Tag Archives: happy

10 Day Silent Meditation – Vipassana

I just returned from a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Merrit, BC. Vipassana meditation… And I have to tell you about it.

What Happened

The facility held 70 students, split about evenly between the two sexes. The female and males students were separated for the 10 days except for in the meditation hall.

We were asked not to look each other in the eye or use our bodies to signal to one another. It is means to mimic a totally solitary experience.

After an evening meal and chit chat the silence started…

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I had no idea what to expect.

The daily schedule
400 – First wake up gong
430-630 Meditation starts in the hall
630-800 Breakfast break
800-900 Sit of determination (after day 4, everyone must attend these sits and be as still as possible for the entire hour)
900-1100 Mediation in the hall
1100-100 Lunch Break
100- 230 Meditation in the hall
230-330 Strong determination sit
330-500 Mediation in the hall
500-600 Tea break
600-700 Strong determination sit
700-815 Discourse
815-900 Mediation in the hall

Day 1– I observed the nature of my monkey mind. We were instructed to focus on our upper lip for the entire meditation sit for all of the sits of the first three days. We were to feel the sensation of the breath on the area above the upper lip. It was challenging to maintain focus on such a subtle sensation when there were so many things more interesting to think about! My mind would focus for about ten seconds and then a completely random thought would pop up and take me on a ride without my consent. Once I realized I was on the thought train I would bring my focus back, upper lip, upper lip, breath on the upper lip….thought train again, then back, upper lip, upper lip, upper lip… Very slowly the thought train started picking me up for less rides, less often.

Day 2– While observing my upper lip I had a profound and completely unexpected experience. I felt myself open up with a white/yellow light and break open, a literal breakthrough. And through it birthed the forgiveness for an ex boyfriend who I rode on an emotional roller-coaster with for four years in the past. We’ve been apart for 3 years and I had found a lot of healing and forgiveness in that time; however, there was still some residual bits of distaste for his character. To be honest, prior to this experience, I was looking forward to possibly punching him in the face if I ever came across him again… That’s all gone now. I feel like when I see him next I can run to him, look in his eyes and tell him I forgive him for everything we went through and I can genuinely apologize for the role I played in our dysfunction. Wow! Finally. Freedom.

Day 3 – Creative ideas kept breaking my concentration on my upper lip. Great creative ideas though, ones worth remembering, ones worth pursuing. It was like the mundane thoughts weren’t being welcomed in any longer so my mind was like “fine, I will give her these great ideas and then she won’t be able to resist them!” And I wasn’t, yet. I love the discourses in the evening. G.N. Goenka is so funny and has such great stories. I think I have a crush on him.

Day 4 – This is the day I finally was able to sit for the entire meditation in the afternoon and focus on my upper lip without thought interruption. I felt so proud! I did it! I got it!… And immediately after that meditation, S.N. Goenka says over the speakers “We are doing a new technique now”. Damn, I finally get the technique down and now we are changing it. Now we are doing body scans. We “start at the top of the head” and scan the sensation of the body all the way through to the toes. We are instructed to feel every single sensation on every inch of the skin, “part by part, bit by bit”. And so the new challenge begins.

Day 5– I’m loving this. I am keen, I am focused, I am the perfect little mediation student. I didn’t miss any meditations, I focused all of the time and I could feel people noticing my excellent posture and calm focus. I felt great. I scanned the body, head to toe and now we go from toes to the head also… “Patiently and persistently”…

Day 6 – Didn’t sleep well the night before and slept through the morning meditation. Frick! I’m ruined! I feel so guilty, I’m supposed to be the keen one that makes it to every sitting!… I beat myself up for a bit and then I realized this pattern and this desire in my life to be the keenest, or to be the one that tries the hardest. I also started realizing how much of a meal that is for my ego and how often I compare myself to others and measure myself against them. I had realized this before but something felt different this time. This time something dissolved through me, somehow I had a greater understanding and ability to let it go.

