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Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

I came across this book in a new age store in Canmore a couple of weeks ago. I was in Canmore for real estate matters and also to shop for Josh’s birthday present and a wedding gift for a wedding that coming weekend and I was feeling aggravated from work issues, plus I hate shopping for gifts when I only have so much time (and money).

Written by John C. Parkin, a 20 year practitioner of Eastern wisdom, “Fuck It” gives us a way to respond to our increasingly complicated and stressful Western lives. This book expresses Eastern spiritual concept of letting go and living in the now in a way that is inspiring and humourous.

One of the problems with people, myself included, is that we worry about everything too much and are always focusing on the “shoulds” and our problems and concerns, including what other people think of us and things that we have no control over. This is not helped by society as we are bombarded with guilt and “told” that we should live a certain way. There is the pressure to “keep up with the Jones’es” so to speak, guilt to reduce our carbon footprint, guilt to lose weight and eat right among other things.

The Fuck It Way tells us to say “Fuck It” to all this. It tells us that we should say “fuck it” to all the “shoulds” in our lives and do what we want and not care what other people think (as often what other people think, do and say is a result of their issues and inability to say “fuck it”). Now this does not mean that we are to give up being responsible or take on a life of crime, but rather to not micromanage our lives so much and be more accepting and in the “now” and not so fixated on outcomes. It is certainly true when they say “life is a journey and not a destination.”

My big “fuck it” moment was when I quit being a legal assistant to become a real estate agent and a year or so later I decided that I would always make sure that I did something I enjoyed. I said “fuck it” when I hired a cleaner, deciding that I would rather spend that time that would have been spent on housework playing music, riding or even enjoying a good book.

I still have a way to go as I stress over not exercising enough, eating right or spending enough time on my business – precious time better spent doing something else!

I recommend “Fuck it” for those looking to make some changes in their outlook on life and more information can be found at www.thefuckitway.com You can also take a “Fuck It Week” in Italy at the author’s retreat www.thehillthatbreathes.com

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I have just gotten back from a fabulous yoga-filled weekend in Banff.  About a month ago, when it seemed that I was constantly working 24/7, I received an email from the Airdrie Yoga Studio regarding a couple of yoga retreats in Banff that one of their instructors, Marcy Jespersen, was offering this month. In desperate need of some me-time, I took the plunge and signed up and I am so glad that I did.

I have always been interested in yoga. When I was a child, my mother had a couple of books on yoga with detailed photos of how to do some of the poses and I would copy them. Fast forward to adulthood and a curiosity about the Eastern thought and the New Age and I started to acquire (and still do!) the odd yoga book – my first yoga book was “The Gentle Art of Yoga” by Karen Bailey which was a great book for a beginner as it clearly explains some of the poses with some great pictures. I also got a couple of yoga video tapes and for a little while worked out along with them. Of course me being me, this seemed to be just a phase and I never really stuck with it. Life moved on.

After acquiring Stardust, and suffering a couple of nasty falls which resulted in a sore back particularly upon waking up in the morning or from lounging about on the couch, I wanted something to ease my back and to also become fitter as a rider. I picked up a copy of “Yoga for Equestrians” by Linda Benedik & Veronica Wirth and soon after that I got my Wii Fit Plus. Along the way I think I did about 5 yoga classes, some with the lunchtime yoga we had at one of the law firms.

The Nintendo Wii changed everything for me, which is another blog post in itself. The “Wii Fit Plus” game has some yoga exercises which are a great start. Yoga is also a part of “My Fitness Coach” and “My Fitness Coach 2” which are very different and my favourite exercise games so far.  The first one has flowing workouts and you can choose Yoga, Cardio, Flexibility, Core, Upper Body and Lower Body. (Yoga is also incorporated into the last four, particularly flexibility.) I am currently working on “My Fitness Coach 2” which, like Wii Fit, utilizes the balance board, a fantastic tool to help with balance. Between the Wii remote and the balance board the game will score you on how correct your yoga poses are, be they Warrior, Tree, Dancer, Downward Dog or Plank to name but a few.

