How to Lose Belly Fat

I used to think that you could target belly fat by doing specific exercises and focussing much time in the gym on Abs.

I look at it like this: there are 3 powerful components at my disposal to not only lose, but also maintain my healthy weight.

I can use these 3 tools in whatever capacity I need to as my lifestyle changes and life naturally follows the ebbs and flows of busy. Sometimes that means more focus on my nutrition and less on activity when my life gets hectic. And when I have more time, I focus on strength training, and less on the other elements (and vice versa with my cardio).

It’s an ever shifting balance but thankfully, the scales of balance have always levelled out for me. I enjoy eating (this girl can throw down at a dinner table), so I love that I have cardio/strength training to supplement that.

Pyramid of Tools:

Nutrition and Water

Resistance Training: Strength 

Aerobic Activity: Cardio

I quickly learned that weight loss is not localized and the most important tool within my control is my diet (that’s why it’s on the top of the pyramid).

Back to that pesky belly fat we all want to shed. Belly fat is visceral fat. You can strengthen the abdominal through exercise, but until you get rid of the visceral fat, you will not be able to see the fruits of your labour.

There is a saying “abs are built in the kitchen”.  Boy have I have learned this truth through the years. You simply can not out run a bad diet. There are certain types of foods you can eat that can help you lose weight, and when paired with exercise (both cardio and strength training), the belly fat decreases. Yay! That’s great news right?!

Another fun fact I learned, fat cells don’t disappear, they just shrink. WTF?! So there is no finish line for me, I have found a lifestyle I’m completely in love with which allows me to maintain my healthy weight, and practice gratitude for this healthy body. It’s an act of love to take care of myself.

So here’s some tips on the nutrition side of the pyramid:

Choose foods high in soluble fibre.

Soluble fibre absorbs water and helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system. Studies show this type of fibre promotes weight loss by helping you feel satiated so you naturally eat less.

Foods high in fibre:  pears, strawberries, avocado, broccoli, apples, raspberries, bananas, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, split peas, quinoa, oats, popcorn, almonds, chia seeds and sweet potatoes.

Choose lean protein sources.

Protein raises your metabolic rate and helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss. A diet with a focus on lean protein, complex carbohydrates (think veggies/whole grains), and healthy fats will also help you to feel full and regulate your insulin.

Lean protein sources: fish, wild game, chicken, turkey, bison, beans/lentils, eggs, soy, cottage cheese, nuts/nut butters, protein powders (whey, soy, veg).

Cut out refined sugars.

There are countless studies linking belly fat with a diet high in refined sugars. Sugar is like a drug. It can feel impossible to control cravings when you ingest large amounts; personally, I try not to eat sugar “in moderation”. It’s a trigger food for me, so cutting it out as much as possible worked best for me. There’s no more roller coaster of energy…which wasn’t even true energy but rather spikes in my blood sugar. When you go up you must come down.

I choose foods that keep me coasting straight and steady. Like top rolled down on a converatable, hair in a scarf, sunshine on my smiley face. lol  I feel in control and have a steady source of energy from my food choices.

Food is fuel. Choose wisely. I can’t even begin to explain the amazingly positive difference in my moods, energy, and all around happiness when I gained control over my sugar addiction. My family is thankful for that change too. 😉

Avoid drinking your calories.

Most fruit juices, pops, cocktails are not only high in sugar, but the body does not process these types of calories the same as food counterparts. There really is no nutritional value to drinking orange juice, versus eating an actual orange and choosing water with lemon instead.  Fruit juices may contain some vitamins, but they also contain as much sugar as a soda pop.

Avoid foods that contain “Trans Fats”.

Trans fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance and abdominal fat gain in studies. I know…yadda, yadda, yadddda. But seriously friends, read your labels. These are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” fats. Not all fats are created equal. Some fats are heart healthy like Omega-3 fats found in Salmon. Omega-3’s are termed essential fatty acids because the body can not produce them on its own and they are essential for health.

Drink Water

This is quite possibly the most important and simple tool at your disposal. I aim for 100 oz a day or 4 of those Costco contego bottles.

Track your nutrition with a free online app.

