Seeking Stillness

The light. The warmth. The extra bounce in our step... it's here! Happy summer, beautiful family :) 
 
This summer, inspired by some of my most restorative moments of childhood and travels abroad, I’m taking time for stillness. It’s so easy in our world to fall in to the trap of always ‘doing.’ Work has its own demands, and we tend to follow a similar pattern in our time off – filling space with plans, people, activities, books, TV shows, podcasts, etc. etc.… our calendars end up packed to the brim, and save for sleep, we find ourselves in very few moments to truly restore.
 
Summer changes things. Summer offers us beautiful moments to just be. Basking in the glow of the sun. Taking in the sunset. Sharing time with loved ones in parks, on docks, in backyards, simply being together.
 
This summer, take time to be. Take time to unplug. Take time to breathe deeply. Take time to meditate. Take time just for you. Take time to connect. Take time do absolutely nothing at all. How sweet does that sound?
 
One of the most nourishing places to practice stillness is outdoors. Sneak in every little moment outside that you can. Turn off the AC and let the breeze blow in. Summer is the most expansive time for nature, when everything – the light, the plants, the mood of us all – is at its fullest. There’s so much to marvel at, so much nature offers us in this time of expansiveness – find moments of stillness to take it all in, eyes and heart wide open.
 
I can promise you this – the time you take just to be is equally as important as the time you take to do. When we take time to surrender the constant activity and just be, we refuel our whole being – relaxing our body, calming our mind, and reconnecting to the energy of our soul. We break routine, recharge our batteries and refresh our creativity… you may be surprised to find what comes on the other end of your ‘be’-ing time :)

A stillness challenge for the month: the full moon comes to its peak just after midnight EST on Sunday, July 9th – if it calls you, stay up Saturday evening to bask in its light at its fullest. In Capricorn this month, it offers us up lots of grounding energy. Set an intention of which old habits you’d like to release, and let the light of the moon wash them away from the corners of your mind.

In whichever ways you seek stillness this summer, remember, this is not a rigid stillness we’re seeking. It’s a softening stillness. A nourishing stillness. A clarifying stillness. A coming home. A gift to yourself. Enjoy it fully.
 
May you find many magical moments under the light of the sun and the moon this month. As always, here for you in any way I can help, whenever you feel the call :) 

With love,
ayah x

Spring Cleaning

’Tis the season for spring cleaning 🌱

Some big changes and transformations seems to be calling many of us this month… and lots is being called to the surface to clear. This was a beautiful reminder amongst it all - change is good!

First up in the process of change is often a call to let go. Far too often we hold ourselves back from all that could be because we stubbornly hold on to all that was - old thoughts, emotions, goals and dreams. We let our heart's desires drift because of our mind's tight grip on its "plan." When we hold on to what was, we can't see where we’re really at, and where we might go.

So, join me in some spring cleaning. Detox your body and mind, clearing physical and mental toxins that slow you down. Make space in your homes and your heart, releasing items and emotions that don’t nourish you. If you're in a place or have people around you that that don't light you up and make you feel like the truest you... let them go with love. Be grateful for all you've shared, but know when it's time to move on. Whatever, whoever and wherever isn't serving your highest growth - let go.

And a beautiful thing happens when we let go... we find all this new Spaciousness. Lightness. Freedom. We can finally see with clear eyes all the beauty right in front of us. We can finally hear the quiet voice of our intuition leading us forward.

If life seems to be pushing you in a new direction, don't resist. Let go of the old, and welcome in all the magic ahead.

Sending you love, always x

Coming Home

I'm back in Toronto, and nestled in a new space to call home.

This idea of home has been at the forefront of my mind and heart for the past few years. It began in the summer of 2014, on my first night at my first Burning Man. I had managed to get separated from my group of friends, and was worried about finding my way back to my camp on the other side of this temporary city that felt like another planet. Amidst my uncertainty in this otherworldly place, a strong knowing came to me from the depths of my intuition – “You will find your way home.”

This washed over me with relief. I trusted my inner compass was leading me in the right direction, and that I would indeed find my camp (which of course, I did :).

