Good Friends and Fresh Air

Spent the whole weekend in the woods, on a property set on a beautiful lake, surrounded by thousands of pine trees, the kind of place that you go too and that makes you let out a big *sigh*.  Top this with a bunch of good friends, lots of laugh and there you have it, one of my most favourite place to be, the ACC Hut at the Bon Echo Provincial Park. Needless to say, it felt pretty good to be back!

In the Ottawa region we are very lucky. Whether driving or biking, in only a few minutes one can access hundreds of acres of forest with kilometers of trails to walk on and cabins to get too. I had once heard an interview on CBC Radio about the beneficial effects of being in a forest. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a botanist and biochemist based in Merrickville, Ontario, who also recently published “The Global Forest“, was saying that she had been conducting research and studies on the effects of breathing the air in a forest on humans.

She found that when walking in a pine forest on a warm day for example, trees release Alpha and Beta Pinene, volatile coumpounds that have a calming effect on the human’s nervous system. Research has also shown that simply looking out of the window at a green space is soothing. On the other hand, we can all agree that being stressed is not beneficial to our body and that it is the cause of many diseases and anger in the world. Based on fear of lacking, fear of not having, stress can be controlled and rationalized in many ways.

So get out there! Plan a day hike in the woods with friends or by yourself. Breath in this fresh air and release all that negativity and stress. It doesn’t have to be long, in fact studies show that a quick 20 minute walk in the woods is enough to have a relaxing effect. So breathe, smile and be happy!

Have a good day :)

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Friendship and laughter

If you have good friends in your life consider letting them know how much they mean to you. I am lucky to be surrounded by amazing, compassionate, caring and true people. I am grateful and thankful to have them in my life.

They make me laugh, think, cry, love, and enjoy life as it comes. Above all, they take me as I am, happy or sad, silly or serious. They offer shoulders to cry on or lean on, and I am certain that as I would go out of my way for them, they would do so for me as well.

So take a moment to acknowledge the people around you. Consider yourself lucky for this chance to have such people in your life. To my dear friends, you know who you are, thank you all for being in my life and for bringing me so much joy everyday. Much love.

What’s happiness about anyway?

Chatting with a friend, we came to talk about the main idea or subject of this blog: happiness. More accurately, how we can bring more happiness into our lives. We both agreed that it’s all about the little things. We get so caught up by all the things we have to do and the many other things we think we need: we are blinded.

What I would like to suggest to you today, is for you to take a step back, really look around you and see what you have (life, health, family, friends, a sense of smell, etc.). See and realize the beauty that surrounds you each and everyday, even when it’s grey. It made me smile to read a recent wall post where someone had written that even though it’s wet, cold and grey, it’s still so sweet – talking about Ottawa in the middle of winter.  The way you choose to look at things is the key.

I know it’s hard not to get caught up, but as Stephens writes it so beautifully in the Wisdom of Yoga, what you practice gets stronger. This is true for everything. Think about it. If you’re grumpy, find that everyone else should smile at you but the vibe you send out into the world is this grim negative and pessimistic view and attitude, I don’t know why it be so surprising that this is how you will be greeted.

On the other hand, if you genuinely are grateful, compassionate and happy, this is what you will attract. Of course this is not something that happens overnight, but shifting your own perspective and understanding that it really might be you who’s influencing the way people address you, will create immense changes in your life. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the most amazing life changing book I have read on this was the Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute. Not a spiritual book, not a yoga book, simply a book about the way everybody acts and reacts – everybody.

I am not saying that you should always be happy no matter what – or pretend to be – and you can read this article I published in the elephant journal if you want my take on this subject. In the end, what I am saying is that happiness is within you to find and it is really up to you to take the steps to find it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Namaste.

Worry bead

I worry a lot, not all the time, but a lot! I don’t worry much about myself or such things as what other people think of me, but I often worry about my friends and family. Granted, I worry about certain things in my life too, but usually not for very long or not to the same extent.

When a friend is sad, I wonder if she’ll be ok and I worry about what I could do or how I could help, wishing that I could be there for her. When my friends and family travel, I worry that something might happen and that I won’t be able to do anything about it. I worry about insulting or hurting people and I worry about being taken the wrong way. I even feel concerned when people I don’t even know are fighting!

