Healthy Connections, Clear Boundaries

Reflecting on my Camino-in-Writing blog post of a year ago, I am reminded of the intricate balance between feeling connected to others, and still having clear boundaries between us.  The art of intimacy in relationship is one I will forever be unfolding in, and although it would seem like a contradiction, I find the clearer my boundaries are in relationship, the more intimacy is afforded.

Clear boundaries help us discern the difference between what we are feeling, and what someone else is feeling.  This might sound like a ridiculous statement, to assume that people can feel what others are feeling, but the concept of being overtly empathic is not a new one.  It becoming more and more recognized that  some individuals are highly sensitive (HSP), not just to their physical environments, but also to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual surrounds.  Whether these sensitivities are the result of a type of pathology or simply as a quality or attribute that someone have is undetermined, and perhaps only relevant to how we approach and integrate, or treat, these empathic experiences.  Many people, wittingly or unwittingly, are getting around not only with leaky gut syndrome, but also with leaky emotional processors.

Personally speaking, as I’ve come to self-recognize and self-honor, I’ve realized what is necessary for me to not only heal my physical “leaks” and wounding, but to also heal my my emotional leaks and wounds.  This quite literally has seen me embodying a clearer, more discernible, and self-aware boundary, including a healthier digestive tract boundary, which in turn enables me to pursue sustainable intimacy.  I have come to realize the vital difference between my initial behavior of getting to know someone via empathic digestion of their emotional and psychological content, versus now simply seeing, hearing, and knowing another all the while behaving more so in a way that has me reflecting them back to themselves, and resisting the temptation to take personally any of their behavior.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve mastered this way of being, but I’m much more aware of it, and of the gifts of healthy connection and boundaries it enables.

Harvesting the Moon

This morning I crept out of my house for an early morning walk around the lake.  As I strolled down the creek-side path, to meet a walking companion, rapture stole my heart as I caught sight of the enormous Harvest Moon setting itself above the archways of Cameron Street bridge.  The contrast of colors, yellow orange encased in auroric midnight-blue, and the symmetry of shapes, a slightly elongated, orb-like moon cresting over a half-moon bridge, were more than enough to refresh my sleepy mind and refuel my hungry soul…and that was all before the ecstatic recharge of connecting with a friend who inspires you to dig deep, and churn out new and familiar gems from the compost life.

It’s hard to believe how brief the autumn is, and how captivating.  Every day, at least three times a day, I have the opportunity to turn the corner, heading home from a walk, or work, or the collection of my daughter from school, and EVERY time my heart skips a beat.  Without fail, my eyes feel stupefied with delight, to be suddenly surrounded by the golden, flaming vault ceiling of elms cascading regally down my street.  These are the simple, and yet rhapsodic treasures that I feel grateful for, not only that they are in my life, but that my life is so that I am empowered to see the cornucopia I am surrounded by.

Happy Autumn, Happy Fall Equinox, Happy Harvest Moon, Happy Thanksgiving.20151007_152510



Following versus Leading

“The Camino reminded me that whether overcoming an addiction to dairy or an addiction to co-dependency, my will and intent would be constantly laundered on spin, until what ever is left emerges clear and clean. Realizing uplifting change requires the steady strength of our will, and the clear vision of our dreams.  It’s the pragmatic one footfall after another, that will not only make our dreams come true, but will ensure they can be realized in a sustainable fashion.” Oct 3, 2016 Camino-in-Writing

I’ve been recently contemplating the pros and cons of following in the foot steps of others, as the means to the ends I have dreamed up for myself.  The Camino del France offers a useful analogue, as it is literally a series of pathways well established by pilgrims of the past who have walked down, and sign-posted along the way, a successful route to a desired destination, Santiago or Finesterre.  But there are other pathways I am talking about, such as if your dream is to become an Naturopath, your route might look like following through with an undergrad in health sciences (or any sciences), and then continuing on in a graduate program in Naturopathy.  Or, if your dream is to become a Mom, this might look like following the pathway of getting pregnant with a fellow parenting-inclined adult, and then making house in a way that enables the fulfillment of your dream.  Or, if your dream is to become spiritually enlightened you might follow a pathway such as yoga, or Buddhism, or the kabbalah, or a religion such as Christianity, as a means of fulfilling your goal.   All of the above mentioned routes are pre-established ones that a certain populations of people have walked down, and hopefully experienced as successful means to their desired ends.  These proven results tend to be what inspire us to consider following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before, but I think there is also good cause for keeping a weathered eye for opportunity to break new ground and go your own way.