That said, as I walked, this message seemed to expand and take on a broader context. This wasn’t just about finding my camp. This was a broader affirmation from my intuition. I would always find my way home – to where I was supposed to live, to the people I would share my life with, and to the work I was to share with the world. In the midst of my mid-twenties angst about where I was supposed to be and how, this was a wave of relief. There was no need to worry or doubt, or struggle or fight. Every step I took on this path, one way or another, was leading me home.

The deeper I went, the more I began to realize this sense of home was already inside me. The more I moved from my head and into my heart, the more I would realize that at every moment, I was exactly where I needed to be. During any difficulty, I could drop in and find home – a space of safety and comfort, where any guidance I needed could be found.

This maxim, “you will always find your way home,” guided many of the adventures and lessons of that year’s festival. It also led me to a daily meditation practice, where I truly found that internal space of home I could refuel in every day. It let me deeper into my spiritual explorations, which ultimately led me full-time into this path of the heart.

A year-and-a-half ago, after leaving my job in sales, I moved out of my apartment, moved my stuff back to my family’s home, and packed up my trusty backpack for nearly six months of traveling. Since then, I’ve found home in fifteen countries, across guest houses, hotels, hostels, airports, one tent (it was glamping, to be fair :), shared homes, friends’ couches and spare rooms, my family’s home, and finally now, a little space to call my own – for the next few months, at least ;) With all this movement across countries, cultures and spaces far from my own, it was tough to find the comfort of home in any external spaces. I had to go within. 

I can now see what beautiful training this was, as this work of coming home to one’s self – peeling away the layers that aren’t truly you, and connecting to the peace, ease and light already within you – is the heart of the work I now share with others through yoga, meditation and healing.

With the move on my mind, I explored this idea of coming home with my meditation and yoga groups last week. Spring is upon us, and the beautiful weather often carries a desire to be outside as much as possible, bouncing from backyards to patios to festivals and more. With all this movement, it can be easy to get swayed from our centre and lose our balance. This is the meditation exercise I shared with my students to find calm in the chaos, their centre, and their home within themselves. May it guide you as well:
 

Meditation // Coming Home to Yourself

Close your eyes. Find a grounded seat, with your palms facing downward on your knees. 

Begin to scan your body, starting from the crown of your head, all the way down to your toes. If you encounter any spaces of tension as you do this scan, gently rest your attention on this area and direct your breath here to help open the space.

After you reach the tips of your toes, move your attention back up to the crown of your head. Begin another body scan, this time with the intention of finding home in yourself. Trust your intuition when you reach this place. You will feel an opening, a sense of peace, and grounding.

Spend the next few minutes resting in this place. If you’d like to use a mantra to help you settle in, you can repeat to yourself the words of one of my favourite poets, Nayyirah Waheed:

Nejma // Nayyirah Waheed

Nejma // Nayyirah Waheed

Spend the next few minutes coming home to yourself.

Gently move your hands to this area on your body that feels like home. As you rest your hands here, send your breath to this area as well. Spend a few minutes connecting deeper to this space.

When you’re ready to come out of your meditation, place your hands back on your lap. Take a few deep breaths, feeling your belly rise as you inhale, and fall as you exhale. Spend about a minute focusing on your breath. Gently open your eyes.

Whenever you feel something pull you out of your centre, come back to this space. Focus your attention and breath in this space. If possible, close your eyes and rest here for a few minutes. In this space, you are protected and grounded. In this space, you are at ease, at peace and connected to your light. In this space, you are home.


May all your explorations and journeys continue to lead you home.

With love,
ayah x

Welcoming

welcoming a new day in ella, sri lanka

welcoming a new day in ella, sri lanka

One of the things I’ve been exploring since I’ve been home is the idea of welcoming - greeting whatever shows up at your doorstep from a place of calm, equanimity and openness.
 
Sometimes this guest at your doorstep may be an exciting new opportunity or person that enlivens you and lights you up. Can you welcome this guest with a deep gratitude, knowing one of your heart’s desires has come to you? The more we welcome with gratitude all the goodness in our life, the more flows to us, and the happier we find we are with all we already have.
 