This not only helps me stay accountable, but it also gives me a valuable snapshot of my day and a look at my macro breakdown (Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats). I can clearly see how much sugar, fibre, sodium, protein, carbohydrates, and fats I am consuming every day. I do not focus on calories, but rather quality of my calories along with the activity I fit into my day. Knowledge is power. We all know to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body needs. I try not to make it overcomplicated.

Use Cardio as a tool.

Cardio is not only vital to heart health, but it’s an essential tool to burn calories. When you combine cardio with strength training to gain muscle, you can change your entire metabolic rate. Read that last sentence again and let it soak in, because it’s so freaking amazing. You can change your entire body composition!

For me, intensity is key. The human body is brilliant; it adapts quickly to whatever you throw at it. To avoid plateaus, I mix things up…always keep my body guessing. Add cardio into my strength circuits, go for different intensity runs through out the week, combine walking/jogging/sprints…just mix it up (plus I won’t get bored). Try new cardio activities: bike, swim, hike, get out with the kids and get active.  If you have the ability to run/move/jump/walk, you are so blessed. Many are not afforded that luxury. Look at it as a gift.

Build Muscle

Muscle is an active tissue, which means you are burning calories while you are chillin’ like a villain long after your workout. We naturally lose muscle as we age, so the only way to get muscle is to build it. If you build it, health will come.

Not sure where to start? Hire a personal trainer so you learn proper form and avoid injury. If you are in my area, send me a message. 🙂 And oh my my, it’s addicting, I just love my one hour of lifting time. I zone out and feel so powerful and full of pride. Results come quickly when it comes to strength training.

  • Use cardio to burn
  • Strength to build a strong foundation (like a house made of bricks)
  • Food to fuel your amazingly beautiful life

It’s as simple as that for me; and my happy weight was a byproduct of that equation (along with a healthy dose of self-love).  Treat YOU just as you treat those you love most in your life.

Reduce stress and get your sleep.

Studies have linked the stress hormone “cortisol” to increased belly fat storage as well as increased appetite.  Do whatever feeds your spirit in a positive way: go for a walk/run, try yoga, go kayaking, go for a hike surrounded by beauty.

I mean come on my friends!!!! Look at this amazing planet we live on….move as the body is designed to and soak up the beauty around you.

Practice gratitude for all the blessings in your life, and start your day off that way (listen to Peter). We may not be able to control the stressors in our daily life, but we can control our perceptions and outlook. It’s in HOW we handle that stress that’s most important.

Move more, eat quality, feed your body/mind/spirit in love, rest, be ever grateful…repeat.

The body is a miraculous machine, it’s always in a state of healing. When I think about the years I abused by body with no activity and highly processed foods, I’m amazed it just kept on urging to move.  Yes, it can feel like it takes a long time getting that weight off, but when you compare it to the years spent abusing it….it’s not even comparable.

What took me almost two decades to put on, my body responded in love within 18 months (and I had my beautiful girl in the middle of it all). How amazing is that?! So very grateful.

From my thankful heart to yours,

Christine

Life Advice from a Stranger ~ Peter

After my workout this morning, I stopped at the Leduc Farmer’s Market to pick up some fresh produce. I was walking by a pot pie booth (who doesn’t love pot pie) and this enthusiastic man told me to come over and try the samples.  I’m also a fan of free samples of anything. lol Now at first, because of his enthusiasm, I thought he was employed to sell pot pies, buuuuuut it turns out he just really loves pot pies and conversing with strangers. 😉

We got to talking, and immediately I knew he was a Zen Joy person.  I have met only a few of those types of those sunshiney people in my life, so I just had to know about his story. One thing I’ve learned about all the Zen Joy people I’ve met, is that they have gone through hardship and have transformed their spirit through adversity.  Through the ashes of tribulation comes beauty, deep gratitude for life, inspiration, authenticity and joy.

After we talked awhile, I asked if I could tape him, so I will always remember. I was so excited when he agreed, that I didn’t press record. So he did this twice for me (at the end he says “I hope it works this time” ha!) He told me I could share this on my blog.

So this is Peter who works driving truck in Texas. Lover of Harley’s. And perhaps one of the most generous and happy people I will ever have the pleasure of meeting in this beautiful life. I hope you take away as much positivity and inspiration from him as I did.

