My Secrets to Saving the Planet (Again)

Can Knowing Your Electrical Panel Save the World?

I am probably naive, but I am going to try to save the planet (again). Yes, I already did save the planet a long time ago, but after that I got lazy and distracted. I was looking in the wrong place and something far worse than nuclear stock piling was building. Back then, I followed the inspiration of the wonderful Dr. Helen Caldicott, to lead us in the crusade for ending the arms race. But, we still have a problem with nuclear power and after the tsunami in Japan in 2011 caused a huge nuclear catastrophe, the Japanese just released a statement that they are going to start releasing radioactive water they have been collecting from 2011 into the ocean because they don’t know what else to do with it. Meanwhile, another nuclear power plant melt down happened recently. A Nuclear reactor melted down in Russia that the Russians tried to cover up but they can see it in the atmosphere. This, as Russia tows a portable off shore drilling rig out to the arctic. These are ghastly irresponsible people and Dr. Helen Caldicott is 83 now. But that’s not the big problem. It’s all related but that’s not the reason I have to save the world (again).

Now we look to Greta Thunberg to help us from a real life (not in the comics or cartoons) threat to the planet. This is the one. The problem. Us. Corporations, yes, but primarily, us. We keep buying what they are selling and, let’s face it, we are pretty pampered. People say to me, how are we going to survive without plastics!!! Anyone born before the date of 1970 probably spent ten years with maybe 10% of the plastics in our first years of life than we do now. Guess what? It was fine. In 1878 in Paris, Augustin Mouchot at the Universal Exposition demonstrated a refrigerator powered by a steam engine that had been solely powered by the sun. Mouchot won an award. We have always been able to do this, but at the time the “less costly” coal and later cheaper oil companies wouldn’t let it happen, and they still don’t want to give up. But, they will if you will. They understand consumer protests, but mostly they are good at noticing losing money.  So, I have developed my own secrets for being a resistance fighter and winning this war that already has taken unbelievable casualties.

SECRET 1 – The LPU Day

Try once a month designating a Low Power Usage Day. Get the family, spouse and roommates involved. If you live alone, no excuses.

8 RULES to LPU Day:
1) Share this on FB (or your fave social media) so it’s not just you trying this.
2) Except for Fridge, Stove and those Large appliances and your phone, unplug or switch power bars off, AND  don’t use electronics or any plug-ins unless truly essential (or see electric panel better alternative below).
3) Leave phone plugged in but leave it behind, don’t initiate its use. Talk to people face to face. Don’t use it for email or as your computer, and…
4) Don’t use your computer for one day. If working consider planning a paper reading and in person meeting day if possible.
5) Don’t watch TV… Yes, no screen time. Consider a book day.
6) Designate only two lights you are allowed to turn on and off all day and night, and turn them off after using. Make sure you get more natural light in your rooms by opening curtains and blinds all the way.
7) Don’t use your car or a car. Stay home, walk or ride a bike, car pool or bus. In that order of priority.
8) The day before you do this tell people so they know you are offline and can support you and be inspired by you.

What I learned when I did my first LPU day lead to…

SECRET 2 – KNOW YOUR ELECTRICAL PANEL

Can Knowing Your Electrical Panel Save the World?

I have known for years that cutting out extra power by unplugging electricals (yes, everything has a low level drain when plugged in), especially all those f**ing extra electric clocks no one asked for on their appliances, can reduce global energy consumption quickly by 10%.  That is a lot of energy for stuff we are not even using. My problem? A lot of my plugs are behind furniture, on the ground and I don’t even know how to get to them. Frankly, I hate unplugging, enter the electrical panel.

If you are living in an apartment and during your work week you are not in your apartment a lot, this is the SECRET for you. But even if you are not this is a big wake up. Most people’s electric box, or fuse box, is within a few paces of when they enter their suite. If you get to know it you can conveniently save power you are not using everyday. I figured out that I only need THREE of the 17 switches on when I am out of the house. The refrigerator (for obvious reasons) and the lights that I need to get to the electrical panel. On my panel they are at the top of the panel and I have marked them with Xs ( see photo). Out for the day, I snap all but those three switches off. Yes, my modem and WiFi go off and it never has had trouble rebooting. it is like a voluntary power outage.

Even if you do as I do, and work at home during the day, I still have errands when I go out for an hour or more when I can shut it off easily. And, I still do my LPU day. And, don’t all of us go on vacation? THIS, LIKE EVERYTHING, IS A MATTER OF DEVELOPING A NEW HABIT.

SECRET 3 – LOOK INTO WHERE YOU CAN ADD SOLAR POWER TO YOUR LIFE

I am putting solar panels on my second residence in Mexico so I am entirely off the grid there. I am already using solar water heaters and other solar out door lighting.  I am putting a proposal in front of my strata in Canada to put solar panels up on the roof of our apartment building. It is estimated that it can pay for 20% or more of the buildings common area power. And up to 100%  if they implement a hall lighting system that is motion activated. Why do we have our hall lights on day and night for virtually no one? Motion sensors that make lights go on as soon as it sees the elevator or apartment doors open, or any motion in the halls, work. Europeans have been doing this for decades. We do have the technology, we are just exceptionally unmotivated. Time to do these things. Try this government link or just Google it for your area. Write a letter to your strata, or look at improving your own residence. The costs of solar are going down in price like crazy.

