Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Mental health, Nature, The Fourth Trimester, Trail running

A Nature Based Meditation You Can Do While Walking With a Stroller! This Will Help with New Mom Anxiety.

I do something called nature coaching where I use the natural world to help clients shift their mindset, physiological and psychological state.  It’s fun and I never know what lesson nature will offer that day, so it is a practice I enter with curiosity and excitement. I’ve developed many of the techniques while out walking with my baby on each maternity leave, and I wanted to share one that has stuck with me. I find it very helpful when I experience the anxiety of the fourth trimester when my body is on high alert for everything(!)

This is a very calming and grounding mindful practice, and short nature-based meditation that you can do while walking that uses your senses instead of your breath.

This is perfect for the days when you are out with the baby in a stroller (and hopefully said baby is sleeping!)  I also find this an effective technique when breath-based meditation is not available to me (I suffer from chest pain when I take deep breaths, as a result of an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis which causes interesting flare ups in unexpected places haha.)

This practice has the same benefits as breathing-based meditations and walking-based meditations, but it includes a sensory component (since you are out in beautiful nature.)  The sensory component I actually adapted from some training that Navy SEALS do (!)

I explain in this youtube video!  Enjoy, and try it out on your next stroller walk!

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Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Nature, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Trail running

Advice for Trail Runners. The Diary of a New Trail Runner and Life Coach.

Trail running is amazing because it puts us into flow state, from which our greatest insights and ideas come. I love to coach in nature (I guess you could say I do “nature coaching” or “nature life coaching”) and for me, trail runs are like a ridiculous download from the deepest recesses of my mind.

Today I offer you a wonderful tool on how to leave your past in the past, and start moving towards your future mindfully.

Xo Carina

Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Happiness, Mental health, Nature, Spirituality

How to Release the Grip of Grief and Sadness and Elbow Falls After the Flood

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On the weekend my husband, kids and I took a family friend out to see Bragg Creek and Elbow Falls.  It was a brilliant day out, filled with nature exploring and the joy inherent in watching people experience Kananaskis country for the first time.

With tired toddlers and growling stomachs, we decided to make one last stop at Elbow Falls before driving back into Calgary.

It is a powerful place for my husband and I.

This is where my firefighter husband recovered his first body.  As family cried, a helicopter pulled a body bag out of the frothing water below.

This is where I fell completely in love with the mountains, at the age of 10.

I was newly arrived in Canada. Elbow Falls is the first ‘mountains’ experience I had.  It is where my soul realized its LOVE for the mountains. I was obsessed with this spot. Every year for my birthday, my parents would ask me what I wanted and all I wanted to do was ‘be’ at Elbow Falls.  I just wanted to return there.  The forest.  The mountains.

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I can’t help but think, that nature offers us some pretty powerful experiences in the most unexpected moments.  Very often, to be in nature is to access our most pure form of ourselves.  Let me share with you a deeply personal experience and a ‘pivot’ in my own mindset.

We all know on some level that in nature, we depart from the churning thoughts of our day to day life.  Somewhere in nature, where we are swept up in simply being with the rich life around us, and using our bodies and senses, we quiet that helpful but irritating thing called the mind.

You see, we aren’t just lollipops… we are not stick bodies with giant lollipop heads that rule everything.

To be human is NOT just having a brain.  As a human you also own an emotional landscape, a physical landscape *and* that thinking landscape.  We move in and out of each domain all the time, and have our preferred ‘homes.’  Here’s a great diagram that explains it.  This is a model I use often with clients.

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So hold that model in your mind.  I’ll attempt to combine a nature experience with life coaching and personal story.

In 2013 there was a large flood.  Our city was underwater and our waterways were ravaged, even up in the mountains.

The great flood of 2013 changed the Elbow Falls of my childhood, which involved a large forested area with picnic tables and paths.  The river was adjacent to these lovely picnic sites and the falls were quite spectacular.

I hadn’t been back to Elbow Falls since the flood and I was quite floored to see how much the landscape had changed.  The picnic tables, forested paths of my youth were entirely swept away.  In there place was a huge flood plain strewn with rocks.