Thank you Peter.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Lessons learned from a former couch dweller

I was having a conversation with a friend about overcoming injuries that crop up when you are training.  It’s very frustrating when you are working hard towards a goal and your body decides be uncooperative. I mean get with the program. lol

This has happened to me several times through the years, and I’m reminded each time to be gentle with myself.

That’s not the same as giving up.

It simply means I continue around my injuries. Give it time to heal. Be gentle. Train in creative ways. Because injuries happen. They would happen if I sat on the couch everyday too. I had way more injuries when I sported an extra 100 pounds around on my frame. I had a season pass to my chiropractor. I didn’t even call him doctor, just his first name. I knew more about him than my hairdresser. I knew he liked to take long lunch breaks; which I dreaded when my back locked up at lunch time. I don’t even have my very own chiropractor anymore. lol I do however have my own Hutterite; because I hate gardening and they make all the colourful veggies grow.

If my knees are bothering me, I can still move in other ways. Swim. Bike. Do an upper body circuit. But stay off the couch…that couch I used to retreat to like a trusted friend. It was just a metaphor for giving up on living the life I knew I should. I can’t recall a single awesome memory from that couch. lol I do remember a lot of frustration, fear, depression…how did I get here?

I have an old IT band injury from running the same path where there’s a section of uneven driveways. It’s on one leg, because I ran the same direction for a very long time. It never occurred to me to take a different path or run a different direction. Isn’t that how it works in life; we don’t even know we are doing damage to ourselves while we are immersed within a rut.

Until you find a better way.

Another big lesson I’ve learned over the years: You must change things up. Complacency is never a good idea within health and well-being.

I try to correct myself when I sum up this journey by using the word “fitness”. It’s so much more than that. It’s the mind/body/spirit connection all wrapped up in beautifully continued transformation within well-being: the act of being well.  I know this is the path I’m meant to be on, because it’s exactly how my body is designed to function best.

It’s a daily choice.

Today I choose to go out in the sunshine and go for a walk. Not to burn calories, or to make my daily quota of steps on my fitbit (although that’s an annoying addiction some days…am I right fitbitters?); but rather to enjoy the healing power of nature and sunshine. Living in Alberta, I know these days are to be cherished…the snow and dark is coming. lol

I will uplift those who cross my path, and choose my words with intention. I can be negative or positive. I can transfer a vibe of chill/relax/happy or I can be an Eeyore. We all have Eeyore’s in our lives, I would be mortified is someone described me that way.

That’s the amazing thing about living in the dark for a long time; when you find light, you are so grateful for it…it’s stays with you and becomes a part of your spirit.

I hope you have an amazing sunshiney day. Remember to be gentle with yourself. 🙂

From my heart to yours,

Christine

On Goal Setting

I received a message from a friend that made me think on the topic of Goal Setting.  She has read Miracle Morning and asked how I set up my goals, especially if my personal goals may not align with another within my circle of influence.

I’ve always operated under the idea “You do You, I do Me”. All that means to me, is the only person I can control within my life, is myself. I have zero control over anyone else’s actions and reactions.

My choices, actions, dreams, belief systems are mine alone. I find that knowledge empowering, rather than defeating. It allows me to let go of control within my environment and set up what works for me.

Would it be nice if everyone around me just naturally aligned with my value system and thought process? I have come to the conclusion, it’s quite the opposite.

I have learned more about what works for me from having opposing beliefs around me, than with like-minded people who share similar beliefs and goals.  While it’s important to create a circle of influence/support network with like-minded people, don’t underestimate the power of those who challenge your values/goals/and beliefs. Look at that as a way to further strengthen your self-efficacy and authenticity.

My goals have changed over the years, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve had years of focus/hard work/diligence within my health and wellness followed by years of balance/gentleness/slow-it-down.

For every yin there’s a yang. And it’s important to not only foster that balance within myself, but to appreciate the opposing side within other’s who challenge my ideas. It takes me out of my comfort zone and then brings me back to centre.