One of the great things about Wii Fit is the focus on correct posture and balance at all times and it’s also reiterated in “Yoga for a New Age” by Bob Smith and Linda Boudreau, a book on Hatha Yoga (“sun-moon union” – balancing of left and right – this is the name of the familiar physical yoga) filled with detailed descriptions of yoga postures and dated photos of half-naked frighteningly skinny people demonstrating said postures. After reading it I am now more aware of when I am not standing or sitting straight and when singing in particular I make sure to stand square not my habitual stance with weight on one side.

Over the past year and after regular workouts (almost daily) on the Wii and I started to notice that my back wasn’t so stiff and sore…

I watched “Eat Pray Love” on the plane back from Ontario after Christmas and I started to get a curiosity back about the more spiritual side of yoga.  I’d heard about the benefits of meditation, but easier said than done – would it even be possible to slow my brain down?

And so I signed up for Marcy’s retreat which promised a blend of yoga, qi-gong, restorative poses and sound touch therapy. I have been contemplating signing up for a yoga class with the Airdrie Yoga Studio for a while now and this seemed the perfect opportunity to also meet one of the instructors. What better way to get some me-time and also see what it was like to do some “serious” yoga! I thought I would in the very least find out what I was doing wrong in my postures (surely Wii Fit couldn’t tell how good my Downward Dog or Warrior II actually was) and a real life instructor would help me fix my mistakes. I certainly considered myself a yoga novice.

And so I headed to Banff for the weekend on Friday.  The retreat was held at the Banff YWCA and the room had been decorated with scarves, crystals, candles and the odd Buddha or other Eastern deity statue (I think there was a Ganesha and Vishnu too, but I didn’t look that closely). There were about 9 other ladies on the retreat. Another 2 were supposed to join us but they couldn’t due to the weather. Friday evenings’ session began with some relaxation and then we did some restoration and hatha yoga postures for the first hour or so (I think there may have been some qi-gong too). Then we all gathered together in a circle around a candle to do some focused meditation. I have attempted this type of thing before and it was not unlike the “Lotus Focus” game in Wii Fit Plus which involves sitting cross-legged on the balance board as still as possible gazing at a candle on the screen as the game attempts to distract you.  If you move too much it ends – I usually last about a minute. The final thing we did that evening was lie down and listen to a yoga-nidra CD which guides you to focus on different parts of your body in order to relax them and concentrate on breathing. Yoga-nidra translates as “yoga sleep” and it is a deeper meditation. I did fall asleep for about 5 minutes I think. The whole thing latest about 30 minutes (it felt deliciously longer) and it was wonderful how energized I felt afterwards (even at 9pm after a long day).

Saturday morning started with some relaxation where we were lying down on our mats to relax a bit before starting yoga warm-ups. Marcy had a rain-stick which she came by each of us with. I didn’t know what it was at first but as it’s name implies it mimics a natural sound which just adds to the relaxation. The morning was then spent doing more restorative and hatha yoga poses (some of which was with a partner) as well as some qi-gong which is a Chinese practice for aligning energy and breath using a gentle flow of sequences. Marcy explained that whereas yoga works through the chakras, qi-gong balances the meridians and so they complement each other. Throughout the weekend we also chanted from each of the chakras starting with the root-chakra through to the crown chakra to release old and negative energy and bring in positive energy.

Saturday afternoon was spent doing what I can only describe as a form of Reiki (Marcy is also a Reiki Master) in groups where one person was in the centre and the others brought their hands up and down the body of the person in the middle (not touching) and allowed energy to pass back and forth as a healing exercise. Problem areas would feel warmer or cooler or with resistance. I didn’t feel that I was that sensitive to it but I did feel a warm area for one lady in the group and resistance too in what was possibly a problem spot (a sore shoulder?). My problem are was my brain – no surprise there as I know I have a hard time turning it off (lots of people do). I’m still rather skeptical about this stuff, but remain open-minded – there is so much we just don’t know about unseen energy and I just don’t know enough about it. We also did it as a group where 3 of us were in the middle and the rest around them. Group work and partner work is not my favourite as I like my own space! The remarkable thing is that when I was in the centre and I closed my eyes I didn’t feel I was closed into a group at all, I felt I was standing on my own on a hilltop, like a tree. It was actually a kind of nice feeling. I also could see just orange (which happens to be my favourite colour) which is the colour of the sacral chakra which is located in the reproductive  region of a person. This is the chakra concerned with creativity, sexuality, relationships and emotions. I definitely felt an affinity for the creative as art in all it’s forms has definitely been a preoccupation of mine recently what with the theatre group and my band. Finally on Saturday we finished off with another 30 minutes of yoga-nigra.

