(photo cred: eric moniz)
In the early 2000s, after a devastating breakup, I traveled to Japan, away from everything I knew, to teach English for a year. The pain caused me to want, with the strongest desire I’d ever known, to find a reliable way out of suffering. I wanted an answer I could count on from within. It led me to search for answers from my own personal source of guidance, Inner Being, higher power, spiritual self - whatever you want to call that source energy that we are an extension of, and always connected to, that provides wisdom, navigation and inspiration. I wanted to find it, connect to it, know it, and understand it to ultimately feel in control of my happiness. I wanted sustainable inner support. In effect, I wanted to become a mechanic of self-awareness.
Over a serendipitous and dedicated journey since, I’ve come to know that true freedom comes not from depending upon conditions around me to change so that I can feel happy, but the opposite - feeling satisfaction before the thing I think will make me satisfied comes into my life. I’ve learned (and am always still learning) to think and feel better first, manage my focus, energy and emotions into a good-feeling place, and know that this influences my world and brings the magic. I've learned it's thoughts first, then things.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve grown through the unparalleled teachings of experience. I’ve learned practices and tools to buoy my journey, correct my course, create balance and converge with my spirit. Essentially, I found a way to make my mind my friend.
When I discovered that I didn't need anyone else to change in order to feel better, I found true freedom. (Always working on it!). You can't look at things that are horrible and feel good, but you can practice looking at things that feel good, and the horrible things show up less and less. And the solutions come through with more ease. It's about directing your focus and aligning with your guidance, which affects what you receive, perceive, and how you experience the world. This is when you close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and step into your powerful nature, into who you really are and who you want to be.
It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen without a ton of work and dedication. It didn't happen without learning how to relax and be kind to myself. And it's a practice, an art - always ongoing. When I really started to chill out was when I began to consistently feel my connection to my guidance - which feels amazing and comes through sensations, thoughts, ideas, inclinations to act, to move and more.
I certainly don't have it all figured out - it's evolving, an ongoing process, and there's always more to expand into. But I feel like on some macro level my purpose has been to go through this challenging, empowering, emotional and real-world journey and come through it with something of value to contribute.
I hope these words have helped to remind you of the goodness of your soul, the power of your mind, the beauty of your world, and the love that's there for you in the silence; always there for you as the profound depth, and infinite breadth, of your unique, energetic expression.
You have important and exceptional talent to share and deserve to live a fully expressed life while pursuing your creative path
More about my journey...
After years of formal academic training where I received Bachelor of Physical & Health Education and Bachelor of Arts (Psychology Minor) degrees from Queen’s University, I went to Japan to teach in their public school system. From there as I embarked on a focused effort to find my freedom from pain, and venture into joy, I visited Cambodia, where I spent time at Angkor Wat deepening my love affair with photography, finding beauty through a lens, traveled to Bali and experienced chakra healing, journeyed to Nepal where I studied Tibetan Buddhism and meditation at Kopan Monastery with Geshe Lama Lhundrup, did a week-long fast and colonic cleanse in Thailand where I first found yoga and was introduced to Byron Katie's powerful process to undo stressful thoughts that cause suffering. I ended up going to her 10-day School for The Work near San Diego on a scholarship a couple of years later, after being incredibly moved in-person by her workshop intensives.
Fast forward to a frigid, blustery winter night at a coffee shop, where I could be found most days working on a Master's degree in a small, lakeside university town. An acquaintance walked in. Her face was red, she was obviously sweating and I asked, How are you this broiling right now??! She said a new hot yoga studio had just opened across the street, that it was amazing, and that I should try it. In short, I did.
As I immersed myself in the practice over the next few months, I was going once or even twice a day, I heard a quote:
Teach what you need to learn.
