My “To-Be” List…

My dearest readers,

We are all very familiar with the organizational benefits of keeping a to-do list, not to mention the sense of accomplishment that one feels when one strikes through an item on a list once it is done. As someone who loves lists, I was intrigued when I read about the idea to keep a different type of list in a book I recently bought, entitled “Everyday Mindfulness: 365 Ways to a Centred Life”. One of the daily suggestions featured in the book was to keep a running “to-be” list – a list focused on putting into words our goals for “being”. In other words, who do we want and hope to be, how to we want to be? As I set out to start what promises to be a challenging month in my medical residency training, I took a few moments this morning to start a “to-be” list. Here is what I added so far…what does your “to-be” list include?

“To-be” list – November 2017

To be driven by faith in place of fear, by love in place of hate, by understanding in place of ignorance

To be comfortable with the uncertainty of tomorrow, the understandings of times past, realizing that the present moment is to be valued and is fully in my reach

To forever be a work in progress, focusing on the growth that each experience brings, being kind to myself as the pieces settle into place

To be a catalyst for change in a world whose harsher sides are ever so apparent, all while choosing to continue seeing the beauty and good in humanity

To be a believer in the magic that can be born of being so passionate about something, that that passion is transformed into one’s gift to the world

To be courageous in the feat of building the life that I dream of, so that I may build a life that I am not only proud of, but can fall in love with each and every day

To be brave in the face of challenge, realizing that strength is resilience – that I may bend in the face of hardship, but I will not fold

To be myself above all other things…

 

to be list

Advertisements

“White Noise”

Life can become quite noisy sometimes. There is the obvious type of noise – that which arises from an accumulation of auditory stimuli from our environments. From the tense and chaotic sounds of rush hour traffic, to the sound of a hospital pager breaking the fragile silence of a call room, to the thunder of angry rainstorms, these types of sounds string together, at different volumes and pitches, to create a bustling soundtrack to our busy lives. And yet, for many of us, it may be a very different type of noise that renders our lives “noisy” at times –a type of noise that emerges from an internal chatter of multiple thoughts. Some thoughts racing, others lingering…some thoughts fleeting, others enduring…thoughts that when strung together, and life is busy, have the potential to become an indecipherable web of “thought-full” noise. Thoughts of what is to be, and what has been, replace an ability to experience being in the present. “Thought-full” noise can also lead to a mind space that does not allow one to authentically observe each thought as it floats in; positive self-talk might be lost in an overshadowing negative voice, while powerful and creative thoughts might be weighed down by thoughts of self-doubt and surrenders to the status quo.

 As I write this, my dearest readers, I find myself on a quiet beach in Maine for an impromptu vacation. The October weather makes it too cold to go into the water, but is just right to find myself sitting with my feet in the sand, pen in hand, paper in lap. As you will learn from anyone who knows me well, it takes a great deal to get me out of the water when I am at the beach. And yet, on this vacation, without being able to go in the water, I am learning to appreciate the ocean and beach in a completely different way. I have the chance to observe it and admire it for the way the ocean waters kiss the shore – in beautiful symbiosis the waves carve away at the sandy shore and the shore breaks each wave, and yet both seem to kiss time and time again in a constant give and take. I am able to relish in this interaction of land and sea with my eyes closed too; in fact it is the sounds of this symbiotic dance of two elements that I appreciate most as I sit here, ironically, my mind full of thoughts. The sound of rolling and crashing waves creating a sort of “white noise”; a calming background noise that has been marketed commercially in so many forms such as computer screen savers, to baby mobiles, to machines that act as sleep aids. Here I have it in its most natural form.

As my mind takes in the calming effects of the “white noise” that surrounds me, I find myself reflecting on how I might learn from this moment to be able to better decipher through the “thought-full” noise when it happens. Here, by the water, to observe each thought, to appreciate each thought for what it is, to allow each thought to enter my gentle awareness, feels more effortless. Of course, we cannot always depend on vacations to the seashore to be able to be more mindful of our thoughts, but perhaps it is about finding the “white noise” in everyday moments that could be something to strive for. To commit to entering a space that allows us to decipher through the web and experience our thoughts with tender awareness. By interacting with our thoughts in this way, a noisy mind need not be “thought-full” in a heavy and confusing way, nor “thoughtless” in an empty and denying way, but rather “thoughtful” in a mindful and fulfilling way.

