July 23, 2013


I sat on top of Mount Doug last night next to the woman I love most in the world, my mum. We sat next to each on the hard bedrock breathing in the ocean air that always hovers around Victoria. Mount Baker stood tall and white capped far across the Juan De Fuca Strait. The Gulf Islands lay peaceful covered in Douglas fir and cedar trees. The ocean was so calm it gleamed up at us like an ice covered lake. The mountains to the west were coloured like a Roger Dean painting in purples, mauves and blues that only ever exist in my dreams. A fog hung low to the south east blanketing the Olympic mountains, giving them the appearance of small hills.

We were on top of the highest point in Victoria to watch the sun set behind the mountains and the full moon rise through the blanket of fog simultaneously.

As I took in the beauty surrounding me I couldn't help reflecting on where I was a year ago. 

A year ago, the sun didn't shine for me. I lived under a constant gray cloud that drizzled on me even in my dreams. When the rainy clouds of November arrived, it didn't faze me at all. Mum remembers asking me to go watch this natural phenomenon last year and I didn't want to. It is amazing what emotions and depression can do to you. How powerful these emotions are, how they take control of your mind and rule your life. To be fair to myself, last year was very difficult and I have come out the other side a stronger, calmer, more compassionate person.

With the help of my yoga teachers and my asana, pranayama and meditation practice, the most valuable thing I have learned in the last year is how to practice mindfulness in my life. I am learning how my mind works and how to be more conscious of my thoughts. In Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she defines mindfulness:

"Mindfulness requires that we not "over-identify" with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught and swept away by negativity."

For myself, mindfulness has become a very useful tool when it comes to my emotions. Emotions are triggered by things that occur around us or memories that we experience. I have always been an emotional person, I experience my emotions very strongly. Through my life they have often debilitated me to the point that I couldn't get out of bed or they would consume me so much that I could not focus on anything else. I have learned how to allow myself to feel the emotions, to breathe them in completely, wallow in them if I need to, accept them and then to detach from them. They do not define who I am, they are only something I need to feel in order to truly experience what I need to so that I can process what is occurring in my life. This is by no means easy. I work with this every day. I practice it everyday. 

Some people need to learn how to calm different parts of their mind. It could be learning how to still the constant monologue that occurs while you are practicing yoga. It could be becoming aware of when you are constantly planning the future, that you are existing in the future so much that you forget how beautiful the moment of now can be.

Something powerful happens when you learn to control your thoughts. You learn to have compassion for yourself and others. You discover there is space in your life for peace. Listening becomes something you want to do. You begin to take responsibility for your own hang ups. And the biggest thing for me has been that I am learning to let go of having to control everything all of the time.

The sun turned bright red as it dipped behind the mountains and the moon rose serenely out the fog and into the azure blue of the sky. I couldn't help but think that this is what life is like. Sometimes we shine brightly and with great power like the July sun and other times we rise graciously and calmly knowing the power we hold exists deep within us, it need only be given a chance to shine. 

As Mum and I walked down the mountain I felt so grateful for my life. These priceless moments, the hardships and the amazing people are so precious, I must have won the lottery in a past life.

July 2, 2013

Which Way?

“Cheschire-Puss,” Alice began, rather timidly. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”  
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.  
“I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.  
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.  
“—so long as I get somewhere.” 

I’ve spent my life—as many of us do—making plans as to what I will do next. Feeling in a panic if I don’t have the next step lined up. Worrying about failure or worse, looking like a failure to the outside world. 

In this beautiful western world of abundance and choices, sometimes there are just too many choices. We are inundated with ideas, temptations, other people's opinions and success stories; we lose touch with what exists in our own hearts.

I ask you to reflect on what happens when you make a decision that comes from your heart and what happens when you do something because you think you should. 

I have noticed that when I make a firm decision with my mind and my heart in sync everything that needs to happen just falls into place. When I make a decision because I think I should do something, it is an upward battle the entire way and it never really works out.

As I struggle with wanting to know which way I should go right now I have decided to become quiet. I have decided to become in touch with me. I have decided to carefully filter the opinions of others, to sift through all of the many choices I have and to find what sits right with me.

What exists in your heart may seem too big or ridiculous or out of reach at the moment but if it's your path follow it. It will take you where you are supposed to go.

June 25, 2013

Practice Brings Strength

I lay on my back. Yoga towel underneath me. Knees bent. Feet on my mat. Hands on my stomach. Eyes closed. Letting my mind run away with all the thoughts and feelings I've been experiencing the last few days. Anger and sadness. Exhaustion.

