About Danette

I’m a coach who provides practical help for those who are chronically overwhelmed. I believe that by implementing body-calming, mind-settling, manic-managing strategies, experiences of being overwhelmed can be overcome and we can lead lives of more passion, vibrant health, robust relationships, clarity of choices and goals, all with much less panic. With a decade of experience as a high school teacher and guidance counsellor, and more recently in my training in body and breathwork as a yoga/ meditation teacher, I provide others with the valuable tools they need to manage their own mania!

transitions

 

Cool mornings that glide into much warmer afternoons are marking this slower-than-usual passage into spring this year.

The light is getting lighter.

 

 

Preparations for graduation ceremonies are signposts that a significant change is coming for senior students.

Relationships start and relationships end.

Health levels fluctuate from frail to robust and back again.

Doors open and close.

It is as it has always been.

 

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Changes will occur without approval or acceptance but there are ways to prepare and to increase resilience through times of inevitable transition.

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1. Ground

Stress is natural during transitions so you can choose to normalize it and don’t stress about being stressed!  Sit still and get comfortable with discomfort so that it doesn’t topple you over in the winds of stormy days.

2. Practice

Weave calming strategies into the day so they come more naturally in times of stress. Simply stopping and taking three slow breaths at any time can bring more clarity and calmness.  Notice your reactions to stressful situations and get curious about them.

3. Visualize

Consider what might you need as you move through times of change and visualize yourself having all that you will need once you get where you are going.  Think abundance over scarcity. Then notice where those resources are available to you right now.

4. Connect

Don’t go it alone! There are others who will support you or even just walk alongside you as you go through tough transitions. Keep your eyes open for those helpers, because they are always there.

 

 

Being ready for right now is the best way to be ready for tomorrow.

 

 

no detour

During this most recent unexpected, messy bout of wintery-April, freezing-rain, pellet-snow, ice-slush weather, I got into the habit of checking the weather and travel news on multiple online platforms on an almost-continuous basis.

Saying it was an intravenous injection level of constant information would not be an overstatement.

The premier message of the entire special weather event was a traffic watch tweet in response to a specific road closure in a rural area that ended with the dire warning “there is no detour”.

I was totally captivated by the complete and utter lack of hope in this statement.

I know, morbid much?

It was basically saying “you can’t get there from here!”

There is no way out!”.

You can’t go around, you can’t go through”.

You can’t control this or think your way out of this situation”.

There is nothing left to do but wait out the storm”.

The “no detour” sign was an imposed breathing space in the middle of chaos incarnate.

It was ultimately the gift of delay.

 

There is no detour here for you. No way out. No way to get where you want to go in the current conditions.

So just sit still.

Wait it out.

The storm will subside.

At some point.

Even though you may not now how or when.

How you use the delay is up to you.

 

 

at a loss

I often dream of loss.

I have dreams where I’ve lost something tangible, like my wallet, for instance.

Or I’ve lost my way and am trying to get back on the path.

Occasionally, I’ve lost my footing and have that unsettling falling feeling that jerks me awake as I try to protect my real self from the pretend fall.

Or most often, I dream that I have no quiet space or privacy and I am eagerly searching for a place, any place in the oddness of the dream world, to find solitude.

You don’t have to have a Jungian certificate in dream analysis to see what is going on in any of those dreams.

But what am I looking for in my waking life that compels my sleeping self to create these nightly searches for that which is lost and cannot be found?

Poet and philosopher, David Whyte, says that half of all human experience is mediated through loss and disappearance.

Whyte ponders the impact of loss:

“if you have a really fierce loss, the loss of someone who’s close to you, the loss of a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend, God forbid a child — then human beings have every right to say,

Listen, God. If this is how you play the game, I’m not playing the game. I’m not playing by your rules. I’m going to manufacture my own little game, and I’m not going to come out of it. I’m going to make my own little bubble. And I’m going to draw up the rules. And I’m not coming out to this frontier again. I don’t want to. I want to create insulation. I want to create distance.”

So with what do I create that distance in my life? With what do I fill my moments, my hours, and my days to enable me to avoid the conversation with myself about those painful disappearances, those deep vulnerabilities and the big and even little losses?

How challenging it is to turn off and turn away from the numbing distractions and look into those dark, vulnerable places where I genuinely live in a life where half of it involves some kind of loss.

  • Can I notice that what I hope for is not always what can be and not despair?
  • Can I despair and not close my eyes, my heart, my skin to the groaning discomfort?
  • Can I acknowledge the inevitably of my own demise and of those closest to me, without shutting down or numbing out?

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”

Here’s to finding the courage to look into the dark eyes of loss and bravely return its unwavering gaze.

