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my spring thaw

It’s been a month since G Day – a month of radical transformation inside me that mirrors the rebirth that’s happening in my environment. Springtime in Toronto & I’m feeling fresh and ready to pollinate some ideas.

Is spring the cause of my internal transformation or just a convenient metaphor?

The warm weather and the fresh buds and flowers bursting out everywhere have increased my wellness exponentially. Spring got all the frozen things inside me flowing, but I also have to give myself credit for not damming them up.

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I won’t go into detail about my state of mind/heart/body (too soon, ouch), but it was low on all levels. I was depleted, depressed, and emotionally exhausted to the point of physical illness.

As the Community Leader and MC of G Day for Girls Toronto, I pulled my empty tank of a person into the station and demanded, “Fill ‘er up.”

I was filled up when Madeleine, the creator of G Day, dubbed me “Beautiful Heart.”

I was filled up by the moments of pure glee as I groove danced with 100 girls.

I was filled up when I saw my grandfather wiping away a tear as I gave my opening remarks.

I was filled up by the mom who emailed to tell me her daughter cried when she put her to bed because she didn’t want the day to be over.

I was filled up when I read my name in print in the front section of a national newspaper celebrating the event.

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This was on April 26. The trees were still bare; jackets were still mandatory attire. A month later, sultry vines weave their way up chain-link fences to feed on sunshine. I cover myself in sunscreen rather than in layers.

I go for more walks with less purpose.

I smell flowers like they’re going out of style. I bring them into my home in colourful arrangements so I can smell them while I sleep. And I put a million flower photos on instagram.

Every single morning I step onto my patio to have a little stretch and see how my green babies fared overnight.

I do more yoga – even at home.

I dance all the freaking time, and I can’t get enough of huge arm movements, leaps, and back extensions.

I wear more colour and bigger earrings.

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The thaw extends to my interactions with people. My heart feels warmer, softer, more open to connection. This means that I’m getting better at networking. Since G Day I’ve been to two conferences – the Girls Action Foundation and the Social for Good conference. I’ve gone to talks and events alone, and rather than running for the door as soon as they’re done, I’ve been able to stick around and chat.

I’ve made new friends and, as I sit here in a cafe waiting to go ecstatic dancing with someone I’ve never met, I sense that another is on his way right now. (He told me to look for someone who looks and sings like Cat Stevens – I’m already on the peace train).

I joined the Centre for Social innovation, a dynamic co-working space for world changers – and I feel confident classifying myself as one of them because of the good work I am doing to celebrate and empower girls and women.

I hug people in professional contexts. And they hug me back.

I say no to people when their agenda doesn’t serve me.

People seem to be noticing the change – they say I’m radiant. And I say, f*ck yes, I feel radiant. I’m radiant because the energy of this Toronto spring is flowing through me and beaming out into the world. And I’m radiant because I am wildly, boldly, open heartedly letting it.

Thank you lilacs, thank you G Day, thank you dancing – and thank you to each and every person who has supported and witnessed my rebirth this spring. 

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someone whose soul shines

I’ve worked with a lot of people. Seriously – a lot. Very often I am happy when a project ends and I get to say good riddance to these characters. Equally often, I leave feeling grateful for having had the opportunity to work with them. But every once in a while, I say goodbye to a colleague feeling a pang of regret that it had to end so soon. Wishing there had been more opportunities to collaborate. Feeling like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this person’s potential.

Jen from Travel + Trust & Wanderlust is one of these people. Two years ago, the universe threw us together in Bali, where I had been living and working at the Green School. We worked together on the leadership committee organizing Michael Franti’s Soulshine Festival.

In the Bali expat world of flaky entrepreneurs and airy new agers, Jen stood out as a doer, a practical and productive beacon of Getting Shit Done. I saw her running around capably attending to a thousand details at once. I heard her reflect on her work with passion and inspiration. I admired how she managed the egos of the crazy people we worked with. She always had a hug, a word of encouragement, an immediate email response.

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Jen with Nakho Bear from Medicine for the People

We were in the same orbit for just a month, and my heart broke when Jen had to fly back to the US before getting to experience the beauty of our creation. I printed a photo of Jen and stuck her head on a stick to remind her that she was present at the festival, even if she was a world away.

True to its name, Soulshine was two days of pure bliss. Families, travelers, locals and expats came together on the Green School campus for music, art, sustainability workshops, and inspiring speakers.

