Contentment: A Contrast

I missed my New Years post this year. The truth is I wasn’t quite sure how to write it. This year has brought more evolutions than one shift in calendar years can reflect. I suppose that it reflects the turning of a century more than ever.

Last I wrote I spoke to creating space for things to unfold. Space was created across the board and my awareness was heightened to all areas where I was off kilter. I often feel as though one speaking to their own maturity discredits that maturity- however I have felt new stability and maturity enter into all my reactions, decisions and consistencies since allowing space to simply be.

In the fall of 2019 we booked a trip to New Zealand for which we depart in a few weeks. About a decade ago, a ticket booked to New Zealand started this blog. The contrast I am finding between who I was on that first trip in 2011 to New Zealand, a totally unprepared 19year old, to who I am now is ripe with metaphors.

This upcoming holiday is already vastly different in almost every way to the working gap year I ventured on in 2011. At 19 I departed shortly after my birthday in September to New Zealand where I landed into a groom job at a “renowned” show jumping farm just outside of Auckland. The plan I had formed was to spend nine months working on this farm in what I assumed would be my dream job. Laugh out loud.

What really happened was a blurred six months of extreme and very tough self discovery. I lasted two months at what can only be referred to as the “job” (more like volunteer experience, that made me realize I was better suited to self employment, experienced Auckland during the rugby world up (and got lost/wandered the city until 4am), got sick too many times, experienced the rodeo circuit, got sick some more, shaved my head for moneyI desperately needed, became the bald girl, exercised steeplechase horses, hiked a glacier, somewhere between these two events developed a cyst in the area around my tail bone, ignored pain, developed infection, ended my trip with septic shock and a five day excursion in the Dunedin hospital fighting off surgery before flying home.

It was a tough trip and a huge growth point. On that trip, for all the scary/lonely/difficult moments I also experienced support from unexpected places, the magic that is NZ, and enough reflective material for a life time. I changed my career path on that trip and that led me into the AT program at UWinnipeg, which was the launch point for my career as it is now. I learned how to take care of myself on that trip. I learned the cause and effect of ignoring my body on that trip. I experienced life beyond superficiality in appearance and began to figure out how to set my standards for how others treated me.

Life is different now.

I wrote in my journal on Jan 1, 2020: “If 2019 was the year that burned things down to ask, 2020 is the year the phoenix rises”.

2019 felt to me like a slow burn of everything I had held onto to create who I thought I was.  I was aware I was going through a major shift – and how things manifested never felt incorrect though it often surprised me.

I began to consciously choose things that fertilized evolution, and let die the things that no longer served. I became aware of coping mechanisms that had served me once perhaps, but no longer had a progressive purpose. Things like my relationship to food, my relationship to money, my expression of truth in various situations, and my relationship to motivation all shifted.

As evident in my last post on creating space, I chose “doing less” much more consciously than I chose “doing more”. In the years that followed my last adventure to NZ I had always chosen “more”. I filled my life to the brim with education, relationships, jobs, businesses, ambition. Over those years my motivation changed. My ability to push through died. Burn out became normal. Toxic relationships prevailed and my ability to effectively lead, express and maintain balance fizzled. And then.. I just couldn’t any more. My body wouldn’t allow it and anxiety woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me things had to change.

My rebrand in the fall was my conscious expression of choosing myself again. Redirecting my efforts towards my true expression, professionally and personally, and creating space for that evolution to organically occur instead of attempting to force it.

In the last month or so I’ve experienced a rebirth of all those things I had to let go of. I reframed my relationship to food and to money. I left space where shadows told me to fill it. I expressed what my intuition called for me to express on my professional forums and let myself be guided in how I approach treating others. I stayed present in my awareness for my reactions in all sorts of situations and in that space created I began to heal myself on numerous levels of my being.

And now… I feel well enough to add more back in. I crave riding again. I crave going to the gym to push myself again. I truly can and want to do more once again, in a way I don’t think I’ve felt since the beginning of the decade.

All of this is a testament to the power of rest. To leaning in to fatigue and exhaustion instead of rallying against those signals. We so often treat calls from our body as inconveniences and yet when we allow our body to guide us, with patience, we find it’s the only true way to heal ourselves.

When we first booked this upcoming excursion to NZ I struggled with negative flashbacks for a few weeks. Visions of pain, mistreatment, near death experiences clouded my excitement. My tailbone hurt for a week after we booked the tickets, the same way it hurts every March around the same time of year it hurt originally. Those who say our body doesn’t remember are lost in a world of ignorance.

Yet, in space and time those visions of resentment became rallying excitement. How lucky am I to return to a place that holds such magic, memories, and luxury at a time in my life where I can create a whole new experience?

“You cannot erase memories but you can let go of the heavy energy that is attached to them” – Yung Pueblo

If I were to write a letter to that nineteen year old experiencing life at the beginning of this decade the words would encourage her to continue walking through the world with her eyes wide open.

If I were to write to the fiery, ambitious twenty something that scorched her way through competitive riding and university life the words would remind her to listen to her body and not use exercise as her only outlet for stress. That burnout takes more patience than she’ll have, and that the body will get the rest it needs one way or another.

If I were to write to a future version of me I would write in a way that would remind her to exercise expressions of gratitude no matter her circumstance, and remind her that she has a tendency to underestimate her power to create exactly the reality she wants. Her contentment comes from creating space to enjoy each moment, from balance, not from trying to create more moments.

Life is good. My relationships to material aspects in my life, to my SO, to my body, and to my work are ritualized by gratitude and presence. Contentment fills space created.

Stay tuned for NZ adventures round two 😉

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Ch 2018: Metamorphosis

This year could be a full book, to be honest.

When I think back to the decade that was 2018, the image of a specific tarot card comes to mind.

The four of swords; with the lamb sitting calmly underneath the threatening points- it implies an attitude of mental stillness and mindfulness amongst oncoming potential threats. It demonstrates a process of integration, allowing the process to occur from a place of internal stillness. Four is a number that symbolizes structure and stability, and the illumination at the lamb’s forehead implies concentration and inward focus. This image shows the power to be found in monitoring your internal landscape, vs letting thoughts and attitudes run amuck.

My last few posts have been rife with words of transformation, faith, and process. I’ve spent countless time this year roaming into different versions of self, different places, and bringing all sorts of new into my life while examining (and more often then not, shedding) the old.

I began the year feeling pulled west. I found many excuses to roam there, and spent a portion of almost every month in Alberta. Alongside this I stumbled into my first few experiences with conscious connected breathwork which in many ways cracked open a door (perhaps the analogy of a rabbit hole is more suited here) to a path I could not have seen coming. That is often how life works though, no? You wander along and then eventually glance back at where you came from and think.. “how did any of that lead me to here?”.

My alice in wonderland-esque year flipped my focus inwards very quickly. If you’ve been reading along the way, you’ll have read many a story about burn out. Through a combination of the breathwork I was introduced with, and subsequently began my facilitator training in, journeys west and renewing connections close to my soul (in the form of people (new and existing), relationships (new and existing), career moves, and time spent digging deep), I built a tool box around the obstacles and challenges that came up throughout the year.

There were three key themes and lessons for me this year (there were so many more, but today is not the day I write my novel..):

1. TRUST (even when you are more full of doubt then ever before)

Let’s be real clear. I took so many leaps of faith off so many cliffs this year. I chose to launch RideWell Performance (a rebrand of an existing equestrian focused branch of IM) early in the year and in a spontaneous Alberta inspired decision chose to take it to Spruce Meadows and set a goal of building a client base outside of my home province. Then I chose to expand Integrative Movement in about four different directions pretty much simultaneously. I did all this with no guarantee of financing or income, an existing pile of debt, at the same time I was taking a big step back from taking on more clients myself (read: burning the f out).

