How to create space for your own flourishing

“The miracle of roots” – basil cuttings March 1, 2022

Our world is going through profound change, and sometimes it can be challenging to get through a single day. How do you stay sane with so much happening? Better yet, how do you flourish in times of massive change?

The way I see it, we are going through a time of birthing. As a world, we are moving down a powerful birth canal. It is time to let go of views and behaviours that we know are unhealthy so we can become more grounded, loving and heart-centered people.

In times like this, we need mid-wives – wise women who know the movements and stages of giving birth. Such wise women know in their bones how to respond to the unexpected and navigate through critical stages in the birthing process.

Without connection with that which is wise in women… that knowing… that maternal instinct, we may find ourselves in a place of feeling stuck and unable to breathe.

Let us intentionally connect with the sacred divine feminine now.

There is wisdom within nature. I discovered that this past month as I watched in awe the process of my basil cuttings developing roots. Can you imagine what it would feel like to find the knowing, the energy and the miracle within yourself to sprout roots?

Let’s give it a try today…

If you would like to feel more stable, more peaceful and have more positivity to pour into your relationships, here are four key nuggets of root wisdom from the basil cuttings:

Root Wisdom 1: Protection from storms

The basil cuttings were indoors, protected behind glass from the extreme cold, snow and wind storms that happened outside.

In human terms this means creating enough time away from the chaos in the world so you can thrive and do your tender inner knitting of self.

Having a media diet is essential. The key guiding factor for anyone is to notice how you feel after reading or hearing a media source: Did it bring you to a place of fear or did it bring to you a place of confidence in moving forward? Eliminate the former, invest more time in the latter. Give yourself permission to disengage until you feel back in your skin and happy in your heart.

Root Wisdom 2: Sunlight

I originally had five basil cuttings. The three in front facing the window grew roots. The two in back never grew roots. Receiving sun was critical to the miracle of rooting.

In human terms this means it is essential to get daily exposure to positive sources of inspiration – things that light up your heart. Too much darkness kills spirit. Spirit grows within light.

Root Wisdom 3: Patience

It took a couple of weeks before anything began to sprout. I watched too closely the first few days, and I wondered if anything would happen. Then I decided to relax and see what would happen. I watched the water level to make sure they had water, and otherwise, I let the cuttings be to do their own thing. One night, three of them sprouted teeny tiny roots and I was overjoyed to discover the miracle the next morning!

In human terms, we have gotten distracted and even addicted to instant results. Think about using a microwave oven or flicking through TV channels. This pattern has divorced us from the natural development of spirit within.

Slowing down so we can be present with our inner world allows the magic of inner growth and healing to happen. The two things I have found most effective for slowing down are shamatha meditation and spending time with my shoes off in nature. Identify your best ways to slow down and treasure these practices as powerful medicine for your spirit.

Root Wisdom 4: A loving environment

The basil cuttings developed within the spiritual energy of my home. I know this environment is heavy with blessing from the spiritual practices I do on a daily basis, and specifically the blessing of the Mother Lineage. It’s a nourishing place to be and grow.

In human terms we know that social environment and self-talk have a profound impact on (a) how we feel and (b) how well we thrive. It is important to limit our exposure to negative people and surround ourselves with loving people. When your own cup is full, then you have love to give to other people who may be struggling. The key is to mindfully attend to keeping your own cup full by surrounding yourself with people who make your spirit sing.

The same goes for your internal world. It is important to disengage from negative self-talk, and proactively encourage yourself with loving self-talk. Think about how a child reacts to being berated by a parent versus being guided by a parent through loving acknowledgement for all she/he/they are doing well. You will thrive by surrounding yourself with an in inner and outer loving environment.

I hope you enjoyed these four nuggets of root wisdom from my basil cuttings. Through grounding in loving heart-based ways of living, you will connect with internal resources of strength and empowerment, and you will be victorious over darkness and overwhelm. Through mindful diligence in creating your positive rooting environment, the glorious sun of your being will rise to guide you forward.

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The secret to success: Learn to love failure

Surprisingly, I’ve discovered failure has value, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

It began last Fall when I decided to take up strength training. My goal was to build lean muscle mass to increase my health and immunity. I signed up for a well-thought-out program with an excellent coach. It took some creativity to figure out how to do my training routines at home, but to my surprise I did!

It’s a discipline to come to each work out with a fresh mind. Week in and week out, work out by workout, my body has grown much stronger – and I LOVE it!

It’s helped me feel more confident and secure. It’s easier to step up on things and to lift and move things. It’s easier to climb the steep hill to my special spot in the woods where I feed a flock of chickadees.

Muscles make me feel more empowered in my body.

Strength training has taught me a lot about failure. The only way to build new muscle is to exercise to failure – where my muscles simply can’t lift one more time. It’s a painful ugly moment. (Ugly because the look on my face is contorted!)

People usually don’t talk about their failures. We tend to be embarrassed by failing. And fear of failure has a steep cost: it leads to creating a safe small life

I now realize how important failing is. In strength training, it builds muscle. In life, it builds character and wisdom.

Being willing to go for a dream is a risk – it requires stepping beyond a safe line into the unknown. You may fail.

AND it is through failure that you can take a good look at your actions and their results, and learn from that. The discipline of learning from failure is the surest key to success and living a fulfilling life.

In fact, if you look at the stories of the most successful people, it is fascinating to look at the colossal failures they had BEFORE they created their success. The key is they didn’t give up at the point of failure. They learned from their failure, and they did it smarter the next time. They grew stronger from their failure.

Choosing to live life embracing failure releases you from the bondage of being perfect. You discover inherent confidence. And most of all, you live your life instead of hiding and playing small.

Are you willing to embrace failure and in so doing, fulfil your wildest and most exciting life dreams?

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, you can sign up here. If you are interested in checking out my approach to meditation, see Heal Your Heart Through Meditation and try a free 2-week trial.

Information snacking: The toll of partial attention and a more soul-nourishing alternative

Photo by Tolga Ulkan on Unsplash

Is information snacking degrading your ability to receive nourishment from what you are reading?

I like Vinod Kumaar’s visceral description:

We are right now in the era of information snacking where we are increasing our knowledge to a great deal, learned to drink it out of a firehose but not able to apply it effectively when needed. More and more people are addicted to ‘pull to refresh’ and snack on one liners, emails are annotated with TL;DRs and prefer to read a lot of tweets than read a book.