Day 7 – I fucking hate this. I want to go home. I will never do this again. I’m so bored of this. I get it, I will practice when I get home. All I need is a break from all of this. I am going to go crazy, how many days are left? I want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face. I don’t look forward to the breaks any more because all they are is moment to get up, wait in line for the bathroom and then go back in. What kind of break is that and why do I bother looking forward to it? This realization-that the breaks aren’t any better than the meditating and I still have 3 full days to stay in this boredom hell hole with no relief changed something in me. There was a letting go of desires, it was a learning to enjoy the moment. I’ve read all the inspiring quotes and bumper stickers about this and I’ve tried to be mindful and all that stuff but now it felt different. Experiencing this shift makes mindful a byproduct of the peaceful state inside instead of an active and slightly torturous effort to slow down and enjoy each moment for what it is.

Day 8 – Screw this. I am not doing this any more. I am doing full-blown yoga in the hall ways and I’m well aware I’m not supposed to. I want to plan 3 classes for when I teach at home after this. I am going to plan my life. I am going to think about whatever I want. I start thinking of all of the things I want to do. I want to clean up the cookie stand and make great treats when I get back, I want to tell this person this thing, I want to make pins with insightful words, I want to make necklaces from beach rocks… I jumped back onto the thought train in full force. Eventually even my thoughts would get boring and I would start meditation again out of an uncontrollable happening in my brain to meditate. There was a shift now, instead of the thinking being the default mode, now I felt bored of thinking so I would meditate. Cool.

Day 9 – I am still pretty much checked out of being a committed meditator. I start to laugh at my frustrations though because I know it’s all I can do. I don’t want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face because I realize now that’s just my own seed, my own “Sankara” and it would only be causing me pain. I am used to not sleeping at night now. Even though I feel partly checked out, I no longer count down the time during meditation waiting for meals and breaks.

Day 10 – Today after meditation we are allowed to talk. What will my first word be? Equanimity. It’s a main word of the course and is repeated over and over and not only that, it seems fun to say! Equaminity! It has a nice bounce. Other than that though, I’m not sure that I want to talk. I kind of don’t mind the silence. After the meditation is over, the teacher gets up and walks away and we all sit there confused as to what to do. People begin leaving the hall. I walk into the washroom and say “Equanimity” I then walk out of the washroom and say to the first woman I see “We’re free!” And we were free. We started talking. Talking felt amazing. I felt gitty and jittery with excitement. So much had happened in our boredom and in our equanimous meditations observing “annicha” (the ever changing nature of things). I watched the anonymous, blank faces turn to life. People’s spirits were shining out and everyone looked different now that their personality could shine through. I’ve never felt so free in my life. I don’t want anything. I was trying to think of something I was craving, like something I really wanted to eat and I couldn’t. I felt excited to put on my good smells again but other than that I could not think of a craving. I am free of cravings… other than tea, I still do really enjoy the tea. It was the tea, milk and honey that got me through some of the most challenging times in the course and for that I have an emotional comfort connection with it now… And I’m okay with that.

Day 11 – Home bound! I feel so excited and refreshed and pure. I feel like I know myself on a new level :) No cravings, just understandings. Wow, I feel free.

To learn more about Vipassana or to sign up to go yourself, click this link:






Keep It Real with the Medicine Wheel

I went to an amazing education day earlier this week. It was about bringing “Culture in the Clinic”, particularly first nations culture from the aboriginals that first inhabited these lands. I live in British Columbia, in the Snunymuxw territory. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live I am certain.

Unfortunately much of the First Nations culture – with it’s strong connection to plants, animals, spirit, ceremony and community, was brutally devastated by colonization of Europeans and the creation of residential schools. These “schools” opened in the 1870’s by the new settling Europeans and families were forced to say goodbye to their kids usually at about the age of 5. At the schools, children were abused in every way. Many died and many are still unaccounted for.

When children arrived at the schools they were young and alone.  They were not allowed to contact family and they certainly were not allowed to practice any of their cultural ceremonies, or speak their own language. And their hair, which was traditionally kept long, was cut short. Could you imagine living through this? How might this affect your sense of self? How would it affect your mental health? Your physical health? Your spirit?

Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, apologized for this publicly in 2008, but in 2009 stated “we have no history of colonialism”. This ignorant statement basically erased his apology in the eyes of many.

It may seem as though all of this happened a long time ago, however the culture still suffers, with 50% of the children still in alternative care, whether it be foster homes or adopted families. First Nations people are now all of higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, addiction, poverty and many other health concerns.

This remains a current issue that needs to be recognized as a problem and needs compassionate attention.

One way to give compassionate attention is to learn about the culture. And what an amazing culture it is. Something that stood out for me in the learning of the day was the Medicine Wheel as a personal tool.

This is a tool that can be used, regardless of your history or your culture. Firstly, you must see your body as your house. Like any house, the foundation is key to keep it standing. Typically in First Nations culture they have ceremonies in a wooden, rectangle shaped long house. This house has four posts as part of the foundation, just as the wheel has four foundational sections.


Take a look at the wheel. It’s four pillars, or quadrants are Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual. In our culture, we are really great at the mental component – we put a lot of value on academic education and individuality. We are beginning to get better at the physical component, maybe, with more programs to build community and more awareness of healthy nutritional choices. We have much work to do to get our emotional and spiritual posts in order to find balance. (The First Nations culture could help us with these pieces…)

But now lets look at the medicine wheel as an individual, because really, we are all individuals first. We all can control only ourselves, and even that is harder than we would like most times.

The better we care for ourselves, the better our families, our communities and our towns/cities, and world will be. But it all starts with us as an individuals first.

For any of us to function at our highest capacity, all four of these sections need to be in balance. For example, A student who spends all his waking moments studying will be unbalanced and will be less productive than the person who is studying but also getting a full nights sleep, connecting with a higher power, and spending time feeding healthy relationships.


I challenge you now to take a blank sheet of paper. Draw a big circle on it. Now draw two long lines on the circle, splitting it in 4. Now label each quadrant, one MENTAL, PHYSICAL, SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL.

Write down one thing in each quadrant. It can be something you are already doing and want to continue to do, or it can be a goal. Don’t chose something you are already doing as a regular habit, but rather chose something that you are working to continue. Put your wheel somewhere where you can see it on a daily basis. Maybe a good place for it would be on the fridge or on your bedroom door.

Some basic examples;

MENTAL– Learn three new phrases in Spanish

PHYSICAL– Exercise for 30 minutes 3x this week

EMOTIONAL– Notice my self talk and how it affects my mood this week, spend five minutes at night recording my findings in a journal.

SPIRITUAL– Take time to walk slowly through the forest 3x this week

Now make your own. Look at it every day and begin to build your four pillars of a healthy home that is your body.

Enjoy :)

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become”
–Carl Jung



How to Boost Your Mood in 10 Seconds

Wanna know how to boost your mood in 10 seconds? Good, because I want to tell you. Let me give you the situation first.

You are at work, it’s crazy busy and you feel like you are drowning. You are somehow expected to be doing 10 things at once. You don’t feel you even one moment to stop and collect your thoughts.

Sound familiar?

I feel this way working on psychiatric unit sometimes and when I get overwhelmed with so many things to do I can end up running around like a chicken with my head cut off – and not getting anywhere fast.

Trick to Try:

“Shake it off”. We’ve all used the saying before, but have you tried it? Stop. Shrug your shoulders up and down five times and wiggle your whole body, like a dog shaking when it’s wet. You can do this in the bathroom if you don’t want the curious looks from your co-workers.

Why do such a silly thing?

Because, just like dogs, we can shake things off. Have you ever noticed that after you get your dog in trouble he will give a shake? Dogs literally shake things off, and we can too. I’ve tried it. It truly works! It is a quick re-charge, re-set, re-focusing tool that you can use anywhere, anytime.

If someone sees you doing it, even better. You can share a laugh and you can teach them this quick and effective tool. Any chance to be silly and laugh when you are feeling stressed is a great way to bring your self back down-to-earth so you can focus on the task(s) at hand. So it’s a double win. You not only will feel better, but also you will focus better and you can feel proud of getting your work done efficiently.

