My Happiness List

About three years ago, I got laid off from my job, ended a long-term relationship, and started a series of moves around the city. It was a time of some big unknowns and instability.

Knowing that these huge life changes could easily knock me off my feet, I created what I came to call my Happiness List.

(I talk about this Happiness List, and my other spiritual practices, on The Soul’s Work Podcast, in Episode #7: Creating a Daily Spiritual Practice. Listen here!)

The items that went down on my Happiness List answered the question: What do I need to make me happy (that doesn’t rely on anyone else)?

It’s not that I feel we shouldn’t derive our happiness from others. I absolutely think that cultivating happiness with others is essential!

But given that I anticipated a lot of alone time and self-exploration, I knew I had to get clear on how I could feel happy on my own.

And so, I wanted to share with you my happiness list, in case it inspires you to create your own!

Thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re single, in a relationship, an introvert, or constantly surrounded by people. We all need to be good with ourselves first and foremost before we can genuinely be good with others.

All right, here it is. The things that truly make me happy in life and keep my soul balanced and fulfilled:

  • Quiet spaces and time
  • Being in nature
  • Making intentional decisions based on what’s right for me
  • Understanding my spiritual self and what it needs to grow and be healthy
  • Making an effort to have a positive relationship with my family
  • Keeping negative energy out of my life
  • Being on my phone less
  • Drinking less
  • Keeping to my budget
  • Writing creatively
  • Making music
  • Self-reflection
  • Exercise

I do this as a journaling exercise and reflect on each item, asking myself: How is this present in my life right now? If it’s not, what’s been blocking that? How can I make more space for it moving forward?

This list is great for me to revisit at any time, but I do find that I usually do a Happiness List check-in when I’m feeling a lot of imbalance inside me, or a prolonged sense of frustration that I can’t really trace back to one specific event.

And when I am feeling that dissonance, it always turns out to be the case that there are several happiness items that I’ve been neglecting.

That’s my soul saying: “Hey! You haven’t been taking me out to nature recently.” Or: “We’re feeling drained because you keep saying yes to a million things, when what you really need is rest and alone time.”

What is your soul asking you for? How would you answer the question: What do I need to be happy (that doesn’t rely on anyone else)?

Let me know in the comments below, if you’d like to share! I would love to know your thoughts!

Lots of love and self-love,
Janice ❤

Honesty + Courage = Freedom

I have this life formula for myself, which is Honesty + Courage = Freedom.

So, first getting really honest with myself regarding what I want in life, what I don’t want, who or what is bringing me negative energy, and so on.

And then, secondly, summoning up that courage to take the oftentimes scary step of putting that honest revelation into action.

And I have always found, that no matter what the result or the outcome, letting go of that fear and taking the brave step makes me feel FREE.

With that in mind, I think it’s really worthwhile to explore fear. Because fear is often what keeps us trapped inside a box, held down, and restrained from doing the things that are actually what would bring fulfillment to our lives.

(Side note: Exploring fear is exactly what we did in Episode 3: Courage (& Fear) of The Soul’s Work Podcast! Listen here.)

And the crazy thing that always blows my mind, when I think about it, is that maybe at first it’s more so the external world — society and people outside of us — who are the ones trying to restrict us inside this little box.

Perhaps, they tell us: You should be this way. You shouldn’t do that. Don’t go for that dream, because it won’t get you anywhere. Blah, blah, blah …

And I liken it to them throwing us into a jail cell. (Not to be overly dramatic, but that’s gonna be our metaphor for today, okay?).

So, they’ve thrown us into this metaphorical jail cell, and they’ve locked the door behind us with one of those giant, old school jail keys. That’s the picture in my mind.

But as time goes by, we start to internalize those beliefs that the external world has been bombarding us with.

We no longer need anyone else feeding us those perceptions anymore (although, of course, that external pressure lives on!).

Because, for a lot of us, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve taken ownership of those fearful beliefs.

They’ve become so internalized, ingrained within us, that we hold onto those self-limiting beliefs as our own thoughts.

And that, to me, is the worst kind of loss of freedom. It’s like when you’re in a mental prison inside your own head.

And so, even if our jail keeper slipped us the key through the bars and walked away from guard duty, we might just stay sitting in that cell.

Because we’ve been in there for so long, and we’ve come to believe that that’s where we should be, that’s all we know.

And it doesn’t matter that we’re now holding the key right in the palm of our hand.

Because we’ve become afraid of what will happen should we unlock that cell door, and walk out into what has now become an unknown and uncertain world beyond our little box.

So, I think that honesty is about coming to the realization that we do want more and deserve more than just staying in that little box.

And courage is like the next step, where we find the strength — despite how fearful we are of that unknown world beyond the jail cell — to take that key, unlock the cell door, swing it wide open, and walk out of that box, free.

So, Honesty + Courage = Freedom

And the good news — the amazingly fantastic news — is that we absolutely do hold that key in our hand.

Lots of love and self-love,
Janice ❤

P.S. Listen to “Episode 2: Honesty” of The Soul’s Work Podcast here. Then, follow up with “Episode 3: Courage (& Fear)” here!

The Soul’s Work Podcast is Live!

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This week has been a pretty momentous one for me, having finally launched my new podcast, The Soul’s Work Podcast! *WOooOOOoo!!!* 🙂

This show is where I pretty much bare all about my spiritual journey, which includes sharing a whole lot of my past experiences in life. ‘Cause before the spiritual awakening, there’s usually a lot of shit, angst and turmoil that you’re mucking through!

