Category: Design Your Life
Want to Succeed at Those Resolutions? Embrace the Process of Change

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Thank you Carter and King and 93.5 FM  The Move for the opportunity to share some of my expertise on what it takes to succeed at making lasting lifestyle changes.  Our discussion  prompted me to dig out this “throw back” I developed for a public health talk I did in Hamilton just over 10 years ago.

As I mentioned on the show, change happens in stages.  We know this, as a result of ground breaking research led by two psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo Diclemete who studied how people make positive changes to improve their health.  Their studies of about 150, 000 people over the span of 35 years revealed that no matter what kind of change people are trying to make, be it starting an exercise program, improving their diet, quitting smoking, or use of other substances, they all go through the same five stages.

Research based on this Stages of Change Model, not only gave us insight into what happens during each of the stages, but also what it takes to move through the stages and ultimately achieve our goals.

I have summarized this information in the chart below.  The left column outlines each of the Stages of Change, and the column to the right outlines the appropriate action to take within each stage to help you move forward in the process.

I say process, because that is what change is.  Change is a process – it is not a singular event; it does not happen instantly.  In order to succeed at making healthy lifestyle changes, it is important to commit to the process.

I also want to emphasize that it is entirely normal to move back and forth within these stages.  Change does not happen in a constant forward direction.  It is normal to get started with something, and then fall backwards to a previous stage and then move forwards a bit further and fall back a bit again.  This is  important to recognize and accept.

If you can accept that it is normal to lapse from your plan, then maybe you can skip the tendency to beat yourself up (yes, Blake I am talking to you ) and simply refocus on figuring out why the slip happened, what you could do to prevent it from happening again and get back on track with resuming the healthy behaviour.

The key here is being able to look at your situation both realistically and compassionately.

For anyone reading this, I applaud you for continuing to strive to Design Your Life.  Don`t ever give up.  You owe it to yourself and everyone else around you to become your best self and live your best life.

And if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

Let`s keep the conversation going.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Stacy

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New Year, New Voices of Inspiration: The Design Your Life Video Series.

Designing Your Life certainly involves setting goals. But it also requires the ability to see reality clearly, with an attitude of acceptance of what is, and an openness to embracing the process. This is one of the lessons shared so eloquently by Nikki Bergen who had the courage to reveal on social media that she is dealing with the challenges of infertility and had the grace to grant me the opportunity to interview her on camera so that we could all benefit from her wisdom.

This is definitely an interview you want to make the time to watch. Because as much as the focus is on the experience of infertility, the lessons from this specific challenge are relevant to the process of living fully when the one thing you believe you need to be happy seems out of reach.

This is Part 1 of 2, 20 minute videos with Nikki, shot so beautifully by the amazing Robert Young who was kind enough to lend me his talent for this project.

My hope is that you will set aside the time not only to watch, but also reflect. What stands out to you about what Nikki has to say about the lessons of her challenge with infertility? What do you think about the choices she has made to cope? How might this be relevant to your own situation?

As always, I welcome and encourage you to share this video with anyone and everyone you think could benefit.

And if this was helpful to you, please let me know.

This is just the beginning of the conversation. I look forward to seeing how it will continue.

Dr. Stacy


New Year, New Collaborations: Introducing the Design Your Life Dream Team

One of the key elements to being successful at anything is having the right plan.  And by the right plan, I don’t mean a one-size-fits-all, paint by numbers approach.  The right plan is a plan designed with a clear understanding not only of where you want to go, but also of where you are at this point in your life.

With the dawn of a new year, many of us are focused on making changes.  And many of us will have fallen off the wagon by mid-February.  Anyone who regularly attends a gym all year round is intimately familiar with this pattern:  Sudden crowds in January shutting you out of classes you used to sign up for at the last minute, followed by things settling down back to normal levels, 6 weeks later.

Just because this is typical, it does not need to be the case for you.  It all comes down to having an appropriate plan that is developed with an accurate understanding of who you are, what is happening in your life at the moment, and where you are in the process of making the change you are seeking.