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Even the shape of the falls had completely changed.

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It was absolutely wild.  The only things that were similar were the large slabs of rock adjacent to the falls.  Even those had been pounded into a softer shape by the flood.

The forest I walked through as a child doesn’t exist anymore.

On Sunday, the reality in front of me was entirely different from the mists of my childhood memories.

Symbolically, that flood had washed away not only a forest but a piece of my childhood

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I couldn’t help but think how this has meaning in my life, in so many ways.  I wanted to touch on the insight this day had on GRIEF.

I used to spend a lot of time at Elbow Falls with my mum.  My mum is no longer in the physical dimension. She passed away during that great flood.

As I walked along the river with my baby, toward an old rock with special meaning, this hit me, I could feel emotion rising up within me.  It was coming. Oh shit.

You see, I used to deny myself emotion. I used to lock that shit up, push it back down and continue on my merry way. I learnt to do it from the environment I grew up in, the people around me. It was compounded by experiences were negative judgements and disapproval were laid on me if I showed emotion.  Hell, even society doesn’t want a crier, does it? Plus, our old primordial brain gets a bit stressed out and upset when we cry. It goes into fear and survival mode.  It screams at us:

NO! NOPE!  Distract.  Find pleasure.  BUFFER AGAINST THIS BAD FEELING (alcohol, food, whatever you like to use.)  Avoid this situation again (!)

I could feel it chattering.  I kept walking.

There was a very large slab of rock, upriver from the falls with special meaning. I was approaching it with a tidal wave rising inside of me. My mum and I used to sit on that rock.  From the age of 10 to 29 that rock has hosted a lot of memories.

I approached, heart in my throat.

It is still there, but everything around it is different. I clambered up and sat on the rock holding my baby, and my eyes began to prickle and sting.  I decided I couldn’t do backward counting anymore.  I can’t fake things anymore. I can’t deny my own emotions. I was just going to let go and go with it.

I haven’t had a grief burst in a long time.  I call them grief bursts because the sadness comes in like a cloud. It covers the sun and you can smell the rain coming.

The tears begin to flow, like a brief rainstorm.  But then, the cloud passes and the sun shines again.

Through much work, I have understood how to embrace grief and let it pass by me in this manner, like a quick rain shower, and move back into peace just as quickly. This took some deep work with a psychologist but it was well worth it. I recommend it to anyone who is still struggling with the long, pervasive grip of grief, to anyone who wants to just loosen its grip and get glimpses of sun.  Eventually you will live in beautiful sunny days with only the occasional rainstorm, and even then you’ll look up, hold your hand out and casually say “ah just a few drops, it will pass by quickly.”

I’ve learnt that emotions are like the weather. Ever-shifting, especially in Calgary (!) All of them are necessary, and a part of being human – but they do not control us.  They don’t have to control how we think, act, show up and live our lives. They are not permanent.

However, so many of us choose to make them permanent.  See the word I used there? CHOOSE.  We have a CHOICE.

Over the last few years I’ve CHOSEN to embrace grief as a passing weather event.  Even when I didn’t fully believe it, I chose to practice this approach with the faith that eventually something woud shift.  It did.

In 2018 I don’t deny myself grief and ironically, by opening my arms to it with loving kindness, it doesn’t return as often, or stay as long.

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Sitting on the rock, I thought about how I don’t fight life anymore.

I don’t avoid the hard and chase the easy anymore.

Pleasure must coexist with pain.  The only place things will be perfect, is in heaven, and to be honest, I don’t want to go to heaven yet, I have too much stuff to do here 🙂

Man did I cry my eyes out on that rock. I felt the feels. I felt my mums hand holding mine.  I cried for everything that had been washed away in that flood. I cried with the realization I am in a different place and time now, and life is always shifting and whatever else came up in that grief burst.

