The Power of the Heart

heart-1381462_1920My friend E. suffers from Alzheimer’s.

I’ve been debating about writing about it for weeks, which in itself says a lot about the stigma that comes with this type of situation.

There is a lot that doesn’t get said, a lot that doesn’t get to be expressed and not just because the person with the disease can’t find the words anymore. That’s my experience and that’s all I am attempting to write about today. This is my perspective on what is happening and how, in spite of it, my friend never fails to touch my heart, to inspire me, to teach me something deeper than I could have expected and just leaves me breathless with the gift of the experience in light of such circumstances.

 

We knew something was wrong when she started repeating the same old, very old stories of her childhood and life journey. Why her brain would go down that path over and over was puzzling at first, then serious cause for concern, then seriously annoying. I know, it sounds awful and believe me, it came with a serious dose of guilt as well.

She’s been a friend for many years and a very dear friend at that. She’s one of my mentors, not so much by virtue of what she’s taught me out loud,  although she has done that too in some fashion, but much more in how she shows up in life – heart first and foremost. So because of that, I look for the gift in those stories. I wonder why she would choose these ones and not others. I thought maybe it said something about her, about what mattered to her, but as she once told me when I finally had the courage to ask if she had any idea the sheer amount of times she had told us those stories, maybe there was something in it for the ones listening over and over as well. To this day, which is why I will be given a chance to hear them again :), I have not found the answer to that. Somehow, I’m sure I will, once I get over whatever layer/filter is blocking my view.

 

She realized something wasn’t quite right when she couldn’t find the right words to express herself. When she was ready to talk about it, she called it “losing it a little bit” which was heartbreaking to hear.

As we grow from babies dependent on our mothers, gaining independence and empowerment day after day for most of our lives, it feels so strange to say the least to be losing what was gained, to feel like the river is flowing the other way now. Society and how most of us are taught to face it (or not) the cycle of life and death and the variety of forms it takes, in my part of the world, doesn’t prepare us to be at peace with the change in the current.

She has an amazing tendency to be grateful, cheerful, to look for the fun in most situations and to “drop into her heart” and look at the landscape and its inhabitants from there. This is how she overcomes language barriers, mood barriers – I’ve seen her shift people’s moods and demeanour in seconds with a genuine heartfelt smile on her face – and how she still manages to make me see light when skies are grey.

 

An example would be last night as we were on our weekly outing for coffee and conversation. Two young women walked toward us and wanted to ask us questions in regards to politics in this city or the country and were super nice about it. I tried to remain polite but honestly, felt protective of my friend and our time together, so I did mention at some point that they were interrupting our conversation.  Once I realized it was about politics, I quickly shut the door to a possible exchange by saying we knew nothing about it nor were we interested in it. But my friend, always wanting to speak from the heart, turned to them and genuinely thanked them anyway for coming over and asking us to be part of their survey. She was glad for the small interaction, glad to see people, happy to be seen and heard and considered a contributing member of society. These days such things mean a lot to her. I immediately felt ashamed for having answered on her behalf without asking, even though it came from a good place, but was it a productive place? Yes, my intention was loving, but I also robbed her of her power in that moment and that is what I am ashamed of. Her behaviour also reminded me that leading from an open heart instead of a protective stance feels so much better, whether you’re at the giving or receiving end of the exchange.

 

That’s one small example of the power of her heart.

I like to say that because of all the practice she’s had “dropping into her heart”, she’s better equipped than most to deal with her current circumstances. It brings her relief to hear that because she knows it to be true; she knows she can rely on that strength of hers. I am tempted to say “for now” but I truly don’t know what the future will bring and what form it will take. For now, I’m fine facing the present, embracing it even in all its uncertainty of the bridges that are still in her brain. I realize now more than ever that now is all we have and that what I can rely on is my intention to make those moments count, and our friendship, our bond, our love and our trust in each other that gives me the courage to go toward the unknown with her. What I get out of it on top of this precious, precious friendship is a chance to really touch the authenticity of vulnerability.

 

With love,

 

Val.