VINOD KUMAAR R (2015). “Information Snacking”.

There is so much information snacking in today’s world, many have forgotten how to read deeply – with heart engaged. When you do this, you lose out on receiving the soul nourishment available through being present with the richness of what you are reading.

As we starve our soul through this practice, we erode our sense of well-being. Symptoms can include: feeling scattered, discontent, ungrounded and even anxiety as a result of too much information snacking.

One good practice is to set aside regular deep learning time, where you shut off all outer distractions and spend time with a good book and read it with presence and delight in the experience. The key is to experience what is being shared in the writing.

Let’s try an experiment…

Right now I am writing this listening to peaceful contemplative flute music by Nawang Khechog and wishing for you a more embodied moment. A moment when you feel deep stability from the earth beneath your feet. A moment when you can take a deep breath and remember your heart. Feel your shoulders uplifting, your head uplifting, and experiencing the brightness of who you are. Feel the peaceful calm of knowing your heart is held within grace at all times, you need only remember it.

Did you catch that vibe? If not, you may have too many distractions around you, and a first step may be to create quiet space for yourself. The practice of creating deeply quiet space can be one of the greatest gifts you ever give yourself!

Take a moment now and notice how you feel after reading this brief article

It can take just five minutes to feel more calm when you learn to steady your mind and bring your attention fully to a single activity. From this more peaceful and nourished place, you are now empowered to bring positive energy to people around you.

Light up the network of people around you today, and know you are helping to lighting up the entire world. Have a blessed day! ?

Sign up to receive my monthly inspiration offering here: Dream Whisperer Newsletter

If you are interested in developing a stronger mind with more ability to be calm and steady, I’m offering two free weeks of Heal Your Heart Through Meditation. This easy meditation course offers short playful daily activities to develop a strong mindfulness meditation practice. Learn more at:

On a related note, as part of my PhD work with the Eskes Lab at Dalhousie University, my research team is studying attention! We are running a study in November and December open to Canadians 55 and older. If you are interested, please see the information below and you can email

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.

Are you searching for coherence in a chaotic world?

Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

In the final month of the Dream Whisperer community needs survey, we had four winning topics:

  • Improving family relationships
  • Visioning a good future for myself
  • Being more organized, and 
  • Overcoming internal barriers to receiving love

Is there a thread running through these topics illuminating a pathway forward for our community? One thread I see is a desire for coherence. The Oxford Languages website defines coherence as, “the quality of forming a unified whole.”

Many have come from childhoods where our parents were unable to give us a coherent upbringing. We may have experienced anything from neglect to abuse, and we travel through life seeking something different. We seek to heal the past to feel more whole. 

Disorganized early relationships can manifest in feeling states that lead us to be disorganized in our lives. Being imprinted with early disorganized relationships can literally manifest as an unconscious approach to creating disorganization in our adult life. This can manifest on a practical level as being disorganized in our schedule or in how we keep our physical space cluttered with objects and papers we no longer need.

Those early childhood imprints can also cause us to be closed to receiving love. Our child brain did its best to understand hurts and create defence patterns to protect us from further hurt. These child-informed patterns were woven into our development through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. They are woven into how we see the world in such a deep way, it can be difficult to see these patterns at play as an adult. Living an adult life with emotional defence patterns formed in early life are not only out-dated ways of protecting our heart from hurt, they are unfortunately also barriers to receiving love.

In addition to possibly recovering from childhood challenges, in our society we typically focus on achieving things, such as a career, business goals, building a family, or owning a home. Having a narrow focus can lead to lopsided lives where we overwork, sacrificing health or relationships for career goals. Or on the other hand, perhaps we sacrificed our personal fulfillment through an occupation in order to establish a family.

These various sources of fragmentation and narrow focus have provoked a healthy motivation in many for greater coherence, or “the quality of forming a unified whole.” We desire a wholeness that encompasses our history, our relationships, our communities, our occupation, our gifts, care for our home (Mother Earth), and fulfilment of our human potential.

The good news is, this is very possible.

I would suggest it begins with slowing down and connecting with our humanity. I am an advocate for mindfulness meditation as an effective way to slow down and connect with our human heart. Many find meditation too challenging, and I get that. So in my approach to meditation, it is deeply grounded in gentleness, trauma-informed understanding and compassion.

By developing a softer relationship with ourself, we can bring the lens of compassion to our troubles in life. We can begin to see ourselves through compassionate and wise adult eyes, rather than through the eyes of our early caregivers — the view of ourselves that we learned as children. This is an important shift, that can open us up like a flower.

A flower is a beautiful symbol for coherence, or “the quality of forming a unified whole.” A flower can be a guide for the journey of developing self-compassion. I hope you will allow yourself to contemplate the coherence of a flower you may see on a walk today, and see what gifts may be here for you for developing a more comfortable journey in life that bears greater coherence.

With blessing.

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!

Non-Blog: A feminine response to things going wrong

Love Yourself
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In the midst of things going wrong, wouldn’t you love to feel that everything’s going to be okay? My aim in this non-blog is for you to have a felt experience of “Everything’s going to be okay”, and for you to be able to bring that felt experience into anything that may be going “wrong” in your life.

Okay, let’s set the scene…

Exhibit 1: I was brought up in a Tibetan Buddhist community with systemic corruption and sexualized violence. Crappy! A lot going wrong! And my response has been to put integrity as my number one value in how I live my life.

Exhibit 2: Last July I committed to offer a blog of value every month for one year to my deeply honoured Tribe.

Exhibit 3: This week the blog for March was just not happening.

Yikes! What happened this week?

  • No one responded to the February community needs survey, so I had no point of focus
  • Thursday I went to work on the Blog and was guided to a 2 hour program on Unicorns. I purchased the program and then did the program, and was introduced to my Unicorn guide, Blue.
  • Blue said to let the transformation of the Unicorn program gel for a few days
  • Fast forward to Saturday. I went to the park and had a wonderful experience feeding chickadees sunflower seeds by hand. Many of them came that day. I love the experience of their little feet grasping my finger and their happiness in plucking a couple of seeds from my palm. Very special! And I stayed longer than planned feeding the chickadees.
  • I returned home to write the blog, and Blue advised me to take a nap. The nap was great!
  • But still no blog…

Now remember: Integrity is my main value. I was entering into the soul crushing domain after promising you a blog and having no blog to offer.