I cried as I felt the physical loss of my mum (though she was very much present right there in my heart that day.) . The last time I had sat on that rock was  with her, in the Autumn of 2012. We sat on that rock and pondered life.  Though we didn’t talk about dying. we did circle the topic by talking about having a purpose in life.  how a time stamp provides crystal clarity and purpose.  That she knew and had realized its about love and human connection and that all of us, ALL of us just want to be loved and accepted and appreciated and the best thing we can do is BE that loving, accepting, non judgemental person.

Gah.

ALL of that flowed through me like a little video loop in my minds eye.

That was hard.  But with great challenge comes great reward. 

Like a thunderstorm, a burst of emotion releases the pressure in our internal atmosphere and we return to normality

There is always a quiet place, where we feel at peace after big emotions.  if we can stop judging ourselves and let ourselves be with our emotions, we will just as quickly move back into peace.  We also have to practice noticing that peaceful place after an emotion burst. We can’t just become aware.  We have to practice it.

Driving back from Elbow Falls that afternoon, (my baby sleeping in the back after all that fresh mountain air) I was at peace.  When I got out of my car at the house 45 minutes later, I was not only peaceful, but I was back.

The sun was shining again, I was happy again.

Coaching helps us embrace emotions, and give them the room to flow through us, and out of us. We can gain this understanding and then practice it, and reflect on moments like the above with someone.  We can learn to shut down our brain and all of that irritating chatter and assessments that happen when we’re just trying to experience being human.  The brain and ego is not kind, and you know what, when I am crying, the last thing I need is a lack of kindness. I need loving empathy.  From myself.  Not judging from my ego.  So, you gain the ability to ignore that part.  Then, eventually, it gets the point and lets you do your emotional thing.

it is our job as a human to just be, to be with those emotions, to let them happen.

You can sit and read this blog, gain this coaching tool, but I encourage you to practice it.  When the next moment of grief or sadness arises, choose to embrace it with loving kindness.  Let it run its course.  Take the time to close down your thoughts and judgments around it.  Tell your own brain, “not now ego, it’s not about you. I’m going to experience this with love and kindness and NO judgement, so STFU.”

I invite you to do something different.  See what emerges.  If you do something different from what you’ve done before, I can guarantee you’ll get different results.

Einstein said it perfectly:

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Letting things happen on Sunday naturally, and then embracing a different way to go about things, really landed all of this home.

I cried on a rock at Elbow Falls and permanently changed.  I can’t go back now.

I can’t ‘unsee’ my new awareness.

Today I can officially declare, Grief doesn’t have a hold on me anymore.

I know it is simply a moving cloud in the sky of life.

Just like the sun must shine, the rain must fall.

But nothing is permanent.

The landsape of the Elbow Falls of my childhood was not permanent.

My mums life was not permanent.

I am not permanent.

My sadness on that rock was not permanent.

My way of seeing the world is not permanent.

Go with the flow.  Embrace that impermanence of everything.

This is a key teaching of Buddhism. Of life coaches. Of universal laws.

I just like to take these things and apply them and practice them in real life and then share what it’s like.

Know that we are always changing and evolving to a higher version of ourselves and this is a key practice to add to your toolkit on your ever-unfolding journey. 

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

xo Carina

Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Hiking Heart Creek Trail with Toddlers – Toddler-Friendly Hikes in Calgary and Canmore.

Heart Creek Trail with 2 toddlers and a baby 🙂 

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Today my husband and I rolled out of the house with our two toddlers (4 and 3) and baby (1) to finally go do Heart Creek Trail.  We haven’t done any hikes yet this summer, but we’ve heard about this trail on lots of family outdoors groups.

We find that with hiking, we HAVE to commit, get up and go.  It really takes commitment – no changing minds.  It honestly takes a bit of dedication, because so many things can happen in the 2 hours between the kids up at 6:30 and getting rolling at 8:30. Meltdowns, complications, distractions or just the weakening of our own willpower to get in the car and drive for an hour and a half! 🙂

One thing that I am constantly fighting in order to get to the mountains, is the urge to leave the house in a somewhat not-disastrous-state. It’s quite a state after morning wild animal feedings 🙂

I work so hard not to feel it but my house IS messier than the average house and I full disclosure, I am still working to shake off  shame about it (which is hard to do when you do get judged and it reactivates your shame.) I constantly feel the need to clean it before we go.  Which is silly, because even if I do clean it, my ‘clean’ is still messy to other people, so what’s the point? lol.