I talk about what that muck looked like for me in Episode 1 (Introduction). Seriously, back then, I really couldn’t see a way out of the dark hole I felt I was in.

Looking back at that time from where I’m standing now, I just want to send my past self a whole lot of love and compassion. I definitely needed it back then!

Episode 2 (Honesty) is also up on my podcast website, as well as on SoundCloud. Here’s where we really start getting into our soul’s work!

Honesty has been the guiding principle in my life, ever since I went through some huge life changes almost three years ago: getting laid off from a job, ending an 8-year relationship, and having to move yet again (this all happened within the span of a month).

The future was so uncertain and unknown at that point, but having my life turned upside down by those events made me take a hard look at what was the truthful path for me to take. It was time to look honesty square in the face.

Episode 3 (Courage & Fear) is also coming soon! I truly hope you guys enjoy the podcast. I’d love to know what you think, as I’m just starting out with this new creative venture and am always up for improvement!

I was confessing to my coach Ivy the other day that I felt scared about taking some time off work to really focus on developing this podcast. It’s not like I’m rolling in money right now, but my gut instinct knows with zero doubt that I have to give this creative project my full attention, at least for a little while.

Ivy asked what my motivation for doing this podcast was in the first place. And I said — with some fierce determination in my voice(!) — that my soul was calling me to do it, plain and simple.

It was saying that I must share my story, my vulnerability. And I must do it now.

I’ve been deeply blessed to have had so many incredible experiences in life. Even the tough ones have gifted me with invaluable lessons to make me a better person and get me to the point of spiritual awakening.

And now, as I explained to Ivy, sharing my story with others is basically the main thing I feel I need to do now before I die. (Strong statement, I know! But the soul knows what it wants.)

Sure, I’ll have many more experiences from here on out. But if I knew my time was going to be up in a month, sharing my story, my experiences, my spiritual learnings, would be my last wish.

It’s not because my story is special. It’s not. But that’s kind of the point.

My story is strewn with a whole lot of sadness, anger, depression, escapism through alcohol, harmful relationships, self-doubt, hopelessness. Those things — unfortunately — are not unique to my life.

But while many of us go through those common struggles, we oftentimes feel alone, like we’re the odd person out, that everyone else is so much better off than us.

We stuff away our shame, anxiety, hurt, and sadness. We put up our guard, wear our masks, and drown our problems deep inside the bottle (or whatever your particular defense mechanism might be).

So, sharing my story means expressing my vulnerability — removing the mask — and letting others know that it’s okay. Someone else (me) has been there, too. And that amidst the struggle, there’s still hope. There’s always hope.

Lots of love and self-love, my friends. ❤

Janice xo

2017 Reflections

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Happy New Year, friends! It’s been a minute since I last wrote here, but I’m excited to be back with this particular post.

Why? Well, because while I love reflecting all the time, the closing of a year presents an especially poignant opportunity to look back on all that we’ve experienced and learned over the past 12 months.

So, this is my 2017 reflection, inspired by Layla Saad’s #QuestionsFor Reflection on her Instagram account (@wildmysticwoman). (P.S. Learn more about this badass spiritual soul here.)

What did surrender & patience teach you this year?

Surrender taught me to let go of the expectations, questions, and worries about the future. You know, the ones we can’t predict, the ones that may or may not come true.

Instead, stay in the present. Simply do what feels honest right now. Taking that approach to life meant that surrender also taught me freedom.

Patience taught me to slow down during some big life changes (it’s still teaching me that)! Don’t be so hard on myself and expect that I’m gonna get everything “right” immediately — ’cause adapting to change takes time.

Again, it comes back to being in the present and focusing on what I have now, not just on what I hope to have in the future.

What did magic & mystery teach you this year?

Magic and mystery taught me to give in to falling in love, no matter how unreal and crazy it seemed. ‘Nuff said 😉

What did you decide you would no longer tolerate this year?

A huge thing that I’m continuing to stick to my guns about is saying no to things and people that drain my energy and waste my fricking time. Life is too short, y’all!

What experiences gave you the most pleasure this year?

Walks on the farm with Olive. Taking the sheep out to graze in the spring pastures. Witnessing gorgeous sunsets. Sleeping in my hammock tent, listening to the frogs sing nearby. Six beautiful days (and counting) of an unexpected romance. Hiking the fairytale Panorama Ridge Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Moments by the lake on H1 at Killarney Provincial Park with my cousin Lilli. A two-night stay at a lovely ecolodge in Algonquin Provincial Park with my family.

How did you become more fully you this year?

I finally embraced what I believe is my calling in life: to be a creative, and to put my creations out there in the world.

That includes writing my first book, getting back into the singing life, and launching my soon-to-be first podcast, The Soul’s Work Podcast!

There’s a lot of vulnerability that is required to bare one’s creative soul, but I’m determined to take on the challenge come 2018!

What about you? How would you answer these questions for your own 2017?

#metoo

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I started writing a book a few months ago. It’s about my spiritual development journey, each chapter focusing on a different spiritual learning I’ve gained over the last couple of years.

One of the chapters centers around power and oppression. It’s definitely the most difficult chapter to write, and I often find myself closing my laptop, overwhelmed at having to revisit my past.

I’ve had no shortage of experiences with oppression over the course of my life.