 (Check out Krista Tippet’s conversation with David Whyte at On Being)

ride on

Even though it’s February, I had the incredible joy of cycling to work this week.

Along with the sheer lack of snow and ice along the path, the biggest motivator for me to get my bike out of the garage this morning, was this amazing morning light.

It was incredible.  It was as if I was looking through the shadowy tunnel of a dim, distant winter and seeing soft yellow-orange rays of sun peeking through.  For this reason, it’s (almost) okay that we are likely in for a large dump of snow in a few days.  I will take this one moment of gratitude for the light.

Brighter mornings, sunnier days and the sounds of birds chirping can certainly add some buoyancy to days that can so easily be filled with concern or struggle.

But are these very small, very welcome harbingers of spring enough to uplift when the dim tunnel also reveals much darker, less-welcomed events and situations?

• Serious illness of someone close to us
• Harmful choices we make to stay stuck in destructive patterns
• Negative choices others make near us
• Highway fatalities
• School shootings
• Courageous demonstrators against     injustice seemingly getting nowhere with   policy changes
• Online trolls baiting readers with     inflammatory over-generalizations and   irrational comments
• Others taking the bait and arguing with   said trolls, circular arguments going nowhere
• Wanting to respond but reacting instead

 

Where is the light that uplifts us when dark, heavy matters are constantly right in front of our faces, news-feeds and inboxes?

Do we bury our head in the sand, self-medicate to numb the overwhelm or raise our voices in protest?

 

Group Thoughts

In a mindfulness group session recently, thoughtful, engaged participants shared their ideas for staying resilient in turbulent times.  Here are some of those ideas:

1.         Consume media mindfully as opposed to compulsively

2.         Read thoughtful writers and not just sensationalist media sources

 
3.         Look for the “helpers” – Fred Rogers’ (aka Mr. Rogers) mother taught               him to see those who were doing good things during troubled times.

4.         Be a helper. Volunteer in your community. Be part of your community.

5.         Be grateful. Look for light in even dark situations.  It is always there!

6.         Sit with and breathe through the discomfort. The anger. The fear.

7.         Be kind and compassionate with yourself and others.

 

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Paulo Coehlo

 

We can’t control the turbulence of life, but we can allow ourselves to sit with the hard feelings in the dark, notice the light that is there, contribute where we can and then sometimes, just sometimes, we can get on our bikes and ride!

 

season of reflection

January 1st

In the dim light of the joys and the challenges of the past year, there seems to be very  little wisdom available now for how to move ahead in my usual bold-plan-that-hopefully-leads-to-confidence-about-what-I-am-doing kind of way.

Instead, in this soft-lit space set aside at this time each year for some new year reflection there is a great, massive silence that is as awkward as a blushing, pimply-faced adolescent whose voice is changing by the minute.

In the spirit of simplicity and letting it be, the silence is the front runner for the only clear path ahead. It’s like turning over a blank tarot card.  Or taking the road less travelled in the dark with earplugs in.

As challenging as it is for a verbal processor, like me, and a writer to say, the new year is looking like it might be a year of more silence.  Speaking less.  Hmmm…that’s going to be tough!  I talk.  A lot!  Speaking less would mean…

Listening more.  Reflecting.  Learning more. 

And just keeping my eyes on the path that is already in front of me.

The path is actually very clearly marked.  It’s right in front of me.  And those who go along side me are right there, too.  Grateful for that.  And them.

May your new year be one where the joys are strong and enduring and the challenges are short-lived and manageable!

And may you nourish yourself with a self-compassion that supports you during the inevitable challenges.

Peace to you all.

 

shame on me?

 

I gradually tightened my grip on the leash even as I shortened it, as is my habit when my grand-puppy, Oz and I, are about to encounter other canines or humans on our walks.

 

Oz’s toddler-like excitement means he just about jumps out of his skin when we meet new people during a walk so more support from me encourages him to “manage” his energy.

The human and canines encountered during the walk in question was a woman walking two large, clearly older dogs across the street.

The two aged dogs weren’t as energetic and jumpy as Oz but they were protective and territorial enough to let out a few low barks, gravelly and deep like the cough of a life-long smoker, when they finally noticed Oz’s tail-wagging anticipation of their mutual acknowledgment.

Oz was not at all deterred by their gruff greeting and tried everything to convince me to let him cross the street and so he could play with his new friends. His gregarious reaction to this situation was completely expected. I could not say as much for the woman across the street.

She yanked very hard on the two leashes and then bent down close to the two dogs with her forefinger extended angrily only inches from their snouts as she hissed “Stop barking! You should be ashamed of yourselves!”

Is there even one part of this exclamation that makes any sense?

  • Expect a dog to not bark?
  • Especially when encountering a new potential friend or foe?
  • And then to add a level of shame on top of that?
  • Expecting that a dog should feel shame about doing something it is born to do?