Just as the shore line is a place that is constantly in flux, changing with each meeting of wave and sand, gently as each invades each other’s space in a constant give and take, so can we create a mind space where our thoughts and our awareness gently meet, dancing with one another constantly. In this way the “thought-full” noise can be unraveled into a thoughtful string of moments where we may be present to experience and observe each thought as it floats through our minds.

Needless to say, I’ll be bringing back much more than sand in between the pages of my books this vacation – I’ll be bringing some “white noise” back with me as well!

22089960_1637584056273759_4304634656689289078_n

“La rentrée” – Back to School for the Autumn Soul…

My dearest readers,

If you were to ask me about the seasons, I would have to say that although summer definitely lifts my spirits, I hold a special place in my heart for fall – I think my soul is of the autumn type. There is something strangely nostalgic in how, as the warm rays of summer dissipate, we once again find new warmth in the coziness of fluffy sweaters, scarves wrapped around our necks, baked apple pies and creamy caramel macchiato. Perhaps even more than this is the familiar feeling of “back to school” excitement – a feeling that, even as an adult, I recognize in myself, as the crisp air of September sweeps in among the changing colours of the trees.

I love the way the French language coins the beginning of the school year as “la rentrée” – meaning the return. My dearest readers, whether you are a student truly “returning” to classes, in the traditional sense of the phrase, or someone who is simply continuing in their career journey after brief periods of vacation over the summer months, I believe there is something to be said about the rejuvenating and reviving energy that the autumn brings. Remember how we all felt those first few days of school when we were little? Anticipation, excitement, dreams and aspirations were all wrapped up into the nervous smiles that we brought to the school yard and all wrapped around our small fingers holding onto new pencils.

Fall is a truly dynamic state for nature – one that we can look to for inspiration as we seek to be anything but stagnant ourselves. The leaves change colour from moment to moment – reinvention in action. How can we use this time period to rejuvenate our own ideas and passions? As the temperature gradually drops we also seek out warmth, often through a new-found appreciation for closeness. In gratitude and thanksgiving, the sense of wanting to foster human connection is revived and heightened.

In fact, it was exactly four years ago that I found myself being inspired by a walk through a farmer’s market in Ottawa to start a blog. I started off my first article with the following; As the leaves begin to change color and crisp early mornings are met with aromas of hot chocolate and apple pies, all wrapped up in cozy sweaters and chunky scarves, I find myself thinking about the elements in my life that I am most thankful for.”

And so, my dearest readers, what type of excitement, warmth and nostalgia does Autumn stir up in your heart? May we embrace “la rentrée” with hopes of rejuvenation, dynamic change, connection and gratitude.

fall leaves

Presenting Ariana Rodriguez: From Food Puns to Venezuelan arepas…how this to-be Registered Dietitian and Foodie Finds Balance

My dearest readers,

I had the pleasure of re-connecting with a beautiful soul yesterday – Ariana Rodriguez and I first met at the University of Ottawa during our undergraduate degrees and have kept in touch as we both moved to Montreal to further our studies. Ariana has always been a great inspiration through the joie-de-vivre that she exudes and through the passion and love that she has for her work, as a soon to be Registered Dietitian. I am very grateful for the time she took to share with us her story and adventures, as we discussed where she draws her inspiration and fulfillment from, among many other things, over a couple of green banana specialty lattes – very fitting for the wonderful foodie that she is!

Ariana is a true believer that everything in life happens for a reason – for example, she explains that pursuing a Masters in Nutrition initially started off as a “back up plan” when she had been applying to medical school, but then ended up becoming her true passion and calling. Ariana reflects on how nutrition and food have such a huge impact on our lives in more ways than one – “If we think about it, food brings us together, there is a special social aspect to food. I see cooking as a form of therapy, as a beautiful creative process. I love how I can feed my body and boost my energy based on the foods I choose to put into my body. I am grateful to be able to share this love and passion I have for food and nutrition with others.”

