Coming Home: Deepening our sense of well-being within a turbulently changing world

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

By Andrea Winn and Elisa Paiva Neta

Nowadays the commute back home is more stressful than ever. People are afraid to take the bus, to get close to another person, to help someone. We are all afraid to bring home the COVID virus. This fear has been causing us to isolate ourselves appearing as depression, anxiety and more emotional and stress related illness. I, Elisa Paiva Neta, am Brazilian and live in Canada. My husband and I used to go back to Brazil every December to visit our family back home. Now just the thought of being on a plane for 10 hours scares me. On the plane everybody is breathing the same air.

The COVID era carries a heavy energy filled with fear. Now we do not feel safe anywhere, even in our homes. The simple act of going to the grocery store requires a lot of us emotionally, as we have to use a mask, be away from people and use hand sanitizer all the time. This situation is stressful to our whole being as we feel the reactions through our physical body as the result of our emotions. Our nervous system is deeply triggered.

Coming home used to be an act filled with happiness, relief, joy and gratitude. Now all those feelings are blocked by this stress response to COVID. I know of parents coming home and afraid to bring the virus to their kids. The playdates in person are being cancelled. The babies and toddlers are playing only with their parents and siblings. The bigger kids are on online playdates. The learning that the kids get from friendship and being around other kids are lost. Throughout those innocent playdates and times at the park, school and library kids learn to socialize. Nowadays we are forcing the kids to be online at an early age.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since I, Andrea, moved from Toronto to Halifax. I like Halifax, but I would not say it feels like home. As spiritual hippies, my parents moved frequently during my childhood, and I never developed a sense of home in any particular place. Between frequent moving and pervasive emotional dysfunction through my growing up years, I didn’t feel “located” or safe either within myself or outside myself.

For the last 30+ years I have done deep healing and self-locating work. This has better prepared me for riding the massive changes that came with COVID-19.

It’s been almost two decades, and I clearly remember the day I went an hour early for an appointment with a counsellor at the Toronto Rape Crisis Center. I went early intentionally. I wanted to figure out why I felt safe there. For an hour I journalled, frequently looking up and around me, and feeling my way into why I felt safe there. As I looked around, my eyes fell on a poster that said, “A woman’s place is every place.”

There has been generations of conditioning about where it is appropriate for us to be – whether we are a woman, a queer person, a non-binary person, a Black person, a member of First Nations, a disabled person, a mentally challenged person, and there are so many other marginalized groups of people. It’s defined for us when it is appropriate for us to speak, be angry (never), cough, sit with our legs relaxed and open, eat, pee, and the list goes on.

I would suggest that we have been so conditioned to living in a box, we easily forget where we belong. We forget that we belong in our body. We belong with ourselves and our loved ones. We belong in our life. We belong in our home, our city, our country, our world.

Having lost a sense of permission to be who we are, we can become attuned to danger and live in a fight-or-flight mode. An experience like COVID-19 has played right into that dynamic, further elevating the experience for those already living in that mode, and bringing masses of more people into daily fight-or-flight. This is the aroused sympathetic nervous system response that Elisa so eloquently described above. It is a mode of deep coping.

This is not a space where we can thrive. The space where we can thrive is when we feel reasonably safe: when we feel at home in our body, with the people around us, and in our life.

It is important to reestablish a sense of safety and feeling at home within ourselves and our life. Once we establish that sense of being “home,” we can then extend that to others – through the circles of our loved ones, our friends, our work colleagues, our neighbors, and ultimately as a citizen of our country and world. This is deep healing work!

Wise ones have suggested that our most fundamental spiritual need is seeking to reclaim connection. This world is our home. We belong here. We are needed, as fully embodied and emboldened people. Living in open-hearted and assertive ways, bringing abundant light to all those we touch.

This issue of the Dream Whisperer newsletter is dedicated to helping you “come home” and deepen your sense of well-being within turbulent world change. I hope you will use the blessing and prayer sheet that Elisa and I prepared for you in the newsletter, and let the month of July be your stake in the ground to establish home within your heart.

If you would like to receive the Dream Whisperer “Coming Home” prayer sheet, you can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

A new feminine leadership paradigm: Healing trauma though resilient hierarchy and mutually empowering relationships

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

I have always longed for deep and powerful leadership. A leader who creates a space of respect and empowerment for all. Where each member’s value is appreciated. Where the ebbs and flows within the community are seen with eyes of wisdom, and are handled with great skill. Where everyone feels they belong and are contributing a valuable part to the wholeness of community.

This month’s article is inspired by deep words from a Heal Your Heart Through Meditation community member. She brings up important issues, arising from her longing for a new leadership paradigm. Her words touched on my own longing. I propose this as the basic question arising from a longing shared by many:

How can we define a new leadership paradigm that is healthier than the male-dominated, hierarchical, top-down, oppressive, life-snuffing, inspiration-killing, and abuse-prone structured paradigm we’ve lived within for decades, and perhaps even centuries?

The quote below is shared with permission by our HYHTM community member. She engaged a deep insight process and emerged with the following pearl of longing:

Is it possible to create a program that is structured in a way that feels supportive, organic and developmental (which I think yours does [Heal Your Heart Through Meditation]) but at the same time, not fall into the male hierarchical structure that is top down and prone, I believe, to misuse and negative power imbalances?

I just wonder if the female inspired path can create something a little different. Structured but not too top down hierarchical, something like that?

I guess I know what I am seeking, and I am wondering if others would create it…and I certainly respect the time and effort it takes to create such programs so I believe women should empower each other to financially support each other as well etc…

I must first acknowledge some trepidation as I enter into responding to these thoughts. I just came out of a two-year healing retreat last Wednesday, and I have been reflecting intensively on these issues in light of my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. In fact, this was the topic of a counselling session I had last week with my now former counsellor, Leland Maerz. (We contracted to do six sessions together, and this session was the sixth.)

Leland is a strong justice advocate himself, in the domain of domestic violence. He said in our last session that he sees me as one of the greatest whistleblowers of our century because of the wisdom and skill with which I lead Buddhist Project Sunshine. I was surprised by his statement. I’m going to be transparent in saying I am currently grappling with my leadership style.

I am going to begin by teasing out two topics that I see embedded in this courageous community member’s statement. First, she speaks about meditation programs, such as Heal Your Heart Through Meditation. Second, I feel she is speaking about a more feminine style of leadership.

Topic 1: Meditation programs structured as supportive, organic and developmental

In terms of the first topic, I love what she says about having a meditation program that “feels supportive, organic and developmental.” Being transparent about my own experience, I grew up in the Shambhala cult with emotionally absent parents. This was a double whammy in my experience, and together these two facets severely impacting my childhood development.

The silver lining is it caused me to immerse myself in a steep learning curve in adult life to develop emotionally, relationally and my sense of identity.

I lived in Toronto for 19 years, and I worked with master healers, including top relational therapists, two indigenous shamans and the imminent energy psychologist, Dr. Joan Beattie. With strong mentorship, I did a lot of healing and development out of my state of childhood wounding, walking through great blazing healing initiations, and I formed a personal sense of identity and responsibility as a citizen of our world.

After this therapy and other healing, I did a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). In my degree I specialized in trauma healing, and applied each academic course to my journey of learning about developmental and relational healing.

Through all of this, I have grown a profound respect for each individual’s unique process of human development. Therefore I strive to create a space in Heal Your Heart Through Meditation that weaves together two aspects: (1) the space is palpably gentle and permissive, and (2) it evokes eustress (positive stress) through shepherding my courageous students to keep moving forward in their healing and meditation practice. My shamanic training informs how to create an organic process for this in Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

This describes how I create a healing/feeling/organic-growing space in the program. Let us now move to the second topic, the longing for a healthier and more feminine leadership style.

Topic 2: A new paradigm of feminine leadership

This is new and juicy terrain, and I feel it’s risky territory to enter. I am a woman who has taken incredible risks in the past, knowing risk is the doorway to creating new worlds. So let’s take this risk of this discussion together, shall we?

Part of managing my risk here is to invite you to participate in this dialog. We must include a diversity of perspectives to truly form a strong new paradigm.

My approach today is to put out some initial thoughts, which I will call “puzzle pieces,” that I am currently working with, and hopefully with some more pieces that *you* bring from your experience, we can create a more complete picture.