This is a learning process, always. What has worked for me yesterday, may not hold true today. The body and mind adapt quickly and settles into a new normal.  Just like strength training, you can’t just do the same thing over and over and expect new results.

So look around your life, what areas do you feel out of control within? That’s where you know there’s work to be done.

Focus your mind everyday on intentions: thoughts which becomes things. Dreams manifest into action. And when those seeds of doubt creep into your mind, know you have the power to stop them before they grow and multiply. You have control there.

What are you going to do differently today to challenge yourself?

How can you live outside of your comfort zone today so you can grow?

If your environment is full of chaos, what can you do to centre yourself and bring a little zen joy into your heart?

For me, that’s what my gym time is for. It’s like uncomfortable meditation. 😉  But oh my, the joy and pride I feel after is unmatched.

I also spend an hour each morning reading, journalling, and focussing my thoughts on gratitude, positivity, and contribution; along with the knowledge that not only do I have enough and I am enough right in this moment; but that will also stand true in my future.

Shift your perspective and you will always feel wealthy and rich in spirit. By doing so, it puts me on a different frequency of abundance and grateful/whole-hearted living and amazing experiences/people/opportunities have come my way out of nowhere. It’s true!

Happy goal setting my friends.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

12 Years at Goal

Today is the 12 year anniversary of reaching my goal weight. Every year, I write a blog post of what I’ve learned through another year of maintaining. I don’t think there’s enough time to articulate all the lessons I’ve learned this year, but if I could sum it up, it would be the year of Law of Attraction.

You attract what you think about. Thoughts become things.

Further to just “thinking” about the elements you wish to attract into your life, you have to put in the work. The action. So I think it’s more accurate to say my thoughts turned into actions this year and I stopped simply dreaming and starting putting those dreams to work.

I have a better understanding of who I am as a Mom, sister, daughter, friend, trainer. I focussed less on what I knew well…my escape and comfort zone of photography, and more time on the act of being purposefully uncomfortable. Nothing grows within your comfort zone. I have spent every morning for over a year focussing my thoughts during my Miracle Morning. It has transcended into every facet of my life in a way I could have never imagined.

It has definitely not been easy to focus on my thoughts on the positive… every. single. day.  Nor has it been easy to turn my thoughts back to Love when negative emotions creep into my day. We are rooted within two emotions. Love and Fear. What am I choosing in my day? That has been my soul seeking quest for months, to not only find answers; but to always bring the answer back to Love.

Among the most important life lessons of this past year is Happiness is a Choice. When I take the time to get up early and set my mind up in a positive, goal-dreaming/action orientated way… my day (most often than not) has aligned itself magically right along with whatever I have focussed on. 😉

I still seek balance…

There’s always an hour in the week to MAKE time for a glass of red with a friend. The kind of friends who support and uplift you and want the best for you. They celebrate your successes, and support you through the hard times. Pick wisely the energy you are around. It’s contagious.

The 80/20 rule still works for me. I’m on point with my nutrition 80% of the time, and the other 20% I relax and just eat mindful (even if it’s a nice meal out).

If I have nothing to laugh about in my life, or if my life isn’t that “fun”…. I can create fun. Live a little and laugh at yourself. Seek out positive, uplifting people who share the same mind-set as you. Just be yourself, and like-minded people will be drawn to you. Authenticity attracts authenticity. Let your weird flag fly.

If you are over 30, start lifting weights. As we age we naturally lose muscle mass, and the only way to get it back is to build it. You will not get bulky, but rather think of it like you are building a home on a foundation of bricks. You walk taller with better posture, and you won’t hurt yourself doing mundane tasks….because of the bricks thingy. Don’t know how to lift with proper form? Go hire a personal trainer. 😉 Oh and your metabolism will thank you too.

I have definitely become more humble this year. I have been knocked down a peg or two, and I’m so grateful for that.I’m more outgoing in some ways, and more protective in others. I have laughed a lot, and worked through a lot too. I am more grateful, compassionate and empathetic. I love deeper and I’m more open; however, I learned the important lesson of putting up boundaries to honour what I need at this stage in my life. It’s an act of self-love. You can’t give so much to everyone and not take care of yourself. You will pay the consequences if you do, in your body/mind/spirit. And those who truly love you will understand and respect those boundaries.

