Your Voice is a Powerful Instrument

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a local high school as it celebrated Women’s History Month. I was so impressed by these Eastwood Collegiate students, who took the time and effort to research different women throughout history who were empowered to make a difference not only for themselves, but for so many of us, and decades later.

It’s hard to think of June graduations amidst a mid-April ice storm, but they will be here before we know it. And another batch of young people will be setting out on their heart-led pursuits to uncover their gifts and find ways to let their lights shine. My hope, as I shared in my speech, was to inspire these young women and men to use their voices more. Because the world needs all of them. Here’s how I addressed those bright young Eastwood students:

“I grew up in Waterloo, about 10 kms from here. At WCI, my Politics teacher, Mr. Pavey, made me – and everyone in class – feel like we could make a difference. That was my goal. So after graduating from Political Science at U of W, I headed to Ottawa, to do just that.

I landed a job working with the federal government – well, first I landed a job at a shoe store, but then I landed a job working at Foreign Affairs. It was software testing – completely outside my field – and supposed to last for only two weeks. It lasted 3 months, and then I found another job at Industry Canada.

Now Ottawa’s a beautiful city, but I had such a hard time appreciating it back then because I was so gripped with inner turmoil. I remember sitting alone in cafes, writing in my journal – what do I want to do with my life?! And feeling so devoured and defeated by that question – not realizing the answer was starring me right in the face.

It was about writing. It’s always been about writing.

It took me a long time to see that. Why? For the longest time, I didn’t give that gift the credit it deserved. Do you ever do this?

So there I was…a student, like you, in high school, and while I found some subjects challenging, English always came easy. I’m sure there are subjects that come easy to you too.

Back then, I’d (wrongly) say to myself, “I’m not going to study that – it’s English!” And when I’d get 80s and 90s in English or Writers Craft classes, again, I’d (wrongly) discount my mark.

I didn’t give that gift the credit it deserved. Others saw it – my teachers saw it, thankfully. This is a card I received 28 years ago – from my English teacher, Mrs. Carter. She entered my writing into a competition, because unlike me, she could see my gifts.

Here’s what it says…

    When I look back, there’s a writing-themed breadcrumb trail all throughout my journey. I just didn’t see it.

After Ottawa, I came back to KW feeling two things: one, I wanted to write a book but had no idea what to write about. Two, I felt pretty passionately about young people in the workplace. I wanted more employers to give us a chance.

One day, I sat down and in 45 minutes, pounded out something on the computer and mailed it to the Record. Three days later, an editor called me. She wanted to print my rambling into an article. She thought more people needed to hear about how an “energetic grad dreamed of changing the world until she bumped into corporate disinterest.”

Do you know what happened after it was printed? A bunch of companies contacted me about working for them. That’s how I landed my first role in Communications – 18 years ago.

So I took the job. And I kept writing. And I wrote more articles for the Record. A series here, a couple year-long columns there. I went back to school, to Ryerson for Journalism to hone my craft. And I kept on writing. I wrote for magazines and newspapers – I was even a restaurant reviewer – and all the while working in Communications roles.

And then my own writing slowed…as I spent years writing speeches for senior executives that would win them standing ovations. I’d write strategies, marketing plans, develop videos and create Centres of Excellence for other writers. I did all this behind-the-scenes stuff to make other people and companies shine but somewhere along the way, I lost my own voice.

Now, don’t get me wrong – behind-the-scenes roles are important. We need people propelling ideas forward. This brings harmony. Ms. Hunsburger-Shortt will tell you – we grew up in strings class together where I’d play the viola. I get harmony. But there came a time when I had something to say and I had to find the courage to play the melody too.

And there was this yearning to write a book that kept nagging at me. So after my 40th birthday, after 19 years of agonizing over it, I realized there was a mountain of fear standing in my way. I had spent so many years writing refined PR messages and I was afraid of standing out there and saying what I really thought. My imperfect, unpolished and raw truth. I was afraid of being seen, exposed and judged.

I had to find self-love and acceptance. I had to push through the fear. And wouldn’t you know it, but three months after sitting down and having the courage to face the page, I had the first draft of my book, She Has Risen, which is about stepping into the wisdom and power and divinity that we have – already coursing through our veins – and owning it, unleashing it and sharing it with those coming up the path.