Puzzle piece 1: I hosted a series of community discussions in the Fall of 2020, and in one of those discussions we talked about the abuse of male leaders of spiritual communities. All of the women present at that discussion had gone through an experience of profound spiritual betrayal within such a community. There was a natural aversion and even repudiation of hierarchy amongst the participants of this discussion.

We first took time to acknowledge the betrayals, wounds and resulting caution from those experiences. Then I proposed we face the fact that some people train themselves deeply and have something to offer to others from that extensive training.

Do we regard those people simply as our equals? Do we honour them for what they worked to achieve and are now sharing with us? How do we properly relate with teachers who have developed something unique and valuable? How do we relate in a way that allows us to connect with them in positive ways and receive the gifts they are sharing with us? I don’t think that coming with a hard shell of defensiveness allows for the communication and honour needed to receive gifts from a master.

The conversation participants agreed.

In my own experience, I aspire to hold masters up with the honour they deserve. I recognize their gifts, as well as their work and sacrifice to serve as a teacher. I also know that we are all human, and if they behave badly, I will call it out to be addressed and give them an opportunity to grow.

Puzzle piece 2: In 2018 another treasured member of my community recommended a book to me, “Reinventing Organizations,” by Frederic Laloux. This is a powerful book in its analysis of different types of organizations, and the role that hierarchy plays in each type. Laloux proposes there has been an evolution through history of organizations, and the currently most evolved organization type he calls, “teal organizations”. It’s been a couple of years since I read this book, so I’m going purely on my memory – so forgive any mistakes, please!

In teal organizations there is a founder who establishes core values for the organization, and then through an organic process they transmit those core values in a way that people in the organization begin living them without a top down hierarchy. The founder steps back and serves as a coach, when asked by a team within the organization that feels they need support. If core values are getting lost, the founder will step in and reassert the values in an organic way that empowers members of the organization to step up and live the values.

I love the vision for the teal organization. I love that Laloux provides numerous examples of existing teal organizations, proving it can be a reality. I continue to explore how this might work with the communities I lead.

Puzzle piece 3: I have started a number of communities and organizations, and although I have tried to create collective leadership, it has always failed. For instance, with Buddhist Project Sunshine I first tried to gather women leaders who had been harmed within Shambhala to heal together and then lead the initiative together. Their response was to beg me to abandon my project, because they were afraid I would get hurt. If I had listened to them, none of the suppressed harm would ever have been exposed.

Mid-way in the project a collective circle was forming, and I thought we could be a group leading together. However, strange dynamics started happening where the men in the circle were shutting down the voices of women survivors and demanding all the attention. I formed this initiative to hold up the voices of survivors, and I found this behaviour was sucking the life force from the project. So I ended that circle and continued forward as the solo leader.

In a much simpler example, during my Christian journey I was hosting an Easter dinner for friends from the LGBT Catholic group I was part of. I did not invite one man who was a straight ally, because he was rather dissociated and often brought strange energy into the mix. A week or so before the dinner, we were all having brunch one morning after mass, and one of my invited guests suggested in front of the straight ally that I could always make room for another person at the table and invite the ally. I said no.

Now I felt really rotten about this, because it seemed uncharitable and un-christian of me. I felt so guilty, I brought it up with one of my professors at Regis, the Jesuit College where I was studying. To my surprise my professor complimented my decision. She said that if I had allowed the dissociated man to join, it would have been a very different space for everyone. In fact, I had done something good in protecting the space so that my guests would be able to be more open and vulnerable with each other.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I spoke with my counsellor about my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine, he said similar things about my decisions in Buddhist Project Sunshine. He said that what he saw is that I made difficult decisions to protect the life and vitality of the project, fully aware of the possible harm I might be doing to those who I excluded from the leadership circle.

All I can say is that I am passionate about protecting space so people can be vulnerable, heal and authentically pursue their spiritual path. And it really sucks when I need to step in and remove someone from leadership. However, in the end, the group feels safe, and that seems important. It seems important to strong leadership. I do my very, very, very best to minimize any hurt someone might feel when I remove them from leadership.

I believe we all have different and valuable gifts. Some people have strong leadership skills. Others have other valuable skills. If we try to make everyone exactly the same and form collective leadership, it can become watered down and wishy washy. This leadership will never lead profound and brilliant communities.

Puzzle piece 4: I experience myself being more clear and visionary than many people I lead. I feel alone in this, and I long to share leadership power.

I also know that an inherent aspect of my leadership is that I welcome everyone sharing the gifts they possess. I know that everyone has a valued place in community. Many community experiences are pioneering experiences. Since they are so new, it feels important to me to solicit input and wisdom from the community. (Like I am doing here, in asking you to contribute your thoughts on this subject.)

We are all human, and we all have our unique connection with wisdom. I value learning from other people’s perspectives and the hard won wisdom from their life experience. And what they have to say creates more wholeness for the community wisdom.

I first learned of the notion of mutually empowering relationships at least two decades ago, and since I first heard of it, this ideal has been dear to my heart. It comes from the feminist researchers connected with the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies at Wellesley College. You can read about their ideas in the book, “The Healing Connection: How Women Form Relationships in Therapy and in Life.”

There is enough on this one topic to warrant a book, and it goes beyond the scope of this article. The one thing I will highlight from their research is the idea of zest. These feminist researchers claim that one of the aspects of mutually empowering relationships is they have zest – they give all parties in the relationship a sense of zest for life. I feel this particular quality is important, especially in communities impacted by trauma. We all deserve to come out of the shadows of trauma and live relationships that fill us with zest!

For me as a hierarchical leader who invites high engagement from members, I experience zest in walking the “tight wire”: on one side actively encouraging participation, and on the others side when someone has fallen into a bad energy, addressing it if it is impacting the whole. Since I often find myself with the clarity to discern this, I find myself in a lonely place of holding the space, holding the higher perspective, and guiding communities forward into bright new spaces.

Puzzle piece 5: Accountability in hierarchy. Since I often find myself with a unique level of clarity, and at the same time holding inviting space for other’s contributions, I have been developing a new leadership paradigm which I am calling resilient hierarchy with mutually empowering relationships.

It’s not comfortable for me to say I am a hierarchical leader, because I long for the collective leadership vision that I spoke of at the beginning of Buddhist Project Sunshine.

In my last session with Leland I spoke about my discomfort with practicing hierarchical leadership, and he asked me how I, as leader, safeguard against causing harms. I told him that I strongly rely on my spiritual practice to help me stay grounded and coming from a perspective of compassion. I also practice very deep self-care and make sure I get into nature regularly.

I spoke to him about having “checks and balances”. I am constantly looking at myself and assessing, “Is what I am doing fair? Is it uplifting the situation? Is it empowering the people I’m working with?” I constantly evaluate myself. This close scrutiny comes from my having seen the impacts of abuse from leaders. It is very important to me to lead from a place of deep integrity. When I fall short in my integrity, I do deep debriefs with mentors and counsellors and ensure I learn the lessons there for me to safeguard against ever making those mistakes again.

I’ve laid out some puzzle pieces here that might be useful for a new leadership paradigm. I know I have much to learn from others, and I would love to hear your ideas for how we can create a new paradigm of feminine leadership. Please do share below, or respond further through my community needs survey . Your contribution will lead to a better understanding for what can be possible.

If you are interested in checking out Heal Your Heart Through Meditation, you can try a free 2-week trial, PLUS it is on sale in the month of May – you can get it for 50%.

Why must our inner child be included in trauma-informed meditation?

Photo by Jhon David on Unsplash

I am grateful for the engagement this past month in our community needs survey! A warm thank you to everyone who participated. 

The energy this month was directed towards wondering what trauma-informed meditation is and exploration of what can open up to blossom when we include our inner child in our meditation practice.

I will put the words of community members in bold and respond below to their words. Each of these people gave permission to include their words in this blog.

Needs survey question: Are you interested in trauma-informed meditation? If yes, please share more about your interest.

Yes. Not sure what it would look like. 

I was brought up in a Tibetan Buddhist community where profound meditation practices were explored with no awareness of or attention to trauma dynamics, boundaries or the inner child. The strong drive towards spiritual fulfillment coupled with active suppression of red flags regarding sexual misconduct proved fertile ground for gross spiritual betrayal and harm in my community. 

We’ve seen this dynamic in many spiritual traditions, including the well-known sexual exploitation in the Catholic church.