Sometimes this guest might be a challenge or loss you didn’t ask for, and might not be quite so happy to see. Can you welcome this guest with a calm acceptance that it’s here? Can you soften into it instead of resisting? It’s from this place of acceptance that we can see the lesson in this challenge – how it can help us grow – and how capable we are of moving through it.

On my end, I look forward to welcoming you! I’m moving into a new healing studio space in West Queen West at the end of the month, which will be home base for healing sessions and workshops. I look forward to welcoming you into it, and having many of you finally meet my sidekick Otis, who’s been training in the secrets of the yogic path ;)
 
Whether it’s for a healing session, workshop, or just to come by for a tea, I’d love to hear how you’ve been and help you in any way I can to welcome in more calm, clarity and ease this year.
 
May you open the door wide with welcoming for all that shows up for you, knowing it’s all come for your highest growth and good.
 
With love,
ayah x 

Flying High + Grounding Down

atop triund, soaking in the magic of the himalayas

atop triund, soaking in the magic of the himalayas

Something special carried me up here.

This 25K hike to Triund was one of the most challenging I've done, yet somehow, I barely felt it. My body seemed to float up the rocky paths. The month of intensive yoga certainly played a role, yet I couldn't help feel the magic of the Himalayas was also at work.

Like this hike, the past few months in India have been intense, exhilarating, strengthening, inspiring and clarifying. And like this hike, through the thrills and the challenges, I always felt carried.

Last year, I found a lot of quiet moments and space to integrate all I experienced, which helped me acclimatize to this new path as a healer, teacher and entrepreneur. This year, India had another plan for me. I found myself constantly in motion, surrounded by others, and on a disciplined schedule... no easy feat for this free bird!

Now, I can see what was at work. I pushed my edges in mind, body and spirit, and found more harmony amongst them in the process. I cut distractions and vices, and found more space for both inspired action and quiet restoration. I opened new pathways to my intuition and trusted myself more. I upped my discipline, focus, commitment and endurance. I flew high, and grounded down stronger than ever.

Like the energy of these mountains pulled me up, the energy of India stoked my fire into action. I have no doubts this was preparation for the work that's to come as I expand my practice, and integrate and share the inspiration of the last few months.

On the ride to my Delhi hotel yesterday, my driver sweetly asked me, "Ma'am, how much feeling you have for my Indian culture?" It took me a second to understand, and then my heart lifted. "I love it very much," I replied. We smiled knowing smiles. There is so much treasure here, and a special energy that blows open doors for us to really see the treasure we hold inside. Yet again, India threw my expectations out the window, and still managed to give me all the clarity and growth I sought.

With much feeling, I'm wrapping up this chapter. With a full heart, I'm welcoming the next. Now begins a new adventure... :)

Now Begins the Practice of Yoga

Atha yoganushasanam // Now begins the practice of yoga - Yoga Sutra 1:1

Atha yoganushasanam // Now begins the practice of yoga
- Yoga Sutra 1:1

Back to earth, back in my beloved Rishikesh, and back to my body with a new challenge! 

I flew to some amazing heights in meditation at the ashram, and also saw clearly the need to ground down and integrate it all. Years ago, a friend told me about healers he knew who didn't properly strengthen and care for their body, and ended up getting sick. "It's like a strong current running through a weak wire," he said. That always stuck with me, and my experiences at the ashram crystallized how important it is for me to keep my body strong, clean and clear for the work I do in the world.

So, quite spontaneously (though some saw it coming... :), I signed up to do my one-month yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, with the ever-amazing @hathayogaworld and @yogacabin. After this beautiful puja (fire ceremony) for blessed new beginnings, twelve of us yogis threw ourselves into twelve-hour days of study, including four hours of asana (physical) practice each day. A few days in, I have more strength, discipline and determination for all that's to come.

On that note, I wanted to share how inspired I've been by all of you fighting the good fight with your marches, your voices and your light. While it was a bit of a shock to come out of the ashram bubble to all the news at home, my heart is hopeful seeing how many people are stepping up and standing up. I've been sending love and prayers from India on the daily, and my fire is burning to join all of you to help hold each other up, heal these divides, and bring more light to our world.