While this was going on, in my personal side of life, I began to notice drastic transitions in core relationships with myself and others in my life. At one (many) point(s) I felt completely alienated from many in my life, and found myself developing very new support systems for myself throughout the year. In a big, BIG way.. 2018 was all about developing ways to support myself. Internally, most definitely. There were many periods during this year that external support in the form of finances, stereotypical realms of security, health, and perceived peer support (*I ALWAYS have phenomenal people holding me up, but there were times where my perception was telling me otherwise) were not there. I was left to my own devices support wise (perception-ally, anyway).. and in a big way had to rely on the faith and trust I had that I was moving in the right direction.

As I moved through the summer I hit many month ends where every single thing was questioned. Why was I so insistent on making these business moves? Why was I being so stubborn? What was I running from..to? Where was I going? Was I making the right moves? Are there right moves? What if this all gets worse? Can it get worse? Will I make rent this month? Am I racking up too much debt for no reason? Do I even want to be a business owner? Why why why..

As I came into the last quarter of the year, many of those questions were answered. I realized that the way I had been existing for many years in survival mode was a consequence of how many of us had been raised to think. Success = financial security. Financial security = steady income, paying bills, etc etc. Not having a regular pay cheque, taking relative risks by investing in self and in business = super effing scary and unorthodox. Do you know what else I realized? It was ALL OKAY. The months of barely (or not quite) having enough to pay my rent, scrounging to make things work financially within the business due to stalled invoice payments (cue rant about insurance companies payment systems and the health care system in general) TAUGHT ME how to manage my money (whether flowing or not). As I rolled into fall and cash flow got a bit more flowey business wise I all of a sudden had all these new ways of organizing and planning. The things I once feared (like, legit gave me MAJOR anxiety) like budgeting, saving, looking at my balances routinely, making payments, etc etc got SO scary and stressful during a few months that I had literally no choice but to face my fears head on and figure out a system that was going to work when the going was thin. As the going got more going, all of a sudden the systems were creating a much less anxiety inducing experience. Survival mode taught me how to thrive. The key in this was trusting that another day was coming, and believing in what I was doing.

The thing about starting and running a business is that it WILL shine a light on all of your inner workings. It will ask you WHY you’re investing. You will be tested on your faith and your values multiple times a day in so many ways. It won’t be until small moments when you least expect it that you’re reminded and humbled by the beauty and purpose behind what you’re doing. You won’t be able to predict these moments, and they will knock you down in the best way possible. I’ve seen more of these moments this year, as rough as the waves hit, then ever before. It just takes a second for faith to win over doubt, and CHOOSING to live in a state of abundance vs a state of lack (or in a scarcity mindset) not only brings more of these moments into your awareness, it drives you onwards in hope (not in fear). 

Trusting, experiencing gratitude, and not getting lost in a moment of doubt (aka not turning a moment of doubt into days or months of doubt). Then, having the patience for a planted seed to sprout and grow. Rome really was not built in a day, you guys, I can attest to this! 

Trust also came up for me personally as I moved in and out of my own identity journey. I learned to trust in my gut and intuition when it told me to find nature, when it asked me to breathe, when it guided me to move. These things above anything else saved me from the crushing fears and anxieties that I was was facing in my professional life. I remember at one point physically, mentally and emotionally being so worn down by my professional life. My hands were in agony 24/7, I would feel the urge to vomit whenever a client, staff, or peer mentioned anything to do with my business (good or bad), and I had anxiety I’d never noticed before. By listening and trusting my bodies messages and stepping into myself (and out of parts of myself).. I gained invaluable insight and revived my direction professionally (and personally). I figured out a new way to support myself. Unconditionally. 

Not only do you need to TRUST in yourself (even when you don’t have answers.. trusting that you WILL move forwards or at the very least turn inwards to listen and recover), you also need to trust in the process and have patience for the process. We always get what we need.. leading to my next theme..

2. LISTEN (and FLOW)

I spent many hours in my car this year. Driving to and from Alberta, and all around each province visiting clients and exploring. Majority of this time was with myself.

The conversations, epiphanies, and places I found within myself on these #soloroadtripadventures built up my ability to listen, and flow in a whole new way.

I noticed it usually took me about 4-6hrs of a long drive to drop into a quiet state of being. This provided excellent contrast to the chaos I was existing in on a daily basis. Here’s thing thing I noticed… though I never considered myself a person who had anxiety, was stressed on a regular basis, or carried undue tension in my body.. in these moments on contrast and time spent with myself, I realized (in a very loud HOLY SHIT) moment, how MUCH anxiety and stress were under the surface. They stayed unnoticeable to me because they were a baseline state. They had become my NORMAL.

Upon this realization I was catapulted down an even deeper rabbit hole. Once I became aware of one little bit of stress and anxiety in my system, I was smacked over the head with HOW MUCH was actually stuck in there. It made me question everything. If there was this much stuck and I was only just beginning my professional life.. what was I going to be like in 3, 5, 10 years? I already felt sick, and imagining the future outlooks? Not good. This contrast also brought me to the realization that I didn’t want my professional life to be my entire life.

Shocking. I know.

From there I had to go down the rabbit hole of.. if you don’t want this to take up all your time, what ELSE do you want to do with your adult life? Oh boy. We had some major re-organizing to do.

And here is about where I began to realize that I was indeed a person who experienced stress and anxiety, and in listening to them more closely- I had all the answers I needed.

Hindsight is of course 20/20 and now I am seeing that all the seeds I planted along the year(s) are beginning to poke out of the dark earth.

As I listened I heard a new version of me whispering. Then speaking directly. Things needed upgrading to serve new me. Things like my communication style, how I express my feelings, and how I relate to those around me. This also included my relationship with the reception of unconditional love, which was a lovely little theme through the year. I had wrapped positives around conditions in so many aspects of how I received it was making it more stressful to receive anything supportive in all areas of life. In order to support myself and receive support from others – a total rewiring of my attitude in this department was necessary. We all need a little revamp once in a while! Here lies the value of listening and allowing your inner flow to guide you!

3. STRUCTURE = FREEDOM (discipline does not have to mean boring, anxiety inducing existence…what?!)

In re-dedicating myself to a regular yoga/meditation/breathwork practice I not only began to trust everything (especially myself) again, I also built a structure into my life that has resulted in freedom.

The level of extreme burn out I hit at the end of September, the experiences and guidance I received in my first facilitator training intensive at the end of September (could not have been better timing) led me to a complete restructure (or maybe just the first conscious structure) of my schedule.

Because of the realizations around the amount of anxiety and stress I inherently experience, some healthy routines needed to be established. And you know what? The more I TRUSTED these new habits, the more they worked. All of a sudden I found myself with spare time (HOURS), getting more accomplished, and a much stronger attitude of gratitude.

Routines/Structure/Discipline.. these things usually made me feel anxious and claustrophobic. Now they simply allow me to be me, to listen, to sit and watch and experience immense gratitude for all the things happening in my days.

It so easy to skip over the little good things in life and see only the hardships, “bad” things, and the tough things. How many of us walk around expecting something to go wrong, complaining about other people, and feeling in a state of lack (of energy, money, time, ability, whatever)? I’ve experienced moments this year where all the things that could be lacking were lacking, and yet- in these moments I’ve also seen and experienced some of the most heart warming and humbling things. What we HAVE does not need to determine our experience, and our experience is entirely created on how we CHOOSE to view things.

