What NOT to do when volcano boarding… 7 lessons learned from Nicaraguan Retreat

What NOT to do when volcano boarding… 7 lessons learned from my Nicaraguan Retreat

So many experiences, so many moments, so many take-aways. Hard to sum it all up here, however I have compiled a few key lessons from my retreat in Nicaragua.

 

Simple life is happy life.

The Nicaraguans I met were all lovely people. They may not have much as compared to our standards, or the norm in our consumer world, and yet they are happy. And they practice the art of gratitude.

We really don’t need much to survive. A few clothes, some good food, a roof over our heads, and good company. A lot of us committed to de-cluttering our environment and de-cluttering our lives. Where could you maybe live more simply?

Ditching digital devices can be a good thing.

It didn’t take me long to get used to not having wifi or phone service. In fact, truth be told, I kinda liked it. Once I made the commitment to do a full digital detox for the week, I loved not feeling that constant pressure to be connected.

We experienced some pretty powerful moments. We enjoyed conversation. We watched the stars. We were in bed shortly after the sun went down and woke up to the roosters around 5:30am. It was pretty neat. When was the last time you disconnected?

 

Doing good feels good.

Volunteering at the local school, built by the resort’s own non-for-profit ‘Waves of Hope’, was a powerful experience. There’s something to be said for getting down and dirty (I even mixed concrete for the first time!). We weren’t there long, and yet we painted, we cleaned, we poured, and we made a difference… however small.

I have embraced this new idea of ‘making waves.’ Creating lasting ripples through the work you do and the actions you take. May you make waves in your own life, too.

 

Don’t take the temple that is your body for granted.

We spent a lot of the week in activity… from surfing, to stretching, to sweating it out. It felt good (until my knee injury at least!) to be able to use our beautiful bodies for fun and strengthening activities.

Even after the little accident, I was even more so reminded of the fact our bodies should not be ignored nor taken for granted. They should be celebrated, used, and respected.

 

You really can make your own chocolate!

So we did a chocolate making workshop. Amazing! Real cocoa beans are pretty darn cool. Like a nut, you can roast them, and then gently crack open the shell to get at the glorious looking bean inside. We put the beans through an old school grinder, worked with a variety of ingredients from ginger to chilli to mint to nuts to rum… and then presto! Who knew?!?

These little chocolate balls, although nothing like Cadbury, were quite delicious. And pretty cool that we made them on our own. There’s something to be said for making something from scratch. Something that perhaps you never thought possible.

 

There’s something powerful about being in community.

Being involved in a community in general, and especially in our case a group of empowered women is just, well, powerful. When I was leading the workshops, and we were engaging in important dialogue, I felt blessed to be able to do the work I do.

One of the participants shared how amazing it was to be around such ‘nice’ and real women. She just wasn’t used to it. And I couldn’t agree more. Through conversation the walls come down, and we find out we all have both our strengths and our struggles. And our highlight reels on social media aren’t always our realities!

 

What NOT to do when volcano boarding!

So I’m sitting here in an immobilizer, using crutches, after a little volcano boarding accident! Perhaps I gave in to my dare devil ways and thought it would be fun to really try to go as fast as I could down the active volcano. Um, yeah, maybe I should have listened when they said start slow until you get a feel for it!

Life is not a race. We can pace ourselves. I am grateful for this harsh reality check I was given, as it is literally forcing me to slow down, stay in, and check-in.

 

Simple life is happy life. Doing good feels good. What NOT to do while volcano boarding. … 7 lessons learned from a Nicaraguan retreat. (Click to tweet it out!)

Carol - high res

what does ‘doing it right’ mean anyway?

where (and why) do we look to measure how we're doing it right?

Where (and why) do we look to measure whether we’re ‘doing it right’ ? What does doing it right mean anyway?

Twice in a row this week, I happened to be sweating it up on my yoga mat next to enthusiastic beginners. And I’m talking never done yoga before – let alone this fast-paced power yoga style stuff – and in a heated room to boot! Both times I was thoroughly impressed. They were keen, engaged, and kept up completely! It was inspiring… I love watching people achieving things, and getting into these weird positions they never thought possible.