Most importantly, I go into another year uplifted, hopeful, and thankful. Being at my healthy weight still feels new to me, even 12 years later. There’s no going back, only forward living with pride and a gratitude.

From my thankful heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

On being Selfish

I was raised to give, give, give. Give of your best always. If there’s one piece of anything left, give it to your friend. While I am so thankful for this lesson, it has come at a cost as I misinterpreted it; of which I am only now realizing.

I understand it now, because I have kids and I spend much time dreaming about their future.

As I was reading/writing this morning, I realized that what I want most for my kids is to Yes, be giving; but not at the cost of their own needs and dreams.

In order to truly give authentically, you have to give to yourself. Which means you treat YOU just as you would those you love most.  Because giving all you have to others, leaves you feeling depleted emotionally and your spirit will suffer.

What does giving to yourself look like? Tangibly…

Take a walk in the sun and take in the beauty around you.

Say no to elements which robs you of your happiness.

Surround yourself with positive like-minded people who truly care about your happiness and goals. And who stand by you even at your lowest.

Eat to nourish your body.

Move to feel alive.

Share, connect, be courageous enough to be vulnerable, listen, be honest and impeccable with your word.

Take time in silence every day. Turn off the TV. Put down your phone.

Read a book in the most comfiest corner of your home and sip your coffee/tea slowly. Remember we are on a lifelong quest to grow in grace, strength, character and knowledge. THAT is what will aid you in giving more to others. The investment in yourself.

Take a day trip to somewhere that makes your soul happy and your eyes thirsty for more.

Smile freely, laugh often, love deeply.

Be selfish with your time as you honour what YOU need in order to move forward in life. And to be clear, it’s not selfish at all, it’s called “self-care”. I often have to sit back and think “Am I doing this because it’s what THEY need, or is it what I need?” And sometimes you need to recharge yourself and take time to think things through. And that’s OK! I know after taking time for me, I’ll come out of it with kick-ass positivity that will transcend into every element of my life. Friendships, parenting, careers, new experiences…all toward the greater good of living my best life, which I am designing by my thoughts and actions.

As important as it is to GIVE, please remember to give to yourself too. Hold yourself in as high-esteem as you do those you love most. And just watch what amazing experiences/people/opportunities unfold in your life as a result.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

For Every Person Who has Ever Stood in Tears in a Change Room

Last week my daughter and I had a shopping date for a swimsuit. As we were going through styles, I could see she was already getting anxious. I tried my best to lighten the mood and make it a fun experience.

We found one I knew would look beautiful on her, and I waited outside the change room. It became evident after a while, she was having a hard time. She finally said I could see and opened the change room doors.

My brilliant, kind-hearted, creative girl looked stunning in her new swimsuit and then I realized she had tears in her eyes. My heart dropped, but this was the time for strength & uplifting. 

When we got to the car after, I asked her why she was sad. She told me she didn’t like how she looked in a swimsuit. I said a prayer in my head to find the right words. We sat together in the parking lot and we talked about body image and to be proud of our bodies for all it can do. It does not define us. It is a miraculous vehicle to enjoy life.

To jump on the trampoline with friends through laughter.

Legs that can run with reckless abandon.

Strong arms to hug those she loves.

But most importantly, I needed my sweet brave girl to know what I appreciate most about her is her kind heart, willful witty spirit, and the most creative brain I’ve ever met.

She is perfect just as she is.

We talked about how health is about loving yourself, not about shame over not fitting into a mould. We sat tall and proud in the car, shoulders back, chin up, proud of who we are as little/big ladies.

Now that I’m sitting here thinking, I need to be responsible for my role in her self-esteem; especially being that I work in the fitness industry. And this is WHY I chose this career. This is a journey of self-love.

Yes, I wish I loved myself more back when I was at my heaviest. I was worthy then, I’m worthy now. It has nothing to do with what a facking scale says.

This is for every person who stood in a change room in tears (I’ve been there), and can collect themselves after and regroup their thoughts away from aesthetics and onto who we are as people.

Choose your words wisely around your kids, but also to yourself.

This has been a call to me to be more loving and intentional with my words.