I found my voice. Now I’m the one, not the leaders I work for, being interviewed by CBC Radio, 570 and CTV news and the Record. My book was front-page news on International Women’s Day this month. But I had to work through my fear before any of that would be possible. Oh, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, by the way. Proof yet again that when you put yourself out there and you’re vulnerable with others, they can often relate and see themselves in it, and that forms some pretty powerful connections.

I had to have the courage to take up space. And we need more of that in this world. From me, from your teachers, from our community, country, world and especially from… YOU.

It starts by acknowledging there’s more to you and just you. There is divine energy coursing through your veins and you have gifts that you might not understand or appreciate, but you need to see them as gifts – as unique qualities that make you who you are. This is your voice. It could quite literally be your voice through singing or speaking or writing – or it could come through math, science, student council, art, a sport, your leadership– the way you break and fix things or encourage others. It comes through what you feel passionately about.

And the world needs you to share that.

Share your voice – share your talent – share your passion. Have the courage to push through fear and unleash it. It might take time – or it might happen overnight. I found it comforting to assemble a tribe of people (for me it was a sisterhood) who saw me, got me, supported me and inspired me. They helped me see my talents even when I couldn’t or when I was too afraid to.

And what comes with this sharing is something so euphoric. When you have the courage to be yourself, be vulnerable, share your gifts and be open to helping something bigger than you, you give permission and inspire others to do the same.

You have no idea of how your actions will influence others. Do you think Mrs. Carter thought I’d be sharing her card with all of you 28 years later?

Young people today are so inspiring. Thousands took to the streets to march this week in support of ending gun violence – I’m so encouraged by you. Children may be our future, but you are our “right now.” We need you to continue to find your voices and take a stand for what you believe in.

Because it’s your birthright. It’s what you were put on this earth to be. The world needs all of you. And as the mother of two young children, I’m counting on you to inspire them to let their lights shine too.”

Valentine’s Day…and all that waiting

For Valentine’s Day, I planned on writing about how self-love is at the root of our ability to love anyone – or anything – deeply in this world. And how self-care is the best gift we could give ourselves this February 14. But at this moment, I hadn’t planned on being in a fog-thick place of waiting in my life.

I’m waiting… for an initiative I’m really hoping for to come to fruition.

This waiting… has left me crossing my fingers, toes and eyes most of the time. Checking my phone far too often.

And all this waiting… has me feeling quite “pissy” for lack of a better word, and reluctant to talk about self-love or self-care.

Because waiting… sucks.

And so does letting go of a plan.

The line above makes me laugh. Without meaning to, I’ve turned into such a ‘planner’ over the years. That’s what happens in Communications and Marketing roles when you experience the true meaning of “the devil’s in the details.” I can recall more than a few events where I’ve missed something or overlooked a ‘small’ detail that was big enough to potentially bring down the house. Now I love feedback from people – and The Universe – so I would take these lessons and learn from them; fold them into next time so I could regain my footing and resile.

Then came events like a wedding, buying a new home, having and raising children while continuing to grow in my career. Planning took over. Even though I’ve been tested time and time again, knowing full well you can’t plan everything, I sure do like to try.

Planning can somewhat help ease anxiety. Somewhat. But there comes a point when you’ve done all you can do, the ball’s in the other court and you need to just sit and wait in a place that feels so uncomfortable and vaguely familiar. And let go and let in something bigger than yourself to fill the space and take the reigns.

I’m talking about faith. That other F-word. Beautiful in most respects and annoying as fuck in others. That’s just the control-freak in me talking – maybe even the devil in all those details.

And so, I resign to letting faith take over this Valentine’s Day and carry me through like a bridge to wherever this path will lead. I’ll try to be kind to myself during this time: a bubble bath, a cup of tea, luxurious face lotion and maybe some moving music. I’ll choose to speak sweetly to myself – now that I’ve had this rant – as I wait. Focus on other things and other people who I can serve with sweetness and kindness this Valentine’s Day.

Maybe this blog was about self-love after all.

Valentine’s Day Challenge:
Is there an area of your life where you feel like you’re in a place of waiting? What are three things you could do today to love yourself through it?

