YEARS. I’m also noticing that my state of equanimity seems to be quite stable right now. The car breaking down didn’t really faze me too much, and I was able to really just be in the flow of what’s happening. I attribute this to many years of meditating, and also my path with Hakomi, which has encouraged me to be more mindful, gentle and nurturing towards myself. Such a gift.

I landed last night in San Miguel de Allende, after a super smooth drive, and will be here for the month, and am curious to see what will unfold here. Always a mystery, and always magic. Gracias for the gifts and powers of mantra, the mindfulness I’ve been blessed to cultivate, and the opportunities that await. So far so good. The place I landed is beyond amazing, and the woman hosting me (who I just met, but had a great feeling about) is a wild woman and true kindred spirit. And so, vamos a ver (let’s see)! Even though I went off a bit on the whole luck thing, you can still wish me luck. I’ll take it. And I wish you all luck AND the knowledge that you can create your own reality with choices that come from following the heart. Thank you for being on this Camino and Journey with me. Mucho amor y luz. Aho. 

"I Am Light", India Arie 

“I Am Light” 
-India Arie

They say that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Language, muscle tone, writing and creating skills, memory and the mind. My writing feels rusty. My voice (both literal and symbolic) feels underused and quiet these days. My mind feels a bit foggy as I find myself entering the mysterious world of induced peri-menopause. For those of you who don’t know, I had a hysterectomy at the end of January: Funny, as I write that now, I see the prefix of the word “hyster” as in “hysterical”, which I am definitely having moments of as my emotions swirl and twirl. Not so funny that in the past this adjective was relegated primarily to the female sex; the notion of “crazy” or “out of control” related to our anatomy. I’m trying to find the funny-ness again in each moment whereby I forget what I was saying or doing. When I arrive home from the the small village store, knowing I’ve forgotten something. I’ll rack my brain going over my plantain chips, coconut milk and then realize that the missing link is actually Zafi (my pooch) who’s still tied up to tree outside the store. Now that shit’s funny.

Thanks to my Buddhist teachings, I’m able (somewhat!) to try to remain an observer, and to not get too caught up in the thoughts, or create a story or narrative about what my lashing out at the cashier really means. I will say, I’ve had to apologize a few times to various people who although invariably have screwed up somehow, did not deserve my outright rage. I left a message for a receptionist last week that just read, “Sorry about my harsh tone. Menopause and mood. It’s real.” She (being much older than myself) replied with an understanding, “I get it.”

It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve written anything. My monthly blogs have evaporated into the ethers it seems, as I’ve been trying to just stay present to what each day brings. I’m trying not to berate myself for not using my convalescence in a more “productive” way. I’ve had thoughts like, “Look what Frieda (Kahlo, of course) did all that time she was in her bed! I mean, she did have to contend with the rage that her husband was shagging her sister, so she may have had more cathartic trauma to process. I processed my trauma by getting drawn into Outlander and read/listened to books. Not so productive.  I have to trust that during that time of supporting Netflix, Kindle and Audible, SOMETHING has been percolating. SOMETHING creative. I’ve eschewed the Puritan ethic long ago about having to be busy, and to work hard all the time, but sometimes, those deeply ingrained values sneak back and whisper, “Why aren’t you doing more? Why aren’t you writing more songs? Launching your songwriter course?”

The truth is, I just didn’t feel like it. I felt like immersing myself in someone else’s story. As a way to distract myself from the pain? Perhaps. But more, to inspire me with my own journey and to help me create what comes next (aka: calling in my very own “Jamie” pronto!) in the near future.

I also did some deep inner work before and after the surgery (and continue to do so) with regards to my womb space and my ancestors. I had a feeling like a lot of the pain and issues I’ve been facing over the years were related to my matriarchal lineage, specifically my mum and my nana. Considering the (fascinating!) scientific fact that we are actually already in our mothers’ wombs when they are conceived, this really makes sense to me. And so, I worked on a lot of forgiveness for both of them (forgiving men, forgiving themselves) and this helped my healing immensely. I used obsidian (a powerful clearing and cleansing stone) on my belly before the surgery to energetically clear the space. When the day rolled around to head to the hospital in Punta Mita, I was truly ready.