And to end this, when we got home, she put on her swimsuit and walked across the house with confidence. Her head was up and she walked with sass. ha! love it.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Weight Loss is a Byproduct of Self-Love

I had an epiphany this morning as I was journalling.

Taking good care of myself, and in turn others, is the highest form of self-love.  Long-term weight loss has been possible for me, not because I have attempted to fit into a certain size clothing nor because I was striving to achieve societal standards of what a woman “should” look like. It truly is a byproduct of Love…simplifying the way I am intended to live.

~Within Love~

This is how we are designed right from the moment we were but one single cell.

To ignite the fire of change within your lifestyle, all it takes is a shift of your perspective away from the pressure of aesthetics and instead onto love. 

I’m going to attempt to explain my thought pattern here; however, it’s tricky to articulate a feeling.

I show respect for my body by eating foods high in nutritional value (vitamins, minerals, nutrients) so I have the most energy for my life and my kids as possible. I understand there are certain foods that trigger emotional eating for me, so I create a no-fail environment. If I’m tempted to eat my trigger food, I actually put myself in the emotional state that I feel after I eat them. Sluggish, self-deprecation, loss of control.  Those are not the thoughts I want to live within, so no thank you 🙂

I have the ability to pick my fuel, and so why would I pick low-quality fuel such as simple carbohydrates which quickly convert into sugar and have me on a roller coaster of temporary energy only to crash moments later? My goal is to feel my best physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So I will choose foods that come from the earth and have an expiration date. 🙂

I am thankful for my health and the ability to move freely.  Think about the times when you are sick with the flu and bed-ridden, how grateful are you when you feel better? You have this new lease on life, and you breathe deeply with gratitude. Those feelings can fade quickly however, and we fall back into complacency and forget that our health is a gift.

I will always be reminded of this as my sister is confined to a wheel chair because of MS. She would give ANYTHING to get up and run again.  To take that for granted would not only be selfish of me; but a huge disrespect and disservice to my sister. I know exactly how she would be living today if MS had not robbed her physical health. She would run circles around me with her characteristic Janice laugh. So I will run because I’m able. And I’m so very grateful for the ability to run, jump, move, and grow in strength.

The human body is a miraculous machine, the more you challenge it with new movements within your abilities, the stronger and more agile you become. How amazing is that?!

I will drink lots of water as we are made of water. Common sense tells me it’s essential for optimal health. And truly, what an easy way to maintain health. Just march right up to your tap and pour yourself a glass. Further to that, I am blessed that I have running water and a fridge stocked with food. Many are not afforded that luxury.  I remind myself of that often when the most ridiculous excuses creep into my mind and out of my mouth “I don’t have time to eat right and I don’t like the taste of water.”  I can’t imagine saying that to someone who does not have access to clean water nor a grocery store down the street (and money to buy a weeks worth of groceries).

And finally, I will strive everyday to live a life of purpose, gratitude, pride and love. Invest in my spirit so that I can love others wholeheartedly. Give of my time and abilities to those who need it most; just as I have needed it so many times in my life when I was unsure about my future and overwhelmed with sadness.

Listen more, talk less. Connection with others lies within meaningful communication which is a two-way street. How many conversations have I had that are ego based, formulating my response without listening to the words of another? Be aware.

This is a my journey to love myself because I need my kids to love themselves too.

This is a call to be the best version of myself because I have this one precious life, and time is valuable. Use it wisely.

What kind of life do I want to live? Even during times when I’m not exactly where I would hope to be at certain stages, I still had the luxury of time and the ability to turn another’s day around with a little uplifting and kindness. Giving is so good for the heart and soul.  It connects us to one another.

Spread a little positivity.

Laugh freely.

Smile for no other reason than the fact I have my health today when another maybe living in a hospital bed. My happiness does not come from others; but rather from within and a higher power.

Run or go for a walk today because you are able.

Eat healthy foods today because you have the ability to make a choice in the fuel you put into your body.

Living in gratitude and love is a choice. Today (and everyday) I choose a life of wholehearted living. How ridiculously amazing is that my friends?!!? ha!

I hope this post made sense, I had quite the morning of thinking. I wish for you a life full of pride, joy, and purpose.