Go ahead, give it a try! RIGHT NOW! 

Shrug. Shrug. Shrug.Shrug.Shrug of the shoulders (quickly) and a full body Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…

Feel better?… I know.
Cool right?

I thank my dog Maya for teaching me things great skill. She is so wise and teaches me so much every day.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga! 

What the heck is that?!

It’s awesome! And it has nothing to do with yoga poses, although it does join the breathing or pranayama practice of yoga.

Laughing yoga was started by a doctor by the name of Madan Kataria in India. He started in a park with some friends telling jokes to receive the health benefits of laughter. Once they ran out of jokes they decided to skip the jokes and go straight to the laughing and the results astounded them!

By fake laughing with people you eventually end up real laughing that is contagious and leaves one feeling fantastic after the session.

Laugher yoga has started up all over the world in over 62 countries and there are now over 6000 laughing clubs that get together for the primary purpose to laugh!

There are other aspects of laughing yoga too such as clapping,  playfulness, eye contact, and breathing exercises.

Why would one do such a ridiculous seeming thing?

… to feel happy of course!

It turns out that there are many great health benefits of laughter such as

  • Laughing lowers blood pressure. People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will cut their risk of strokes and heart attacks. …
  • Reduces stress hormone levels. …
  • Fun ab workout. …
  • Improves cardiac health. …
  • Boosts T cells. …
  • Triggers the release of endorphins. …
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

All you need to do is laugh! And just like anything that you practice, it gets easier to laugh the more you do it. Have you ever tried laughing when something is bothering you? Laugher immediately lightens our mood and helps give feelings of contentment. So go ahead, laugh it up or laugh it off, whatever you do and for whatever reason or none at all – laugh.

Check it out and see if there is a laughter club near you!

I recently became a Certified Laughing Yoga Teacher, so if you are looking for some help starting a Laughing Club near you, let me know!


Hydrotherapy for Happiness

Yup. It’s November. It’s dark and it’s getting cold. In past years I have called this one of my least favorite months but things have changed. I’m enjoying the changing colour of the leaves and I’m feeling cozy in the darkness this time around…. So far anyway.

Science says that we need to embrace the cold! I don’t mean jumping out into the elements unprepared… I’m talking about in your home, particularly in your shower.

There is nothing like enjoying a nice hot shower on a cold day and I would never suggest giving this up. Keep having hot showers! But…. bring on some cold spurts if you want some major extra benefits.

Yup. Hydrotherapy is something you can enjoy from the comfort of your own shower. There is no need to spend heaps of cash to go to the spa. If you wanna beat the blues, find the courage to turn your shower dial into the blue zone.

Noradrenaline is produced in part of the brain called the “blue spot”. Using hot/cold therapy stimulates your blue spot to release more noradrenaline. This, combined with our friend serotonin helps to increase mood. It helps you to feel more awake and invigorated throughout your day.

The cold water gets your heart pumping and actually wakes you up more than a cup of coffee does!

You can save money not only on water but also on coffee!

Not only is this good for your mood, and energy level, it is also an efficient way to reduce pain by releasing endorphins. Additionally, this hot and cold water combo increases the strength of your immune system.

It’s cheaper than a multivitamin. It’s basically an all around win.

Now try it!

Let me know how it works for you. I’m loving it so far… However it hasn’t helped me kick my coffee habit as of yet. It’ll take a little more than a few shots of cold water to kick my lovely coffee habit. Mmmm coffee….






Grow Old Get Happy

A study has found that the older you are, the more appreciation you have for the simple things in life.


Of course those kind of “once in a lifetime” moments like major vacations and the birth of new life make both young and old folks happy; but, a study posted in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the older populations find more enjoyment in the simple things in life.  The younger folk on the other hand, rely more on extreme events for happiness.

This is not new news. Studies have found time and time again that as we age we generally become happier. There are a few contributing factors.

As we age, we get to know ourselves better. We learn what interests us, who we like to be around, and what our main values are. Also, we become less tolerant of things that we were willing to put up with when we had, or felt as though we had, all the time in the world.