This love and passion for food and nutrition comes across in Ariana’s tribute to wellness – a wellness platform entitled Nutrionari. (Check out Nutrionari on Instagram at @nutrionari )! The name is derived from a play on words that is just as fun as the food puns and posts that are weaved throughout this lovely stage for health and wellbeing. The word “nutrition” is combined with the sound of the suffix “–ary” referring to a dispensary (a dispensary in this case of knowledge related to nutrition), all while featuring the three first letters of Ariana’s name “-ari”. Ariana explains that she aims for “Nutritionari” to inspire others to lead a healthy life, all while presenting evidence based information in an accessible, fun and quirky way! She not only shares delicious recipes and exciting food-lover finds, but also promotes balance through the incorporation of wisdom and wonder related to friendship, family, mental health, and fitness.

When it comes to achieving balance in her life, and work-life integration, Ariana engages in many forms of self-care and encourages her readers and clients to do the same. For fitness and as part of her spiritual health, she practices yoga at least 3 to 4 times per week. She shares that she also fully enjoys her group dance classes, which not only spark her creative side, but have also allowed her to connect with others and foster new friendships. Family also means a great deal to Ariana; family and friends keep her grounded and support her each and every day in achieving her dreams and staying true to herself.

When it comes to her favourite food, Ariana explains that she loves all food but would have to say that she holds a special place in her heart for arepas – a tribute to her Venezuelan heritage. Essentially a corn patty stuffed with anything your heart desires (Ariana’s favourite stuffing includes black beans, avocado and plantain), she grew up eating them at least once a week and continues the tradition now in her own home. Arepas touch home for this foodie; a connection to her roots. (Her local favorite for arepas is Bocadillo Bistro on St. Laurent in Montreal – authentically Venezuelan).

When I asked Ariana where she draws her inspiration from, she described that she has always been drawn to what is different – different cultures, different perspectives. Her advice to you, my dearest readers, is to not be afraid to question, to discover, to learn – she encourages us to embrace our curious sides. “Love yourself. You are so beautiful. We are all different. Find what makes you tick, what you are passionate about and go with it! Find what makes you happy and embrace it.”

What is next for Ariana? She is about to set off on a gastronomic adventure as she departs for Europe in a couple of weeks, a heart open to discovery and exploration.

Thank you Ariana for sharing your story with the positively profession-elle community – you are truly an inspiration!

Ariana Rodriguez

You are LOVEd.We are ONE.

“You are loved.” “We are one.” – Two simple phrases that echoed this past Saturday morning at the Lolë Yoga and Meditation event that was held in Montreal’s Old Port. Almost 5000 people were in attendance; both men, and women, of all ages, colours, and walks of life, coming together to dedicate their yoga practice in a unified spirit of peace and gratitude.

Despite the morning having started off as rainy, by the time the event was due to start, the clouds had dispersed to reveal blue skies and a sun whose rays began to bask each and every participant as they settled onto their identical yellow mats. Peace; the word that resonated throughout the morning as we were encouraged to hold our “peace fingers” up as we flowed from one pose to the next. We dotted our practice by strong affirmations that “We are one.” We engaged in poses that required us to hold onto the shoulders of the people next to us for balance and stability. My heart was warmed by the sheer possibility, and ensuing reality, of so many people coming together in the name of a common practice, a common message, and common purpose.

What touched me the most was a simple exercise that we participated in during the meditative portion of the practice; a simple exercise that ended up speaking volumes. We paired up, three separate times, with three different people. We were to try and look at our partner in their eyes, for 30 seconds, without shifting our gaze. Subsequently, we were to validate out loud to our partner that they are loved. “You are loved.” From my perspective, one could tell that at first everyone was very quiet; the odd nervous giggle was heard from one moment to the next. However, what followed, was exquisitely beautiful. Participants not only looking at each other in the eyes, but smiling at each other with their eyes. The affirmation “you are loved” being followed by hugs among strangers. We were not just looking at each other, we were truly seeing each other. How beautiful it is to be seen, to hear that we are loved, to receive a simple validation of our presence and existence.

In great juxtaposition, the same evening, I saw a stream of posts and tweets about the tragic and disheartening happenings in Charlottesville. It was a striking reality to see that within the same day I could bare witness to such stark opposites, love and hate, peace and violence, “We are one” and “You are other”.