I would suggest this harm is made possible and perhaps even fostered by the combination of strong needs for spirituality at the expense of and suppression of other basic human needs.

When we start to talk about trauma-informed meditation, we are opening up a space for a wider spectrum of needs, needs for spirituality along with safety, autonomy, respect, being seen, being heard, and other emotional, relational and physical needs.

In the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation (HYHTM) program we include energy psychology to release trauma blocks within the body and emotions. We also listen for and work closely with our inner child. One of the greatest gifts of working with your inner child is s/he gives you access to knowing your quieter, more subtle needs. 

Gaining access to this subtle knowledge empowers you to then act and get your deeper needs met. This allows the practitioner to form a fuller and more robust meditation practice.

Another community member who has completed the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program wrote:

Intentionally embracing my inner child at the beginning of each meditation is helping me to connect with the vulnerability of feeling and connecting with chronic fear and slowly, gently transform this fear to a felt sense of safety and ease.

Many who have experienced trauma go through life with a hardened armour around their heart and around their feelings. It’s like a layer of shellack around those soft places, and it is created by speed – by quickly skirting around or jumping over anything threatening. 

Meditation in the HYHTM program offers a slowed down space to begin to *feel* again. We create a space of safety where even decades old fears can become less intimidating, and we can begin to see how to touch them, tend them, and move through them, as this community member so eloquently describes.

Another community member who is currently in the HYHTM program wrote:

Having a safe container – something I have felt intensely on 7 day silent retreats (I’ve never had the fortune of doing a longer one) – is really very important to me. So thank you so so much for encouraging me to create my own “shrine” and safe place AND to invite my inner child to come. 

Today she was very present in my meditation and so was the loving kindness and the tears, oh the tears! I saw her before me, all sweetness and purity, and I saw her journey of pain and pleasure and getting oh so lost, I saw it emanate and unfold from inside of her, I saw her journey to come, and I just loved her as a loving parent and I asked her to bring it all, and I held her in my heart chakra and it was very intense and now I feel a little shaky but it is ok and it is good and although it is not an easy process and one that needs deep and compassionate grounding, I believe in the alchemic power of the heart chakra that can integrate all things, through love and compassion.

Since I was brought up in a strong meditative tradition, I bring a robust firmness to the way I teach meditation. At the same time, I understand the kind of deep tenderness that is needed for healing trauma. I combine this firm strength and tenderness in my approach to guiding courageous students in the HYHTM program. 

In other communities, meditation learners are called students. I’d like to establish a different tradition in the HYHTM community and call learners, “courageous students”. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. The students of this program engage meditation with their hearts and they *are* very brave. Therefore, they are courageous students!

The HYHTM courageous students get one small exercise each day, so it is an easier load. The exercises are also part of a game, which allows for some lightness, play and fun. I feel this gentleness is necessary for any trauma healing.

At the same time, over the course of seven weeks, the courageous student creates a full, complete and rich meditation practice. Some courageous students have described this program as deceptively effective.

As courageous students grow their trust and tenderness within the careful and caring process of the program, they are enabled to establish a tender relationship with their inner child and have beautiful and heart-full breakthroughs like thie courageous student described above.

It may even be helpful to bring in the term “emotional literacy” here, which has been identified as critical to success in business and life. The quote above speaks to this courageous student’s growing knowledge of her emotional needs and flows; her emotional literacy is at a high level. Her words show how we need to start to talk about emotional literacy in meditation to deepen the possibilities of meditation for the modern Western world.

From my heart, I thank the community members who have stepped forward and engaged so beautifully this month. It is a true joy and pleasure to respond to you!

With all my love,


I’m hosting a special

Live Spring Energy Event

featuring Singer/Song writer Ben Black

Please join us!

Being able to feel love: Some personal reflections on Tango and our capacity for intimacy

Instructors Deborah Sclarduring (cq)(left) and Brian Dunn (cq)(right) smile while dancing during a class on Tango Dancing at PreEminence Hall in Boulder, Colorado June 16, 2007. (DAILY CAMERA/Mark Leffingwell)

The pandemic has taken a great toll on all of us. If we’re honest, the extended stress, physical distancing, and profound loss and grief have made it harder to *feel*. The most popular topic on last month’s community survey was, “being able to feel love”. This topic couldn’t have come at a better time!

As I reflected on the community’s topic, I thought back to my years in Toronto when I studied Argentinian Tango. It is a dance of feeling and of sharing love. In fact, Tango is so intimate, it was a challenge to find a photo that communicates the real spirit of this exquisite dance. I was pleased to find the one above.

Tango arose at a time when couples were separated because of work-related migration patterns. Even as lovers were apart, they still had human needs for closeness and intimacy. Tango arose as a safe and respectful way to have physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse, without it breaking your vow.

In addition, Tango developed in the context of men outnumbering women about five to one. This gave a man a big incentive to give his female dance partner a pleasurable experience so she would want to dance with him again, and not the other four men waiting to dance with her. Tango movements developed to make the woman feel good, which is a big reason why Tango can be such an intimate and lovely experience.

I want to make a note here and say that Tango is a very gender-fluid dance. When we refer to “man”, we really refer to the leader – the one proposing the movements. Many men dance tango with men especially when they are training, and women dance with women. It would be incorrect to refer to the woman as the follower, since the woman has the choice of whether or not to accept the leader’s proposed next move. She might not, and he’ll have to try something else.

So in Tango there are equal, yet different – complementary roles. Both require a high level of skill, and that is because the dance is not choreographed. The partners must engage in a present emotional intimacy to communicate through their bodies with each other. This means opening one’s heart to *feeling* the heart of your dance partner, so you can dance well together.

It includes awkwardness. It includes vulnerability. It includes taking risks. It includes making mis-steps. And it includes being willing to open your heart and feel platonic human love to work well together and enjoy the dance.

So how might we learn something from the beautiful experience of Argentinian Tango for feeling love during this pandemic?

First, let’s acknowledge the certain death of heart if we close ourselves off from authentically connecting with people. Don’t go there, please!

If we can’t physically touch others, we can still extend kindness. We can extend courtesy on public transit, whether that is making space for someone boarding, thanking the bus driver, or simply saying a kind good morning to another passenger. They may not respond, but at least you are sewing seeds of love into the world, and that’s going to open your heart to feeling more love.

We can also get creative and explore new ways to connect with friends, family and other loved ones. If you have been reduced to getting together on Zoom, then make your Zoom get together special! Here are some ideas to kick off your creativity:

  • Create a colorful and meaningful invitation and send it with a bit of flare. 
  • Set up as a festive tea/coffee date where each of you bring a special drink. Share your drink choices when you get on the call. Wow each other!
  • Make a cooking date where you decide a recipe you are going to cook, each buy the ingredients, open up your Zooms, and make the same dish together in your separate kitchens

Is it possible to be nurtured by a Zoom call? 

People attending my Zoom programs have remarked at how warm their hearts feel by the end of the program. Part of that is my leadership (as in Tango), where I set a tone of heart, kindness, and being very present and authentic with each other. They feel my care.

The equally important part is the willingness of the participants to step into that space of authenticity and share their wisdom and about what they need so we can attend to it. We co-create a space of warmth, care, wisdom and humanity that nourishes our spirits in these desolate pandemic times.

What I am proposing is that the spirit and heart that you sew into reaching out to people in your life can be meaningful. It doesn’t have to be a shallow email or a shallow Zoom call.

It can be a deeply heart-full email or Zoom call if you invest your feeling, your presence and your heart. 

Drawing on the Tango analogy… If you are willing to be present with your awkwardness and vulnerability, and hold space for your partner to be awkward and vulnerable, it makes it more real. If you sometimes take on the role of leading and proposing a “move,” then respectfully listen for how your partner receives it (ie, invite them to a festive Zoom tea). You can also respond with some grace and warmth when someone reaches out to you with a proposed “move” (ie, send a heart touching response to your loved one and add an emoji or two).

We truly create our experience, and even within a pandemic, we can dig a little deeper into how we love people. I invite you to explore how you can attend more deeply to your own heart and to the hearts of those around you this month so you are able to feel more love.

To support you in greasing your emotional intimacy wheels, I am offering a sale this month on Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

To join my community, click here.

A special treat for those who read to the bottom of the page… This short video demonstrates the qualities of Tango that I talk about in this article. Enjoy!

