Happy Father’s Day!

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

-Oprah Winfrey

It always hits me in June, realizing that my Dad is no longer with me in the physical sense. Fortunately, Dad and I had a relationship that was a good one. He was a life force you couldn’t ignore, and he is omnipresent. My Dad wasn’t the best communicator by today’s standards, but I was a reasonable observer and always felt loved and supported. I was acutely aware of how he did things, how he conducted himself and lived in awe of how much he accomplished with less than a high school education. By the time he came clearly into my vision, I had observed that passion with hard work and charisma would yield a life that provided much for us kids and our Mum.

He had confidence, a fierce drive to win, and always felt a sense of pride when any of us achieved our goals, no matter how big or small they were. He didn’t realize it, but through his living example and our working relationship that spanned more than 25 years, he taught me about confidence, self-worth, following my passion, authenticity, loyalty, and humble pride.
 

It’s no surprise I married a man with some very similar characteristics, and he might be considered the champion of my life. I have set a course for myself and find that when my true North is elusive, he’s there for guidance and encouragement. Kevin recognizes more of my strengths than I do, and he reminds me to look back at my life and take it all in. At that moment, I am sure I stand just a little taller. I couldn’t be in a better place!

SO, this June, I want to acknowledge the men in my life who have been champions for me and so many others. They are solid and fierce winners in all they do: husbands, fathers, partners, providers, sons, friends, mentors, BBQing kings, and jokesters. These guys love life and are often heard saying, “bring it on!” They are the ones I think of when I need a boost of confidence or a breath of fresh air. I love strong humans who live life as only they can, this includes my family and friends, and I am so proud to see many of us embrace our authentic power. I have a strong belief in empowering women to change the world, and it’s happening! In my world, strong masculine types have always been a part of my life and a substantial positive influence, often encouraging me to follow my passions and, in so doing, make positive change. Dad taught me early that it was okay to stand up for my beliefs and give more weight to those playing inside the arena I was in. Not all lessons were easy, but I am happy to have these remarkable men in my life and have fully embraced my male energy. Humanity is masculine and feminine, and we are better together. When I embrace the fact, I have both male and female energies to work with, it makes for a good formula to handle just about anything that comes my way. I hope that’s the case for you too!

Love you guys, and Happy Father’s Day to those of you who are Dads.

Blooming in all Seasons: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Midlife

The one thing we can all count on in this life is change. People, situations and circumstances all change; yet we struggle. We fear and resist change because we can’t see what is beyond our current situation. Isn’t it ironic that change is the one thing we can count on; yet we can’t count on ourselves to yield to it?

Language is shifting; technology is evolving faster than we change our bed sheets in some cases. It’s important to recognize the value of being open minded and understanding that change is a positive, powerful force instead of expending energy fighting against it or defending the past because it’s all we know.

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.”  – Actor, Hugh Laurie

For the most part, we have no reason to question our purpose when we’re young, we seem to have a road map for that chapter but once we get to midlife and beyond the route looks muddled. In midlife our purpose can be challenging to connect with because we’re so used to seeing ourselves in the role we had before. It’s vital to keep our minds and our hearts open and remember that there is no perfect time, so don’t think you have to wait until you’re ready.  

As we do our investigative work, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not starting over; we’re starting from here, standing on all of the experience and wisdom we’ve gained so far in life. The questions that come up in midlife are important on our journey of discovery, as the answers become our signposts along this adventure. Who am I now? What do I enjoy doing? How can I make a difference for others? This newfound freedom allows us to find purpose in hobbies, education, volunteer work or starting a business.