From my grateful heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

 

The Zen Joy Project

Many years ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting room along with other travelling-waiters. I noticed this woman sitting across from me, and I was struck by her peaceful nature. Her young kids flanked either side of her. Her one son laid his head on her lap, and she slowly stroked his hair. Her other son, laid his head on her shoulder. All around her the impatient energy was palpable in the air. No one wanted to be waiting in this holding cell of anxious travellers. Yet, it appeared there was no other place she would rather be. Her energy was one of joy, peace and gratitude. ZEN JOY. It was one of those life moments you carry with you in your memory bank.

I inwardly vowed that one day…I too would find that Zen Joy. Not from any external sources, but truly from within.

Now, I should tell you, at that point of my life, I was struggling with so many inward battles. None of which were known to many who loved me. I was neither zen, nor was I happy. But I pretended to be.

Airport Mom was the first person who introduced me to the possibility of true inner happiness. It’s not to say that she didn’t have trials and adversity in her life, I also understood that she most likely dealt with the same tricky balancing act all of us Moms face.

After that I was acutely aware of that energy when I saw it.

And then I met another Zen Joy girl in Jamaica. Amanda…

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This time I was more determined to figure out how she carried such zen joy, so I had a long conversation with her. She was very thankful and grateful for her job. She traveled two hours there by bus, worked her shift at a 5 star resort for very little money by Canadian standards, and traveled two hours home. Repeat. Yet, she was so ecstatic for this amazing opportunity to work and she did so with joy. She was surrounded by privileged travellers complaining about room service options and wait times for dinner reservations. I will always remember her and her infectious smile. What a beautiful soul.

Through out the years, I have encountered more Zen Joy people.

I met a girl at the gym named Michele, who incidentally is now a good friend of mine; she attacked each workout at the gym with so much energy and joy. It always stood out to me. And now in getting to know her, I understand that she has overcome a lot in her life, and she truly appreciates the blessings in her world. She strives everyday to work on herself and raise her kids to be stellar people. She exudes authenticity, positivity, and gratitude. She lives passionately and vivaciously. She’s also brutally honest with herself and with others. A character trait I have come to appreciate and need in my life.

An enthusiastic woman named Patti came into my world at life’s perfect timing. She’s an amazing Zen Joy person. Every. Single. Day. she works on her character, heart, body, and soul. She gives freely. Loves deeply. Is so empathetic to other’s emotions. One day as we had unexpected time together, she presented me with a hand-knitted infinity scarf. What she said to me will always live in my heart. “I thought of you with love within ever inch I knitted of this infinity scarf”. When I wear that scarf I feel loved! ha! How amazing is that, and what a gift to my soul. Thank you.

And then there’s Linda Lou, another Zen Joy woman who gracefully traveled into my heart at perfect timing. Oh my, if you have the privilege to be around her energy, you WILL smile and feel joy. It’s impossible not to. She uses her time to uplift others. In fact, we will be working together; and she will drop everything to march up to another just to tell them something she genuinely appreciates about them. ha! It’s fascinating to watch honestly. And then she marches back to me and continues to work with every ounce of energy she has.

There was one more instance of a Zen Joy person that stands out within my mind. I was going to Farmer’s market one day, and this guy rode by on his bicycle. He was so happy, ear to ear smile! He walked around the market, talking to people, and I immediately saw his Zen Joy in how he treated others. He took the time to visit, laughed effortlessly, and looked people in the eye as they talked. I often give people nick names if I don’t know them, I called him Beautiful Jesus. He kinda looked like Jesus and his energy truly was beautiful. ha!  I don’t know how Beautiful Jesus is so zen and full of joy; but in talking with other Zen Joy people, I have noticed a common theme.

Their lives are not without adversity and tails, quite the opposite. They have grown in grace and beauty because of the problems in their lives. They perceive it differently, grateful for lessons learned as they navigate the storms in their lives (which they understand will pass).

They live with sincere gratitude.  A thankful heart. They know that nothing is guaranteed in life, so enjoy the good times. And if good times are few and far between, create it.

They see each day as an opportunity to live passionately and with joy. A gift.