Simple thing. Removing the word BUT from all communication (written and verbal). Replacing it with AND.

Another simple thing. Spending 2-10min each day sitting in thought around things you are grateful for. Big or small. All of a sudden you’ll start noticing MORE in your life, instead of LESS.

I trust and listen to my inner voice now, and know that sometimes time is better spent hibernating, resting, or taking some time to myself over trying to push through and be productive. When we utilize time that is meant to be spent in recovery mode, we are way more capable of utilizing and structuring times when we are productive. Work smarter, not harder applies.

I also learned that by having structures (like prioritizing pre-scheduled yoga 4-6 times/week, personal training sessions, riding time, self care (acupuncture, massage/bodywork), meditation/breathwork and therapy check ins in my schedule over work requirements and client requirements) in place I was much more equipped to handle bad days/weeks. By sticking to these structure and treating myself with integrity and respect- I didn’t lose any productivity by having “bad” days. Those bad days were reframed into days where I needed to check out in order to be more productive at a different time.

Listening to ME and all my inner workings taught me about who I am. It allowed me to structure around who I would like to progress TOWARDS, while still remaining open to whoever she is. Structure allows for freedom to evolve, it isn’t a dictatorship scenario. It supports process, instead of clouding process.

For all the times I wasn’t sure I was going to make it this year, I did. I also gained insight into the power found in accepting each moment without restriction.

I am ending the year absolutely full of gratitude and amazement at the journey that’s unfolded. I’ve seen things I could never have even wondered about, and have been opened to whole new worlds and opportunities- just by being intentionally open to the process.

Fav authors this year? Paulo Coehlo (everything by him, for real), Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With Wolves), and Bill Plotkin (SoulCraft).

I will leave you, and 2018, with a poem I read in the wilderness. It happened upon me in a moment of pure gratitude for the cocoon I had found myself in, and the person I was becoming- in the world we currently live in. I hope gratitude finds you all in this new year!

The Wolf’s Eyelash

If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.

“Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out,” they said.

“Why not?  Why should I not go out in the woods tonight?” she asked.

“A big wolf lives there who eats humans such as you.  Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out.  We mean it.”

Naturally, she went out.  She went out in the woods anyway, and of course she met the wolf, just as they had warned her.

“See, we told you,” they crowed.

“This is my life, not a fairy tale, you dolts,” she said.  “I have to go to the woods, and I have to meet the wolf, or else my life will never begin.”

But, the wolf she encountered was in a trap, in a trap this wolf’s leg was in.

“Help me, oh help me! Aieeeee, aieeee, aieeee!” cried the wolf.  “Help me, oh help me!” he cried, “and I shall reward you justly.” For this is the way of wolves in tales of this kind.

“How do I know you won’t harm me?” she asked – it was her job to ask questions.  “How do I know you will not kill me and leave me lying in my bones?”

“Wrong question,” said this wolf.  “You’ll just have to take my word for it.”  And the wolf began to cry and wail once again and more.  “Oh, aieee!  Aieeee!  Aieeee!  There’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool?”

“Oh you wolf, I will take a chance.  Alright, here!”  And she sprang the trap and the wolf drew out its paw and this she bound with herbs and grasses.

“Ah, thank you kind maiden, thank you,” sighed the wolf.  And because she had read too many of the wrong kind of tales, she cried, “Go ahead and kill me now, and let us get this over with.”

But no, this did not come to pass.  Instead this wolf put his paw upon her arm.  “I’m a wolf from another time and place,”  said he.  And plucking a lash from his eye, gave it to her and said, “Use this, and be wise.  From now on you will know who is good and not so good; just look through my eyes and you will see clearly.  For letting me live, I bid you live in a manner as never before.  Remember, there’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool?”

And so she went back to her village, happy to still have her life.  And this time as they said, “Just stay here and be my bride,” or “Do as I tell you,”  or “Say as I want you to say, and remain as unwritten upon as the day you came,” she held up the wolf’s eyelash and peered through and saw their motives as she had not seen them before.  And the next time the butcher weighed the meat she looked through her wolf’s eyelash and saw that he weighed his thumb too.  And she looked at her suitor who said “I am so good for you,” and saw that her suitor was so good for exactly nothing.  And in this way and more, she was saved, from not all, but from many, misfortunes.

But more so, in this new seeing, not only did she see the sly and cruel, she began to grow immense in heart, for she looked at each person and weighed them anew through this gift from the wolf she had rescued.  And she saw those who were truly kind and went near to them, she found her mate and stayed all the days of her life, she discerned the brave and came close to them, she apprehended the faithful and joined with them, she saw bewilderment under anger and hastened to soothe it, she saw love in the eyes of the shy and reached out to them, she saw suffering in the stiff-lipped and courted their laughter, she saw need in the man with no words and spoke for him, she saw faith deep in the woman who said she had none, and rekindled hers from her own.  She saw all things with her lash of wolf, all things true, and all things false, all things turning against life and all things turning toward life, all things seen only through the eyes of that which weighs the heart with heart, and not with mind alone.

This is how she learned that it is true what they say, that the wolf is the wisest of all.  If you listen closely, the wolf in its howling is always asking the most important question – not where is the next food, not where is the next fight, not where is the next dance? – but the most important question in order to see into and behind, to weigh the value of all that lives, woooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool?  wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool?  Where is the soul?  Where is the soul?

Go out in the woods, go out.  If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.  Go out in the woods, go out.  Go out in the woods, go out.  Go out in the woods, go out.

(Estes, Ph.D.,  Clarissa Pinkola.  Women Who Run With the Wolves:  Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York:  Ballantine, 1992.  Print.)

Hats + Existential Philosophy

“As Carl Jung repeatedly declared, our goal is wholeness, not perfection. People living soulcentrically are not untroubled or unchallenged. They are not beyond experiencing times of confusion, mistakes, and tragedies. They have by no means healed all their wounds. They are simply on a path to wholeness, to becoming fully human- with all the inevitable defects and distresses inherent in any human story and with all the promise held by our uniquely human imagination.”
― Bill Plotkin

“While archetypes may emanate through us for short periods of time, in what we call numinous experience, no woman can emanate an archetype continuously. Only the archetype itself can withstand such projections such as ever-able, all giving, eternally energetic. We may try to emulate these, but they are ideals, not achievable by humans, and not meant to be. Yet the trap requires that women exhaust themselves trying to achieve these unrealistic levels. To avoid the trap, one has to learn to say ‘Halt’ and ‘Stop the music,’ and of course mean it.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The last month or so has been one wild ride. Hitting a wall of extreme burn out (and simultaneously realize I have been existing in a baseline burn out for years) basically sums up my September (if you didn’t guess by the last darker then average post). After expansions in all directions through the summer, September brought me being out of my home province for 3/4 weeks of the month. At the end of the month I was privileged to attend my level 1/4 facilitator training intensive with Numa Somatics – which was absolutely transformative on a few levels.

Numa Somatics in a nutshell is a type of breathwork and psycho-somatic healing facilitation that came onto my radar in the Spring. As I journeyed through a few group/individual breathwork sessions over the course of the summer- I began to see major shifts in myself, and my curiosity grew.. leading to my enrollment in the facilitator training.