Until then, sending lots of shanti, shanti, shanti to all of you!

Beautiful Serendipity

On the train through sri lankan hill country

On the train through sri lankan hill country

Isthuti, nandri, thank you lovely Lanka!

One of the old names of Sri Lanka is Serendip, the root of the word serendipity - which beautifully describes the past couple of weeks here.

I owe much of where I am on this path to some beautiful serendipities, small and large. I don't really believe in coincidences... of course random events occur, but if that random event surprises or holds meaning for you, look a little deeper. Chances are, there's some lesson or push forward for you in it. I've also found not every step is fully in our control. Some serendipities come into our lives to change the current. It's up to us whether we choose to flow with and follow it, or resist or struggle against it.

Given this is the land of serendipity, I decided to play here and see if actively seeking and expecting serendipities would lead to more. The answer was a definite yes - where your attention goes, energy flows. Sometimes things we would have loved but never expected appeared. Sometimes we found ourselves in situations that at first seemed disappointing, but soon led us to an amazing adventure or path that made us smile. Each idea we had for the trip, small or large, was somehow manifested at exactly the right time. We found secluded beaches and hidden pathways. We met new friends on the trails and the trains. People were always there to help us when we needed it, and puppies always seemed to appear when we needed a smile too :) Every day was beautifully full, and every place and person full of beauty.

In just a couple of weeks, this little gem managed to show me how far I've come, and how far I can go, especially if I embrace serendipity and live as fully as I have the past couple of weeks. It was the perfect warm-up to the deep-dive coming soon... Lanka, I'm sending you all my love, and India, I'm coming back with the fullest heart 💛

Out With the Old, In With the Joy

Through the woods in Dharamsala, India

Through the woods in Dharamsala, India

Can you believe it? Two more months left to this whirlwind of a year!

A lot has gone down this year, and let's be real – it hasn't all been pretty. Look at the American election as an example. Judgments, angers and fears are surfacing in a big way. Not just for hundreds of millions of Americans, but for the billions of us around the world who are following in shock and awe. Whatever the outcome, it may be a rocky couple of years as we balance things out on a global level. But, I'm optimistic. I believe a lot is bubbling to the surface to be released, paving the way for more unity to come. And this balance will be led by those of us willing to show the darker shadows the power of our light.

Where do we start? It may not be comfortable, but the best place to start is with ourselves. What needs to come to the surface and be cleared out for you? How can you make space for more light?

Here’s the thing with our judgments, fears, angers, and hurts. They don’t disappear by sweeping them under the rug and trying to forget them. They don’t disappear by ignoring them and trying to pile some goodness on top. We can’t suppress them. We have to dig down, really look at what’s been buried, and see it in its entirety (how perfect for Scorpio season ;).

So, for the last two months of 2016, I encourage you to look at what you want to leave behind this calendar year. Sit with it in meditation (try this, one of my favourite guided meditations), talk it through with a trusted friend, therapist, healer or coach, journal it out, stretch it out, bring it in as an intention for a healing session… whatever resonates as the best way to ‘clean house’ for you.

And then?

After bringing the shadows to the surface to see, allowing them to show you what they want to show you... let them go with love.

Your heart is a force. Tap into it, and send some waves of love – to whatever surfaces for all it has shown you, and for yourself for showing up so beautifully to do this work. See what it has to say. Feel what it has to share. This is where the alchemy happens. Through this conscious attention and love, you can finally free yourself from that which no longer serves your highest growth.

With this, I hope you’ll find much more space in these months and the New Year to let in what really allows you to thrive – more love, ease, flow, freedom, and joy.

Keep your 'house' clean and vibes high – the world needs it now more than ever!

India, the Deepest of Bows to You

India, it's time to ring the bell on a victorious round one together. And oh, what a journey!

This is a world like no other, in the very best of ways. And this place and its people have taught me much. I quickly learned everything is flexible and subjective, including the rules, lines, lanes, best price, and just how long five minutes will be. This kept me on my toes, and taught me patience and trust. It also made every day an adventure, abundant in stories, learnings and laughs.

