Category: Design Your Life

Hair – An exploration of our roots, identity and the power of transformation

My earliest memories of my hair are filled with pain of varying degrees.  As a young child, the day started with the torture of having braids put in so tight that a simple head nod felt like my hair would literally be ripped from the base of my neck.  This would be followed by the daily experience of having the joy of running and playing with friends interrupted by a smack to the face by the hard plastic “bobbles” attached to the ends of my braids to keep them from unraveling during the day.  Not good.

During my teen years, I entered the phase of having my hair “relaxed”, a process that not only smelled bad, but required me to provide moment-to-moment updates regarding the extent of the burn, to ensure that the chemicals did not stay on the hair too long.  One moment too long and my hair could literally be burned off my head.  Burned.  Off. My Head! Crazy!

All of the pain and torture, was in service of taming my unruly hair… of making my “bad hair” look as “good” (aka straight and ‘white’) as possible.  I don’t think I have to spell out for you how the implicit messaging can really mess with a young girl’s self esteem.

To top it all off, the first trip to the salon gave me a reality check for which I was not prepared.  As I sat waiting for my turn, looking at all of the beautiful pop stars and models in the pages of the black hair magazine I was given, thinking about what style I was going to be rocking when I left, I was told that none of it was possible.  I kid you not..for every picture I pointed to, I was told that what was being shown was not her hair.  Every single hair style I wanted was a wig or a weave. What what?!!

It was my younger sister’s decision to challenge and explore her own hair journey that gave me the courage to stop the madness and appreciate the beauty of my natural hair.  And she started with a simple question:  “What was my hair like as a child?”  After years of various processes that transformed the true nature of her hair, this question and the willingness to explore it seriously, ultimately led her to get back to her “hair truth” so to speak, which was an abundance of soft natural curls and, more importantly, a new found freedom.

Interestingly, that question that explores what we were like at the beginning, before all the adults and society around us had too much say, is something that I regular ask my clients to help understand the essence of their authentic selves.  As we work together to discover and reconnect with the authentic self, and the person starts to honour their truth with aligned action,  the outcome is the same: a life of greater ease, confidence and flow.

The roots of our relationship with our hair run deep y’all.  It has taken me until mid-life to really start to love mine.  And as life would have it, just as I started to really understand how to care for it, the greys have started to appear. So now, thanks to my hair, I find myself challenged to confront an aspect of my life that a combination of good genes and a healthy lifestyle have managed to keep at bay…the inevitable signs of ageing.  Thank you Hair for forcing me to wrestle with this issue and make a conscious choice about how I want to grow forward, with or without the greys, and for giving me the nudge I needed to explore this hair journey. There is clearly more inner work to do.

Interested in exploring your own hair journey? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me directly.  I would love to dive in to this topic with you through expressive writing, the best tool I know for accessing our truth, and in this case, exploring the role of Hair as a way of connecting with and understanding the authentic self.  So join me and some other lovely beings for an experience that is sure to elevate and inspire.  Your hair and your soul will thank you.

Your Fellow Seeker,

Dr. Stacy


I Looked Down the Barrel of a Gun and Found Compassion

The impetus to share this story arose as a response to the chaos that was unfolding in the summer of 2016.  I have come to think of that summer as the time of my own awakening when I heard the call to action and made the decision to do more to have a positive impact on the world.  My hope is that reading it will not only help you gain some insight into what motivates me, but will awaken you as well to being bolder, and more courageous to create the world you want to live in. 

And for those close to me who were previously unaware of this story and might be shocked and distressed to learn about what I experienced, I need you to recognize that, while I kept this story from you, I have never hidden the essential part of my truth:  I am and have always been OK.  I encourage you to keep this in mind as you read below. 

 

The place was a small fishing village in northern Brazil.  A piece of paradise where nothing much happens other than eating, surfing, dancing and swimming with dolphins who delight in teasing humans with their regular visits to the beach.

My husband and I were on the last leg of our month-long honeymoon in South America.  That morning, we decided to take the ferry from the mainland to a small strip of beach frequented by kite surfers.  There was a makeshift restaurant at one end close to where the kite surfers were doing their thing, and a broad stretch of beach further up the strip.

Kite surfers on the beach

We decided to admire the kite surfers at a distance and set up far enough away that we could enjoy the tranquility offered by the nearly uninhabited stretch of white sand and the hazard free ocean in front of us.

Our piece of paradise

We were alone with the exception of 3 men who were hanging out, throwing what looked like a flimsy fishing line in the water.  It seemed like a strange way to fish, but what did I know?  I didn’t give it much thought.  One of them looked like someone who had attended University with me.  Another fleeting thought.  Without a care in the world, we turned our backs on them to face the sun.