Each moment carries with it a myriad of possibilities, some likely, some less likely, some miraculous if they occur; however, each NOW is the opportunity for creative becoming, for evolution.  And this is where following, versus leading, can limit creative possibility for change.  If you adhere to a world view that we are all connected, and because of this connection are essentially part of a greater whole, than it is possible to imagine that each of us truly carries one piece of the collective solution.  In order for us to skillfully navigate and offer our individuality to our collective health (which means to be whole), then we need to be Awake, and connected to the inner compass (or inner compassion).  If we loose sense or sight of the present-moment, inner compass, than not only is it easy to be derailed or confused, but also easy to find ourselves walking blindly in the groves, ah-hum ruts left behind by another.  Although established paths appear as offering efficient and effective opportunity, they also offer risk of assuming the same mistakes, bugs, and errors of the ignorant past.  Many pathways are littered with mindsets and limiting beliefs that no longer apply to the present-moment; but without a doubt, breaking bush  takes a reasonable amount of courage.

How do you find your inner compass?  This is where being embodied: feeling, seeing, and being awake in your life are essential to uncovering your authentic, soulution-oriented self.  Being alert to your inner sense of passion and curiosity supports an interdependent (not independent and not co-dependent) expression of you, your way, your song, your contribution.  And, then, instead of becoming “another brick in the wall”, we can each offer our gifts as a collective way-finding towards peace, health, and happiness.

Brahmacharya: Restraint of the Senses

Last year’s post is a reminder of what emerges when we take leave from habitual sensory and social patterns.  An intentional restraint on processing external stimuli, and the choice to instead pay attention to our inner world, greatly reflects the yoga practice of Brahmacharya- the fourth yama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

As living practitioners of yoga, our interpretation of the sutras is what literally brings them to life, otherwise they are simply two dimensional expressions on paper.  And, without a doubt, the yama Brahmacharya has been interpreted many a different ways, with each perspective leading to divergent living experiences.  Yoga International provides a succinct, and relevant to me and this post, definition: “[p]ractically speaking, brahmacharya turns the mind inward, balances the senses, and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings.” (read more here).

And, reflected in my Camino-in-Writing post of a year ago, it was at this point on my walk that I was gaining good tread towards seeing clearly the shadows of addictive lifestyle patterning that needed to go.  Nothing like a desert to help you face your inner demons.

“It was useful to be in the desert feeling these. These were my feelings, and watching them like the clouds of the Meseta sky, I could see them morph to either take on new shape or shed more light. It was a relief to find this open space, and a gift to be by myself, seeing only me and my shadows.” – Camino-in-Writing 2016


Fourteen-Hour Fast

For the last three years I have been trying my hand at Intermittent Fasting.  Intermittent Fasting is a lifestyle practice that has been found to be highly effective for achieving optimal health, and for decreasing health risks.  It has also been shown to reverse the aging process, as well as improve cognitive function, decrease neuroinflammation and reduce unhealthy body fat.  Dr. Amy Nett has a lot more to say about it here; and Chris Kressner takes Intermittent Fasting to the next level here, with Fasting-Mimicking Diets.

I’m not going to go on at lengths about the pros and cons of these lifestyle choices, as the above links provide ample, succinct, and accurate information.  However, I am going to speak to the power of the metaphor of fasting choices.

The first time I tried Intermittent Fasting was during the year leading to my Camino del France.  During that year, I had also been engaging in a lot of spiritual healing work.  From my perspective, the choice to engage in regular fasting was an embodied expression of the inner transformation I had been undergoing spiritually.  As is often the case with healing work, whether it be spiritually oriented or otherwise, we are often working to undo that which has been done, to unburden ourselves of the heavy facades, shadows, and limiting-beliefs that no longer serve us, and ultimately to de-clutter all the closets and cobwebs in order to regain our vitality.

For me, fasting was an embodiment of the metaphor of breaking ties with addictive patterns, and of de-cluttering my being.  Nutrition is too often engaged as a habit, and less often as informed choice, and either way has major implications for our health.  Extending the daily fasting period by 4-10 hours a day, symbolically and literally gives our being and body the opportunity to focus on deep cleaning and clearing out, rather than on stuffing itself with new wares to manage.

When we fast our bodies get a pause on receiving and organizing new material, and instead, gets a chance to focus on repairing the salvageables, and discarding the burdens.  It’s like having a daily, mini-spring clean, instead of leaving it to once a year, or never getting around to the overwhelming task at all.  As we take the time to physically clean out the house, we inevitably clear things up on all other levels.  That which has been stored deep and unprocessed emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually also finds fresh air and renewed capacity to sort, thin out, and discard.  Fasting is a way to embody the metaphor of transformation, of breakdown, breakthrough, and becoming.