A year and half has gone by since then. Jen and I have been watching each other out of the corner of our social media eyes, mutually impressed with where our lives have gone since we left Bali. I was inspired by the 100 day writing challenge that she took on – and completed – last year. She watched me trek the Himalayas. We pressed ‘Like’ often, and even exchanged a couple of messages.

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And then out of the blue, Jen contacted me to set up a call. I wasn’t really sure why, but I looked forward to the opportunity to reconnect and throw some ideas around.

Late last night, she appeared on my screen, wearing a virtual hat from some ridiculous Google Hangouts app. The ice was not just broken, it fully melted in laughter as we both played with hats, moustaches, and trippy backgrounds. We talked past midnight, sharing our visions, discussing our strategies, supporting each other’s paths.

It was SO powerful.

This call allowed me to express and refine my ideas in a way that has not happened quite as authentically through my interactions with mentors, experts, or coaches. Talking to someone who is on the same level as me allowed me to put my ideas out there without intimidation, without trying to impress anyone, without fear of capitulating to someone else’s expert perspective.

On the other hand, there was a level of professionalism and focus that is not there when I share my business ideas with friends. There was a lot less, “I don’t know…we’ll see…” and a lot more action words and assertiveness.

I’ve had so many calls and coffee dates lately, and their value is immeasurable. These experiences have planted a seed. I am finding a way to combine the energy and inspiration that arises from these casual conversations into a format that also creates accountability, encourages reflection, and provides actionable goals.

Speaking of actionable goals, one of the last things Jen and I discussed last night was the value of writing as a daily practise. So here I go, Jen – Day 1, done.

don’t go back to sleep

Early this morning, I descended a jagged cliff face into the sea. I had to cross a channel, and there was no bridge in sight. I lowered myself down from a soft, green field with the sun at my back. The water below was jewel blue and whipped by a warm wind. My fingers crawled into crevasses, my legs stretched to land with toes curled around the cool stones. My core tensed for balance and each one of the fifty-two tiny bones in my feet knew their purpose as I gripped and grounded myself in a dance with gravity.

Down and down I descended toward the spray, until my feet found boulders lapped by waves. I crouched on all fours, gripping the vertical rock, and scanned for the next place to stand. I kept my weight low and crept sideways to a submerged boulder with the cool current pulling at my ankles, drawing past me as I inched along, stone by stone, toward the swirling blue channel. My senses were alert – eyes scanning the waves and eddies, measuring the depth and speed of the water. I stepped forward until I couldn’t find the next rock. The water was getting too deep, the current too fast to swim across.

I looked up and saw my father and my two siblings watching me, calling me back up to the plateau. “Come back! You don’t have to cross that way! We’ll find a ride across…” I knew that if I kept going I would get swept out to sea. I perched on the rock feeling the water rush around my feet, ankles and calves. I saw their concern, but also their amazement at my agility and fearlessness.

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And then I woke up.

I haven’t been able to get this dream out of my head today. As I climbed, I felt strong and secure in my body. The elements – rock, sea, sun and wind – were invigorating.

I knew that my family was watching me, and I knew that they were somewhat incredulous as they saw the girl who sprains her ankle walking down the sidewalk scaling a cliff face. But for me the cliff face is sometimes easier to move along than the sidewalk. The smooth path has never felt right for me. I think it’s because it doesn’t engage my senses the way the challenge of the cliff does. Stroll does not equal flow. Challenge is required to enter the state of optimal experience, where we feel most alive, where inspiration arises.

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That cliff is calling me, and dreams like this one remind me that it feels good. As I carve out my new path, I’m embracing fear and risk. I’m looking for something that talks to my soul through my body.

I’m not sure if I should have let myself get swept out to sea. I’ve been thinking about the death of self that often begins the Hero’s Journey, and wondering which parts of me need to visit the underworld in order for my soul to resurrect in its full expression. Maybe stepping off that rock would have taken me down to Poseidon’s lair, and who knows what wisdom could arise in the light refracted by the swirling waves.

But maybe the lesson of the cliff was enough. I have been feeling energized all day. I’ll hold on to the feeling of unity with the elements, the embrace of wildness, and the strength that arose from being in this challenging position. I won’t go back to sleep.

“The Breeze at Dawn”  – Rumi

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

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