It seems that simply coming into this world as I did, I was already set up to experience oppression on multiple levels — as a woman, as a visible minority (specifically, a person of Asian descent), and, for many years, as someone on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder.

Of course, with all of the #metoo posts being shared on social media, following the slew of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, it’s men’s oppression against women that is specifically weighing on my mind right now.

And while I’d like to close my laptop, overwhelmed, I feel compelled to write.

Deep breath. Okay, let’s dive in.

My #metoo’s

For those of you who don’t know, the recently gone-viral #metoo movement started on Sunday, October 15 with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet:

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

(FYI – The #metoo movement actually originated with activist Tarana Burke.)

I have watched as several women I know have shared their #metoo’s on their Facebook pages over the past few days.

And I have thought back to my own experiences where men have sexually harassed me. Here’s the first three that I could immediately recall, off the top of my head:

  1. The time a man masturbated openly on the subway train while staring at me, and then got up — presumably to follow me — when I got up to exit at the next stop. (He left the train as I pretended to, but then I stayed on as the doors closed behind him.)
  2. The time a man who was in a position of authority over me made sexual advances, including touching and grabbing me without my consent, and continued to persist after I said that, no, I wasn’t going to have sex with him. (Because I had no choice but to still be in contact with him over the next several days, I had to ask some of my friends to make sure that I wasn’t left alone with him, since he clearly didn’t know the meaning of “no.”)
  3. The time when the guy who lived across the hall from me in a rooming house tried to push his way into my room after I declined to have a drink with him. (I had to throw my weight against the door to get it closed and locked, so that he couldn’t come in and do God knows what to me.)

What those men did (and what others have done) made me feel everything from shock to anxiety, to feeling like I had a lack of control and choices, to feeling anger, vulnerability, to just outright fear.

Furthermore, there was nothing in me that felt empowered to defend myself, to speak out, or to assert myself in the way that I actually wanted to.

What happened, instead, was that:

I hid. I avoided.

I called another man to come help me.

I removed myself from places I had every right to be in, and wanted to be in.

I disconnected from people around me when I was out in public. 

I became hyper-vigilant. (Even after I moved multiple times after leaving that rooming house, including to neighbourhoods where people would probably feel safe enough to leave their front doors unlocked, I still always kept some kind of weapon in my bedroom. Just in case.)

I relived traumatic memories in my mind, even if, physically, I wasn’t in danger at the moment.

(Tellingly, I had a vivid nightmare the morning after I started working on this post. The nightmare was about me being sexually assaulted, running away from someone, and trying to shut myself in my room with a door that barely locked. Go figure.)

The impacts of sexual harassment, of sexual assault, and of men’s oppression against women in general, aren’t just contained to that one specific experience a woman goes through.

Those impacts don’t go away when the man goes away, or after she’s able to leave the scene.

No, the impacts extend far past each violation. They accumulate, and carry on years later, and affect every part of of a woman’s being, and her sense of safety and self-worth.

This Piece is for Men

In some ways, I didn’t want to publicly share any of my experiences of sexual harassment.

I didn’t (and don’t) want other women to read those stories, only to have to shelve them into their already over-stuffed mental repository holding all of the other innumerable accounts of men’s oppression against women, simply to weigh those creaking shelves down just a little bit more.

I, myself, didn’t want to dig any further than those experiences, because I knew I’d find countless more, and those three alone still make my stomach churn, and my heart turn a little bit colder, to think about what they, and every other experienced or witnessed instance of men’s violations against women represent about humanity.

But this piece is only for other women insofar as letting them know that they — you — are not alone in your experiences.

And to let you — my dear sister — know: It’s not us. It’s not our fault. And no, we are not overreacting.

This piece is only for me insofar as addressing some urgent force inside me that chose this specific time to speak up. I had to listen.

In every other way, this piece is for men.

Men who may be noticing all the #metoo posts on social media, and actually want to know more about a woman’s perspective.

This piece is a reminder to men that contributing to our very prevalent culture of men sexually harassing and assaulting women isn’t just about whether you, yourself, force your body onto a woman or call her obviously lewd names to her face.

It’s also about what you, as a man, may be doing to keep that overall system of oppression against women — of which sexual harassment and assault are only one facet — alive. A system that is fed and satiated through everyday, often unmindful acts (or omissions to act).

  • Like when you talk to “your boys” about your female partner when she’s not around, or about women in general, in a disrespectful, demeaning way. Or when you stay silent, or laugh, when hearing other men speaking about women in that way. (I can’t even begin to tell you the things that I’ve heard over my time, hanging out with guys when there have been no other women present, that have shocked and saddened me, but ultimately, led me to believe that this was a normal way for women to be treated. Women are not objects. And they are not inferior to you. They are beautiful human beings who make your lives better.)
  • Like when you dismiss what a woman is trying to express to you, because, in your mind, she’s “just being hormonal” or “irrational.”
  • Like when you cut a woman off when she’s speaking to a group, or “explain” to everyone that “this is what she’s trying to say.”
  • Like when you ignore a woman who is asking you a question, until she gives up and leaves you alone. (I hate when I see this happen. I have seen many men do this to their partners and to their mothers. It’s like you are sending her the message that she is so unworthy of your response, that she is invisible.)
  • Like when you don’t let a woman just walk down the fricking street without making her feel like she’s an object to be called after, eye-raped, or followed. A woman should never have to walk in public with her head down, eyes averted, or feel forced to cross to the other side because of your disturbing presence. It’s her street, too.
  • Like when you are “handsy” with a woman who hasn’t invited you to touch her. (This happened to me recently where a man I barely knew — but who apparently thought that my general friendliness equated to an invitation to invade my personal space — placed his big paw on my shoulder and gripped it, leaving it there while he said whatever he wanted to say. I felt completely uncomfortable, but also paralyzed, as he crossed my personal boundaries with zero regard. I did not give you permission to touch me. And you just did, forcefully, as though you had some kind of right to my body. You don’t. So, fuck off.)
  • And so on.

