Many people ask me what mindfulness is. With the rise in popularity, I have made it my passion to try and explain what it is and why we should practice it. Using some examples of my own life experiences, I plan to dive in and share what mindfulness is and how you can incorporate into your daily life. Mindfulness is a way of looking at things differently and allows a way for you to relate to all of the experiences in your life which may be causing you to suffer.  This, in turn, will allow you to personally transform yourself. When journeying through the highs and lows of life, I have had time to think back and reflect what has got me through, it has been mindfulness.  

We as humans are constantly looking for ways to solve the causes of our suffering and then discover how we can alleviate it. I’ve started introducing mindfulness as a way of finding clarity in moments of chaos. Chaos can be something minor (ie. a traffic jam) or major (ie. the sudden loss of a loved one). 

Sooner or later you end up asking yourself questions such as:  “Why don’t I feel better?”  or “Is there something I can do or something that is prescribed so it makes the pain go away.” No one wants to be on pills for the rest of their life. Though I believe that medication does have a time and place in some cases. As we age (and sometimes throughout your whole life) you can suffer from illness.  Sickness, old age and death usually expose us to pain. Through my research, I have found that pain is the surface tension for the body to alarm our whole self that something is off balance. I have suffered from back pain every year due to softball, yet I know these issues are from the deep subconscious. Even this past week I had a minor spasm, as the week unfolded I knew this was quilt related grief that was surfacing in a weak spot of the body. I hit my own “reset” button which includes deep breathing, meditation, stretching etc. Mindfulness is about hitting the ‘re-set” button. You can hit it as many times as you need in order for you to see the clarity through whatever chaos is unfolding along your path. 

Throughout your life, you can struggle emotionally when you are confronted with adverse circumstances.  When you don’t get what you want in life, if you suffer from great loss or have to deal with things you don’t want to deal with you are constantly seeking ways to feel better. Mindfulness is a 2500-year-old tradition of Buddhist psychology.  Mindfulness has to be experienced directly. Especially if you are teaching or sharing content to others (like myself). I try my best to practice it as part of my daily routine. My partner has even helped me when I suffer in low mental moments on how to begin my day with gratitude. I’m not perfect by any means, I’m human just like everyone else. Sometimes I’m mindful of when I’m the teacher, and when I am a student myself.   Mindfulness comes from within because it is intuitive and pre-conceptual. This is why I always say, mindfulness doesn’t prevent you from facing trials and tribulations in life. Mindfulness is about finding clarity in the midst of chaos. 

With practice over time, you can figure out how to become more and more mindful in your everyday life.  Mindfulness can help even if you are in the middle of significant suffering.  Mindfulness has been compared to a deeply personal journey of discovery. What I love is creating different ways we can be mindful. Yoga or meditation may not be for everyone. That is okay. 

Mindfulness is meant to bring about awareness, attention, and remembering.  Awareness means becoming aware and fully enjoying and appreciating the things around you no matter how small it is.  From enjoy a lovely cup of coffee (one of my favourite things to do) or a wonderful drive along a dirt road. You can find your ways to become mindful at the moment. 

When you are attentive, it means that you are participating in focused awareness.  That means that you are aware of what is occurring within and around you.  When you participate in this “awareness” you can begin to free yourself from mental preoccupation and difficult emotions. Being aware that this may or may not be positive is okay. 

The true purpose of mindfulness is to rid yourself of needless suffering. It’s unfortunately how our minds, sometimes, are our own worst enemies. How do you do this?  You do this by becoming aware and cultivating insights into how your mind works and the meaning of everything in the material world we live in.  You are looking for ways to calm your mind and bring peace to your world. 

Through Mindfulness you are re-training your mind in order to manage it.  Mindfulness allows you to develop other mental qualities including concentration, loving/kindness, effort and becoming more alert. It took me years of practice so that I may understand how I could step back away from the hospital bed, and understand the greater perspective. In that moment of “chaos”, I was able to remember my breathing techniques while waiting for the doctors to come in. I was then able to listen to my intuition and know that my husband was needed in other places other than this realm. 

Mindfulness is not an end-all or doorway to happiness but it can provide you with the foundation you need to build those skills. Which is why I said, it’s not about eliminating the trials and tribulations but finding clarity. I’m not here to pretend, things happen in life. 

By allowing yourself to get rid of habits in your mind that can cause you unhappiness the result will be letting go of anger, envy, greed or other harmful behaviours that serve no purpose. It may take some time. But a constant practice of mindfulness will help you along your path. 

Mindfulness brings about self-acceptance and self-understanding.  We bring upon ourselves unwanted emotional and behavioural problems simply by trying to avoid discomfort and throwing ourselves into some other sort of change-seeking activity. I always consider this kind of training as a guide in helping people find their centre or compassion and self-healing. 