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Morning Anxiety

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I am an explorer of emotions. I go through them and like a lot of us don’t always perceive the “negative ones” as very productive at first. However, experience has shown me that it’s all about perception, so I look for the hidden gift in those emotions, the transformative power that lies there. Once I do find it, I use it and get on the other side…oh my, what a view!!! And then, I can’t wait to share it so that others may realize the exploration is such a worthwhile adventure.

Here is an example of me dealing with anxiety one morning. Yes, it happens. 🙂

I woke up and within seconds, feelings of fear and guilt started engulfing me. Having had success in the past with my breathing space technique, I started looking for something that would improve my breathing.

It’s not always the same. Some memories, images or sounds work for a while and then they are not as effective anymore. That’s a sign that we’re forever evolving which is good. Weeks ago it was that picture of the girl and the elephant. Now it’s not as effective, though it does bring me peace, but not the kind of relief that I was in need of. That morning I wanted reassurance, support and some sort of advice, so I focused on the source I believed it could come from and how I felt about it. It’s important to note that I have no doubt whatsoever about that help and support being there for me. I am fully aware that sometimes I am just not able to hear or feel it, so I am the obstacle. Nothing else is in my way.

I kept repeating the name of that source silently and each time I felt the connection in my heart. That is where it was. I didn’t “will” it there. This is where everything was happening. As I thought of the name, a kind of rhythm came into place with my breathing and at the end of the breath, I felt it getting deeper and longer. In that space, I had relief, so I kept repeating the process. I relaxed so much into it that I went back to sleep. When I awoke again, I did it again, over and over.

After a while, it was almost automatic….my breathing was deeper and longer and brought great peace and stability in my body. Then I tackled some of my fears and had clarity about them. Again, it was not a decision to then tackle them. Clarity just “rained” on them. That is what it felt like. I could see now how to go about either expressing them to the people involved or finding the positive side of how to express something in other cases. Either way, I could see more clearly and the emotion didn’t engulf me. My head was above water and I was more empowered.

 

So grateful for the beautiful guide that breathing is!

 

With love,

 

Val.

You can find me at www.thepowerofemotions.ca

Breathing Space

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When things get hectic, chaotic, out of balance, and even scary, I find what helps many of my life coaching clients is to provide them with tips on how to find breathing space.

Breath is first. It is life, it is the rhythm that is indicative of whether we’re in a good-feeling place or one that is challenging. It’s also automatic; we take it for granted. The engine keeps running and we have no reason to think about it as long as it’s running or keeps us running. Its fuel, which is air, is all around. It’s free and there’s an abundance of it everywhere we go, so really all the more reason for us not to give it much thought.

We will, however, pay attention to our breathing when we feel a difference in our bodies and even then, unless it’s painful to breathe, we don’t consider it as a solution to feeling better. It’s quite normal, really. We’re usually problem-solvers. Most of what we create comes from a place where something needs to be improved upon, a problem to be solved, so unless the problem is painful breathing, our attention is not drawn there.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say the problem is you’re under pressure at work. You see the source of the problem as being at work, outside of you. It’s quite logical to think that finding a way to affect that source, to change it, get rid of it, get away from it is the way to go.

The reason behind wanting to influence what you perceive to be the source of the problem – something or someone at work – is that you want to feel better and therefore breathe better even though again, most people usually don’t think in those terms because of how automatic that function is in our bodies. You don’t realize your breathing is affected by how pressured you feel at work in our example, but it is, and it is good news because it gives you leverage.

Here’s why.  How you want to feel (eg, better, happier, more relaxed, more enthusiastic, more energized, useful, appreciated, supported, safe etc.) – often translates into the optimum breathing experience for you.  It just so happens that the optimum breathing experience also opens the door to feeling better. Consequently, it is absolutely within your power to start by directly affecting your breathing in order to make space for more enthusiasm, appreciation, joy etc. So reversing the equation is the key.

To that end, I suggest meditating on the following questions and keeping the answers in some kind of treasure chest that will be most useful on “rainy days”:

What gives you breathing space?

What increases your breathing capacity?