SECRET 4 – GIVE TO CHARITIES, NGOs or POLITICAL PARTIES THAT ARE MAKING THE CLIMATE CRISIS A PRIORITY

It is no secret that corporation, whose interests are often short term and greedy, are often strongly influencing government politics and keeping us in a do nothing significant pattern. If you are not aware of who is taking money from whom and how it is destroying our planet in the name of greed, you first need to become aware. I refer to this article from The Walrus that tackles this problem in Canada (but refers to the US too) as the beginning of your awareness, and why you have to look at both individuals ethical records, as well as their parties. The Green Party is an obvious choice for this war, but I never stop there. I support charities and causes that I have researched for the best reputations. Here  are some of my non-political party choices for saving the planet and I have starred the ones I give to, because they are not in order of best and some are not so internationally friendly for donations to Canadians as well as US citizens:

1.  https://www.c2es.org  Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions
2.  https://citizensclimatelobby.org   US
3.    https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org   Fighting Trump govt and Corporations that threaten the planet legally
4.    https://www.edf.org  Environmental Defence Fund
5.   https://www.sierraclubfoundation.org
6.  https://www.ucsusa.org  Union of Concerned Scientists.
*7.  https://www.greenpeace.org/
*8.  https://earthjustice.org  Also fighting on legal grounds on all health issues
*9.  https://www.ippf.org/ Planned Parenthood International – Less people, less footprint
*10. avvaz.org. For making people aware of all kinds of devastation and fighting with petitions and legal organizing
*11. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/  Rainforest Alliance, saves the Amazon and other forests because our biggest hedge against Carbon is trees.

SECRET 5 – DON’T LET CLIMATE CRISIS DENIERS GET AWAY WITH IT

This is a personal one that I don’t expect most people to follow, but I did describe myself as a resistance fighter, and if that title appeals to you and you are inspired by my pluck, go for it.

I think it has gotten to the stage where we need to shame the climate crisis deniers. The ones who have been keeping us in the do nothing holding pattern while they see category 5 hurricanes and out of control wild fires and unheard of floods into Manhattan and other areas there have never been floods for several centuries or ever, ice caps melting,  etc, etc. Let them know they are a denier and 99% of scientists agree that we are in a serious climate crisis that we have caused and make worse every day. The deniers have only 1% psuedo scientists or sell-outs on their side and whosoever’s BS they are quoting is BS.  I often say, “Follow the money.” You will find that these people are backed by other corporations with interests to harm not help, and the corps are getting rich as well as the people these deniers have bought as “experts.”

There it is, my five secrets (for now) for saving the planet ( again).  I would love it if you would join my quiet army, quietly. It’s important for you, your children and your grand children and all the beautiful creatures of the world. And you get to call yourself a bad ass resistance fighter.

Important books from Authors I have worked with that inspire Companies and Organizations to do better by the planet! Please give as gifts:

Would Henry Miller Have a Blog?

I did one of those things we do less and less of in this day and age. I took a book off my book shelf to read. Okay, right there one wonders if in the not too distant future that will become an archaic sentence. Will we have books and bookshelves that insomniacs thumb through in search of something to fall asleep by, or stay up by, in my case the former, but there’s more. The book had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, decades, in fact. I kept meaning to get to it. Vaguely remember who gave it to me, even glanced inside to see if he had written his name. It’s a classic you see, Henry Miller’s The Tropic of Cancer. Not for the easily shocked or faint of heart, it has the reputation of being repeatedly on one of the most banned books list. Certainly, in 1934, it’s sexually explicit words were instantly censored. Yet, at that time it was published. Why? Because how Miller wrote, not what. His style is a poetic prose of his chaotic and yet amazing writer’s life in Paris.

One of his first gems is: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am.”  He goes on to say that, all that is literature “has fallen from me” and that he does not write a book, he writes a “prolonged insult” and several other vicious labels for what is about to come. In short, Miller is free. He doesn’t care, he revels in his words and spins magic with them. He goes to the dark side and to the sublime in a blink.

The question for me really isn’t would the great writers of history have blogs and eBooks, because I think many would, but would we find them and single them out as great writers? That I don’t know. I know that when I work with writers coaching them, I ask them to find writers that give them permission to be more daring. You don’t have to write like Miller, you just have to get your truth out, push your boundaries as much as possible. Use someone else’s courage to find your own. Find your freedom, wherever it lies.

Unfortunately, there is the age-old conflict of finding your artist within and yet living outside the confinements of “making money.”  We hope we can do both, but there is a risk, a downsizing, an adjustment of expectations. Not many of us, like Miller, can proclaim, from that, “I am the happiest man alive.”

Even now, I am telling my authors (see the VSW Blog on Dragon’s Den), how all writers are entrepreneurs. It’s true, but it’s also the balancing dilemma. There perhaps isn’t the reverence of the artist and the patronage, and the community, there was in Miller’s day. Who would be helping Henry Miller get out his eBook, or learn the technology, if he didn’t have it? Let alone put a roof over his head. I am almost certain, no one, or maybe a few small presses would publish him. He might be self published. He might find his community online or through MeetUps, but who would see his words in the crowds of techno words online? In the future, it is doubtful that anyone will be stumbling around in the half-light looking for an appealing title only to rediscover Miller because he has been sitting on your shelf for decades, instead, more likely, the future upgrades in technology may ensure our next Millers will be deleted or lost forever.