What I pray for, my dearest readers, is for more of us in this world to use our eyes to really see each other, our voices to affirm and validate each other’s worth, our minds to choose understanding over ignorance, our hearts to echo love and peace.

I end with a quote and call to action by poet and activist Cleo Wade “And may the appalling hate of others fuel you to step more deeply into your work as a warrior of love, justice, and freedom in the fight against oppression and bigotry.”

My dearest readers, let us be warriors of love, justice and freedom.

lole yoga

 

 

 

 

To smell the roses…

My dearest readers,

Montreal has the ability to captures one’s heart at any time of year, but as the summer-loving girl that I am, I would argue that this city encompasses a very special charm from within the warm embrace of summertime. A week ago, after a particularly long stretch of winter, I found myself with a warm and sunny afternoon off of work at the hospital. It was in light of this delightful summer afternoon that I decided to take the metro to Montreal’s Mile End – I had no real plan for the hours that stretched ahead – I was in a “wandering” type of mood. As I wandered, I stumbled upon an enchanting flower shop called “Dragon Flowers”, adorned with whimsical hanging bird cages and the most vibrant of flower arrangements. It was there, amongst the aromas of lilies and roses, that I met a beautiful soul – the store’s owner for 35 years, Ms Lau. Ms Lau had this way of handling the flowers as she arranged them into works of art. You could tell that after 35 years she still appreciated their beauty and still loved the creative process that filled her days at work. In fact, as she took the time to show me all the flowers, bringing them up to my nose so that I may appreciate the gorgeous fragrances, you could hardly call what she was doing work at all. I asked her how long she had owned her flower shop; she teared up as she spoke about her longstanding relationship with flowers and her shop. I left her shop feeling blissful at the prospect of having met someone who loves what they do so much. My dearest readers, how beautiful it is to be moved by what one does for work; to have a fulfilling relationship with one’s career. I felt truly grateful that afternoon for having taken the time to smell the roses, so to speak.

dragon flowers

Here’s to a construction season full of detours!

My dearest readers,

Before I moved to Montreal I was warned about the constant construction that seemed to be omnipresent in the aging city. I quickly found out that the warning was far from an exaggeration when a sign went up at the end of my street quoting an estimated three years until the construction being undertaken on my street would be over. The word “detour” comes to mind when I think of construction; the need for a necessary alternative to get from point A, to point B, in light of a temporary change in a path’s usual landscape.

My dearest readers, you might be wondering why I am choosing to lead with an anecdote about Montreal’s abundant construction in today’s post. The answer lies in an analogy I recently used with one of my patients. During a heart-to-heart conversation one morning on the ward she had thoughtfully expressed that she was “constantly feeling lost among all the changes – twists and turns – in her life”.  Her carefully chosen words prompted me to imagine the struggle she was voicing as a series of detours, at times veering her off the course she had expected or wanted, at times bringing her to unforeseen circumstances. It is there that I clarified with her if I had understood her correctly – was life seeming like a series of detours to her? She said yes.

This conversation went on to be a meaningful one for the both of us, with or without the analogy; it is this analogy of life detours however that stayed on my mind and inspired this post.

My dearest readers, we often speak of life as a journey and how we should do our very best to not lose sight of the journey itself as we make our way from point A to point B. What we sometimes forget, however, is to prepare ourselves for the numerous times that the journey itself undergoes some “construction”, so to speak, and sends us off on detours. The detours themselves are diverse. Some detours bring us to new faces; people who end up playing an important role in our lives. Some detours, on the other hand, distance us from once familiar faces. There are detours that bring us to places where we are challenged to step out of our comfort zone, while others lead us to places of safety and familiarity. Detours can be everything from derailing, to thought-provoking, to grounding.

My dearest readers, detours represent a fundamental notion that the road to success, to achieving one’s dreams, is rarely a straight one. And so, the next time you feel as though your life plans are under construction, try to be open to the detours that will present themselves. Remember that journeys undergo change; that when one road closes, another one opens.

I wish you all the most beautiful of detours this spring; may the landscape of your lives be anything but stagnant – let it be dynamic, and ever-changing.

My dearest readers, here’s to construction season!