I'd been crying for two weeks straight in one particular posture. Camel pose (ustrasana) - a backbend. Every. Single. Class. It was an obvious connection between the physical and the emotional, and I was fascinated. I was releasing pent up emotion, feeling so much better overall, my body was changing and I was instinctively going back for more. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to learn more about the relationship between body, thoughts, emotions and energy. I was intrigued by the connection - it went beyond my academic training and was more aligned with perspectives I'd heard about or experienced in my travels.
I ended up loving the yoga so much, transforming so much, becoming so curious about why the shifts were happening, so interested by the practicality of the yogic understanding of the body and mind, and struck by seeing and feeling so clearly who I was, that I decided to teach whatever this path was so I could learn (and become) more.
Also at that time, I had been trying (so hard) to contribute to creating more peace in the world by dissecting it on paper (I spent a lot of time studying militarism and nationalism as part of my graduate work) yet there was a nagging knowing that peace in the world begins within - and I definitely wasn't feeling it as I researched. Yet, as I stepped onto the mat everyday, I began to consciously find, know and feel peace in my body and mind.
I'd read a quote by Confucius years earlier:
To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.
So, after a few epiphanies, expedited by the yoga, I dropped my Master's degree. I realized I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I then signed up for the next teacher training to steep myself in the answer, or at least a path to the answers I was seeking. Rather than just read, write or talk about it, I wanted to do it, feel it and know it in my heart and cells.
I completed the 9-week Bikram Yoga teacher training in LA later that year (2005) and that became my full time career for over a decade where I taught thousands of classes and students while deepening my own practice.
Jumping back to memories of undergrad... After a summer of tree planting, I became a forest firefighter for a couple of seasons in northern Ontario which satisfied my yearning to ride in a helicopter, wear a snazzy jumpsuit with my last name on a badge, operate heavy equipment and fight fires.
In the midst of my first year of graduate school, I put formal studies on pause, moved to San Francisco (to follow love) and landed a job with an active travel company based out of Berkeley. I ended up leading biking, hiking and multi-sport trips through the Canadian Rockies over two summers and through Belize during winter months. I remember driving through the Rockies, tears streaming down my face, music blaring, in complete awe of the mountains and in peak, blessed appreciation.
From snorkelling in the Caribbean to driving a Jeep through literal rivers, exploring caves, sierras and glaciers, to careening down mountains on a bike, even being on a chartered flight that landed in a corn field (because it was too foggy and the plane didn't have radar!), I sought adventure, growth and creating connections. And, after years of exciting exploits, and serendipitous, synchronous seeming coincidences (but we-know-there's-something-more-going-on occurrences), I started to take a more consistent and focused journey inward. There's seemingly not as much to describe on this trajectory, in the beginning. But there's as much to feel, and just as much, if not more, to explore. And eventually, I started to find, and am continuing to find, that the deliberate exploration of how thoughts influence what comes, how the inner affects the outer, is an evolution of this incredible journey.
After a couple years of teaching, I decided to go to the clinically-studied Hoffman Quadrinity Process in Napa Valley, "a week-long residential and personal growth retreat that helps participants identify negative behaviors, moods and ways of thinking that developed unconsciously and were conditioned in childhood". The process was an incomparable experience that changed me at a neurological level (still to this day) and gave me unprecedented insight into my self.
The path since has been an amazing venture of even more growth, more contrast, more joy, more consolidating what I've learned, and more consciously putting it all into practice. This was always my dream back in Japan - I wanted this day with everything I had. It's so incredible to be on this side of that desire, truly living the dream. A place I didn't know how I'd get to but always knew was possible. A stable, content, appreciative, joyful place where there's always more to learn and contrast to spur growth. A place where I'm genuinely excited for what's next by virtue of my broadening perspective, internal compass, and an understanding of how thoughts become things.
The road has been an ever-evolving mosaic of academic study, intensive training, international adventure, practical teaching experience and consistent, inquisitive immersion at the intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, and I'm so excited to continue expanding in this exhilarating way, and to teach others along the way.
It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen without a ton of work and dedication.
But I know that if I can shift my mindset, you can too.
And I know that if I can learn how this inner state connects to real world experience, you can too.