It’s about being aware that some of the actions and words that you have normally taken for granted as acceptable — because they’ve never been questioned, because you’ve “always” seen other men behave in that way, or because women don’t explicitly tell you how much you’ve hurt them with your actions and words — can actually have a profoundly harmful impact on the way a woman perceives herself, and how she experiences every relationship that she’s a part of.

No doubt, that this has been the case for me.

All of my own personal experiences of gendered oppression, including sexual harassment — as well as witnessing those of other women — have had a tremendously negative impact on my life.

Because, as a result, what I have learned is that I often have to think twice about where I want to live, where and how I want to travel, what I want to wear, where I want to sit, what I want to say (oh, don’t want to give him “the wrong impression”), and who I want to talk to.

(And many times, the outcome of that thinking is that I don’t feel free to do what I want. Even though I have every right to. And even though I am in no way asking to be harassed or oppressed by doing any of those very basic things.)

What I have learned is that trusting a man to genuinely respect me is not the rule of thumb. It is the exception.

What I have learned is that my voice won’t be taken as seriously as a man’s. Even if I’m smart as fuck.

What I have learned is that I have to fight against the completely false, but insidiously internalized, message that my body is not mine to fully control and own.

What I have learned is that I will continuously have to think twice about the safety of my mind, my body, and my life, simply because I am a woman. I cannot expect that my safety is a given.

What I had learned was that I was not worthy enough to deserve better than men who cheated on me, sexually manipulated me, disrespected me, and emotionally and verbally abused me. (This has since changed, but only since my last relationship. And it took the first two years of being with him to believe that I was — and could — actually be with a genuinely good guy.)

Now, of course, we — women — are worthy enough to not have to endure any of this shit.

But believe me, no matter how strong, self-confident, and self-loving a woman is, she is always fighting — both internally and the world around her — to accept and own her inherent worthiness as a woman.

Always.

Why? Because she is always bombarded with, and internalizing, the messages from the people closest to her, media, social media, her workplace, and so on, that she is not worthy enough to be just exactly as she is.

And, as men time and time again, overstep their boundaries with her — and they will — she is always fighting to reassert those boundaries, and to reclaim her body and agency, oftentimes feeling powerless to do so because she has been taught, since day one, to “be nice,” that she’s “just overreacting,” that she might need to fear for her safety if she fights back, and that, even if she does try to fight back, there will likely be little to no repercussions against her perpetrator.

So, this piece is for men.

It’s an awareness call to men that it is the cumulative effect of each and every single instance of cat-calling, unwanted touching, objectifying women, talking shit about women, humiliating women, dismissing women, pressuring a woman to give more than she is comfortable with, and disrespecting your female partner, that then enable (some) men to feel that they have the power to jerk off in front of a woman when she clearly did not ask for it, or to force their body onto a woman when she said “no.”

Because all of it, at the end of the day, is one and the same: It’s about throwing up your hand and saluting a culture where men devalue women.

It’s about reinforcing a culture where men can expect to overstep a woman’s boundaries unchecked, because the control and ownership of women are so ingrained in the psyche of male privilege.

It’s about perpetuating a culture where men continue to hold privilege and power that dictates how women should behave, think and feel — even when that is not how a woman wants to behave, think or feel.

If you still can’t make the connection, here it is once more:

… sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women. (source)

There is nothing inherently correct about men devaluing, controlling, and violating women. Nothing.

As a woman, my body is mine. I say who gets to touch it. And I choose who to share it with.

As a woman, I have a brain just the same as a man’s. And depending on the man, my brain might even work a little better. (Just sayin’.) I am contributing my intellect and talents to the world much more than I am contributing my pretty smile. Recognize that.

As a woman, I may embody the stereotypical feminine traits of being emotional, intuitive, empathic and nurturing. Those are gifts. Not signs of weakness. I bring healing, empathy, compassion and love into this world. Honour that. Value that. Imagine a world without women like that. What a shitty world that would be.

As a woman, I am also just a human being, the same as any person of any other gender. And as a human being, I have a right to feel safe doing everyday, basic things like walking down the street or living in my own home.

As a woman, I am fucking pissed off. And I will not do what is expected of me and keep fucking quiet.

I am saying my piece.

So, Now What?

Women reading this, at this point, may be thinking: “Yup. I already know this. I’ve lived this. I am living this.”

Maybe, like me, you’re feeling drained, too. I almost didn’t want to write this, because I knew what it would take out of me. And indeed, after three days of writing, I am depleted.

If you’re feeling the pain, too, I’m so sorry.

I know all of you have gone through your own experiences — some similar, and some much more egregious violations of your bodies, minds and souls.

My heart is aching for you, me, and the rest of our sisters.

Diving into this topic, as a woman — whether you’re sharing or reading — is difficult, and I’m actively seeking some self-care to counter the serious energy drain I’ve been going through.

(I’ll share at the bottom about my self-care practices, in case they might also help you).