Learning to assess the particular stage of change that a client is in, is a core competency I spent years teaching other health professionals in my previous role on several multidisciplinary teams.  When it came down to it, all of the technical skill in the world meant little if it was not applied with recognition of the client’s readiness to make changes themselves.  And the only way to know this is to be really good at listening.

Needless to say, each member of the Design Your Life Dream Team was chosen, not just for their high level of skill, but because of their dedication to providing services that are tailored to the unique needs of each individual client.  Empathy, that is the ability to truly listen and respond accordingly is at the core of everything they do and is central to why they are so good at it.

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Rachelle Wintzen, Certified Yoga Instructor, Holistic Nutritionist and owner of the Chi Junky Yoga and Wellness Studio, became a collaborator almost immediately after our first chance meeting at a coffee shop.  Her entire business was modeled with a focus on providing each client with individual attention and helping her clients make sustainable lifestyle changes.  Just a quick perusal of her bio clearly indicates that she is indeed a leader in her field.

 

Ben Barkworth, owner and creative director of Just B Salon and the recently opened    B Side Beauty, is another superstar in our midst.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Ben to get his perspective on the connection between hair and our sense of self recently, and what came out of it was another addition to the collaboration that took the entire enterprise to 11!

I chose to interview Ben for my blog post on the connection between hair and self concept, partly because of the name and motto of his salon:  Be Beautiful, Be Bold, Be Brave.  Just B.

 

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We spoke for 90 minutes. To be blunt, the man blew me away.  The level of sensitivity he brings to the entire enterprise of joining with someone to refine their image is so rare and special that I could not help but forget my agenda and just dive in to learning more about him and how he works.  Believe it or not, his first meeting with any new client is just about getting to know him or her as a person, where they are in their lives and where they want to go (check, check and check). And so when he expressed interest in joining Rachelle and I in providing a special curated experience that would help people make a change externally that reflected the changes they wanted to make on the inside, it took this entire enterprise to 11!

And like that, The Design Your Life Dream Team was born, which was quickly followed by development of our first project:  Your Best Self Master Plan for 2017.

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I, that is, we look forward to working with you soon.

Sincerely,

Dr. Stacy on behalf of the Design Your Life Dream Team

 


In Praise of Wisdom Beyond Years

From the moment she first saw me, and gave me a look as if to say, “Who the heck are you?” I knew that I had brought a fierce female into the world.  This tiny creature with pale skin, dark eyes, enviously long eyelashes and a head full of black straight hair was born with attitude and so far, she has continued to live up to this first impression.  She is the classic precocious second child.  But of all of her accomplishments in her young life to date, none have impressed me more than the wisdom and courage she demonstrated this past summer.

My daughter had been stung by either a bee or a wasp while out playing in the park with her nanny and friends.  I learned about the incident at the end of the day, but as there was no visible sign of a sting, her nanny believed that my daughter was distressed out of fear not because she was actually stung.  By the following morning, the swelling between her eyes which transformed my daughter’s face into Cymba’s twin, indicated that she had indeed been stung by something.

A few days later, my daughter and her nanny returned to the same park to play.  Not surprisingly, returning to the scene of the painful incident triggered her fear response and my daughter insisted that her nanny hold her the entire time.

(Now, I know what you’re thinking – this kid isn’t sounding too fierce at the moment.  Just bear with me… it gets better).

I responded to the latest news of her fear of bees by sitting and talking to my daughter about the source of her fear, and expressing empathy for why she would be afraid to return to the same park where she was hurt.  I also talked to her about the downside of allowing fear of what might happen get in the way of her ability to have fun with her friends in the park, the same park where she has played so many times without ever getting stung.  I didn’t appreciate the impact of this brief conversation until a few hours later after I returned from a speaking engagement and learned about her very unusual request.

While I was gone, my daughter asked my husband to turn on our gas fireplace.  The first and last time she had seen the fireplace lit several months ago, she screamed hysterically like an accused witch in Salem about to be burned at the stake, and was inconsolable for at least an hour afterwards.  Moreover, for several weeks following this incident, my daughter spoke daily about her scare with the fireplace and made every effort to keep her distance from it.

Just a couple of hours after talking to her about the importance of not allowing fear to rob her of having fun at the park, this child asked to see the very thing that terrified her months previously.  She was only 2.5 years old.  Astounding.