Is it any different when we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves?

Have you ever expressed the necessity of shame to yourself when you’ve done something you consider to be shameful?  Was it really shameful?  Or just human?

And how helpful was it?  Seriously?

Humans doing human things. Canines doing canine things. Brash things. Loving things. Unconscious things. Encouraging things. Cold-hearted things. Selfless things.  Courageous things.  Loving things.

Ram Dass says,

“We’re all just walking each other home”.

Keep walking each other home while noticing the tendency for shaming yourself when shame may not be warranted.  Walk on.  With a huge dose of self-love much needed now.

Peace!

not special

 

He was not special

For three days last spring, I was enrolled in a workshop of the Psychology of Yoga and Mindfulness with Michael Stone, a psychotherapist, Buddhist teacher and social activist. Despite having read his books and listening to his podcasts for years, this was the first time I had studied with him, in person.

I thought he was special.

When he learned that I was there for some professional development as a high school guidance counsellor on the cusp of launching a mindfulness program at my school, he elegantly wove helpful suggestions like “this would be great to use with students” into his lessons.

He made time during his breaks to meet with workshop participants. He made no outrageous claims to having all the answers and freely admitted his fears.
He had a great sense of humour.  He was as present with us as he could have been.

He invited us to not consider anything or anyone to be special.

As soon as we consider something to be special, we cling to it, try to capture it and recreate it in the future. But clinging only leads to sorrow.  Because everything passes. It all passes away.

Only a month or so after this workshop, Michael passed away.

He was not special. Only a set of conditions. Like us, he had his triumphs and his challenges, his fears and his acts of outrageous courage and he did the best he could with what he had. Through my clinging and deep mourning of the loss of my teacher, I was invited to learn once again to let go of what I think of as special.

Everything passes. It all passes away.

 

She is not special

Like me, she was one of the first to arrive on the Friday morning.  Arriving early is a trait I instantly admire in a person. Clearly eager to learn , we set up our mats and cushions at the front, close to the mat set out for the teacher and introduced ourselves to each other. We quickly partnered up for activities which is how we found ourselves sitting face to face for a powerful guided activity. As we sat cross-legged with our knees touching, we followed Michael’s direction to look closely, deeply at the other person while staying completely present in our bodies for what seemed like a very long time.

I thought she was special.

She is a set of conditions. Like you, she has her triumphs and her challenges, her fears and her acts of outrageous courage and is doing the best she can with what she has. Can you give her the gift of being completely present for her right now knowing that one day she will pass away? Not off in your head thinking about something else. But right here. Now. Coming back always to looking deeply into her face without judgment.

As the minutes on the clock ticked by so slowly, her face changed. It went from determination, to discomfort, to curiosity before it softened. I felt my face soften after moving through similar experiences. By staying right there, my breath began to soften in my body and my body felt at rest. I felt a gratitude for the present moment. For her. For him. For me.

Despite my gratitude for her in that moment, clinging to her and our shared experience is folly. The moment has passed. It no longer exists.

Everything passes. It all passes away.

 

I am not special

Nothing to see here. I am merely a set of conditions. And doing the best I can. Nothing to cling to. I too will pass.

 

You are not special

 

 

friend request sent

Some creepy Big-Brother-Bot from Facebook sent me a notice the other day letting me know that it was aware that I had recently un-friended someone.

Trying to ease my discomfort with its unwelcome vigilance of my online activity, it assured me that it wouldn’t tell the un-friended party.  Big-Brother-Bot even gave me some unhelpful tips on how to reconcile my cyber relationship.  Yup, I’ll get right on that!

Nowhere in the list of tips was how mend this friendship that began when I got a new phone and wasn’t aware of how the combination of my clumsy, tech-resistant thumbs and the heightened sensitivity of my new phone screen found me sending several friend requests completely unaware.

 A few minutes of innocent scrolling and suddenly, I’m a social media butterfly! 

This got me thinking about friendship and the basis for befriending and un-friending. Others and ourselves.

Recently, someone told me that she developed a month-long practice of vocalizing her self-talk. She finished the month by asking herself if she would be friends with anyone who spoke to her the way she spoke to herself. And the heart-opening impact from her discoveries made me consider the ongoing saga of my own self-talk once again.

Would I be friends with anyone who spoke to me that way I speak to myself?

So I decided to send a Friend Request to myself and see if I could invite in a deeper awareness of my own readiness to truly befriend myself.

My Body
I appreciate your strength and overall wellness that allows me to work hard, rest deeply and move freely each day. I love the power and mobility you have in even simple yoga poses. Although I falter almost daily with negative self-talk I do not always think you are overweight. Yes, you have curves, rolls and jiggles that come with age and your fondness for indulgence. But you can also take a set of stairs two at a time and are growing in upper body strength daily. You are source of wisdom and truth.