Rolling into 5 days straight of intensive training in this breathwork and style of facilitation both allowed me the space to shed the loads I’d been carrying around for months (and arguably years), and regain my willingness and inspiration around the grander scheme of things personally and professionally.

One of the big things I’ve been wrestling with lately is separating myself, or maybe a better wording would be teasing myself out of, from the brands/businesses I’ve built. Where I began the year wanting to delve into management work more, I’m ending it realizing that the parts I love deeply about my work is all the other stuff. The people, the healing, and the education. The drive to let go of the thing I innately love, and pursuing a more stereotypical measure of “success” optics in management was in some ways an attempt to prove myself.. and demonstrate impatience. What I thought would alleviate the burn out I linked back to client work, actually made the burn out worse. As I examined it’s roots through trial and error, it only began to shift as I delegated more, and was able to clear my head enough to work with clients on a level I thrive at more.

This professional balance is more of a spectrum, I think, but the question that began coming up more frequently for me was “who are you outside of management and client work?”. The more was asked to disassociate from either end of my professional spectrum, the more I found myself in an abyss of hats I’ve worn with dedication, but that I’ve always taken off to try a new hat on.

One of the realizations I had during this intensive training was that the growth of my business had been a coping mechanism from the process I went through around my last relationship/break-up and the year of 2016 that was just.. a year. The fuel I used to jetpack IM and RW forwards in their inaugural years no longer matches system- and as I’ve outgrown my energy source the relationship between myself and my professional vision became a bit toxic (hilariously this is the same way I felt as I began to separate myself from my last relationship). Along with this realization came the immediate release of the feeling I’d been struggling with for a few weeks at that point: feeling physically ill anyone someone brought up my business creations, or expressed admiration as to how well I was doing professionally.

To be freed of things that I’d been holding onto unconsciously all of a sudden shone a light on the path forwards. Much of that path focused on simply being present each day, and refocusing inwards in more ways.

The past few weeks/months I’ve come back to the feeling I had between 3700masl-5500masl during the Everest Base Camp trek (another addition to the year that was 2016). I wanted to quit. Desperately, wholly, and frustratingly. A day away from the peak of the trek I almost did call it quits. Physically, mentally, emotionally I was depleted. However, a voice somewhere deep inside kept repeating “you need to finish this to remind yourself to persevere later in life”.

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One of those things I come back to, routinely lately, where I’m faced with things arguably much less daunting then Mt Everest, and I have quite literally no excuse not to carry onwards.

I came into fall seeking balance. I am sinking into fall with the knowing that balance cannot be found through desperation. As I sit in each moment I’ve been overwhelmed with reconnection to the community around me, the opportunity surrounding me, and most of all, a new connection to self.

The instructor of the breath work course and I came to the discussion of the age old question “who am I” in a conversation after the level 1 training had wrapped. While the different tangents of that question came up, I couldn’t help but think that maybe it was less about figuring out a direct answer to that question and more about letting go of the various hats I’ve jammed on in an attempt to summarize myself over the years. It’s not that who I am hasn’t been defined by the hats I’ve worn, it certainly have, and I like all those hats. However, who I am is also likely a dynamic state. It would be impossible to describe the essence of me with one outfit, phrase, or descriptor.. And desperately looking for an answer to that question through more endeavors or relationships wouldn’t solve the deeper feeling and question either. If anything this approach just continues to muddy the water with newly styled hats.

The more I’ve committed to no right answer to the feelings emerging and the changes happening, the more I’ve felt freed and able to let go. If the process I realized I needed was letting go, similarly to finding balance, neither is accomplished by a fixated approach. Reconnecting with the basics (like cooking, taking care of myself, spending time with myself and in my body) and prioritizing my schedule around things like yoga, meditation, riding, and time at home has, in just a few weeks, in combination with the breathwork, entirely revitalized how I feel about my work and how I’m able to apply myself.

On a larger perspective, it’s simply given me the opportunity to reconnect myself. Each day. With whomever is present. If building a business comes down to consistency, persistence, and a solid foundation of values.. building a life is not much difference. I’m feeling lately as though I’m just beginning to step into a new phase, one of tossing old hats, of a larger perspective, balance, and right now.. the basics.

Pegs and Holes: Thoughts from the not so beaten path

I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about systems.

The systems we create, rely on, and get stuck within.

As a business owner I have (somewhat unwittingly) created and bought into systems for efficiency and growth. As a society we innately reside within systems for the same reason. Efficiency, social construct, and organization of the masses.

Every single one of us is required to live within numerous systems, and abide by systems that have been predetermined. Think insurance policies, healthcare, government constructs, etc. We also have numerous self-created systems that most of us aren’t aware of.. how we react to pain, our process around relationships, and our systems behind day to day decision making.

In the start-up of my businesses I quickly realized problems within existing systems and set out to create solutions. That is largely how businesses start.. as a solution to a problem the masses have within existing systems. What I quickly realized, working with health related fields, is that there are copious amounts of systems that create more problems then good.. both on a global scale, and a local/individual scale.

More then once a day I think to myself (or, lately say out loud), “but.. why does it HAVE to be that way?”. Majority of us take comfort in systems. It’s easy to follow a set out pathway. It doesn’t require much thought, and generally it just makes intuitive- forward moving sense. BUT. Is the comfortable option always the best? If you’ve read any of my material, you’ll know my answer to that..

Current example.. in ongoing discussions with an insurance company we direct bill through who’s policy is to have exclusive provider numbers for each staff at each separate location.. and now requires me to send in individual direct deposit forms for each staff at each location. I have four therapists that we bill to them for, all of which work at each location intermittently, so now I am sending in the same form with the exact same information on it (the only different info would be the name of each provider), eight separate times… No big deal- just annoying and seemingly unnecessary if one could think just a micro-metre outside of the box they’d been placed in. I suppose in a round about way, systems and policies like this are just an attempt at job creation?

That is quite an inane example, but it did fit into the thought theme I’ve been on.

I’m not an in the box systems creator. Obviously. So much of my career so far has been about looking outside the box, thinking laterally, and finding effective and sustainable solutions for everyone involved. Often this happens unwittingly, just because I see a system that doesn’t serve whatever it was designed to serve any longer- and can’t force myself to not question it..

How many times in a day do you get caught in a pattern because that’s just the way something has always been done, even though there are likely ten different options to accomplishing the same task.. perhaps even more efficiently?

Let’s bring system thought into the perspective of our health.

Systems are a type A term for habits. A series of mental processes we follow until it becomes an automatic process carved into our neurology. Routines, for good or for bad, that we rely on to exist.

The system I see most frequently is one surrounding pain (mental or physical).

No matter what the issue physically or mentally we all seek out the system we see as the most efficient. We find resources/pills/remedies to alleviate the symptoms, and often begin to just normalize those symptoms as a part of life, and move along our merry way.

Yet, time after time, I see people follow this pattern down a road until decades later they stop and think.. is this making any sense? I haven’t corrected the problem, I’ve only masked it. I’m still uncomfortable, and this seemed convenient but now looking back.. it hasn’t been convenient at all as now nothing has changed and I’m still not healthy.

This same analogy can be transferred to humans and their careers/family/relationship goals. We have been raised in systems and conditioned to think there in a linear path to follow. Find a career, sustain your lifestyle, find a person, follow point A to B to C to D..

I’ve always had an inner question mark surrounding this. I haven’t always known where I was headed, but I also have rarely seen a need to know. Where others have pressured and found safety in formulating a plan to makes sense given the paths they were told were the “right” paths, I’ve felt claustrophobic. In times where I have found comfort in routine and “normal” systems.. it’s rarely been lasting before a questions comes up, or a different way becomes obvious.