 

The candles are lit, the fire is going and the stockings were hung on the mantel with loving care. 

Yes, this is a time of year where I dive deep into my soul and listen to the wonderful melodies of Christmas music in my home. Some would think it’s too early, others agree with me… but mostly around this time of year, it’s a push-pull debate among many. And for this, I wish to explain some reasoning, or maybe perhaps shed some light on the never-ending conversation. 

Believing is about making the MAGIC HAPPEN!

I remember as a child, I felt the magic fill the air with sparkle and enjoyment around this time of year. It usually started in late November and proceeded until Christmas Day. Family, tradition, hot chocolate and winter stories all encompassed the holiday season. The snow glimmered in the moonlight, the coloured lights on the tree reminded me of fairies dancing amongst the branches. Oh, how I wished for the things I wanted, creating (what I thought in my child mind) an abundance for myself. These were the days I believed… without a doubt that magic could make things possible. 

Children have this ability. without us teaching or enforcing a harsh reality on them, that abundance is possible if you truly believe with all of your heart. They create these opportunities for themselves. They write letters to Santa, layout cookies, and they believe in the things unseen and the magic will manifest into the things they want for their lives. A new bike, or a doll… they love the feeling of joy it brings to them and the time spent with these new objects. Somewhere along the lines when we stopped believing in Santa. We stopped believing in ourselves of all the possibilities we can achieve the same joy… and somewhere along our path, we believe there is no magic! But is this true?

Over the years, I get a number of people inquiring of my passion for Christmas and the holiday season. Yes, I’m the one who will play holiday music all year round. There is no questioning it, many are annoyed with this with their eyes rolling (lol), and my closest friends and family have accepted it. I am who I am!

Here’s the thing, the harmony of holiday music, the melodic accompaniment of Christmas music reminds me of my childhood. It brings me back to that time where I believed that anything was truly possible. So my question is, why can’t I have this as an adult too? When we believe in the things unseen, when we believe in the possibilities, the magic will happen for us. The holiday season is a constant reminder for me to keep myself surrounded by love, peace, joy, gratitude, and knowing that the abundance will come from this. So instead of having this just once a year, I can let the sparkles flow all throughout the year.

Now listening to Christmas music may not be for everyone, which I can respect. Vibrational frequencies from music and sound operate differently from one another. However, I encourage you to think back to a time in your childhood where you felt love and joy, creating the abundance and to tap into your inner child heart. This is where the magic sparkles of life can be found within yourself, making all things possible. Because you are POSSIBLE! 

Create the magic, create the possibilities for your life path. And let the music dance within your soul. 

 

I am rooted in the stillness of the deep soul…

This past weekend I allowed myself to embark on a nature retreat opportunity. While co-facilitating this experience, I was also able to work on my own self-healing. From fairy lights and candlelit labyrinth walk to a sweat sauna experience, my deep soul was nourished in self-recognition. The trees around helped me see my own roots.

These past two years I have spent time creating my new normal. I have walked the path of grief, accepted it with open arms, and moved slowly to heal my broken heart. This weekend helped me realize that I am now stepping into ‘BEING” my new normal; my new self. I have cracked open the egg and emerging as my new being. I have spent many hours working on myself and I am ready, with an open heart and open arms, to see what the future will bring. As someone just reminded me, we are not human doings, we are human beings!

Being rooted with the trees helped me unplug from the day to day busy-ness of life and to go deep within my own being. How can this happen? How can I feel my deep soul for self reflection and an opportunity for growth?

I encourage you to do the following meditation exercise:

  • Schedule a light walk along the path (leaving the cell phone home or in the car).
  • Allow yourself to focus on your breath, inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 4 counts, Each time picture your breath touching your deep soul. Allow yourself to feel the nourishment. 
  • Find a tree. Allow yourself to stand up against it, lean into the tree, feel it’s bark, or (as another option) casually sit up against the tree with your back against its trunk. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel that energy coming from the tree and picture your own roots projecting down deep into mother earth. 

This is one exercise you can do as a mindfulness technique. Spending time with yourself can help you nourish your deep soul, which will allow you the opportunity for self-reflection. These moments are important as they help strengthen your inner core so you can be your best self moving forward. 

Blessings along your path. 

 

Broken Hearted

A widow falls to the kitchen floor in tears. Only a week ago she called the 911 dispatch hoping her husband only had flu-like symptoms. Little did she know that stage four of pancreatic cancer was eating him from slowly the inside out. In six short weeks he went from having a clean bill of health to be put on life support. In those moments on the cold kitchen floor, not knowing what the future will be, she screams out loud in helplessness behaviour. Her dogs watched helplessly as the tears rolled down her face. Alone with only her thoughts, the sound of silence echoed the house in a haunting manner.