What brings you relief and soothes you when you think of it?  Images? Memories? Certain kinds of music? Exercising? Playing? Dancing? Singing? Painting? Travelling?

What transports you into a world that only brings fun, joy and wonder?

 

It’s a lot easier and more effective to affect your mood by realizing what creates more breathing space inside of you than to try to change the world around you. The side effect of that is feeling empowered by the whole process. A wonderful bonus!:)

 

Val.

PS: the picture illustrating that article is one of my breathing spaces. Its impact on me is quite magical. It only takes minutes for the soothing effect to take place, for me to feel calmer, to breathe more deeply and fully, for joy to come back in, to feel that inside smile that makes everything brighter and that feels like home. Then I remember who I am, what is important to me and why. I connect to love, kindness and reverence and remember that we’re one. Once I’m there for a few minutes, inspiration blooms like a flower in the sun.

You can find me at www.thepowerofemotions.ca

The Abundance of Appreciation

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I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a half hour show on YouTube for the past three years called the Appreciationist. It’s changed how appreciation shows up into my life. Having to think of a Moment of Appreciation for the show every week has my brain focused on those moments, looking for them as if it were a treasure hunt. It’s fascinating, definitely an eye-opener, mind-opener and it just brings the most beautiful wonderful feelings week after week; first when I experience those moments, and then when I get to tell about them, which makes them bigger, more intense, more meaningful. They’re center stage now, the stars of the show, not just a moment lost among so many others in my week. They’re being honoured and my heart gets a lift each time.
Every week, I also choose creatively which one(s) will make it to the show as I love variety and hope that it’s fun for whoever is watching and participating to hear that appreciation shows up in unexpected places or circumstances.
This blog is the perfect place to feature some of those moments that somehow stuck with me in those past three years. So here we go!

 

Simple

It’s Sunday morning and I go to my local Italian bakery to get some chocolate buns or “chocolatines” and peach nectar for breakfast. I love how Sunday mornings feel. We’re all relaxed and taking it easy and definitely more slowly than during the week so the result is a great sense of quiet and a feeling of vacation due to the slower pace shared by the many. As much as I appreciate not having the same schedule as most which gives me amazing freedom, I am so very grateful for times when we all take a break together and therefore create a more serene environment.
So back at the bakery, they’ve been there forever and I’ve seen the family grow over the years. It’s nice to see the resemblance in the kids and grand-kids and how they work the business together. Warmth fills my heart when they recognize the familiar faces of the “regulars” that keep coming back for great food and a warm welcome. Human beings connecting, silently saying “I see you, I hear you, I recognize you and appreciate your presence here today”. Simple.

 

Presence

I’m a little down and call on a friend of mine who’s one of my best sounding boards. She needs to get out of the house from time to time so I offer to go and pick her up, come back to my place and chit chat over coffee, tea and goodies. Those are always precious times, full of fun and wisdom. We share, we explore, we learn, we laugh and all of this with a deep sense of appreciation because that’s what my friend brings along wherever she goes. She’s always looking for what she calls “adventures” so everything has the potential of being turned into some fun experience, an unexpected gift and that makes us treasure hunters!:)
After picking her up, I decide to stop for gas on the way to my house. As I’m outside, pumping gas into the car and looking at the sky and clouds, I realize that already, the world feels lighter, more welcoming and full of possibilities…..and we haven’t even started talking about anything yet. And then it hits me. Her presence alone is uplifting! She doesn’t need to say or do anything. Her presence alone changes the colours and textures of the world in my eyes now. That realization brings such a sense of joy, gratitude and quite a bit of awe I admit. Magic.
As a life coach, I often tell people that in a society hooked on action, we tend to forget that our presence alone in this world makes a difference, even if we don’t do or say anything. Who we are, what makes us unique, our qualities, passion or interests, what and who we love and why is enough. It is our beautiful contribution. We matter because we are, period.
So that day, to experience proof of that in all of its subtlety felt like a great big hug from the universe reminding me that love, kindness and inspiration are always just a thought away.