Need some more inspiration? Check out my new book, She Has Risen, at Words Worth Books, The Bookshelf, KW Bookstore, WPL, Chapters Indigo in Kitchener, Waterloo or online, Coles in Stratford, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You too?

Last night, as I closed my laptop on social media feeds still freckled with “#MeToo” posts from my peeps – on National Person’s Day, no less – I sighed a deep breath of sadness for all these glorious women who have come forward to share their personal and emotional experiences about being sexually harassed and assaulted.

Harvey Weinstein was the catalyst, Alyssa Milano helped make the campaign go viral, but it was Tarana Burke, founder of Just Be Inc., who started the #MeToo movement 10 years ago to help women, “particularly young women of colour from low-wealth communities,” who have been sexually abused, assaulted, exploited or harassed.

In Burke’s online post, I was moved to read about how she was working as a youth camp director and one day a “sweet-faced little girl” who had exhibited some behavioural issues asked to speak with her privately. The girl told Burke about her mother’s boyfriend “who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body.”

“I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore,” Burke said. “Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counsellor who could ‘help her better.'”

Burke said she’d never forget the look that fell over the girl’s face. “The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again — it was all on her face,” she said.

What Burke couldn’t find the strength to say at the time, as she watched the young girl put her mask back on, was “…me too.” She understood the girl’s pain because she had experienced it first-hand.

So what do we do with this information? And for those who have come forward, how do we help them not have their initial courage turn into feelings of guilt, fear and shame?

This is a big problem to solve, which will require the masses who have shared, comforted and supported to move into action. And in my view, the solution’s not a magic bullet, a grand gesture and it’s certainly not sexy – forgive the expression. As I write about in my newly-launching book, She Has Risen, it starts with our words.

“It can be a slippery slope when we allow the odd inappropriate comment, action or word slide. Normalizing can happen overnight. Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader of India’s first Independence Movement and India’s first prime minister, said it best when he declared, “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at its women.” It’s true, and we all have a part to play here for the basic dignity and respect of our daughters and sisters coming up the path.”

We also need to call people out when they make inappropriate, disrespectful or downright crude comments or suggestions. Rape jokes? No way. Sexual and racial pejoratives? Not allowed. One by one, comment by comment, we need to speak up and speak out when these surface in society.

We all need to be leaders. Promote yourself right now. And we need to hold people accountable. I mean this on all levels – from the guy strolling down the street right up to the President of the United States. Tolerance isn’t going to get us anywhere and it’s only going to hurt our children and our children’s children if we allow the pendulum to swing back to a place of greater chauvinism, abuse and oppression of women.

As the Chinese proverb suggests, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Together, let’s own the fact that we each hold tremendous power. As women and men united in this cause of a better tomorrow, let’s stand together and one by one, comment by comment, gesture by gesture, act by act, stand up, speak out and have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour. Let’s support organizations that encourage diversity and inclusivity. Let’s ask our companies, our churches, our teams, sports, community centres and all our networks what they’re doing to create a more diverse, inclusive and respectful environment. And then let’s keep asking.

We need strong leadership. But we’re all leaders. It starts with you and me.

Androgynous India

An excerpt from my newly-launching book, She Has Risen: Resurrect Your Divine Feminine Wisdom and Celebrate Your Miraculous Girly Bits. This is from Chapter 1, called Acknowledge Your Divinity.

“Growing up with an East Indian father, I was always fascinated when we’d visit relatives’ homes. As a child, I’d go exploring throughout the house to discover the many different shrines nestled in corners of rooms. I’d often find alters adorned with candles and incense, prayer pillows and pictures of deities that looked both male and female to me. So many of India’s sculptures, paintings and spiritual figures are neither masculine nor feminine —they’re both. I found all of this so remarkable, comforting and confusing at the same time.

As a young adult, learning more about these deities piqued my curiosity, so I took a few university courses on eastern religions. I could write piles of essays on these topics, but it wasn’t until I ventured to India that I really began to understand the broad spectrum of spirituality, religion, the power of the Divine Feminine and her grace.