Men reading this, at this point, may be feeling overwhelmed, motivated, ashamed, indifferent, and/or confused about what to do.

Maybe you’re even feeling upset or angry, as you read post after post about “how awful” men are. If that’s you, my friend, leave your ego at the door and keep reading. I know you don’t recognize it yet, but your reaction is a direct result of holding male privilege.

I believe that there are a lot of men out there who have been following the #metoo movement, and are wanting to do something towards positive change. I truly believe that.

If you don’t know where to start, just start with yourself.

Start with the women in your own life.

Your wife. Your girlfriend. Your mother. Your sister. Your daughter. Your female friends. Your female co-workers. Your female employees. Your female students. And so on.

Ask yourself what you might be doing in your everyday interactions with these women that might make them feel inferior, objectified, devalued, demeaned, humiliated, ashamed, violated, unsafe.

Think past those initial thoughts of, “Well, I don’t think that’s so bad …” or, “But I don’t mean anything harmful by that.”

It’s not about what you think.

It’s about the impact that your actions or words may be having on her.

Dig deep.

If you really listen to what she’s saying (and not saying), you’ll probably pick up some clues.

Keep educating yourself on this issue, if you really care to make a difference, because a large part of this is about changing deeply ingrained perspectives — your deeply ingrained perspectives.

And if you don’t make a real effort to learn about, and open your eyes to, different perspectives, then your acceptance and expression of male privilege will remain intact.

And so, the epidemic of men’s sexual harassment and assault against women will live on.

It’s up to you to fix this. You, as a man, need to:

Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women. (source)

For Men:

These resources are only a start. Questions will probably pop up for you. Do your own research. Ask Google. Whatever you’re wondering has already been asked and written about. Trust me.

Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide

Some people confuse “privilege” as meaning “special advantages.” This guide explains what “privilege” actually means in the context of the #metoo conversation.

160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life 

No one is asking you to feel guilty for having your privilege. “But once you understand that these often invisible perks aren’t available to everyone, you can see why addressing privilege means recognizing that people of all genders deserve equal access to basic respect for our humanity.”

How Men Can Better Recognize and Interrupt Everyday Sexual Harassment 

A comic that visualizes examples of sexual harassment and how you, as a man, can help to change the script.

The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment

“Are you a man confused on how to treat the women you work with? … This life hack will have you treating women like people in no time.” Humorous, but it makes the point.

To The Men on the Other Side of #MeToo

Why it’s on you guys to fix this. In case I wasn’t clear.

Again, this is just a start. If anyone — men or women — come across any other resources you think should be shared, please let me know in the comments. Thank you.

For Women:

Working on this post, which has included reading numerous soul-draining articles and #metoo experiences, has triggered something fierce in me.

I have been feeling annoyed, angry, frustrated, drained, saddened, and apathetic, all at the same time.

I do want to mention that, at this point in my life, I thankfully do know more than just a handful of men who have shown me that they are capable of genuinely respecting women.

As I said earlier, the last partner I was with was the first true example that I could, indeed, be respected by a man in a romantic relationship. Thank goodness for him. I had learned to have very low standards before him. But. Never. Again.

There are other men who are currently in my life who make me feel safe, valued and accepted for who I am, and for that, I am deeply grateful. It’s still not enough, but they give me some hope in this tiresome battle that we endure.

On sharing our stories

At the end of the first day of writing this post, I listened to an episode on The Priestess Podcast with guest Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman

(As an aside, Layla wrote an amazing piece called “I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One)” that calls out a different type of continuance of oppression. You can find Part Two here.)

Although the podcast episode was geared towards female spiritual leaders, and I certainly do not consider myself a spiritual leader in any way (in fact, I am a spiritual learner in every way), it gave me some peace of mind for both writing and sharing this post.

As Layla said:

… you don’t have to wait for it to be perfect, or for you to have it perfectly figured out or understood, before you say something or do something.

I am not an “expert” feminist. I cannot speak for every other woman I know and don’t know. I’m not even sure if what I wrote here truly encapsulates everything I want to say on this topic (probably not).

But I felt the need to speak. And so, I am speaking.

That being said, if you don’t share your own story — even if you want to — that is entirely (and obviously) your choice, and yours alone.

As I commented recently on a friend’s Facebook post where she stated that maybe she wasn’t brave enough to share her own #metoo story:

“… not sharing doesn’t make you not brave. It just might mean that sharing could trigger something that you don’t want to experience (and shouldn’t have to experience). It could mean that you only want to share in private, to specific people. It could mean that you just don’t fucking feel like it. It’s an individual decision and nobody can fault you for the one you make for yourself.”

I have read from some women’s posts that women shouldn’t have to out ourselves, explain ourselves, or tell men how to fix this problem.

No, we shouldn’t have to.

But at the end of the day, sister, do whatever the hell your soul tells you to do. The people who love you will be there to support you and catch you, if you need it.

On self-care

Writing this piece, and reading about other women’s experiences, has triggered a lot of memories, negative emotions, and unresolved wounds. The need for self-care has been a given.

Some of the things I’ve done to reground myself have included:

  • Journaling about the nightmare I had. Putting it on paper helped me to get it out, and let it go.
  • Making sure I’ve been eating well.
  • Spending time with our farm dog, Olive. Animals are better than therapy sometimes.
  • Taking a few minutes during the busyness of the day to chat with someone who I knew would make me smile. 🙂
  • Going for a run.
  • Only returning to writing this post when I felt ready to again. There is nothing but 100% of my conviction and intention behind this piece.
  • Debriefing with my amazingly supportive coach, Ivy, about the impact that delving into this topic has had on my wellbeing.
  • While I’ve been writing this piece, I have physically been around a lot of male energy. I have been giving myself the space I need from that energy as much as possible. And without apology.