My friends and soul sisters showed up for me in such a beautiful way, and I also learned how to ask for what I need. As a caregiver and nurturer, it’s really easy for me to take care of others, but to receive care myself? Sometimes, it wasn’t that easy. This time around however, I was clear about the fact I needed some help. I created a WhatsApp group called, “Zarah’s Angels” whereby each woman that expressed she wanted to help could communicate. This was so helpful with taking care of Zafi while I was away and right out of the surgery, preparing meals, helping me clean, shop etc. etc. Truly, it was smooth. My Dad came down to visit too, and helped with household chores like watering plants and doing dishes. My sister visited and treated me to massage and great food. Immense gratitude for all the support I received. I’m writing a “How to Sail through a Hysterectomy” manifesto whereby I’ll be giving tips about spiritual preparation, physical support, self-care, and post-op insights, that the doctors never told me about, with the intention to help others go through the process.

Hmmm. So, yeah, I guess I was creating something while I was lying in my bed and couch for weeks. Just realizing this now. The power of writing truly is amazing. I’m dusting off my journals and scraping the rust off my pens and pencils.  It’s May. I hear the birds singing and feel the change in season. Even in Mexico. It’s getting hotter and there’s more life happening with trees and flowers. Nature is singing. So am I. Emerging from the cocoon of healing and winter, I enter this season lighter (in many ways; the uterus and ovary probably weighed about 2 pounds) with a sense of optimism. There’s a power that comes from periods of not doing. I feel myself alive. More light. I am light. Wow. I vow to take more of these moments:

Do you, Zarah, promise to take more times of not doing to support your mental and physical well-being? 

I do. 

"All we need is just a little patience" Axyl Rose 


Lessons and Musings inspired by a Mexican Mutt 

I just returned from a 5-day camping trip, originally be 3 days, but due to a broken-down car situation, added 2 days. It was my first trip with Zafi, the pooch I adopted last month. What a trip. I’m still in bed, writing, and she’s still zonked out on her bed snoozing lazily into the late morning. We’re both pooped. We both learned. A lot. 

When I was deciding whether or not to take her, I stipulated that she must fit into my life well and easily, because I was in a transition of buying a new house, and working with some health issues. She fit in pretty seamlessly. I know I’m still a wanderer at heart, and intend to continue to travel. She’s under twenty pounds and can therefore fit in a bag in the cabin on an airplane, which is super important for me, and a definite plus. Last Saturday I was excited to bond with her and take her out on the road. She was too; she was beyond keen and jumped into the truck immediately onto my friend Pete’s lap with a “Let’s go!” attitude. Ah yes, this dog and I will get along just fine, I thought as I gazed at her with pride and love. 

Upon leaving San Pancho there was a small truck alongside the road selling woven rugs and dog beds. How perfect! I picked up a small cute bed for her and we were off. En route to my friend’s ranch in Mascota, the road winds and bends as it ascends and descends mountainous roads. So beautiful. And barf-inducing. Not for me, but for poor Zafi who heaved a few times as it was her first real car trip. We pulled over so I could clean out her (brand-new!) bed, that was now sprinkled with vomit and let her get some fresh air. Poor little pooch. 

We arrived and got set up while we waited for our friends to arrive with their extended family. As their car rolled in, Zafi’s ears perked up and she approached the car to see what was up. My friend’s elderly father, gingerly approached, and as he did, she began to bark and growl incessantly. Super embarrassing. I tried to reason with her that this wasn’t our house, but she wouldn’t listen. It took her a while to settle. I’d seen this several times with certain men who pass our house and I wonder why it is that she’s racist towards her own people. She may have been treated poorly by one of her previous owners; who knows?   

Over the weekend, she chilled and became comfortable and affectionate with both the male and female family members in the house, which was a relief. My friend’s have a one and a half-year old baby girl named Olivia who is beyond cute, and this is saying something as I’m not really a fan of babies, or kids for that matter (which is quite alarming considering I was a teacher for so long). Her mom has great style and a sense of appreciating luxury, and has a small hand-woven blanket/mat from South America that she puts out for Olivia to play on. 
Apparently Zafi also has this taste for exquisite textiles and would plunk herself down on it all the time. My friend wasn’t really liking this understandably, particularly since I had found and removed a few ticks from Zafi’s fur earlier that day. I tried to lure her and pull her away all day and put her back on her new bed. Maybe there were still remnants of barf on the bed, but whatever the reason, she was avoiding it like many shoppers avoided me at No Frills last summer when I refused to wear a mask. 