 

There has been a lot of value placed on routines.Maybe it’s the number of times I’ve been lost traveling in foreign countries, or in my home city.. and been forced to figure out new systems to get to where I need to be without (but sometimes still) panicking. Maybe it’s my rebellious nature, but I find routine in flowing with what feels right in the moment. That is certainly not for everyone. With each personality comes a different way of operating, and what’s healthy and useful for one, may not serve the next. As a health care provider, this is an invaluable lesson to learn- though the formation of any successful system when it comes to our wellbeing will always come down to figuring out how to effectively help someone listen to their inner workings and react accordingly. A system can both assist in that awareness building process for some, or come as a result of asking inward questions.

The generation I exist in is a hybrid of one’s past. With some of my peers staying comfortable in trust for systems they were raised in, and many of us having been raised in systems that clearly were broken.. we have started asking the “but, why?” question- and more often then not just pursuing our own path and working to create better options for a society that is full of faulty systems.

When I work with clients now, I feel a need to constantly challenge their inner workings. Usually if they’ve found their way to me it’s because they have experienced a broken system externally or within themselves- and knowingly or not need a shift. I’ve found that working with clients on this deeper level to help them rebuild their systems for themselves is what truly feeds my fire.

So- the next time you find yourself frustrated by a system.. in work, life, and love.. ask yourself a why. Does it HAVE to follow the linear system you have been told the situation must follow.. or is there a way to step off that track and create a different path?

Realization

“We all wait for a mirror to show us who we are, to validate us. When we hear something about ourselves that we have never heard before, it feels like a blessing, and it gives power.”

For months I’ve been receiving reflections, projections, and deflections from those in my life. Reminding me who I am, who I was, who I am becoming. I learned to not take them personally, just to grow from them where I could and leave the rest for the individuals to figure out for themselves. I grew strong in retaining the lessons necessary and expressing gratitude for all of it… yet all of a sudden, a new phase of less reflections and more observations as to what I’m doing, who I’m becoming, and where I’m headed are coming at me. Not in a way that is negative- just in a way that is factual- I’m hearing people describe me and having to adjust who I think I am and where I think I stand (in good ways). The first few times it happened, I accept with gratitude and move along assuming I am at the level I’ve always associated at.. However, a new wave of realization has hit me. I’m not at that level anymore. I, myself, without really quite noticing it fully, have grown up and forgotten to take note of the new stage of things being hurled at me at brand new velocities.

I’ve written before about a sense of power that is new to me. In the last few months I’ve been challenged and pushed in new ways, mostly in relation to my businesses and professional practice. It’s provided a stark reflection on how much operating and developing professionally as a therapist as well as a owner/operator is a mirror of my own personal development.

The last big shift I had was about realizing my values and what I envisioned my professional endeavours to stand for. Figuring out my whys and letting that lead me towards a how.

Figuring out how to shift cultures and grow communities, how to take myself out of my brands and grow them for a larger vision, using my strengths and weaknesses as the toolbox- one of many key parts of the puzzle.

I feel suddenly like I am stepping into a new world, one that I’ve created by putting so much gosh darn belief into it happening that it now exists. In real time. And I’m not the only one seeing it. It’s REAL.

I’ve also written and reflected lots lately on faith. With the acknowledgment of internal power came a newfound solidity in my faith.

Never in my life have I believed as much as I do as of late that things are conspiring in my favour. The more I frame in gratitude (because of course things are not always rosy, but if you reflect long enough they always have a takeaway), the more all I see is opportunity and what once were my wildest dreams becoming fast approaching reality.

Recently I have been aware of little snippets and pieces of my day that feel like small words of direction or guidance. Sometimes it’s in the form of an actual conversation. Often it’s a gut feeling (that I know now never to ignore). People are surfacing to offer the precisely needed words, tools, or presence and I’m all of a sudden seeing community blossoming around the intentions I’ve put out there.

Integrative Movement transitioned into two new expansions this spring. One was one that spoke to me on a new level. The other expansion was one that challenged me to shift my thinking and acknowledge some old anxieties and fears before the clarity came forwards.

One was easy and seamless, the other required me to dig deeper mentally to reap some rewards I had sowed seeds for years ago (unknowingly at the time of course!).

Both transitions, had they become possibilities even 6months earlier then when they did, would not have been ones the business, nor myself, were ready for. The timing in which they did occur, even though it meant months for me of mental exhaustion, faith testing, and peering into what I truly saw for all my projects longer term- was essentially ideal. I realized this as I was scraping latex paint off a vinyl desk installed into the wall of one of the new spaces. I, as a business owner and professional, was not ready for this until right in that moment.

It dawned on me recently that I am no longer building a small start up style company, but that I am all of a sudden adulting and beginning to be a semblance of owner/operators/entrepreneurs that I’ve always looked up to. Yes, I have all of a sudden realized that I am making real shit happen and I’m not just an amateur fooling around with ideas and big talk anymore.

It’s a little mind blowing to sit back and realize that, not going to lie. I’ve had a few stark moments of sitting with myself, totally washed over with gratitude and realization of what is here and what is coming towards me quicker then I could ever have guessed, absolutely flabbergasted.

As I write this now, I am sitting overlooking downtown Calgary- 12hrs away from my first vendor show during a Spruce Meadows tournament. RideWell Performance is slowly but surely expanding across the nation, as I had dreamed it would a few years ago (before I even had a name for it). Within 6months of dedicated effort, my rebranded branch off equestrian focused practice is gaining real traction. The simple fact of building a network and a client base in Calgary, a city I’ve always wanted to spend time in routinely, is all of a sudden very, very real.

As I’ve shifted through some transitions of my own the last few months, I’ve come to realize that there are very few limitations on what I can do. On what anyone can do. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to use the words “hustle” and “grind” to describe what I do for my businesses or my visions- because, in all honesty, a lot of the time I feel like I operate at a minimal level compared to what I could be doing.

That statement isn’t meant to be self-deprecating, rather, I just know that when I get real motivated and energized about an idea I do the bulk of the work immediately (I joke that I can launch an idea in 2min flat, but it’s not really a joke.. RideWell was rebranded and launched in a couple hours (website, media outlets, and network initiation) because I was impatient with some slower transitions Integrative was moving through so needed to distract myself..) and then work with what comes out of the cultivation.

Hustling and grinding, to me, imply a forced effort. Even in some of the most exhausted, burnt out moments I’ve had with any of my chosen endeavours- I don’t feel like I’m having to force effort. Things become intensely simple and easy when they are fulfilling the why, or purpose, behind the overall vision.

Driving out to Calgary yesterday, from Winnipeg, I smiled almost the entire 13hrs. I was being hit with memories of all the times I’ve thought to myself “why not do it this way”, or “why isn’t anyone doing this”, or “I can’t imagine doing things any other way”. In the past, I’ve been hit with fear.. surrounding financial commitments, time commitments, and the pure insanity that comes with just following the beat of your own drum sometimes (often). I’ve said before that being an entrepreneur, business owner, lateral thinker, whatever is about accepting the unknown, embracing the fact that money as a concept is designed to ebb and flow (mostly ebb when you’re building), and understanding that just because not many people understand how or why you do what you do doesn’t make you the crazy one.

