Be Still

I had the great fortune of spending time on an Ontario lake this summer, and the above photo is yours truly enjoying a very tranquil morning paddle.

The stillness of the lake, the delicate sounds of canoe moving through water, and even a faint loon call is a memory that I want to hold on to, especially when stressed and feeling ungrounded.

What I realized is most important isn't the memory itself (however pleasant), but the reminder to make time to just be still, even when the world around us is filled with "to do" lists and the daily pressures of life.

Finding those small moments in the course of a day to sit and really get into the simple experiences; your morning coffee or tea, the sights and sounds while walking to work, sitting and observing what’s going on around you, while waiting for a friend at a café or restaurant.

I’m guilty myself of “filling in” every small moment with text/email checks, looking at news feeds or social media updates, and my own daily practice now involves making space for stillness, to be present to what’s around me.

I’m making it my own 30-day challenge, and will keep you posted on how it goes. You’re welcome to join me, and can post any comments, insights or highlights to my
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My Yukon Frosty Awakening

Though I'd share a little experience from my Northern Yukon adventure:

The snow was crunching and squeaking under my boots as I walked along the Yukon river, a mere 20 degrees below zero. My face and toes reminded me how vulnerable the elements can make one feel, even if swaddled in layers of down and wool. As my father and I reached the 4 KM mark of our icy tour, all bodily senses gave in to thoughts of the hot soup, the cozy fire, the end. On the return ride home, my cheeks screamed cold and then hot, while feet and hands warmly tingled.....almost home, almost home.                

This might sound rather melodramatic, but it did make me think of the dance that takes place between present moment sensations, and all those thoughts that can carry one away. This is a continuous practice of awareness, and I sometimes have to give myself a little remindful nudge just to be right here right now, rather than get fixated on all of those appetizing longings....                              

My Yukon holiday is almost over, and I'm heading out for one last chilly walk. The intention today and for this coming year is to take in as much of physical surroundings as possible; the beauty and harshness, the tranquility and turmoil, the joy and sorrow. It'll never be quite like this again, and a big part of life is about savouring the next step even in the knowing that something hot and scrumptious awaits at the finish line.

And into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him......and it was still hot (Where the Wild Things Are).                                               

Be Like A Tree

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending in the wind.....Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee definitely had a Zen approach towards life, and what I think he implied from the above quote was about the importance of being responsive versus reactive when dealing with the unpredictability of life. This has a great deal to do with what George Mumford describes as mental suppleness-believing in one's ability to get quiet and stay connected to that space between stimulus and response. This takes an amazing amount of practice, because it often goes against our hardwired fight or flight impulse, and hence involves a degree of de-conditioning.

On the tennis court, I've had my own battles with anger, frustration and fear (being the stiff tree), all leading to hostility towards myself, my opponent, and nasty cycles of shame and self-loathing. It's actually what brought me to counselling, and my own practice of mindfulness, self-compassion, and generally learning how to be like the willow, more psychologically flexible and emotionally forgiving.

On another personal note, I was lucky enough to grow up with a big willow tree in my backyard, and was always amazed by the way it could withstand even the most brutal storms without a single branch breaking.

Unfortunately that tree is now gone, but the lesson has not been lost.

Be Like A Tree


Elements of Dignity-Acknowledgment (5 of 10)


Acknowledgment: Giving people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating, and responding to their concerns, feelings and experiences. Keep in mind that it doesn't mean you necessarily agree with the person, but you see and acknowledge their suffering, which is often related to feelings of disrespect/indignity.

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"Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.” -Desmond Tutu
The above quote is from The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. Both Desmond and his daughter Mpho helped facilitate the reconciliation process in South Africa, and from this experience created the fourfold path of forgiving. In essence, when we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.

One of the challenges is moving from concept into practice. Numerous times I've said to myself that I've forgiven someone (or let something go), when in reality it's far from the truth. More often, I've fallen into some kind of conditional trap, wherein, I'll only forgive when the other person has apologized. What struck me from The Book of Forgiving is the importance of recognizing our shared humanity—that inherently we are all good and flawed, and realizing that we may never understand the motivations for the choices/behaviour of others.

I believe there's an incredible connection between forgiveness, transformation and freedom, and that our capacity to forgive may in fact be the salve to contentious times we live in.

Living With Men, Changing Together

It's been hard for me to find the words to describe my thoughts and feelings of the recent outing of movie executive HW. I'm not sure what is more disturbing, the abuse of power, or the fact that so many industry people were seemingly complicit. Perhaps the golden carrot of fame and fortune made people turn a blind eye, or an even more insidious viewpoint, that this is just how the Hollywood operates, so just grin and bare it, and don’t even think about biting the hand that feeds you.

One positive that can be taken from the repugnant actions of HW is that it has opened up a conversation, a willingness for woman to share their stories, and really illuminate the pervasive nature of violence towards women. I say nature, because it is such a deeply rooted part of our society that women have to continually be conscious of their own personal safety and actions, which most men don’t even consider.

How long has that person been walking behind me? Maybe I should cross the street now.

I better not leave my drink at the bar when I go to the washroom.

Who can help me, where can I go? This guy is not getting that I’m not interested.

I guess I’m going to have to ignore that sexist comment, just so I won’t be seen as uptight, or god forbid, a feminist.

