Camp Still Vancouver Is Holding A Meditation Party – And It Looks Awesome!

A meditation party? Is that an oxymoron? To be honest, I had to read the details twice when they first floated into my inbox. I kept imagining a bunch of people sitting on pillows and trying so desperately hard to squash all the thoughts in their heads. And not much else happening. While I’m all for quiet time and zoning out, I didn’t think this event was for me if it included doing that in a group setting.

Thankfully, Camp Still Vancouver’s first mass meditation party is NOT that! It’s actually an event with guest speakers all focusing on mindfulness and the practice of meditation – including Farzana Jaffer-Jeraj who wrote a book called How to Cheat at Meditation. This definitely doesn’t sound like your regular practice. Another guest of note is Chin Injeti, a Grammy award-winning music producer who’s worked with Pink and Eminem. There’ll be an opportunity to learn a meditation technique that could start you off if you are new to the practice, or enhance what you already have going on. And there will be experts on hand to answer your questions.

Because it’s a party, you can expect food, music, a DJ, swag bags…and a sound bath! What’s a sound bath? I’m not entirely sure – but if you follow them on Instagram, they do post a lot of great information.

Here’s what I DO know:

What: Vancouver’s First Modern Mass Meditation Party
Date: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Location: BMO Theatre Centre, 162 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC.
Time: 7:00 pm -10:00 pm
Cost: $40.00
Let’s be honest – we could all use a refresher on getting back to our own breath. The world right now seems a little crazy to me, and I often need to shut it all out, power down the laptop, close my eyes and just remember my own Divinity. I think there’s no better time to reach out to a like-minded community – one that is safe and inclusive and encouraging of your own inner journey. Because really, I don’t think we can get anywhere on the outside if we aren’t grounded on the inside.
Do you have a meditation practice or something that helps you feel still?
taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Is It A Bump Or A Jump?

In the planning process, things don’t always happen smoothly. 

There’s nothing profound in that statement; we all kind of know it as fact.  Increasing the number of uncontrollable factors, and if you recallI am not a fan of uncontrollable factors, will most definitely increase the number of bumps in the road.  You can plan on that!

The real question is:  are these bumps in the road setbacks or catapultians?  (By the way, I thought I made that word up but it’s real!  “of or like a catapult”).

In other words, when you hit a bump, do you fall back or do you leap forward? 

I like to think I have a choice in which direction I move.  A curve ball can be looked at as part of the learning process – something I may be able to avoid next time with some new information gained – or I can let it knock me out and force me to throw in the towel.  A plan with a seemingly insurmountable number of roadblocks can be tackled one block at a time or end up in a pile of cancelled dreams.

There’s something I like to remind myself when I’ve lined up all my ducks and I’m just waiting for that Divine Intervention to see me through my good intention.  The Universe always answers my prayers, or requests depending on how you look at it.  It answers in one of three ways:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes, but not now.
  3. No, We have something BETTER in store for you!

If something I’m planning for hasn’t happened yet, despite me breathing down its neck, I remember the Universe’s 2nd and 3rd answers and I trust.  That trust, that faith, is always a leap forward.

In yoga, we are reminded in every muscular posture to reach with the heart.  You can try this right now.  Sit up straight in your chair.  Roll your shoulders back so that your shoulder blades are resting closer together on your back and feel your chest cavity opening up.  That is your heart centre, the seat of your soul.  In yoga when you lean forward in any posture, you do it with your heart leading the way.  Even when your head is going to end up on the floor in a complete surrender, you do it purposefully, reaching and going forward with love.

If I choose to meet life’s challenges in this way, I am sure I will quickly see how easily a roadblock can become a platform for exercising trust, faith, love and surrender.

What will YOU choose?

Is Social Media A Help Or A Hindrance To Your Creativity?

A creative block prevents you from engaging in your creativity.  These blocks can be thoughts (I don’t have enough time, I’m not really creative, Nothing I create is worth anything anyway), or they can be material (too much clutter, too many distractions).  A couple years ago when I first started becoming aware of my creative blocks, I would have told you hands-down my biggest creative block was the television.  “Down-time” in the evening meant watching T.V. and since this was really my only free-time of the day, it was easy to let writing fall by the wayside.  I didn’t “have time” to write.  Now that I’ve realized how much precious creative time I was throwing down the drain (not to mention yoga time and reading time), T.V. is not an issue for me.  I love one show and one show only – Gossip Girl!  What’s not to love about a scandalous group of social elites living it up in the Upper East Side?  Thankfully, this show goes on these sporadic and extended breaks so it’s not a regular part of my existence.  My husband and I do watch 1 movie a week together – but this is something we love doing as a couple and it’s been a ritual for us since we got together.  I say that makes it OK.