I also couldn’t help but notice how intently their eyes were on the other students in the room. ‘Is my left hand where it’s supposed to be?’ ‘Did he really just say that?’ ‘Now what the heck is that pose supposed to look like?!?’ And it makes sense… I mean if you are being told to contort your body in ways you didn’t know it could go, you may want some guidance and assurance. And yet, even when they had listened to the direction, and had successfully brought themselves to the ‘correct’ posture, they were still eyeing the other bodies around them… to check in? To compare with? To ensure everyone else also looked as silly as they perhaps felt they looked?

Now being a newbie in a yoga class is one thing… I’m sure the majority of folk want to make sure their downward facing dog is looking how it’s ‘supposed’ to look. But I don’t think the studio is the only place we tend to look to others to judge how we are doing ourselves…

Why do we always need to check in to see if we’re doing things the ‘right way’? And who’s to say our neighbour is the expert in terms of what the right way is anyhow?

It brought me back to my first year of theatre school. Picture this keen go-getter: private school graduate, head prefect of her boarding house, captain of the field hockey team, peer counselor, lead in school play, the choir, concert band, awards, scholarships, 93% average… the girl who needed the approval, and was pretty good at ‘playing the game’ in order to receive it. And then all of a sudden she’s being asked in her acting class to partake in an exercise whereby she must roll around on the ground expressing whatever emotion she felt using only the word ‘ahhh’. WHAT?!? How was I supposed to do that? I needed more direction! What was it supposed to look like? Which way was I supposed to move to ensure I got an ‘A’? And how should my ‘ahhs’ sound? How do I do it ‘right’? And to top it all off, we had to do this exercise with our eyes closed!

It was horrific. I felt like I just didn’t get it… I felt silly. I felt fake. I totally doubted myself. And I was constantly sneakily opening my eyes just enough to peak at what everyone else was doing. Was I doing it ‘right’?

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only exercise of its kind I had to endure that first year. I almost failed. The feedback I received from my professors at my end-of-year audition was that I seemed to be constantly going outside of myself to seek approval. ‘Stop trying to please Daddy’ I remember so vividly one of them saying. And he was right. I totally was.

I was struggling so hard to ‘do it right’ – and failed to see the whole point was to realize there was no way to do it right; nor was there a way to do it wrong. The only way to do it was to do it my way.

Although I’ve come a long way, I still sometimes struggle with wanting to do it right, or to look good, or to seek approval. And then I start to compare. And then I doubt myself. I get scared I’ll make a mistake. Do it the wrong way. Or the not-as-good-as-her way. And so what do I do?

Nothing. I get down and I give up.

Here’s the thing. Whenever I seek another’s approval, I am giving up my own power. Whenever I am comparing myself to someone else, it’s like saying they are the authority on what’s best for me and my life. And when I am trying to do it ‘right’, chances are I am not acting from my heart, from inside.

As cliché as it is, I will never be good at trying to be like anyone else, or do what anyone else does. I will only ever be good at being me. And not only that, I am the best in the world at being me!

And so are you.

Stop looking around, seeing how you measure up, comparing your warrior pose to that student in the front row.

Find your pose. your path. your way. You are the only expert on your journey… so spend more time checking in with yourself, and less time checking in with those around you.

I’m pretty sure what you’ll find is that you are pretty darn amazing.

Have a FAB week, everyone!

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Ode to Downward Dog: nuggets learned from yoga camp

ode to downward dog

Happy Friday!

So I am still at yoga camp ~ and besides doing a whole lot of downward facing dogs, and sweating it up with 53 other people on mats placed inches apart, we have also done a lot of ‘inner work’. Discussions about our stories and what we’re making them mean, how to give up the lies we tell ourselves, and what our authentic self looks like are the norm.

I may have already lost some of you, and that’s totally fine! I get some of this talk may come across as a foreign language. I do, however, think taking the time to look inside and get real with who we are being, as well as who we want to be, has definite value.

