The Space in Between

“The biggest thing I did is clear my schedule, leaving a few empty spaces in my days to do nothing. By making this space, everything has seismically shifted for the better. All because I started doing less. Resting more. Finishing one thing at a time. Don’t forget that the space between all the ‘doing’ is a wellness practice in itself.” ~ Dana Claudat

Up until late last year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, busily ticking things off my endless to-do lists. I had gotten swept away in “doing” and had lost myself in the process. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was hiding behind the busy. I had let go of many of my wellness practices because I just didn’t have the time. I had worn my busy-ness like a status symbol (as Brene Brown calls it). I was hiding from the revealing of self, from the changes this uncovering would require of me. If I kept up the 100 mile an hour pace, it wouldn’t catch me and I could continue to hide in motion and pat myself on the back for all that I was accomplishing. What was the “it” I was running from? I didn’t exactly know, but I was becoming increasingly unsettled, edgy, restless. I was finding mundane and pointless distractions tedious. It was becoming clear that a major shift was about to take place.

So, my monastic nature kicked in and I went into a period of solitude. To the outside world, it looked like depression, but it wasn’t. Sure, there was a mixture of sadness and anger, sometimes rather intense, but mostly it was about just sitting still. I was allowing all my feelings to run through me without the knee-jerk reaction of avoidance. I didn’t label them bad or wrong. I just let them be. I isolated myself quite a bit from the outside world and returned to my meditation practice with the renewed enthusiasm only suffering can induce. I observed my ego-mind and marvelled at how crazy it was. I listened to the compelling stories it told and became almost convinced they were true.

But then my heart-mind came forward and spoke loud and clear. It was time to stop resisting the shift that was going to happen, regardless of my resistance. It was time to show up for what was truly important in my life and stop hiding behind the busy-ness. I needed to release the story I’d been telling myself, which was that my value was tied up in my doing and accomplishments. So I cracked open the door and allowed a little light to come in. Each day I opened the door a little more. As more light came in, the ego-mind shrank back and eventually became small enough to hold in my arms. I kissed it goodnight and let it go back to what I hope is a good, long sleep.

The shift that finally came wasn’t a big lightening bolt… it was as gentle and quiet as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I felt a little disoriented and unsure of myself, but much lighter. I felt unsteady, insecure, out of place, but somehow more liberated. Will I find peace in this new version of my life? Which of my friends and family will remain by my side and who will drift away? What unnecessary baggage will I need to let go of to become truly open and free? Can I practise non-attachment and still be madly in love with my husband and kids? Can I practise groundlessness and still be grounded? Can I practise curiosity and remain open to new ideas without becoming fixed and rigid? Can I keep my heart open in the face of anger and fear? Can I be the calm eye in the storm, as my mother used to say?

I will endeavour to open up the space in between all the doing and be like the tree in the picture above. I will protect the space where my wellness practices live and let go of the idea that everything has to be done right now or the sky will fall. Of course, there is important stuff to do that when completed actually brings a healthy sense of accomplishment and reduces future drama and stress, like paying your bills on time and keeping your house tidy. But allowing myself to become mired down and overwhelmed makes me far less effective and efficient anyway, so what’s the point? I’m starting to see that multi-tasking is not the most effective path. Sure, I can do many things at once, but they’re done half-assed. I think it makes more sense to mindfully do one thing at a time and do it well.

So far this year, I’ve managed to create space in between work, appointments and family activities to nurture myself. I meditate every morning. I journal. I exercise. I get a massage. I take a cat nap if I need one. I spend time with my family and friends. I make time for listening to and learning from my teachers. I read. I don’t make excuses when I don’t want to do something… I just say, “No, thank you.” I tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. And you know what? All the stuff I’m not getting done as timely as I would like, is not throwing the Earth off its axis. It’s still sitting there in my in-box and patiently waiting for me. I’ve found if something really needs to be done, it will get done. If it doesn’t get done, well, it must not have been that essential in the first place. On my deathbed, I won’t regret all the crap I didn’t get done. I will regret all the time I wasted trying to get everything done instead of spending my precious time loving my tribe and taking better care of my heart, mind and body.

So, my new mantra is…. “Serenity is found in the space in between.”

Namaste 🕉


Healing the Hungry Ghost

When I am triggered to engage in an activity that is harmful to myself or others, to do the habitual thing that always leads to suffering, how do I refrain?

First, I need to identify the trigger. For me, it’s usually an impulse, a thought with a juicy, seductive nature that lures me in. I call her my hungry ghost. She wants poisonous foods, or to be angry, to be perfect, or to engage in a loop of negative self-talk and toxic judgement.