India simply took my breath away. It is a most awe-inspiring country, sheer intensity for each of the senses—and senses I didn’t even know I had. A part of me felt so ignited and alive there, something I hadn’t ever experienced in Western society. In many ways, going to India was like waking up for me, particularly when it came to expressing and understanding more about my Divine Feminine power and wisdom. It’s like Mother Nature brought me home to India, and this incredible country helped me acknowledge the divinity that exists within me and within each of us.

I spent time in an ashram in Rishikesh, nestled deep in the Himalayan mountains, where each morning and evening, my husband and I would gather with two hundred orphans and other pilgrims for aarrti, the daily ritual prayers. They took place along the Gungaji, the Ganges River. And as we offered ourselves, our thoughts, desires, actions and things to God, I’d find myself staring at the androgynous statue of Krishna that was so revered that it rose several storeys above the water. We’d sing songs, clap our hands and praise this universal life force that captures all things as one. It was pure joy.

In Hindu India, the Divine Feminine power is not only recognized, it’s honoured. Great rivers are named for goddesses. The ocean and the earth are considered the Mother, the trees her arms, the mountains her breasts, the plants her nourishment and the sky her lover.* In the Hindu tradition, Mother as God is reflected in the names of Aditi, Devi, Gayatri, Kali, Kamala, Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati, Shakti and Usas. There are goddesses of the sun, dawn and starlit nights; there are goddesses of wealth and beauty, wisdom and aging, learning and speech, destruction and time. These goddesses are all considered an accepted and most treasured holy Mother. One of the most beautiful parts of Hinduism, I find, is that it embraces all spiritual traditions and sees all ways as valid paths to the supreme. It starts by recognizing that the entire creation springs from the Mother and that divinity lives within us.”

She Has Risen
Copyright © 2017 by Tanya Sood

Want to read more? She Has Risen will be coming soon to Amazon.com, Chapters Indigo and Barnes & Noble!

Join the sisterhood and stay current on launch-related activities on tanyasood.com

*Bess, Savitri L. The Path of the Mother. Ballantine Wellspring: The Random House Publishing Group, 2000.

The ‘V-word’

Four weeks ago, I accidentally became a vegan.

There I was – minding my own business – when my husband asked if I wanted to watch a Netflix movie called, ‘What the Health.’

Sure – why not. “What the health!” I said. It was a Friday night, the kids were in bed, I’d just poured myself a glass of crisp white wine and I was so happy about all of the above that I would’ve said yes to just about anything. I had no idea what the movie was about, or what sort of changes would ensue. Only in hindsight did I realize that I was on the eve of something big.

If you had’ve told me the movie would lay out an argument so compelling and logical that I’d forgo my beloved cheese, I would’ve questioned your sanity. I’ve seen Food Inc. before – and do you know what happened? Nothing! I was over it by happy hour. Um, did I tell you that I almost opened a cheese shop once? Cheese and dairy products in general (full fat, thank you very much) were my thing.

It’s not that I was ignorant to the fact that veganism existed, I just didn’t get it. It seemed so strict, complicated, joy-depriving and sometimes even a bit uppity. I chose to plug my ears and roll my eyes at anything that would jeopardize my little slice of pleasure.

And really – was veganism even healthy? What about protein? What about calcium? And B12! How could any responsible parent not give their children milk? And could we revisit pleasure? Did I tell you I wrote to Starbucks after it discontinued my egg and gouda artisanal breakfast sandwich because it was depriving me of my Friday morning joy? First-world problem, right?

Wrong.

In many ways, what’s happening today is a first-, second- and third-world problem. It’s a planet problem too.

What the Health opened my eyes to the fact that by adopting a plant-based diet, I could become significantly healthier, help my family live longer, help our exhausted earth and waters, and be kinder to our fellow mammals and creatures that also inhabit this planet.

Now, I can’t do the movie justice – you really have to invest 90 minutes and watch it on Netflix or online to learn more – but here are the facts. And don’t disregard the research because much of it is American; Canada isn’t far behind. What really stood out of me was the link between meat and dairy to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I had no idea that animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. That doesn’t even count the water it takes to grow the grain, the water it takes to feed the animal, or the operation of the feed mill, the farms, the slaughterhouses or the meat producing factories. Not to mention how we’re treating animals. I feel lonely in admitting I’m not really an ‘animal lover’ but I know cruelty when I see it. We’re producing and raising so many of these animals, that we’re adding to the pollution of our waterways because we need a place for their poo! If we were to divert half the food we use to feed the animals we eat to the world’s hungry, there would be enough for everyone. We never used to eat this much meat.