I shed the armor of black (this photo aside... :) and fell in love with colour, pattern and shiiiiiine. When everything from babies to trucks are so beautifully adorned, how could we not treat our own sweet selves the same way?

I learned that what seems like a mountain at the time turns into a small speed bump when passed- often a caution to go slow and enjoy the journey. I've learned to ride the wave with a smile instead of resisting it. Looking deeper and finding something to laugh about helps enormously. So does a sweet cup of chai and a sweet smile... There's nothing those can't ease.

I've seen love underpins everything here. People are incredibly warm and generous with their time, culture, stories, gifts, and smiles. This has taught me to accept graciously and give generously. It's also deepened my trust, in others and myself. Nowhere has honed my intuition and clarity on the broader story than here. This land is charged with magic, and it's hard to leave without it lighting up the magic already inside you.

Thank you to my Indian friends who shared your world with me, the fellow travelers who've shared my wonder, and the friends and family who've shared this journey virtually with me. I'm so lucky to carry you all so close in my heart on this wild ride.

Over five months ago when this journey began, I read a quote from Ivy Baker Priest which I somehow knew would be deeply relevant here:

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." 

To India, the deepest of bows to you. You've been the most gracious, and I know I will see you soonest. Until then... Canada, I'm coming home 🇨🇦

Touchdown Mama India

IMG_4405.jpg

Touchdown, Mama India.

Over six years ago, I was bumping my way through Southern African roads on part of my post-uni, pre-corporate life adventure. Killing time on a long drive on our overland truck, I picked up a copy of an India Lonely Planet from a fellow traveler. I was in awe of the beautiful palaces and brilliant colours in the photos, not far from what I imagined India to be. But it was a photo of a lush Goan beach that sealed the deal. I had a gut feeling that India would be a big journey for me, and that it would come at another transition phase in my life. I knew there was no rush to be there, and that there was no way I could rush my first visit. Life threw me many an adventure since, but the thought - the knowing - of India was always patiently brewing in the back of my mind and heart.

In that time, I've had the opportunity to do some amazing things at some awesome jobs and passion projects. Great as they were, they all came with a ton of stressors. To keep myself balanced (and still going), I turned to many new interests, from art, to yoga, to nutrition, to eastern medicine, to meditation. As those interests deepened, so did the books I read and the films I watched. So did the conversations I shared and the experiences I had. So did the new people who came into my life, and through it all, so did I. I was working full-time, but my side-hustle bubbled heavy on the spiritual.

This fall, I knew it was time for the transition, and time to experience the motherland where so many of those interests are rooted. And today, I began my journey here on a beach in Goa, just like the one that sealed the decision to come over six years ago. I can only imagine what the next couple of months have in store, but I think the message I just received from my darling friend Sarah will be right on the money:

"Ayah, India is gonna blow your mind." 

A Path with Heart

... and a new chapter begins!

Shortly after deciding to embark on this journey, I read "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" by Carlos Castaneda. Carlos recounts his teacher explaining how to choose amongst the million paths available at any moment:

"Before you embark on any path, ask the question: does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it. And then you much choose another path... A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard to even take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it doesn't make you work hard at liking it."

Don Juan continued, "For me, there is only traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel... Looking, looking breathlessly."

And so begins this path of the heart for me. I've filled up on Otis snuggles (and yes, he's in good hands at his country home with his grandparents :), and today I depart for a 5+ month journey across Southeast Asia + India. I have yet to arrive on the other side of the globe, and this path has already unfolded in the most magical of ways.

Those of you who you know me well know that I'm really no good at sticking on the "typical" path, comfortable as it may be. This path called, and it was impossible to not dive right in. Thankfully, I now have more than a few years of experience under my belt to prove that following your intuition will take you to magical heights, even though the path there is often twisty and steep. The heart is leading the way on this one, and I'm beyond excited for all the adventures, surprises + learnings that lay ahead. I look forward to having you along for the ride, and in my heart every step of the way 😘