In an effort to dispel any myths or perhaps lift some of the fog around what happens here at yoga camp, this week I’m going to share some of the questions and themes and principles that come up. Now my intent is not to preach, nor do I want anyone over-analyzing this stuff! But rather I invite you to read and perhaps reflect upon some of them if so desired…

Be a YES.

If you can, you must.

There is no such thing as try, there is only do.

How you show up here, is how you show up everywhere. And everywhere you go, there you are.

You are either now here or you are no where.

What do you need to let go of?

Every new moment is a new opportunity to begin again.

Trust your gut. Trust the process.

Don’t rush the process.

Be still.

Do less, be more.

Who are you being right now?

How are you showing up? How do you want to show up in the world?

Who or what are you standing for?

Consider we’re all a concern for looking good and not looking bad.

Go to your edge – that’s where growth starts.

So what?

Shift your vision.

Relax with what is.

You are both student and teacher.

Drop what you must.

Drop the expectations.

Seek the truth.

Don’t let your stories define you.

What is your intent and what is the impact?

Be willing to come part.

Understand that the whole is the goal.

Be your true self.

Show up as a 10.

Remove whatever is in your way.

Commit to growth.

You are ready NOW.

If not now, then when?

Have a FAB week, everyone!

 

 

I’m curious… do any of these questions or considerations in particular resonate with you? Are there any thoughts or questions that come up? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!!!

give yourself an ‘A’. and give others all ‘A’s, too.

give yourself an A

Michelangelo is quoted to have said that inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue, and one need only chisel away at the excess material to reveal the work of art within. He never knew what he was going to sculpt before he began, as he believed whatever it was already existed and just needed to be set free. In other words, we are already whole and complete – and have that beautiful statue, soul, being, energy – inside each of us, ready to come out and play.

The idea here is that we don’t have to try to create anything, be anything, or fix anything.

One of the books on my yoga teacher training pre-work reading list, The Art of Possibility, discusses this idea and explains that taking it on eliminates the need to compare and measure up to. Instead, it focuses on how to chip away at the stone to reveal each person’s own mastery, self-expression, and true brilliance.

They call this process: “giving an A”. It is a way of approaching people that has the potential to transform both you and them. It is a shift in mindset that allows you to speak freely about your thoughts and feelings, while at the same time support others to be all they dream of being. “The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibility.”

The authors were professors at an esteemed music conservatory, and felt that so many of the students were all too consumed by the measurement of their performance they were less willing to take risks and really experience the music. And so, they simply decided to give every student an A at the beginning of the semester. The only condition was that each had to write a letter to the teacher dated a year later, as if they had already completed the course, explaining why they had received this grade and what had happened to them as a result.

Some of these letters were amazing. I’ll let you read the book if you’re interested, but consider how this notion may be applied to all areas of life. Instead of being upset with the server for getting your order wrong, give him or her an ‘A’. Give your partner an A, even if they leave the dishes out. And that driver ahead of you in the fast lane, whom you think perhaps could move over one lane, give them an A, too.

Come from a place of trusting that each person is doing the best that they can. And trust that you, too, are doing the best that you can. Instead of placing judgment on where you are in your experience versus where you think you ‘should’ be, or looking at what you may or may not be feeling as compared to what you think you ‘should’ be feeling, consider that you have already earned an ‘A’ on your experience. Only you have the mastery within to be, do, or feel whatever is right for you.

It is not about fulfilling an expectation, but rather living into a possibility.

So give yourself an ‘A’ right now in whatever you are doing, whatever you are dealing with. And give those around you A’s, too. Why not, right?!? Who knows how your relationship with yourself, as well as with those in your life, may transform into a whole new way of being.

Have a FAB week, everyone!