I also hadn’t made the connection that many of the animals I was eating got their protein from…plants. And I don’t need as much protein as I thought. And cow’s milk is made for, like…baby cows, that will grow into ginormous cows. And B12 is a bacteria that we used to get through water, but in today’s super-sterile world, we need to take it in a supplement, and yeah, I’ll make sure our family gets it in a supplement. No big whoop. And oh – some of the world’s fittest, healthiest ultra-men and women athletes get their strength, endurance and overall super-health from plant-based diets.

By the end of the movie, I wasn’t grossed out; I was gob-smacked. With saucer eyes, I slowly turned to my husband and said in slow-mo, “I think I just became a vegan.” I’m so glad he felt the same. It would be difficult to make a significant change without having the support of those closest to you. And if my husband – grandson of dairy farmers who grew up with a side-of-cow in the deep freeze at all times – could do it, anyone can.

We made a commitment to try out a plant-based diet. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes from Oh, She Glows, Forks Over Knives, The Physicians’ Committee 21-day vegan meal plan, DIY Vegan, The Kind Diet and Peas and Thank You, to name a few. The library is stacked with all of these great reads.

We hosted our first vegan dinner party and it was a hit! So much fun to try out new recipes and see how others can find the deliciousness of it too. And guess what? Nut cheeses taste amazing! So does cashew cream (better than sour cream), homemade almond milk – I even made fermented nut cream cheese today! There are so many great non-dairy options that don’t sacrifice heavenly taste.

Each week we’ve been discovering more related Netflix movies that have helped validate our choice: shows like Cowspiracy, Vegecated, Forks Over Knives, Food Choices and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

We’re infusing our diets with more vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. I almost can’t wait to get my next set of blood work to see how my readings have improved. Even the kids are enjoying it! I’m amazed at how many new recipes they’re trying. Our little square-foot-garden is helping too. And we continue to let the kids have choices: we’ve been buying plant-based foods to have in our house but if we’re out or they’re at a birthday party and want pepperoni and cheese pizza, for example, it’s their empowered guilt-free choice.

Best of all, I feel awesome! I had no idea what it was like to wake up and not feel bloated. I didn’t even know I was bloated …like, 24-7! Now, I just feel good. I highly recommend checking out some of these Netflix documentaries, vegan cookbooks and giving plant-based eating a whirl. You might be surprised at how much good can come from this sort of shift.

How to get what you really want in 7 simple, unglamorous steps

My husband and I conceived of a crazy, unconventional, liberating idea (that also scares the bejesus out of me but hey, fear is growth!). No, we’re not going on a waitlist to Mars. Or selling everything to jet-set across the world and sell fidget spinners. Instead, we’ve decided to pay off the mortgage between now and when it comes up for renewal in November 2020.

Boom!

Imagine. Freedom 45. Now that’s my 2020 vision. I may not be retiring, but getting rid of the mortgage would be one huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

I will admit to feeling exposed and a little nerdy sharing that with you. I feel exposed because as a society, we don’t really like to talk about money.

Icky.

Growing up, I remember being told to avoid topics of conversation that involve politics, religion and money – is any of this resonating with you? I was warned it could lead to some twisty conversations and sour outcomes. (Ha! I’m just realizing I went to school for Political Science, Seminary, I’ve worked in financial services for most of my career and here I am talking about money – pah! Rule breaker!). I can appreciate the advice though. As a whole, we place so much value on money. It’s remarkable how we can give those delicate little leaflets of currency so much power.

I feel nerdy because what we’re doing is so unsexy! At least in a shiny world of consumerism and social media. I mean, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are plastered with images of perpetual happiness, “perfection,” out-of-context photos with filters, the latest gadgets and just a ton of “stuff.” But who posts photos of their bank account? How many page views would that receive? Who tweets about making TFSA and RRIF deposits? In a world wallpapered with images of runway clothing, expensive travels, hot wheels, hot boats, million-dollar homes and perfectly-timed selfies, posting that you’ve rolled your tax return into an RRSP contribution is just so damned unglamorous!