This life is designed to be lived with purpose. If you haven’t found yours yet.. start asking questions around why you do certain things. Be open to the tiny little suggestions the Universe gives you. Notice subtleties in how you feel around daily routines and tasks. Tap into what you’ve always seen beauty in. Follow it. Even if the directions don’t make any sense… they will eventually.. and the scenic route always has treasures you’re grateful for (whether in hindsight or in the moment).

Stay tuned for more from my adventures out West!

Retreat

It’s the season for retreating for many of us.

This time of year I am systemically faced with the culmination of the year’s deeper meaning.

Most years a lot of things bubble up to the surface around November and December- leaving me a little raw and cracked open come the end of the year.

I stopped viewing this as a negative thing a few years ago, because with that rawness and openness has come endlessly valuable insights — among many internal “you have got to be f****** me”– and growth (of course).

I started to write this blog a few weeks ago. I titled it “Inhale”, as all I was doing as November rolled out and December rolled in was desperately trying to maintain a livable blood pressure through deep breathing. Every where I turned personally and professionally a fire needed stifling.

On the last day of reckoning I was driving to my rural clinic and as often happens I was transported in my minds eye to a moment or two I’ve had on one of my travel expeditions.

This time I travelled to a cliff’s edge deep in the Himalayas of Nepal. On the way to basecamp. As I was in this reality driving through the frozen prairies, I was remembering taking deep inhales and long exhales on the side of a mountain watching the mists lift and the sun peak through as Mt. Everest flirted with us through the clouds. I remember moments like this vividly from this trek. Every emotion was raw, clear, and aggressively intense. There were multiple times I found myself standing, gasping for air, looking out on that scene while waves of emotions at their purest form rushed over me. Emotions I wasn’t even sure how to define coming through with every deep breath. Simultaneous to this was the inhale of fresh, untouched air and the scenery very few people get to experience opening up before me.

You want to experience going from pure joy to deep sorrow in a matter of seconds- travelling through your darkest thoughts right back into your happiest memories in a span of a few minutes? Try a trek in altitudes above 3000masl. It’s a great way to get mental whiplash.

As undesirable as that may sound, in this relived moment it was extremely peaceful. The thing about getting to know all your emotions at their deepest points is that you also get to know the deepest serenity.

It’s a level of discomfort that has helped me with all the hugely uncomfortable parts of learning. Of failing, of getting back up, of learning humbleness and of practicing the art of being and honouring yourself. There’s vivid points where I’ve caught myself feeling like my world is ending, only to stop and think— wait.. nope this is actually just the learning process.. it’s supposed to be this uncomfortable. F***.

I knew early on 2017 was to be a year of learning. Collecting, reviewing, gathering and sorting. There has been so many moments where a tiny voice has said “just.. wait”, “hold that thought”, or said nothing at all except a small shrug suggesting “yeah go ahead act on that thought- you need this lesson to smack you in the face, clearly”. It seems almost too symbolic that near the end of the year I’ve gone through major, dramatic and seemingly sudden shifts to emerge into a new calm- almost fresh feeling start- almost a full 360 but with a new sheen from a year ago.

There’s been moments the last few weeks where I’ve been rushing to and fro, only to be halted in my tracks (literally) because a whiff of nature, a gust of wind, or a thought so vivid and clear makes me take notice. I stood in front of my apartment building last week like a lunatic deep inhaling the smell of the spruce trees on the walk way. In the moment they smelled like another world. In a world of chaos, the calm reached out and grabbed me- just for a moment. A reminder to stop, to inhale, to exhale. Then, it let go and set me back into the spiral I had been living in.

Lately, those moments of calm are more frequent. The path has become clearer again, and my purpose on it even moreso.

It’s like multiple days from my latest trip in Spain- basking in the sun getting day tipsy in full holiday mode with the strongest feeling that it’s all going to be fine, wandering historic streets and feeling reassured that many have felt whatever they’ve felt before you (and they’ve survived), or watching the sun set over the ocean in San Sebastián drinking cocktails— feeling gratitude for the people who have come and gone in your life, and the lessons they’ve cued for you.

In the aftermath of everything shifting and settling again I’ve seen a mission statement and foundation for my business come forth. Ideas and visions and questions I have been mulling over and collecting information for all year have seemingly come to obvious conclusions. I feel like I am ready to stand tall and speak my dialogue, on a foundation of values I’ve found through a year or two of shedding, collecting and inquiring on many different levels.

I’ve found myself in the last couple days peering back on previous chapters with bittersweet gratitude.. the highs and the lows all had sweet and tough moments. Sometimes extremely heart warming and often extremely challenging emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Being the kinaesthetic learner that I am, it makes sense that I’ve chosen the last couple years to explore the world, physically challenge myself, and delve deeper and deeper through uncomfortable experiences into my own psyche.. to come to where I stand now, a little more knowledgeable and a little more comfortable being uncomfortable.. or at least, knowing that it’s all just moments passing by.

While I expect that the coming New Year is going to bring on whole new exciting themes, challenges, and developments… as always, it’s a new adventure to live through. More stories to tell, and more memories to ponder.

Stay tuned… and I wish you all a restorative holiday season- and hope you find some time to retreat back to yourself as we close out 2017. It’s the season for guilt-free napping- take advantage!

Chapter 2016 

“The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do. (Is this fair? Is this the right thing to do?)…. Not to be distracted by their darkness. To run straight for the finish line, unswerving.” -Marcus Aurelius.

I had one of those moments the other day. Those existential crisis moments, laying in my bathtub, mostly submerged- escaping the clanking of my pipes and finding the questions deep in my mind.

I’d just read my tuition bill. For one online course, they wanted $750. It made me ask the hard stuff- like: why didn’t I just take this class in high school? Surely there’s another option… Do I need to pursue this? I’d probably be content without this pursuit, wouldn’t I? And this lead to the deeper questions of: What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life? And, Does any of this really matter?

We all need those moments every once in a while, right?

2016 came to a close and 2017 came in. My past year has been a year full of soul searching and following my gut instinct. 

Someone pointed out to me at one point this year that it seemed like I was running constantly away from home. I didn’t disagree- and for quite a while I definitely viewed it as trying desperately to get away from the familiar pattern here, the inescapables and the constants. Now, as 2016 ended, I have realized that there’s comfort and security in the same olds. The connections that don’t change, but grow with whatever distance or variances put into them. Evolution happens with adaptability, everything is a constant ebb and flow. You can’t control it, so let your soul ride the waves. Yes- I realize I sound like a hippy. 

Everywhere I followed my gut, I found some new revelation, a release and a epiphany and a development. My “second brain” as science now calls it took me first to a new apartment, on my own for the first time, all of 11 blocks from where I had been living. It lead me out of the cocoon I’d kept myself in all winter, and helped me to break free first of the comfort zone I’d gotten stuck in.

Then my gut and I fought a little as I had to go to Calgary for my second national exam, but we came back to an agreement when I flew to Virginia for the remainder of June. Virginia brought me tough conversations (over wine, of course), and new bonds. While basking in the humidity of the south I took my first breath free from the restrictions I was finally starting to see in my home life. I lived with the chronic pain of another and saw life from different eyes- I did yoga on the beach and I visited haunted houses. I searched for a MSc. that fit what I wanted, and then realized I had no idea what I really wanted academically. I hiked, and I visited some of the oldest places in America. I walked for 12hrs around DC and had a staring contest with Lincoln.

Then, I flew home. I came back a little more centered. I came home, feeling like I’d also left home. I came home, feeling like I needed to leave again. 