Clearly, some aspect of my talk must have resonated, and the only way that could have happened is if she was able to appreciate the truth in what I was saying.  Her courage to essentially say “bring it on” with such determination and calm, well that just absolutely blows my mind.

This story will forever serve as a reminder to me to never underestimate the wisdom contained within all of us, particularly our children.  My hope for myself as her parent is that I always respect my daughter for the unique individual she is, forever connected to me but separate from myself.  And that I appreciate the importance of being her student as much as her teacher for how to live with courage and to trust one’s inner wisdom.

You go girl!

Much love and respect,

Mom (aka Dr. Stacy)

 


My Vegan Journey

 

Someone dear to me thinks it’s just a phase, possibly brought on by a mid-life crisis.  Call it what you want. I don’t feel the need to label it or myself. All I know is that I woke up one day and knew that I needed to stop eating meat and dairy, and I haven’t looked back since.

This awareness came after weeks of just not feeling great in my gut. I felt blocked, bunged up, stuck … sluggish.  My first thought was to do a cleanse. I had done cleanses in the past, and to be honest, at this time in my life it just felt like too much work to organize.  So rather than complain and do nothing, I decided to make things easy for myself and enlisted the help of Belmonte Raw.

As soon as I walked into the store I knew I had come to the right place.   Upon entry, I was met by a Cleanse Specialist who walked me through the range of options available.  As I had already had some experience with cleanses, he suggested a 3-day Transition Cleanse which essentially involves a series of juices and elixirs plus one gourmet, raw vegan meal/day.  All I had to do was pick up my food in the morning and eat (or actually mostly drink) in the order outlined by the numbered containers.  Easy Peezy.  It was also suggested that I start drinking a litre of room temperature lemon water first thing every morning in addition to 4 litres of water throughout the day at least 20 minutes before or after a meal so as not to impede digestion.

To prep, I was advised to minimize my consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and animal proteins for 3 days prior to the cleanse to allow for a smooth transition without any major side effects.  No problem.

And when I say “no problem” I literally mean it.   The entire process was incredibly easy and the results were better than expected.

All smiles as I pick up 2 days worth of meals from Belmonte Raw

All smiles as I pick up 2 days worth of meals from Belmonte Raw

First, on a practical level, it was sooooo lovely to not have to think about what to eat or to have to actually go through the process of preparing food for myself.  As the person in charge of feeding two young children and a husband, this part was absolutely luxurious and worth every penny.

But more importantly, I felt amazing.  The blocked feeling in my gut disappeared, I had a ton of energy and never felt hungry.  The only negative side effect I experienced was the occasional, brief, 30 second pang of a headache. That’s it.

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In the two months since the cleanse, I have continued to follow a vegan-ish diet.  I say vegan-ish, because I do have eggs on occasion and will have cheese sparingly, typically when eating out on a weekend.   But for the most part, I am eating vegan and I am loving it! And based on the changes I have witnessed, my body is too.

Here is what I have noticed so far:

  • I am less hungry in spite of maintaining the same level of activity. Previously, I would be feeling pangs of hunger about 2.5 hours after breakfast, sometimes even sooner if I worked out before eating.  Now, my breakfast (typically a chia pudding with nuts, and berries, and an almond milk latte) keeps me going for at least 4 hours, even on days that I work out.
  • I lost 1-2 dress sizes within about 3 weeks of making the change. I mention this point with a bit of hesitation as I did not do this in order to lose weight and don’t want to be promoting weight loss.  But, I would be lying if I did not admit that seeing the last remnants of baby weight literally fall off me feels really good.  It’s like I pushed a reset button and returned to my former pre-baby size.
  • My habitually dry skin is improving.
  • I am excited about food again. I know that this might seem counter intuitive, but it’s true.  I am excited to learn about new foods, new restaurants and about new ways of cooking.  It’s like an entire new world of food has opened up to me, and the possibilities seem endless.  And whether it’s a reflection of my heightened awareness or a sign of a growing trend in the city, there isn’t a week that goes by where I  don’t hear about  a new vegan focused establishment or food experience happening in this city (case in point:  This article in the current Toronto Life Magazine)

As happy as I am to ride this wave and see where it takes me, I need to understand why I have experienced these physical changes.  Why am I less hungry?  Why did I lose weight so quickly?  Is it just a function of me drinking more water?  Does it have something to do with the way my body is digesting and processing this kind of food?  Or does this have nothing to do with the type of food I am eating at all, and just a positive side effect of my meditation practice and being more conscious and aware of eating out of hunger vs. for other reasons?