I tend to feel other people’s emotions very strongly and this empathy has often made me vulnerable to negativity. Perhaps I care too much; is there such a thing? I’ve learned to control it somewhat, by not allowing it to affect me and by focusing on Ajna, but when it comes to loved ones, it is so very hard!

On one hand, I see this as a flaw because I understand it as wanting control over the situation. On the other hand, perhaps as the eldest of three, I feel it is my duty to protect. What I find most difficult about it though is when people perceive my concern as a lack of confidence in their abilities, which is not the case but which I can totally understand. Then again, worrying about people’s well-being is what fuels my compassion in the work that I do…

But what is truly important, is that when I worry about others or myself, it means that I have fear about something that may or may not happen (mostly the case!), which in fact means that I am not living my life now. As I believe that happiness is found in enjoying every moment life offers, worrying drives me away from this goal. I am working to find the fine balance between worrying for actual things I should worry about and not worry about the rest. It is a constant battle against myself, one side arguing “but I care”, whilst the other side recognizing the Ego’s work.

Only by acknowledging my True Self can I be freed from it. I am a worry bead trying to break free from the chain.

Happiness through friendship

With a determination to achieve the highest aim
For the benefit of all sentient beings
Which surpasses even the wish-fulfilling gem,
May I hold them dear at all times. ~ Verse 1 Bodhicaryavatara

I have been thinking about writing something on friendship for a long time because of its importance and the happiness it brings to my life. I was practicing Yoga earlier this week when it occurred to me that this was such a great moment to be sharing with my new friend, the type of moment you read about in books, I thought to myself. Old or new, people whom you consider friends are part of your life and deserve your acknowledgement and appreciation.

Recently, a good friend of mine came back from India. It was great to see her and reconnect. However, I felt bad that I hadn’t been there for her in difficult times; she had helped me through so much many years ago. When I apologized, she replied without hesitation: Life is a cycle. What you give to others you shouldn’t expect to be given back, but know that it will benefit others and that eventually it will benefit you.  She was right. There I was, a few months later, it was my turn to take on the listening role, offering honest thoughts to someone who needed them.

Friends are amazing because they make you laugh and accept you just the way you are. Some friendships may sometimes be tumultuous, filled with arguments and fights, but in the end, they are some of the best. Good friends challenge you and offer honest but caring thoughts that make you grow. I don’t always see it that way at the time, nor does she, but the laugh and complicity we share are priceless.

Some friendships arise in the weirdest circumstances and are often not understood by others than the people involved. And then there are friendships filled with trust, love and compassion. A companionship that refills your energy and grounds you, making you feel like you just let out a big sigh :)

People who surround you become your family, even if some already are! My sister and my brother are some of the best friends I have and I know that we will always be there for one and other. Be filled with happiness in recognizing those around you whom you consider to be your friends for they offer love, compassion, honesty, moral support and trust no matter how far they are or how often you see them. Never hesitate to reach out to them in time of need but in turn offer a listening ear when they have something to say. Let go of ancient grudges for those are the only thing standing between you and life.

I am grateful for the great friends I have in my life: you make me laugh, you make me happy. Thank you.

“You complete me”

We all love hearing these words. They makes us feel alive and part of something. And when all else fails, we still have this to hold on to: we are important to someone else. But is it what this really means? Do we need to find that special someone to complete us? And if so, does this mean then that we are incomplete?

No.

The person you are is already complete. In fact, we have everything we need inside of us to be happy, but we also have lots of fears preventing us from digging too deep. We like our comfort. And so, as grey as some days may seem, those are necessary as they allow for reflection and growth. Give yourself a chance.

Those people we love get to see who we really are as if holders of an all-access pass. We trust and open ourselves to them. We discover ourselves with their help even when it sometimes means pain. We are afraid and want to avoid pain because we are thought that it is bad or wrong to feel this way. But if we truly open our hearts to those people, friends or lovers, they will only challenge us to become our true Self.

When we say “you complete me”, what we are in fact saying is: “thank you for helping me open my eyes to who I am. I love you even more.”

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