 

Nothing Special

After a couple of years of being on the Appreciationist, as I said earlier, moments of appreciation pop up all over the place pretty much every day. That’s how the brain works. Point it in that direction and it’ll scan every inch of your experience looking for just that, appreciation and more appreciation. However, once in a while, and that is what happened that day, nothing special comes to mind at the end of the day. Just before I fall asleep, I make it a point as often as possible to look for the high points of my experience of that day, meaning how I perceived the events. And that evening, nothing special came to mind, but instead of being bummed out by that, it was a wonderful surprise to realize that I was happy in spite of nothing special happening that day. I didn’t need the high points, the magic of finding appreciation in small or big moments, I was just as content with my day and that, in itself, was my moment of appreciation.

 

Val.

www.thepowerofemotions.ca 

Who you are

img_0876Value who you are; the unique kind of presence you bring to this world and how precious that is to its expansion.

Embrace who you are. Let yourself be the full you, back yourself up, be your own cheerleader, your own loving and supporting parent who believes in you beyond any measure because your blossoming and thriving is the whole point and is what benefits you and this world the most.

So weigh your decisions according to coherence with what rings your bells and what feels balanced.

That way, inspiration is what will propel you forward and it will be a thrilling ride!

 

Happy Wednesday!

 

Love,

 

Val.

Bliss

girl-797837_1920The first time I remember thinking about Bliss was watching my cat totally in love with life.  She was purring and smiling from under 4 layers of her favorite blanket as well as basking in the sun coming through the window, not to mention enjoying the warm air coming from the heater! Cats sure know what they love and how to completely revel in it.
She’s an inspiration. She definitely knows Bliss intimately.

Next time was a few months ago. I was in my living room, reading on the sofa. Simple enough. Sometimes, the simplest of moments are the sweetest.

I had soft jazz music playing in the background as I was reading a French book and the music playing was in English. So no interference with my reading, just a lovely soundtrack to the story making its way into my experience. I loved the story. It seemed a little “too easy” at first, but I quickly fell in love with the character. She had to come out of her comfort zone over and over again. I admired her courage, related to her reactions, emotions and of course, tasted every single one of her victories as she found her way in life, eventually realizing what it felt like to be true to herself. Kind of a cliche, an easy one (hence my earlier comment) that we’ve seen over and over in stories and especially movies, but who cares? It made me feel good. I felt I was spending time with a friend, cheering her on and I couldn’t wait for the happy ending. Well….you know, you want it and you don’t, because then that precious experience is over. So I kept a reasonable pace, one that allowed me to really appreciate such a perfect moment when all was still in my world except for the story.
I was so comfortable in my place, surrounded by things that I love; textures, colours, shapes, the harmony of it all, the flow of the energy in that space and then, the perfect music in the background, just completing the moment, giving it dimension and more deliciousness. Sweet moment of wonderful relaxation. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Gratitude engulfed me and the word Bliss came to mind again.

Then a few weeks ago, I came across the Pixar movie Inside Out. OMG as they say! 🙂
I’m a life coach, am all about emotions, teach that they are guidance and how to ride the ones that feel good…how to deal with the ones that don’t feel so good, how to always find ways to better explain what is going on and help people realize that everything is useful etc…This movie was absolutely perfect for me. It literally rang all of my bells!  That’s the only way I can describe how it felt to discover the fun of it, the beauty of it, the wonder of it, the brilliance of it and to top it all, the difference it would make in this world. I needed to share this so immediately posted about it on Facebook though I wasn’t even finished watching it. When you feel good, it just overflows, you can’t help sharing and giving. That happiness needs to come out and touch others. I love that about good feelings.:) I know, it’s sick; don’t hate me for it. :)))
So this was a different kind of Bliss; an intense experience, all in excitement and glee.

