A Peace Offering Serenity isn't freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm. I remember, quite vividly, the first time I heard those words.


A Peace Offering

Serenity isn't freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm.

I remember, quite vividly, the first time I heard those words.

They washed over me at a CD launch (Carolyn McDade) in Halifax.

It was the fall of 2011.

That would be the fall after my "Summer of Love."

Stormy times, indeed.

I also remember how I felt as the gentle, lyrical teaching comforted me and gave me hope for brighter days.

May you find peace within the holiday season.

And may this peace offering of images and words bring you comfort, hope, serenity and joy.


And in the new year.

Go foster some freedom,



Three Gifts of Stillness for You

Still morning

A cool, still November morning at my winter retreat

#1: Return to Zero

Frozen grass

Absolute stillness. Zero.

I'm in a workshop with Gabrielle Roth in Montreal.

Winter of 2012.

Over and over, she has us connect with a specific feeling and put it into our dance. Fully.

Just when the intensity feels unbearable, she calls out "Return to Zero".

We stop. Stand absolutely still.

We root ourselves through our feet. Feel the physical sensations. The heat. The breath. Full body pulsing.

Then she instructs us to let go of what just happened. Quickly. Completely.

What next, you wonder?

Over and over. She offers a new feeling for us to dance into and guides us through the next wave of emotion. Stop. Let go. Quickly and completely. Move on.

Wahoo. That's not an experience for the faint of heart, especially if you're disconnected from your body, as so many of us are. I'm better at it than I was. Then a super challenging situation erupts, and I'm reminded that it's a practice. A journey, not an end.


Relax - Release

Connect with the challenging feeling or situation. Notice what's happening in your body.

Inhale deeply.
Give your body a quick shake, much like a wet dog might do after a swim. Groan, moan or wail if you want to.

Exhale deeply.
Let it all go.
Move on.

Repeat as desired.

NOTE: The goal here is not to bury, deny or get rid of your feelings. It's more like ... to be aware, acknowledge, accept, and just be there for yourself with the feeling for a few seconds.

Resist having big expectations for specific results with this practice. However, just paying attention in this way can often cause intense feelings to soften or dissipate.


#2: The Body Compass

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Still waters gift us with peace-filled reflections

Martha Beck has a tool she calls the Body Compass. Briefly, it's calibrated by getting in touch with how you feel in a blissful situation (plus ten on the scale) and then a disturbing situation (minus ten on the scale). Zero is how your body feels at rest, when neither stressed nor excited.

With this practice, you learn to check in with how you are feeling in a given situation, and, eventually, to use your body as a compass to guide decisions and actions.

"Your body is screaming at you!!"

That's what a coach told me once when I didn't think I was doing a very good job of connecting with my body.

Point taken: Just because I wasn't accustomed to "listening" to my body doesn't mean it wasn't trying to tell me something!


Random Check Ins

Set an alarm on your smart phone to go off at random times during the day.*

When it rings, stop what you're doing.

Focus on your breath.

Check in with your body. Notice any areas of stress or tension or pressure. Breathe into any pain or stiffness. Send love to any parts that could use it right now.

Notice what you're thinking. Do you like what your mind is doing? Need to change it?

Notice what you're feeling. Try not to judge or change or control how you feel. Just pay attention and be grateful that you can.

Give yourself an overall body compass rating on a scale from minus ten to plus ten.

Move on.

*If you don't have a smart phone, pick another cue, such as every time the phone rings, when you're stopped at a red light, or other random occasions.


#3: The Hunger Scale


Absorb a Moment of Perfect Stillness. Ahhhhhhhh.

My third gift for connecting with the stillness within is for people who are challenged by urges, especially urges to eat more food than we need.

The Hunger Scale is a tool used by Brooke Castillo. This is a variation of an intensity scale, much like Martha Beck's Body Compass.

Plus ten on the scale is when you are totally sated, and minus ten is when you are totally starving.