Strangely, Miller has now become “literature” and that may be making his ghost laugh. In our material world, in our search engine world, we are often stepping away from that. If you don’t know what you are looking for exactly online, in the age of eBooks, if it has not already gone viral, who finds it? That is the tragedy and the challenge of our future as writers. Perhaps it always was, in some ways, but it has become a self-help world, where time is the largest luxury. We have to create or recreate our communities and make them stronger despite our temptation and necessity to stare at screens.

Yet, whatever the future holds, the simplest triumph is still available. Always find a little freedom in your writing, or a lot, even if you can’t be the happiest man alive.

The Purpose Puzzle: What Is My Purpose?

There are a lot of people wandering around looking for their purpose in life which I call the Purpose Puzzle. If you are pondering the Purpose Puzzle then the first thing you may wonder is if you are in a position to pursue your purpose physically and psychically. We can look at Maslow’s hierachy of needs pyramid and see that the top is self actualization, fulfillment or your higher purpose. But first you have to make sure all the other physical and safety needs are met, and all those other needs piled on top of them.  But is this fair?maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

The thing that doesn’t work for us in Maslow is: 

1) It’s set up as a hierarchy as if you are moving through all these stages, climbing to self-actualization or fulfillment like it’s a destination on the life train express. However, sometimes these stages come and go in our lives, many things we are working on simultaneously and it truly can be two steps forward one step backwards and some periods are whole hog backslide. So my two cents worth is, you are probably ready for your purpose if you are thinking about it.

2) The other thing that trips up Maslowian progression is that many of us don’t know the difference between really having our basic needs threatened and worrying about having our basic needs threatened – this is where Buddhism, Sufism and other practices on consciousness can help where you work on your mental state and being free from suffering such things as worry.

3) What Maslow also doesn’t answer-but Jungian analysis that often lasted years was supposed to-was, that no one but ourselves can say what self-actualization or self-fulfillment actually is. And this is a little of what today’s blog is really about.

If you are a life coach or have been to a life coach, the question, “What do you want?” followed by, “What do you really want?” is standard operating procedure. And then the probing comes. It sometimes lasts for a long time. You think this, you think that. Almost always Maslow’s lower needs of how am I going to pay the rent while I do this or that comes up too.

Essentially, when it comes to finding your purpose, I have found that everyone falls into one or sometimes more than one of these three categories:

1) You know what you want to do to feel fulfilled, but are afraid.

2) You don’t know.

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

  1. You already know what you want…

Some people already know, or believe they know, what their purpose or passion is and have known for a long time. They know what they love to do, but it scares them silly. It scares them because they don’t know how they are going to make money at it (or that’s a popular excuse), or it scares them because they don’t know if they will be any “good” at it. That is a combination of a fear of failure and a fear of success, which are really both sides of the same coin.

If this describes you, we could be very harsh and just say, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake. There is never going to be a right moment or a safe time. You CANNOT figure it out on the sidelines.” However, to get beyond your anxieties we suggest you get some help, from professionals, from books, watch videos, enlist coaches & mentors, sign up for courses and then, and only then, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake.” After all that help, rest assured that there still will never be a right moment or a safe time. You will still never be able to figure it out on the sidelines. You don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to figure it all out because you can’t. Or as Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Also, consider this, you are lucky that you know what it is. So many are in the next two groups.3purpose

  1. You don’t know…

You are not sure what your purpose is, or haven’t chosen or created a purpose yet. Let’s assume you have thought about it, maybe searched, and even tried a few things but nothing was “it.” Maybe you have a few more ideas but are still not sure. Consider this, other than our loved ones as a purpose for meaning in our lives, we choose a purpose or create one. When you choose and then commit to that kind of purpose it has to mean something to you and it often has to serve a specific group. But for now, make a choice, a choice you can see yourself doing for 10 years+, even if you are not absolutely clear where you will be in that ten years. My observation of those that do really have “it” is that they simply chose AND they added a firm measure of commitment to it.  The message here is, if you are a wishy-washy person you are bound to suffer OR you should start accepting that you like variety and take up and drop purposes as you see fit. You may be one of those people who like to have multiple ones and you may even have one foot in the next camp…

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

I wish more people liked and valued this category and recognized that they belong here. On this planet and the way our culture is going we stress the self in self fulfillment. We think of ourselves as lesser or lesser expressed if we are not the spearheads, or the innovators, or the sole creators. As a writer, I certainly fall into this trap. Also, I am amazed at hearing people say, all the time, “I can’t change anything.” But they don’t offer help to others that can. I am thinking of all the wonderful volunteers who have helped me and all the volunteering I did to help others. I am thinking of how change has always happened in history with groups of people, not solos. So if you recognize you are not a leader, not a solo artist, not an entrepreneur then I ask, have you knuckled down to helping someone or some organization in their fine pursuit? You can do this and do your “day job” and you can help more than one organization. Help them the way they need help OR help them using your own strengths and talents. Again, the feeling of purpose comes with the level of commitment. And after ten years you may move on to something else. I never regretted much of the volunteering I did or helping others, but there was always a point to move on and I did that too.

Maybe this blog post has helped you in your own Purpose Puzzle, a little. Maybe it has just re-stated what you already understood. Or, maybe you are ready for something deeper and you need to be knocking on Buddha’s door.

The Unlikely Yoga Teacher

I am leading my yoga class in my version of “the tree” and as I balance, I look out at two dozen students at various stages of balance and imbalance. Is this a dream? Me, a yoga teacher? It doesn’t seem possible.