I actually think it’s kinda sad that my husband and I perceive this as a “crazy, unconventional and liberating” idea. Who would’ve thought that living within your means and paying for things instead of racking up a mountain of debt could be so avant-garde. But then again, we’re a society that leverages the shit out of everything.

We know people our age who have done a similar thing. Except it’s not a mortgage – they call it their “F-U Fund.” So one day, if the going gets tough and they want to quit their well-paying jobs, they just access the “F-U Fund” and Bob’s their uncle!

So we’re trying out this new idea of truly living within our means, week by week. And here are seven simple ways we’re doing it:

1) We’ve increased our mortgage payments and pay it down on a weekly basis.
2) We made a realistic budget, with built-in contingencies, and we’re sticking to it.
3) We meet around the kitchen table every Sunday night to pay bills, financially plan for the week ahead, share any concerns, go over strategies for the things we still want to do and track our progress.
4) Any raises we receive at work result in increasing our mortgage payments. Any bonus money is going straight to a lump-sum amount paid on our mortgage. This includes tax refunds (and if we increase our RRSP contributions, the return will be higher).
5) We’re thinking twice about the shit we don’t need.
6) We’re teaching our kids that if they want a new toy, they need to donate, sell, recycle or get rid of some old toys.
7) We’re growing our own vegetables, postponing the kitchen renovation, opting to run or walk outside or on our basement treadmill instead of buying expensive gym memberships and I’m no longer buying so many groceries that the fridge is stuffed and we end up throwing things away.

This doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for us. I joke with my husband that I’m going to look like a long-haired hippy in three years from now, but I’m only pulling his leg. We’re not trading in the cars for 10-speeds, but we are making the most of what we have and simplifying life to focus on what we really want long-term – not what feels good right now. And it’s working! We’re in week 4 now and off to a great start.

Who knew delayed gratification could feel so amazing?

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Stop ‘should-ing’ all over yourself

Have you ever noticed how many times a day you say the word ‘should?’ The next time you say it – please catch yourself. And stop. Personally, that word practically gives me hives. If you use it to describe yourself, it implies guilt or shame (i.e. I should do the laundry). If you use it to describe others, it implies condescension and often arrogance (i.e. He should know better). Either way you slice it, “should” is up to no good!

Despite knowing this – in my bones – I’ve still been doing it lately. In my head! About this newsletter! Don’t get me wrong – I love writing this newsletter. I love inspiring and uplifting and challenging you (and me!) in new, vibrant ways. But life gets busy sometimes! And after a full work week, and taking care of two small children, chauffeuring to activities, doing house and outdoor work, groceries and laundry, I often find myself collapsing into the weekend. Come Sunday, when I’m just catching a breath, I often find myself “should-ing” all over myself about writing this newsletter and getting it out, ideally by Sunday night. Chop! Chop!

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that. And truly, it’s my dream to write, speak, inspire and do these sorts of things. But I guess I’m not fully at that place yet. Instead, I’m in a place of juggling a lot of balls in the air. I’m in what you could call those “builder years” where it feels like everywhere I turn, there’s something else to build, grow and nurture. Oh, and pay for. It’s exhausting sometimes! And I’m not making it any easier by “should-ing” all over myself, you know?

So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to lay off my own Himalayan-high expectations and I don’t know…write a meaningful, self-inspired newsletter say… every month? Unless I feel like, and have the energy, to write more. After all, the ‘weekly’ deadline is self-imposed. And let’s be honest – I wasn’t always making it. The last thing I want to do is disappoint you or feel badly or guilty about not fitting it all in.

So there.

Deep breath, Tanya.

This is not a big deal. First-world problem. Slowly but surely, you’ll do it. In your own time. One foot in front of the other is enough.

Now what about you? Is there something in your life that you’re “should-ing” on yourself about? Maybe you have the best intentions about it but for one reason or another, you’re “should-ing” on yourself and feeling badly about it?

What if we both just made a clear pact right now to say: “It’s okay. You don’t have to do everything all at once. There’s a season for everything. Let’s give ourselves a break. Let’s live our lives more freely.”