Gustavo Naveira y Giselle Anne en Salon Canning

Would you like to know the key to courage?

Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash

As we move as a world community through the crisis of the pandemic, one of the biggest hurdles to working together is the stark polarization among views. Many people have grabbed on to an extreme view (doesn’t matter which one for this discussion), and they are arguing for this view to their last breath.

Why such polarization? And why such fierce defending of extreme views?

I would suggest the root is fear. Fear is a highly contagious emotional state. Just watch a flock of birds or a herd of deer when one member is startled. The whole group goes into panic and flees. Are we witnessing episodes of this fear contagion globally during this pandemic?

Why else would some people swing to such extreme views? Why else would they be stubbornly unwilling to hear alternative views? And why is there so little discourse about the middle ground?

Many people are afraid and in their own emotional “lock down” mode. Is this a trauma response?

What can reach such locked down hearts? Many people are struggling intensely with loneliness, fear about money, fear for their loved ones, uncertainty about the future, fear of the unknown, anxiety about the world going in the wrong direction, and fear of being unable to cope or manage. Is there a pharmaceutical company that can produce a pill that addresses this kind of fear?

I would suggest, no. Sure, they might be able to provide a pill that numbs the heart, but so far as I know, no company has produced a “bravery” pill.

What if I told you that the single best remedy for anxiety costs nothing and is accessible anywhere and at any time

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, in our increasingly complicated world, I fear we have lost some of the basic and practical wisdom of our elders. I challenging us to pull back some of that basic wisdom to serve us as we enter into 2021.

What do you think? Can we just run fast enough to be able to outrun our fears? Can we take the fear and put it in a box – maybe a soundproof box? Or maybe pull out our sword and kill our fear? Could that bring us to a steadier, more confident and engaged place?

I don’t know about you, but these strategies never work for me. Instead, it is this simple act of courage that works unfailingly for me: I choose to be present with my fear. I slow down, sit down, and become familiar with it.

It is the pushing away of fear that gives it strength (and an unearthly scariness!). When I choose to slow my thought process down, tune into my heart, and actually feel what is going on in my heart, my fear gets acknowledged and it begins to soften and slow down too. It is very much like getting to know another person. Being curious. Being open and kind. Being patient. These behaviours work miracles with fear.

As most of you know, I was brought up in a Buddhist community where I was taught that meditation is the ultimate act of a bravery. Willingness to sit down quietly and be with my mind in a kind, caring and courageous way is the way to develop inner strength and fortitude. Rather than being run over by spinning fears, we can develop the strength to be steady and to walk the road ahead.

The Buddha called this the middle way, and I can’t help but wonder if his ancient wisdom may provide the guidance needed in these highly polarized times.

I am empowering my community to have the best year ever in 2021! I’m offering a free 2021 New Year’s Empowerment Series. Join me in initiating a well-balanced, inspired and fully empowered 2021!

And saving the best for last… see the exciting launch of the new gamified meditation course: Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

Why did women initially march against Trump and why might feminine wisdom be the cure for Trump madness?

Women’s March on Washington (Wikipedia)

I’m sure many, like me, are in awe of Donald Trump’s insolence and the curious support he has. How can a man clearly lose an election and yet still attempt to claw back reality and reinstate himself as President? Why are some of his supporters resorting to violence to be heard? Why do some still insist there was voter fraud, despite the confirmation of a valid vote?

Trump has long touted a mind-over-matter new age approach where you can do whatever you want to do, regardless of the impact on others. Operating in this way, his distorted beliefs have put the Earth’s health at even greater risk, put vulnerable people in the United States into even greater vulnerability, and divided U.S. citizens not only against each other but also against other nations through his use of scapegoating and bigotry.

How can his approach have appeal to many US citizens? Have they been in pain for such a long time that they will hold on to a saviour, even if he preaches darkness? Do they need scapegoats to hate so they don’t feel their own inner doubts and struggles? Have they been living in such pain that they will sell their soul for a ticket out of that pain? This is madness, and it will never lead to any falsely promised freedom nor happiness. Although it’s not a new phenomenon, for right now I’m naming this Trump madness. 

So how do we cure Trump madness?

I think back to when Trump was first elected. Women responded powerfully by organizing the Women’s March, a worldwide event the day after Trump was inaugurated. This was the largest single-day protest in US history! A fierce wisdom erupted within women in the US and around the world in response to a man with degrading values taking office in one of the most powerful leadership roles in the world.

Trump degrades women, he degrades vulnerability, and he degrades “the other” – anyone different from himself. I am so proud of women for standing up in such a powerful way, making their NO heard, and creating space for other caring voices to say NO to this President! It was important.

The say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you strong!

In many ways we were forced to grow strength to endure the last four years. Not an easy way to grow stronger! The metaphor that comes to mind is that of the prolonged pressure applied to coal that eventually turns it into diamond. Do you feel like a diamond now?

No doubt we need incredible strength now, combined with diamond clarity for making wise decisions.

We’ve got a mess in the U.S., and I appreciate the way Biden is prioritizing that clean up. His priorities feel sound. However, I am wondering how can we attend to the Trump madness – the dis-ease of the heart and mind that has spread to so many in the US? From personal stories people have been telling me, there are even Canadians who support Trump with his claims of election fraud and no need to wear masks.

Is the fierce feminine the answer?

I’m going back to that fierce, deep, caring, loving and loyal wisdom that erupted in response to Trump being inaugurated. I believe it is that wisdom of care that must be nurtured and emboldened now. Although I’m naming this “feminine wisdom,” everyone can have access to it. It has been practiced within restorative justice, mediation, the various healing arts and modalities, midwifery, herbalism, and countless other areas for centuries.

The key right now is to know how important this fierce wisdom is needed, and to illuminate it. Let us see it. Let us praise it. Let us kindle it. Let us be brave enough to act with care in our social circles and communities.

Feminine wisdom went underground, as it likely needed to given the circumstances. A community member who responded to my November survey gave me permission to quote her:

“I feel like I want to take off an old heavy coat that I’ve been wearing for years. It’s light brown, heavy,oversized ,crumpled,well worn,it’s a mans coat.i hide inside.i turn inwards pulling up the collar to shelter from the storm. I am hidden.”

I suspect many will relate with the visceral feeling of this woman’s well-expressed image of endurance within an oppressive, male-dominated environment. The word that leaps out to me is her desire – her desire to take off that old heavy coat. 

Desire can be the key to change

It is through honouring our desire that we can all make the journey out of oppression and into empowerment. It is a journey that sometimes requires patience and sometimes requires impatience. It can also require testing and finding allies, because growing our voice and courage often requires being seen and lifted up within strong and loyal relationships with others.

I bring this post to conclusion by saying: May the feminine wisdom within each of us rise up, stand proud, and speak her truth. Throw off your old heavy coat and allow yourself to be beautiful, because this world needs you! Now that the tide has turned and the window of opportunity has cracked open, let us all, through our diverse contributions, re-establish a culture of respect and care – one day at a time.

What small action can you take today to honour and/or unleash your feminine wisdom?

Want to explore more?

Join my upcoming free live Empowerment Event:

Ignite Your Feminine Power

Is “Stay safe” a dangerous thing to say?

Since the pandemic began, it seems the most popular thing people close their emails with is, “Stay safe”. Today I’m calling out the dangerous underbelly of that message.

When people tell me to “stay safe”, I know they are not intentionally wishing harm. I suspect, however, they have not thought about the underlying message they are communicating. 

Here is what I hear: “Behave in ways that protect your safety.” “Organize your life in ways to ensure you are safe.” I have a vision of putting on a thick jacket and me wrapping my arms tightly around myself, huddled inward to weather the storm. It is an inward focused, defensive posture.

These words bring to mind the notion of gated communities (also called walled communities).  These are communities with strictly enforced exclusion of non-residents or unauthorized visitors, often in the form of physical walls with security entry points. They are supposed to offer a controlled environment that protects residents from crime. However, statistically people living in gated communities experience just as much crime as those in normal communities.

I think the reason I’ve been feeling a rub every time someone sends me the “stay safe” message is because I was brought up in a community that actively taught the value of courage, and if ever there was a time for courage, it is now. I learned courage through the feeling imprinted into my physical body in meditation practice: sitting with a strong, upright back and a soft, open chest. This posture embodies both dignity and vulnerability, strength and kindness. From a lifetime of exploring this posture, I have come to believe it is an ideal way to train ourselves for living a good life, no matter what the external circumstances.