Unglueing myself from the boob tube felt great and surprisingly the withdrawal was relatively painless.  But now, NOW, a bigger monster threatens to take over…social media!  Facebook and Twitter – two seemingly harmless cousins who can get together and create a lot of mischief and wreak havoc on my writing schedule.

Other bloggers will empathize with me about the need to unplug and how daunting the task can be.  To have a successful blog, you need to spend a lot of time in social media and on the internet, in general.  Reading other people’s blogs, commenting on them, replying to those fabulous comments you receive on your blog, promoting your book/blog/workshop, networking with others in your industry…these are all part of your work day and yet it is so easy to get carried away.

The other day, I found a great link posted by one of my tweeps on Twitter, clicked on it and read the article.  At the end of the article was the website of the author.  Click!  I read a post, then another and then another on their blog.  One of the posts had another link.  Click!  Next thing I knew, almost an hour had gone by and I hadn’t even started my own writing!  That’s a lot of time out the window when the most substantial, consecutive time you have to write in a day is the two hours your daughter is in preschool every morning!

Not to say I didn’t learn anything through those clicks.  There is a tonne of information out there, so many fascinating articles and blogs on personal development and writing.  How lucky I am that this is actually part of my work!  But I can see it now.  It is so much easier to flit about the internet than to hunker down and crank out that piece of short non-fiction you plan to submit in a week!

So, it looks like I am going to have to find that fine balance that works for me.  Does anyone have pointers?  My first instinct is to schedule in social media time and then forget that it exists the rest of the time.  What do YOU do that helps?


The Feasibility Of Living Your Passion

“I don’t have the time.”  “I have to work full-time to make ends meet – being an artist won’t pay my bills.”  “It’s just not feasible to follow my passion.”

Do you see yourself in any of these statements?  You’re not alone.  By the time I entered adulthood I was dead sure that being a writer full-time was a joke of an existence; you can’t support a family and write at the same time!  Writing full-time was for free spirits who had no responsibilities or commitments, who would be just fine renting a one room apartment in a less than glamorous area of town.  I’m a plant-my-roots-down-deep kind of girl.  I always knew I wanted to live in one house my entire life, to have a big family in that one house, and to know my neighbours.  There will always be a part of me that craves solitude and that needs time away from people, even those I love, to recharge.  But the image I painted of the single nomad is not really me.  (It’s an inaccurate image anyway – you can be a full-time writer and live well!)

Let’s look at this idea of feasibility a little more.  If you tell me it’s not feasible for you to follow your passion, this is what I will ask you.  “Is it feasible not to?”  If you know that following your passion will add joy, happiness, hope and meaning to your life which in turn will do wonders for your health, your family and all of your relationships, is it feasible not to live a passionate life?

“Yeah, well, I can’t exactly quit my job to paint all day/make cards all day/write all day/travel all year/make jewelry all day (you get the picture, right?  Fill in this statement with your activity of passion.)”

OK.  So don’t.  

I agree with you.  In most cases, it would be completely ludicrous to give up a steady income cold turkey when you want to have a roof over your (and your children’s) head.  But there’s no reason why you can’t line up your ducks and prepare for what could be a major overhaul in what you consider to be your work day.  I think that that is both practical and exciting.  I like that combo.

What do I mean by line up your ducks? 

1.  Incorporate your passion into your daily life.  Be it 15 minutes or 60 minutes, whatever time you want to devote to it, do it.  Doodling for 20 minutes before bed is a completely acceptable way to dabble in your passion.  Reading about running gear or car mechanics or whatever…totally part of living your passion.  Immerse yourself in it.  Even if it’s just minutes a day for now.

2. Dream it then document it.  In an ideal world, how much time do you want to spend on your enjoyable activity?  What does that look like?  Are you happy with your passion being a hobby or do you want to make it a part time or full time business?  Write it out.  Draw it out.  Use whatever medium works for you – but get it down on paper.  I have always thought that writing something down is like sprinkling magic fairy dust over the words – it really sets things in motion!

3. Make a plan, goals, commitments to get there.  If your dream is to write for 20% of your work week by this time next year, where do you have to be financially and in your writing career 6 months from now?  3 months from now?  Next month?  Next week?  Break it down.  If your dream is to run 3 times a week by the summer time, what do you need to do to get there?

