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Friday, December 21, 2012

Honouring Winter Solstice 2012

I love New Beginnings: Solstice, Equinox, New Year's, Birthdays... anything to re-affirm that the past can simply be the past and that I can always 'start over'.  I can show up in a new way.  I can be more 'me' than I have ever dared to be before.

Today is Winter Solstice, it's a New Beginning.  I wanted to honour this New Beginning with a ceremony of sorts.  It is not a traditional ceremony, but a personal one.  This is my way of honouring Mother Earth, our Ancestors, my family, community and humanity as a whole.

Yesterday I shared a story about how yoga Serves me.  Today I wanted to show the other side.  This is one of the ways in which I choose to Serve.  I Serve through my practice.  I Serve by grounding my practice in an intention:

It is my intention that this practice nourishes my mind, body and soul, in order that I may hold a space of love for myself and for others.  May I awaken to the truth of who I am, and may I live from this place of truth.  May this practice benefit and Serve others, and allow us to see that we are One.

As we welcome back the light of the sun, may we all remember who we really are and live from this place of light and peace.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yoga: Part of my path to healing

Yoga is one of the most beautiful things that I 'do'.  It has helped me to heal my mind, body and soul in so many more ways than I could have ever imagined.

I came to yoga 12 years ago, attracted to it purely for its apparent physical benefits.  An avid runner at the time, I was floating from injury to injury, training for race after race, and often finding myself laid up on race day.  I also played volleyball and worked out at the gym regularly.  And yet, I wasn't healthy.  Not really anyway.  Around that time, I weighed about 140 pounds, and I was extremely dissatisfied with the state of my body.

Me at 21

Looking back, this negative body image began when I was quite young, around the age of 12.  For some reason, I began to believe that my body should look different than it did.  I began to compare my body with those of the other girls around me, and eventually, I came to see myself as fat.  The odd thing is, that at the time, this couldn't have been further from the truth.  Looking back, I wasn't even remotely fat, and yet, that is what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Me at 18

The more I believed this lie, the more deeply it became ingrained, and I found myself at war with food. The relationship between food and my body continued to de-volve, eventually leading to purging behaviour.  I knew that what I was doing was wrong, that it wasn't healthy, that it was destructive, and yet, I proceeded to do it anyway.  I was ashamed of this behaviour and therefore kept it hidden, and yet on some level it gave me such an extreme sense of satisfaction, a sense of control.

While I managed to leave the purging behaviour behind at the age of 20, the thoughts that caused it in the first place were still firmly in place.

It has taken me 20 years to heal these thoughts.

I won't go in to the drawn-out details of this journey here (if you want to know more, it is in my book which will be available sometime this spring), but what I will tell you is this:

In order to change the thoughts that I was having about my body and food, I had to admit them, first to myself and eventually to others.  It was only one year ago that I finally got at one of the 'darkest' thoughts that I was having about my body ('I am gross').  Since that time, I can tell you that this thought is gone.  It isn't true and it never was.  Yoga has played a huge role in healing that part of the story.

The interesting thing is (and this is the mind-body connection in action for you), when I healed my mind (aka changed the thought), my physical body responded in a way that it never had before.  Today, my body is the healthiest that it has even been... literally.  In fact, I had a check-up with my family doctor the other day b/c he wanted to be certain that everything was 'on track'.  My doctor has been with me every step of the way on this journey and he wanted to be sure that my weight loss over the past year was the result of new and healthy behaviours instead of old, unhealthy ones.  And fair enough.  I am glad that he is looking out for me.

The results speak for themselves.   Since the purging behaviours began I have struggled with anemia - at times so severe that I required subcutaneous injections of iron into my backside (this is not an enjoyable thing, trust me).  So, when my doctor found out that I now eat a mostly plant-based diet, he was understandably concerned and asked me to have some blood tests done.  I am delighted to be able to say that all is well.  In fact, my numbers are amazing.  What's more, my BMI (body mass index - in my opinion a great indicator of overall health), is the best that it's been since I was in high school.  To give you an overall idea - the healthy range for BMI is between 18.5-24.9.  For years (including when I was running and working out), my BMI was around 23-24, and even crept up past 25.  Now?  It is at 21.

Now, I know that yoga isn't everyone's cup of tea, and that's ok.  What is not ok is telling yourself destructive stories, thoughts ranging from overly critical all the way to down right cruel.

A lot of people enjoy a healthy mind-body connection.  They don't obsess about their figure, their weight, their reflection in the mirror... but the truth is, a lot of people do.

This post is an invitation.  An invitation to look past the reflection in the mirror (and if you enjoy your own reflection, then look past the reflection of the physical appearance of others).  Our physical appearance?  It isn't real.  It isn't real because it isn't permanent.  What's real is what lies beneath.  The truth of who we are.  We are not our bodies, and yet our bodies are an amazing tool that we can use to express our deeper selves.  They are vessels.  Conduits.  And they are worthy of gratitude, love and care.

Today, this is how yoga Serves me.  It allows me to express the 'me' that lies beneath.  The real me.  The shiny me.  Yoga has become an expression from my soul.

