What a year 2014 has been. I am still digesting because I am still in it. Thank goodness I have good digestion. 😉
Life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball, continually reminding that life is precious & fleeting. It has been 1 thing after the other with family challenges and pains, admisdst my heavy travel/work schedule. It has forced me to stay true to my beliefs and teachings, meaning it has been essential for me more than ever that I feed my body right, I support my nervous system to be able to handle all this stress, I keep my immune system strong, and that I practice my yoga, breathing, meditation, and self-care so that my “batteries” are charged…..so that I am able to operate and make decisions from a body and mind that is healthy, calm, and peaceful as much as possible. I always choose to see the gifts, the lessons, the silver linings…..THE GOLDEN LININGS…. and the stepping stones to freedom. Freedom from my own self imposed limitations. For me there is no other way. While pain is inevitable in life, you can choose to accept what is and go through it with a positive mindset, or you can can fight “what is” and choose to suffer. I have suffered most of my life due to my unfortunate upbringing that I didn’t have a choice in. But now as an adult I have a choice in how I decide to live my life. I have a choice in what thoughts I choose to hold on to. I try my hardest to work on myself everyday so I can deal with life’s pains and challenges in a way that promotes my highest self. For me there is no other way. Life is a series of experiences, pleasant and unpleasant. Each experience provides us with treasures. It’s up to you to find them. Gratitude, positivity, & optimism are like muscles. You have to train them. There is always somthing to celebrate, big or small. And the more you can celebrate….. anything at all, the more life gives you to celebrate. Fact.
Some of the painful lessons I have learned this year and the beautiful gifts that I choose to see that have come out of them. Maybe you can learn from them, too.
1) My dad’s decline with Alzheimers. What an interesting journey to watch someone’s human brain start malfunctioning.
So many scary events led up to my dad’s move to a senior home which is another blog post in itself. But now my dad is now safe and taken care and I am so grateful for this. He still remembers me which I am so grateful for. We have had our “goodbye” conversation which I am so grateful for. We have discussed his childhood, my childhood, his regrets, and his death. He has asked me to celebrate his departure from his body and his entrance into his new life. This is very heart warming for me. Although it is sometimes hard to watch his brain decline, I have had the opportunity and privilege to say goodbye. Not everyone gets this chance.
Gift #1: Saying goodbye to my dad in our own special way. What a gift, what an honour, what an opportunity for both of us to clear our hearts. You never know when life is going to end, for you or for someone else. Say what you need to say when you need to say it.
Gift #2: My dad has showed me how to be strong and age with grace. He has taught me to never give up. He has taught me not to fear death. http://www.gracevanberkum.com/lessons-from-my-cancer-free-dad/
2) RIP Mom.
My mom’s death is a whole other blog post. Novel in fact. One day I will write more about her & seeing her dead body….
These photos were taken on the day we spread my mom’s ashes. The blue box contains the ashes of my mom. My dad came with me in the car when I went to pick them up from the funeral parlour. (Notice how I put her ash strings in a heart shape 🙂 He had no idea what had happened. I found it oddly delightful to be with my both my parents one last time in this way. Gosh, the last time I can remember that was when I was 5 years old. The photo in nature is where we spread her ashes so she could finally be free of her own torturous mind. And the photo with the cutest little boy ever, is that of my other nephew, Noah, whom I just met the day we spread my mom’s ashes. And isn’t that life? A series of hello and goodbyes. Enjoy all the stuff in between.
Gift #1: Unfortunately, I did not get to say goodbye to my mom like I have had the opportunity with my dad. This has been hard in some ways. But this has really affirmed for me the importance to cherish my time with my dad. I am thankful for this.
This poem really helped my heart.
Gift #2: My healing journey to India.
Gift #3: I got not 1, but 2 tattoos (!!) to remember my mom forever in a positive way.
Gift #4: She is now the mom I always wanted as an angel. She no longer suffers. She is no longer in pain. This is a gift for my family.
3) R.I.P. Hair. I shaved my head.
Shaving my head wasn’t painful but it did bring up some uncomfortable lessons on self acceptance, self esteem, and self love.
Gift #1: Why I Shaved My Head-Part 1
Gift #2: Life Lessons With A Shaved Head-Part 2.
Gift #3: I know more than ever I am more than my body, I am more than my hair. I stand taller in my own power. I am stronger and more confident because of this experience.
4) Being hurt by people I trusted.
This last year the universe has wanted me to learn some pretty hard lessons about business and authenticity. As I have started to grow and expand as a business, people try to latch on for their own gains, lie to me, mispresent themselves to me, and even stolen my work and claimed it as their own. It actually has been very shocking for me to have had to go through these lessons and situations, I guess because I would never treat people in this manner, but obviously I have needed to go through this. There are a lot of fake, hurtful people in this world. But what I have realized is that they don’t necessarily mean to be hurtful. They are just so self-absorbed in their own survival that they they think they are justified in their own actions.
Gift #1: I choose not be bitter. I choose to be better. Better in life and better in business! I choose to see these situations as valuable lessons that will help make my upcoming resort in Nicaragua world class. So for all those that wronged me, I say THANK YOU!
Gift #2: I know with more certainty who I am, and what I am not. This clarity and confirmation is a great gift! My vision and passion to make the world a better place and help others is strengthened more than ever! So for all those that wronged me, I say THANK YOU!
5) R.I.P. front teeth.