They understand this life needs to be lived out-loud, using their voice wisely to uplift and encourage and not complain and discourage.

They CHOOSE joy. They laugh freely. Give more than they take.

They are at peace with who they are as people. Authenticity rains within their spirit.

I waited a long time to blog about these Zen Joy people, because I was only going to do so when I felt like I too was becoming a Zen Joy chick myself. I’m so grateful to say, that while I may not encompass that every single day…I can feel that zen hugging at my spirit often now. And Joy is something I feel often. My smile is one of gratitude for every shred of happiness I encounter in my day.

When you spend some time in darkness, the light is so sweet. Oh man is it sweet.

I wish for you Zen Joy, and if you are at a place you don’t feel that…I hope you will open your eyes and heart to the possibility of it. It does not come from “things”; nor does it come from others. It’s all you my friends. And within your control to feel it. Perception is your reality.

From my Zen Joyful heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

 

 

More Beautiful for Being Broken

I haven’t posted in a while, but I sure have learned a lot in the one hour of quiet time I’ve etched out for myself within my day.

I have journalled and read a lot, it’s been a cathartic process.

This last week, I have felt a shift within myself; I’m not sure how it will translate into tangible changes within my life, but I do know I’m changing. After years of being stagnant within different facets of my life; I’m so thankful that change is happening in several areas. So I’ll leave you with this morning’s journal entry:

January 26, 2017

It occurred to me today that after going through this year, I have no other choice than to drop the mask I’ve worn for years and stand in my truth. I am drawn to other mask-smashers/truth-standers. The ones who admit their faults, are brave enough to live out loud, vulnerable to admit they are struggling and don’t have the answers, and humble enough to seek help. Divine intervention…I understand that term in my way now.

These special people carry a certain energy within how they relate to others and how much they give and receive. I have learned they come in all ages. Some figure it out at an early age, and others like myself, take more time. But it is undeniable when I meet one. We can quickly connect and relate to one another’s struggles even if they differ. They no longer seek validation from the outside world. They are not afraid to sit within their pain, understanding the necessity for it.

Not to say it’s easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No more numbing it or masking it with anything.

I’ve become defiant within my right to feel whatever feeling comes my way through this process. I was once afraid to feel anger, loneliness, weakness. You have to feel that to rebuild an authentic strength. I own my pain. I welcome it in and nurture it like my child. It is mine to learn from and grow within it. And I know God loves me just as I am, in whatever stage of broken humbleness I am. Come as you are.

I read about a process called “Kintsugi“:

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?, きんつぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い?, きんつくろい, “golden repair”),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered goldsilver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-8-46-53-am

ORIGINAL IMAGE FOUND AT LOVEUMENTARY.COM/THE-ART-OF-BEING-BROKEN

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paigebradley.com/sculpture/metamorphosis/expansion/

This process of transforming broken into beautiful really resonated with my heart. Pride has often gotten in my way, but I’m learning a new version of pride. The one that arrives softly and humbly as I understand the process of letting go and starting over from the bare foundation.

I will let tears flow freely if they arrive, I will laugh often as I appreciate the sweet irony of this beautiful life, I will embrace change as I understand it is necessary, and I will walk the path of alone because I know I am never truly alone because of my faith and the blessings within relationships I have come to honour and respect deeply.

I have a voice, even if it is unsure and full of self-doubt at times. It will grow in strength if I build upon it, just as I know how to do in the physical body.

I am not failing just because I am not where I “expected” to be at this stage. Maybe I’m exactly where I need to be.

Eyes wide open.

Vulnerable within new experiences.

Humble and hungry for knowledge.

I can see pain within others, especially the ones who aren’t ready to feel it. Who are running from it, numbing it with external factors. Clinging to their masks like life-preservers.

If this is you, I want you to know that you will not drown. Quite the opposite. You will rise up within authenticity. Be brave my friends. You’ll be OK. You are more beautiful for being broken.

For years I never allowed myself to feel hunger, or pain or anger for that matter. I feared and pushed away the very elements where I would find myself again. As I let go of material possessions, relationships, the ability to control my environment…even time. I found my strength and awakened a part of me I lost.

From my heart to yours,

Christine