Today’s session was just in the morning, but we started earlier. We again started with some relaxation. Marcy went around with a pair of tuning forks which she struck by our heads and the frequency they resonated at felt very pleasant. Then we went into yoga warm-ups followed by more restorative and hatha yoga poses. Then some more qi-gong. In partners we gave each other a back massage followed by meditation.  I can’t remember what kind of meditation it was but we were sitting up with our backs against a wall and a bolster for comfort – I again fell asleep for a few minutes!  Then we worked on some sound therapy using different vocalizations to help heal various parts of the body. My memory is hazy, perhaps it is because a lot of stuff was so new to me and there is only so much retention. The retreat ended with one final meditation called the “House of Light” meditation where you imagine going into your house of light – once again I was so relaxed I fell asleep!

As I recall my weekend, I have a hard time separating all the activities I participated in. I can only attribute that to the flow of the retreat as yoga, qi-gong and meditation etc. seemed to blend together. The time went very quickly. Marcy made all of it very accessible especially to a new-comer like me. I was surprised that I didn’t feel more uncomfortable with some of the more spiritual practices that perhaps I would have considered kind of hokey, but it was interesting to learn about them. As for the hatha yoga, I felt that my own rather unorthodox yoga practice was validated as I had great balance with poses like Tree and Dancer and I didn’t need to be constantly corrected in my poses (which is one thing I was curious about going into the retreat on Friday). I was also happy to be able to do many already familiar poses as well as learn some new ones including Boy Dog (a new favourite because of it’s name – a raised leg variation of Downward Dog, need I say more!) I wasn’t in over my head for one moment, but one thing about yoga is that it is not about the “score,” it  is about physical awareness, personal growth, health and spirituality and with the poses you only push as far as comfortable. The meditation practice was fantastic (my favourites being the focused meditation with the candle and yoga-nidra) as I have a hard time taking even 5 minutes for something like this as I’m always on the go. (Meditation is as good as any nap in my opinion – felt so refreshed afterwards.) After each day I felt energized and physically great and an added bonus was that when I got home to Mary’s house and went to change I noticed some more muscle definition on my upper abs and upper body. Marcy also gave each of us a thank you gift of a little crystal to hang on the rear-view mirror with beads the colour of each chakra – very pretty.

So what next? I am certainly going to continue with my Wii Fit yoga and I am going to sign up for one of Marcy’s weekly classes at the Airdrie Yoga Studio I would go on another weekend retreat too. This was a very unique experience for me and I would certainly recommend it to others looking for some me-time.

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“Yes Man”, starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel and directed by Peyton Reed, is a light-hearted romantic comedy that is a lot of fun to watch and a film that I really enjoyed.  Carl Allen (Carrey) is living a stagnant life.  He is in a mundane position at work (as a junior loan officer with a bank he spends all day declining loans and is passed over for a promotion) and is still moping over his divorce.  As a result he avoids having a social life and spends evenings watching DVDs.  One day he runs into an old co-worker, Nick (John Michael Higgins), who had left the bank to live life and has been on all sorts of adventures including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  Nick attributes this to his becoming a “Yes Man” and gives Carl a pamphlet and invites him to the next “Yes” motivational conference.

Carl begins to take stock of his life after he misses his best friend Peter’s (Bradley Cooper) engagement party and Peter warns him that he’d better do something about his life or he is going to end up very lonely.

Carl attends the “Yes” conference which is led by Terrance Bundley (Terrance Stamp) and as a result, however with heels dragging and a lot of “nos,” Carl makes a covenant with Terrance to say “yes” to everything.  As he leaves the conference he gets to put this into practice immediately as a homeless man asks him for a ride in his car and then for money.  As a result Carl ends up running out of gas and walks to the nearest gas station where he meets Allison (Deschanel).

Then we watch Carl as he continues to say “yes” to everything even stuff he doesn’t like and his life gets better.  He gets the girl and their romance blossoms, he gets a promotion, he does things that make others happy, and he tries lots of new things and he prevents a man from committing suicide.