My next memory was of being woken from a daze by one of those men standing over me, yelling.  My eyes struggled to transition from the darkness behind my eyelids to the blinding white light of the sun that back lit his face.  In spite of my initial blindness, the intense tone of his voice triggers everything in my body to instinctively and immediately ready itself for action.  My pupils constrict and I can see through the blinding sun to the features of his contorted face as he yells in a quick staccato voice filled with aggression.   And somehow, with powers I did not know I had, I spring up from my prone position on the ground to standing on my feet.  I am ready to run.

My initial thought was that there was some kind of emergency.  As I came to my senses, I quickly realized that we were the ones in need of help.

The next few moments in my memory are like a frenetic scene out of a Guy Ritchie movie, sped up in some places and incredibly slow in others with dramatic close ups of the most dangerous aspects of the threat:

An angry face yelling angry words in a language I didn’t understand;

Another grabbing our knapsack and my husband running after him with pure rage on his face, a look I had never seen before… and never want to see again.

The man with the gun fires a shot into the ground and I see the sand fly upwards in response.  In my mind’s eye the shot explodes just in front of my feet.

My husband falters but keeps going after him and I am screaming for him to “STOP! STOP! STOP!”

In that moment, I did not fear my own death.  Nor did my life flash in front of my eyes as is often portrayed in movies as the main character falls towards their demise. In that moment, I feared for only one thing: the death of my future with the man I had waited a lifetime to meet.

What flashed through my mind was not my past, but of stories of others’ who had survived the horror of witnessing their spouse murdered during the honeymoon.  Was this going to be my story too? Was this the moment when my life would take a dramatic turn?  The moment that would leave me traumatized and would forever be a marker by which I judged the ‘before’ and ‘after’?

I knew why my husband was desperately trying to retrieve the knapsack.  It had nothing to do with the money, the keys and the papers for our rental car, or the key to the home where we were staying.  He was running after our camera, which contained the memories of all of our experiences of our honeymoon up until that point.

I kept screaming for my husband to stop because I didn’t care about having a reminder of the wonderful moments we shared in the past. All I could think about was keeping him with me so we could continue to create new moments of wonder in the present and future.

It was the bullet that whizzed past my husband’s left ear that finally got him to stop.  The man with the gun, aimed it at his face and then, with a steady hand and arm outstretched, moved the gun slightly to the right and fired.

What followed in the wake of encountering this dark side of humanity was a surprising demonstration of love, caring and concern from the most unlikely places.

As we ran for the safety of the restaurant, screaming for help at the top of our lungs, we were met by a tall French man who told us that he caught the entire robbery on video.  He had been filming his friends kite surfing when he heard our screams.  When he saw what was happening, he immediately started filming our assailants in the act and continued filming them as they escaped into the bush with our knapsack.

Among the mixture of locals and tourists at the restaurant was a young man who took it upon himself to escort us back to the mainland and act as translator in our initial interactions with the police.  This young, brown faced man in a green t-shirt, was somehow able to communicate with me in spite of the fact that I do not speak a word of Portuguese and he could not possibly have any familiarity with the Spanglish that was coming out of my mouth.  To this day, our mutual understanding remains a mystery.  And quite honestly, his calming presence and willingness to stay with us earned him guardian angel status in my eyes.

He accompanied us on the ferry back to the mainland, and woke up the village police who were literally sleeping at the time.  As the village police got dressed (and I know this because they were putting on their long pants, socks and shoes in front of us), the roar of a speeding vehicle and the loud screech of tires rudely disturbs the lazy pace of the scene in front of us.  The military police have arrived.

With the vehicle barely stopped, four large, muscular men in full fatigues, carrying big machine guns jump out of the vehicle and come running towards us.  And I find my heart in my throat once again for the second time that afternoon.

They are intense, and are clearly not impressed with the village police who are taking far too long to respond to this situation.  They drive their truck onto the ferry and my husband, the guardian angel, and I head back to the scene of the crime.

Once we arrive on the shore, the military police get back in their jeep and are motioning for our angel to go with them.  He backs away refusing to join them, to which they respond with a mixture of frustration and disbelief.  My sense was that he did not want to witness anything he would want to forget.  Sure enough, we later learned that when the military police are involved, their approach is to shoot first and ask questions later. Not wanting to waste any more time, they sped off into the bush on the hunt for the criminals who stole our knapsack.