And then, I don’t know – go outside! Enjoy yourself. Breathe in some fresh, spring, air. Spend a little time getting a little bored. Because you know what they say about boredom: it’s the gateway to peace.

And shouldn’t we all have a little more of that?

Wake up.

I went for a walk around my neighbourhood this morning. It used to be a ritual for me but it’s been a really long time! I decided to leave the earbuds at home and listen to the sounds of the waking morning.

Beauty was abundant and everywhere.

It was in the scarlet cardinal that greeted me on the path, in the sweeping willow’s lime-green branches that radiated in the sun, in the forsythia wreaths that happily hung on my neighbours’ front doors and in the soprano songbirds that brought it all to life with music.

Just like the earth, I felt like I was thawing and waking up after a stiff, long winter.

The truth is, I haven’t felt ‘awake’ in a long time. At the top of the year, I started a new job and I’ve been on overdrive building, building, building multi-year plans while juggling other priorities independently as I create structure in my new department. I thought the pace would differ from my last job, but it hasn’t. Maybe it’s me. I come home at night tired and after spending time with my family and putting the kids to bed, I’ve been flopping on the coach and binge-watching Nashville Season 4 (I’m a little late to the party) with a bowl of pretzels and hummus.

But on this Easter Monday morning, I’ve realized that it’s time for me to wake up. To make some small-but-mighty changes to live my life a little more consciously. To be kinder to myself – body, mind and soul – and feed it with the rich nutrients it needs to live my life with more compassion, grace and purpose.

I am reminded of the stark truth-bomb by Carl Jung: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd (read: Nashville binge-watching with pretzels and hummus), in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

So what about you? Are you living an awakened life? Do you feel conscious and focused on what you value most? Or are there boulders on the path that are darkening your light? What small-but-mighty changes could help you roll away those stones?

Mother Nature’s a pretty smart cookie. Let’s synchronize with Her to wake up to this fresh new day.

If you need a little more inspiration, here’s one of my favourite songs about becoming Wide Awake.

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Don’t be ‘slangry’ – get more sleep!

I’m deep in debt. Sleep debt.

Exhaustion took over this weekend, after weeks of running on empty and feeling stretched in a million different directions. I’ve given too much of myself to other people and causes and I got myself into a bit of a funk. It’s a slippery slope when I skip out on simple but structural self-care that keeps my motor running: mediating, walking, not saying yes to everything, getting enough water, vegetables and especially sleep.

And I know I’m not alone in my sleep funk. My slunk? Very few Canadians get the recommended 8 or more hours of sleep each night and the impact can be devastating:
• Decreased memory and ability to concentrate
• Weakened immune system
• An unneeded surge of stress hormones
• Disruption of the body’s normal metabolism
• Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and disease
• Heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression. Need I say more?

People who chronically fail to get enough sleep may actually be cutting their lives short. A little depressing, I know. For years, psychologists and psychiatrists have been advocating that one of the most significant and overlooked public health concerns is that many adults are chronically sleep deprived. If you don’t believe it, just look at Donald Trump. That guy’s setting the world on fire on 4-5 hours of sleep a night.

I love writing but writing this blog even made me tired. I started writing it on Sunday night and decided to pack it in and go to bed early. I went to bed at 7 p.m., woke up to a child bouncing on me at 6:45 a.m. and guess what? I was still tired! Parents – you know what I’m talking about! Sleep debt can build up from weeks, months and even years of inadequate sleep. Most people need an extra 60-90 minutes sleep over time just to break even and start replenishing the well.

Experiments by psychologist David Dinges, PhD, showed that two weeks of limited sleep — about four hours per night — created brain deficits just as severe as those seen in people who hadn’t slept at all for three nights. As sleep deprivation continues over time, attention, memory and other cognitive functions suffer. Revisit my earlier comment about Trump.

So catch up with a nap, right?

No! Napping isn’t the cure-all either. Sure, it can help reduce a sleep debt, but it’s no substitute for healthy sleep habits. There are long-term benefits to maintaining consistent, predictable sleep patterns. And where naps do improve cognitive functioning after periods of sleep deprivation, they don’t do much to repair the negative mood that results from sleep loss (see Dinges et al., 1988). ‘Hangry,’ there’s a new mash-up in town and it’s called ‘slangry.’ You don’t want to go there!