There is perhaps a natural reflexive response to the pandemic that encourages “huddling in” to weather the storm. However, we are unable to have much vision when we are looking down, with our head enveloped in a fur-lined hood for protection. Our decisions and activities are likely to lean towards reacting to things, rather than taking in the full scope of choices and making proactive decisions.

So rather than “staying safe,” I’m suggesting we raise our body upright with dignity, feel the softness and vulnerability of our humanity, take a steady gaze toward the horizon and from here, we can best navigate through the pandemic. Rather than “weathering the storm”, we could use the multi-faceted challenges of this situation to grow as human beings, develop new skills, and dig deeper into our potential for compassion and grow our connections and community.

Perhaps we could close our emails with, “Let’s meet today’s challenges well and always remember our hearts!”

As part of my own vulnerable process of digging deeper, I’m writing 12 of these monthly newsletters to respond to the needs identified in our monthly community needs survey (the link is in this month’s newsletter email). The top need identified in last month’s survey was, “Overcoming internal barriers to accepting love and help”. 

This need is directly related to the “Stay safe” discussion above. Whether we put up walls in response to the pandemic or to past trauma, those walls not only keep out “the bad”, they keep the good out too. It is understandable as a first response to trauma that we need to go into “lock down” mode, to stabilize and ensure a basic level of safety. However, it is unhealthy to continue in that walled-in way long term.

We need connection and flow with the outside world. Circulation is a sign of health. We see this on the level of our physical body and its circulation of blood. We also see it in the world in our exchanges in conversations, relationships and even financial exchanges.

So how can we come out of lockdown mode after a traumatic experience, so we are able to accept love and help? Trauma healing wisdom tells us that we can build trust by taking calculated risks. Calculated risks are in contrast to blind leaps of faith. A calculated risk involves assessing if the person we are taking the risk with has shown themselves to be reasonably stable and emotionally available. We can explore taking a small step beyond our previous zone of safety. The advice is a small step so we are not devastated if it does not work out. We can also let the person know that we are experimenting with trust, so they can be more attuned to our vulnerability. These are ways to experiment with building trust and intelligently begin to take down our walls to build healthy intimacy. 

And if one experiment does not work out and we get hurt, it does not need to be the end of building our capacity to learn trust. Building our capacity to be more open and trust is built over a number of experiments. As we build more and more positive experiences of vulnerability, we build our capacity to ask for and receive love and help.

I hope there is something useful here for you or someone you know. I’ve decided to hold another community healing Zoom this month – on November 11th. 

The topic for this month’s Community Healing Zoom is

Healthy boundaries: Increasing our capacity for intimacy

If you would like to join us, sign up here

Dialog is one of the most enriching way to create new ways of responding to the pandemic and creating vibrant lives. I welcome you posting your thoughts on this blog below and look forward to hearing from you!

“If we can feel love, we surely would feel safe”

Photo by Jenny Godwin used with permission. Jenny says, “The sweet little bird on the be kind barricade is a tanager, one of my favorites. It demarcated the edge of an outdoor dining/street closure area in Salida, CO.”

Is COVID the time of Great Healing? Healing of heart. Healing of mind. Mending our ways of being in the world. For love to be rediscovered – recovered – brought forth to shine. Let us take a few quiet moments together now and explore.

Love requires tenderness. Tenderness requires vulnerability. People who feel they are under attack, whether by past trauma or current challenges like COVID, may find it difficult to face feeling vulnerable.

A community member responded to last month’s topic survey and gave me permission to share their observation, “Being able to feel love this jumped out. If we can feel love we surely would feel safe.” Dear community member, you suggest that by feeling love we will feel safe, and I agree with you. We also need to feel safe to be able to feel love. So what comes first?

I’m wondering… If (1) feeling unsafe and (2) unable to feel love are in deadlock for some of us, how might we create new circuitry within our heart that allows for both safety and love? Such new pathways within and around our heart could allow feelings of safety and love to grow stronger enabling us to live a more stable and abundant life. A kinder life towards ourself and others.

If we go with my metaphor of circuitry… We know that working with electricity must be done with care, or we can be shocked by the current. Similarly, when we are dealing with unresolved trauma, it can suddenly turn explosive, seemingly without warning. The experience can be shocking, and this can lead to feeling “unsafe to go there” — for both a survivor and people around them.

In my view, a good place to begin is with slowing down. It is worth taking our time and understanding how we can work with one wire for safety and one wire for love. Before mixing them, we could turn on safety for a bit, then turn that current off. And then turn on love and feel it for a bit, and then turn it off. We could alternate in the beginning and become more accustomed to the *feeling* of safety and the *feeling* of love. Both may be somewhat unfamiliar for someone recovering from trauma, and it can be wise to begin with small doses and gradually build a greater ability to *feel*. 

When we originally experience trauma, we may shut down much or all of our capacity to feel. This is a common response to trauma – it is a safe guard. A safety fuse, if we continue with the electricity metaphor. It is wise and protects life. It is, however, not fulfilling to live the rest of our life in a shut down state. When we cannot feel, we are missing out on the nourishment of feelings, and most importantly, feeling love.

What might it look like to begin feeling some safety, and then feeling some love, in order to create new Heart Circuitry? I’m going to put myself on the spot and do a little exploration right now of what this can look like for me.

What I have found in my own experience is that taking an hour offline – literally turning my wifi off and putting my phone in airplane mode – can allow me to have some quiet time to myself. I am able to hear my inner world – my inner longings, needs and frivolous thoughts – without the bombardment of outside input. Disengaging in this way helps me develop a loving relationship with myself, and this gives me more grounding and safety. Otherwise I’m living my life coping in overwhelm, and I’m not able to *feel* in that space.

But being alone all the time would be rather hollow. So after my alone time, right now, I am exercising my love muscle. Note: I do not overstate this by using the word, “exercise”. As a survivor of deep trauma, I have to work hard and diligently to develop my love muscle. Breathing into my heart right now, I am experiencing expansiveness that I cannot feel when I am in a narrow defensive place of seeking safety. Actually, it is nourishing to my spirit to take this moment right now and remember how deeply I appreciate my community. You have been very kind to me. I have been kind to you. Remembering how we have grown this connection together helps me feel love (and gratitude!).

I believe in co-creating new understandings, and I believe this is necessary within current-day challenges. I have shared some of my thoughts here. I welcome your responses below. I am also hosting a live community healing Zoom call this month, Rediscovering nurture within community. Just click the link to register. You are welcome to join me so we can speak with each other face-to-face, and grow our understanding of “feeling love and feeling safe” further.

My heart is open to this dialog on being able to feel love, even though it is a bit scary for me. This seems like a worthwhile reason to have a few drops of courage and open the discussion further with you here, and in our Zoom call this month.

These are just a few humble thoughts that I put forward to begin our conversation. I want to thank the community members who voted for this topic on love last month, and for the quote that I was given permission to share about feeling love helping us to feel safe. I bow to my community’s wisdom and our growth together.

Loving Kindness and the Power of Going Slowly

It is a powerful decision when we choose to love ourself

Loving Kindness…

One thing we lack in Western culture is valuing loving ourself. In fact, in many ways we are taught that we are being selfish or self-centered if we take care of ourselves.

This has led to a culture of people who feel stretched, pressured, run down, and stressed. Many people turn to outside sources of comfort, such as over eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, and watching too much TV. We are trying to feed a basic human need for love, warmth and kindness with these external “comforts”, but they don’t meet the underlying need for self-connection, self-commitment, and basic kindness towards ourself.

It is a powerful decision when we choose to love ourself. It is about changing our allegiance, and that change will have a rippling effect through all areas of our life – our relationships at home and at work, our health, and our financial stability.

Loving ourself is not about being selfish. It is about caring for home base so that we can be more generous with others – more loving and more giving towards others.

Thrangu Rinpoche said, ‘Go slowly’

Every once in a while Life sneaks up behind us and gives us a mind blowing gift. I received just such a gift in mid-September when I found myself in a personal interview with Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the last living Tibetan Buddhist masters originally from Tibet. The only way I can describe the experience is it was like getting to talk 1-on-1 with Yoda.

I ask Rinpoche how I can explore the gifts within me to be able to bring them out to help people. He said, “Sorry. Have to go to the washroom.”