We all need to feel purposeful to feel fulfilled but too often, we look outside of ourselves for the answer; the fact is that we connect with purpose when we go within. We can read books or speak with a coach for guidance but it’s important to listen carefully to our own inner wisdom to hear the answer. Try asking yourself who or what inspires you: the answer might be your spouse, your grandchildren, your children, your hobbies or your friends. Then ask yourself what it is about the activity or person that inspires you. If it’s their kindness for example, ask yourself where in your life you can invest in more kindness; if it’s their appreciation, ask yourself where in your life you can be more appreciative. If it’s how you feel when you’re immersed in your hobby, ask yourself how you can invite more of that feeling. Connect with your values, your interests and what brings you joy for cues on your purpose in whatever chapter of life you’re living. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” –Albert Einstein

 It’s being in the mystery: in the process of reflection combined with action that leads us to our purpose. Life is not meant to be stagnant but sometimes we have to nudge ourselves to recognize again that we are important and we matter. It’s not so much about us finding purpose but allowing purpose to find us through self-reflection.

It seems that in midlife it’s more about meaning than money. Although finances are an important part of life, remember that money isn’t everything. Some of the richest people I know are wealthy in kindness, empathy and love which makes them feel really good. Of course, we have a choice to stay in our so-called comfort zone, where life feels familiar but we limit our possibilities. Prioritizing purpose in midlife is important because our world doesn’t reflect back to us that we’re relevant. We have to claim it; we have to take up the space we rightfully deserve. There is no boutique selling meaning or purpose, it’s all inside of us. The unconventional route and the one I choose, is one of freedom and growth, staying open minded, open hearted and having some fun along the way.

Here is a link to an article in Psychology Today about finding purpose and community after retirement. There are some great questions to guide you and some helpful insight to inspire you.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/mindful-anger/201907/4-secrets-finding-purpose-and-community-after-retirement?eml

Your Imagination Can Set You Free!

Let’s play a game. Imagine we’re not in a Pandemic and you’re able to travel anywhere you want. Doesn’t that freedom feel good? Now imagine you’re planning a trip: money is no object and you can go anywhere by any means of transportation you choose. Where would you be going and how would you get there? If you have a piece of paper and pen handy, write down what you would do.

Here’s what I’m up to: I’m boarding a plane with my husband, to take us to Hawaii, where we’ll spend a few days on the island of Kauai before boarding a cruise ship to sail to Australia, where we’ll spend a few weeks; then we’ll hop over to New Zealand before returning to Canada. Perhaps you’re heading to Europe, the Middle East, the Yukon or Newfoundland. Maybe your trip is across town, to hug your parents, your children or your grandchildren.

Thankfully, there are no limitations on our imagination because we sure need it now. Those of us who love to travel are feeling the deficit but it won’t be forever; in the meantime we can dream, travel virtually and comfort ourselves with memories of our past experiences. All the photos you saved from your trips are important reminders of your freedom so enjoy them; share them too, so others can dream along with you. I mean nobody’s going anywhere any time soon, so a fun zoom call might be to share photos with other people who were with you on a travel adventure or do a presentation of one of your trips for your friends.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” – Albert Einstein

Imagination is a powerful force in our lives. We use it all the time when we think about future events or when we remember past experiences. It’s all happening in our imagination. When the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilber invented, built and then flew the first motorized airplane, all of it happened in their imagination before it happened in real life. I know that as they were inventing the motorized plane, they were already flying it in their imagination. It doesn’t always turn out the way we imagine and that’s okay too but it’s important to have a dream or two and to plan for that dream because plans can be altered but without dreams we can feel downhearted.

It’s important for our mental wellness to keep expanding with our imagination, seeing things before they’re physically in front of us. This helps keep us curious and optimistic as well as giving us something to talk about with other people. I bet if you asked your family and friends where in the world they would like to go, the conversation would be thought-provoking and exhilarating; that’s what travel does for us, even when we can’t actually travel. Your beautiful brain doesn’t know the difference between virtual travel and real travel, so save yourself some time and save your money, so that when the time comes, you’ve got a plan.

There are many ways to connect with travel virtually right now, such as reading travel blogs, joining online travel communities, why not watch a movie or read a book set in a place you’ve wanted to visit or learn the language of a country you want to spend time in. Our lives are in a holding pattern right now but our imagination is free to take us wherever we dream of going, no passport required. Bon voyage!