The list goes on and on and on, and I’m thinking that this is an opportunity to share some of the messaging that as woman you have to tell yourself to keep safe/protected, or just accept in order to not rock the boat or be seen as difficult, confrontational, etc….

We have a long way to go as a society, and moving towards greater understanding, compassion and a greater sense of internal/external realization (self/other consciousness) are vital for any social change to truly emerge.

The Joys of Couples Counselling

I've never had a literal "kick me" sign taped on my back, but there have been times that couples leave my office with wily grins, like I was unknowingly part of some inside joke. I must say, it's very encouraging when couples leave my office smiling and sharing a good laugh, even if it's at my own expense.....whatever builds connection!!!

While popular culture (as in movies and TV) often paints a rather farcical picture of couples counselling, the last 25 years has scene the field and corresponding research, grow immensely. Don't get me wrong, there's no cure for every relationship, but I'm a big believer that repair/recovery is always possible.

Fundamentals of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the Teachings of the Buddha

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world....Buddha

I love this quote, because it conveys such a simple message, while at the same time really gets at the root of so much human behaviour. At heart, we as humans see the world through our own distinct lens (thoughts/beliefs), which shapes everything we feel, do and become.
Wow, there’s your deep thought of the day, but how does the teachings of the Buddha connect with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)?
In essence, CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are constantly interacting and influencing one another. How we interpret or think about a situation determines how we feel about it, which then determines how we'll react. 
Here’s an example that many of you have likely experienced. You text a friend to find out what they’re up to on the weekend, and hours go by with no response. The first thought that enters your mind might be, why hasn’t this person texted me back? Which may lead to thoughts such as, I’m not good/important enough and/or this person must have better things to do than hang out with me. These thoughts then lead to feelings of loneliness, rejection and despair. You spend the weekend watching Netflix, feeling sorry for yourself.
Sinking into the rabbit hole of negative thoughts/beliefs can be overwhelming and debilitating. The strength of CBT is that it can heighten awareness of your core beliefs, and help you develop a deeper understanding how these beliefs affect the way you see/interact with the world.
If you're interested in learning more, on Thursday March 9th, I’m presenting a workshop on the Fundamentals of CBT, which will not only give you a better understanding of how your thoughts and emotions affect your life, but also tools to deal with of the negative thinking that's been holding you back and keeping you stuck.

For more information and/or reserve a spot, go to the Workshops page

How To Make And Keep Your 2017 Goals

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit....Aristotle

So it's over the mid-way mark of January, and it's crossed your mind that it might be a good idea to set some goals for this year. You know like, get in shape, eat healthier, look for a new job, watch less Netflix, be more creative, to name just a few. Perhaps you’ve made such lofty goals before, but with all your best intentions, inevitably by March, April or even February you find yourself back to your old ways. So why bother setting goals in the first place? What’s the point when you’re doomed to fail anyway, and lord knows, you don’t want to go down that road of self-sabotage again.
While a lot can be learned by failure, most people will avoid it at all costs, even if it means staying stagnant and indefinitely stuck. So 2017 passes by, nothing lost, nothing gained, and there you are….
But wait, could there be another way of approaching this whole goal setting thing that might lead to greater success, and avoiding failure altogether?
Goals have a greater chance to be achieved when they’re tied to an action, or what Aristotle referred to as habit. You very well might want to get in shape this year, but what does that mean in terms of action/habit?
Joe: To get in shape this year, I commit to exercising three days a week.
Jason: Pretty good, but even better if you make the action/habit even more concrete.
Joe: To get in shape this year, I commit to going for a five mile run three days a week.
Jason: What’s particularly useful about this action/habit based goal is that it’s measurable and you can monitor it in the course of a week, month or year. Remember Joe; creating new habits in your life takes practice, which entails staying with the process versus focusing on the outcome.

*Accountability can be another great way of monitoring your level of success, so find a friend, running buddy, therapist or even family member to share your 2017 goals.
One last thing is that failure is always a possibility, but not a necessarily a bad thing, because you can use it as a lesson in learning on your path to eventual personal growth/success.
I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that didn’t work….Thomas Edison


The Practice of Self-Acceptance


As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a single pathway in the mind.

To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.

To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.......Henry David Thoreau

Though personal development isn't as simple as just changing one's thoughts, I like this quote because it reflects something that is fundamental….the importance of practice. Whether it’s piano scales, slap shots or French verb conjugation (Ugh!), people often have a negative relationship with practice. And really, it’s no wonder that many give up trying, especially when striving for the elusive perfection.
So perhaps the idea of practice in your life needs a little bit of a reframe, and I can’t help to think that the Eastern spiritual practices of yoga and meditation offer a great model to draw from. For these practices, it’s not so much about achieving something tangible, and more to do with showing up, being present, and just noticing one’s body, thoughts and emotions. You may have an intention in mind, like being more flexible or some sense of greater inner peace, but focusing on that alone is not what it’s about. It took me a while to better understand, but practice is more about the doing, the being in the now, and general awareness.
Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting you have to take up some kind of yoga or meditation practice to “get it”, not at all. You can start by just becoming better aware of the messages you tell yourself, whether it be in the work place, in your relationships, or even looking in the mirror.

Fall is a great time for self-reflection, and to begin taking footsteps towards the kind of thoughts and emotions you wish to guide your life.