4. GET SUPPORT!  Bring people over on to your team to cheer you on, to help you navigate unchartered territory – get a coach, a trainer, a financial planner, a mentor.  This takes it to the next step.  Believe me.  I’ve been through the process!

5. Love the process.  Don’t get stuck on the fact that you’re “only” making cards for an hour every Sunday.  Love that you are making cards for an hour every Sunday!  Let that creative energy that you unleash during those 60 minutes carry you through till the next Sunday!  And know that you can make card making a bigger part of your life – know that people have successful businesses around this.  You can, too if you want to.  Enjoy the process of building your dream – you’ll give birth to more dreams as you go along.

I don’t write all day long, every day.  I don’t think I could.  Where would I get inspiration for my writing if I lived in a hole?  I mother my children, I have a relationship with my husband, I talk to my relatives and friends, I go to yoga classes, I cook and clean, I watch movies, I carpool, I read, I see clients for speech therapy.  While I agree, it’s a pretty awesome existence, not all of those things are necessarily my idea of mind-blowing passion (cleaning!?).  But I enjoy those things a lot more than I ever have because of the giddiness I feel from having a creative outlet.  Even laundry is not such a downer when I get to practice my toe squats (yoga – a growing passion) while folding clothes on the floor.  A spontaneous child’s pose in the middle of folding an endless pile of towels is just awesome.  Handling a toddler tantrum is not as bad as it used to be when my entire life was one big tantrum!  Now I know that outside of this moment of screams and “No!”s I have so many moments to write to you, dear Readers.  That energy and excitement I feel in my creative moments totally spill over on to the other areas of my life and gives them a huge boost.  I have way more compassion and patience for the things I used to consider infuriating.  I’m still human, mind you, but a happier human than I used to be.

So, is it feasible to live passionately?  If you had asked me 10 years ago I would have said NO.  If you ask me now, I will honestly tell you, my life would not be as exciting, fulfilling, and full of hope even in the simple acts of doing the dishes, or folding that never-ending pile of laundry.


Try-This Tuesday: Take A Breath And Add Some Love

I know, you’re thinking, how can I take a breath when I have a shopping list to get to, supplies to buy for gingerbread houses to be made at school, appointments to rearrange so I can get to the school to help make the gingerbread houses, the staff Christmas party to attend (after finding childcare and something suitable to wear) and regular life to contend with?

Well, I ask you then, if this is what your life looks like right now, how can you not

It’s a crazy time of year, even for those who don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanzaa in a big way.  It’s still a time of year when people appreciate the holiday from work, the coziness that blankets the city, to get together with family and friends.  Rituals spring up in homes throughout the neighbourhood – they may be religous-based, season-based or just born from the basic human need to share and receive love.  It’s a wonderful time but for many it’s also an intensely stressful time.

There are several ways you can de-stress that don’t take a lot of energy but that can support you throughout your day.  Here are my two favourites:

1.  Roll out your yoga mat or pull up a pillow or otherwise just sit comfortably on the floor or a chair.  Roll your shoulders up to your ears as you inhale then on to your back as you exhale.  Close your eyes.  Breathe in for 4 counts (fill your belly!), breathe out for 4 counts.  Repeat 4 times.  Those may be the deepest breaths you take all day – enjoy them!

2.  Love what you don’t love.  For example, is dealing with a large crowd at WalMart giving you anxiety?  Is it frustrating trying to find a parking spot at the mall?  Tune in to something more positive and let that be the forefront of your experience.  Crank up the tunes in the car or sing a song to yourself while you try to snag a parking spot.  Are you annoyed that you had to run back to the store because you forgot to buy candy for the gingerbread house project?  While you’re scanning the bulk candy remember what these candies meant to you as a child.  (I did this yesterday!  I forgot about the fact that I dislike grocery shopping as I remembered the excitement my brother and I felt over gummy bears!)

So today, being the last Tuesday Task of 2011, feels like a good day to say “Take a breath and add some love.”

Do you have de-stressing tricks you want to share?

Most Of The Time I’m Pretty Neurotic

You know when you read personal development blogs and you think wow, that person really has their act together?  They must be like a crazy organized, zen, balanced superhuman?  I used to think that but I don’t anymore.  Why not?  Because I am the voice behind a personal development blog and guess what?  Most of the time I’m pretty neurotic.  I thought you’d like to know that.  In fact, I stated it right there in the title of this blog post because I knew it would reel you in.

Here are 3 more dirty little secrets that may shock and relieve you at the same time:

  1. I fear many things on a regular basis.  I alluded to one, not so discreetly, yesterday when I told you about my very unrestful Savassanahs.  I’m sure a lot of parents out there will relate to the fear of something horrible happening to their children.  Rest assured, I am one such parent.