I set up my diffusor Saturday night at bed time with an essential oil blend called, “Surrender,” because it seemed the sane direction to go at that point.

Sunday I reached out to my good friend and colleague, Diane Young, and ran my dilemma by her. Diane has a lovely warm, wise and flowing way about her. She responded, “Why not write about this process, because everyone has had the experience of something not working as planned.”


And here we are with my first non-blog.

Diane is passionate about astrology. She said we just had a full moon in Virgo, which is about keeping routines. We also just experienced the Sun conjunct Venus, which is about encouraging you to take “me time”, ie relax, take time for yourself, take a nap. There was a distinct conflict happening astrologically last week between keeping routines and taking time for self. She pointed out I was experiencing this conflict in my attempt to write a blog. This was a wonderful sanity check!

What can be learned from this?

What might be your takeaway from this non-blog?

  1. It is important to honour your rhythms
  2. Enjoy feeding chickadees (and other experiences that delight you!)
  3. Know when to surrender… Allow flow. Allow grace. Allow ease.
  4. Reach out to community when you are stuck.
  5. Trust the Universe. It will provide.
  6. Honour your commitments AND your wellbeing by growing through the tricky spots with creativity and integrity.
  7. Understand the love beneath your commitments, and let that love illuminate the promise.

? ? ? I’m sending a lot of pink love out to you with this post ? ? ?

I’m wishing some grace for you today to find the way through your tricky spots. There seems to be an endless supply of support and creative options, if we can only open our hearts to the basis of goodness and care always available within life.

To join my community, click here

To learn more healing strategies take the 2-week test drive of Heal Your Heart Through Meditation

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.

Pioneering new pathways of healing for those abused within spiritual communities

Photo by Yoann Boyer (

A community member responded to our August community survey with deeply insightful and passionate remarks about healing from spiritual betrayal. I was so moved by what she wrote, I am dedicating my article this month to responding to her. She has given me permission to quote her for this article.

“Life is traumatic ! I am interested in what goes on in the brain when PTSD is triggered and how healing ,making new pathways can happen.If teachers are not trauma informed they can’t understand why people are not healing or making progress and often can do more harm than good.”

I am interested in the PTSD response too, and I have focused much of my study on what goes on in our heart space when PTSD is triggered. My studies have focused on relational trauma – traumas that occurred within relationship with another person or group of people (as opposed to other sources of trauma, such as a natural disaster). 

Here is what I have come to understand through my studies, working with clients, and over 30 years of my own healing journey: 

We form attachments with people, and when those attachments are suddenly severed through betrayal, it can can cause a rip in our heart. We can become psychologically fragmented after trauma. While this trauma remains unhealed, we can be easily triggered by experiences that cause fear or insecurity, and it can be challenging to form healthy relationships.

Furthermore, when betrayal happens in a spiritual context, the damage can be far more severe. Our spiritual life is perhaps the most intimate part of our experience. When a betrayal happens within a space of such internal tenderness, the traumatic impact can be far deeper.

I agree with your statement about spiritual teachers who are not trauma informed potentially causing more harm. Particularly in “high-demand” spiritual communities, those who have been previously traumatized will likely have their trauma ignored or even denied, and are encouraged to suppress their feelings in order to pursue the high-demand spiritual tradition. This adds layers of further trauma and adds further complexity to the healing process.

One leader in the trauma healing field, Dr. Sandra Bloom, discovered through her psychiatric practice that nearly all people in society have been traumatized – either through their personal experience of trauma or vicariously through connection with a loved one going through a traumatic experience. So we are living in a society of trauma survivors, most of whom do not acknowledge their trauma and act it out unconsciously in relationships with others, causing further harm and pain. This can include spiritual teachers. 

“I wonder what’s possible I’ve always had a feeling that healing is possible for all illness.Reconising and acknowledging seems to be the starting point.but deeper still I wonder how to heal unknown unremembered trauma. What happens to a young childs brain when trauma happens? Where does the life go ,it breaks off it departs ,what about the ego is it damaged at a young age? So much talk about dissolving ego but what if the ego was not properly formed in a young life?”

I like the idea you have envisioned of creating new pathways – whether in the brain or in the heart. With previous pathways disrupted from trauma, it provides an opportunity to develop new, healthier pathways as we take our journey of healing. Life can actually become more fulfilling and more joyous through the process of healing from betrayal trauma. This is a silver lining to experiencing trauma!

I love your insight and optimism! It seems to me, as well, that recognizing and acknowledge needs to be the starting point. If we accept Dr. Bloom’s statements about how many people are walking around with suppressed trauma, it’s mind boggling to think of how extensive this pattern is. Since so many have not yet reached a place of recognizing and acknowledging the trauma buried in their heart/brain/psyche, they remain trapped in limbo.

But once we do acknowledge the trauma, we can begin the process of healing. As I promote in the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program, the key stages of healing are (1) safety, (2) remembrance and mourning, and (3) reconnecting with community. That first stage: feeling safe, is critical for doing healing. 

Safety includes feeling supported and often requires spaces that embody an atmosphere of gentleness ,kindness, and wisdom. I experience this presence in my connection with the Divine Feminine; it feels like wise grandmother energy to me. When I am within the presence of this energy, it helps me connect with whatever healing technique I am engaging. The healing techniques might feel hollow or ineffective otherwise, but within the soft gaze and warm embrace of the Divine Feminine, whatever self-care I am engaging goes more deeply.

When you talk about healing “unknown unremembered trauma”, I will first say that the heart has a remarkable ability to protect us from overload by placing a veil over memories we are not yet ready to deal with. I am a firm believer that as we establish greater safety, those forgotten memories can begin to surface for healing attention. Our psyche knows when we are ready.

When you talk about a child’s life and where it goes when a child has been put through trauma, it makes me think of what I learned when I did an apprenticeship with a Mi’kmaq shaman in Quebec in the early 2000’s. My shaman taught me that parts of us psychologically break away in response to severe trauma. They are lost to us from then on. This is why people can have an experience of lost parts. My shaman worked with me around  the practice of “soul retrieval”. Soul retrieval is a beautiful ritual for bringing back lost parts of us, making us whole again.