And after I publish this piece, I will be celebrating — yes, celebrating — with a burning ritual: I’ll be doing a bonfire at the farm where I burn a printed copy of this post, as a release to make room for healing. (Thanks, Ivy, for the suggestion. I love it!)

If you’re in need of some self-care, too, but don’t know where to start, here’s a couple of articles that you can check out for more ideas:

Ultimately, do what speaks to you, and what makes you feel comforted, grounded and safe. ❤

Thank you for reading. And if you want to share any of your own thoughts here, please feel free and safe to do so in the comments below.

Lots of love and healing,
Janice xo

Take a Moment

The call of work is always, well, calling.

Clanging its bell to remind you that the time is always ripe to make a few bucks.

After a couple of days of feeding farm animals, doing my online freelancing job, feeding farm animals again, going back to the online freelancing job, then going to bed exhausted but wired, only to have to wake up to do it all over again, I just couldn’t bring myself to experience life like this a third day in a row.

Even though I had told myself that I would grind it out — “just for now” — because, well, I really “should.”

The thing is that I know very well that it will always feel like making money is an imperative.

And that maybe if we just focus on that “for now”, it’ll give us the freedom later to live our lives the way we really want to.

But it never ends, my friends.

There will always be something more that you think you want or need. There will always be “bigger” and “better” waving their flashy arms at you from a distance, insisting that you don’t look too happy standing where you are.

Where they are though? Trust them, life is banging over there.

I experienced those feelings both when I was really struggling financially back in the day, and when I had a well-paying job and was living a fairly comfortable life.

It’s really not about how much you have or don’t have. It’s about that mindset we’re all conditioned to adopt that more is better, or that life is not complete without x, y, and z (variables which typically require — you guessed it — more money).

I don’t mind working hard at all. In fact, I wouldn’t not want to work.

But where I butt heads with the need to make money is when the other, ultimately more important things in my life begin to suffer.

Like singing.

Like doing my daily spiritual practice of journalling and reflection.

Like writing creatively for my website or book.

Like reading something inspiring.

Like taking care of my health by eating well.

Somehow, when I’m in the grind, I’m either too tired, too uninspired, or too distracted to think about those things, much less do any of them.

So, this morning, feeling tired and dazed, I decided to take care of myself.

I sang.

I took a long time to cook something nice and warm for this cold, rainy day.

I read some writings by Elisa Romeo, an author on the topic of spirituality (among other things) who I just stumbled upon.

And, well, I guess writing this post was me pausing, reflecting, and realigning myself.

What about you?

Do you need to take a pause, too?

Don’t worry, the work will always be there, waiting for you.

That moment you need to take, though? That will pass you by. Take it. 😉

~ Janice xo

Unveiled

I don’t indulge in many podcasts, but when I do get in the mood for some good talks, I love tuning in to The Motivational Millennial Podcast.

I find that I always leave with some newfound wisdom or encouragement to do better for myself, whether it’s related to work life or my personal development.

Well, today, I wanted to share my reflections on their finale episode for Season 1, which was all about the sometimes fear-inducing topic of vulnerability.

As Blake and Ivy mention, we typically regard vulnerability as an unfavourable state that should be avoided at all costs.

I even noticed that the thesaurus tends to paints vulnerability in a negative light, pairing it with words like unsafe, weak, threatened.

But then, one other synonym caught my eye: Unveiled.

For me, the idea of an “unveiling” conjures up the image of uncovering something special hidden underneath the shroud that has been masking it.

For example, an exquisite piece of art may be unveiled at the grand opening of an exhibit. The cloth that had been draped over the artwork was but a sheath to hide the beautiful masterpiece underneath.

In many ways, we live covered up under layers of our own mask — a mask stitched together with elements of fear, insecurity, shame, and guilt.

And the longer our magnificent artwork remains hidden, the more we forget what it looks like.

What were those brilliant shades of colour that brought our creation to life? What were the details in the drawing — the lines here, the curves there, the bold strokes, the faded etches — that made our picture whole?

The more layers we pile on top of our masterpiece, the heavier the shroud becomes and the more effort it takes to strip it away.

But there’s good news, if you take this analogy one step further. It also means that you — the authentic You — is completely separate from the mask you wear on top of it.

In other words, the mask — all of the negative self-perceptions you hold close to you — is actually not a part of who you truly are.

And like a physical mask, if you remove it from yourself, it doesn’t take anything away from you as person. If anything, the authentic You shines brighter. You have the freedom to finally be seen, unveiled.

You can listen to the podcast episode on Vulnerability to gain more insights into how making yourself vulnerable actually strengthens you.

In the meantime, have the courage to at least take a peek at what’s under the veil. Reconnect with the masterpiece that you are. Remind yourself of the colours and details that make you whole.

And if you’re feeling extra brave, fling that veil off altogether and celebrate the freedom of sharing your authentic self with the rest of the world!

Lots of love & self-love,
Janice xo

Super New Moon

Last night, I came across an article about today’s Super New Moon. You can hop over there to learn more about what a super new moon means physically, but what I wanted to focus on was what it means spiritually. The article says:

A New Moon signifies new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s the perfect time to turn a new leaf, set your intentions, acknowledge goals, and commit to your vision for the next 28 days.