In the hours and days that followed this dramatic event, the people in this little community continued to astound us with their generosity and demonstrations of care.  The developer of the time share community where we were staying was one notable person whose efforts to take care of us went above and beyond anything we could have expected.

He anticipated that we would not feel safe going home that night while they were in process of changing the locks.  So he offered us a room in his hotel down the road and fed us at his expense.  But more than that, he sat with me and listened as I told my story and allowed me to cry.

He was also there for us as a driver, and translator as we went into town to file an official police report and in all further dealings with police and the investigators assigned to the case.

That night after he dropped us at the hotel, my husband and I talked for hours in spite of our exhaustion.  We shared every thought, every feeling we experienced throughout the ordeal.  As a psychologist, I knew it would be important to not hold anything back.  The time to process this was now, not later, so that we could move on without having to relive it repeatedly in our minds in the future.  I was determined that we would not leave this place as victims of trauma, and this was not going to take away from the amazing experiences we had up until that point, or those that we were yet to experience in the days ahead.

One of the questions we contemplated was whether we should leave or continue with our vacation as planned.  As we reflected on everything that happened, we could not help but be moved by the kindness of strangers and the support this community had given to us.  In spite of having an encounter with the dark side of humanity, we made the choice to focus on the love that we received and decided to stay.

Believe it or not, the authorities actually took this case seriously.  In fact, the chief of police for the biggest city in the region got involved and openly expressed his determination to find the men who did this.

Why would they care so much about a stolen knapsack belonging to a couple of Canadian tourists?  Because the knapsack was not just a knapsack; its theft at gun point from tourists who would undoubtedly tell the story when they returned home, represented a threat to the entire community.

This little place where nothing happens had built its reputation on being a safe heaven, an oasis, in a country too often plagued by chaos.  So yes, they had a vested interest in keeping the peace.  As they should, because the benefits to them went beyond the monetary.  They were fiercely protective of their way of life.  They were passionate about their community.   They were courageous enough to care.

Caring and acting on that care was clearly demonstrated by people from all walks of life.  From the store owner across the street from where our rental car was parked who organized to keep watch over the vehicle throughout the day and night, to the chief of police of the small community who was moved to tears as he held our hands and expressed how sorry he was for what we had been through.

In the end, they caught the three men.  Between the video, the community banding together, and the police, they caught the men who did this and our camera was returned.

The people in this community became our heroes and defenders and it was their actions of compassion that ultimately healed our hearts.

It was a little place where nothing much happens.  And they knew what it would take to keep it that way.  They lived with compassion.  They cared but were not passive in their caring.  They embodied the true meaning of that word:  with feeling, with care, with passion, together.  This is what it takes to build and nurture a strong community.

As I write this in the midst of the summer of 2016, it feels like the world is crumbling all around us.  The politics of division fuelled by fear are inescapable as is the news of yet another mass shooting, or attack on citizens by those given the authority to serve and protect.

After Orlando, Philando Castille and Alton Sterling, I wake on the morning of July 8, 2016 to hear about the shooting and killing of several police officers guarding a peaceful anti-violence protest in Dallas; the act is assumed to be in retaliation for the killing of black men at the hands of police.   I read in a state of near disbelief, and I lose it.  The tears start streaming down my face.  No amount of deep breathing or meditation is going to be a salve for the ache in my heart.  And as I cry, I realize that this is what I need to feel.

I cry not only for the victims and their families but also because it feels as if we, who are committed to having a positive impact on the world, are losing the battle.

And then, I come back to thinking about that little fishing village in Brazil and their compassion and courage to act boldly and decisively to protect, and nurture their community.  And my sense of hope returns because I can see the answer through their example. The only way to counter the chaos and the temptation to retreat into passivity is to fight even harder to build a strong sense of place, to make meaningful connections and to contribute.  To care like your entire life depends on it.  Because it does.


Fear Not The Dark Side. Understanding it is the Quickest Route Back to the Light.

Renovations are hell.  Anyone who has undergone a renovation knows this.  I should know this.  I have lived through enough of them in my personal life to expect broken promises, and things to not happen as planned.  But somehow, as with other challenges we welcome into our lives, we often go into them focused on all of the shiny and happy they will bring in the end and seem to forget about the discomfort and turmoil that happens on the road to getting there.

Let me just say close to the outset of this post that I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to have such problems.  To be able to have an office to renovate is such a privilege and a blessing that to complain about things not happening as planned seems pretty ridiculous.  And yet, as much as I managed to keep calm and carry on through weeks of delays, poor communication, and lack of follow through, even after I let go of timelines, plans for a big grand opening, and surrendered to the fact that much of this important project was out of my hands, I managed to reach a breaking point.

