Step 89 Be a critical thinker...

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”
― Albert Einstein

When I stopped eating wheat and gluten and started to feel better, I genuinely believed this was an allergy.  However, noticing the increasing numbers of friends and their children who are wheat intolerant I began to wonder what is actually going on.  The following article makes sense to me and I will be looking into it a little more.

Whether of not you are wheat and gluten intolerant, the real issue is how we as consumers can be convinced to not look at the actual facts of what we buy and why and how some of those products are in fact making us sick.  Learning to stand apart from the crowd and figure things out is a step forward in the journey to happiness.
Step 88 -  “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  Buddhist Quote

In a week when the world was reeling publicly with two different teenage tragedies - the shooting of 14 year old Malala in Pakistan and the suicide of Amanda Todd in British Columbia, Canada I found myelf silently reflecting and frustrated by the media circus.  The public vigils and opportunities to promote political agendas which were all far too late to be of any use to this young girl lost to her family.  More recently we have again been shocked by the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons after being raped and let down by police, so called friends, her school and community.

Amanda, Rehtaeh and Malala grew up in two very different countries.  One used the media and internet to promote awareness of the plight that girls in Pakistan and other countries face daily.  Their lack of education and right to free speech.  Amanda and Rehtaeh were both exploited by those same mediums.  Their photographs shared to humiliate and persecute them. 

I have heard statements in response to the tragic events affecting both these young girls that further promote violence, persecution and create online harrasment of potentially innocent individuals.

All the hand wringing, vigils and political statements in the world cannot bring Amanada back or change the clock to prevent the shooting of Malala.  What we can do, today, is collectively stop being unkind with our words, with our actions, by the way we treat each other. We will not create change until and unless each and every one of us change how we behave to one another.

In 1955 Sy Miller and Jill Jackson wrote a song - Let there Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin With Me - long before the internet was created and the words "going viral" were part of our common daily verbage the song organically spread throughout the world and was spread by a group of teens.  It spread through different cultures and religious groups.

In our journey towards self discovery, happiness, why ever it is you are here let's take the opportunity to spread this same message again - let us spread it wihtin ourselves, our homes, our families, in schools, in the workplace, in retirement homes, on the streeets where we live.

Exercise - Let the memory of Amanda not be about the bullying she received during her all too short life, let her legacy be a statement that will move us forward and create change on a global scale.  The Talliban and those who promote hate have no power if they are constantly met by resistance through peace.  Let us all show our support for Malala and her bravery - the power of one can be the catalyst for change in the world.  Let that change begin with you and me.

Being mindful about how we speak and treat each other.  Create a piece of art that reflects connectivity with one another and peace on a global scale.  Share it with your family and friends. 



Thank You for the People in my life.

Step 87 Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you travelled from where you started.
- Proverb

Recently back from our fabulous trip to the UK and Paris I have had lots of time to reflect and re-consider who and what is important right now in my life.  I made two significant decisions to let go of activities and professional committments that had over a long period of time been making me stressed and quite unhappy.

Taking the trip with my fabulous daughters, seeing old friends and spending time with my mum confirmed that it is my relationships with people that matter most in my life.  Belongings, sucess and money cannot replace or make up for relationship.  Of course success can and does bring many rewards that can benefit relationships but if the goal is to strive for success over and at the cost of relationships then that is not the choice I have made in the past or choose to make now.

In North America especially it is all too easy to get caught up in what we own or surround ourselves with as an indicator of our success.  In some families and relationships that success has led to separation within the relationships or missing out on a whole bunch of important times with our children and friends and family.

With thanksgiving coming up (in Canada) now is a great time to reflect and take stock of what is important in  life.  To think about how far we have come not as a measure of success but as a measure of what is accomplished.  Considering what and who brings you joy and happiness.

If you find yourself dwelling on past mistakes or things that have not gone well or the person you have loved the most is passed away acknowledge how you feel and mindfully think about your life right now.  There is something or someone to appreciate. 


Create a list of the people who are most important to you.  Write a brief thank you on a card or note or email or text to each of those people telling them thank you and why you are thanking them.  For example "Thank you for all the days you have made my liffe so much better just by your smile" or "Thank you for all the kind words you have said to me over the years we have known each other".



Step 86 - "In the Midst of Difficulty Lies Opportunity" Albert Einstein

In July 2003 I found a lump in my left breast.  The experience was both shocking and frustrating.  I was a single mother with two young children, then aged four and six.  If anyone had told me there was opportunity in that present difficulty I would probably have lashed out.

Nine years later as I look back there certainly have been opportunities gained from the experience. If I am honest, I would have preferred to learn them differently and the fact that I survived and am still here to tell the tale tells me that all is as it should be.