As a psychotherapist-in-training, I’m assuming that the bed now triggers her and she’s remembering the windy road and upchucking of Pedigree Dog Chow. I can’t be sure and I’m not sure how much she actually thinks, but I’d say it’s pretty likely. And so, it was a bit of a struggle with keeping her off Olivia’s alpaca rug, and trying to find her a place where she’d be comfy. In the end, I aired the bed out in the sun, and put some of my cotton clothes on her bed as a blanket, and to get my smell into the fabric of the bed. It worked. At the end of the day, she feels safe with me and wants to be close. That’s pretty sweet. I also totally get that she’s a reflection of me and that she’d rather be on soft alpaca and natural fibres as opposed to made in China foam. I’d rather be in high thread-count sheets instead of shitty polyester ones. I get it. 

Zafi, loving to lounge on cotton blankets

One morning I took her to a waterfall to swim in the huge crater-like lake. There, I imagined we’d frolic on the rocks, listen to the rush of the waterfall, the cry of a bird overhead from time to time, and overall the essence of peace. Ahhhhhh. This all went to plan until I decided to swim across the lake to the waterfall itself. Zafi went wild with barks and yelps. She’d been with me on the beach, and is okay with me swimming out and knows I’m coming back, but here, she was nervous. I forgot to add that the lake is surrounded by volcanic rock and that a whistle will echo and reverberate like nobody’s biz. So you can imagine what a shrill yelp and bark sounds like: armageddon. My patience was being tested. As I was trying to serenely backstroke across the lake I could still hear her yelps under the water. This bitch was seriously cramping my style and my desire for a vipassana kind of morning. I alternated between thoughts of “Surrender, surrender. She too is part of the soundscape of nature,” and “Can vets do larynx removals?” Before you immediately stop reading and call PETA let me explain that I also had serious PMS and had been eaten alive by mosquitoes the night before and had one of my top five most lousy sleeps....ever. Another (less violent) thought was, “I wonder if her voice will get lower as she gets older?”. You know, like young versus old Joni Mitchell. She’s one of my fave songwriters, but I’m not a big fan of her early work, which showcase her high soprano. To me, it’s grating. I love her collaborations with Mingus, after the years of smoking took its toll, and lowered her range about two octaves. Could this be the case with Zafi, and if so, how can I get her to start smoking cigarettes? 

Don’t call PETA yet. I know I sound like a horrible fur baby mum. But I’m not. I’m just transitioning to having serious responsibility. I feel like I don’t “own” her, but rather I’m her steward. And I have to be impeccable with my word (one of Ruiz's Five Agreements); I said I’d take care of her and love her, and I will. I am. Once I relaxed at the waterfalls, she relaxed. I came back to shore, gave her lots of love and attention and chilled with her for a spell. The second time I swam away (about a 10 minute swim), she felt more comfortable and knew I’d be coming back, so just nestled herself in the shade and waited. Quietly. I returned to shore and praised her for her ability to chill, and then noticed that she got in my backpack and ate the oatmeal I’d so eagerly been anticipating. What can I say? I left it within pooch reach, so really, it’s my bad. I also recognized that this is all new to her, this camping and hiking thing, and that her barking and yelping meant that she was nervous I wouldn’t come back. And maybe she was nervous that I wasn’t a strong swimmer. Whatever the reason, she just wants love and security. Don’t we all? 

I reflected on my own lack of patience and thoughts/behaviour for when she didn’t act or do exactly as I wanted, and I see elements of control freak in myself. I also saw some lack of conditional love, and changed that immediately. I mean, did my mum want to give me away when I threw an uncanny temper tantrum on my 8th birthday on the front lawn because I didn’t get one of my own lootbags (the party favour bags the “host” gives at parties, NOT for the birthday girl herself)? Did she scream, “Okay you greedy kid, you just got 12 presents! What’s your problem? One more peep and you’re off to a foster home!” No, she laughed, and continued to love me unconditionally, knowing I was probably just overtired and jacked up on sugar. 