The questions you are asking are powerful and relevant to all spiritual traditions that tell us we need to let go of and dissolve our ego. In the mid-2000’s, I worked with an expert trauma therapist at Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Clinic, and she also happened to be an experienced meditator. Like you suggest, she said that if we never had the chance to form a healthy ego in childhood, then we do not have an ego to dissolve. The first step is to form a healthy ego.

“My body remembers ,that I know but I can’t grasp fully or can’t reconnect that which is broken long ago.

I’ve had a year doing reliving process, CBT ,which was the real start for me I let go off and unlearned so much, I literally felt my brain reordering itself.flasbacks stopped anxiety levels dropped and I complain less making life more enjoyable for myself and those around me.”

I am so happy to hear of your healing! Your dedication to yourself is very moving. There has been a lot of research into which modality of therapy is most effective, and the main finding is that the therapist-client relationship match is the single most important factor for healing in therapy. I believe this speaks to the importance of the first stage of trauma healing: safety. It is critical to find a safe relationship in which we can do healing. You didn’t say it, but I bet you had a safe relationship with your therapist to do such powerful healing work.

“What is it to fully connect I wonder? Continental connection.

Joy is a reference for me.If there is no joy,no juice,then there is no life.

I’m grappling in the dark as I investigate.”

I love how you are using joy as your reference! I have found joy to be a wonderful balm for my heart; feeling joy has allowed me to trust again after betrayals. 

Your reference to continental connection is quite expansive! It reminds me of the third stage of trauma healing: reconnecting with community. Dr. Bloom’s seminal text was entitled, “Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies.” In this book she advocates for creating community healing environments where trauma survivors can be responded to with kindness and sanity. Trauma can heal in these specially-created healing environments, and people can then engage life in the “normal” world with their hearts whole.

In all the community spaces I create, whether through my justice activism work with Buddhist Project Sunshine or through the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation service, I strive to create trauma-informed sanctuaries where people can connect with one another in sane and loving ways, enabling them to heal through community connection. I know this is key to healing, and I am passionate about it!

Your image of “grappling in the dark as I investigate” is lovely! It is pioneering – exploring new uncharted ground. No one has a map for this kind of healing. It is always a personal exploration to find our own unique path of healing. 

Although the journey is unique to each person, it can be incredibly helpful to be connected with other people doing the same work so we can learn from each other’s discoveries. I welcome readers’ comments in the space below. We create a greater understanding together through dialog.

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When is it time to end a relationship? Discerning when a relationship is over

I put up a survey last month for people in my community to share what is top of mind for them right now. The issue that received the most votes was, “Responding to difficult people or difficult situations with people”.

I feel telling our own stories can often be the most powerful way to open doors for each other, so I’m going to share my story of how I came to ending a number of relationships this Spring. It has been a painful experience, and at the same time it has been positive and extremely beneficial.

My story goes back to a conversation I had with a friend early in the pandemic. She said, leaders need out-of-the-box ways of visioning right now to meet the challenges with COVID. When my friend made this statement, I thought, “Oh, maybe I should bring back a leadership vision program I retired in 2016, the Deep Rooted Authentic Leadership, Awake! (DRALA) program. I did so, and immediately enrolled a strong leader in this program.

As part of the DRALA protocol, I do the same work that my client does. That means that everything she or he does, I do it too, and we mutually create an environment of inspired change. The process begins by identifying an intention for the vision journey.

My intention was:
“I am healing my Root Chakra so I see and feel rooted in my true life purpose”

I was startled as my Higher Self unfolded an unexpected vision board in response to my intention (See a picture of my vision board below). The vision board was largely about ending relationships.

I had to face some of my beliefs about relationships. The biggest one for me was that if a relationship ended, I felt I had somehow failed… That I hadn’t worked hard enough… or I hadn’t been skilled enough to make the relationship work.

My DRALA process revealed to me that it is a natural part of life to outgrow relationships, and that this is not about failure – it is about growth. At the end of the insight section of the DRALA process, I identified what insight felt most important in relation to my intention.

My most important insight was:
Allow the breaks. It’s not failure. It’s about growing and outgrowing and creating space for relationships that enhance your high vibration.

I let go of my two old cyclamen yesterday. It has created space for new plants, space in my bedroom. They were tired. They deserved an honourable death – the letting go.

It was interesting how the letting go of these two plants felt like a part of this process for me – a teaching part of the process. These two cyclamens had been with me for around twenty years. It is unusual for cyclamen to live that long. I really loved these plants! They had been a mystical part of my journey. They bloomed when I bloomed. They went into a time of rest without blooms at times when I needed that too. So it was a big thing to say good bye to these two old friends! And yet, it was time.

One of the relationships in my life that had moved into a place of not working was that with my PhD supervisor. This relationship had been wonderful the first year of being back in university. But mysteriously, in the 2020 winter term, the relationship took a nosedive and was excruciatingly unworkable.

I went into a deep depression, and in the midst of that disheartenment, I did not take care when stepping up on a ledge one morning. I fell backward from the ledge onto my bedpost, fracturing my rib. This was a very painful and slow-healing injury, and this experience was intertwined with the process of my awakening within this relationship.

At the completion of the DRALA vision session, I identified a Spirit Action – something I wanted to physically commit to doing that would put my DRALA insight into motion in my life.

My Spirit Action was:
I will journal for one hour with Buddha Locana in connection with her wisdom, “Focus on caring for the over-exposed parts of me. Everything else will fall into place”, and explore the meaning of letting go of my PhD supervisor: (1) How I grew, (2) how I outgrew, (3) what would happen if I hung on, and (4) what is possible with letting go.

Image of Buddha Locana
from the 2012 Triratna Buddha calendar at:

Buddha Locana is one of the female Buddhas of the five Buddha families in Tibetan Buddhism. I have had a close relationship with her since 2015. She has been a strong source of connection for me with the Wise Feminine, and I deeply value this connection. When I first connected with her in 2015, I received that message quoted in my Spirit Action. I needed her tender care and attention to journal upon these four aspects of ending this relationship AND dismantle my former beliefs around relationships ending. I want to acknowledge that the PhD supervisor is the most important and intimate relationship one has during a 4-5-year PhD – so this was a very big step for me to take!