First, I need to pause and breathe; be an unattached witness; bring mindfulness in….turn to my star.

Where is my star?

My star is within.

What will bring me toward my star?

Being fully present.

What is my real need that’s not being met? What do I really want in this moment?

Be a witness…. What am I really feeling underneath the impulse?

I’m feeling bored, lonely, tired, overwhelmed, sad or angry.

Will engaging in this harmful activity really satisfy my underlying needs?

No, it never does.

What will satisfy my needs?

To feel connected, loved, purposeful, engaged, worthy.

How is feeding my ghost going to bring that about?

It won’t.

What is the inevitable result when I feed her?

The continuing loop of shame and self-loathing.

How do I break the loop, the habit?

Embrace my hungry ghost. Meet her with loving-kindness and compassion. Hating my hungry ghost only strengthens her power over me.

Be a witness. Be present. Take a moment to breathe and ask myself the questions above.

Then go do something else.

Take a walk, meditate, tell someone I love them, eat something alive with nutrients, get off social media and pick up that book I’ve been wanting to read, take a nap. Do anything that truly feeds my soul.

This is the practice to heal my hungry ghost. I vow to nurture myself this year and to find balance.

What is your vow for the year to come?

Blessings. 🌈🕉

Note to self….

Note to self:

This past year has kicked your ass, ripped you open

and left you bleeding in the street.

Fear has left you feeling unloveable,

unworthy and overwhelmed.

You’ve been unkind to yourself

and allowed anger into your heart.

You’ve been manipulated and lied to by your ego.

Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made;

for unfairly judging yourself and others;

and for all the times you didn’t stand up for yourself.

Forgive others, even when they’re not sorry.

See the best in people,

even when they show you their worst.

Believe in yourself.

You have been through worse times than this

and came through them wiser and more resilient.

Believe in others and risk being let down and hurt.


Remember….vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

Strong Back, Soft Front

“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet – strong back and soft front – is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.” ~ Joan Halifax ~

Finding My Voice #metoo

Gaslighting: “A form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.”

As I begin to write this, I’m surprised to find how full of dread I am. I’ve never before spoken of this topic on a public level. There has been a lot of talk lately on social media about sexual abuse since the #metoo campaign began. My first reaction was to ignore it. I had recovered from my history of sexual abuse. It was done and dusted and all healed over. I wasn’t going to participate in this campaign by coming out as a victim too. I was a victim no more!

However, over the past several years, I was allowing a person in my life to slowly dig into my ancient scars. From the moment he came into our lives, I’ve disliked him. He makes condescending and sexist remarks designed to make you feel small and insignificant. He comments on how sexy you are and how lucky your husband is to have you in his bed, which on the surface looks like a compliment, but leaves you feeling icky and uncomfortable. He grabs your ass in a hello embrace. He grabs you from behind in a “playful” way and just misses your breasts. He talks incessantly about all the women he has sex with. Are we supposed to be impressed? All I feel is sick to my stomach. Suffice it to say, I believed this man to be a predator.

Although I didn’t like being around him, he was a good friend to the family, always there to lend a hand and help out when needed. Everyone else didn’t seem to mind him and thought it was all harmless behaviour from a lonely old man. I was advised to just ignore it. Whenever I talked about his behaviour, it was usually greeted with the eye rolling and deep sighs that said I was being ridiculous and over-reacting. The message was clear… my feelings weren’t valid. This is a lesson women are taught from early on. Our feelings are mostly invalid because they defy logic and rationality. If we can’t articulate our feelings in a way that makes perfect sense and present a case that removes all reasonable doubt, then our feelings simply don’t matter. And because of the systematic training of women to view this kind of behaviour from men as normal, we don’t even see it as abuse. Obviously I was just being over-sensitive. I began to doubt my own mind and overruled my instinct to punch him in the face. After all, he doesn’t mean anything by it. So, I just swallowed my feelings, did my best to be polite and ignored his behaviour like a good little girl.

Throughout my life I have been sexually violated, both subtly and violently. When I was a teenager, I was date-raped twice. I hate that term, date-rape. It’s a sugar-coated expression designed to make the rape seem less ugly. After all, I voluntarily agreed to go out with these men who I found attractive, so I must have wanted it on some level. If you’re on a date and you say no, and they rip your clothes off and rape you, well… you deserved it. Face it, they invested money in you by buying you dinner and drinks and it was the least you could do to repay them for their generosity. So, you don’t call the police. You don’t tell anyone. You just accept it as a really bad date. And later, when I did talk about it to others, I was often told that perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with these men and I should have fought harder. This was actually more brutal than the rapes because this is exactly what I had been telling myself. The ensuing shame was immense and all-consuming and I sought solace through drugs and alcohol. The body eventually heals, but the shame lives on in perpetuity. We live in a culture that still supports the idea that women are to blame for the actions of men who can’t be expected to control themselves, otherwise known as the Provocation Defense.