Three years ago I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I attempted yoga. I always hated going to a new yoga class. Why? Because inevitably the same thing would happen. At the first forward bend, the yoga teacher would come running over quite distressed at what she saw me doing, while the rest of the class – in sexy, spectacular forward bends – looked at me with pity.

You see, I have spectacularly short hamstrings. I cannot do a forward bend without bending my knees, a lot, really a lot. I discovered this in my first gym classes where I started a history of humiliations. Although quite normal for a lot of men to have short hamstrings, women usually have longer hamstrings, shorter legs and often no problem kissing their knees. Whereas I can’t even sit up straight on the floor with legs flat out in front of me without needing to lay back like a backwards jack-knife.

Yet, everything else about yoga I really enjoyed, so over the years I wandered in and out of classes and built a wall around my ego every time the forward bend, straight legs, upright back came up and the yoga teacher would come running over. If I had a few dollars every time a teacher would look at me and say, “you know, you can improve on that if you work at it.” To all those yoga teachers, I would like to say, “You were wrong.”Yoga Over 50 WE Kathrin

What happened three years ago was, I developed a “frozen shoulder.” I had never heard of this mysterious, painful condition before. My therapies were both expensive and not working, until I spotted a “Yoga for Over 50” class at my local rec centre. I had just turned 50, so technically, eligible. It was there that I started my new love affair with a gentler yoga.

First, nearly everyone in this class was, on average, 20 years my senior, so it didn’t matter what I physically did in that class, I looked great! Second, technically, there wasn’t any teacher to come running over. There was only Nan, a senior student in her 86th year with a brash Scottish brogue, who took over for the teacher “temporarily.” Lilo had left in her 90s unable to feel up to teaching twice a week. The class has been going for over three decades! I started to wonder if I had stumbled onto a fountain of youth class.

Age differences aside, I developed a great fondness for everyone in the class. Not only that, but the gentler yoga cured my frozen shoulder within a month. Yet there was a problem, the rec centre was saying they needed a teacher who was certified. So they found us one, Sandra Leigh. We gently schooled her on how we did things and she listened, compromised and she was great; we lucked out.

The trouble was, she was always in need of a substitute from time to time and particularly over summer. I found myself drawn to the idea of leading the class. The fact that I had short hamstrings no longer bothered me. The fact that I was quite dyslexic however, made me think twice. Could you get a more unlikely yoga teacher?IMG_0485

An opportunity to do a Chair Yoga certification came up for me, and with Sandra’s blessing and mentorship I did it. Of course, my husband, friends and family were as shocked as I when I started teaching yoga classes.

“Really?” They’d say when I told them what I was up to now. I still enjoy the look on their faces. Yet, here I am, the dyslexic yoga teacher who doesn’t really care if knees are straight or bent, whether you wear sweats or LuLu Lemon, or whether we are all doing the left side at the same time. Now you hear my joyous voice in the studio saying, “Now the other side!”

Who knows? Stay open and maybe you too can be an unlikely… whatever you want!

Kathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information or http://vswonline.org  to sign up for Writing Retreats in Mexico and other writing and publishing classes in Canada, United States and Online Classes in writing and publishing available worldwide.

 

An Argument for Thinking

rodin_thinkerRodin's Thinker

 

    “To Think or Not to Think”

Over the past decade or so, it has become fashionable to talk about “being in the present,” or “being in the now” and “not thinking.” Some of this is for meditation, some of it is for performance enhancement, some of it is for better awareness and some of it is for active listening. This all came to a peak with Eckhart Tolle‘s ground breaking book, The Power of Now, which was a guide for spiritual enlightenment but became the layman’s mantra for “being present.”

Much of this new revelation about being in the present (which has long been a Zen Buddhist ideal), is to stop the epidemic tide of “worrying” thanks partly to our world of information overload. Even I recommend meditation in my book, Putting Fear in Reverse Gear to help thwart worrying,  and included links to a site where you can hear my voice delivering guided audio meditations and visualizations (one I called The Power of Wow – sorry Eckhart) 

No one knows better the damage worrying has wrought on our frail systems. Worrying is anxiety. It is stress. It overtaxes our adrenalin reserves and puts us into fight or flight responses that were meant only for life threatening scenarios that lasted only minutes (not days and weeks). Some of you have trouble sleeping because of worry. Worry doesn’t work for us. It is a very bad, nasty habit that doesn’t even have the highs that other bad, nasty habits have.  So what’s up with that?

But through all this fascination with the idea that we should exorcise our worry by meditating, staying in the”here and now” and “not thinking,” I have a concern.

an_argument_for_thinking_Kathrin_Lake

A yoga instructor recently cooed to her students, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could reincarnate as animals and stop thinking?” To which my instant response was: “Hell, no!”

I don’t think people should stop thinking. Thinking, is one of the things that put us at the top of the food chain in the first place. Let me give you my take about the joys and treasury of thinking and why we should be thinking, and even at appropriate times, daydreaming, to better all of our lives.

Point 1:  Those of us who sit and think are happy

thinking_at_cafes

When asked to ruminate and reflect on the happiest moments of your life, you may go to specific events, and happy milestones, but, I confess, some of my happiest moments are when I just had time to sit and think.  Just look at all those people lined at street side cafes and you will notice that some are reading papers, some are on the inevitable electronic device and some are just sitting there, sipping a coffee quietly, perhaps people watching and thinking. I would have to say that person is me, when I am at my happiest.  It doesn’t matter where I am, Paris, New York, Mexico or Vancouver, this sitting and thinking is blissful.  And, I am not alone. We don’t have to be at a cafe, we can be walking on a beach, sitting on a porch or bench, or laying in bed staring at the ceiling. These moments are not only soothing and warm but they are also when some of our best ideas come to us … which leads me to argument two.