This is how my brain works.  I need to know.  And so, in the spirit of science and exploration, my plan is to investigate these questions and share the results with all of you.

And for those of you, who really don’t care about why and just want to learn more about the yummy food I am making and eating, I plan to share this part of the journey as well.  It so happens that I know a number of vegan chefs in this city.  So why not invite them to my kitchen to teach me a little about what they know, film it and post it on YouTube?  How’s that for multitasking:  cooking, learning, socializing, sharing to social media, and getting dinner ready for the family, all at the same time.  Booyakashat!

Stay tuned….

Dr. Stacy

 

 

 

 


ABSURD BEAUTIFUL WORLD

 

The alarm goes off at 5:20 am
Some would say that is absurd
But legs strong, brain alert
I choose the most fluorescent shirt
Safety first
It’s still dark outside
And I realize that summer has already started its departure, in spite of its humid heat

Ankles creak at first, but loosen with the rhythm of each step
Thankful for their ability to carry me forward
I know it will get easier as I keep going

I am encouraged by the Briar Rabbit on the path
Long brown ears and white cotton tail
I stop to admire his beauty
Not wanting to scare him by lumbering by
As he is in the middle, back turned,
Far from the safe refuge of the bushes behind him and beside me

Feeling my gaze, he turns around and looks
I smile and wave and say “hello” in the sweetest voice I can muster
To let him know that I am a friend

We have a moment.
He makes the first move and hops towards the bushes.
He stops before entering and looks at me one more time before taking off out of view into the green.
I delight in the exchange, as I know he is watching and wishes me well on my journey.

It’s brighter now
Pastel pink all around
The air is think and heavy, but fails to oppress

What’s this unusual sight up ahead?
A baby grand piano, close to the water’s edge?
One man at the keys
Two others holding long sticks like trees
Likely recording the marvellously absurd scene

How lucky am I?
And as I run on by
I am reminded that you need to rise early to catch the shine.

Further inspired, I run along and thoughts of a client enter the fore
A young woman, so gifted but fearful of sharing her talents
I know she is talented in spite of never having seen her perform
I know this because she is a creative, her talent oozes out of her pores
Her talent is so strong that it has been a constant in her life
In spite of the turmoil, challenge and strife

Yet she is afraid
She comes by this honestly as life has exposed her to tremendous cruelty
But interestingly, as she gets stronger, and starts to share her own voice,
No longer satisfied with playing roles crafted by others
She is being pulled to express herself through her stories and songs,
But knows that expression without sharing is not where she belongs
She is a communicator, she needs to be heard
And to know that others understand her message

Yet she is afraid
She is afraid of being bullied
Of being diminished by sharing her voice
Of being told in so many ways that she does not have a right to exist
With the internet providing the vehicle that can be used too easily to dismiss
All that she has to give

And yet, what she cannot fully see
Is that she is still here
In spite of all she has been through, the ways others have tried to silence her
That light, her light, continues to burn

She is acting to protect that light, as she is afraid that exposure to the darkness will snuff it out
What she cannot see is that light always trumps darkness
And that light attracts light
What she is not seeing is that the other diminished souls include the bullies in our midst
And that the bully needs her light because he and she were bullied too.

If she can connect with the compassion contained within her light
She can rise above any hate that might try to slight
She can see those who spew it as lost in the darkness
And maybe, if she can become strong enough to see that the hate has nothing to do with her,
If she is strong enough to see past it, and stay the course, maybe, just maybe she is able to inspire the light to grow within the haters too,
because they need it most.