Then things start to go sour when Carl and Allison take a spontaneous trip to Nebraska and get caught by the FBI who think they are terrorists and have been following Carl.  As a result, Allison breaks up with Carl after finding out from Peter that Carl has been saying “yes” to everything, but he hesitated when she asked him to move in together.

After being released and being back home, Carl receives a call to come over from his ex-wife Stephanie (Molly Sims) who has broken up with her boyfriend.  He refuses her advances and bad things start to happen to him, which he thinks is due to breaking the covenant and saying “no” to Stephanie.  Finally he confronts Terrance Bundley to remove the covenant and Terrance states that there never was supposed to be a covenant and that it was a way for him to stop Carl from being so negative and that a person is supposed to only say “yes” to the things that matter, not everything!  The movie of course ends with a kiss as Carl finds Allison at her photography and exercise class and makes up with her as he explains his true feelings.

There are many things that I found resonated with me during this movie.  First of all I loved the scene at the “Yes” conference as it reminded me on a humourous level of many of the motivational seminars I have attended.

I also think that the old Carl is very telling as to the way many of us live our lives, we say “no” too much and get set in our ways or held back because of fear.  The life-changing scene for Carl was after being confronted by Peter about missing the engagement party.  There is a dream sequence in which Peter and Rooney (Danny Masterson) enter Carl’s apartment and effectively find him dead on the couch.  There is a saying that “if you are not growing, you are dying” and this scene reflects this beautifully.  Old Carl was certainly dying!

Then there was the covenant – Carl really believed that he had broken it by saying “no” to Stephanie’s advances and that was why so much bad stuff was happening to him, which shows how strong the power of thought is.  Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right?  Bad things happen to everyone, but those that have the positive, “yes” attitude are the ones that can deal with problems the best – a problem is just an opportunity to be taken.   They say that bad things some in threes, but if you think that way of course they do.  (The same principle applies to good things coming in threes as well!  What would you rather have?)

Whilst I won’t be saying “yes” to everything, I will continue to keep an open mind to new things.  What about you?

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One powerful thing that I came away with from the Peak Potentials Millionaire Mind Intensive last month was, at the end of each day, to write down in my journal the 5 awesome things of that day.  I have been doing this consistently ever since.  Actually, I had started doing this back in January after reading “The Witch’s Coin: Prosperity and Money Magick” by Christopher Penczak (a book which looks at prosperity, the Law of Attraction and the like from a Wiccan/Pagan point of view).  “The Witch’s Coin” suggested to write down 5 things that you are thankful for each day, but I stopped doing this after a while when life got too busy.  But how true it is!  As a child I was often told to “count my blessings” when sad, complaining or feeling hard done by.  Gratitude is a part of most of religious traditions I think, but sometimes we are not taught how this can be a step towards more personal fulfillment and happiness.

If you start to journal the 5 things you are most thankful for and/or the 5 awesome things that you did or happened to you each day, no matter how small they seem, life feels a lot better.  If life feels better, life will be better.  Basically what this exercise does is make you focus on all the POSITIVE things happening in your life rather than the negative things.  I do believe that focusing on the positive is a more healthy way to be and that focusing on the negative can be a detriment to not just your mental health, but your physical health too.  Being positive also helps us to deal with problems and issues that come up as well and allow us to face them a lot better.

I have also suspected that these principles also apply to Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets and Eric Qualman’s “Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business”, which I have just started to read, confirms this.  Qualman’s book tells us about a woman that unintentionally posted more negative comments about her kids than positive comments.  She didn’t realize this until a friend enlightened her about it and then she reviewed her status updates and found out it was true.  So she made a conscious effort to post positive comments and about 2 weeks later was rewarded by her four year old stating: “Mommy, you seem a lot more happy, and I really like it.”  Recently, I have been trying to always post something positive and even when my cat disappeared for a few days, my posts conveyed my feeling of worry, however I didn’t want to be in despair, but keep the hope up that she would return.  (She did!  Thanks to all those that posted comments of support.)