Recently, and rather unexpectedly, a sudden vitriol came to the surface as the old scars were ripped open. I was drowning in rage. I couldn’t sleep. I would lie in bed all night and cry. I couldn’t breathe at times. I tried, in vain, to talk about it, but couldn’t find my voice. I was yelling but not being heard. I felt all alone. I realised it was time to really talk about the abuse. I had talked about it before to friends and therapists, but I had recounted the stories in much the same way a historian tells them… from a detached and emotionless place. I was just outlining the facts as I recalled them. I had gone through the process of identifying the decisions I had made about myself at the time of the abuse and did my best to rewrite history by changing those old ideas into new and empowered ones. And I felt I had been successful. I had taken control of my life and felt strong and brave and free from my shameful past. But like an onion, another layer was peeled back, which revealed some significant residual pain. I clearly had more work to do. A close friend put it in perspective by asking me, “What would you say if this was happening to me? What would you tell me to do?” I didn’t hesitate! I knew exactly what I would say to her.

It was time to extract this predator from my life. My Dharma teachings, along with my teacher’s voice in my head, were telling me to find patience and compassion in my heart and mind, but also to remember it’s imperative we surround ourselves with fellow seekers of truth and love, not those that promote hatred and division.  Why had I waited so many years before exposing the whole truth? I know why…. because of shame and distrust in my feelings.

So, once again, it’s time for me to slow down and allow my feelings to come up and be experienced fully. I will sit with the discomfort and grieve for all the stolen moments and lost innocence. I will tend to the painful wounds that never fully healed. I vow to never again allow my feelings to go unchecked, unheard, unsupported. I will have more faith in myself and will honour my truth. I will reach out and open up more and not hide my feelings away like something ugly and shameful. I will not protect predators by making excuses for them. I will expose them to the light and banish them.  I will encourage others to come forward and share their stories so they, too, can let go of the shame.  And maybe, just maybe, we can put a stop to this abuse once and for all.

Namaste. 🕉

A Change of Scenery

“The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.” ~ Anais Nin ~

For me, the dream is always travel. I have a wicked case of wanderlust that never seems to be fully satisfied.  I’m always in the process of planning another trip.  It makes the day-to-day stuff easier to manage.  How to create magic in the mundane is the key….

Most of my time is spent being pulled in a million directions by all the things I want to do, both personally and professionally.  My husband and I are very ambitious and have a highly successful professional life.  We invest and manage our portfolio well. We give as much of our time and money as we can spare to various charitable organisations. We spend a lot of time on our individual pursuits, which include recreation, personal and professional development and at least twice a week we go on dates to make sure we stay connected as a couple. We ensure we hang out with our kids as much as they will allow (they’re teenagers after all) and we make time for play. 

My life is extraordinarily abundant, yet I always manage to get way off balance somewhere along the way, and then find I’m breaking apart.  Then, when I’m travelling, I’m able to put it all back together again.  How do I go about bringing the “holiday” spirit into my day-to-day life to prevent the break down altogether?  I know it’s all about balance, but boy, do I struggle with this! What exactly happens while on holiday that enables the reconstruction process, seemingly without effort? The obvious answer is that no one is asking much of me. I get to meander through my day, no minute by minute schedule, no issues I need to address, no problems I need to solve, other than what do I feel like doing today?  Don’t get me wrong… I’m grateful for the ability to be able to handle as much as I do and be of benefit wherever I can, but I get worn out. In my most grouchy place, I feel like the more I give, the more gets asked of me. I think sometimes if others know someone is there to handle it, they don’t bother doing it themselves. This is especially true of my kids. Left to their own devices and they’re quite capable.  But when I’m around, they can’t remember their phone number….

My beloved teacher, Geshe-la, says that if my motivation is correct, I won’t run out of loving kindness and compassion.  I guess the trick is to look deeper into why I am doing whatever it is I’m doing on a day-to-day basis and see where I’m getting off track.  Where am I being self-cherishing (motivated by ego), fearful or dishonest? If I can uncover this and correct my motivation, this should enable me to keep my balance better.  Also, I need to be sure I’m setting good boundaries and saying no when I need to. Sounds like a piece of cake, eh?  Mmmmmm…. cake.