Here is a little video of me in the office at 7 am, on the day that this project was supposed to be completed (which was one of many “final” delivery dates that did not come to fruition). This is the calm before the storm.

 

While the renovations were happening, I set up shop in one of the boardrooms in the building.  That day when I came back to the unit to pack up, I was delighted to discover that the appliances from my unit had finally been removed and were delivered to my house.  I was chatting with my contractor, so happy to express my appreciation for some work being done after a week of nothing and was feeling hopeful as we discussed next steps via bluetooth on my way home.  When I arrived, I hung up, and was greeted with this:

I immediately texted him with a picture of the scene and asked for him to contact his crew to come back to put the appliances inside the garage.  His texted response was to tell me that his team were not returning and that he had explained this to my husband.  That’s when I lost it.

 

I could not believe that these men could not make the effort to climb the stairs, ring the doorbell, to give the adult at home the opportunity to open the garage so that they could deliver the appliances properly.  They clearly did not care.  They did not care about me.  They do not care about this project.  How could I have people who do not care be involved in creating a space that is all about taking great care of people?   And why is he talking to my husband and not to me?  We had discussed this so many times.  My husband had told him this over and over again and yet he continued to discuss plans with him and not me.  I was just on the phone with him!  No matter how I looked at it, all that I could see was evidence of disrespect and a lack of care and I was mad.  So mad.  A line had been crossed.

That evening was tough.  I went for a walk by myself to blow off some steam, which was probably visibly coming out of my ears looney tunes style to anyone who was in my vicinity.  It helped a little, but not enough.

I did not get much sleep that night as the frustration and anger and the uncertainty of not knowing how to proceed swam around and around in my head.  It felt awful.  Something needed to change.  This was not me.

In my 2 am delirium I had this vision of going to my office with a big piece of paper (the kind you used to paint on with those messy easels in grade school) to write out a mission statement of sorts with a black sharpie.  It went something like this:

This space is a place of healing and transformation

This is a safe space.

A place where all who enter can expect to be accepted, nurtured and cared for

in order to access and empower the divine within.

Every being who enters, no matter their role, is invited to take a moment to centre themselves in the purpose and focus of this space

So as to do their best work, with their highest level of skill, ability and care

In service of the divine within themselves, which ultimately functions to serve others.  

With deepest gratitude and respect for your service 

Your willingness to show up fully in all that you do

and share your divine light with us

Dr. Stacy

My focus in writing this message was on the men hired to bring my vision to life.  It was a desperate plea.  An attempt to try to regain a sense of control of this thing that was not going as planned with a team whose actions communicated to me a lack of caring for something that I believed required the utmost care.  It felt like everything was misaligned.  This was my way of righting that.

And while the image of me writing this in big black letters and posting it on the wall was all about them, in the end it was really about me.  I was the one who was misaligned.  That message was for me.  I was the one who needed to return to being a place of healing and transformation.

As soon as I crafted that statement in my head, something shifted for me internally.  The anger, that I chose to accept and allowed myself to feel, started to dissipate.  So much so, that two days later, when I came back to the space on a Sunday morning it felt like the anger, that at one point was overwhelming, was completely gone.

As I entered the unit with my friends to give them a tour, I was surprised to find my contractor and crew working away. To my surprise, and his, I immediately walked over after greeting him and, believe it or not, I actually gave him a big hug.  I was able to express my genuine gratitude for him being there.  I also grabbed him by the shoulders as I pulled back and told him to look into my eyes.  As I pointed to my own eyes while I stared into his, I asked him to do a simple thing.  To see me.  I told him that I needed him to see me.  I reminded him that my eyes existed before my husband existed.  I exist.  I needed him to see me.  And seeing me meant that he needed to speak to me. No matter what, he always needs to speak to me.

He laughed and said he understood.  We hugged it out again, and we both parted with smiles.

As I left I realized that just like the way my subconscious brought me back into alignment with the divine light within me, my anger was all about me too.  I had projected my own values, and assumptions onto the renovation crew.  I made the assumption that they could not be bothered, that they made a choice without regard or respect for how overwhelming it would seem to have to figure out moving appliances a few feet when for them it was so easy.  The fact is, they were likely not conscious at all.  Who knows what they were thinking? Their thoughts were somewhere else.  And yes, thinking things through is a reasonable expectation to have of anyone we hire to do work for us.  But the extent of my anger was about something else.  I was the one who added the layers and made it into something much bigger than it likely was or needed to be.  I was the one who has had too many experiences where I was overlooked, my opinion, undervalued, my voice unheard that predated the experience with this contractor.  In the end, it was all about me.