Out of nowhere I hear Harmony's voice, breaking me out of my cloud of despair.
"Juliana, what's going on? Keep going."
"I'm only doing half primary today." I whispered back.
"Why? What's wrong?"
"Nothing I'm just doing half primary today."
She gazed at me with her intense blue eyes and walked away.

I closed my eyes and started with little bridge. I pressed my feet into the mat, lifted my hips, drew my shoulder blades together.  I took a deep breath. And then something came over me. I rolled up. Came down into chaturanga and continued into my next asana. And the next and the next until I had completed my entire practice.

As I stood up and dropped back into back bends. I thought, if I can do this I can do anything.

Learning how to focus on one thing has given me the power to pull myself away from my brooding mind. Learning how to practice with intention and calmness, with grace and humility, with acceptance for what is has taught me how to forgive myself.

If I can take my crazy thoughts and accept them for being there and then continue on with what I choose to do, if I can find one pointed focus during my practice then the rest of the day will be easy.

In Paschimottanasana, a seated forward fold that is done after back bends, Harmony lay on top of my back and squished me, deepening the contrast from the back bends.
I whispered, "Thank you for questioning me."
She laughed quietly and said, "You're stronger than you think."

We are all stronger than we think are. 

Strength resides in us all.

June 17, 2013

Buddhism and Business

The evening light streamed through the two-story windows. I sat on my meditation blanket on the floor of my mum’s living room with four other people. Eyes closed, I tried to focus on my breath. The light and the tree branches made shadows behind my eyelids. A robin called outside. A fly buzzed in the air above my head. Someone swallowed. A stomach rumbled. I was aware that somewhere in the room there was a timer counting down the seconds—slowly—for 20 minutes.

I felt the pads of my finger and thumb press lightly together. My toe rings dug into my foot uncomfortably. I shifted my seat. My shoulders ached. I brought my awareness to them and tried to accept the sensation. My mind wandered. How much time had passed? My mind focused on my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale… And somewhere a harp chimed. The 20 minutes were up.

I opened my eyes. Just off to the right sat David, a man with a buzz cut of white hair and very clear blue eyes. In the chair beside him sat his wife. On the floor next to me sat my mum and to her left was her friend. We were gathered to share a meditation space and to hear David’s story of Eastern philosophy and Western success.

In 1994, David sold all his worldly possessions and moved to a Buddhist monastery to live a life of poverty. He traded in a life of creature comforts for meditation, a bed of wooden pallets, celibacy and one meal a day. For three years he lived with monks and nuns. He helped them construct a new meditation center. He ate gruel. He meditated. For three years he worked on himself—I can only imagine how well he must have gotten to know his own mind.  

On his return to Canada in 1997, David was broke. He had no credit and nothing but an old Chevy to his name, but had the idea that he would build a window-washing business from the ground up. Through coincidence or luck or fate, David met with my mum the day he went in to apply for a business loan. Seeing a power within him or peace, perhaps, she provided him with a small business loan to fuel his vision.

Driving through upscale Victoria in his truck with rust up to the door handles he met a man who would become his first client but not without some resistance.  As David approached the man on his property, the fellow responded in a way that seemed rude. He informed David that soliciting in that area of town was not allowed and to get off his property. However, as luck would have it, David found out the homeowner was a very successful businessman, allowing David to appeal to a kindred spirit. He asked the fellow how his salesmen found new business. The homeowner responded that he would have them make cold calls. David answered that was exactly what he was doing. The homeowner became his first client, which quickly turned into a recurring contract to clean the windows of all his storefront locations.

As David’s company grew he began to hire employees and was able to replace his rust-mobile with a fleet of new trucks. He had one important condition that his employees had to observe—they had to recognize and follow the Buddhist teaching of Ahimsa—to do no harm. This was to be adhered in their own lives right down to the lives of the insects that lived on the windows that they washed. Each spider that they encountered was removed from the window and placed out of harm’s way.

This astounded me. That a man would base his company on the foundation of the Buddhist eightfold path. In a world where spiritual beliefs can be construed as flaky, cult-like or dogmatic, David followed his path and lived his truth.

It worked. David kept his employees for more than 10 years, which is unheard of in a window-washing company, and just recently sold his business to his manager.

As I sat on the floor across from a man who exuded a calmness and peace that I rarely see, I became
inspired. My faith in my own practice grew. The work I have been doing for the past five years has not been in vain. This last year and a half of an intense practice of yoga and meditation where I have felt like my entire soul has been ripped out and put in front of me to witness. These last six months where I learn daily how I cope, how I communicate, how I express my viewpoints. As I step into my new role as an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a yogi, these are lessons I carry with me.

I looked across the room at David, as the sun dipped behind the oak trees and felt refreshed to have been privileged to meet someone who lives a life of humility and authenticity while being a successful entrepreneur.