Over the years my husband and I have repeatedly found that when we “help” too much, we enable and cripple others. We need to be diligent on when to offer guidance and support and when to allow others the space to figure out and manage their own problems. It’s the process of trial and error that leads to good problem solving skills. We don’t need to be super heros in anyone’s lives. And this is where checking our motivation is helpful… ensuring we’re not feeding our egos and calling it help. 

So, going forward, my path is a little clearer now. I will slow down and create more space between my words and actions and ensure I have enough quiet time to meditate, reflect and recharge my batteries. I will allow myself and others the space to make mistakes and learn from them. I will cultivate emotional maturity and intelligence. I will diligently shut down my inner critic as soon as she pipes up. I will practise patience (I say practise because I’m no damn good at this).  I will monitor my motivation to ensure it’s pure and I will make more time for spirit-enhancing activities.  All the busy work manages to somehow get done. I don’t need to stress about it. The questions I need to ask myself often are, “Will this matter in a year, 3 years, 10 years? Will I regret doing this, or not having done this when I’m on my deathbed? If the answers are NO, then why worry about it? His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

Good advice.

Om mani padme hum 🕉


Definition of Addict (transitive verb):  to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.

Does this sound like you or anyone you know?  How about everyone you know? I’ve been clean and sober for over 24 years and throughout my sobriety I’m often asked about addiction. What I mostly hear from people is that they just don’t have an addictive personality so they can’t understand how addicts think or why they just can’t stop doing whatever it is they do that is destroying their lives. 

Now, this comes from people (assuming they’re people I know fairly well) who I watch on a consistent basis obsess about this or that.  I watch them give in to cravings, worry compulsively, constantly look at their phones instead of engaging the person in front of them, desperately cling to old, wrong ideas despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, or repeatedly read news flashes that appear on their phones, even though it’s invariably negative and upsets them (with the excuse that they should be well informed). They spend enormous amounts of time making excuses, rationalising their behaviour by trying to blame it on someone else, they create drama, gossip, smoke, berate themselves and bite their nails or other fidgety, compulsive habits.  So this is what it looks like to not have an addictive personality?

As a self-confessed addict, let me share some of my addictive tendencies with you….  I repeat arguments in my head over and over and over again until I prove to myself I’m right, which includes negative self talk about my mistakes and failures. I will spend an hour looking for the smallest accounting error even though it doesn’t matter in the least.  Once I get started on lollies and biscuits, there is no stopping me.  In fact, you might lose a hand if it gets in my way.  Then comes the self-loathing when I’m feeling sick to my stomach after. Why did I do this to myself yet again??  I pick my nail cuticles and obsessively write to do lists and even include things I’ve already done so I can feel the satisfaction of ticking them off. I run, even when I’m injured or sick. Sometimes I imagine horrible things happening to my husband and kids and am wracked with all the suffering and fear those dark imaginings bring, even though it didn’t happen.  And I’m only scratching the surface, but I won’t bore you with all my crazy in one blog post.

I’ve spent the better part of my life researching, contemplating and meditating on why I do what I do.  It all comes down to one simple reason. I want to move away from whatever stress, pain or fear I’m feeling in that moment.  Not that I’m always conscious of any particular feelings, as I’m often on auto-pilot and just doing the habitual thing. But if I pause for a moment, after I’ve caught myself in any of the aforementioned habits, I invariably find that I am in a negative mindset. When I’m conscious, mindful and happy none of this behaviour surfaces. Simple as that.  The irony is, in our attempts to move away from our discomfort, our habitual tendencies only enhance it. 

I believe all human beings are addicts. We believe we are different than those “addicts” in the street because our habitual patterns play out differently, but we are all the same… seeking relief from suffering.  That is all addiction is: the desire for something that will help us move away from an uncomfortable feeling, wherein the attainment of that something increases, rather than decreases the discomfort, leading to more craving for something to bring relief.  It’s a vicious cycle. Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist nun defines addiction as, “Addicted to a firm and fixed view of ourselves (ego) and the world.” Whenever this fixed view is challenged, we cling tighter to our viewpoint, which only leads to more suffering.  And in that suffering, we engage in our addictions, whatever they are.

I’ve found that creating space in my life makes me more aware of my negative patterns, or addictions if you like. This space allows me to do something different than my habitual thing. By choosing a new way of addressing my discomfort, I create new positive habits.  It’s like the saying goes…. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of crazy.” 