Now I know some of you are wondering whether my internal shift resulted in a better outcome.  The answer is, yes and no. The office is useable and I am delighted every day that I get to be in it.  People tell me that they feel at home and some of the groups I have hosted hang out because they don’t want to leave.  It means the world to me that people feel comfortable here.  In this respect, my goal has been realized.

However, it remains a work in progress.  I am still missing my internal doors, the lighting is not quite right and there are some other finishing touches that need to be completed.  But whether with the original crew, or someone else, it will all get done.  And more importantly, I am not stressed or distracted by it.  I am focused and relaxed and my energy is where it needs to be.  And I am confident that I will be able to maintain this mindset, regardless of how long it takes for the vision for my office to be realized.

The point of this story is not so much about the outcome, it’s about the process. It’s always about the process.

I do not regret feeling my anger.  I did regret expressing it to those who were undeserving (e.g., hubby) and apologized for it. But I do not regret allowing myself to feel it.  It pushed me to explore why I felt so strongly, which ultimately led me to understanding and affirming my values, my purpose and even my existence.  The solution that arose was fantastical and weird and perfect in its own way.  It allowed me to come back to me.  And I am happy to say that I have been even more conscious about choosing how I want to feel and what I want to experience each day, especially those days that have the potential to be hard for whatever reason.

Designing Your Life is all about assuming responsibility for your inner world.  It is the only way to have true control and to live the kind of life you want to live.

So as we enter a new year, I ask you, are you willing to face your “dark side” with compassion, and acceptance with a focus on understanding the source of your distress?  If not, consider that it might just be the most efficient and effective way of reconnecting with your light.


Ringing in 2018 with this Classic Anthem

For those of you who follow me on instagram, you might recall my post prior to the holidays where I offered the mantra, “Choose Joy”.  Well, the following classic tune was part of how joy showed up for me  this past holiday season.  It appeared in a random playlist I put on as I decided to make the best of our NYE plans getting side tracked by my husband’s sore throat.    So in making the best of the situation, I put on some music and grooved my way around the kitchen as I made food for our at home celebration of  New Year’s Eve.  It was absolutely perfect, a situation made even better by this song which brought me back to my youth, and whose lyrics are just as relevant today as they were a couple of decades ago.

This is your invitation to drop what you are doing right now, turn up the volume, and get your groove on.

 

Love & Light

Dr. Stacy


Spotlight on Fellow “Emotional Wellness Warrior”, Allison McDonald Ace

“Emotional Wellness Warriors”.  This is how Allison referred to she and I in one of our early emails soon after we met. It is a moniker that is entirely fitting for  us and others in the wellness space who are dedicated to bringing together all of the training, skills, and innovation at their disposal in an effort to affect meaningful change from the inside out.

The universe brought Allison and I together at a time when I was asking it to guide me to figure out how I might be able to have a greater impact.  It was on that very morning, when I was wakened by the answer, that I came across a piece of Allison’s writing that moved me so much, I felt compelled to not only comment, but to also track her down. My curiosity led me to her website where I discovered that the idea about how I could help more people, was in complete alignment with Allison’s expertise.

My idea was to develop a guided journal to help people grow consciously in the midst of life’s challenges.  It so happens that Allison, who is a writer,  is also trained in teaching expressive writing (a.k.a,  journaling) as a practice to facilitate healing.

By the end of our first in-person meeting, I was committed to providing a forum for Allison to reach as many people as possible.  While I was impressed with her inherent wisdom and training, I was more impressed with her genuine desire to make this essential skill accessible.  Backed by good science, expressive writing is a practice we could all be using to improve our mental and physical health. And the best part is that it is portable, does not require an appointment to access, and is basically free.

Allison is a pretty cool woman with this easy, self-effacing sense of humour that immediately puts everyone at ease.  It was ‘her vibe’ and dedication that caused me to immediately form a connection with her and decide that I wanted to support her ability to do her purpose in whatever way that I could.

And so I am deeply honoured and delighted that she agreed to run Healing Through Writing Workshops through my practice.  Our pilot workshop in November was unbelievably well received.  Those who attended, were blown away with how much they had in common with people they otherwise would have never met.  Being able to have this experience, live and in person, rather than in the virtual space is another aspect of this workshop that makes it special and more likely to have a lasting impact.

Allison setting the table for November’s workshop

Diversity captured around the table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what are you waiting for? Sign up here today and make 2018 the year you learn how to harness the power of your authentic voice and Design Your Life.