My Mind
I love how you are always keen to learn and how you process information slowly and thoughtfully. I am grateful for how you make connections in challenging situations and support me when solving problems. I admire that you continue to work hard even when I occasionally dull you with binge-watching Netflix and trolling social media sites. At some point you rebel with deep callings to pick up a book of fiction or poetry. I like how you find the oddest moments to create. You are a source of inspiration to me.

My Emotions
Where do I begin with you? All of you! You can go from thoughtful to reckless in the blink of an eye. You express yourself robustly and frequently but not always publicly. When you come in difficult forms, you remind me pause and reflect. You are the colour and the black and white and sepia tones of my days. You incite, soothe, exhaust and encourage me and others. You are a wall I run into to learn more about myself and I am grateful that the range of your expressions has grown and not diminished as I age.

Self-talk is the longest conversation I will ever have.  

So will be the time needed to consider what it will take to maintain a whole and lasting friendship with myself.

ten days of waking up with a dog

By saying “I am not a dog person” doesn’t mean that I don’t like dogs any more than saying “I am an introvert” means that I don’t like people. It’s all about what drains my batteries and what recharges them.

Historically, dogs and certain breeds of humans have depleted my energy so much more quickly than say, cats, being alone or reading a books in solitude.

Recently, I had a chance to reconsider my position on the detailed story of “me, my and mine” up close and personal-like when Oz, my less-than-year-old grandpuppy, came to stay for ten days while my son travelled.

 

What I learned in 10 days:

I still have preferences.
I like to sleep in, a bit, especially on my summer holidays. And I like to wake up naturally, not to whining about having to go pee. I also like my furniture and yoga mat to be free of fur and drool accents. I like to eat at least one meal a day that doesn’t include taking the pup out for a ‘stoop and scoop’ session in the middle of it. I like to do yoga without a doe-eyed dog with a ball in his mouth begging for me to play with him. I like to walk down the street and not have to have a conversation with every single person I pass, especially those with their own dogs in tow.

I am still possessive.
I heard myself repeating the phrase “No, that’s mine” every time Oz picked up something that wasn’t one of his chew toys. He had them and I wanted them back. My sofa pillows. My kleenex. My sleeves. My fingers. My blankets. My yoga props.  My chair.  My energy levels.  My moment of silence.  My solitude.

 

I still over-effort.
I felt a serious pull to do this puppy-sitting “right”. I found it challenging to leave the little puppers on his own to go off and do my own thing. Suddenly, I was a new mother again who was resistant to leaving my toddlers with a baby-sitter. The responsibility for the job was mine and I intended to take it seriously. The encouragement from others to see Oz as just a dog fell on deaf ears. All I could see what neglect, if I left him alone and whining for attention.

 

I am still a cat person.
Only minutes after Oz had gone home, I missed him terribly. The house had one less heartbeat in it. The cuteness factor was now non-existent! But I know that the energy required to have a dog full-time is beyond my ability to sustain in the long-term. I had a cat for 16 years once and my energy levels were much more compatible with her self-sufficient, introverted nature. Another preference.

 

I am still learning.
As a highly sensitive person who still clings strongly to what is “mine”, I was stretched during Oz’s visit. Stretched to let go of the concrete story about who I am and what is mine. Me, my and mine are only constructs of my own creation. I noticed very quickly when I reacted instead of responded. I noticed when I resented having to give energy rather than preserve it.

I noticed that the only issues that were raised about Oz were in my own mind. Problems of my own creation like having unreasonable expectations.  Oz became the wall I ran into to continue learning about my patterns and preferences.

 

Interestingly enough, I noticed how Oz seemed to be the polar opposite of me when he:

  • was always energized by any interaction, he always had energy for me!
  • gave affection and attention so easily
  • made 98% of the people we encountered on our daily walks, smile
  • would be affectionate with me only seconds after I reprimanded him for digging a hole in my backyard
  • would play tug of war with his toys but not with intent of claiming it as his own, but rather as a way to interact with me
  • didn’t complain once because I did things differently than the way it was usually done for him

I may not be a dog person but I am definitely now an Oz person!

practice as real life

 

On the mat.

 

On the cushion.

 

In the kitchen.

 

In relationships.

 

Everything is a path.

 

These paths are an education in how to be:

 

  • responsive instead of being reactive
  • open to what’s really happening
  • less fearful of how things might turn out
  • less clingy to how you wish things were
  • more skillful in communicating
  • more compassionate to self and others

 

Diligence in one area impacts the others like ripples on a pond.   From downward dog to doing the dishes, each path is a route that can lead to deep awakening with awareness and intention.

 

 

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