Leading up to today’s Super New Moon, we may have been experiencing some turbulent emotions, given that this particular super new moon is happening within The Hyades star cluster.

According to the article, these stars give off a “stormy and bitter” energy that will affect the Super New Moon and, in turn, our emotional experience.

Admittedly, if anyone had been telling me about how the cosmos affect humans on such a personal and spiritual level a few years ago, I may have felt skeptical about it.

Since I’ve been at the farm, I have learned about the importance of the moon cycle and how it helps to inform us about when to plant, weed, harvest, and so on.

My farmer friend who I work with has observed the shifts in energy within plants when, say, the full moon is approaching. He also notices an energy spike within himself around the full moon. As for me, I probably notice more of an emotional shift during that time.

If the moon does have such power to affect the physical energy of other beings — including its effect on the earth’s tides — then, it’s not so far off to believe that it could affect our emotional energy as well.

We often separate the physical and emotional (or mental), perceiving them as two distinct spheres within ourselves. But the more you learn about the connection between mental health and physical health, the more you realize that they are very much intertwined.

Deep emotions might come up to surface in those of you who need to let go and cleanse old outdated belief systems.

This Super New Moon will also be encouraging us to review and assess the state of our mental activity and our thought processes.

I have definitely felt some seriously deep emotions this week, leading up the Super New Moon today.

I had a good cry when I was in the city earlier this week, while I was in the process of working through some long-standing core beliefs (or core wounds) that I know I must let go of.

I also found myself, for the first time, really contemplating another long-standing issue that I thought I was okay not confronting head on. But the more I delved into it, the more I realized that not doing so may actually be hurting my forward progress.

As for setting my intentions for the next month, I’ll be journalling more about that later today. But what I do know is that with six weeks left at the farm, I feel as though my recent return here from the city contains a new sense of energy with it.

What intentions and goals do you want to set for the upcoming 28 days? What do you need to work on letting go of so that you can start anew?

Old Soul

I wanted to take a quick break from writing my book to talk about being an Old Soul.

I recently started reading a bunch of articles on LonerWolf (a website created by two spiritual mentors), particularly the ones about Old Souls.

I’ve always believed that I am Old Soul — and have also been told that I’m one by others. I’ve always felt much older than I really am, and become easily emotionally drained taking in others’ emotions and suffering (I’ve also been told that I’m an empath, so that adds to the energy drain!).

I have carried a sense of weariness about the world that is beyond just deploring the hate and pain being experienced globally.

It’s a sense of not feeling like I even belong on this planet sometimes. This quote from LonerWolf’s article “10 Universal Problems Old Souls Experience” I think sums it up:

They long to find a place where they feel like they belong, a space filled with freedom and liberation.  This often results in the feeling that this world is not their true home.

Feeling like there’s nowhere in this world where you truly fit in can obviously result in some sadness. Everyone wants to feel belongingness in some way or another.

For a long time, I did find it depressing and kept “searching” for people or groups where I could feel a sense of acceptance.

But I think part of my spiritual journey is to focus on what’s going on inside me, to work on accepting myself as I am, so that no matter where I am in the world, I will always feel that I am just as I’m supposed to be.

Wanting to move towards the things that deeply fulfill and nurture my soul is a big reason why I am going down this new life path. It’s why I have moved away from a conventional path of “success” that really doesn’t mean anything to me.

The more I listen to what my intuition and heart tells me, the more I believe that I’m discovering the way my Old Soul self was meant to live her days while here on Earth.

Vlog: My First Time — Go For Rejection!

So, I’m on this mission to seek rejection. Yup, the big, scary, embarrassing, soul-crushing R word.

This intentional search for rejection started with reading an e-guide, Motivating Your Millennial Mind, written by my personal transformation coach (more on that another time!), Ivy La Clair.

The e-guide gives an Action Step to overcome our aversion to failure: Try to get three rejections during the week.

Sounds scary, huh? But actually, according to the guide, seeking out rejection “is often referred to as ‘rejection therapy,’ and it can help failure, setbacks, or rejection not feel so personal or crushing.”

I recorded this vlog post in 2013, right after I had sought after something I thought would end in rejection — approaching another musician to work together on my first songwriting collaboration.

The outcome was a fantastic experience working with Adam Boddy, as well as our song For Simone.

Looking back now, I can see why I was so nervous about putting myself out there. By me asking Adam if I could write a song with him, it was as though I was saying: “Hey, I’m a good enough singer and songwriter to create something awesome with you.”

Thing was, I didn’t fully believe that was true. (Even if, objectively, it was.)

Now that I’ve worked on several collaborations, I have more than enough “proof” that I’ve always had the capability to be a great collaborator — to communicate well with my partner, to be adaptable enough to work with their contributions to the project, and to bring my own skills as a singer-songwriter to the table.

I guess the hard thing can be when you want to try something you’ve never done before, or something that you don’t feel you’re “an expert” in. (There’s no such thing as experts, by the way).

In those cases, it’s easy to think: Who am I to ask, “Can I be part of this?”

Dive In Past the Fear

Oh man, this post got way longer than I had intended, but, hey, I hope this might be helpful to someone out there!

I’ve had many deep desires in my own life — things that I think about over and over again, burning away my mental energy because I don’t actually act on them. I’m just too afraid to.