I’ve also noticed a similar correlation between people undergoing major personal development and other significant dietary shifts such as engaging a new hobby of making their own fermented food, such as sourdough or yogurt, or trying a cleanse.  It really is no surprise that when we effect change on one aspect of our being, all others will follow suit, in their own beautiful time and appropriate place in our life.

Have you noticed any connection between changes in your diet and changes in your mindsets, perspectives, emotional expressions, or beliefs?  Or maybe vice versa, the mindset change came first followed by dietary or lifestyle changes.

True Reconciliation

20151011_104018What does it mean to participate in truth and reconciliation?  What does it mean to be true and to reconcile?  I put a quick search “define reconciliation” in the web-address bar, and it spat back two definitions:  A) “the restoration of friendly relations”, and B) “the action of making one view or belief compatible with another”.  Answer A) was expected, but answer B) was inspiring.

The action of making one view or belief compatible with another! I reckon that intention, in action, would seed all manner of restoration of friendly relations.  How many disagreements, whether they lead to war or quiet levels of disconnection, are the result of misperceiving each others’ beliefs as incompatible, and furthermore, taking it personally when we disagree.

So much of life points to synergestic possibility when opposites are reconciled, and work complimentary with one another.  Creative solutions are quite literally born from synthesis and cooperation (thanks mom and dad).  Interesting that the word Solution can be interpreted as to simple blend or mix (think chemistry class), or as suggesting there was a problem in the first place.  Perhaps the problem is our negative attitude towards tension, differences, and stress, as them being perceived as a Problem in the first place.  What if what we needed was to reconcile our negative relationship with differences, tension, and stress?  What if instead we perceived them as a promise for transformation?  For me, this is what opposites truly are, an invitation to grow, cooperate and find creative solution; a tension that inspires me to find balance, and when approached with trust/truth, respect, and immaculate intention, what results is beauty, creation, and peace.

I see this as the challenge of our truth and reconciliation process, here in Canada, and on our planet at large.  Our mission is not only to be truthful about the wrongdoings of the past, in an effort to make peace and restore friendly relations in the present, but also to recognize that we still have not reconciled “one view and belief with another”.

What comes immediately to mind is the dominant view of our modern culture that science is THE language of truth, where as our indigenous people offer a traditional view of spirit as a language of truth.  How do we reconcile these differences when it comes to treating illness, or honoring sacred tradition?  For me, reconciliation would be respectful integration of traditional views and beliefs, and not only for indigenous people, but also for anyone who sought to be helped by them.  Using healthcare as the landscape of this inquiry, reconciliation of traditional indigenous views with modern scientific ones would have us offering a healthcare system that blended sacred, spiritual medicines with modern, clinical ones.  This would be integral reconciliation, the true integration and mutually respectful practice of our different health care paradigms, I’m talking holistic healthcare.  As long as modern culture stands on a self-fulfilling platform that suggests that its paradigm is right and better than the paradigms valued and practiced by the traditional custodians of this land, than our efforts at reconciliation are halfhearted.

The irony is that now our best science, quantum physics, suggests it as irrational to assume that any reality, no matter how different and contrary, is mutually exclusive from any other reality, and also show that the beliefs of the witness are what most strongly influence its perceived reality.  If science is our platform for belief and truth, than we best be walking the talk and opening to more than what we can see at the tip of our own noses.

The ground is shifting, and its because we’re beginning to see the possibilities of our new landscape on the horizon.  Mutual respect, especially when it comes to differences, cooperation, and celebration of the change we are becoming, together, is true reconciliation, and a truly beautiful and sustainable, rainbow-colored, multi-dimensional solution.

Does the Thinker Own their Thoughts?

Who owns our thoughts?  Is our imaginal world, the space where ideas come together, scenarios are run through, and genius emerges, solely the result of our own creative capacity?  Are our thoughts exclusively constructed within the boundaries of our personal minds?  Or should someone, or something else get credit or criticism for the outpourings of our inner worlds?

As a shamanic practitioner, not only have I personally asked these questions, but as a space holder for others’ journey work I also get asked, often, how do we know it is not our minds “making up” it all up.  I obviously do not know the absolutely answer to this question, and I generally recommend participants allow their own experiences (including that which follows their journey work practices) to either confirm or refute the work.  Shamanic journey work is the scientific method for spirituality, the path of direct revelation and self-empowerment.