How Mindfulness Can Help Manage Stress

What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness? Do you imagine a guru sitting crossed-legged on a mountain top chanting? Frankly, I think mindfulness could use a new public relations campaign, so that we can all appreciate the benefits of this simple yet powerful practice. I want to share with you how mindfulness might be something you can use every day in your life to manage stress, like a secret superpower.

It’s challenging for our busy thinking mind to understand that taking the focus off of our worries is a good thing. We “think” we have to think our way through everything but just like our body needs rest, our mind needs a break too. We’ve all been on a kooky emotional roller coaster ride, since this Pandemic pause began. Depending on your circumstances, you may be managing working from home, schooling for your children, you might be concerned about your investments, your family and friends, grieving loss of a loved one, your former life and there’s always the underlying fear that you might get sick.

Mindfulness is part of a deep-rooted Buddhist ritual; it’s a practice, just like being grateful is a practice. Once we start to notice what we’re grateful for in our lives, we’ll always find that there’s more to be grateful for but we have to develop the habit of seeing our world this way. Same thing goes for mindfulness, which is the practice of being present in the moment. Our beautiful brain is wired to anticipate what’s coming in the future and it loves to ruminate on what’s already happened whether it’s good or bad. The practice of mindfulness interrupts this ingrained pattern and allows us to be present without attachment to any of the concerns we have about the future or the past. The thing is it’s fleeting, so we have to be mindful of what thoughts are coming up and through practice, train our mind not to judge our thoughts and not to allow those thoughts to prevent us from living fully.

Mindfulness can be meditation but it doesn’t have to be. What if I suggested sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and just observing your breath for a few minutes. Breathing in and breathing out without judging anything, just observing. That’s a form of meditation and that’s not so weird is it? In my view, mindfulness is about becoming the observer of our thoughts without feeling that we have to jump in and engage with them. With practice, we become skilled at bringing our attention back to the present moment when we get carried off by a thought about something.

A lot of the stress we’re feeling these days is the result of speculative thinking because there is so much uncertainty in our world right now. Going over and over what we don’t know doesn’t soothe us, it does the opposite. So mindfulness can start by allowing for an awareness of how much time we invest in these questions with no answers. What if, instead of allowing random thoughts about all of our concerns, we focus on what we can do and choose one thing; then do it. That’s being mindful. If you pause when you notice your thoughts are taking you in six directions and just focus on your breath. Breathe in; breathe out. That’s being mindful.

Some people enjoy meditating, some love to colour. Some enjoy listening to music and for others it’s all about exercise. There’s no wrong or right way; certainly not just one way to nurture mindfulness. The key is to interrupt the constant stream of the 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts that bombard us every day and take up a lot of our brain’s bandwidth.

Beginning the day with a few minutes focused on mindfulness whether it’s writing in a journal, taking a walk outside, sitting quietly with a morning beverage or listening to a guided meditation, all of these practices can set us up to more easily manage our thoughts throughout the day. Then it’s important to move through the day, looking for the good in it and only focusing on one thing at a time. We’re very capable of multitasking and sometimes we think it’s the only way to get things done but multitasking is a myth; research has shown that it’s best for our mental wellness to focus on one task at a time.

However you choose to be mindful, whether it’s looking for ways to help others, learning something new or exercising, you’re supporting a healthy immune system, you’re preventing your cells from aging quickly and you’re taking charge because while there’s a lot we don’t know right now, there’s so much we can do to improve our mindset which is the only thing we have control over at any time. So, as you pursue your mindfulness practice, remember that your thoughts are powerful and you’re in charge of them.

Here is a list of suggested ways to practice mindfulness:

  • Take deep, slow belly breaths.
  • Do some gentle stretches.
  • Paint something.
  • Sit or walk in nature observing everything around you.
  • Move slowly.
  • Observe art.
  • List what you’re grateful for.
  • Listen to music.
  • Listen to a guided meditation.
  • Write in a journal.

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