Some examples are: Asking an acquaintance to meet me for a coffee because I’d like to get to know them better, but thinking, “Why would they want to spend their time with me?”

Or asking a friend if I can sing at their event, but thinking, “Do I need to be a bit more polished as a performer? Maybe it’s too presumptuous of me to just ask if I can sing there.”

When I’m faced with these kinds of situations, I try to remind myself of the following:

The reasons why we shy away from pursuing what we want — fear of what people might think, fear of rejection, fear of failure — are often not based in truth.

And if we take a few moments to dive in past the surface, and rationally work through those fearful perceptions, we usually find that it’s worth taking that step towards what we really want for ourselves.

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s work through each right now and I’ll show you what I mean.

Fear of What Others Might Think

With respect to my fear of what others might think should I pursue *that* thing — depending on who it is and their (perceived) reaction — I remind myself of the following:

a) “Don’t take it personal.” Not everyone is going to like your flavour of tea. For example, I don’t enjoy listening to certain voices of award-winning, world-famous singers. It doesn’t mean they don’t have talent and many fans that do appreciate their singing. It just means that it’s not my personal preference, and that’s okay. We’d be a boring bunch of humans if we all liked the exact same things.

b) “That’s exactly the kind of opinion I don’t care about.” If someone’s reaction to *that* thing I pursue is over-the-top critical, attacking or patronizing, then I think: Why would I want their approval anyways?

If what you’re trying to do isn’t hurting anyone and is meant to bring positivity to your life, such negative responses are likely coming from people who have their own issues to deal with. Let them deal with it, and move on to doing you.

c) “Nobody has to experience my life, and the outcome of my life decisions, but me.” We all have parents, friends and other people in our lives who genuinely care about our wellbeing. (We also have all those other societal pressures that come from the rest of the world). But sometimes, we may not all agree on what “being happy” or “being successful” means.

When others get worried on my behalf because I’m choosing a path that strays from their definitions of “happy” and “successful”, I remind myself that I — and I alone — have to go through the day-to-day experience, actions and thoughts that are the result of my life decisions. Only me. 24/7.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t take other people’s suggestions into consideration. But at the end of the day, trust what your gut is telling you is honest and right for you. (It gets easier with practice, I promise).

Fear of Rejection

With respect to the fear of rejection — the fear that I’ll receive a “no” response to what I ask for — I remind myself:

The outcome of just going for it will likely never be worse than the outcome of not doing anything.

If you are continuously thinking about this *thing* you want to do, because you feel it will bring something positive to your life, then not attempting it, yes, guarantees that you won’t have to experience rejection, but it also guarantees — with 100% certainty — that you will not get to experience what you want.

That’s a pretty damn awful outcome, right?

Not only that, but there are other negative things that come out of not taking action on my burning desires.

For one, I waste tons of mental energy and precious time in my day simply thinking about the things I want to pursue, but am too afraid to. Trust me, just ’cause you avoid doing it, doesn’t mean it’s disappeared from the background. There it will be, haunting your mind for days, maybe even years, until you finally just give it a try.

Second, I reinforce, in my brain, that when I get these feelings of worry and fear in the face of potential rejection, the response should be: avoid and run away. The more I avoid and run, the more my brain is taught that this is how it should always respond to alleviate the worries and fear.

I truly believe that we can teach our brain the opposite — every time you approach fear head on and pursue what you want to do, your brain learns that the *scary feelings* are only temporary and usually make way for great rewards!

So, try it. Ask for what you want. Take that first step towards doing what you’ve been longing to do. Now, if you do go for it, there’s a chance that everything goes your way (awesome!), and, yes, there is also a chance that it doesn’t.

But in the latter case, there is still a positive outcome, for you will have gained some kind of valuable learning from the experience. The key is to seek out that learning, always.

And don’t forget: “Where one door closes, another door opens.” — Some wise person

Fear of Failure

With respect to the fear of failure — worrying that if I pursue *that* thing, I may not be “successful” at it — I remind myself:

Yes, I may “fail” — or, in other words, I may not achieve the level of “success” that I hope to in pursuing my dream, goal, etc. This is a possibility.

And it is just as possible that I might do really well — exceptionally well. I might grow as a person from the experience. I may contribute something valuable to others. The experience may lead to other, amazing opportunities that would not have otherwise presented themselves.

Unless you have a crystal ball, there is no way to accurately predict which path you will go down. And remember that your path may involve a mix of ups and downs, feelings of both failure and success.

Give it your best effort, stay open to learning, and surround yourself with people who will continuously encourage and support you in your new endeavours. The naysayers can go find another party to crash. 😉

Wherever the journey takes you, continuously reflect on the learnings you are gaining from the experience. No matter what you’re going after, there is one learning that will always be reinforced: That in the face of fear and uncertainty, you were brave enough to push through. You are a courageous person.

There are no failures in life if you take a lesson out of it, and use it to do better going forward.

Are You Ready to GO FOR IT?

Enough of a pep talk for ya? I know I feel like taking on the world right about now!!!

By the way, those two examples I gave earlier about things I wanted to pursue, but felt uncertain in doing? I decided to go for both “rejections.” The outcome?

The person I had asked to go out for a coffee was excited to meet up, and we ended up having an awesome conversation at a cafe together.

I contacted my friend about performing at his event and he replied, “Let’s book a date.”

That was it!

So, what rejection are you gonna go for this week? 🙂