He used to watch T.V. downstairs on a Sunday afternoon, often hearing the footsteps of him coming up the stairs now and then to check on his wife. No longer is the T.V. on, nor the sound of footsteps other than her slow pace as she walks around the house mumbling to herself “I can’t believe you are gone”. How can one cope with these trials and tribulations of grief? She hibernates. She doesn’t have the energy to leave the house. Most widows know how grief can take over the mind. Your thoughts become cloudy, and your decision making becomes muddled in confusion. Hibernation takes over, and yet you want to move on with your life. How can this be done?

Life can change in a matter of moments for an individual. The sudden loss of a loved one, a pet, a job can all be traumatizing, and the emotions of sorrow and despair can overwhelm an individual. Moments of fatigue, helplessness, loneliness, all affect our mental state of awareness which is compellingly. Rather than turn to traditional forms of healing, sometimes the informal way of learning can prove to be beneficial to those experiencing the grief-stricken sorrow. Yes, I did the regular and more formal ways of healing like grief counselling, yet I also turned to other means and creative outlets like art therapy and discovering a retreat centre. I wanted to dive deeper into myself and discover who I was at the core. What better time to find myself than now when, at the time, I felt like all as lost.

Coming to the Edge.

It was only a couple of google moments where, in a just a couple of clicks, I discovered the Edge and the Heart Foundations of Shamanism program: a retreat centre that seemed to fit what I needed at the time of grief and loss. As I drove northbound to this remote place, I found myself excited to find out what kinds of magical moments would lay ahead. The freshly fallen snow that covered the Canadian shield on that cold February day seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. I felt nervous traveling north, yet I’m reminded of my indigenous teachings where, in the North, it is the dawning-place of true wisdom. The North represents a space to realize all a traveler may posses within them. It is a place where the path becomes a mountain for us to climb, assess our deepest teachings and wisdom, and for us to discover what we have within ourselves.

As a nature retreat and awareness centre, I came to discover the power of the path at the Edge! In those moments of healing, I began to discover the power of listening. I listened to my soul. I listened and harnessed my appreciation for Gaia energy. As you are driving down the road, becoming unplugged to the world around, you can reconnect with your core, discovering who you are and embracing your belonging. Nature has a way of creating a deep play for young ones, but also for adults too. At the Edge, I was able to dream, create, and become mindful at the moment, leading by my heart centre. My heart was broken, my sense of identity lost. Coming to the circle, an ancient community practice, at the Edge, helped me understand what my new normal would become. The art of listening is what I encourage people to do in those moments. Taking a gentle walk along a path can have amazing healing moments as you listen to your soul. Even back at home away from the Edge, I walked a beautiful path in the woods on a regular basis (3-4 times a week) to help clear my cloudy thoughts of grief. I listened to the birds, the leaves rustling, I’d pause along the path, and I gave myself a space for my soul to be heard.

As a young widow, my normal was lost. My reality, my family, however, YOU have the power to create a new normal for yourself. You may not know what is in those moments of healing. If you can listen and trust in the path, the pieces of creativity are slowly emerging for you to create and weave together your new being.

Life’s Path: 2 Years later.

Grief still creeps in from time to time, though my pup and I are doing well these days. No longer am I on the floor in tears, but the occasional moment of silence will help me create a conversation with my husband on the other side. The love never died with Derek; he is still within my core. The silence within this space is no longer haunting, but a place is inviting me to continue to work and create my new normal. I listen, and I trust…and by discovering my new being, I can now love myself again and open myself up to love someone new.

After completing the Heart Foundations of Shamanism at the Edge, I was able to discover my true passion for teaching and leading again. Now as I approach the two year anniversary of my husband’s passing this fall, I have now become a Coach, Leader, Speaker, and Author, who is currently completing a Masters of Education, specifically in Outdoor and Land Teachings with Mindfulness Training. The power of the path underneath my toes holds space for me to create new and exciting tracks as I continue to listen to my soul.

At Home Practice:
Today, I encourage you to venture out onto a path. Let yourself become mindful of your breathe and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the area around you. Feel that energy coming from Gaia. She is there with you. She holds the ground strong for you to walk on, and she gives you that breathe of air. Notice the path: Is it straight? Is it curved? Are there any branches sticking out in which you may have to step over? Reflect in these moments (either to yourself or even in a journal). Let yourself feel the strength coming from the path.

Blessings Along Your Path
~Jen CB~