And so, on our curvy drive home yesterday, when she barfed yet again, I held her little head out the window and gave her sips of water as she slept on and off on my lap for the 3-hour drive home. I worried about the tick she had on her ear earlier in the week as I wondered if her ear was as floppy pre-tick bite. She’d look up at my intermittently, soulful eyes meeting mine and we seemed to say, “I am you, you are me.” In this moment of new-age eye gazing, I’m sure that I won’t ever do any larynx surgery, and vow to accept all that she is. Barks, yelps, barf and all. THIS is unconditional love. Thank you Zafi for the constant teachings. Just when I thought I was evolved and had things figured out. Guess again. Woof. Aho.

"Once upon a time..." from Sir Ferumbas, 1380AD 

                                                                             Sunrise at Haliksai

Haliksai. This is the Hopi word that is used at the beginning of a story. Roughly translated to something like, “Once upon a time”, or “In the beginning”. And so, I begin my story of the last month: 

Haliksai. Once upon a time there was a woman named Sarah. Her love of adventure and travel took her to all corners of the world where she met unique and interesting people, and marvelled at the beauty of the world with its diverse cultures, customs and rituals. She felt the call to return to her homeland one summer and spent cherished time with friends and family. However, the world at this point had changed drastically, and she didn’t feel quite like she fit into the “new” world. And so, after a few months of clearing and cleaning (such as having a HUGE garage sale, burning old journals she’d been storing for 20 years) she decided it was time to move again, to a place where she felt more free and safe. 

Although she had a heaviness in her heart saying goodbye to old friends and some of her family, she knew that this was the right decision, and this elevated the heaviness, creating a sense of excitement, possibility and optimism.

Through a dear friend, she was introduced to a beautiful French couple living in Mexico, running a retreat they call, “Haliksai”. Since there were no retreats running, Sarah could stay in their deluxe cabin called, “La Fare” with a king size bed, full kitchen, large dining room, and indoor/outdoor shower. Here, she was in the midst of the Mexican jungle, greeted by colourful birds each morning, jungle sounds, sweet dog energy, and overall: serenity. Just ten minutes away were two remote pristine beaches, where she’d often find herself alone, able to walk, dance, sing, cry, and just be. Through her new friends, she was introduced to interesting heartfelt creative people with whom she resonated deeply and quickly. 

                                                                                  Furry friends

She was given the opportunity to guest star on a French reality show, whereby she took part in a cacao ceremony, danced with fire, and played music around a campfire. Pretty much, all the things she did her own “reality”. This proved to be lucrative, and her sense of being in abundance and being prosperous was amplified. She knew deeply, and remembered at a soul level that she was always protected and guided. 

                                                                       Around the Campfire scene

Next week, she moves into the town of San Pancho, where she’s rented a sweet space, can teach yoga from home, and has made connections with the local musicians and teachers to collaborate and connect. She’s also open to new possibilities and will see where the flow of life takes her. 

Once upon a time there was a woman who always followed her heart, despite the seeming “challenges” and uncomfortable risks to others. Her path was unique unto herself, and not the right path for others, and she continues to follow her heart's calling. For this, she is rewarded with a rich tapestry of experiences, both light and dark, not always easy but always filled with wonder, magic and love.

"Before you cross the street take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans." John Lennon 

My Nana used to drive me crazy with her lack of committing to a plan. Anytime I’d want to organize something with her for the future, she’d be totally vague. The conversation would usually go like this, “OK Nana, so, let’s make a plan. How about in the spring I come back to Toronto and I’ll take you up to Barrie for the weekend...sounds good?” To this she’d usually shrug. Even a lesser complicated plan would get a similar response. For example, “Nana, why don’t I come down on Tuesday and we’ll order a Hawaiian pizza from Pizza Nova? Sound good?” Again, a shrug, and usually something like, “I don’t know. I may not want pizza on Tuesday. Or there might be a storm and then no electricity. Or I might be dead.” For real, she’d drop lines like that. 