Point 2:  Thinking and great ideas go together.

napkin_ideaThis may seem obvious to say you have to think to get great ideas but many of us don’t have time to think. We have to get away, stop and allow ourselves to have a time and space to think and for our brain to meander as it were. Perhaps we are in a semi-dream state too as sometimes great ideas come when we are thinking before bed, or when we get up. But it is thinking. I knew of several great thinkers that liked to go on a drive and get away in order to think. This is more than a meditation. It is thinking in a relaxed state. The true inventor of the modern computer, John Vincent Atanasoff, was said to have been trying to work out the details that had confounded him to make it work when he decided to go on a drive. He ended up crossing a number of state lines and kept driving for over 12 hours, but by the end he had figured it all out.  This idea of a relaxed state and thinking is important and brings me to another argument.

Point 3: What if day dreaming (or positive visualizations), are in truth, a high form of thinking?

I was always accused by my mother of being a daydreamer. Especially in the mornings over breakfast. I would be lost in thought and she would ask me questions and I would always answer, “yes.” Then she would put another piece of toast on my plate and I would say, “why are you giving me more toast?” She would say, in an exasperated voice, that she had just asked me and I had said “yes.”  Well, that’s about as un-present and unaware as you can get. My mother called me a daydreamer and made it clear it was something to be ashamed of. Now, however, I see that day dreaming may be the best form of positive visualization and creative thought that you can get. Granted, you don’t want to be doing it while doing something that should take your focus. No heavy machinery, or brain surgery, or any of those small tasks in anyone’s jobs where you have to “pay attention.” However, it has also been proven that visualizations are critical to success. From entrepreneurs, artists, generals and sports legends have all projected their thoughts into the future to see a positive outcome. Wayne Gretzky said that he would see the puck going where he wanted it to go. Walt Disney visualized his famous theme park. Performers and speakers take time before they go on-stage to visualize a fabulous performance. And it works. I have done it, and many others. You can dream your success. So next time you shame a day dreamer, and I admit, I have done this myself, be careful. It begs the inquiry, what is poor dreaming and what is good dreaming? To me, poor dreaming is unthinking. It is not grounded in some plausible reality. One has only to see the auditions of some of the more humorous and heartbreaking American Idol contestants to know some people are not that grounded and are only dreaming without the thinking part, which is the prudent and judicious part. I applaud their courage, but to get the stupendous benefits of dreaming you have to balance your dreaming, or positive visualizations, with a thinking or critical mind, beyond mindless faith. Which brings me to my next argument.

Point 4:  Critical thinking is what we need on this planet to thrivecritical_thinking

Maybe it is easier to do as the yoga teacher wished and be an unthinking animal, only focused on survival, but to thrive personally, communally and globally we sure the heck need to be thinking. When we embrace not thinking, or mindless faith, we do not have a curious and open mind. When we do not explore and make connections for problem solving it can have horrible political results where there is much suffering. The antics of the Tea Party on the American political scene is a case in point. There are so many prejudices, pat beliefs and blind religious dogma being touted that they are willing to let their people suffer rather than listen to reason. Canadians watch this in horror. Beyond Tea Party members embracing unthinking, partisan beliefs (beliefs not arguments), we actually see Americans going against their noble Declarations and censoring people who are challenging thought and shedding light on real issues. People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher. Why have these people been censored? Why do my American friends tell me they have never been able to find any of Michael Moore’s films in U.S. theatres when they come out? Why did Bill Maher get kicked off public networks to finally go to the paid HBO channel? This is censorship. Argument and dialogue is something everyone says they want, but you will also want it to be grounded in logical and reasonable facts to ensure health. We need to have interaction and a “group think” to really get cooking. This group thinking should be based on informed, thinking arguments and dialogue. What is the opposite? Well, terrorism depends on unthinking  intimidation. To be afraid to speak “your mind” because it might be either unpopular or punished is very much like the environments in Nazi Germany or in China, or other places where freedom of speech is curbed and threatened.  Yes thinking is not easy; it may even be dangerous, but worth it. 

So here are some tenets on great thinking:

  1. Make sure you are thinking not worrying. You will be able to tell by how it feels. If it stresses you, it’s worry, if it soothes you, and gives you relief or solves some problems, then you are likely thinking. Avoid worry, embrace thinking.
  2. Find out how and where you can go to get away and just think. Give yourself time and space. Is it in the bathtub, on a walk, at a cafe or going on a full retreat? Keep returning to this; if you don’t have enough of this time to think, you are missing something special.
  3. When you have the time, place and space, give yourself lots of permission to day dream.
  4. Use positive visualizations to dream your way to success.
  5. Let your thoughts wander and meander.
  6. Interact with others and apply your critical thinking skills.
  7. Open your mind and say yes to someone else’s well thought out argument, or debate using some of your own. This is freedom of speech for all.
  8. Be proud to be a thinker.

Get into the glorious mud of thinking and make yourself happy. Your next great idea awaits, or perhaps your next best dialogue (or a good blog post), and who knows, you may even save the planet, just by thinking both freely and well.