I did the hour of journalling and became clear within myself. I organized a meeting with my supervisor, including having a neutral mediator for that meeting. The “divorce” went well. It was done in a peaceful and mutually supportive way. I believe this says something about how important it was for me to come to a peaceful and clear place within myself so this ending could happen with love and grace.

Alongside my work on this relationship, I completed other relationships as well over the past few months. I notice that since I completed these relationship, I no longer feel the depression I felt earlier this year. It has released trapped energy, and freed some people who were likely not growing with me either.

I feel that taking time out of the busyness of life to go within and vision, like I did in this DRALA process, is one of the biggest gifts I can give myself. I strongly encourage everyone to do this, because it opens up our lives when things have become narrow and limiting.

I was part of a conversation recently about self-compassion, and we were talking about two forms of compassion: yin-compassion and yang-compassion (or feminine style compassion vs masculine style compassion). The yin style is what we typically think of as self-compassion – doing things like calming, soothing and validating ourselves. The yang style is about actually taking action for ourselves. Doing a vision process is a form of yang compassion for me.

I hope that sharing my story today may help open up ideas for change for you. I believe life is meant to be a beautiful experience. It is a sad thing when I/we forget this, and it is a glorious thing when I/we find a way to get back on track. I welcome any thoughts that may come up for you from reading my story in the comment section below. May we all grow together!

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For those who are curious, here’s some information about the DRALA program.

I will create a life that is in balance

Would you like to explore how to create more balance in your life? This is a great topic, and I’m going to invite you to pull out your journal and explore some questions that will help you to get in touch with how to create more balance in your life.

The first thing we might consider is: What does balance actually mean? You may have more of an understanding of this than you realize. If you are drawn to this topic because you feel your life is not in balance, then what does that feel like for you? Where do you feel life balance in your body? As you tune into the feeling in your body, you can begin to wonder, is it coming from having too much to do, feeling stretched, or just not getting to what feels most important? Is your self-care sliding off your plate as you manage the demands in your life? Get in touch with what balance actually means for you.

If we were sitting together right now, I’d probably want to ask you about your priorities. How are you prioritizing? Where is your self-care ranking in your priorities? Is it easy or difficult for you to prioritize your well-being? Are you actively using the power of intentional prioritizing?

Next, I’d want to bring in a solution-focused technique called, “exceptions.” I’d ask you about what has helped you be in more balance in the past? I’m sure there has been some exceptional time in your life when you felt more in balance. What was happening at that time? Who did you have around you? What were you doing that contributed to that greater sense balance? There are likely some important clues in your own past experience that can serve you now for creating greater balance in your life.

The last area I’d suggest exploring today is: What new resources do you need to cultivate to live in balance now? This is a key place to dream outside of the box and imagine what it would *feel* like to be living a balanced life. They say that getting the feeling of your vision – getting that feeling right into your body – is the single best way to manifest change. Once you work with the embodied feeling, it can be much easier to know what new resources you need to shift into a greater sense of balance. Or… maybe you have an idea of something that could help, and you’re not really sure if it would help. It is often those little ideas that can lead to really healthy changes. Give it a try!

So whether you *know* what you need or you have some small sense of something that might help move you in the right direction, you now have something to help you move into more balance.

We are going to have a live conversation about this next week. I’d love for you to join us for our next You Matter conversation. We will create an embodied group space to explore what creating a life of balance can look like for you. Learn more and register for this free live conversation here:

Creating a better world post-#MeToo

I dearly love women. I deeply care about women. It hurts my heart every time I see a woman disregarded, dismissed, belittled, ignored, covered in lies,  sexually violated, physically assaulted, emotionally abused, or banished from a community because she spoke Truth.

I feel fortunate to have lived in the time of #MeToo – to have been part of such a profound time of women’s empowerment! As we move forward from this profound time of breaking open long suppressed truths, new supports are needed.

I heard on the CBC news yesterday that since April of this year, almost 700 battered women in Ottawa have been turned away from Violence Against Women Shelters. These women made what may be the most courageous decision in their life – to leave an abuser – and there was no safe shelter with support to receive them. The shelters are full of women saying no to abuse – indeed they are overfull!

Locally here in Halifax, a few months ago the Avalon Sexual Assault Center had to close its waiting list because they don’t have the resource to meet the needs of women recovering from sexual violence. The Avalon home page has a bolded message saying, “Avalon is temporarily unable to receive new counselling requests. We will be directing all therapeutic counselling service to those on the waitlist until we are able to estimate wait times.” A further over-stretched violence against women service.

In the midst of the startling changes happening now, it’s important to stay connected and talk. Thank you, dear reader, for your response to my post last week about what you are doing to meet the unique challenges of our time. In the same spirit as my post last week, I am seeking conversation about ways to be of support in these changing times. 

I have been in dialog with Avalon Center and have offered to donate the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program to the center for use by women seeking support. It is a way that I am able to offer support to an overstretched system. They are looking into the possibility of how this might work for them, and we will be in continued discussion.

I, myself, received a great deal of support from the Toronto Rape Crisis Center (TRCC) over the past three years. My former counsellor, Karlene, not only cared for me in my personal journey, but she also provided invaluable strategic consultations for my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. Once I put the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program on the market in 2020, I will be donating 10% of all sales to the TRCC.

In addition, I have offered to contribute to the TRCC as a motivational speaker for women who are thinking of doing what I did with Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS). I know there are many stories that didn’t succeed as women hoped. BPS is a shining example of success, and according to Karlene, my work and BPS are already a source of inspiration to other women coming through their center.

Post-#MeToo, this is a new world that we are all actively creating. I believe each of us has something to contribute to making this a more loving and humane world. There are a lot of things happening that are encouraging. Let us nurture these things. And let us share our stories for a collective uplifting!

What are you doing to create a new world post-#MeToo? What would you like to do? Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

Fiercer protection for Mother Earth & The impeachment inquiry into Trump

Mother Earth
Photo courtesy of

I have been heartened by important trends in the news lately. Namely stronger protests happening to bring attention to protecting our home: Mother Earth, including this week’s announcement from the United Nations about the imminent need to decrease green house emissions to ensure survival of life as we know it. I am also heartened by the launch of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

But I am not naive! I know there are systemic, intergenerational belief patterns that led to the broken relationship with and abuse of our precious earth. Similarly, a collective consciousness led to the election and continued support of Trump (and other populous leaders in the world). I’m seeing traumatized, fragmented pain living an unbridled life, causing more pain. 