No problem. I waited, and he returned.

I asked him again, and he said, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

I asked him, “Do you know someone who can help me?”

He said, “Sorry, no.”

Then… when my mind was ripe and ready to receive… he gave me my answer. He said, “Go slowly”

Since that meeting I have been reorganizing my life to slow down.

One thing I’d like you to know is that I have decided to slow down with my programming. I’ve decided  to space things out more, and give it all more time. The Meditation & Loving Kindness Challenge is starting November 1st, and I’m pushing out the LOVE Breakthrough Program to February 2016.

This will be healthier for me, and I hope it will be healthier for you too. I welcome your feedback below!


There is nothing more precious than this space of home

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Soft winter breeze
brings me present
to the beauty
amidst the bustle.

Why is it so easy to get lost?
Or better,
How can I open to more of these moments?

What causes moments of presence?
Of remembering to be


I sit in meditation
To come home to my heart
To ease the inner hub bub.
There is nothing more precious
than this space of home.

When I am present with my heart
I feel more joy
I can feel the pain of others –
            And act from compassion
I can be more welcoming
And I can be more fun!

There is nothing more precious
than this space of home.

May you receive this gift
of delight:

            To be home within your heart
            this holiday season!


December 17, 2012
Andrea M. Winn

Lift up your heart!

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

December is an incredibly busy time – when we are putting on that last crunch to finish the year, plus on top of that getting ready for the holiday season.

What is the antidote to this madness?

At times the antidote is … to lift up your heart!

Physically opening up your chest and pressing your heart up and out, and experience yourself leaning into the joy of all this activity. There is much to be thank-full for, and we can take a moment to pause each and every day to reflect on this. This moment inspires us to naturally lift up our heart and welcome the joy life is offering us at this special time of year.

I warmly invite you to come out for the December dream whisperer teleseminar to take an hour to relax in a lake of gentle being-ness. I will lead you in an experience of simply being present. Then I will guide you in a process to harvest the wonderful and important gems of your year’s activities.

Register now



Creating a moment of peace for the weary heart

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Do you feel weary? Perhaps weary to the bone even? It is natural to feel that way as we approach the end of the year. And especially this year – 2012. Many predicted this would be a year of profound transformation, and 2012 has not left us disappointed!

But perhaps at times confused and weary.

That is why it is important now to allow ourselves the time to breathe and be present with all that we accomplished in this big, big year.

Having put so much energy into our dreams and mega-transforming, it is time to complete our efforts and let go with joy. Begin to allow space for the gems of your efforts to descend into your waiting heart.

This time of harvest is crucial to our morale and sense of well-being!

All growth and change requires times of activity and times of stillness, two energies that feed each other in the dynamic of healthy evolution. Think about the importance of allowing a field to lay fallow from time to time, for the earth to rest, to heal, to restore. Then the next year it will produce more beautiful and nourishing crops!

It is the same with us – after abundant activity, we need time to simply be.

Our society does not teach us how to let go and “lay fallow”. Our society is about do, do, do – at times it seems compulsive! We can see when all the “doing” strays into being a dysfunctional trap that hinders our evolution and growth.

Here’s the good news: It is never to late to learn (or re-learn) how to let go and be.

The December dream whisperer teleseminar, Complete 2012 With Grace and Dignity, will be your ticket to transition into harvest. I will lead you in an experience of being, and together we will harvest the wonderful gems of our year’s activities.

Register now

And may your heart become aware of the wide open space for this transition.


Dating and the art of giving ourselves permission

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

I’m taking a risk and sharing something personal with you this week. I started dating early this Fall ~ an adventure that demands great courage! I am blessed in my circle of friends, and it includes a dating coach. Yes… someone who is an expert in the art of dating!

Amy has been giving me excellent tips and strategies for about 6 months, as I’ve been preparing for this leap into the dating world. Like, allow a week in between dates so your body’s hormones can settle down and you have time to process your experience.

Another strong guidelines she gives is to date several people so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket too soon. I suppose this is like interviewing several candidates for a position – it leads to a better hire.

Well, I started off as an enthusiastic coachee. I was pursuing three dating candidates. Candidate 1 was delightful! Candidate 2 never responded to my invitation to tea. And Candidate 3 had too much going on and wasn’t available for further dating. Other people in my life know Candidate 1, and they kept telling me how sweet and amazing she is. Each time I saw her I grew more impressed with her presence, communication skills and playful grace.

I didn’t want to date other people! I wanted to explore this wonderful opportunity with Candidate 1! My coach raised a flag of concern, that this was a common tendency people have – to narrow their choices way too soon. I had a lot of transition happening in my life, and so she suggested I take a 2-month break from dating to allow myself to grow to a stronger place. She concluded that meeting by saying: Ultimately you need to follow your own truth.

I am very committed to attracting a good relationship. I know Amy has been a dating coach for years, and she’s good at it. I thought I’d better follow her expert advice and put my dating adventure on hold.

I went into a mini-depression. Doing the “right”, “smart”, “practical” thing felt like a prison. I wanted to pursue my joy in a way that felt honouring of me and honouring of Candidate 1.

So… I went rogue! I decided to date only Candidate 1. If it turns out we’re not a good match, then I will return to the field of candidates. After three weeks, this decision is still feeling good – very good. And I continue to use most of Amy’s strategies, because they support good pacing within the intense experience of dating.

I’m baring my tender heart in sharing this story because maybe you are doing the “right”, “smart”, “practical” thing in your life – doing what the leading experts inside and outside your head are suggesting.

What can I say? It is a blessing when we open the space for permission to explore something different ~ what feels right ~ allowing our truth to flow through.

That is the topic for this month’s free Abundance teleseminar: Opening the Space for Permission. I would love for you to join us for this heart-full transformative event Wednesday evening. As always, the recording will be available for those who can’t make the live event – just be sure to register to get that recording.

And if you are interested in developing your own strong dating strategies, Amy and I are teaming up to offer some exciting programming on dating in the new year. So stay tuned…


What is the key to mastery? Connection.

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Insoo Kim Berg

Insoo Kim Berg, Founder of solution-focused therapy

One of my idols, Insoo Kim Berg once said,

“If you wanna go fast, go slow.”

Is this a Zen koan? What is she getting at?

If I think about a professional race car driver, she has spent hours upon hours training. She’s probably had boring days where nothing worked. She’s probably had emotional meltdowns where she flipped out at her trainer. And she’s probably had some bad crashes. What I’m getting at is that she had to develop her skill inch by inch, day by day, through all kinds of weather until she embodied mastery.

Imagine that commitment. The stamina. The willingness to find a way through her fears, the doubts of those around her, all of the bone-crushing hardships along the way.

Where does that kind of stamina come from? I would suggest from her connection with herself.

That kind of connection can only come through slowing down and being present with yourself. I teach people to do this through meditation. Others propose spending time in a hammock. The key is to regularly take time out from your busy, demanding life and connect with the beauty within you – your living, creative, dreaming inner being.


Times Change

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Eleanor Roosevelt  said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Many of us have become jaded by the “realities” of life, and we have forgotten how to open our hearts and to dream. We have forgotten how to share the best of ourselves and perhaps most tragic, we have forgotten that we can make a positive difference in the lives of actual people.

I’m a dream whisperer, and my career as a dream whisperer began at Times Change Women’s Employment Service. Times Change offers career and educational counselling, a wide range of computer services and a comprehensive resource centre, all free of charge to women seeking employment. I’m going to share about how they gave me the gift of dreaming and how to operationalize my dream.

Before Times Change

I had a non-traditional upbringing in a Tibetan Buddhist community. The main value I was socialized with was to relieve suffering in the world.

When I was 21, I felt I needed to get serious and decide a career path. At the same time, I had just gone through some pretty traumatic life experiences. My parents divorced and I was raped by a stranger. These experiences were overwhelming, and I felt no space to dream or explore my special gifts. So I chose a safe career, which in the 1980’s was software development.

After completing a Masters of Computer Science, I easily got a job in IBM’s Toronto Software Development Lab as a Software Developer. I had a stellar first year at IBM and was nominated for Rookie of the Year.

However, after my first year, things began to unravel. I valued good communication and relieving suffering in the world, and this was a poor match for IBM’s strong corporate values. I grew unhappy and spiraled into a depression. My doctor took me off work and I went on long-term disability for a couple of years. During that time I participated in a lot of individual and group therapy, and I also took training in mediation and business.