 
What action are YOU going to take to give yourself, or someone else, an A right now? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below 🙂

wherever you are, you are exactly where you need to be

 HAPPY FRIDAY!

wherever_you_are..._www.copyblogger.com_3c9f8aa17ae088210aI like being happy. I mean, who doesn’t, right? And although I do consider myself a happy person for the most part, there are also going to be some days where on the happiness spectrum I fall more to the left than I do to the right. I used to think this was a bad thing, that I needed to do something quick to get back to the bright side. But there are a range of emotions out there for a reason. And just like rain every once in a while helps us to appreciate the sun, perhaps sadness, frustration, uncertainty – whatever it is we may be feeling – can also help us to appreciate the happy.

This week my mood somewhat mirrored the weather today ~ mostly sunny, mixed with small dark pockets of cloud. There were some moments when I felt fully energized, enthusiastic, excited… and others when I felt tired, a bit down, or lacking motivation… And when I found myself wanting to press snooze one too many times, I immediately passed judgment on my state of being and behaviour; internally I labeled it as ‘wrong’, or ‘bad’. And then I quickly found I was wanting to pull myself out of there! I mean, we can choose to be happy, right?!?

Well, perhaps there is some element of choice involved, but trying to force myself into a place where I was not, and not allowing myself to be okay with where I actually was, also meant I wasn’t allowing for some self awareness. Why might I be feeling this way? What are the underlying triggers at play? Trying to get to somewhere new – and fast – is not really living and experiencing the present moment.

I used to think being happy was the goal. But perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps it is to be present and true to where we are, whatever we may be feeling, and to be okay with it.

Some of my yoga students this week were commenting (and being hard on themselves!) about how they just couldn’t get their balance on. I assured them that every time we come to our mats we are in a different place. It could depend on the thoughts running around rampant in our heads, the sleep we had the precious night, what we’ve eaten or had to drink… everything affects everything. Some days we may have great balance, others maybe only on the right leg, or sometimes it may appear as though we have none at all! But wherever we are at – on our mats or in our lives – is where we need to be.

When we are fully present – present to our feelings as well as to our surroundings – we are open to experience life and to be affected by all that life can offer us. When I finally surrendered to my mood, perhaps with a little less spunk than I would have liked, I was also open and vulnerable enough for change. Sometimes I walk into my yoga classes wondering how many, if any, will show up. A tad fearful, perhaps with a tang of self-doubt. I felt that this week ~ until I had 12 show up to my Tuesday night class ~ and left feeling totally energized by what my students gave me. I walked in one way, but by allowing myself to be present and be affected, I left on a high.

Where you are right now – with respect to your mood, geographical location, career, family, relationships, or balance in yoga – trust you are there for a reason. Life moves pretty fast, and you may not be there for long. So you may as well enjoy wherever it is you are at in this moment.

If we try too hard to get somewhere we’re not, how could we possibly be enjoying where we actually are? (Perhaps I should really take these words to heart every now and again!)

Have a FAB week, everyone!

Carol

Be a YES!

Be A Yes!Greetings, my fine friends, and Happy Friday!

I remember one of my first Baptiste yoga classes (Dad don’t hit delete yet!), when the Instructor told us, as we grew taller and stretched deeper into our pose, to “Be a Yes.” At first, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by it. I think we may have been in tree pose at the time, or one in which hands could reach towards the sky, chest shining out, with spine and shoulders dropped into the back. I actually thought we were supposed to feel the sensation of making a “Y” with our bodies. A “Y” for yes. Makes sense, no? Ever-eager to please and play good student, I tried desperately to radiate the sensation of a ‘Y’, hoping I was doing the right thing and didn’t look silly. However, this meant only getting too caught up in my head – analyzing and over-thinking – that even if I was doing the ‘right’ thing, I wouldn’t have reaped the benefits anyhow.

After a few more classes, I eventually realized that being a yes did not mean physically with our bodies, it meant being a yes in life. Trying things. Going after things. Playing big. Saying yes to new things, before that voice within our comfort zone perks up and tells us to say no.

