Life in this Moment

I have been at home with my daughter for four weeks now due to COVID-19. School is cancelled for the foreseeable future and I am working remotely. It is a very strange existence: one in which human contact is limited to the phone and internet. There is almost a complete lack of physical interaction with the outside world: except when I venture to the grocery store once a week. Even that could be ending soon, as some local stores are starting to limit shopping to online orders and delivery.

My ten year old child has not seen her friends for over a month. She is celebrating her birthday on Monday with a Zoom party. I cannot even imagine what this strange reality is like for her. Children thrive on play, exploration and imagination. As she does not currently have access to her peers, I am attempting to fill the void. We are enjoying daily games of hide and seek and impromptu dance parties.

That being said, I am struggling with trying to work full time and also support my child’s learning and emotional needs. It is hard for her to understand why she needs to spend so much time on her own, with self-directed activities, and we have been butting heads more than usual. It is easy to fall into a familiar pattern of feeling like a failure but I have been trying to remember to be realistic and kind. There is no right way to get through the current situation. I just need to do my best and apologize when I lose my temper.

As we navigate forward together in this “new normal”, I am taking note of certain things:

A Slowing of Time: In our house, we have shifted from living a busy, frantic schedule, to adopting a slow and even daily rhythm. There is no more commute or rushing to activities. There is just pockets of time unfolding within the small space of our home. I am finding it easier to transition between work and home activities with much less effort than usual.

Heightened Awareness and Gratitude: I have a deeper understanding of the contribution and sacrifice that our front line workers make every day. Not only the amazing health care and emergency services professionals but the grocery store clerks, garbage collectors, delivery truck drivers and mail carriers. Each of them is integral to the success and functioning of our society, both during this crisis, and every other day. Every night, when we show up at 7pm to applaud and make noise across the province, I do it for all of them.

Global Interconnectivity: There is nothing that we have in our society that is not reliant upon contributions from other parts of the world. From the medicine in our pharmacies, to our food supply, and manufactured products, we need each other. No country is an island. We are a global community.

Importance of Movement: Taking the time to move my body each morning is essential for my mental and physical well being, especially right now. It clears my mind and provides me with fuel for the day ahead. There are a number of free resources and trials available online that you can do at home. Some of the ones that I am enjoying include: Beach Body and Do Yoga With Me. My favourite trainer is Autumn Calabrese and yoga teacher is Fiji McAlpine.

Time in Nature: Despite COVID-19, spring continues to unfold around us. Crocuses, tulips and daffodils are pushing their bright heads through the ground. Delicate pink buds are appearing on the trees. Hummingbirds are trilling their mating calls to one another. Life is teeming. It is now warm enough to return to the garden and put my hands in the soil. I am enjoying the gift of the outdoors and feeling the sun on my face.

Time with Loved Ones: Although I miss seeing my friends and family in person, I have noticed an increase in connectivity since the crisis started. I have been using FaceTime and Zoom to call people that I have not talked to in months. We host Friday and Saturday night group gatherings. We make impromptu calls. With more time at home, and a lack of distractions, it is bringing people together more than ever. There is a renewed appreciation for those we love and a desire to express it.

Kindness and Love: Despite all of the frightening things that are happening right now, there are so many stories of hope and love and resilience. From the stories of postal workers in Ireland volunteering to check in on the elderly, to the hundreds of thousands of retired health care workers returning to work to help, and the citizens of Italy serenading to one another from their balconies: people are showing up for one another. As Mr. Rogers always told his young viewers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Hope for a Different Future: Humans can achieve extraordinary things when they put their mind to it. COVID-19 is shining the spotlight on a very broken global economic system and its vast inequities. The drastic changes that have occurred within the last month demonstrates how quickly it is possible for us to shift gears when we are motivated to do so. Perhaps this is our opportunity to start over. To reimagine what is possible if we were to do things differently going forward. This can be our moment.

Blossom & Grow: A Healing Garden

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’ ~ Audrey Hepburn

LuckyBoy

Two years ago, spring was very difficult for me. My heart was broken in a million pieces after the sudden end of my marriage; and I was very focused on just getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other.

It was at that time that I came back into contact with a dear friend of mine, Heidi. Heidi is a not only a lovely woman; she is a very talented horticulturalist and garden coach. What is a garden coach, you ask? Her vision is to reconnect people with their gardens. She is interested in building your confidence and knowledge, so you can ultimately learn to work intuitively in your own space.

When we started the project, I had been living in my home for thirteen years.  During that time, I had spent almost no time at all in my backyard.  My house was originally built in the 1950s and the yard itself was large and unruly. I had always mowed the grass but that was about all I could manage.  Just being in the space made me feel uncomfortable. I did not know where to start.  How do you revitalize a whole garden? As Heidi so wisely summarized it: “One bed at a time.”

Throughout the spring and summer, we worked together to transform each bed.  There was a lot of digging, hauling and hands in the soil.  Gardening is a really therapeutic activity, which leaves very little time for rumination: it brings you right into the moment and the task in front of you.  We brought in sea soil to nourish and new plants to brighten. Heidi has the unique ability to see the project as a whole. All I had to do was show up and do the work.

The back yard before we started work.