Things were really tough during this period of time. I was psychologically fragmented and I had little money – at one point I couldn’t afford to buy food or pay my rent, and I had to move in with a friend.

Coming to Times Change

When I was starting to rise up out of the depression, the same friend  I had moved in with suggested I go to Times Change Women’s Employment Service. Since they are funded, I was able to access their services at no charge.

Up until then I had been struggling deeply and I was alone in that struggle. Times Change was an island of sanity for me at a very, very challenging time. The culture there is kind, encouraging and supportive. I no longer felt alone, but rather a part of a caring, wise women’s community where I received a much-needed professional career service.

I enrolled in the Career Planning course and got individual employment counseling. The career planning course is a well-thought out course – the curriculum carefully supports a journey of self-discovery – specifically tailored to women. It gave me the space to look at what is important to me – my values – and what kind of employment would resonate with me.

Through the Career Planning course I uncovered hidden resources that went untapped in my career as a software developer. Two important resources were:

  1. I am a capable spiritual guide – I grew up in a Tibetan Buddhist community and have a lifetime of experience in advanced meditation practices.
  2. My passion to be a healer – having gone through my own healing journey, I have highly developed intuition and a powerful toolkit of healing strategies

After much research and wrestling in the Career Planning course, I decided to become a therapist. My friends immediately loved my decision and said it suited my personality so much better than working at IBM!

Where the Times Change program has led me…

I went on to do a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology at OISE/UT  specializing in treating trauma. I have also done extensive business training.

I bring my healing and business expertise into my current work as a dream whisperer. I coach soul-inspired, heart-centered women who are struggling in unfulfilling work. I have developed a Dream Employment Discovery Method where I guide women through healing their hearts, identifying their career dreams and goals, and then creating a step-by-step plan for focused action to bring those career dreams and goals into reality.


Times Change was crucial to my journey. It was through their Career Planning course that I finally opened to becoming a healer and guide to relieve suffering in the world. This empowers people so they can be healthy contributing citizens. It obviously suits me and it is my biggest way of contributing to society.

In preparing this story I wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t found Times Change, and I was a bit stumped. I think I would have continued making limited, safety-oriented career decisions that would have kept me in unfulfilling work and I never would have brought my unique gifts for helping people forward.

Thanks to Times Change, I was given the gift of creating my dream career, and now I make my livelihood helping others create their dream careers. To read more about Times Change and to donate to this important community organization, go to


I have a dream

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

View from the Lincoln Memorial toward the Washington Monument on August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King Jr. enflamed the hearts of over 200,000 people with his I Have a Dream Speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. He powerfully proclaimed his dream of racial equality and an end to discrimination.

Listen to 30 seconds of his speech now

Less than 50 years after King’s powerful moment of dreaming, the world has witnessed the election of Barack Obama, a man who was judged not by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.

Wow! The power of a dream!

A dream starts out as a fragile thing. Something that needs nurture. Something that needs protection.

There are forces of darkness that want to snuff out dreams, keep things the way they are, and hide the rich beauty of our living, beating human heart in some cold, dark cave. We see countless examples of dream snuffings. Including the assassination of great dreamers like King.

But you know, the most insidious attack comes from within – those voices within us that say, “You could never do that”, “It’s just not right for someone like you to do that – only important people can do that!”, “only rich, slim, beautiful people can do that!,” or the worst one… “That’s a stupid idea!”

Let me share a secret with you. Whenever you get that last message resounding through your head, WAKE UP! Because that is a sure sign that you are onto something good! You better grab that dream with both hands and wrap your heart around it. Whatever that little whisper was about, it has shaken up the forces of sleep that just want everything to stay the same – the same ol’ comfortable dark way.

And how do you manifest a dream? How do you nurture it? How do you grow it? It is like bringing a child into this world. You need to love it, and you need to attend to it in different ways at different times, as it’s development calls for.

People have told me they’ve read hundreds of self-help books, but they have not made the changes they want to make – they don’t know how to *be* the person they want to be or live the kind of life they want to live.

I’m offering to be a guiding light for you in this. I have received a calling from God to be a light of creative love and wisdom to help people like you. Let’s be clear — I’m still fully in the ballgame of lifelong learning. What empowers me as your guide is my lifelong commitment to developing dream-manifestation techniques and the core primal ability to do so. I’d like to share my wisdom and my inspiration with you in ways that will incite your own dreaming and dream manifestation.

Dream manifestation is not done by a magic incantation or snap of the fingers… or the right anti-aging cream, like many of today’s advertisers suggest. You *will* need to develop yourself through spiritual discipline. It requires work and courage.

But it can also be fun! A lot of fun!

And it can be a whole lot easier and faster with a guide. I bumbled around for 30 years figuring out what I have figured out through my practice of Buddhism, studying with a shaman, going to therapists, taking courses, reading books, and learning in the school of life. My experience could have been *way* more enjoyable, easier and faster with a skilled dream mentor. This is part of what has motivated me to step up and develop myself as that kind of mentor.

I’m in process, and I invite you to be in process with me and enter the magic of transformation. The *real* kind of magic! A magic based on spiritual connection and practical strategies. I am very inspired to lead you in this!

I feel that this first communication to you in 2012 is very important. So I decided to bring in the power of Martin Luther King’s dreaming, some practical advice about dreaming, and… perhaps best of all… I have decided to share with you my experience of forming and manifesting a dream. So please come along for the ride, and receive this gift from my dreaming heart to yours.

I had a truly kick ass experience working with the company I hired to develop my website in December. Joseph Rodrigues, the Project Manager, and I gave birth to a creative relationship through the intense fires of birthing an AMAZING website in just 3 weeks. I infected him with my passion and precision, and he infected me with his open heart, generosity and willingness to engage through *every* experience. Prior to meeting Joseph I kept my phone ringer off, but I had to start being available to consult with him numerous times per day. YIKES! What a leap for this quiet little dreaming introvert!

Joseph at work on his balcony in Playa

Fast forward to January. Now Joseph is manifesting his dream: experimenting with running his business from  the Mayan Riviera for a month. I love this! He is so courageous! So adventurous! He could just stay home and stay safe, keep things stable and the same (the deadly same!). Instead, he is down there this very moment connecting with the local people, spreading connections of love and honour and building bridges of inspiration and respect between the people of that area and the people of the outside world. I love this!

I have been working for the past three months with the book, The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, which is all about lifestyle design. And Joseph has ignited a very dry pile of hay created by my work with this book. I WANT TO DESIGN AN AMAZING LIFE OF JOY AND BRINGING PEACE TO THE WORLD! Universe, I hope you heard that! Because I want to do this in a BIG way! And I need your support in that.

Me in the Tulum Mayan ruins in May 2010

I was at the Mayan ruins in Tulum a year and a half ago and was totally invigorated and moved by them. The Mayan calendar ended in 2011, attuning all of us to the profundity of the year 2012. The old system is finished, and we have arrived on the threshold of a new way of doing things – we are creating a new world order. That is very exciting! And I want to connect with the Mayan wisdom at this time. I don’t know how else to put this other than I have a very deep calling to go down there and be in that space – interact with that space – and explore how to make this wisdom of transformation available to all the people I love back home, and to all the people of this world.

I did some preparation for this dream with The 4-Hour Workweek just after Christmas in Kensington Market’s Moonbeam Cafe. I did an exercise on writing down a clear picture of my worst nightmare – everything that could possibly go wrong if I did this trip. I’ve decided I can handle even that worst nightmare scenario – I *could* survive. And of course, it is unlikely my worst fears will happen. This exercise opened up my realizing the benefits and possibility – and opportunities – that are part of this spiritual adventure to Tulum.

So I told Joseph I want to come down there and join him for a week. He loved the idea and said he can show me around and we can do more work on my website. I love that!

My excitement is there, but I have to tell you, this dream is still at the tender new stage. I had two nearly sleepless nights last week, and that really didn’t break until yesterday. I got up and showered to wake myself up after a light 4 hours sleep for a Skype meeting with Joseph at 9 yesterday (Saturday) morning. We covered off the items about my website and then got into a deeply spiritual and inspiring discussion for another 2 hours. We stepped into tender places of sharing and dreaming. This is a beautiful way we are forming our relationship, and it is propelling both of us further in manifesting our dreams.