My Husband Jim Gets Romantic on National TV

huffpostlive

PLAY TO GET TO HUFFPOSTLIVE RECORDED TV BROADCAST:

Mid-Life Marriage

NOTE: Turn off the volume on the live feed and then play the video or you will get both audios simultaneously.

A spin off of my blog post and wedding speech video, Why I got Married at 50, was that Huffington Post Live wanted to interview my husband, Jim, in a panel about Mid-Life Marriage.  I was poised to jump in but, alas, unwanted. They already had too many women on the panel. So they quickly phoned him in. He had an hour’s notice.  I think he is the most romantic one of the bunch and was all too flattering to me. Kudos and kisses, to Jim.

Why I Got Married at 50

If you want some fun, laughs and new thoughts on marriage you will love this. After this introduction you should watch this video of the speech I gave at my own wedding on September 8, 2012. It is a humourous and personal account, but I glossed over some important points in this speech in making the decision to get married (at 50), so if you want even more insight on Why I Got Married at 50, you can read below and see the other photos as well, but speech first; if nothing else it gives you a little sample of personal speech writing by moi. Let me know your own thoughts. Enjoy!

Why I Got Married at 50

So, I read about it, thought about it, and in my personal journals wrote about it. I’ll start with the reading. Articles of all kinds, too numerous to mention, were perused but one of my favourites was in the NY Times and about a couple whose families were living in India, though they settled in the USA, who had an arranged marriage. Looking at their North American counterparts struggling with marriages and relationships, they came to the conclusion that our expectations of marriage were very romantic and unreal. Having started with very little getting-to-know-each-other time themselves, they felt it kept their expectations realistic and had taught this couple that they just had to work things out, there was no magic formula, they were already committed to highs and lows, committed to finding some differences, but they felt that they, and their family, had already chosen a partner with basic common grounds: religion, proximity of families, education, similar upbringing. It is enough. All that was required was willingness and committment.  The article struck a chord with me as I too was feeling like the expectations of people for relationships were often out of whack and just as likely, if not more likely to throw the relationship off as any character flaws each individual had. So that was where I had evolved to regarding monogamy and long-term relationships, but why marriage?

I once read an astrological chart that said my sign was never quite comfortable until in a marriage. I remember having an immediate gut response to this that I would never admit to my cool feminist friends. The response was yes, this was true of me. Underneath I like traditions, I like structure, I believe in spelling things out. I believe in community recognition. So, again I went looking for more in-depth reading and found it in Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Committed.

You could not get a more reluctant bride than Gilbert who was forced to wed, or her life partner, Felipe, would never be allowed into her country (U.S.). I

 
Yes the cake went down the aisle too… the top anyway.

could also not ask for a person more articulate, intelligent and relatable for me than Gilbert. Though I had never had a “failed” marriage before, unlike herself and Felipe, who both suffered from traumatic divorces, I did listen to Gilbert’s struggle in interviews, articles and finally her book and it was a fascinating journey. It also gave me the new take on the often quoted over 50% divorce rate statistic. The real evidence is that those that get married at 45 or older have an extremely low rate of divorce. Logical. But there were many other things in Gilbert’s book that made me think a great deal. I usually think by writing in my journal. Figuring things out on paper has always worked for me. That’s when I really made the decision that I did in fact want to be married, and I now knew who I wanted to be married to. That took a long time to happen as you heard in my speech about unconditional and conditional love.

After trying to get on the same expectations page with my intended groom, I really appreciated more and more the person who was so willing to go through that process with me, my now husband, Jim (aside–my first book, From Survival to Thrival, was dedicated to Jim as my dancing partner and my life partner).  Now we only had to decide together, after much talk, how we wanted to be married, and find our own way with our own reasons.  In my next blog post I may reveal, if they let me, either Jim’s speech, and no it is not traditional for the Bride or Groom to give speeches to one another, or my best friend and maid of honor, Elektra’s speech.  This wedding put a twist on old traditions all over the place, and we can truly say we did this wedding our way, with our communities.

SHOULD PEOPLE STILL GET MARRIED?

What do you think? How do we thrive in love? I’d love to hear your feedback, so…

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!

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Kathrin is looking forward to her retreat in Mexico in February (every February 15),  where she will be guiding others in their writing. Please contact her for more information about the retreat and other programs through the Vancouver School of Writing.

Granny Yoga Heals Frozen Shoulder…

A year and a half ago I was afflicted with the mysterious condition known as frozen shoulder.  It does exactly what it sounds like. It freezes a shoulder to the degree you can’t raise your arm over your head. It is painful.  This condition is commonly (but not always), found in women who are entering menopause, however replacing their hormonal loss doesn’t seem to help. Once it’s got you, it’s got you.

My doctor sadly shakes her head and says to me, “I know this is hard to take, but its going to take two years to recover.”

What! I don’t believe her. I go online and see some places where it takes three years. I also meet someone who had it for three years. Some others were quicker, a few had it in one shoulder and then once they finished that shoulder it went to the other, another common occurrence. The whole time I am thinking, wait a second here, I am no wimp, I dance swing and tango every week. This isn’t going to be me.

Then I start the process. The process that becomes familiar to every person who gets this. You start the therapies, one by one, with hope, and optimism, slowly melting to absolute pessimism. I go through physiotherapists, acupunturists, massage therapists, Bowen Therapy experts, naturopathics, craniosacral people, ostepathy, infra red therapy, on and on. I thank the lord that Jim has a great benefits plan, but nothing is working and I have spent $1000 dollars of my own money beyond the benefits plan. And these therapies cost me more than money, they take a great deal of time. Time I don’t want to give up.

