The bully inside

Laura in a pink shirt grinning over her shoulderFebruary 27 was Pink Shirt Day and there were a lot of people wearing pink in Vancouver. The day is meant to draw awareness to bullying and empower people to stand up against it.

While I’m not convinced that encouraging dress code conformity (and perhaps alienating those who aren’t wearing pink) is the way to make a positive impact, I do think that looking at the causes of bullying and how to stop it is a good thing.

Bullying takes all kinds of forms and often self-harm is left out of the mix.  As my friend Tim writes in his post No bruises can be seen…, “it can also happen when we look at how we treat our inner-selves and the relationship to our outer-selves.”

Sometimes the harshest bully is the one in our own heads. I know I’m certainly a self-bully and sometimes that nasty inner voice runs rampant.

Seth Godin has an excellent post on Destabilizing the bullying power structure that talks about bullying reinforcing conformity. Getting rid of bullying means encouraging others to be their own wonderful, weird selves. We need to turn that inwards as well and let ourselves be perfect exactly as we are.

Embrace your inner weirdo and stop forcing your own conformity.  Seth encourages us to “share that weirdness and run with it.” Tim urges “start seeing what it feels like to give yourself a little slack.”

I’ll chime in and agree.

Beyond recognizing bullying and the urge to conform within society, look at your inner world and try to silence the bully inside.

The quest continues

Laura smiling at a brilliantly coloured shave ice in Maui

Around this time last year I wrote about mental health and how the previous February had been a low point. This February, my mental health continues on an up-swing. I’ve been off of anti-depressants for about eight months, I’m feeling more secure in my own skin, and I’ve found all kinds of joy (including vacations with friends and shave ice!).

I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and periods where negative self-talk makes me feel worthless. I still wish that there was some kind of guarantee that I won’t ever be clinically depressed again. I still get anxious and sad and worried. I still sometimes feel directionless and unsure of how to be happy.

I am getting more comfortable approaching recovering from depression as a non-linear process without an end point. The quest for mental wellness is an ongoing part of my life, as I think it is for most people.

FB-LetsTalkTalking about mental health overall and making it okay to prioritize mental wellness is an important step in managing mental illness. Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, which aims to reduce the stigma around mental illness (like depression) and supports mental health initiatives in Canada. For every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and every Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health related programs through the Bell Mental Health Initiative.

I think the most profound impact Let’s Talk can have is not in terms of money, but encouraging people not to be ashamed or afraid of mental health issues. Mental wellness is a complex concept with a lot of contributing factors and creating comfortable space to talk about the quest to be mentally healthy is a big deal.

Happiness on horseback

Laura on horsebackI went horseback riding on a recent vacation and remembered how happy it makes me. I took riding lessons as a kid and then returned to riding as an adult several years ago.

I rode once or twice a week for a few years and mostly loved it. Of course there were some days where things just didn’t feel comfortable, but overall riding thrilled me.

Then my stress levels skyrocketed at work and riding lessons became a chore. All the pressure I put on myself at work came through on horseback. I made the horses nervous, I got frustrated easily, and my hobby was no longer fun. I gave up riding.

I hadn’t ridden for two years when I got on Ginger at Makena Stables. All the enjoyment came rushing back and being on a horse was fun again 🙂

Now to see if there’s a way for me to continue horseback riding while not on vacation!

The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.
~Ashley Montagu

Learning to soar

Laura sitting upright in throne pose and twistingOn Boxing Day I got my first taste of yogaFLIGHT… and I was hooked! sKY:: and slaDE came to yin yoga class I taught and hung around afterwards to introduce me to this incredible practice.

yogaFLIGHT is a form of acro yoga (i.e. acrobatics+yoga) that allows students to soar. It’s contact partner yoga that’s usually practiced in groups of three: one person to be the base (the guy on the bottom), one person is the flier (rising into the air atop the base), and one person acting as a spotter (making sure the flier and base are as safe as possible).

Being the base takes less strength than I thought. My husband (pictured acting as base in the photo) is able to fly with me as a base… and he’s got 50+ pounds and a lot more muscle than me! That being said, I love flying – that’s certainly when I’m happiest 🙂

Since my first taste of yogaFLIGHT, I’ve joined Acro Yoga Vancouver for a couple classes and practiced with friends while on a beach vacation. Each time has been incredible!

On Saturday, February 2, I’m participating in a yogaFLIGHT workshop put on by sKY:: and slaDE at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre. The workshop runs from 1-3pm and has limited space to make sure every participant gets the attention they need.

Although it might look intimidating, yogaFLIGHT can be an incredibly restorative practice – and it’s hugely fun! Between looks of intense concentration, I’ve generally got a huge smile on my face while flying. And I’m always looking forward to the next time…

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Laura turning on a spiral staircaseAfter focusing on teaching yoga for over a year, I’m feeling restless… I’m looking for a change. I’m not sure what direction I’m heading, but I know that I’ll need space to let it unfold.

To give myself time to focus on what’s coming next and to determine what I want that to look like, I’m cutting back on my teaching commitments.

Starting in February, I’ll be teaching just three classes a week at Bound Lotus Yoga & Meditation Centre: Hatha on Mondays from 9:15-1045am, Yin on Fridays from 6:30-7:45pm, and Hatha on Saturdays from 11:15am-12:30pm.

That means that I’ll be teaching my last Tuesday night Yin class at Bound Lotus tonight. If you’re able to, I’d love to have you join me for some of my favourite yin yoga poses (that means dragons, supported fish, and legs up the wall!) and a lovely savasana that will bring you beautifully sweet dreams!

And I promise David Bowie won’t be in the playlist… although his song Changes has certainly been stuck in my head today! It’s time for me to “Turn and face the strange” and find a balance of being challenged and being comfortable.

Big love for biophilia

Laura standing on one snowshoe

A blissful few days of being almost entirely unplugged, along with time spent playing in the snow and the holiday routine of food, friends, and family has left me feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. While the tryptophan from turkey might have something to do with the relaxation, being outdoors also contributes to my feelings of well-being.

The Biophilia Hypothesis posits “that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems.” Basically that connecting with the biological world around us feeds some deep-seated psychological need and improves our mental state.

I first heard the term “biophilia” on The Peak’s Suzuki Report segments and the idea immediately made sense. It’s rare that I don’t feel better, calmer, and invigorated after a wander through the woods or a walk along the water. And the magic of a winter wonderland like nearby Seymour Mountain brings me an additional sense of awe and gratitude!

Happy winter and happy holidays! Hope there’s some more snow-filled-nature-time in the near future 🙂

Be gentle with yourself

Quote over cluster of startsThere are a couple situations that reliably bring on negative self-talk and increase the nasty thoughts I think about myself. A couple nights of disturbed sleep and the grey nastiness of the slushy weather outside have led to recurring thoughts that I don’t care enough about others and that I’m not nice enough, considerate enough, or loving enough; that I’m just overall not enough.

Days like this, I need a reminder that I am enough. I need a reminder that it’s okay to be gentle with myself. I need a reminder to treat myself like I would anyone I love.

I’d never accuse a loved one of being a terrible person for the same perceived sins I’m calling myself out for… not even in my head.

I am enough. And I will be gentle with myself first.

Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.

~Lama Yeshe