Over the weekend I was asked/strongly encouraged/lovingly harassed to sign up for what is called the Tough Mudder event. I had never heard of it before, and although I had no idea what it was all about, I’ll admit I was intrigued. Not wanting to disappoint, and wanting to exercise being a “yes’ (see the movie Yes Man… you’ll understand this concept a lot more! Plus, it’s pretty entertaining…), I took a brief look at the website as we chatted and signed up. Why not, right? Um, so yeah – I have since learned it may turn out to be a tad more intense than I initially realized (10-12 miles of military style obstacles, created by the British Special Forces, including running through live electric wires and swimming through dumsters of ice — take a peek for yourself at toughmudder.com — there is still room on our girls team for those who are interested?!?). However, it’ll be certainly be an experience. Worst case scenario, I can’t complete one or more of the obstacles, but I have a fab time trying, right? And I’m pretty sure everyone still gets their beer in the end!

So, this week I have a challenge for each of you. Say ‘yes’ to something you may not normally say yes to. Instead of over-analyzing or over-thinking what you could or should do, or giving in to the little voice inside your head that says you can’t, choose instead to listen to your own voice that says YES YOU CAN! Say yes. And it doesn’t necessarily have to mean saying yes to something big and scary or completely crazy. But dare to live on the edge a little. Say yes to staying up late to watch another episode of your favourite show. Say yes to eating ice cream before you’ve had dinner. Say yes to someone’s invitation to have coffee even if there are dishes to be cleaned. Say yes to the dress even if it’s a few dollars above the budget. Live a little! Who knows what may happen? You may just surprise yourself, learn something new – and have a little fun while you’re at it.

Have a FAB week everyone!

do you wanna look good, or feel good?

look good or feel good

Happy Friday!

No day but today, right? So, today is the day. Today is the day I make a goal – or maybe even a commitment (ooh, big scary word for me!) – to send out a mini update, or perhaps some ramblings, just because, every week. And seeing as how Friday just so happens to be my favorite day of the week, it seems like the perfect day to do it. And I’ve been saying Happy Friday for as long as I can remember, so why not share the happy?

So this week I was struggling over what to do with various job opportunities, and a new colleague simply told me You need to do what is right for you. Now I am sure I’ve heard that many times before, but in that moment, right then, it just sort of clicked. I may not want to let anyone down, however, I also need to think about myself. My goals, my desires, my needs. And that doesn’t mean having to be selfish. It just means looking after myself. Of course I am pulled by wanting to do the right thing. Doing what I think I should do. And yes, doing what I feel will look good. But should’t the more important issue be to do what feels good? Feels right?

I had this morning off. I was going to attack the list of things that have been creeping up – and as the holidays are upon us (again, crazy how quickly time goes by) – that list seems to be growing faster and longer than Santa’s beard. I wanted to get all my Christmas cards written, a few more presents off to the post office, laundry finished, bedroom tidied, dishes put away, and my e-mail inbox cleaned up. Guess how many cards I wrote? Zero. How many presents got off? Ziltch. E-mails sent? Nada. Actually, that’s not quite true, I did get through a few… but you get the idea. Instead, I did a yoga class (podcasts can be pretty handy that way). And although it took a while for my mind to shut-up, but it was good. I enjoyed it. And you know what? It was probably exactly what I needed to do. And then all of a sudden I hear the Instructor Mark White say this: “We need to learn to taste life, not just inhale it.” Oh how true. Sometimes I feel I’m inhaling my way through things just to get them done. Now where is the fun in that?!? I have my lists - I’m sure we all do – and all of the things I feel I should do. And I love accomplishing these things, crossing them off, and feeling good about myself. But sometimes I wonder who I am doing these things for. For myself? Or do I merely want to do the right thing, do what I think I should do, or do what’ll make me look good?

As the holiday season approaches, I am going to try to remember I want to taste life, not just inhale it. That I can put myself first sometimes without having to feel I am being selfish. And that sometimes living in the world of ‘shoulds’ can be dangerous. Who am I trying to look good for anyway? The Jones’? I don’t think I want to keep up with them. I think I simply want to enjoy the ride.

Have a great week everyone!