I also fear looking like an idiot and I have to push past this fear every time I publish a post, here and on my recreational blog, The Artist’s Loft.  When you’re a highly sensitive introvert, it’s a bit daunting to invite the entire world into your mind.

Another fear I have is falling ill just before an event I am looking forward to and not being able to attend, especially one that I have a big part in – like I’m a speaker, or facilitating a workshop or hosting my child’s birthday party.

I know it’s important to turn our fear into fuel, to charge past these strong emotions, wipe the sweat from your pits and do it anyway.  I know that there is ‘nothing to fear but fear itself’.  (Did you know that’s a quote by Roosevelt, NOT Winston Churchill?  I just found that out.  My world just shifted on its axis a teeny bit.)

  1. Technology gives me anxiety.  Well, that’s being a bit dramatic.  I should say, if I had to deal with technology on my own it would give me anxiety.  I can get by.  I can set up a blog.  I once even set up a webpage using html, with step-by-baby-step instructions from a college teacher.  But faced with a computer, unaided, makes my right leg jiggle up and down.  As it is, I have come to have no shame in asking techies for help (in the form of frenzied text messages, emails and phone calls) doing even the smallest things.  It’s a little time consuming to do it this way, but not as time-consuming and annoying as having to figure it out myself.  I have decided that it’s OK with me to ask someone who loves this stuff to do it because a) I’d rather spend that time writing or reading or coaching or hanging out with my family or taking a shower b) if I have to fork out some money for the help, hey, I’ve just supported someone else’s business and passion and that feels good! and c) there are some really cool techie people out there I may otherwise never have met or re-connected with.

I’m no dummy.  I’m not against continued learning but when it comes to technology, too much changes too quickly.  This is how I choose to simplify my life.

  1. I have control issues.  Right now I’m in the middle of setting up a community workshop at a local coffee shop.  This type of venue is teaching me a lot about the control issues I have.  I want to be able to control the noise level, the music level, the lighting, the seating.  Everything.  I know that letting go will allow for more positive energy to flow.  I know that with the excitement and passion I feel toward this workshop everything will go well.  I know that the best things happen when we least expect them to, when we don’t plan for them, when we give the reins to Something Else, when we let go and let God.  I would still like to control the world sometimes.

So there you have it.

A lot of the credentials earned in this industry, for me anyway, seems to be from on-the-job training.  Every event in my life has brought me to this point –  the point where I am growing comfortable in my own skin as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a yogi, a creative life coach, a speaker, a writer.  ME.  So even though it seems like I’ve catapulted light years on this new path and therefore, I must have figured out all of “this stuff” overnight in some prophetic dream, no.  That is not how it happened.  I was merrily, and not so merrily, going about my life while the pathway was being laid and I said in the very first post of this blog, I’m on “a path that’s been paved by innumerable events, big and small, and that I have only recently begun to recognize.  You know when you’ve been driving on auto-pilot, going the same route to and from school or work every day?  At some point on the drive you go, ‘Hey!  Where am I?  How did I get here?  Oh right…that’s where I’m going.’  Yeah, it’s like that.  Only, recognizing your creative path is a lot more exciting!”

Bringing my first-born home from the hospital; I had no idea what was ahead! Inaya was a catalyst for my creative life <3

And so that’s how someone with fears, anxieties and issues just like you has come to be the voice behind a personal development blog.

The point of this entire post is to illuminate some of those shadowy areas of the personal development industry, to tear down the barrier between us and them, the ones who have it figured out and the ones who don’t.

My philosophy is that we all have the answers we need in our Selves, waiting to be heard, that will lead us to fulfilling lives of happiness, passion and brilliance!  I don’t have YOUR answers but I have had to dig for mine enough to have discovered some neat tricks along the way that I love sharing with YOU.  I love it so much, it makes my Self buzz with such giddiness, that I have made it my work.  And it chose me, too.  It’s quite a love story!

I know this was a long post and so thank you for taking the time out to read it.

The Part Of My Yoga Practice That Makes Me Want To Run Out The Door!!

I’ve been practicing yoga regularly now for almost 3 months.  In those three months I have learned to connect with my breath, to feel and breathe into the lengthening of my muscles and to trust that my body can do more than I have ever dreamed possible.  Yes, I am preparing to defy gravity by practicing handstand preps.  And the other day, I was introduced to crow pose, another pose that requires the feet to leave the ground.  Nothing has taught me more about the fear that is housed in my body than the way I stop myself just before I am at the point of liberation.  It’s a good lesson, a hard lesson (I was pretty mad at the invisible block that kept bouncing me back to the floor) but not the toughest lesson that yoga offers me.