Two questions on my mind are (1) What can I/we do to dismantle the ingrained systemic beliefs that created this global crisis? And (2) What can I/we do to support (a) the Earth Protection Protesters and (b) those involved with the impeachment inquiry?

I’d love to know what you think. I’m creating space here for you to share your positive, proactive, empowered and empowering ideas. I’m also creating space for you to share your sadness and grief over what we have done to our planet, and the intergenerational trauma that has impacted us all. Please, you are welcome to share below.

Nikita and the enduring power of humanity

An elderly man with thin white hair entered the garden. I looked up from my writing at the sound of the oxygen machine hanging in a sling by his side. With the oxygen tube across his face, he smiled gently to me.

He looked strangely familiar. I returned my attention to my writing, and I was aware of his voice in lively conversation with a gardener in the background.

At some point he returned near to me, and I looked at him with curiosity. He walked softly, as if on clouds. Where did I know this man from?

I said, “Hello.” He returned my hello, and bowed deeply in a most relaxed, joyful and serene way.

He was lovingly drinking in the beauty of the garden around us. Probably drinking in the oxygen rich air, among all the plants, too! I could tell this man was filled with uncommon grace.

I said, “You look familiar, but I’m not sure where I would know you from. Did you used to have long hair?”

He replied, “Yes. Do you watch TV? Maybe you know me from a series.”

I said, “No. Well, I used to.”

He said, “Did you watch Nikita?

I exclaimed, “Yes!”

And he said, “I played Walter. I was Nikita’s friend.”


I was overjoyed to hear this! In my 20’s I loved watching Nikita. Nikita was a young woman who got sucked into working for a super-spy agency. Although she was really tough, she was also unconventional. She always had a soft spot that got her into trouble with her bosses. Even in the midst of this ultra-tough work environment and the pressure to be hardened, she clung to her soft spot – her tenderness – her humanity. I really LOVED the Nikita series!

And how special to meet this actor, old, on oxygen, and obviously filled with such grace 25 years later!

I got up off my bench, reached out my hand, and said, “My name is Andrea.”

He said he was pleased to meet me, and his name was Don Francks. He told me to look him up on the internet 🙂 Which I did!

You know, we all go through harsh experiences in life sometimes. We can go along with the harshness, shut down our humanity, and live the rest of our life in the shadows. Or we can be brave, “foolish”, maybe even annoyingly insistent, and cling to our humanity and the warmth of the human heart – NO MATTER WHAT!

If this speaks to you, I would love to hear what touched you, and about your approach to holding onto being human in the midst of the downright harsh things that can happen in life. Share your comments and reflections below!

How to open space in our heart to care for the earth

How can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?


Last week I wrote about the healing power of laying in grass – a beautiful way to receive healing energy from the earth. This week, let’s look at how we can care for this precious earth!

The earth is worth caring for. I don’t know anyone who would argue against that! But… I know many people who are living their life with the pedal to the metal, and they feel they have too many priorities that outrank caring about the well-being of mother earth. Understanding what is happening with the earth in this age is deep and complex, and can feel overwhelming. For many, this feels like too much to take in.

So how can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?

I am grateful for meaningful dialog with you. After my grass email last week, I received an email from Paul, a member of this list, that was filled with wisdom and inspiration for how we can care for the earth. It was utterly uplifting!

Paul forwarded to me Drew Dellinger’s beautiful synopsis of the work of Thomas Berry, a man filled with much grace. Berry offers a way for contemporary people to fit love for the earth into our busy lives!

I am passing on Dellinger’s email to you below. I hope you will receive the blessing of Berry’s enlightening approach! You can read the article and leave your comments and reflections on the blog page for this issue.

May this INSPIRE you to love mother earth better!

Thomas Berry 101


In honor of the 101st birthday of ecological and cosmological writer,
thinker, and teacher, Thomas Berry (1914-2009), here’s a brief overview
of some of his ideas. There is much to explore in his works, such as
The Dream of the Earth (1988), The Great Work (1999), or The Sacred
Universe (2009), on Twitter at @EssentialBerry, and on the web at, but here are six insights from Berry to get you
started: Thomas Berry 101, for Tom’s 101st birthday.


For decades Thomas Berry was a tireless teacher and prophetic voice
addressing the ecological crisis, the mass extinction of species, and
the future consequences of our unrelenting and often irreversible
destruction of Earth’s biosphere. The Big News on the planet, as Berry
saw it, was that humans were terminating the Cenozoic Period,
unraveling the last 65 million years of Earth’s evolutionary
flourishing. “We are working with what is perhaps the most precious
reality in the universe–the Earth–and we are spoiling it,” he said.

When Berry spoke about the grandeur of the Earth, and the significance
of what was being lost, you felt it in your soul. At Prescott College
in 1992, he brought listeners to tears as he described the industrial
assault on the planet and nearly whispered in his wavering voice,
“Earth is precious. Species are precious… Reverence will be total or
it will not be at all.”

“The twentieth century has created a serious problem for the
twenty-first century,” Thomas said. “The next ten generations are going
to pay endlessly for what previous generations have done to the water
supply, to the soils, to the seeds that grow the food.”

In Berry’s view, to understand the destruction of the planet, and how
to build a viable future, one had to understand the cultural story of
Western society, and the power of worldview and cosmology.


Tom Berry’s favorite word was cosmology, and he was laser-focused on
the significance of worldview, story, cultural narrative, and religious
orientation in understanding the deep roots of the ecological crisis.
As early as 1978 Berry articulated the eco-social crisis of modern
Western culture by saying, “It’s all a question of story. We are in
trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between
stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how
we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new

In Tom’s view, the cosmos story and the Earth story constitute our new
revelation of the divine. “It’s enormously important for us to know the
story of the universe, and it’s the only way in which we’re going to
know who we are.” “To tell the story of anything,” he remarked, “you
have to tell the story of everything.”