I’d often get frustrated and say something like, “What d’ya mean, you don’t know? I’m telling you that I’ll be there in May and we’ll head up to Barrie. Why can’t you just make a plan?” 

Nana’s ubiquitous response to any idea in the future was always something like this: Nana: “Oh Sarah, you caaahn’t make a plan”. 
Me: “Well, actually, yes you can. Everyone does except you.” 

Her response was not an aversion to answering questions, such as the common “We’ll see” that parents often give to their kids. That’s a passive aggressive way of saying “No” so kids won’t lose their shit and have tantrums. No, Nana’s response was actually heart-felt and true. She’d often say, “Je don’t know” with her best attempt to put on a French accent. 
No, Nana’s response was truthful and she really felt that it was impossible to make a plan, because it was impossible to predict what was going to happen in the future. 

Her plan to marry her first sweetheart Abe in England didn’t happen because he never made it back from the war. Her plan to immigrate to Australia didn’t happen because she got a response from Canada first and jumped on the first boat to get out of the UK. Having lived during the depression and wartime gave her the concrete knowledge that you can’t really make a plan. I mean, I guess you can try, but just don’t be disappointed when the plan doesn’t come to fruition. 

I’m now experiencing how she felt. As far as I’m concerned, we are now living in wartime, and there is indeed depression, varying from economic to widespread emotional depression. Since I’ve been back from my Costa Rican bubble, I’ve been trying to make plans, that are changing as much as Barbara Streisand changes her outfits during a concert. I booked a flight to BC to visit my beloved Nelson, and had to change it because the province is literally on fire. 

I had a house-sit lined up in Nelson, and that fell through due to the fires and my friend needing to shift her plans because she didn’t want to be camping in the smoke and soot. 

A little while ago I had a plan to visit a friend in the south end of Barrie, and was deterred due to a tornado. Literally...a tornado. 

Making plans with friends who have children is similar; you can bet that the day my bestie and I have a reservation for lunch on a patio, her kid is going to have an ear infection. 

And so, I am now completely without attachment to plans. Living in Latin America for years has also geared me up for this way of being in the world. I remember years ago in Peru making plans with my dear friend Patricia. She’d always be telling me of the most amazing day that she’d have planned, “Oh, tomorrow amiga, we go to visit my horses and we ride on the beach. Then we have ceviche at this little place I love.” The morning would arrive and I’d be ready to put on my riding boots and chaps and saunter into the kitchen to find her in a bathing suit. “Oh, today is so much sun. We just relax here by the pool. I have my cousins coming for lunch.” This whole changing of the plan happened a lot, and really pissed me off at first. When I say at first, I mean for the first few years I lived in the South and Central Americas. It’s been a process. This “change in plans” continued during my time in Nicaragua and particularly the last couple of years in Costa Rica where weather truly dictates what’s going to happen. Oh yeah, and there’s that little virus that’s been going around too, which has made it nearly impossible to make plans, especially travel. I’m now in a space where I am truly comfortable with no real plan. My scheduled puritan upbringing of being in the world of academia and then teaching for so many years trained me to be extremely structured in terms of time and planning; lesson plans, planning field trips for the future, planning trips for my holiday time etc. etc. 

And then something changed. I changed. The world has changed. I started to settle into allowing what the day unfolds, according to weather, mood, energy levels and other people’s needs. So today, I find myself back in Nelson, several weeks after the initial plan of being here, and see that this timing is much better. The smoke has cleared, the two-week housesit that would have left me homeless after the stint turned into a short-term rental in a friend’s place who is away in the States. She has a vintage 1974 Wurlitzer keyboard that I’ve been befriending and a bed that is beyond comfortable. Oh, and the running water is a nice touch (in the boathouse I was basically “glamping” sans running water). Sprit proves once again that this plan is far superior to my initial plan. 

I went out to my land for the first time in about three years and was flooded with gratitude that I have such a beautiful place to steward. When I first bought it, the plan was to build a retreat centre. After working for years in the industry leading retreats and seeing what that actually looks like in terms of being an owner/operator, I quickly changed my mind. This gypsy soul did not want to be tied to staying in one place. So now, the new plan is to create a small spiritually minded community of tiny homes. Yes, there will still be healing and it is indeed a place of retreat. There will be workshops and ceremonies, but it will be in a space of collaboration and co-creation with all who live there, thus enabling me to still flutter my wings and go south. 