Shortly after Virginia, after a few hustled weeks of work at home, I few to California, to a conference that was screaming my name. My gut pushed for this, and I listened (my credit card and my gut are not the best of friends…..yet……). I filled my brain with new ideas and inspiration, I walked on the beach, and I did yoga on the coast with my Airbnb host. I took myself on the subway to Hollywood, did a 8hr hike in the desert (without enough electrolytes), stood on top of the Hollywood Sign, got mad heat stroke, wandered around hollywood very sweaty and dehydrated, went to a wax museum and found a ride home with a Winnipeg producer who was on the same bus tour as me (yes, I took a ride from a stranger.. no, I did not get kidnapped or murdered). I flew home full of inspiration, but with more questions sitting on the surface. The linear lifestyle and social constructs I’d been raised were breaking down, the more I listened to my gut instincts, the more choices and textbook philosophies started to not line up. Things took on different perspectives, emotions different light, and relationships different tunes. Everything was both beginning to not make sense, but make perfect sense. And so I came home and waited. I came home feeling like I needed to wait and see what was next, for the first time in a long time, instead of making something happen. I came home with patience. I came home to my exam results- I was officially a certified Athletic Therapist.

Shortly after returning from California I was presented with an opportunity that fit exactly what I was waiting for.

Nepal. Trekking through the Himalayas. Everest.

With 3weeks notice I took off to Nepal. There I found new appreciation for being with what is. It was what many may call an unintended spirit quest. I reached points of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that only opened and broke down barriers in my sub-conscious. I had necessary conversations with parts of my soul in my dreams every night. I delved so deep within that when I came home again I was serene. Tranquil. I had reached a point where this reality didn’t effect me anymore. It didn’t cause stress, nor did it influence my emotions. I had found my centre and it held strong. The mountain reflected what I needed to see and feel within myself. It flushed my whole being and left me raw, renewed. I came home solidified in my own being, and thus lost the need to be influenced by anything other then my own intuition.

The serenity and the tranquility that I found after wandering through the Himalayas, literally breathless, has never really left. Although it’s faded, it is there when I need it and I know exactly how to find it. The day to day ins and outs of being a twenty something, running a couple businesses, and figuring out life and what I want out of it and need to take from this reality are still there. However, the sense of meditative perception has taken over. The small things that can turn into big stressors have ceased to exist. There is, and there isn’t. People come and people go, as do emotions. The ability to sit and observe all these things, without judgement of whatever comes up inside me- that is the biggest lesson taken from 2016. I followed my soul wherever it wandered, and because of that I am so much closer, and comfortable within it.

A few months after Nepal I took a brief trip to Toronto for some meetings and had a spotlight put on a new path. Another mountain, perhaps, to reflect a new lesson to be learned. This new possibility has influenced many decisions made near the end of 2016, and lead to many of these existential moments where I float and let myself sink back to my soul centre. What is this life for, who do I want to be, and how do I want to accomplish that.

Purpose is something a lot of us struggle with. I’ve come to realize that finding your purpose can’t be forced. It’s not a series of actions you can complete to eventually come to a conclusion of “yes, this is what I’m meant to be doing”. It’s more of learning to trust your curiosities and your questions. It’s following your gut when it tells you yes or no or maybe. It’s biding your time and taking opportunities. It’s having patience and insane drive all at once. It’s not something you need to find, it’s something you have to let find you- and then not be afraid to let it take you someplace else. This life, this reality, is not linear- so why try and find a straight line?

The chapter of 2016 was absolutely riveting. As always, I do not know what’s in store for 2017- but I am greatly anticipating writing it!


 
 

“Sit with the pain; be with the pain” Hindsight Blog: The Descent

I jolted awake at 2am,at  5200masl, and noticed I had drooled blood all over my sweater (lululemon took a beating on this trek). Had my lip split? Was I coughing up blood in my sleep? Did I have a pulmonary edema as a result of altitude sickness?

With no other symptoms, my hypochondriac brain was mildly too tired to overreact and frankly well past caring- I let myself drift back off to the oxygen deprived sleep I’d come from. Living in the alternate reality of the Diamox dreams. What was I going to do about it anyway?

The rest of my group trekked to Kalapathar that day, starting at 4:30am. I was too sick and too tired to bother- knowing that the point of the hike was to see a panoramic sunrise view of the Everest range, and it was dead cloudy anyway. By the time they got back around 9am, I had only been awake for an hour, but seen the Everest range from the bathroom window. My body said no, and my mind followed suit. The stories of hallucination from my trekking mates were entertaining, but I was happy I continued hallucinating within my dreams that morning instead!


After breakfast that day we began our descent. Our head guide was very anxious to get us down to lower altitudes, as every single one of us was starting to suffer- including himself. I only remember pieces of this day, but I do recall this being where I really started feeling extremes of emotion and pain. Also where I began using the “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra in my head. Compassion for inner and outer struggles, compassion for the journey- “the jewel within the lotus”, the light in the dark, the blessing from the curse. Moving slowly down from over 5000 back to around 4000 was physically challenging in a whole new way. Descending was always difficult in that it’s hard impact on all your joints- but now, after 10 days of trekking, every joint was a little bit louder. And, descending we were- but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any hills to climb. We stopped briefly in Lombouche for lunch (4500), but most of us had lost all appetite. I think I fell asleep at the table for a while. Then we carried on down to a small tea house a few hours down. I am currently calling this place “Yak House” because A) I can’t remember most of this day, B) I misdated my journal and skipped this day, and C) it was where we saw our first yak on the way up.


We spent the night here, and it was here where we experienced the first bathrooms we refused to use (we being Lisa and I), and instead used one of the many surrounding boulders. I believe it was this day that I began listening to music for the first time while trekking. The first day I did this on the descent I couldn’t stop smiling. This was likely a combination of increased oxygen to my brain and a good playlist.

The next morning we carried on towards Tengboche. The hardest part of this day was the incline up to the monastery which was about 30-45min. Again, more oxygen and music kept me pumping all the way up. Before we joined a worship with the resident monks, we had a few hours off in which we got to each lunch and I TOOK MY FIRST SHOWER IN 7 DAYS!!!!!! Finally, I started to feel human again. I also had my first “steak” here- which was basically ground meat in the shape of a steak.. Regardless.. protein and iron.. two things I was definitely craving.


That afternoon we joined in on a worship in the monastery. Since it was a Saturday, they did a 2hr long meditation. This was very different from any meditation or worship I’ve experienced. Complete with chanting, horns, drums, and silences (usually ended with startling blares from the numerous horns). During the periods I was able to meditate I transitioned between flashbacks to a conflict I’d had a year or so prior to this, moments of pure calmness, and moments of unsettledness. Flashing back to memories of feeling isolated, alone, scared- but also calm. A conflict that had never really been resolved within myself or the other person within it. Then during periods of the loud music I saw colours.. red, yellow flashes. Warm, but chaotic. It was a very cyclical process, and I can’t say that I came out of it feeling peaceful or settled- rather quite the opposite.

We were now sitting at just over 3200masl, a much nicer altitude then what we’d become accustomed to. That night I dreamt I was being circled and chased by a darkness. It was always watching, always waiting to attack- completely out of my control. I woke up periodically shivering, even though it wasn’t cold.

Over the next few days I would learn that I was not the only one to experience that dream at that monastery.

The next morning I woke up with an anger I hadn’t ever experienced. I couldn’t spend any time in the guest house, and as soon as breakfast had ended I took myself outside to pace. I felt suffocated and a deep need to get away from everyone and the monastery.