At the end of every yoga session, we are asked to lie in a supine position, heels apart, shoulder blades resting on the floor, fingers relaxed and breath slowed.  Savassanah.  A beautiful name for what sounds like a well-deserved rest after 60 or 90 minutes of mind-body work.  This is the point of my yoga practice that makes me want to call it quits.  This is the time when I remember that outside of the class my children and husband are at home.  Depending on the time of the class, my mind starts asking the following questions:  Did my son finish his dinner?  Has my daughter had her bedtime snack?  Did they both go down to sleep OK? 


My breath quickens, my heart beats faster.  I picture the display on my cell phone in my mind’s eye.  17 MISSED CALLS!  My mind travels to my house where my husband is holding my screaming son and frantically dialing my number only to get my voicemail again.  Something is terribly wrong with my son; it’s going to require a trip to the hospital.  I HAVE HIS CARE CARD IN MY PURSE!  Back in the yoga studio, I am trying desperately not to squirm, to keep my eyes closed.  It’s like being trapped in a nightmare but being fully awake.  It is so hard to just be, to just trust that everything is OK.

I focus on my breath again, in and out, slowly.  OK, the kids are fine, I tell myself.  Everything is fine.  I have only been out of the house for just over an hour.  ACCIDENTS ONLY TAKE SECONDS TO HAPPEN!  Who is this crazy voice?  And why won’t it shut up when the rest of the class seems to be so…at peace?  Someone is even snoring.

Is this some sort of Mommy curse?  Is my anxiety just heightened because I am still getting used to taking care of myself?  Am I just crazy?

“Slowly bring some movement to your fingers and your toes.” My instructor’s voice is like a ray of light into my darkness.  A few minutes later, after sounding Om and honouring the instructor with a mumbled Namaste, I am free.  Free to check my phone, to check in on my kids.  To check out of my mind.

Bring on the muscle-building poses, the lengthening stretches…but Lord help me with the restful Savassanah.  That’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

What happens to YOU when you have a moment of stillness – real, honest-to-goodness stillness where you are bound to one spot physically?  When you are completely detached from the rest of the ‘wired-in’ world?  (No cell phone!!)  Have you tried it lately?  Want to tell me I’m crazy for not being able to relax when given the opportunity?  I’m open to hearing it!

Ask And Ye Shall Receive: It Really Works!!

Whether you are looking at this from a religious background or simply are a believer in the Laws of Nature – here is one of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few years.  ASK, ASK, ASK for what you want and you WILL receive it.  For me, the messages are never subtle – what I need usually hits me over the head or trips my feet so that I have no choice but to see it.  There isn’t anything mysterious or romantic about it.  I don’t have to decode it and stretch it to fit my idea of what I think the “answer” might be.  Here’s today’s example:

I have been ignoring my body for years and now can no longer do so.  It is literally aching for me to love and honour it.  I don’t even have to ask my body what it needs to feel better; it has been whispering “I miss yoga” to me for awhile now, among other things.  After committing to listen to my body’s messages, I attended a cardio/weights class this past weekend and also decided to look into yoga classes.  There are some offered at my community centre but I thought it would be neat to be a yogi in an actual yoga studio.  I have been concentrating on that idea in my head for the past 5 days – to find a yoga studio close to my home that offers the type of yoga that I need.  Well, today I woke up to one of those daily deals that get sent to my email inbox (and largely ignore) and guess what??  Unlimited yoga classes for one month at a yoga studio 5 minutes from my home (that I didn’t even know existed) for 82% off the regular price!  Really?  That’s practically free!  Not only that, but they offer the specific types of yoga I am interested in practicing, including rooftop sessions that overlook the beach.  Really!  So, maybe I’ll get hooked (I’m hoping!) and then buy a membership that costs…well, 82% more than what I’m paying for this coupon but that’s an investment I’m willing to make!

And that’s just today’s example.  My husband often tells me that I need to concentrate on winning the lottery because my prayers tend to get answered rather literally.  I am quite sure that I don’t have unique special powers.  I am certain that synchronicity is a law that all beings on earth abide by.  And I absolutely know that if you aren’t consciously aware of them, your answered prayers/thoughts/concentrations/mantras will float right over your head into that space where things like grade 10 math and dinosaur facts hide.

Tomorrow’s task will focus on this idea – time to dust the cobwebs off that wonderful reciprocal relationship we ALL have and start using it for our benefit!