So you know what my challenge is for you this week, right? Get more sleep! I challenge you to go to bed one hour earlier this week (or more) for consecutive nights. If you’re getting sleepy during long meetings or drives, chances are you’re sleep deprived. So am I! Let’s do this!

Wishing you long, restful nights of sweet slumber.

Seeds of kindness from a stranger

Recently, when my family was in Mexico, we attended a cooking demonstration that ended with everyone sitting at a long table to enjoy the fruits of the chef’s labour. We were seated beside a lovely couple. We started chatting a little, and they shared that they had lived in Montreal for years but recently decided to move an hour north to enjoy some wide-open space.

What I didn’t expect was the wellspring of abundance these complete strangers have offered me since; I’m still awestruck by their generosity and kindness. Let me explain.

I don’t know if it was the look on my face or my vibes of excitement when they told me about how they moved to the country to live off the land, but there’s something that captivates me every time I hear these kinds of stories. I’ve fantasized about livin’ off the land myself; growing my own vegetables, having my own chickens and I don’t know – goats – so I can sell their milk to a cheese maker, and then they’d sell it back to me as the smoothest and most divinely tangy chevre that I’d savour… with fresh-baked bread in the bounty of my great outdoors. A girl can dream, can’t she? I’ve always been a city girl but this is my not-so-secret fantasy. There’s something so pure about it – isn’t there? You’re not at the mercy of the grocery store, you’re growing jewel-like produce with your own bare hands – I mean, seriously! What’s not to love about that?

I mentioned to this couple, Pierre and Donna, that we started a square-foot vegetable garden two years ago and it has been such a rewarding project for our family. There are few things more amazing than growing a perfectly ripe tomato, biting into its deliciousness and savouring all its glory. I ran into Donna later that day and she said, “You know, if you have questions about your garden, you can always ask Pierre – we’ve been growing our own vegetables for 30 years and he’s found a lot of great techniques and different heirloom varieties to grow.” I was grateful for her offer and later ran into Pierre and said I might take them up on that. He said they’d be at the pool the next afternoon and to stop by if I have questions.

So I did. And they were so great! They spent close to an hour with me, telling me all about where to buy seeds (like Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange), how to save your own and they even offered to send me some the saved from their garden. I had been buying seeds at some of the big box stores and they were pretty mainstream varieties but Pierre and Donna told me about different heirloom kinds that apparently taste heavenly. Tomatoes like Sun Gold, Blushing Bison, Green Grape and Fargo Yellow Pear – all precious in their offerings. Gorgeous fruit like Sunberries and Aunt Molly ground cherries; Italian black eggplants called Prosperosa; Perpetual ‘spinach’ that produce all summer long; Desi summer squash and Holland white cucumbers, which are the best-tasting cucumbers Pierre has ever grown. They shared highlights of all this stuff along with their email address so they could write me in more detail.

A few days after we returned home I wrote to them and guess what happened? They wrote back! They shared all these varieties with me in a long-form email along with instructions. And, after I shared my mailing address with them, they even mailed me seeds they saved from last year’s harvest, along with their 2017 garden plan and guidance on how to approach things in my gardening zone.

I’m so blown away by their kindness and generosity. I was sharing this with my husband last night and he said, “You know Tanya, there’s a lot of goodness out there in this world.” I know it’s true but I’m just so amazed that in their busy lives (they both teach at Universities and he’s an inspector for the province of Quebec), they made the time to send me all this amazing information in the form of an email and seeds in the mail. My husband also reminded me of something I had forgotten: “Didn’t you share many of the vegetables we grew in our garden last year with neighbours, work colleagues and friends?” I suppose he was right, but I didn’t think much of it. “You’re doing the same sort of things for others and once you figure out how to save your own seeds, I know you’ll do that sort of thing for others too.” It’s about perpetually paying it forward.

It’s so symbolic that we’re talking about sowing seeds. It reminded me of the parable of the mustard seed – the smallest seed in the world but at night, when the farmer slept, it sprouted into the biggest plant of all. Just like the power of kindness, generosity and goodness.

My challenge to you (and me!) this week is to share your gifts with someone else – maybe even a complete stranger. You have the power to start a tidal wave of love and kindness.

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