The Essential Stepmom Podcast
There is no time like the fall for getting cozy inside with a good book, or as is increasingly popular, a good podcast.
LISTEN to Episode 12 of the Essential Stepmom Podcast hosted by Tracy Poizner where I talk about the challenges of infertility, particularly in the context of being a stepmother, and the mindset that can help us grow through this incredibly difficult journey.
An Invitation to Recharge & Refresh with the Muse Brain-Sensing Headband
My vision for The Design Your Life Centre has always been for it to become a hub for all things related to mental wellness, a place where people could stop in and find resources to help them on their journey or even just use it as a place of refuge to take a break and recharge before going back to face the challenges of the day. So rather than allowing my extra treatment room to sit empty when not in use, I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to turn it into The Muse Room, a place where people can engage with a cool piece of technology that has helped so many around the world build a meditation practice and reap the benefits of improved focus and calm.
The Muse is a game changer. It is an EEG device that reads your brainwaves and gives you audible feedback so you can redirect to the intended focus of your breath whenever your attention drifts. And afterwards you can see exactly where those drifts happened. In addition to allowing to see what is actually happening in your brain when you meditate, it will also help you understand that those times that you do drift and resume focus is akin to doing a push up for your brain. It is those reversals that improve your ability to focus, and actually has a positive physical impact on building the parts of your brain designed just for this.
As part of the recognition of the 1 year anniversary of The Design Your Life Centre, I will be offering up the muse room experience free to anyone who wants to use it. Come once, come daily. Its all good.
Click here to book your free 15-minute experience in The Muse Room today.
When you arrive, Nora, my assistant extraordinaire, will be there to meet you and walk you through the process.
We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you start the habit that is actually good for your brain.
Warm Regards Always
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Order the Muse Headband on the D.Y.L. Shop!