A couple of years after the experience the girls and I put together and published a small book called "Mommy had an Owie".  My oldest daughter illustrated the front cover.  Creating the book gave them and I an opportunity to take something that was negative and create something positive that might help other families.  If you know someone who has young children who is facing breast cancer I would be happy to send them a copy of the book.

It was my first foray into self publishing - I had previously been published in the UK by a division of Lion Books. I began to evolve the dream, which had been put on hold for several years to raise the girls, of writing for a living.  Breast cancer taught me that you just never know how many years you have to live your dreams and that  health is not something to be taken for granted.

In some ways I feel I am going backwards as I get older.  My professional life which started out creatively and evolved into social services is returning to creativity.  Film making, art making, jewellery making and writing are the  inspirational activities that take me through the day and that will, one day, bring in my income.

I may not become the next best selling author (or I may). The point and purpose is knowing what is important, what my values and relationships are based on. That what I do is part of who I am when I give myself wholeheartedly into that.  I do still work "for a living" in social services and I would not continue if I didn't also enjoy and receive great rewards from this work.  Financially it is certainly not the best but the bills do get paid and I am thankful to work with an amazing group of colleagues.  I am still learning to balance what is necessary to get through the week and support my girls  with activities that are necessary to promote my own and family health and wellness.

Exercise - Reflect on an event that has influenced your life as it is today.  Don't worry if the event was positive or negative.  What opportunity or information did you gain from that event.  What will you do today to take the opportunity further to promote your own journey to health and wellness? When you have reflected take time to write down the event as a story use  the chosen outcome that you decided you would do today as the ending. 


Step 85 The Art of Being.  "Courage is Grace Under Pressure" E. Hemmingway

Being in the moment, and I mean really being in the moment - with all our senses at capacity engagement - sound/taste/smell/touch can either rock our world or make us want to flee.  I am not including disaster, extreme stress or violence when I write this, just the simple matter of day to day living or survival.

Depending on whether we are "living" or "surviving" significantly changes the way we respond to being in the moment.  If, even in survival, we manage to stay present we are experiencing the courage that Hemmingway refers to in his statement - Grace under pressure.

Recently a friend and I were talking about the difference between remaining optimistic and managing the reality of circumstances that can, oftetimes, seem like trying to climb a mountain wearing flip flops.  Impossible right?  It is very hard work to remain optimistic all of the time when circumstances that prevail reflect that all is not as we would hope or like it to be. 

However, dwelling on what is wrong can prevent us from seeing the opportunities that are present even in the most challenging situations. 

One of the things I love about the work I do is helping families see the strengths they have going for them - when those strengths may not be obvious.  For example, helping a mum struggling on a very low income, figure out that by adjusting some of her expenses and looking at the current situation differently she could, in fact, save $1,200 over a year.  Instead of being broke she will have savings and create a positive habit that will help her and her son; assisting two teens, who have seriously demonstrated grace under fire, apply for and receive an amazing bursary by Outward Bound.  The bursary will give them a three week camping trip and challenge them mentally, physically and spiritually.  This happened because they followed up on the opportunity presented to them and took steps to engage in a process which was time consuming and, to some degree, personally challenging.

This blog is about finding our inner Fiji - the steps we decide to take towards a healthier and happpier
life depends on whether we decide to simply read (or write) the words or actually engage in the process.  Sometimes just reading can be part of the process by planting seeds -  those seeds get watered and flourish quickly; other times they take a little longer but water (action) at some point is essential.

Whether you are in survival or living mode the choice of action and recognition to experience the moment and seize opportunity is there.  If you can't find it in yourself ask a friend to help or contact me for online coaching and support.

Exercise:  Write on a sheet of paper Survival and on the other side of the paper Living.  Make a list of words that immediately come to mind.  Decide in which modality you are right now.  What opportunities are there for you to move closer to your dreams and goals?  What senses do you experience when you reflect on the situation?  How can you use this moment in time to move you closer to where you want to be?


Step 84 - Listening to our instincts. "Often life whispers to us to warn us of potential problems that may lie ahead, but frequently we are so busy with other things that we ignore these warning signs. One of the best ways to reduce the number of problems in your life is to learn to listen and act on life’s whispers."  Dr. Anthony Fernando

Have you noticed that often before something "bad" happens that you have a sense of premonition - it can also happen when something "good" is about to happen as well.  The physiological experience can often be felt in the stomach or neck and shoulder areas. These warning signs when we listen can prevent health problems,  making poor financial decisions and prevent us from engaging in unhealthy activities or relationships.  All too often, however, I have not heeded these signs and the exact opposite has happened.   The upside is that the experience offers an opportunity for learning and a new and better understanding of how to respond to those instincts and physiological warnings in the future.