As soon as the group started our descent to Namche that day, I had my ear phones in and didn’t talk to anyone for the next 3 hr trek. As much as some parts of this trek are hazy, the pure rage I felt this day is still clear as day. I don’t know where it came from, but I do understand it was something I probably needed to let go of. Since my return home there’s been some interesting revelations and emotional adjustments that I can only explain with the rage I felt on this day, and the calm I felt after letting it out.

We spent a few hours back in Namche, shopping and what not, before continuing our way down to our final tea house on the long trek. It was here I tried some Nepal home brew- which tasted like watered down Kool-Aid and Antifreeze (really, still confused about that). At this point everyone was a strong mix of unbelievably fatigued, but also so excited to be pretty much done. We had a celebration that night, complete with dancing.


The next day, the last trekking day, we returned to Lukla. This was our first day of constant rain, and our “waterproof” gear failed every test. So did the zippers on my backpack a few days prior. So, completely soaked and entirely empty- we landed at the tea house where we started it all. When my football coaches saw the picture of me below- they stated “holy sh** we’ve never seen you look that exhausted before…”. They knew me in University as an AT student. Everest you win!


That night Lisa and I taught the Australian in our group, Noah, how to line dance in a shady “Irish Pub” underneath a “Starbucks” in Lukla. The trekking was done, but the adventure was FAR from over!

“I can’t do this” (hindsight blog #2)

And so we left Pheriche and headed to Lombouche.

Within 20 min of trekking I was far behind the group.

I woke up with a worsening chest cold. While the views that morning were unbelievably, the air beautifully crisp- I felt like I was walking into quicksand with every step. The first hour or so of today’s short trek were on the flats- through small fresh glacial creeks, and on winding trails full of mountain shrubs and flowers. With the mist above and some sun peaking through. Even on these flats I was struggling to get enough air into my wheezing lungs.

We hiked through the flats, up and across a rushing glacial river (probably the sketchiest crossing yet), and then up and up to Lombouche which sits around 4900m. At about the 4700m mark I began experiencing the throbbing altitude headache many had already experienced on the trek. When I sat down in the lodge in Lombouche and had my vitals taken, my starting O2 levels sat at 56%. Luckily they rose to a comfortable 76% within the hour. That probably explained the headache.

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While the rest of the group did a 100m+ acclimatization hike that afternoon, I sat it out and fell asleep with my legs resting up a wall. I had finished the morning’s hike with a very sore chest, very swollen legs (besides the compression socks I was wearing), and numb feet. It was all I could do to stay somewhat lucid at this point. You think you’ve experienced full physical, and mental exhaustion- until you reach this point. Then you find a whole new level.

Reading through my journal entries at this point some of them don’t even form complete thought processes or sentences. I don’t remember much of anything above 5000masl. I remember exhaustion, I remember coughing, I remember everything being completely depleted, I remember losing all interest in the menu items available (white starch after white starch after white starch) and at one point realizing I hadn’t had any protein in days- ordering eggs- and immediately never wanting to see another fried egg ever again.

From Lombouche we continued up to Gorakschep (5180masl). Positive memories at this point are few and far between. I didn’t want to talk to anyone in my group, I came into the village about half hour behind the rest- back to my 5 steps at a time mentality but completely void of emotions. Somewhere around the 5000masl mark while trekking I started crying, and it felt like all emotions and cycling thought processes left me. Poured out of my heart like the glacial rivers we’d been following the whole 10 days. I cried behind my sunglasses as I became empty- and then I cried because I realized how badly I wanted to quit. The scenery, the mountains, THE mountain, the sherpas, the tourists, the monuments- I didn’t want to be in it anymore. I wanted to be done. The diamox dreams filled me with sadness and anger the night before- and I’d woken up sobbing two mornings in a row. Those altitude laden dreams were all related, all lucid, and all too real. They helped me resolve many things, and let go of emotional baggage- but boy could they be harsh.

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When we arrived at Gorakshep we had a lunch break and then continued to Base Camp. The goal. Before setting off, in our two hour break, I honestly contemplated throwing in the towel. It was 10:30am where I was, and 2am home in MB. I’d been connectionless for about 7 days, and decided to use some cell service to source out some motivation. Texting a few close friends and my mom- hoping someone would bring my mental game back into focus. Thankfully I received one text right away (“HOLY S***- You have to keep going!!!”) from a friend I knew would be awake. And some reverse psychology from my mother (“If you’re sick, you should stop- you can always go back again and finish later”) That was enough to get me going for another few hours (my brain knew enough at this point to know that I didn’t want to have to start this whole journey over again out of principle).

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We trudged along towards EBC (5350masl). Over the frozen, sandy lake bed and then over rock trails (literally- the actual trail had been washed out by that year’s monsoon and no longer really existed. In the picture above you can see one of our guides pointing at where we should place our feet on certain rocks. We got to the rocky plain that was base camp- took pictures- and I sat on a large boulder overlooking the glacier for a while. Literally with no thoughts. I just sat. I was empty. I’d made it- but at this point, I didn’t care. I was just happy to be sitting still and breathing.

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Next post I’ll begin reliving the descent- because believe me, this trek only was starting to get interesting!

“But is it homesickness, or just moving forward sickness” (the hindsight blogs #1)

Namche to Pheriche (3500m-4220m). I thought getting to Namche was hard on the second day. Then I became accustomed to a rhythm of swear words for the next few days as we climbed up to Pheriche, our next acclimatization stop. Within this few days we stopped in Phortse, a farming village nestled into the side of a “hill”. It was here we saw our first glimpses of the mountains at about 5am.

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Hiking to Pheriche we had our first mostly clear day, and since Dingboche (our original planned stop) was still closed for the monsoon season we took a detour to Pheriche where we witnessed the whole village collecting and drying grass for the winter season. I think this is where I started getting my first bouts of homesickness. At this point I’d been having vivid, enlightening dreams every single night (maybe due to the altitude and the diamox), and every morning was awaking to a new variation of an old emotion.

Pheriche was about 2 days away from base camp for us. We spent two nights in that village, and while I’d tried to maintain a solid regimen of my garlic soup daily- I began to absolutely never want to see garlic soup ever again here. So I switched to veggie soup with noodles, a brilliant, refreshing change…. and woke up to a chest infection the day we set out again towards the mountain. However at this point, I found myself recognizing some of the homesickness and straight up wifi withdrawal, with a dash of having to let emotions go one by one. I would discover this in the next couple days as the trek continued to absolutely kick my ass.

On our first morning in Pheriche we did an acclimatization hike to 4600masl. Well, I did 4600masl, the rest of my group went up to 4800masl. The guide decided I should just hang out around 4600masl and I wasn’t about to argue that. So we sat for about 40min overlooking a valley, Dingboche, and a monastery across the valley on an opposite “hill” while the group trekked up and then back to where we were. From here moving forwards I was heavily dosing myself with electrolytes, extra strength ibuprofen, and diamox to manage the altitude and the seven day mark of trekking 8-10hrs/day on minimal nutrition (#firstworldproblem). On average during the walking hours my heart rate was hovering between 160-190bpm.

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On our last night in Pheriche, the Sherpa woman who ran the teahouse stood in the centre of the room by the fireplace while we chatted and finished dinner, counting and saying prayers of gratitude over her mala beads. I couldn’t help but notice what a calm energy filled the room after she finished.

Just as I was getting comfortable at 4200masl, onwards and upwards we went. The hike from Pheriche to our next stop in Lombouche broke down a few more mental and emotional barriers for me.. but more on that later…

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