I interject all these therapies with both prescribed exercises at home and with my own exercises. Some days I think it’s working and other days nada. I am thankful it is my left shoulder and not my right, being right-handed. I know I am completely at risk with my profession as a writer by being on the confounding computer so much. I have to slow down and take long rests from the computer. I get some help from volunteers I can delegate to, and I waste more time and money trying both voice-to-text software and handwriting recognition software. Nothing suffices. I have to slow down and listen to the body. It wants a break. It wants gentle unrepetitive, un computer-like movement.

Some people start to say swimming works, others say yoga. Of course, the health plan doesn’t cover these (which I have always thought of as very short-sighted towards health). Though I love swimming, I can no longer stand getting into cold pools, especially in a cold climate (they say they are heated but it’s never enough). The only swimming I ever do now is in Mexico.  Having done yoga on and off for years I know that there is a variety to choose from but with the shoulder, my downward facing dog is going to look like a downward falling three-legged dog.

I try a course given by Kyra, a woman who teaches what she calls Yoga Therapy. The participants in this class have their own afflictions which make my frozen shoulder look like Tai Chi in the park.  Comparatively speaking, I can consider myself lucky.  There are many people struggling through many kinds of physical challenges and recoveries and my heart goes out to them. I am tickled with Yoga Therapy but after the four sessions I get in on, Kyra is going away for several months. Now what?

With little progress, less money, and less energy, I feel like a shut in and get into a mental funk that yo-yos until I spot an ad in the Spring Guide for our local rec centre. Yoga Over 50. It promises gentle yoga two days a week in the a.m. and the drop-in cost is $1… wait, am I seeing that right. One dollar!  As it turns out, it is $1 for over 60 and $2.50 for over 50. Didn’t I just turn 50?  Well then I guess I can just squeak in. I try it.

Thus starts my dedication to a very unexpected and amazing group that I have come to call Granny Yoga.  I call it this because the women (although a few men come and go), are twenty years my senior.  The one who leads the exercises is Nan. She is 86. We can’t properly call her a leader since she is not trained in Yoga, she just took over for Lilo, the original teacher, who is now well into her 90’s and no longer able to come to class, though a number of the grannies still visit her at home. I get the idea it is her mind more than her body that took Lilo out of the picture. However, you perhaps get what I’m thinking here. Is this a fountain of youth class or what. Well, perhaps, though true Yoga aficionados have been saying this for years haven’t they.

Nan, who has a wonderfully loud Scottish brogue, is also a little deaf and that’s why she talks loudly and everyone can hear her directions clearly. And I’m thinking how wonderful a world is it when you can take Yoga instructions in a Scottish accent from a feisty octogenarian.

The Yoga is perfectly gentle for my injured shoulder. Enough to stretch it but not too much, meanwhile the rest of the body is really enjoying getting its fair share of movement, and I realize that I used to do this a lot, and got out of it somehow. My favourite exercises are for the areas we forget, like the eyes (I later find out Paul McCartney is all over Yoga eye exercises See here). Your whole body needs movement and benefits from a regime. After all, all of it is going to have to get you through this life. All around the room I have a testament to this. But these grannies dish up Yoga class their style. There is a walk and sing segment and they stop in the middle for “comments” better known as yack.

During the comment time, we hear from Rebel Granny who is making us aware of the evils of the new proposal to let more oil tankers into our harbour that destroy the Indian Arm and the bay area (see petition here).  There is Canucks Granny who reminds us to cheer on our boys on the ice trying fo the Stanley Cup (sorry boys). There is the Singing Grannies who lead us in a chorus of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There is Nature Granny who tells us about the birds and flowers to watch for, “Doesn’t our parks board do a great job!”

There is also Eastern European Granny who talks about her grandkids and all the Easter eggs they painted, over 100. And of course there was the Easter egg hunt itself. “They found one from last year,” she tells us.  She is always the one to know the holidays and bring in treats. To instill on me the importance of coming regularly to Yoga she tells me, “If I miss one day, I am stiff.”

Then a familiar male face comes in, a man I know. It is Micheal who I met years ago at Toastmasters and we had bonded as fellow writers.  Michael had written a fabulous memoir of his time in India he spent working with Mother Theresa.

“Did you practice Yoga in India?” I ask him.

“Heavens, no,” he says, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if that was because they were too good or it was too authentic, but I do know that Michael likes to come to yoga to socialize with the gals.

I am starting to become self-conscious in this class. They start to call me the purple lady because I continually come in my favourite purple exercise suit, but that’s not why.  I know they are all wondering why “the kid” (I’m only 50), is coming to this class during the day.  So I take a chance and on the next comment time and decide to pipe up. I try to explain that I am in menopause and experiencing the phenomenon of a frozen shoulder and ask if any of them have had it. I get interrupted early with, “Speak up dear, we can’t hear you.”

“What’s she saying?”

“She says she’s going through menopause!” Nan’s buddy yells loudly into her ear and across the room and down the hall. “She says she has a frozen shoulder!”

“Oooh.”

During this comment session none of them seem familiar with my condition, but afterward a few of them, including Nan, comes up to me with stories of others and what they did.