I need to help her get stronger, to fulfill her mission
Because her journey is about more than she or me
It’s about honouring her gifts that have the power to unite us
Through her courage to share her humanity

I arrive at my spot, an outpost jutting into the water
This morning’s meditation definitely calls for eyes open
Pastel skies continue as backdrop to barely rippling waves, the light cutting
through them in the most interesting geometric patterns.
I breathe it all in making mental notes for later
Because no camera can capture this quiet splendor

Time to rise and run back
An extra spring in my step I notice the echo of approaching feet
And realize it’s the sound of my own making reverberating off the trees

High fives and “Hellos” are shared between me and other runners
I marvel at the most unusual of tree huggers
Hanging by knees and one hand on a branch that looks too forgiving for this old man
I pray its flexibility is strong enough to carry his weight

As I get close I notice he is outfitted with protective black gloves
I wonder, is this the latest exercise craze? Tree climbing to become nimble and limber?
Or maybe a pursuit just for fun, as it is for my son
Who will climb anything he can
Because it’s a challenge he is driven to overcome

That sight of a grown man playfully climbing a tree
Seems to ignite the little child in me
Up in front of me once again is the man at the piano by the water’s edge
No men with sticks this time, this time apparently alone
And I think, about my creative client and all with great gifts
Who deserve an audience to receive them and honour their talents
So I run down to the lake for a morning serenade

For a split second I reconsider my imposition
But the curious child in me puts all thoughts of politeness aside
This opportunity is just too rare to let slip by

I arrive and meekly ask if I can listen
Without even a glance in my direction, he says “Why not?”
I silently sit in the sand, aware now that his performance is indeed being recorded
As his fingers hit the keys, I take in the heavenly sound
Made even more heavenly by the setting that surrounds
Pink pastel skies, quiet waves and seagulls chirping,
I take a deep breath and take it all in
I have walked into a live version of the countless recordings I’ve prescribed
To help guide those seeking a moment of peace.
This moment I chose to shamelessly take for myself,
Will forever be catalogued among other amazing experiences
That I can call upon when needed to get to my happy place

As the piece comes to an end, I thank him with a deep Namaste bow, and I take off for home
Completely inspired, I fly
I have none of the fatigue or heaviness that typically visits at this point in the run
I am filled with light
And I can’t wait to get home to write
As the magic feels so fleeting
I must get to my pen, I must get to my book,
So that I can share this great morning
With those who were not early to rise
Who too often overlook the shine
So that they too can be inspired to look for and find
The beauty in the absurdity of this world.

Dr. Stacy

PS: Click here to learn more about the mysterious piano man by the water and hear some of his musical offerings:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/25/solar_piano_man_takes_to_the_beach_at_sunrise.html

PPS: Any interest in joining me on a run? Check out My EVENTS page for details about my weekly SOUL Powered Run or go straight to my Eventbrite page to learn more and reserve your spot:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/soul-powered-run-with-dr-stacy-tickets-28195447342

I look forward to running with you soon!


LIVING IN GRACE

I am terribly near sighted, and from the age of 12 I have lived with the awareness that I may one day lose my sight entirely.

Several years ago, I went for a consult to see if I qualified for laser eye surgery.  I dreamed of being able to wake up and see perfectly.  But, as luck would have it, my corneas were too thin.  Unbelievable! It is probably the only time that the word “thin” will ever be used to describe any part of my body, and it’s the wrong part!

I understand that the technology has progressed a fair bit since that initial consult and that I might now be able to get laser surgery in spite of thin corneas.  However, as much as I like the idea of seeing perfectly all the time, part of me appreciates being forced to not take my sight for granted.

Living with the knowledge that I may one day lose my sight literally changes the way I navigate the world.  When I see something that moves me, it’s as if time stands still and I need to catalogue it in the special file I have in my brain which holds all of my “OMG! Isn’t this world amazing???!!!” memories.

The sheer beauty of my daughter’s face as she looks at me from under a sun lit sheet with pure joy and love in her eyes is one of my all time favourites.  Technicolour lightning storms on the beach in Jamaica, or finally getting a chance to see the seductive green dance of the Northern lights in Saskatchewan are a few others.  And I could go on.

As I write this today, I realize that the gift of my condition is the understanding of impermanence.  Because I know that there may be a time that I will not be able to see, I tune in that much more.  I notice that much more.  I am that much more connected and alive.