And if you are interested or even just intrigued, do not delay.  The word of mouth in response to the first class was so great that the next date filled up before I was able to post and promote it here on the blog.   In fact, given the demand, we have added another class in January. And we will continue to add classes as needed at your request.   It is our contribution to making the world a better place.

We both look forward to meeting you at a workshop soon.

The Emotional Wellness Warriors

Dr. Stacy & Allison

 


Listen to Drake’s Advice: If you want to Get Together with her, focus on doing the little things.

Leave it to Drake to make sound relationship advice cool. I first loved this song for the great house beat.  But then I listened to the lyrics and loved it more.  Believe it or not, research on how couples keep romance alive suggests that “the little things” like, expressing appreciation, taking the initiative to take some tasks off her plate (particularly those around the house no one particularly loves doing), and letting her know randomly that you are thinking of her, no matter where you are, are the most important things you can do to put her in the mood and keep romance alive.  So whether you are in a new relationship or one that has lasted several years, take Drizzy’s advice and see for yourselves how she gives more of her love to you.

 

You’re Welcome

Dr. Stacy.


Dr. Stacy’s Design Your Life Clinic, opening soon at suite 209, 321 Carlaw Ave

I am moving again.  Don’t worry…nothing is wrong.  It’s all good.  So good actually.  This is not a moving away, but a moving towards something even better.  After spending two years renting from established places with spaces that are great in their own right, I am now preparing to move into a space of my very own and I can hardly wait.

Like much of my journey as an entrepreneur thus far, I have been learning as I go.   Before I had a physical space to work out of, I built a virtual space on line with my website, a place where I defined my mission for myself and others and created a space to connect.  I had no idea where I was going to actually see clients, but I was confident that I would figure it out.

I literally stumbled on my first location at Magenta Health Family Medicine Clinic as a result of following my attraction to the building.  The facade drew me in and as I stepped in, I not only liked what I saw, but how I felt in the space.   It was clean, bright, modern and embraced technology in a way that was functional and easy from a user perspective.  It was clear, thoughtful, and…cool.

That first impression compelled me to learn more.  It was while exploring the Magenta Health website that I learned that they rent out their space to other health professionals.  Hmmmm… I contacted them, and two of the owners of the company invited me to come in to meet face-to-face.  We immediately clicked.

Interestingly, just as I had connected with the design of their space, they connected with the feel and look of my website.  And when we met in person, it became clear that our connection went beyond the mutual convenience of me becoming their tenant.  Our connection reflected shared values and a way of doing things that broke with convention and embraced the importance of connection not only for those who would receive their services but for those who were there to provide them as well.

This is what made the clinic feel like home, a place where I would actually enjoy working.  As a result, I felt naturally inclined to take care of it and the people who worked there.  My focus early on was on seeing how I could be of service to the doctors.  So I introduced myself with yummy treats (of course) along with information I have shared with other doctors in education settings that could be of use to them in their practice.  They gave to me by referring their patients.  I credit the doctors at Magenta Health for playing a large part in helping my practice get off the ground and grow to the point where maintaining its own property is not only economically feasible, but a more economically sound option for it to continue to thrive.

The Chi Junky Yoga and Wellness Studio, where I spent my afternoons and Fridays was another home for my business that seemed to magically appear at the time I needed it.  You can read about how this came about in my previous blog post.  The level of zen you experience when you walk in the doors is off the charts.  It is beautiful.  A true gem in the city. And the feeling you have when you walk in has as much to do with the design as it does with the owner and the level of attention given to ensuring anyone entering the space is immediately able to leave the outside world behind the heavy metal doors upon entry.

I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work in such a beautiful space with other gifted practitioners.  And as I begin the process of designing a space of my own, I will take with me all of the qualities that I appreciated about my former homes.

The Design Your Life centre, will be modern and clean, but also warm and welcoming.  It will be a place that will always invite each person to find that inner calm. It will be quiet.  It will be private.  A place where mental health is approached holistically, with the understanding that not everyone resonates with the same thing.  Sometimes we need to talk.  Sometimes we need to write.  Sometimes we need to move.  Sometimes we need to feel a vibrational tone that opens us up to a new understanding.  It will be a place where there will be different levels of service, with a focus on making the information and experience accessible to as many people as possible.  There will be more workshops and groups, movie nights, and curated discussions.

This is the future of my practice.  This is the future of mental health.  And I am completely confident it will happen…because it’s needed.