The practice is to check in with your body to see where you are on the hunger scale. How hungry or full are you before you eat? While you are eating? When you stop eating?

For dealing with weight issues, Brooke recommends always keeping yourself between minus two and plus two on the Hunger Scale. In my opinion, when weight loss isn't the focus, maintaining a range between minus four and plus four sounds reasonable.

Making this a habit can be a great help when you want to learn to eat in response to hunger and fullness ... which is often, sadly, a foreign concept for those of us who tend to eat more food than we need.


The 90 Second Thing

Pema Chodron talks about this "90 Second Thing" in one of her books (Taking the Leap).

She suggests using it during times when you contact groundlessness - that edgy, queasy feeling.

I find it helpful for dealing with "the itch and the urge to scratch". It's fun to practice it with a physical itch while sitting in meditation, like when the wind has blown a lock of your hair onto your cheek and you want to brush it away.

Then there's the emotionally driven urges, like thinking I will die if I don't eat the chocolate bar that's in the cupboard. And i mean the whole bar. Right now. Because it's there.

For about 90 seconds, acknowledge the feeling. Give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention. Experience it directly. No stories or interpretations or opinions or judgments. Where is the sensation located in your body? Does it remain the same for very long? Does it shift or change?


Urge Surfing

Since we're on the topic, I can't leave without adding this tool from a book by Russ Harris (The Happiness Trap).

It ties in nicely with the 90 Second Thing and the Hunger Scale. A blend.

You're basically learning to surf an urge, rather than be "wiped out" by the wave of it.

First, notice where you feel the urge in your body.

Acknowledge "I'm having the urge to ..."

Breathe into it, without suppressing or denying it. Just make room for it to be.

Watch the urge as it rises, crests, then falls again.

Try scoring the urge on a scale of one to ten. "I'm having the urge to eat more ice cream, and it's now a 7."

Keep checking in with the urge, noticing if it's rising, cresting or falling.

If you give the urge enough space, then sooner or later it will crest and then subside.

In the meantime, check in with your values and ask "What action can I take right now - instead of trying to resist or control my urges - that will enhance my life in the long term?

Then go do it!


Finding Inner Comfort and Joy

You might be asking, why seek stillness within? What is the purpose of developing such a practice? I'll get my comfort and joy from external things, thank you very much. It's much less work.

If we truly value having a healthy and fit body, we do things to increase our chances of having one. Everything from fitness classes and workouts at the gym to marathon training and races, yoga and tai chi. We flex and stretch and use muscles with the intention to strengthen, maintain and improve our current level of fitness.

In my opinion, practices that involve flexing and stretching and using our minds in ways that enable us to connect with the peace and joy ... the stillness ... within is equally and perhaps even more important. Regardless of our physical condition, it is our minds - how we think about our situation - that ultimately determines how happy we are in this lifetime, whatever our situation.

So anything we can do - even better with practice - that helps us connect with our thoughts, feelings and actions in ways that promote greater peace of mind, well, that's just about the biggest step we can take to greater world peace.

I'm not suggesting we all sit for days on end in meditation (although that is the path for some). Rather, I'm all for doing what we can, in our own way, to build our confidence and competence in reaching this stillpoint within. This is mostly a process of removing barriers and obstacles rather than adding a lot of things.

It is from this stillpoint within that the ripples of love, peace, joy, and freedom emerge.

And, like a rock thrown into a still lake, these ripples spread out into the lives of others who cross our path in ways we can't even imagine.

Need proof? I bet you can think of someone who, just in passing, left you feeling better than when you met them.

Simply by coming from a place of living kindness.

Which is way easier to do when your mind is happy, healthy and fit!

Live it to give it.

Go foster some joy.

Living with intention1
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I welcome the opportunity to bring valuable personal wellness tools and inspiration to women who are experiencing big shifts in their lives.

Whether these shifts are imposed by the hand life deals us, or freely chosen as a natural part of growing and evolving, it is a great pleasure to be of service to strong, beautiful, smart, courageous women.