I create space by being quiet.  I meditate every morning, which helps me develop the habit of stopping the mental chatter and just listening. This is my sacred time to touch base with my mind and cultivate a loving kindness toward myself and others.  I don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning.  In fact, it goes on “do not disturb” every night at 7 pm until 7 am the next morning.  Other people’s emergencies do not have to be my own.  Believe me, if there is a true emergency, somehow I always find out. Setting boundaries is another way I create space.  I don’t allow other people to fill my life with their drama. I take time to nurture myself by exercising, getting regular massages, meditating, doing yoga, eating nutrient dense foods and engaging in activities that fill my soul, like hanging with my family and friends, attending teachings, travelling, writing, reading, running and hiking, to name a few.  When I get too busy for self-care, which I confess is far too often, I’m a big grump!  Surprise, surprise. 

So, go forth and get in touch with your own inner addict and see what he/she has to teach you about yourself and the universe.  


Practising Wellness

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” ~ Dalai Lama

Today I woke up with such a sense of urgency for all that I had to get done.  I hit the floor running and almost skipped my morning meditation. I decided I’d just do a short one to save time. I chose a 10 minute guided meditation from my favourite app, Insight Timer. Whether you’re a beginner in meditation or are a long time practitioner like me, this app is the greatest! Anyway, I digress….. 

After spending the entire 10 minutes lost in thought and feeling quite grumpy after, I decided to try again with a much longer meditation. Why the hell am I in such a hurry anyway?? It’s Saturday for crying out loud! Where did this habitual behaviour of putting my To Do List ahead of my mental, spiritual and physical well-being originate?

After an hour of meditation, I finally began to feel the grumpiness and hurried energy melt away and be replaced by a sense of calm and serenity. Perseverance is key. I then decided to do an hour of my favourite yoga practice. Why not transmit this wonderful energy into movement?  What struck me during a particular pose wherein you curl into embryo to rest a moment, was that I rarely rest a moment. I have to be told to do this. Once again, I was reminded that I stink in the self-care department!

Now, I can waste enormous amounts of time on social media sites and watching TV and call it rest, but I’m kidding myself. Not that I believe there is anyway wrong with either of those activites. I love Facebook and Instagram. I love how easy it is to stay in touch with my friends and family overseas. I love chilling out in front of the telly sometimes too. But calling it a wellness practice is rubbish. It doesn’t nourish my soul. It merely strengthens the habit of distraction… the habit of moving away from instead of into self. I have dozens of books on my shelf that I want to read and a dozen books in my head that I want to write, but I get lost in busy-ness and call it work. Working mainly from home brings the added challenge of knowing when to call it a day.  There’s no quitting time and there are always “productive” things I could be doing. Self-care doesn’t seem to rank very high in the “productive” category.

Then comes the crash. This is the part where I’m wracked with exhaustion, which leads to grumpiness, headaches and poor sleep, which leads to more fatigue and overwhelment. I know this is a typical cycle with the modern day working mum and that I’m not alone.  There is a certain pride we take in thinking we are Super Woman “doing and having it all.” And we can do it all, but at a very high price. The price being all the afflictions we suffer today at epidemic proportions…. Cancer, heart disease, weight problems, diabetes, depression, anxiety and mental illness. We’ve been conditioned to believe that self-care in any form is selfish and a sign of weakness.  We should just take a pill and get on with it! Men seemed to have figured this one out pretty well. Most of them don’t seem to be wracked with guilt for going golfing, surfing, fishing, or whatever they like to do to relax and have fun.  Most of them haven’t been raised to believe their job is to take care of others at the expense of themselves. They intuitively understand that without taking time for themselves, they’re not going to be on top of their game or at their best.  We could learn a lot from men, but instead we resent them for our failure to speak up for ourselves and take time for self-nurturing.  It’s not their fault we run ourselves ragged. I’m particularly blessed with a phenomenal partner who always encourages me to take the very best care of myself that I can. He’s my biggest supporter in that because my happiness is very important to him. It also doesn’t hurt that when I’m in my happy place, I tend to be a nicer person to be around. He’s no dummy!

The bottom line here is to remember that self-care, in whatever form, is an act of love, not selfishness. If I am to be of greatest benefit to others, I need to be drawing from a full well. All that busy work will get done in its own time. Besides, I’m far more efficient and effective when I’m rested, happy and nourished. 

So, go forth and nourish yourselves and drop me a line to let me know all the ways you feed your soul. I’m always looking for new wellness tools. 

Namaste. 🙏🏻🌈🕉