I thank Nana for her wisdom, and find myself adhering to her way of answering when someone asks me to make a plan. Today for instance, has already deviated from the plan; my thought last night was to wake up early and go for a brisk hike. I awoke at 8am (very late for me!) and feeling a bit tired. My body landed here in Nelson a few days ago, but my spirit is still catching up. Hence, I brewed a cup of tea and felt like writing this instead. It’s a bit cold and overcast, so I’m now planning to set up my little music studio area instead. I do commit to one plan however, and that is to honour where I am in each moment and to continue to live this life in a state of wonder and gratitude, despite what is happening in the world. I continue to trust that the divine plan is better than my own idea of planning.

Thank you for being part of this journey...your presence is felt and appreciated. 

Love and Light, 
Sarah xo 

QUESTION FOR YOU: Can you think of a time you had a plan that fell through, and as a result, the new plan turned out to be much better than you could have imagined? Please share!

"I'd like to be under the sea." Ringo Starr 

Day 11 (of quarantine in Canada) 

“I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’ garden in the shade”. 

I’m sitting here in my boathouse in Barrie on Day Eleven of my quarantine. My gracious sister has decked the place out with cozy candles, new bedding, a sweet little kitchen area and best of all, a record player and some of Dad’s old records. I've been listening to Abbey Road a few times...still SUCH a classic. Apparently Ringo Starr wrote that song as a response to what was happening in his band (The Beatles were the band by the way, and if you didn’t know this, I’m not entirely sure why and how we are friends, but that’s okay): complete and utter chaos. He simply wanted to escape the drama of what was happening with the band: communication issues, egos, jealousy, anger, miscommunication. I get it. 

I feel like for the past year and eight months, I had the good fortune of escaping chaos and crazy of the recent/present times, living under the sea in my own octopus’ garden in the shade. Well okay, it wasn’t actually under the sea, but it was often right beside the sea, and the garden was actually a jungle, and yes, but true to the song, there were times in the shade. Having been based in Costa Rica for the whole “pandemic” which I deem to be a “plandemic” of sorts, (potentially more on that in subsequent posts) was a blessing of which I’m fully aware. I’m not going to get into all the different theories, assessments and my personal views as to my take on what’s happening right now, rather, I want to connect with you all, and not create more division. We’ve got enough of that as it is. 

Now I want to stress that although I was in the tropics, it was not paradise all the time. I dealt with a lot of jungle-related skin issues such as flesh eating parasites, staph infections and other sorts of funguses that my delicate Canadian skin and constitution simply could not withstand. I had an ear infection that refused to vamoose for about four months due to the humidity and my resistance to antibiotics. That being said, I did retain a great tan and when my hair started to grow back after shaving it all off, it seemed to lose all of its previous gray. It was actually a really beautiful time. While my loved ones were in lockdown I was esctatic dancing and playing music, and I don’t think I really grasped the collective trauma of what was happening here in Canada until I returned. I can actually feel it. Why did I leave many people are asking me, and I can only answer that I was called to come back. Ernest Holmes wrote, “Nature will not let us stay in any one place too long. She will let us stay just long enough to gather the experience necessary for the unfolding and advancement of the soul.” And so, I feel like I’ve gathered a lot and it’s time to be back in Canada right now, despite the challenges. 