But, regardless of that, these questions have recently stirred up contemplation about our curious assumption that we are solely in charge and responsible for our creative thought.  I mean, why do we assume there is a barrier between what is happening in our minds, often termed the psyche, and what is happening outside of us?  We are porous in every other way: (at least most of us are fortunate to have) a sense of smell, sight, hearing, proprioception, interoception, touch, temperature, and why not psychologically?  Is the organ of the mind any less apt to pick up on psychic information floating around its external environment, than our sense of smell is to pick up on scent?  I think not.  It seems most logical to assume that any aspect of us, that builds our conception of reality, including our moment to moment experiences, is behaving similarly, though functionally unique, to all other aspects of us.  We are a collection of capacities that perceive and interpret ‘bits’ of information flowing within and around us.  It is with these bits of information, and the stored reference points created by past experiences (memory), that generate our interpretation of reality, our experience.

When we engage in intentional spiritual work, we are choosing to pay attention to specific sources and frequencies of information.  It is true that in any one moment of time we are receiving millions (if not billions) of bits of information coming into ALL of our perceptive organs; however, we can choose to PAY ATTENTION to specific forms of information.  We can choose to be aware of sound in the form of conversation, and although there is a whole world of light, color, and movement we will barely remember or realize what we are actually seeing; or we could be engrossed with light and color in the form of a movie and barely realize the world of scent playing out around us.  And sometimes we are in a haze and are barely conscious of ANY information flowing around us, but that doesn’t mean its doesn’t get in and affect us.  I would suggest the same happens with psychic, and/or spiritual information: it is all there, being picked up by us, but most often rarely acknowledged as having flowed IN and affected us.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Yesterday, my husband had a thought “interesting that spiders don’t get stuck in the stickiness of their own web”.  He didn’t speak this thought out loud, and he had never pondered this reality before yesterday morning.  By lunch, he had collected our daughter from school.  While being driven home from school, she asks “Daddy, how come spiders don’t get stuck in their own web?”.

This example is not any different from when a friend calls you, right at the moment you were thinking of them; or when two people at work come to the exact same, never before thought of solution, on the same morning, to a complex problem that has been baffling everyone for weeks.  These are every day examples of people tuning into the the same “frequency” and transmitting similar “data”.  I’d say its not more a coincidence than two people eating at the same diner both picking up on the smell of burgers being grilled.

From my understanding, when we do shamanic journey work we are intentionally asking to tune into compassionate and wise frequencies, and from those connections we can receive wise and compassion insight, healing, and blessing.  For me, life has confirmed the efficacy of this practice.  But, as any critical thinker would suggest to another, try it before you buy it.20151011_103524

Discerning when to Change

I’ve been wondering why I am continuing this Camino-in-Writing blog series; certainly I am not feeling I have an abundance of time at my leisure; and also I am not feeling any incredible itch to process the memory or etheric perfume lingering from my walk… what and why I am choosing to continue?  Concepts around commitment and leaning into the unknown, empty of clear expectation, come to mind.  There is a potency to keeping at something we’ve envisioned for ourselves, and not derailing from it when rational no longer favors its odds.  Definitely last year, when I re-engaged my Camino process, a whole strew of unexpected gems surfaced that inspired incredibly gratitude and a pat-on-my-own-back for sticking with the process.  I guess, its partially the lesson of last year’s experience, of following through with a goal and allowing it to churn out unexpected insights, that is fueling my choice to continue.  But then, that feels ironic, because I’m expecting/hoping for the unexpected as cause for keeping on keeping on…

Amazing how we can spin ourselves in endless thought cycles…so curious that we can lose our own selves in our own thoughts.

Anyhow.  So, here I am.  I read another day’s entry.  I deleted the other day’s post.  I’ve blogged whatever came fresh and/or frenzied to mind in the posting.  Am I in any way further along, or further behind?  Of course, hindsight will get the last, and still essentially bias, laugh.  So I’ll leave weighing up the choice to NOT change and derail from my Camino-in-Writing path ’till then.



Good morning!  I’ve attached last year’s Camino-in-Writing post, cuz I like it!


Today’s reflections highlight the importance of staying wedded to the Self, in order to sustainably make flourish all other engagements.  This was one of the biggest gifts of my Camino, the hard-hitting reality that I had negotiated my well-being, my health, and life force in order to make good on other goals, dreams, and aspirations.  That is an out-dated model that leads to damage, illness, trauma, resentment, bitterness, disconnection…its no good.

Getting clear on the need to make my health my number one priority, inspired me to dream bigger than I had before.  I learned that I could now risk all manor of big dreams, as long as I didn’t lose sight of dream #1: my vitality, and the sacred contract to my own life force I made when I was born.