As we age we have a greater acceptance towards the unchangeable truths in life. We become more content with what we have and less focused on what we want.

There are some conflicting studies out there. Some say that our happiness happens on a U curve, suggesting that we hit a high happy point in our early twenties and then slope down through as we move towards middle age. But when we pass middle age something extraordinary happens- our happiness levels rise back up, reaching a point higher than ever before! This study found that at age 69 people are the happiest.

A study done in the UK however, found that people were the happiest at the age of thirty-seven, which is a little on the early side. Still, this study suggests that at this age many people have accomplished some of their life goals and are now able to coast a bit and enjoy the ride.


I’m writing this post because I just had a birthday yesterday! I’m not so concerned about getting older. Life seems to get juicier each year.

Each year I get a little bit better at navigating my ship through life.
I meander happily through it’s sweet flowing patches,
Until naturally it’s sweetness turns sour
And I’m pushed off my tower
Only to plummet onto a hot pile of shit…
Both parts of this ride help me explore a separate side of me.
And apparently the longer I hang on to this real life ride,
The happier I will be :)

Thanks for reading :)



Ted Talk by Laura Carstensen about how older people are happier (check it out):


Happy Turkey

So we know that the turkey makes us sleepy… or at least the heavy amounts of turkey and other delicious traditional foods that we indulge in at Thanks Giving make us feel sleepy.

The turkey in fact, is high in tryptophan which is a precursor to              5-HTP, which is converted into serotonin in our brain!

Serotonin is our good friend

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.

Interestingly, 80-90%  of the body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract. The serotonin made here is not used in our brain. Only the serotonin that we make in the brain can be used by our brain.

The focus for this post, of course is the mood enhancing effects!

Serotonin in the brain plays a role in not only our moods, but also appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sex drive.

Now you can not only feel good about the delicious turkey and leftovers; but also, you know that your brain is soaking up the extra serotonin- helping you to feel just a little bit better about life happenings this week :)

For more mood enhancing foods check out this previous post:
Feel Good Foods



Myers & Briggs

The more you know yourself and how you relate to the world, the better you can understand when and why are comfortable or uncomfortable in different areas or circumstances in your life.

Knowing yourself is key to being happy

The Myers & Briggs quiz is a great tool to help you understand your preferences. It is often used for businesses to help employees understand each others preferences, processes and strengths.

There is no personality that is better than the next. Doing this quiz is about knowing your preferences.

Doing the full quiz off of the Myers & Briggs website does come with a fee; however, there is a free version online (both are listed in my resources). I have done both and the free one gave me accurate results.

The preferences are divided into 4 letters. For example, right now I am an INFP. Your letters can change at different points in your life. Following is a short explanation of each category in the quiz.


Introverts recharge by spending time alone. They often are reserved and reflective.

Extroverted people get energy from being around people and sharing ideas. Many extroverted people like to be surrounded by people often and don’t really enjoy being alone.


Sensing people pay attention to facts and reality. They rely on their senses for information. They notice facts and remember details. They learn through experience.

Intuitive people pay attention to impressions or patterns. They learn by thinking things through and think more about the future than the past. They like abstract theories and don’t need to understand the details of things. They remember things as how they experienced them rather than through factual details of what happened.


Thinkers like basic principles. They like to look at pros and cons and find the most logical choice. They try to keep focus on facts rather than on feelings.

Feelers on the other hand, like to make decisions by thinking about what people care about. They want to maintain harmony. They come across as caring, warm and tactful.


Judging people typically like to have decisions made, have things preplanned and have life under control. Judging does not mean judgemental. Judgers are task orientated and like lists and like to get their work done before playing.

Perceivers appear to be more flexible and spontaneous. They do not feel that they need to organize life as much and instead just let things happen. They are often open to change and like to keep their schedule open also and may struggle to commit to one plan or decision.


By reading the short descriptions you probably get a sense of what letters you think represent you best. It is fun to see if what you think corresponds with the test results.

Access the test free here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp


Myers & Briggs website:

Access the free, shorter version of the quiz here:


Water does What?!

Do you want to lose weight, have skin that glows, think more clearly and have better overall health?