If we accept the truth of this world, that nothing lasts, you can’t help but live in grace and to appreciate the moment, the experience right now.

So today, as I lay in bed without the benefit of my glasses, I look out my window and delight in the movements of the fuzzy forms I know are trees dancing in the wind.   And I am thankful.

 

Dr. Stacy


Say “Yes!” to Falling in Love with Life

 

“By the end of this conversation, we are going to fall in love”

How’s that for an opening? My friend Michelle shared this gem as something she often says when meeting someone for the first time, be they man, woman or child. Amazing!

She clarified that she does not mean this in a sexual way. It is simply a beautiful expression of a willingness to be authentic and an invitation for the other person to do the same with the assurance that whatever is shared will be loved.

If you are lucky enough to cross paths with Michelle, you are immediately struck by the obvious. She is a naturally stunning beauty. But even more striking is her big, bombastic personality, her fierce intelligence and her love of life. She is the first to organize the party, and brings the party with her wherever she goes.

As we continued to talk, she dropped some more wisdom. She shared that at some point she realized that she can either put her child to bed and spend her evening flaked out on the couch watching television and stay stuck in a rut, or she can get out and do things and create a life that is interesting and fun. And anyone who knows Michelle knows that any time spent with her is never ordinary.

Along these lines, she went on to remind me of one of the first conversations we had a few years ago. We were hanging out on the steps of our children’s school, the place that brought us together, when she shared that she had noticed she had become quite negative in her relationship with her husband. With this awareness, she had made the revolutionary decision to experiment with just saying “yes” to whatever her husband asked of her. No argument, no discussion, just simply, YES. Wow. “And how is that working for you?” I replied, to which she immediately exclaimed, “Well, my husband is taking us on a month long trip to Italy!” Insert howls of laughter here.

As much as she got something tangible out of it, she did note that her choice to adopt an attitude of YES created a much needed shift. She essentially decided to stop being negative and pushed herself to just do things. We can all make a million excuses and go through the motions of life and nothing changes. Or we can “flip the script” so to speak and create the life we want to live.

Little did Michelle know that the mega talented, and prolific Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder) has written about how saying YES changed her life as well. Her book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person is at the top of my list of must reads for this week.

Whether it’s Michelle or Shonda, I hope that these wise, wonderful and vibrant women inspire you to get on with it and Design Your Life.

And if they do, please share your story with me and others. We all need to hear it.

Until next time,

Dr. Stacy


Realign, Reconnect and Find Your Flow

As much as I am calm and even keeled much of the time, there are days when I wake up and carry on like a bull in a china shop.  “We have to get going!”, “Why aren’t you ready?” Push, push, push. I have to make things happen – NOW!!

Today started out as one of those days.  And could have continued had my dear friend and mentor not called me out and stopped me in my tracks.

As I reflect on our conversation, I realize that my drive to make things happen, and push on through, regardless of whether it feels right tends to come into full effect when I feel unsure in some way.  At such times, I retreat into my preferred comfort zone – my head.

Living in my head gives me the illusion of control.  When I am not sure what to do to make things happen, I over think, and get distracted by the minutia.  I will work on things, like a blog post, for the better part of a day, in order to make it just right.  And then the task just becomes… well, overwhelming.

What is the big picture that gets lost? Connection. And the only way to truly connect is to share one’s self authentically. I know this.  And I know that things flow more easily when I just “show up” and let things happen.  But even I, a professional, who teaches people to do this every day, can get off track.

This is why I am so thankful for having guides in my life who alert me when I am off center and help me to get back to understanding that I am most powerful when I am authentically me.

By the time I left the 2 hour marathon meeting, I was realigned.  And the most amazing afternoon unfolded.

I walked around the corner and discovered Homegrown, a produce stand selling the most gorgeous local fruit and vegetables.

Homegrown produce

I then went down to the lake for a late lunch and was greeted by a trio of dancing swallows, and four Canada Geese floating on the waves.

geese and flying swallow at lake

And as I watched their easy ebb and flow, and listened to the waves against the rocks, I was reminded of my connection with everything around me.  The tension eased even more and I returned.

This post is what unfolded.  It took about 20 minutes.  Easy.

Until next time,

Dr. Stacy