This new space will allow for all of these possibilities and more, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

For those design enthusiasts who are interested in building and design, I invite you to follow me on instagram (@drstacytoronto) and Facebook where I will post pictures of the process as it unfolds.

And I will be sure to let you all know about the grand opening.  It will be a party that you will not want to miss.

Dr. Stacy

 

 


Growing Forward on the Path to Parenthood: A women’s group for building resilience while trying to conceive

The need for resilience in order to navigate the ups and downs of the infertility journey is an understatement.  This year, my work in the area of infertility had me engaging in thought provoking conversations with some very inspiring women.  Jennifer Vanier  is one of them.

I was e-introduced to Jennifer, after she put out the call for a psychologist to contribute to a retreat she was organizing for women who have experienced infertility and/or pregnancy loss.  It was Jennifer’s compelling story that made participating and supporting her event a no-brainer for me.  As you can read on her website, Jennifer and her partner know too well the grief and turmoil that come with pregnancy loss.  She also knows what it is like to be dealing with such life changing events with few to no professional resources to assist her and her partner in their small community outside of Peterborough.  Rather than accepting the status quo, Jennifer decided to do something about it, and has been working to bring infertility services to her community.  The retreat was just one of the things that Jennifer started in order to do just that.

Nikki Bergen is another woman who some of you might know as a result of her work in the Toronto wellness and fitness community as well as her decision to share her story regarding the challenges she and her partner face as they too turn to infertility treatments to try to conceive.  Nikki was kind enough to grant me an interview soon after she “came out” on social media, and I am telling you, she drops some serious wisdom in both parts, particularly in Part 2.

When we did the shoot, I wanted to make sure that Nikki was clear that the only way we would do this is if the process was good for her.  Well, I am happy to say, that in the months that have followed since this interview, Nikki has watched it in order to help herself benefit from the wisdom that came through in her own voice.  Click here to see what I am talking about.

Both of these women exemplify what it means to Grow Forward in the face of life challenges.  There was nothing they did to deserve the challenge that life gave them.  And this challenge did not happen in order to teach them the lessons they have learned and continue to learn.  Life dealt them what it dealt, and at some point they made a decision to engage with the process, and to make use of the experience to serve themselves AND others.  As a result, they have evolved into an even better version of themselves.

These women,  the others I had the pleasure to meet at the retreat, the clients I have seen one on one, and others I have met personally have inspired me to do more.  And so, starting this fall I have put together a very special group, to support women on this journey so they too can benefit from the growth that this life challenge has for them.  And I am bringing a kick ass lineup of some serious women’s health warriors with me who are just as passionate as I am.

The group is called Growing Forward on the Path to Parenthood. Click here to learn more. If this is not your particular struggle, I encourage you to share the information about this group with anyone you believe will benefit.

This group for women challenged to conceive is just the beginning.  For those of you who have learned about the group and have told me that you wish you could participate in a similar group to help you deal with the challenges of rebuilding your life after divorce, or are struggling to find the balance as a busy career woman, or are dealing with the challenges of another serious illness like cancer, or the loss of a loved one, I want you to know that I am thinking about you too.

My vision is to make Growing Forward a community..dare I say a movement.  My vision is to create a place, on line and in person, where people who are similarly focused on Growing Forward through whatever life might bring, can come together to learn and share tools that work.  A place with good information as well as inspiration, so that you, we, can support each other to Grow Forward through anything.

If this sounds like something that you believe would be of value to yourself or others you know, please reach out and tell me the issues you would like to see as a focus of this offering.

I am here to listen and ready to serve.

Dr. Stacy


The MUSE Headband: The One Piece of Tech I Let My Son “Play” with As Much As He Wants

A few months ago, while immersed in creating curricula to assist families incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives, I realized that I was becoming the caricature of the acclaimed architect who leaves her own house unfinished.  The fact is, that while I was focused on guiding and encouraging others to find ways of integrating meditation as a mindful practice, I was not doing the same for the people nearest and dearest to me – my own family.

And so one day during dinner, I decided to announce my hope that we would all start a regular meditation practice.  The reason I gave my audience, made up of my husband, my 2 year old daughter and 6 year old son, was that it is a practice that essentially gives us super powers.

Meditation is like doing push ups for your brain.  It literally makes the part of your brain that is in charge of controlling your emotions, your behaviour and your creativity, bigger.  The stronger it becomes, the better you are at focusing your attention, which is important for performing your best at whatever you want to do.  It also feels good to do it and it is a tool that you can use to calm down when needed. Dealing with challenges without feeling overwhelmed, leads to better decisions, and ultimately allows us to lead happier lives.