For a Simple cost of…
nearly FREE
You can have all of these things!

Just go into your kitchen right now and turn on your tap.
That’s right, I’m talking about water.

Fill up your glass and drink it.

Did you know water increases your mood and your cognitive ability?

The study was lead by Biological psychologist Kristen D’Anci, with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. (see resources list at bottom of this article to access link)

What they found in the study was that the athletes who did not hydrate during their athletic event rated their moods lower than those who were hydrated. Also, they scored lower on cognitive tests.

Many of us spend our days dehydrated. If we feel thirsty, we are already dehydrated.

Our body is 50-75% water. We depend on water to move nutrients throughout our body and flushes out waste. Without it we die.

Think of your body like a plant. You know when you look into the garden on a hot day when the plants are thirsty. The leaves droop and curl and hang from their stems. Our skin does the same thing when we are thirsty (aka dehydrated)!

When we are dehydrated we feel lifeless, tired, grumpy and maybe even confused!

We need water!

NOTE: The last thing we need in this moment is a coffee! I’m a real coffee lover, but when I drink more water I am more energized than I am when I’m relying on coffee for energy.

If you are dehydrated and drinking coffee, it will only contribute to your dehydration and it probably not give you the kick in the butt you are looking for… But water will!

Water helps keep our joints lubricated. If you are taking glucosamine for your joints, it probably won’t have it’s full effect unless you are drinking water. Glucosamine helps the joints absorb water… if you aren’t drinking enough water, then you are wasting your money buying glucosamine.

Studies have also found that drinking water can prevent certain types of cancer such as colon and bladder cancer.

***That sounds good, how do I start?***

I’ve struggled for a long time to drink enough water. I eat a lot of fruit which I would probably crave because I was dehydrated. Since I have started incorporating more water into my life I feel more alive, invigorated and capable. It’s fun.

Some ways that I have gotten into the routine of drinking water are:

1) I changed how I think. Instead of thinking to myself when I am tired “I need a coffee” I think to myself “I need water!”

2) I keep water around all of the time. I keep it in my van and drink it on long red lights.

3) I keep a glass of water at my desk at work and I drink out of a straw because I think straws are fun

4) I drink decaffeinated tea like it is going out of style. My favourite right now is Bengal Spice. I make an entire pot full of tea and let it sit on the stove. I drink it hot, I drink it cold, I drink it weak, I drink it bold. Bengal spice here and there, bengal spice everywhere!

5) I buy lemons and limes to put in my water to give it some flavour and increase the appeal.

I hope some of these tips help you to increase your mood and your wellbeing by increasing your water intake. If I can do it, you can too :)

Also in this post I want to mention how important water is in our world and how important it is that we do what we can to keep our glaciers/rivers/oceans/lakes in existence and clean.

Be grateful for your access water every day. It may not always be this way. Be aware that
780 million people in this world do not have access to clean water.


Water study on athletes cognitive abilities and mood:

Water prevents bladder cancer:

Water (along with physical activity) prevents colon cancer:

Water crisis:

Getting Friendly with Feelings

Ask yourself:
How am I feeling right now?

I’m going to guess that you used a word like “good” “fine” maybe “happy”… maybe “tired” “stressed”… maybe “angry” “frustrated”…

For most, myself included, language to describe emotions is limited.
Here is a list of feeling words.

For a larger version of this image click HERE

This week I am challenging myself to expand my feelings vocabulary.

Why bother doing such a thing?
To better understand myself. The better we understand ourselves, the more clearly we can express ourselves to others and be understood. The better we understand one another the better we can all just get along and be happy :) (Okay so maybe there is a little bit more to it than that… but it’s a start.)

Step 1 is to FIND the name of the feeling.
Step 2 is to FIGURE out why you are feeing that way.
Step 3 is to ACCEPT it.

I write a lot about being happy.  Part of being happy is accepting all of our feelings. Nobody is happy all of the time. If you were always happy, you wouldn’t know you were happy because you wouldn’t know what it feels like to be sad!



(I did not use any outside resources for this post)