If one were to look at my quarantine situation now at the boathouse one might think that once again, I find myself in paradise. And yes, on the outset, it would seem that way. However, looking more closely one would find that the roof is leaking, and that on Day One of arriving, along came the rains. Apparently it hadn’t rained here in six weeks. Literally, every conversation I’d have with Dad over the past couple of months would contain a detailed weather report. He actually is really interested in the weather...it’s not just small talk. Every chat would go something like this: “Hey Dad, how are you?” to which he’d reply, “I’m okay, but Christ, do we ever need rain.” I’d try and steer the topic to something I find more interesting like food and offer, “What are you having for dinner tonight?” and he’d respond with, “Oh I don’t know, I wanted to go to No Frills today to pick up some stuff for salad but it was so hot. You know we haven’t had any rain here in about a month. A MONTH! Christ, we need rain badly.” It seems like I’m his good luck charm because as soon as I touched down in Canada, the next day it started down-pouring. And the heat wave was put on hold too. There are some days down here recently that I’m wearing a touque (that’s a warm winter hat for all you non-Canucks) 2 pairs of leggings, 2 sweaters and my sister’s light purple large linen bath robe. And on my feet I’ve got Totes socks that are sticking to the large green Crocs that my Dad loaned me. I kind of look a strange female variation of Jeff Bridge’s character The Dude, except I’m carrying around a mug of green tea or cacao as opposed to Kahlua. My hair is just as unkept and greasy as his though, because I can’t go in the lake right now. Me...the dolphin who LIVES to swim has to stay out of the water while an erupted cyst on my shoulder heals. I thought that my skin things would be over once I left the tropics. Guess again. I’m breathing deeply. A lot. 

I’ve had the government call and leave messages that they are going to possibly arrest me for non-compliance and then when they put me through with a real person to talk with, the call has dropped. Twice. There was a miscommunication whereby I hit the number 2 instead of 1 on my phone during a questionnaire call because my new Samsung phone’s fonts are too tiny for me to read, and I couldn’t find my glasses in time during the call. To try to call back and reach anyone is futile, unless you want to spend hours on hold listening to shitty music interspersed with threats in both English and French. I prefer Abbey Road, thank you very much. I have indeed “complied” in terms of quarantining alone, doing two tests and sending them in and reporting every day on my symptoms or lack thereof. This is not the Canada that I left in November of 2019. And yet, within this chaos and despite the fear-provoking measures that are taking place around me, I am still finding moments of gratitude to be here. A few days ago (during a storm and experiencing PMS) I questioned why I left my octopus’ garden in the shade in Costa Rica, but the sentiment was dispelled quickly when I think about actually hugging my sister for the first time in almost two years on Sunday, and seeing all of my family members on Mum’s side at a reunion up north. I plan to visit and reconnect with dear friends and loved ones while I’m here, and enjoying the beauty of Canadian summer, with all of its extremes and uncertainties. I simply miss my peeps and am happy that I’ll be seeing them in the flesh. 

The past eleven days has been a true testament to my spiritual practices I’ve developed over the past 20 years. Namely, my relationship with equanimity and the ability to respond to situations and events with a neutral mind. I awoke this morning after a deluge of rain all night to various pools of water on the floor (after the roofer was here yesterday and “fixed” it), wind whipping in the screens and the temperature deemed that I put back on The Dude outfit after yesterday’s sauna. Instead of going into “What-the-Fuck-am-I-Doing-Here?! mode, I bundled up, made a smoothie and found gratitude in the efficacy of the kick-ass blender I have here. My blender in Costa Rica sucked. I looked in my fridge at all the organic eats I have, and am grateful for the nourishing lunch and dinner I’ll make. Dad has been dropping off food for me, and even though it pains him to buy organic which he thinks, “is a bunch of bullshit and it’s just overpriced”, he’s doing it. He’s helping to take care of me. With this gratitude in mind, I woke up, got outta bed, put the touque back on my head (yes, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Beatles this week)....then made a cuppa. The warm mug in my hands made me smile, and I realize that I have indeed missed Canada. I kind of missed being a bit chilly when I was there for so long and missed all the changes of seasons. Today I look out at Lake Simcoe, and am grateful that I am here (even if I can’t swim in it right now), and not in an octopus’ garden.    

There may be chaos going on around me, but I am in control of what is going on inside me. I continue to lean into the love during these times. As I roll into the last few days of my psuedo-Vipassana retreat/quarantine I accept all that is and relish these days of contemplation, integration of the last year and a half and am invoking my imagination, dreaming up what I want to see next in my life. It’s exciting times. 

As always, I thank you for continuing along this journey and camino with me. 
Love and Light, 
Sarah xo 

Question for You: How have You dealt with fear and isolation this past year and a half?

"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.

"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.