For Berry, it was imperative that modern culture reinvent its
cosmology, honor Indigenous wisdom, and ecofeminist wisdom, and
transform the mechanistic, materialistic modern worldview that, with
its anthropocentrism and radical split between humans and nature, is
destroying the garden planet of the known universe.

Twenty-eight years after writing the essay, “The New Story,” when I
interviewed him in 2006, Berry was still grappling with the
significance of cosmology and worldview. “It’s not easy to describe
what cosmology is,” he told me. “It’s neither religion nor is it
science. It’s a mode of knowing.”

“The only thing that will save the twenty-first century is cosmology,”
he said as we had lunch in North Carolina on a December day. “The only
thing that will save anything is cosmology.”


To inhabit Thomas Berry’s cosmological vision is to see the whole
unfolding symphony of species as a unified bio-spiritual expression of
the Earth and universe itself, blossoming into self-awareness and
celebration through manifold forms. When the eyeball evolves, the Earth
is seeing itself. When Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, and Nina Simone reach the
heights of artistic genius, the planet is performing. This is a subtle
but powerful perceptual shift from seeing the ‘parts’ to seeing the
organic wholeness. Every phenomenon on the Earth is a manifestation of
the Earth. The cascading panoply of forms in the universe is a single,
seamless display of cosmic creativity. The Earth flies, swims, and
loves when Earthlings do; the galaxies write sonnets in the hearts of


This cosmological context can renew our sense of the human and our role
in the whole unfolding. Thomas Berry defines the human as, “that being
in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself, and its
numinous origin, in a special mode of conscious self-awareness.”

Our job is celebration, not war, consuming, or drudgery, but to
activate the capacities of the creativity-filled universe in human form.


When Thomas Berry spoke at Prescott College in Arizona in 1992, he
challenged universities to overcome the split between the sciences and
the humanities by unifying their curriculum within the overarching
context of the universe story. College “should be a place that
celebrates the universe,” he said, “that celebrates the deep mystery of
things, in a meaningful way.”

Presaging the current interest in “Big History,” Berry stated, “Human
history has to be put into Earth history, has to be put into universe
history, into a cosmology.”

In a 1991 dialogue, published as Befriending the Earth, Berry states,
“What is education? Education is knowing the story of the universe, how
it began, how it came to be as it is, and the human role in the story.
There is nothing else. We need to know the story, the universe story,
in all its resonances, in all its meanings. The universe story is the
divine story, the human story, the story of the trees, the story of the
rivers, of the stars, the planets, everything. It is as simple as a
kindergarten tale, yet as complex as all cosmology and all knowledge
and all history…. It gives a new context for education.”


Thomas Berry often taught that, “Ecology is functioning cosmology.”
Living responsibly in a connected, breathing cosmos requires that we
recognize the sacred rights of every being, and embody reverence and
respect as much as possible in our society. In this way, cosmology
becomes the context and foundation for our work towards ecological
healing and social and economic justice. “Every being has rights,”
Berry taught, because fundamentally, “the universe is a communion of
subjects, not a collection of objects.”

–Drew Dellinger


The healing power of laying in grass

Last week I wrote about the necessity for putting your own oxygen mask on first. In other words, attend to your own basic needs as a basis for helping others.

Over the years I have built in many layers of support for my well-being. One profound layer has been BEAM Therapy (Bio-energetic Emotional Access Method) with the founder of this method, Dr. Joan Beattie – who I affectionately call, Dr. B. She is a wise old woman, rich with knowledge about energy healing.

A couple of months ago Dr. B. was talking to me about the deep healing we can receive from direct contact with the earth. The earth is a natural source of healing energy. This energy grounds us, and cancels out the vibration of stress that we can accumulate, especially if we live in a busy city. She warned that synthetic material, like rubber soled shoes, interrupts this natural healing energy. So it is important to have direct contact, or with a natural substance in between like cotton or brick.

This earth connection practice quickly found its way into my daily routine. I begin every morning going down to the strip of grass in my co-op building’s courtyard. I lay out a 100% cotton towel, so I don’t get wet, and I do a nice full set of morning stretches. Then I lay down and bring the soles of my feet together in a diamond yoga pose. Laying there on the grass, I give myself a nice face, neck, shoulder and chest massage. (This is so wonderful!). And I complete with a loooong full body stretch from my finger tips right down to my toes.

After fully stretching, I stand up on my towel and do this sacred shamanic practice to set my intention to walk in beauty for the day:

May I walk in beauty

With beauty before me, may I walk

With beauty behind me, may I walk

With beauty above me, may I walk

With beauty below me, may I walk

With beauty all around me, may I walk

On a path of peace, may I walk

May I walk in beauty

For all my relations.

What do you do to connect with the earth? How do you feel when you do it? Let’s inspire each other to find new ways to connect with the sacred healing energy of the earth. I’d love to hear about your experiences  – you can post them below.

Put your own oxygen mask on first

There is fundamental wisdom in the Buddhist approach: Get yourself in a better place first. Then help others.

We see this wisdom reflected in the emergency instructions on an airplane. The flight attendant says, “In case of the loss of cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first, before your child’s.”

Why do they instruct the mother to put her own oxygen mask on first? Are we not socialized to care for others first? Is it not selfish to put our own mask on first? Is it not more noble to put our child’s make on first? Wouldn’t it look bad to put our own mask on first? Wouldn’t we be an awful person if we did that?

These are the ways that we beat ourselves up and coerce ourselves to neglect our own basic care.

The simple, nuts-and-bolts truth is that if we fiddle with our child’s mask first, we may pass out before we get it properly fitted on her face. We could definitely pass out before we get our own mask on, and our child will  likely not be able to put our mask on for us while we’re passed out!

So it makes sense. Put your own mask on first. Oxygenate your system. Then attend to others.

The oxygen mask analogy is pertinent for the people of modern society. We keep ourselves so busy and spread ourselves so thin, that we starve the air of our spirit. At some point we feel like we are running on empty, and because of our socialization to put others first, we over extend ourselves.

It is not healthy for us. It is not healthy for others.

I encourage you to look at how you can begin to shift your own life this week. Take care of your basic needs. Get yourself into a better place, and then the next week you will have more to give to others.

May this INSPIRE you!



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!


Is something feeling out of sync?