In other words there is no point in beating ourselves up for not listening because we can't change what happened but we can change how we respond in the future.  Mindfulness works this way too.  The more mindful we become about what we are feeling and thinking about a situation will pre-empt more positive action and choices.  We still may take risks but we go into those risks with greater understanding.

Since my last post I have been working on weight loss and saving frantically for our trip to the UK.   My body has responded well to the discipline and positive energy that I am putting into both - and even though the results are not as I had hoped they would be by now I am optimistic and positive that I am on the right path.  The physiological feelings are the ones that indicate "good" is about to happen.  It awakens creativity and possibility.

Listening yesterday to an interview on the CBC with Richard Dawkins about his book for children The Magic of reality I was surprised to find myself in agreement with much of what he said in regards to the importance of seeing the "magic" in science and things that can be proven.  However we parted company in agreement when he dismissed any experiences that could not be explained in reality or by science.  Whilst I long ago gave up on the belief in creation mythology I do still believe that our journey towards understanding how and why things works and came into being are part of a much bigger picture.  That what we cannot explain, such as premonitions, feelings of rapture and paranormal experiences occur and are very real for those who experience them.  That there is no scientific proof does not diminish the reality of those feelings and beliefs.  For me it is more of a chicken and egg question - which came first science or creation?  Evolution has its place within both scientific and spiritual philosophies, in my opinion.  To dismiss one is to exclude the opportunity for collective understanding and the potential for peaceful co-existence.

Which takes me back to the quote at the top.  Just because we can't prove the feeling we have about something does not mean we should not listen to it.  Our inner wisdom,  soul, however you like to call it or understand it has a purpose to assist and help you live as healthily as possible.  Becoming aware and mindful of those inner thoughts and feelings will guide us all in our quest for a healthy and happy life.

Exercise - Take two or three colours of paint that you really like and let the colours guide you as you apply them to paper.  Let them mingle and swirl as they lead you.  Try not to control how you work with them - either use brushes or your fingers or sponges or all three.  When you have finished reflect on what you have painted and how it felt to just let the colours take control.  What did you learn about yourself ?  Did you need to control the colours or do you have a natural ability to let go and live freely with your instincts?  How can you apply this experience to a current problem or situation?


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Step 83 - Thinking twice about second helpings!

"Personal size and mental sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions.  A large, bulky figure has as good a right to be in deep affliction as the most graceful set of limbs in the world. But, fair, or not fair, these unbecoming conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain - which taste cannot tolerate - which ridicule will seize"  Jane Austen.

Since posting yesterday I have had some requests for meal plan suggestions.  Like some of you I have a family to feed and separate dishes and fussy diet plans are a no no.  I also strongly believe that "diets don't work" and it is the intention behind weight loss that paves the path to success. 

Sadness can certainly lead to comfort eating as the lovely Jane wrote, but so can being in love and sharing too many chocie bars with your sweetheart.  Amazing how the pounds pile on soooo easily, especially in mid life, and fall off so slowly.

The dishes I prepare all work within busy family and full time work life and you are welcome to them as suggestions for your own weight loss goals.  I may not get to post meal plans every day but I will aim for at least three per week.

To re-state my goal is to loose a further 10 pounds over the next 30 days and take my goal weight dress to Paris!  To achieve this I am eating a maximum of 1,750 calories a day, exercising at least 250 calories by going to curves3-4 times a week and walking 30 minutes on the other days.  On days 7/14/21 and 28 I will reward myself with a treat or on the closest day to them that makes sense.

Breakfast      235 cal.

1 egg fried in 1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp flax seeds
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup watermelon

Lunch 162 cal.   

2 x generous tablespoon humous
8 rice crackers
1 orange

Dinner  510 cal.

Avocado and Tuna salad with dressing -
1 tsp olive oil, 1 tblsp low fat Hellmann's mayonnasie and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Snacks and Drinks 387 cal.

8 glasses of water
2 cups of tea with milk
1 cup of coffee with cream
2 x slices provolone cheese
1 apple
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 slices watermelon

Total Intake 1,294

Both fat and protein are essential for helping metabolism and to ensure good muscle retention.  If you are feeling tired protein will help you rather than a low value snack such as a 100 calorie bar.  I also take vitamin C and vitamin B complex each morning - a multi vitamin may also help you when you are trying to loose weight and reducing calorie intake.  Grazing throughout the day - hence the number of snacks is good for boosting metabolism and protein at breakfast is essential for this.  Leafy greens and spinach are also important and aim for at least five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables per day.