Writing down my 5 awesome things of the day, makes me want to do more awesome things.  For me it can be as something mundane as finishing a novel or working out, or something great like selling a house, winning something, going on a trip or seeing an old friend for the first time in ages.  Awesome things are different for everyone.  To again get back to Qualman’s book, social media status updates that ask “what’s happening?” do the same thing as we post about cool things that we do to our social network and natural human competitiveness makes us want to post and therefore do cooler things than our social media friends.  This is great for individuals and great for society.

Getting more enjoyment out of life starts within and with what you already have.  Count your blessings and improve your life!

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I had the opportunity to attend the T. Harv Eker’s Millionaire Mind Intensive (MMI) from Peak Potentials Training this past weekend in Calgary.  T. Harv Eker is the author of the best selling book “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” and MMI stems from that book.  Peak Potentials trainers Kieron Sweeney and Marjean Holden were amazing and did a “frickin’ awesome” job with these three days of financial enlightenment.

What a eye-opening, inspiring and life-changing experience!  It was also a lot of fun and was three very full day and evenings which for me went by very, very quickly.  Throughout the weekend, I participated in exercises that were designed to make me think about my attitudes towards wealth and success (and life), and then to change them for the better.

On the first day we looked at our beliefs towards money, “money is the root of all evil,” “rich people are greedy crooks,” “I don’t deserve to be wealthy” etc.  Then were taught the five financial habits of the wealthy, focusing on pursuing passive income generating strategies, as well as a superb money management and maintenance system that I couldn’t wait to put into action, which I did when I got home from the seminar at midnight.  That evening I also came away with the awareness that I have to respect and honour money if I want it to stick around and grow.  Not unlike plants, children, animals, or even creative or active pursuits (be it business, arts or sports) wealth and success needs to be nurtured and managed in order to grow.

Friday evening and Saturday was spent delving into my subconsciousness in order to start to pull up and eliminate all those negative attitudes towards money, wealth and success.  We also learned about different money personality types and how someone with a  Millionaire Mind is not one particular “type” but balanced in a different way – a money manager who makes money work hard for them and uses it to enjoy life and help others enjoy life, but doesn’t hoard money like a saver or let it burn like a spender.

Sunday was spent delving deeper even still and then removing all the negative crap about money that has been inside since maybe even childhood.  Negative thoughts were replaced with positive ones, an essential step as our inner thoughts and feelings are what ultimately affect our actions and results.  Law of Attraction – like attracts like.

I learnt alot about myself and my attitude towards success and money.  Before this weekend I believed that I did not deserve wealth and success.  I discovered that this perhaps came from from an incident when I was a teen, when I already suffered from low self-esteem.  I babysat for the first time at age 14 for some friends of my parents when we were still living in the UK.  They gave me a £5 note for the evening and my dad made me give it back!  The people refused to take back the money and so I got to keep the £5 note but I felt so guilty and like I did not deserve it (particularly as they had a pantry full of crisps (chips) and chocolate bars of which I was allowed to help myself throughout the evening!)  I do not know why my dad made me give the money back and he can’t even remember the incident (I asked him this evening). Perhaps it was because he didn’t want me to be spoiled or to expect too much or that as I was his daughter I didn’t need the money.  MMI made me realize that my dad’s actions came from his own financial conditioning and that I needed to let it go.  Many people in the room would not have been fortunate enough to be able to ask their father why.  I now realize that it is totally bullshit to believe that I do not deserve wealth, success and happiness.  I deserve it as much as anyone and everyone deserves it!

One of the final things we dealt with was our fear, which is particularly relevant for us entrepreneurs in this economic climate.  Well I am pleased to say that I broke through my fear and I am not going to let it ruin my real estate career.

Throughout the event, we had little teasers about other courses that Peak Potentials offers.  Eventually in the not too distant future I want to take these courses, but in the meantime I picked up a copy of the “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” book and wealth cards with positive statements about wealth and success on them, as well as the “Speedwealth” book and a 2 CD set entitled “How to Develop a Millionaire Mind: The Secret Psychology of Wealth” (it was a deal, one dollar!)

MMI is valued at $1,295, but I got to experience it for free, thanks to being invited by a friend.  I am hoping to attend next year, maybe even on the Karma Krew.  I also signed onto the Ambassador Referral Program so watch my Facebook or Twitter for MMI dates next year.

One last thing – I finished the race this weekend.  I was there for every single minute of the seminar.  Successful people never give up, they finish the race.

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