Temple in the Tulum Mayan ruins

At this point I know what dates will work for me to go down there. I know I want to be near the ruins in Tulum and I want to be near Joseph so I can work with him. The unknowns are: (1) where I will stay, (2) how exactly I’m going to pay for this adventure, (3) how I will ensure my elderly cat gets the sub-cu fluid treatments she needs while I’m away, and (4) when I can reschedule the meeting that week with my life coaching group.

Joseph Rodrigues, a good partner for dreaming!

I talked with Joseph again last night, and I decided to go ahead and book my flights -> because as the clock ticks, flight prices are going up and flight choices are dwindling. Joseph is in the process of making connection with a sustainable resort in Tulum. And depending on how his meetings go, I may stay there. Joseph may stay there the week I will be there, too – so we can do some inspiring work together – both on my website and on manifesting both of our’s dreams. I think I’ve found a wonderful dreaming partner in Joseph!

So, I invite you to come along for the ride with me and see how I navigate and negotiate my way into manifesting this dream – a dream lifestyle where I can connect with the spirit of the Mayan people on a beautiful beach and bring the energy and inspiration of that to you, my people in the world, through this glorious internet. Maybe I’m going to have to learn how to set up a blog to share my experience. I’d like to do that. In fact, I’m inspired to do that! Because I have developed a grounded, spiritual, sophisticated and RAW approach to manifesting dreams. And I’d like to rouse my courage to come out of my shell and share my heart through sharing my approach to manifesting this dream with you. And of course the whole purpose is to inspire YOU to develop your own dream manifestation skills. Everyone has their own way of dreaming and manifesting!

And this is why I speak of the joy – the joy-full  environment that we create around ourselves as we are dreaming. That is part of the protection from the dream assassins. Create a field of joy to nurture and protect your dreaming process. We will talk about other aspects of dream protection at another time. The dream incubator is one of my fortes, and I want to enjoy sharing about that with you over the coming months.

So, wow!! I managed to open my heart and begin to share with you about my current dream – an adventure with Joseph in Tulum later this month! Come on along, and you too can start to show a little love to your dreams. It’s 2012! What better year to open to a whole new way of being – a whole new way of organizing your life? To open to joy and abundance, and to digging down deep to see what you have to offer to this world. Because I know that each and every one of you has your personal gift – your personal legacy – to bring forth to help this planet and all of us who enjoy her grace in living here. Your gift is needed. From my heart I am asking you,

Commit to your dreams in 2012!

With blessing,

Welcoming an ocean of love in 2012

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Popular wisdom teaches us to keep busy… fill our lives up with anything that might keep us entertained with a superficial promise of fulfillment… smooth over the raw moments and then promptly forget they ever happened –> to crawl into a comfortable dark cave of ignoring what is happening and slip peacefully into a blissful hibernation. And that is how it becomes possible to miss our lives. Although we have all had the good fortune to hear advice from great teachers such as Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, and a host of others, when it comes down to it, it is always a personal choice of whether to live in the brilliance of this moment or to crawl into our cave and sleep. The New Year is always a particularly potent time in which we make this choice.

In Tibetan Buddhism we say protector chants at dusk – chants that call enlightened protective energy to us. The reason for this is because the time of changing from day into night is a particularly powerful time in which we are more open-minded and there is more potential to grow and change; because it is such a powerful time, we are also more vulnerable to the attraction of hiding away in our cave. Therefore, we call in enlightened protective energies to come and be with us and to guard our mindfulness. It is an important and powerful practice… and a practice that is OH so easy to neglect in a busy Toronto lifestyle!

Similarly, the year end is potentially a powerful time to open ourselves to deeper awareness, growth and change. I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Wisdom Awareness Protectors to leap into action for everyone who connects with this article, and to bring their wise compassion to protecting the minds of these folks as they approach the end of this year and enter into the powerful next year.

Buddhism encourages us to live our lives fully – to value the opportunity we have in this life to develop our wisdom and to contribute to the welfare of this world. It can be easy to forget this and get caught up in meaningless minutiae, collecting material things, and focusing on the external rather than cultivating the internal. Just as in meditation, when we realize this has happened, all we need to do is bring ourselves back to our core purpose in life, take a deep breath, and take the next step forward.

So I would like to encourage all of you to take an hour to harvest the crops you planted and tended in the past year, to honour your work and your accomplishments this year, to mourn the things that didn’t work out the way you wanted, to re-discover what is truly meaningful to you, and identify your goals for the coming year. This is an important part of living life joyfully, mindfully, and true to the course of your life mission. If you are the kind of person that likes a good writing exercise, I offer you a link to the exercise , “Seven steps to spending more time planning your life than planning your vacation.” I love this title because vacations are nice, but living a joyful, mindful life is so much more fulfilling! This includes things like working in a job that resonates with who you are and your gifts; investing in the relationships that truly matter to you; living in a home that is genuine, warm and comfortable; and last but not least… pursuing your core heart dreams!

So on that note, I make a heartfelt wish that all of you may receive both blessings and protection as we transition into rockin’ 2012. There are so many people predicting that 2012 will be a year of mind blowing transition. And I say, “Bring it on!”. This world needs a whole lot of healing, and my heart is open wide to 2012 being the year that we welcome that Great Ocean of Love into our hearts to heal old wounds, make us whole, so we can all participate in creating a beautiful world – together. Where there IS peace. Where there IS joy. Where people care for themselves and each other and this precious earth. Thank you for being here, and may our connection grow in mutually empowering ways in the coming year. Cheerful New Year to you all!

Choose to be present this holiday season

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Living in Toronto we are surrounded by people of many cultures with many traditions, some of whom celebrate at this time of year and some who do not. No matter what our tradition, it is hard to escape the messages of Christmas. Even as a Buddhist, I have noticed their impact. In western culture, the holiday season is probably the most emotionally loaded time of year, with messages broadcast through the media to be cheerful, loving, generous and to spend quality time with family. What if we have a challenging connection with our family, or no connection at all? What if we are poor and can’t afford to buy the gifts that supposedly demonstrate our love? There are innumerable ways in which people may not fit the close-knit loving family vision for the holidays, which opens the potential for pain and judgment. That is why it is important to consciously choose to be present this holiday season, in a genuine way, moment by moment, whether we are fitting the season model or not.

It is a time when we are called to open our hearts and be generous of spirit with all people. We are encouraged to send cards and connect with the important people in our lives, especially family. There is little that can tug at the emotional strings of our hearts more than family. These are the people who gave birth to us and guided us into this magnificent, big world. They profoundly imprinted our beings with their style of loving and their hang-ups; in some cases these hang-ups were so significant they became child abuse. On the other side of this, parents also have to face their imperfect and sometimes disappointing relations with their children. Our connection with family is profound, whether it is positive, negative or likely a mix of both. And all of that gets stirred up at this time of year.

In my tradition, we see that as a good thing. It is a time that offers opportunities for healing old wounds, a time when we can more deeply mend our hearts and connect with ourselves. Healing is a process that we have to engage – it doesn’t just happen on its own. Oftentimes part of that healing process involves consciously seeking perspective. For instance, plan emotionally for the holidays. Nobody knows the emotional challenges you face during the holidays better than yourself, so take some time to think about it ahead of time and look at how to support yourself in being grounded and joyful this holiday season. For some that will mean building in supports for sanity and self-connection while visiting family, such as journaling or arranging to be in touch by email or phone with friends back home for check-ins. Others are not in contact with family, and they might arrange in advance to get together with “chosen family”, people with whom they choose to spend the holidays. At such a special time of the year it makes sense to think about what will bring you joy, what is important to you, what will ground you, and how to build in supports for your mindfulness and connection with yourself.

Also, be honest with yourself about when you need help. There are times in all of our lives when we need help to process or move through something. It is important to listen to ourselves at those times and to seek out the help we need, often in the form of a therapist or other emotional/spiritual healer. Our purpose in life is to grow and become our potential. Be generous with yourself this holiday season by ensuring you have the support you need to be able to open your heart and be loving and generous, both with yourself and others.

One easy way to give yourself a gift of support for this holiday season is to receive my Free Meditation. You can get this by clicking the button at the top of this page. Enjoy, be merry, and be present!

Web Credits
Project Manager and Developer Joseph Rodrigues
Graphic Design Angel Ling
Usability Andrea Winn
Photography Christina Asante