Me at 33 (present)

The above picture makes me laugh.  In August of 2011 I posted this entry, talking about how 'yoga is my skinny jeans'.  Funny thing is?  I am actually wearing my 'skinny' jeans in the above picture.  Ha!

Much love to you and many Blessings this Holiday Season!

Maren xo

PS: Stop by tomorrow for more yoga love... in honour of Winter Solstice 2012 and FIERCE Friday, I am going to be sharing another yoga video.

Friday, December 14, 2012

FIERCE Friday: A mother's love

I want to tell you a story.  It isn't my story, it is Wendy's story, but it has one that has lived in my heart since the moment I met this amazing woman.

Wendy and I went to University together.  No, not the first time around, the second, so we have known each other for oh, about 6 years.  I met Wendy and her husband Michael in one of my classes.  We hit it off immediately and enjoyed many coffee dates over the next two years.  One of the things that Wendy and I had in common was that we were both 'mature' students.  Well, I don't know how mature we were, but we were definitely older than most of our classmates, by a few years anyway.  We were both married and enjoyed a fairly stable relationship with our respective mates.  That was why, when she unexpectedly found out that she was pregnant towards the middle of our last year, she was delighted, ecstatic even.  I shared in her excitement (I had a bit of baby-brain myself at the time) and much of our conversation centred around her burgeoning belly.

When she lost the baby, on the morning of a final exam no less, she was understandably devastated.  I was sick for her.  I felt so helpless.  I had had a miscarriage as well, about 10 years previous, but I knew that it wasn't the same.  She and Michael were desperate to become parents, this baby was so very wanted and so very loved.

Another trait that Wendy and I share is that she wears her heart on her sleeve.  She was very open and honest about her feelings, and from what I recall, it made some of her friends a bit uncomfortable.  In my own life, I have had a similar experience when bearing my raw emotions openly.  Our society seems to back away from vulnerability.

A short time later, I found out that I was expecting Chephren.  This was a slightly unplanned pregnancy as well but we were completely ecstatic.  Over the moon.  I was bursting with joy and excited to share my news with the world.  When we started telling our friends, my heart sank.  Wendy.  How the heck was I supposed to tell her?  I so desperately didn't want to hurt her, however I knew that I had no other choice but to tell her the truth.  She deserved to know and I wanted to tell her in person.  We went for lunch, and when I told her she was happy for me, although through her smile I could see her pain.

Right after we graduated, Wendy and Michael moved out to Chilliwack, BC to take teaching jobs.  Wendy and I stayed in touch, mostly through Facebook.  I was so glad to see her and Michael starting fresh, hoping that this would help with the healing they so badly needed.  I secretly hoped that they would get pregnant again, and soon!

Some time later, she found out she was pregnant again, and because I was finding out on Facebook, I knew that she was confident that this pregnancy would stick.  It did 'stick' and I watched her belly grow and her whole being glow through the pictures that she shared.  Around the time her baby was due, I was checking regularly to see if her miracle baby had made her way into the world yet.

When I found out about Luka, I was completely shocked and utterly devastated.  Trent and I held each other and cried for them.  For Luka.

Luka was born with a rare genetic chromosomal condition, Trisomy 18, and lived only three days.

I won't tell you what has happened since then, because if you are interested, you can read about it on Wendy's blog.

Part of Wendy's journey has been to share her story.  In my opinion (and YES, I know that this isn't the path to healing for everyone), Wendy's ability to stand in the truth of her story and share it with others is a tremendous act of SERVICE.  When we are suffering, so many of us believe that we are all alone, that we are the only ones.  In her darkest hour, Wendy reached out towards the light and in doing so, she has invited others to follow her back to the light as well.

I hope that you can see now why I chose Wendy to be featured on FIERCE Friday, however, the other part of this story is FIERCE as well....

You see, Wendy is pregnant again.  She has made it official on Facebook (no doubt a good sign).

To me, there is nothing more FIERCE than this act of surrender.  She has made herself completely vulnerable... again.  To some small degree, I can relate with this sense of vulnerability... as it is created simultaneously with the child itself.  As soon as you conceive a child, your heart is open, it is exposed.  You will forever walk around with a piece of your heart that lies outside of you, because it lives on in your child.

And it is SO worth it.  And yet as a mother I can tell you that it is BRAVE, it is COURAGEOUS, it is FIERCE.

Thank you Wendy, for sharing your story, for sharing your life, for sharing your journey.

So much love to you, Michael and that amazing child in your belly.  I can't wait to meet him/her.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Neutrality Saved My Marriage

In November of 2011, just over one year ago, my family and I were on a vacation in Maui.  We had planned to be there for a month, well, my mom, Chephren and I had anyway, and our husbands each joined in for 2-3 weeks.  In the months leading up to this trip, Trent and I had been struggling in our marriage, I mean REALLY struggling.  It seemed that each and every single conversation wound up leading to the 'D' word (that would be 'D' as in Divorce, not Disneyland).  It was a scary, scary few months and on more than one occasion I really thought that my marriage was truly over.