I had been succumbing to the urge to clean earlier in the summer and finding that I was using my best energy and best time of day to clean and “organize” – basically, more often than not, it would wind up resulting in us not getting out!  So stupid when it’s not even a value of mine, I’m just doing it because of long-held shame and fear of judgement.

So, for the second half of summer, I’m pretty much leaving the house a disaster, saying fuck that and going to the mountains!  This is a belief that is no longer serving me.

We try to get everyone up, snacks packed, everyone changed, stuff thrown in a bag and coffees ready for us. Almost always, somewhere along the line we usually forget a coat, or a pair of extra pants, or someone’s water bottle, but if it means getting up and out, we can roll with that 🙂

Now, with out out of the way, onto the fun part – Heart Creek Trail, it is toddler approved (4,3,1)

Heart Creek is ideal for age 3+

Under 3’s will get tuckered so have a mode of carrying if they do!

I am pretty adventurous with my BoB Stroller and Double Chariot Stroller, however, I’ll say that Heart Creek is *not* doable with a stroller.

However, there are lots of natural features to keep the toddlers going!  You start off with a very slight toddler-friendly ascent up a hill (top left photo), over rooty, rocky trail for about 10 minutes before the trail opens to a nice meadow and view of Heart Mountain.  From there on in, you follow the creek, where there are fun bridges criss-crossing the creek, a toddler-friendly crossing where they step over slabs of rock, and trail mostly consisting of loose and compacted river rocks and pebbles.

Despite the bear in area signs, it was a busy trail on a Sunday in July, but not overly busy.

We turned around at the climbing area (75% of the way) as our parent spidey senses were tingling and we sensed the kids were getting tired. It wound up being a good judgment call.  Always turn around before meltdowns, and leave something more to look forward to the next time.  That’s kind of our approach to hiking now.

I think in our earlier parent days we were adamant about completing the whole hike or trail and we’d always wind up carrying someone back to the car or dealing with meltdowns.

We’ve learned to let that mindset go and simply go for the experiences on the trail, rather than where the trail leads to, or the “accomplishment” inherent in a hike.  It takes a bit of work to pull back and turn around before you are ready to, but it makes for a better experience for everyone!

 


Tips to keep your toddlers going on a hike:


-Snacks


-Point out cool features (lots of mushrooms on your right, on the first part of the hike – keep your eye out for the cute pink ones!)


-Don’t see at it as getting to a destination – look at it as a chance to explore and play in different features along the trail. We loved the little creek crossings on the rocks as well as the bridges.

-Make nature bracelets so they can pick things along the way! Still have to write a post about this, but essentially, make a bracelet out of duct tape, with the sticky side up.  As your kids hike, they can add little things to their bracelets like leaves, moss, twigs and the occasional wildflower. 

-Scale it.  Remember they are little people in little bodies.  We really had to work on getting out of our “goal of completing a hike because we drove an hour there” mindset and focus on the experiences along the way on the trail.  Ironically, this is a really nice analogy for life. 🙂

If you enjoy reading about trails on blogs, here are some blogs about Heart Creek Trail written by other wonderful bloggers!  These are always what inspire me to get out there!

Other blogs on Heart Creek Trail & Area

I love the Hiking with Barry blog, he’s a lovely guy and sold me my XC skis last year! Here’s his blog on Heart Creek Trail 

Tanya scrambled up Heart Mountain (sans kids you can make it a great scramble / summit hike!)

Here’s the standard All Trails Heart Creek Trail Map

With or without kids, if you complete Heart Creek and still want more, why not do Bow Valley Nuclear Bunker after lunch and explore the man made cave inside?  (take a flashlight, it’s pretty cool and starts from the same area as Heart Creek!) 

Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Grounding, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Physical Wellness

Reconnect with Nature on Maternity Leave x How to Practice Mindfulness in Nature.