I am telling you, I sold it well.  Everyone was on board. The sell was easy.  As for the implementation…?  Well, that did not go as smoothly.

To be clear, it’s not that my children are completely new to meditation.  I have incorporated some kind of guided meditation in their bedtime routines for years.  However, I felt it was time to up the ante a bit and make it a more conscious process, so that it could become a go-to strategy they could use in their waking lives.

My initial idea was for all of us to get in the habit of doing a breath meditation for 2 minutes when we got home as a way of transitioning from the activity of the day to time together at home.  Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?  But the reality was that, for my son, 2 minutes of quiet focus was up against the lure of LEGO, toys, TV or whatever it was he had his heart set on doing.

Soon, the enthusiasm he had for the idea in the abstract, quickly became the barrier to fun in reality.  It was something that had to be done in order to get to the good stuff of being home; something that had to be done to appease Mom. This was definitely not the vibe I had intended nor was it conducive to the practice itself.

And so I retreated and recognized that the answer to getting my family to buy into adopting a meditation practice lay within the core of the resistance I faced.  I had to find a way to make it fun.

As if in direct response to my quest, the Universe answered in the form of an Instagram post by my colleagues at the Integrative Health Institute featuring the MUSE Headband. Bingo!  I had my answer.

The Muse Brain Sensing Headband essentially reads your brain waves as you engage in a meditation session and gives you feedback in the form of a change in the sounds you are hearing to let you know when you have drifted away from focusing on your breath to reviewing the to do list, replaying a scene from the day, or the million other random things that pop up when the monkey mind is in full swing.  When you are in a calm meditative state, you hear soft rippling waves on the beach. When you maintain that calm state for a while, birds start chirping.  When you drift, you hear the low rumbling of thunder, like a storm approaching from the distance.  This is the cue to just come back and refocus on the breath. Brilliant!

me-with-muse-headband

Even cooler, is that once your session is done, you get to see your own data:  the percentage of time your brain was actually in a calm vs. neutral or active state, and a graph of exactly when those different brain states happened over the course of the meditation.

muse-interface

 

And for those with a healthy sense of competition, there are extra points you can earn based on the amount of time spent in the calm zone, recognition for high levels of performance and the ability to advance to a higher level once you have demonstrated mastery.

Whoever developed this device clearly knew their stuff when it comes to both brain science and how to foster motivation.  Not surprisingly, a quick perusal of the team behind the product confirmed that none other than Dr. Norman Doidge, Toronto psychiatrist, and bestselling author of The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain That Changes Itself is on the advisory board among other top researchers and tech developers.  Enough said.

So now, with the help of the MUSE, we are playing “the meditation game”.  My son not only loves it, but like many children, he is a natural Zen Master.  And he is curious to see how he will do as he advances to the next level and meets new challenges.  Mission accomplished.

Just as going to exercise classes with me from the age of 3 months to 3 years helped to imprint exercise as a fun game he loves to play vs. something he “should do”, my hope is that playing the meditation game as a family and cheering each other on as we progress to higher levels using the MUSE will help ingrain this practice as part of a healthy lifestyle that will be maintained for years to come.

In the meantime, I am curious to know what you might have tried to integrate meditation into your family life?  What has worked?  What have been the challenges?  I’d love to hear about your experience, so please share your thoughts and experiences.  We can all benefit from learning from each other.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Stacy

Order the Muse Headband on the D.Y.L. Shop!

 

 


DYL Video Series: Part 2 of Coping with Infertility with Nikki Bergen

Here it is: The long awaited Part 2 of my interview with the amazing Nikki Bergen on her process of navigating the challenges of infertility.

In Part 1 Nikki gets real about what this journey has been like for her, what led to her choice to share it with the world, and the benefits she has experienced as a result.

In Part 2, she goes even deeper and shares insights that are relevant to all of us, no matter what challenge life might bring. Watch. Absorb. Learn. Share. Discuss. This is only the beginning of the conversation.

Thank you again to Nikki Bergen for being so generous and open with sharing your experience and wisdom with all of us. My hope is that participating in this conversation, has been as beneficial to you as it will undoubtedly be for others.

Have you been challenged with infertility and/or pregnancy loss?  Would you like to participate in a moderated group designed to help you move through the inevitable feelings of grief and reengage with living fully again?  Please email me.  I would love to hear from you to gauge interest as well as obtain your input as to how this group can be tailored to best suit your needs.

Best,

Dr. Stacy

 


WelcomeLooking to Design Your Life?

Click below to begin the journey with Dr. Stacy and her team at designyourlifecentre.com