While in Maui, my mom and I had the good fortune to attend an event facilitated by Mirabai Devi - a healer and spiritual teacher.  Both my mom and I had a great experience and at the end of her session,  Mirabai invited individual questions to be put forth in a more private setting.  After I had tearfully expressed my gratitude for the profound shift that I had felt during her session, I confessed my fears about my marriage.  Her response was unexpectedly simple: 'When you are faced with conflict between you and your husband, go neutral and remember who you are.'

Huh?  I left in a bit of a daze, but her words stuck with me.  (How could they not, she left them inscribed in my book!) Over the next few days I became quite silent as I began to explore deep into the meaning of her message.

I am not sure if  I was able to truly grasp it then, but I knew on some level that her message was about trying to become an observer to my own emotions.  I needed to come into a place of non-reaction... or as she called it, neutrality.  I seemed to know even then that when an emotion arises within oneself, it cannot have come from anywhere else but from my own mind, my own experience, my own reality, and yet I constantly found myself projecting these emotions outward.  The story in my head sounded something like: 'My marriage would be so much happier if only Trent would...'

A few days after seeing Mirabai, my parents offered to watch Chephren so that Trent and I could go out on a date night (there are IMMENSE advantages to travelling with our child's Grandparents!)  We started off for the restaurant, electing to walk in the beautiful, warm ocean air.  Not five minutes into the walk, our conversation turned to conflict and there it was: a boiling, raging fury spilling into my belly and rising up into my throat.  Only this time, instead of allowing my words to erupt forth, I somehow managed to stop them.  I managed to get really present.  I observed what happening to me, in both my mind and my body.  And rather than spewing the venom that was desperate to come forward, I simply said: 'I am NOT reacting to this!'  Today I have to chuckle at these words, because I am very aware of the fact that my reaction was itself just that, a reaction, and in no way, shape, or form was it neutral.

But it was a start.  It was me saying, enough, I do not want to engage in these fights any longer.  I know that each and every time we enter into one of 'those' conversations there is an inevitable result... each of us will be cut down a little smaller, we will be a little more jaded, a little more hurt, a little more wounded, leaving us with an even bigger hole in our marriage.  In that moment, I chose to put down my weapon of choice; my words.

It took months for this new behaviour, this neutrality, to stick.  And to be honest, for the first few months, I will admit that I was almost entirely faking it.  I was, as they say adopting a 'fake it until you make it' attitude.  And it worked, eventually.

It worked because the truth is, those feelings that Trent's words awoke within me were MINE.  The reason that I reacted is because on some level, I believed them to be true.  This is what the journey inward is all about.  It is about accountability to YOURSELF.  It is about owning what is truly YOURS.  No one can make you feel a certain way, it is only you who allows them to do so.

And THAT is how neutrality saved my marriage... although having fun together and lots of lovin' helped too ;)

Much love to you on your journey, especially when you decide to journey inwards...

Maren xo


The first edition of FIERCE Friday

It's official.  It's FIERCE Friday.  What the heck is that?  Good question.

Since I started the FIERCE Integrity Project, I am often struck by the FIERCE acts of others.  What qualifies as a FIERCE act?  Well, I would say anytime a person decides to stand in their truth.  Those times where you drum up the courage to show the world a teeny tiny bit more of who you really are.  Those times when you are truly and authentically being honest with yourself and others.

Over the past few weeks, a fellow blogger - Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing has been exceptionally FIERCE.  He has used his blog as a forum from which to come out of the closet as a bisexual, starting with this post.  Since then, he has posted several times on the topic, each post more RAW and VULNERABLE than the next.  If you haven't read these posts or heard of Dan, check him out, he is mega talented and now one of my FIERCE Integrity Champions!

As far as I'm concerned, vulnerability is a major way in which one can be FIERCE.  While Dan's posts have haunted me somewhat due to their dark nature and my own struggles with my shadow, they have also inspired me beyond measure.  My own journey into living with FIERCE Integrity has also felt a lot like 'coming out of the closet'.  Not in the sexual sense, but it has been similar in that I have allowed the world to start to really see me exactly as I am.

I know that I have spoken about this before, but my journey into living with FIERCE Integrity has involved writing a book.  In the first part of the book, I tell my story.  I own my past as mine and I don't leave much to the imagination.  In my book I 'spill the beans' on many of my personal details: from a miscarriage, to my struggle with an eating disorder, dealing with depression, and my recovery from a near-suffocating sense of self-loathing.  It was a difficult story to tell but a powerful one and a truly essential part of living my truth.

Recently, I have found a home for my book.  It will be getting published!  I am very excited to be sharing this book with the world.  More details to come as it moves on through the production process.

For now, I leave you with an invitation.  Have you been FIERCE lately?  If so, PLEASE SHARE!  I would love to feature your story on this blog and have inspiring FIERCE Friday posts every week!  If not, why not?  What is holding you back from shining your light into the world, from being who you truly are?

Let's get FIERCE!

So much love!