And then there was Nuit Blanche in Montreal. I went to the Broadway Cafe at the Segal Center for Performing Arts. What an experience!
Musicals do something to me and the word Broadway alone has magical powers. It’s hard to describe what that world represents and why it touches my heart in such a way. So about a year ago, a friend of mine mentioned the Broadway Cafe at the Segal Center in her blog and how she had found her people there. It was a powerful blog post to say the least that really inspired me. So for Nuit Blanche, I finally made it there. Fun, beautiful and moving are the words that come to mind but they fall short of what it really felt like.
The amount of talent in this city is just staggering and what impressed me was the fact that since those songs are from musicals, everyone got into character once they were in the spotlight and the message of their song ended up being carried by that emotion. That absolutely grabs my attention, pulls on my heart strings and brings forth my admiration. Then, there’s the crowd: absolutely incredible! Crazy fun, passionate, colourful and so encouraging and loving to whoever stood in front of that microphone that I could have cried on the spot in the face of such generosity and beautiful display of human qualities.

I didn’t want it to stop, I wasn’t tired, life was oh so good! All of it was food for my soul. I had entered that dimension where everything is beauty, joy and yes, BLISS.

Val.

 

calie bliss

 

The Generous Tree

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I met a tree today in Parc Maisonneuve.

I was taking a walk with a dear friend and we had been walking around for a while, talking and laughing and being silly as we often do when we’re together. We were entering a vast expanse of grass and there it was, so yellow and with branches so low they seem to be kissing the ground or doing a bit of a curtsy but especially… especially, I felt that tree was extending its branches to whomever was willing to receive its generous gift. It was a generous tree.

We were drawn to it. I wanted to give it a hug. I’ve often heard of people who do that but have very rarely done it myself as honestly, I don’t like bugs and that often takes precedence. The thought entered my mind for a second but I didn’t care enough and luckily at this time of year, none were to be found. I skipped to get closer and took one of its low branches into my arms. Anybody, regardless of their height, even a baby sitting on the ground could have done the same. This was everybody’s tree and anyone was welcome to its love.

As I was holding on to the branch, I felt like a kid again and wondered if I could bring my legs up like I used to and hang from it with my arms and legs. I did and looked at the world upside down for a few seconds….the thin yellow leaves against a very blue sky made for such a lovely picture. I felt blessed and my heart was light.  Oh, it felt wonderful! I also got dizzy but who cared?:)) I focused on its branch again and there I was, grounded again. Powerful force, yet so simple, so natural, such common sense. Common sense because there we were, hugging a tree, feeling a strong connection to it, loving it, being truly touched by that moment and we talked of how silly or too deep that might sound to some, but also how basic that was. Other cultures or our culture but in different times might actually find us silly NOT to revere a tree and feel its energy, force and generosity. We reflected on that a bit.

I wanted to climb it. As someone would set their foot on the trunk of an elephant willing to give you a lift on its back, I set my foot on its lowest branch, testing to make sure I wouldn’t break it. The rest was easy; every branch was at the right angle for my arms to reach and for me to settle into the V of some of its limbs. The view from there was beautiful, not because it was high, it sooo wasn’t :)) but because I felt as if I was one with the tree;  my hair like its leaves. As the wind blew, the tree gently rocked me and oh, that beautiful support and dance! I felt so welcome, like it was so happy we were visiting, keeping it company for a while. As my friend experienced it too, she was moved to tears.

I didn’t want to leave. We walked around, touching its branches, hugging them, talking about how fascinating it was to see life in one branch, from the very young smooth twigs to gradually more wrinkled and rugged bark. Some spots felt like little homes to me, like when you’re a child and you’re looking to build a tree house. Not that those spots were strong enough….but the feeling was there, the feeling of that space if that makes any sense.
The branch I had first hugged was just above my shoulder when I was on the ground, so I stayed there, holding it in my arms very loosely and getting the privilege of supporting it too, because when the wind blew, the tree very gently rested a bit of its weight on my shoulder. It was a very humbling experience of taking turns supporting each other. My turn to be moved to tears.

We walked to the trunk that had been split by either lightning or some crazy storm years ago and had caused it to get so close to the ground we guessed. Yet, the tree  had never given up and had trusted in its roots to go on living, grow more limbs and leaves and would now gently brush the grass or snow, season after season.
We eventually walked away in silence for a while. I was holding back tears. There were just no words.

I’d like to think that I’ll go and visit now and again, see it through the seasons and different weather, have a quiet moment with it and revel in its perfect balance of strength and grace. I am truly grateful and touched.

Val.