Of course, life constantly tests my commitment to this priority.  I feel confident, and hopeful, that I’ve learned the lesson enough to be clear on its importance.  So, I imagine I’ll resiliently continue to grow and learn in health.

Sept 27, 2016 Blog:

It was today on my Camino I endeavored to dream bigger than I had before. I decided to set my sights on Finesterre as a final Camino destination. This was a big deal for me. Up until now I had felt it was a contraindication to set a destination goal, as my ultimate and core intention was to practice self-care: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I was walking my Camino because I had hit a crisis point, I had come unstuck. Up to that point in my life, I had not managed to master the essential skill of self-care. And, although as a yoga teacher I perennially professed to students the need to care for self, before one could sustainably meet the needs of others, I was obviously behaving as the exception, instead I was the hypocrite. The default mind-set that limited me was that self-care felt antonymous with motherhood… right?! It felt unrealistic to expect the one (self-care) while engaged in the other (motherhood), thus I resided myself to the reality that I’d just have to rebuild myself once my kids were grown. My crisis made clear to me I had other plans.  My crisis forced a “wake-up” and get real: “I”, and my well-being, were no longer negotiable, there was no “we” with out a healthy “I”.

Thus, setting a goal to get to a certain destination on my Camino was edgy. But the loving crew of pilgrims I was with helped me to realize that if I didn’t allow for the possibility of reaching a certain destination, and set a daily walking plan accordingly, then if and when I did choose a goal-worthy destination, it would be unattainable. Walking 15km/day versus walking 20km/day could be the difference between making it to Santiago, or Finesterre, or not, and I realized I wanted to keep my options open. So, I set my sights on Finesterre, plotted my Camino map accordingly, and continued my walk full of enthusiasm and hope!

Ultimately, I knew it was a win-win, having this mini-daily goal orientation would help me stay focused on my walk, all the while knew that ultimately all I had to do to be successful on my walk was be nice to myself. At the end of the day, as long as I felt I had practiced self-honor and self-care I won!  What did I have to lose in dreaming a bit bigger? Nothing, as long as I had my priorities straight.

Today I walked from Logrono to Najare. It was a 30km walk, and at the end of the day I was reassuringly surprised at my body’s capacity to endure such distance. I felt alive, vital and in stride with my goals. It was a good day.

Integrating the Grim Reaper

“I came to see clearly the invitation to face the mystical, serpent-like beast, not to have my chance at defeating, and slaying her, but instead to take the alchemical opportunity of see her clearly, for the first time, as the promised phoenix of transformation.” -Sept. 26, 2016 Camino-in-Writing.

Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and Buddhism practitioner, offers an equation for suffering: “Pain + Resistance = Suffering”.  I find this simple equation incredibly useful, and true.  Pain is a given in life, pain happens.  Death is a given in life, death happens.  Loss is a given in life, loss happens.  Change is a given in life, change happens.  But, why then do we resist all these givens?  When we resist pain, death, loss, and/or change, suffering happens.

It is true that even if we accept pain, death, loss and change we will still suffer, and feel some hurt and/or discomfort, but we are guaranteed to amplify this innate “negative” reaction to loss or change when we resist it happening in the first place.   Grief, sorrow, sadness, and discomfort are all NATURAL, HEALTHY responses to experiences of loss or change.  There is nothing wrong with these “negative feelings”, they are actually just feelings; and, they definitely do not require our fixing of them.  When we feel elated due to receiving flowers, or a warm hug, or a hot cup of (whatever your drink of preference is), do we judge ourselves and think “oh, I should fix this Joy, I should stop, or get rid of this positive feeling.”?  No, of course we don’t.  We are more than willing to accept positive states and feelings, and we are too often more than willing to move to the other side of the room when sadness rocks up to our internal party.  Of course, it is natural to feel repelled by the negative, we appear to be designed, or at the very least conditioned that way.  But, we have developed a prefrontal cortex for a good reason, and this aspect of ourselves, that which has the capacity for contemplation, consideration, and reflection, can empower us with DISCERNMENT and CHOICE to accept, feel, and all-in-good-time move through and on from of painful feelings.

Unnecessary suffering happens when we avoid, deny, or fight against our natural responses of grief, longing, despair, hurt, sorrow, and pain.  And this is where Rick’s handy “Pain + Resistance = Suffering (I’d like to take it further and say Unnecessary Suffering) is a gem of an equation to remember…especially in tough times.

Happy/Sad and ultimately Empowered Trails!