I went though many surgeries on my teeth in the last year. Years of trauma on my mouth as a child resulted in 2 broken front teeth that eventually got capped. In the last year there were some complications with my gums and the fake teeth so my front teeth had to be re-broken, my mouth bone had to be shaved down, and my gums had to be lasered over a course of many hours in the dentist chair. Um, not fun. And not pretty.
Gift #1: All these procedures, time, and money spent on my teeth has really taught me about oral, mouth, and gum care, and the importance of healthy gums for a healthy immune system. I really had no idea before all of this how your gum health is related to your overall health, and heart health! If your gums are consistently bleeding or inflamed, your body is too acidic and it is something you should not ignore. Improve Your Gum Health.
Gift #2: My smile is more beautiful than ever! Thank you Dr. Puig at Dynamic Smile Design…..and all her staff for always taking care of me, over and over and over, lol.
6) Crazy ass schedules.
I never imagined when I sold everything I owned 5 years ago, “broke up with Winter” and moved to the tropics, that I would be travelling as much as I am now. All I wanted was a simple, anonymous life on the beach, teaching yoga and feeding people healthy foods. Well I got that…and more!!! What a trip life is! Literally! Although I am SO lucky I get to travel all over the world and be exposed to so many surreal, beautiful, life changing things, it is so important that I practice my self care so I don’t get burnt out. Without my yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and good, life promoting foods, I would have burnt out long ago.
Gift #1: I am in control of how I choose to live. Travelling this much reinforces that I have to practice what I preach & teach. Without self-care, you will have nothing of quality to give to others. To give my best I need to give my best first to myself. Time and time again, I realize that magic happens in stillness. That stillness, quiet time, meditation, and yoga will save you…from yourself.
Gift #2: How Yoga Heals
Gift #3: 17 Ways To Have More Energy
7) Nate the Great.
My sweet 2 year old nephew suddenly going through chemotherapy this past month for leukemia has been so shocking! Unbelievable! Unexpected! Shocking!! HIs parents and my family have had to adapt in the blink of an eye…leaving their job, relocating to Hamilton, expenses, sleeping in hospitals, looking after their other 11 month old baby…..it’s been a rollercoaster but we are all hanging in there and being as positive and strong as we can for our little Nate The Great. In this difficult time, SO MANY people from my social media have supported us with messages, helpful links, mail delivery gifts, donations, juice deliveries, long distance energy healings, dedications to Nate in yoga classes…..it has all been so beautiful to have total strangers want to help us and Nate. And if it wasn’t for this situation we never would have known how many angels really exist, even total strangers. Sometimes it takes a really difficult time to realize that life is actually so beautiful, even in painful times.
Gifts: So many angels, so many gifts…but in particular we would like to say thank you to:
- Sarah Jarvis for helping us start this fundraiser at Crowdriser.com.
- Raw Juice Guru for the toys and super power blankie. Also, for the wonderful fresh cold- pressed juice delivery over $100 to help alkalize his little body. .
- The Freedom Project for their generous, unexpected donation of $500.
- Beautiful Kelli Grace from I am Zen created a campaign fundraiser selling tanks and hoodies.
- Bolt Fresh Bar donated $100 worth of fresh juices. Blot on Instagram
- Sophisticated Bums Inc. for gifting my family beautiful t-shirts with photos of Nate on them.
- I also want to say thank you to all the yoga teachers I know through FB around the world, who personally messaged us to let us know they were dedicating their entire classes to Nate and his healing. Most of these teachers I have never met before!
8) True friends.
As you can see it has been a hard year for me, all while trying to continue teaching people around the world about how to take control of their health & their lives through their food & lifestyle choices. In the thick of adversity, over & over, I have realized who really cares for me and my well-being. My truest friends have been there for me and I appreciate you all so much. If it wasn’t for you, I would not have had the strength to be so positive. I am so thankful for all of you, your love, your support, your generosity. Thank you for being you. “Friends will come and go like waves of an ocean but true friends will stay like an octopus on your face.”
So in the end, all of these pains have given me GREAT gifts to help me grow into someone wiser, stronger, and more loving. We are all going to die from this world. We can pretend we are not, or we can acknowledge it and let this acknowledgement empower and inspire us to live with ferocious love & self respect for ourselves and others. We can live each day like it is our last. We can continue to try our best for ourselves in the best ways we can, without being judgemental of ourselves on our journey. We are capable of anything we want. How bad do you want it? It is your duty to yourself, and the world, to explore the road to freedom, empowerment, and happiness. It’s already yours in fact…don’t let it slip away.
It’s never too late.
It’s never too late!
Do what you need to do, and say what you need to say. You matter. And everything you do matters.
2015 will bring you many gifts! Always find them, always acknowledge them, always say thank you to the universe. They are always there. And if you can’t find them, just be thankful for your breath. That is a gift. Each second is a blessing, each breath is a gift. Breathe it all in and love it all out. Find your meaning, find your rhythm. ~Gracious Living XO
“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” ~Bob Dylan
“Don’t see the difficulties in today’s opportunities, see the opportunities in today’s difficulties.” ~Marc & Angel
“Beyond any pain is joy and love. To remember this experientially is the reward for honest and responsible healing of our pains.” ~Amyra Mah
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~Haruki Murakami
JOIN A TROPICAL GRACIOUS LIVING LIFESTYLE RETREAT.
It will change your health AND your life!
You are what you eat.
You are what you think.
~Gracious Living Lifestyle XO