Venturing back out into the worldwith your new baby(and reconnecting with nature)

A huge goal I had for myself on maternity leave was to get back outside and enjoy the natural world.  I drowned my Pinterest boards in beautiful images of happy women with their babies in carriers and backpacks.

I also curate my social media feeds, I only follow those whose lives I admire and aspire to.  To have images of nature based parenting scroll through my screen, is incredibly inspiring and I believe it acts on a subconscious level as well.  I joined Facebook groups as well, and there are many communities of brave mothers getting out there in nature with their kids, like Annika of Born to Be Adventurous, Family and Sally of Wholistic Health YYC, Tanya of Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies – there are so many.  The beauty of Instagram too is you can find circles of people who are living the lives with their children that you’d like to, as well and they will 10000% support you! No overly concerned ladies here commenting on how it’s hot for your baby and should you really be hiking? dipping her in that cold water? etc etc.  (Yes I’ve had many well-meaning strangers approach me on adventures out, especially on snow days.)

Why was nature time with the kids such a draw for me? Getting outside has always been a form of meditation.  When I am out in nature, I reconnect with natural rhythms and the simple enjoyment of fresh air.  I come back recharged and feeling alive.  Somewhere in the great outdoors, I grind out anxiety and racing thoughts under my trail shoes.

In order to have a great maternity leave, I knew I would need to reconnect with nature somehow.

In the first few months of my winter-born’s life, I was, among other things, intimidated to do simple things like take her to the mall for the first time in the stroller, put her in the carrier for the first time, go out for my first winter walk (I do live in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, we are talking snow piles and biting winds!)  I went from brave and courageous to avoiding going out because I was putting off unfolding my stroller and putting my baby in a snowsuit for the first time.  The struggle really is real!

I am very happy to admit I HAD NOT, AT ALL expected this strange sense of intimidation and newness. Every activity, from the mundane to the complicated, would take a concerted effort.

Was it a lack of confidence?  Not necessarily.

I knew that both my daughter and I were freshly born into the world as new people.  Her a new human, I a new Mum.  Just as her eyes grew wide trying to take everything in, my eyes grew wide at the thought of bringing a floppy, fragile little creature with me on my former adventures.

As we slowly began to venture out in the world, it made me laugh.  I was VERY intimidated using the Bob Stroller for the first time and had to watch youtube over, and over, and over to figure out how to unfold it and put it in my car… but it was all new to her, too. The first time a dandelion blew apart in the wind ? MIND BLOWN.  Bird song? CAN’T EVEN.

When I started noticing the profound appreciation in her face for every tiny moment or whisper of a sound, I knew I’d be shifting the scale of my outings.   I, too, began to profoundly appreciate tiny things.   Ladybirds in the grass, dragonflies buzzing by us.  The fresh smell of crisp autumn air.  A sunset setting the mountains on fire.  Tiny things.  Instead of focusing on the vista of the mountains, my focus narrowed to leaves on the ground, frost covered twigs on the tree and snowflakes falling on the stroller, outlining their crystalline shape.

Have you ever been walking through your city and you get stuck behind tourists gawking at the buildings, or scenery?  It’s sort of the same when you are with a little human. EVERYTHING. SO. AMAZING. MUST. PHOTO. CANNOT. HANDLE.

The key to a brilliant maternity leave is scaling your outdoor activities down, way down, we’re talking to the scale of a baby – or a toddler.  You’ve got your whole life to scale back up, but for now, scale small and watch how nature takes you in.

This the essence of a “micro adventure.”

Smaller scale, commitment, duration, scale.

This does not mean smaller rewards.

I have found profound happiness in our little adventures every day. The scaled down adventure leads to closer inspection and appreciation of the world in our path. Rather than planning a huge day out once in a while when the stars are aligned (the parents are prepared and the children are happy,) I get out in nature, reconnect and rebalance in very simple ways.

You’ve got your whole life to grow up and grow back outward into nature.  Why not join with your little one and get down to their scale, and grow with them.

Get out there in the fresh air, take in the world through the eyes of your baby and prepare to be awed. Nature has some treats for you, too.

 

xo