Many of us are going through life with a distant awareness that something feels out of sync. It’s important to recognize this feeling is about something important that needs to be acknowledged and processed.

The longer we sit on it, the harder it is to access, and the more likely it is that we will be forced to acknowledge it as it makes itself known to us in ways we can’t predict. Rather than waiting for this to happen, we can empower ourselves by identifying the source of the uneasiness and resolving to attend lovingly to it.

The very thought of this brings up feelings of resistance in most of us, especially if, on the surface, our lives seem to be in order. Its difficult to face the feeling and go into it unless we are being seriously inconvenienced by the pain of it. The thing is, when we are carrying the burden of unacknowledged energy-messages coming from deep within, sooner or later, it will inconvenience us.

If we can be brave and proactive, we can save ourselves a lot of future suffering and free up the energy that is tied up in keeping the uneasiness down.

There are many ways to do this, but the first step is to recognize the energy-message and honour it by moving our awareness into it. In this process, even if its just five minutes during meditation, we will begin to have a sense of what the energy-message is about. It might be frustration in a relationship, or feeling unfulfilled at work, or some gift within us that is longing to be expressed in the world. 

As we sit with the energy-message, we will also have a sense of whether we can deal with it by ourselves, or not. It may be time to work with a coach or invest in a personal development course. Whatever path you choose, resolve to honour the energy-message, so that you can release it fully, and set yourself free to create a life based in love and joy.

Remember, it is never too late in life to learn to listen to the messages coming from within yourself, and there is never a better time than now. I welcome your comments below!


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We are loving at heart


We are loving people at heart. It can be easy in our consumer-oriented, advertising-filled, and entertainment-focused society to lose connection with how love is at the root of our being.

How can we stay connected and rooted with our true nature?

One key is to have some quiet time alone every day. Carving out that time to connect with yourself is essential for your heart to breathe… to know yourself… to remember who you really are.

This quiet time can look like 10 minutes of meditation or sneaking out at lunch to do some journalling under a tree.

Get creative!

The key is to show your commitment to your relationship with yourself – your primary relationship. It is from your self-relationship that all other relationships are created. So take care of the primary one well!

Taking good care of yourself is the foundation for everything else happening in your life. I’d love to hear what you have to say about this important topic! There is space for your comments below.

Give yourself the gift of peace

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How to deal better in conflicts



When you are at your wit’s end and ready to throw in the towel in a conflict, how can you deal with it constructively?

We have been exploring the Heart Chakra, the source and home for the energy of Love. Probably the most common reason our heart shuts down is from getting hurt. We could have a raging fight with someone, or cold distance can creep into a relationship draining the life. Both result in shutting down and losing the feeling of Love.

Today I’d like for us to have a discussion specifically around what we can do when we are in the midst of a conflict and are so hopeless and frustrated that we are ready to walk away from the relationship.

I recently took my first Non-violent Communication Course with a teacher out in Berkley, California, Marina Smirling. I put this very question to her, “What can we do in moments of wanting to throw in the towel?” Her response was imbued with a wisdom that can open the door to a whole new way of living intimacy. I have simplified her process even further so that it is clear and doable in three steps:

First, acknowledge, “Oh my God! Whoa am I triggered!”

Next, have mercy for your humanity in this difficult situation. Physically put your hand on your heart and say the word, “mercy.”

Finally, figure out a time in your schedule when you can quietly sit down with yourself and proactively attend to the needs of the situation.

This simple method can be done in 60 seconds. It is a way of moving out of the space of reactivity so that we are not doing harm either to ourselves or the other person. And it creates an appointment in the near future where we can approach the situation from a place of spaciousness and clarity – an authentic space of inquiry.

If you have a habit of getting so angry that you blow a fuse, this simple practice will be a life changer for you. You will develop the ability to deal far better with conflict, which strengthens your trust in yourself, and others will come to trust you more too! It will open the flow of Love, both for yourself and with the people you care about.

If this touches you, please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in this discussion space below. Let’s dig into this together!

How can we live with more Love?


If we want to live with more love, we need to look at the foundational importance of self-care – caring for ourselves – so that our cup is full and overflowing.

I think we have all had the experience of running on an empty emotional tank. And like heroes we over-extend ourselves to take care of others.

It is utterly draining! It can cause serious physical disease, depression and anxiety. And, unfortunately, this is all too common an experience in today’s society.

Let’s understand the nature of the beast and what we can do to fill our cup with joy and love.


Historical role of women

It is worth looking at the socialization we inherited as women. Sensitive, caring men will also relate with this experience.

Women have been socialized to care for others, putting the needs of others first. We were told we are “bad” or “wrong” to take care of ourselves – it’s “selfish”!

We internalize these negative messages and live them out in our daily decisions. In this way we create a life structured around denying our needs.

This leads to situations of running on empty – our tank is empty, and yet we keep giving to others. It saps our life force.


What is the cost of sacrificing your self-care?

It can be a healthy step to acknowledge the cost of ignoring your needs. If you feel motivated to engage your own process of healing here today, there is a space below where you can share your answers to these questions.

What is the cost of sacrificing your self-care…

To your health?

To your relationships?

To your work and your financial well-being?

Most tragically, living life from a depleted state sabotages our ability to fulfill our life purpose. We literally don’t have the energy or mind space to attend to what is truly important.

No wonder people get sick and depressed!


Contrast – Empty vs Full

It literally feels good to take care of yourself. You feel worthwhile – worthy of care. You feel attended to, rather than giving up and letting the things that are important to you slide off your own plate.

When you take care of your well-being, then you have a rich reservoir from which to give to others. When you live with a full tank, you are empowered to know your personal truth – your life mission – and to live life with vibrant, healthy gusto!


Begin living with a full tank

Today’s post is about empowering you with awareness to help shift into more authentic care for yourself. I want to inspire you to organize your life in slightly different ways – ways that attend and nurture your well-being.

Try shifting just one thing in the next week. What is one small thing you can do to care for yourself over the next week? This is a powerful way to shift the scale to weigh in on the side of Love and Joy.

Please join me in this important discussion by sharing your thoughts and experience with self-care below. What are the costs for neglecting your self-care? What small thing are you going to try in the next week to shift the balance towards self-care?

And watch for my email next week with an exercise for your Heart Chakra to fill your cup with loving joy!

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