Heidi and I started this project in the spring of 2016 and, two years later, we are still going strong. Slowly but surely, my garden has taken on new shape, colour and form. Life is springing up in every nook and cranny. It has even become a family project; my mother and daughter often join us to help out with various projects.

We have spent many afternoons patiently cultivating my overgrown yard together and it is now on its way to being a beautiful, restful space.  Last year, I was able to realize a long held dream to plant a new fruit and vegetable garden.  It is really satisfying to grow your own food. This year, I am going to test out some new, natural pest control options and plant spacing.

Heidi with my mom, Suzanne, at the nursery.
My daughter and I digging the new beds.

There has been something magical about this experience; Heidi and I call it our “healing garden.” Moving and exerting the body. Immersing your hands deep in the fresh soil. Carefully tending to plants and bushes. Breathing in the fresh air and hearing the sounds of nature around you. It is very therapeutic. The ground itself contains powerful, nourishing energy.

Now that spring is on its way, I am really looking forward to getting  back out there and continuing our project together. My daughter is already talking about planting her own special bed with flowers that she chooses herself; and my mom is excited to plant her pots. I am so grateful for this shared experience. My garden has become a living expression of friendship, connection and love.

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Magical Thinking

Radiant Orange Lotus With Rays Of Light, Water Lily, Enlightenme

When I was a child, I loved running around barefoot in nature; it made me feel deeply connected to the earth. I believed in fairies and unicorns. I dreamed of true love, myths and fairy tales.  I was confident in myself and connected to the strong beat of my own heart. I loved to sing and write and draw; and I did these activities voraciously and without inhibition.

As I moved through the school system, I was often teased for being too sensitive, naive and trusting. I was laughed at for believing in magic and mystery. And eventually, I came to devalue my gifts of creativity, communication and insight. Being a highly adaptive person, I soon learned to camouflage myself and assimilate with the group of the day. I lost touch with my core sense of being; and for most of my adolescence and early adulthood, I was very skilled at being just like the people around me.

Now that I have tipped over the edge of forty, and survived my marriage falling apart, I have spent the last year taking stock of the remains: and I discovered that under the ashes is me. The authentic, real me. She is a little cramped and sore from hiding all of these years; but there is love and hope shining brightly in her heart, and she still believes in magic. As Glennon Doyle Melton so eloquently describes it: “You have been offered the gift of crisis…the Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift’, as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.”

During this difficult time of transformation and change, I have tried to approach my journey with curiosity and an open heart. As a result, I have discovered a range of healing tools that defy reason and logic; and they have reconnected me with the magical thinking of childhood. These little practices serve as a touchstone. They connect me to universal energy and flow. They give me hope and comfort; and through them, I have learned that everything does not always have to “make sense”. It can just feel right and give joy. And so, I trust my intuition, and I keep on exploring. I let myself play and laugh and believe.

Here are some of my favourites to date:

Crystals: For thousands of years, ancient civilizations have utilized the power of crystals to release mental, physical and spiritual blockages: facilitating the free flow of energy throughout the body. Mined from deep within the earth, these stones are believed to contain unique properties and support energetic healing and well-being. I like to wear them (necklaces, earrings, bracelets) and I also like to place them throughout my home and office. Some of my favourites are: moonstone; aventurine; carnelian; sunstone; citrine and labradorite.

Aromatherapy: This practice uses natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance well-being. There are literally hundreds of scents and combinations, which provide many different therapeutic benefits. Some of my personal favourites are rose, geranium and lavender. They can be enjoyed in a number of ways. I like to use them in a diffuser in my home and in the bath at night.

Oracle Cards: Oracle cards provide insight and guidance for any situation. There are many different kinds of cards, with varying themes and intentions. I often like to use angel cards if I have a specific question or I am looking for a nudge in the right direction. I also enjoy having a set of cards on hand that simply provide positive daily affirmations and inspiration.

Spirit Animals: Many cultures believe that spirit animals are sent to give specific messages. I always take note when animals unexpectedly show up in my life. For example, when I first had my daughter, I suddenly started to see hummingbirds all of the time; they still continue to visit me in quite often. I have had owls and hawks fly in front of my car (in the middle of the city); and the other day a crane unexpectedly landed right beside me at the pond. I love this beautiful set of animal spirit cards by The Wild Unknown; it touches upon about the spiritual meaning behind them many of them.

Angel numbers and feathersAngel numbers are a series of repeating numbers — like 333 or 1212 — that appear in your everyday life, on a clock, on a billboard, or even in a magazine. But unlike regular numbers, many believe that these numbers are specific signs provided to us by our guardian angels. Coming across a feather in your path, or finding a feather in an unexpected place is also thought to be a message from the angels.

Sage BurningBurning sage is one of the oldest and purest methods of cleansing a person, group of people or space. The Latin for sage, ‘Salvia,’ stems from the word ‘to heal.’ The other qualities of sage when burned, such as giving wisdom, clarity and increasing spiritual awareness, are also indicated in the name. The ritual burning of herbs and herbal resins is common to many cultures in the world. From the ancient Celtic druids who used sage as a sacred herb alongside Oak Moss for burning as well as medicinal purposes, to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon whose Palo Santo (sacred wood) sage burning ceremonies are still practiced to this day.

How about you? Are you open to magical thinking? If so, I would love to hear about your favourite practices.

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