Four weeks after I have told them why I am there, my arm starts to unlock by itself, so after a year and a half I can raise my arm over my head. You can’t imagine how nice that feels.  It’s not perfectly okay yet, but it is really a relief to see great progress

I start to believe that I owe a lot of it to Granny Yoga, and perhaps some diet shifts I made as well, but mostly Yoga. I am now a Yoga believer in a way I never have been before. Yoga will keep me young.  I decide to drop into another yoga class on the weekend where I can actually practice a downward facing dog. So I do and it’s nice and certainly more challenging, but they don’t give me eye exercises. And, even if they did, there ain’t no way I am giving up my Granny Yoga classes.

For more writing and teaching by Kathrin Lake go to kathrinlake.com or Vancouver School of Writing.com

Try this Video for further Yoga inspiration.  Thanks to Matt:

YOGA HELPS 47  YEAR OLD MAN WALK UNASSISTED AGAIN – CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO LINK

 

FINALLY, FINALLY I have the VIDEO of Lilo Pederman – the original instructor –  showing her Yoga routine!

(Sorry for the poor quality)

avideoofliloperderman

Dining in the Dark

How was your Halloween? Scary, frightening or fun? Most of us are going to say fun, including myself, but it was also an adventure because I dined in the dark. No, that doesn’t mean that there was a power outage, or a forgotten electric bill, this was a very constructed experience lead by a good friend of mine, Kerry Ward, who is an adventure trainer.  This was not a “eating Big Macs with the lights out” kind of experience, but a posh, gourmet dining experience that was preceded by other “adventures.”

I love learning in two ways. The obvious one for me is by being told a story. The next way I like to learn is by doing it myself. Then it becomes my story. This is experiential learning, and whenever I can, I try to use this to teach others.  It might even be fun. But, sometimes you do things to expand your horizons and perceptions and get yourself out of your humdrumness. This is essential for writers and artists so they can tap that creative side that likes playfulness, where all rules go out the window.

The first part of our Halloween evening was a masked storytelling.  We were instructed to wear masks and dress in black. I preferred to remain anonymous and give myself a mask name, but most people gave their real name and told a personal story of something that frightened them and could be described as an adventure.

In the past, I have hosted ghost story sessions on Halloween, where we told our scary stories with nothing but Jack O’ lanterns lighting the room.  The stories were so spooky that they sometimes really freaked people out, but this night’s  storytelling was with the lights on and more about our experiences with adrenaline rushes, from near-drownings to being held up at gunpoint, from wild animals to black ice car slides. The scares of our lives. We were then asked to think about our future adventure.

So, that was all very nice and safe.  Myself and my 30 masked companions were now ready to sit down and have a gourmet meal brought to us, even if it was in the dark. That’s what we expected.  But like our real-life stories that is not exactly what we had signed up for. The plot thickens.

We were sent out on a bogus scavenger hunt to a hotel two blocks away. The package we received at the concierge was a bag of blindfolds. Oh! I thought to myself, I guess our dining is going to happen at this hotel. Wrong-o. We were taken back outside and blindfolded and put in a conga-line formation, with only our leader at the head of the line being fully sighted.

The adventure began as the blind lead the blind through our downtown waterfront spaces, across crosswalks, into car parks, up stairs and through lobbies.

“Slow down!” “Stairs!”Door” “Incline, going down.”

This was an exercise in communication, trust, teamwork and using your other senses that we would need later for the main event. But for now, we shuffled along, and by the honks we received from traffic, our human chain-gang of blindfolded diners made quite an unusual sight. But, hey, it’s Halloween. (Never mind that Kerry does this all year round). In any case, we arrived at our destination completely disoriented. Still blindfolded and now in a blacker darkness than outside. We were lead to our chairs to sit down at round banquet tables. Long before we got there, the smell of food was all around us and we had now built an appetite.

Unlike my expectations, where I thought that each course would be delivered as it was ready, as in traditional dining, here we were told that a three course meal with all utensils and accoutrements had already been laid out in front of us. We were allowed to eat it anyway we wanted to.

Once again, communication and teamwork was essential.

“Found a scallop at ten o’clock!”

“Beware the shot glass on the left.”

“Hurray, we’ve got ribs!” “Yippee, we’ve got chicken to the left!” “Oh joy, we’ve found chocolate on the right!” “Oh, oh, we’ve got liver.”

“I’ve got the butter, who’s found the bread?”

“I’ve got the bread and I’ll pass it clockwise, and you can follow it clockwise with the butter.”

Then there was the guess work, as in “what was that creamy stuff, next to the crunchy stuff?” It was both a collective detective experience and a primitive fumbling, yet sensual exploration. Some people admitted that they went to fingers pretty early, but I tried to stick to the knife and fork as much as I could, but the way I ate would have made my mother turn over in her grave. Thank God no one could see us in the dark.

For once the talk was completely about our experience in the moment, no polite dinner conversations. But, there was plenty of laughter and funny comments. It was to the point that I didn’t want to take the blindfold off when asked to at the end of the meal and they gradually brought the lights up.

Now this is where the dead chicken meets the road. What were we actually eating?  The chef and sous chef came out to show us the absolutely elegantly plated dishes that we had demolished like a bunch of vikings. The visual was totally lost on us, obviously, but did we guess our flavours right…

At first, I knew it was a taste I hated, and I had to go way back in my memory banks for the last time I ate it, because I have been studiously avoiding it for decades. Liver. Other than that, I actually knew surprisingly little for sure. I had no idea I had downed a quail egg with my fingers, for example, and that thing we thought was chicken… sweetbreads.  What are sweetbreads? Someone told me it was calf gonads! OMG! But I Googled it later and it is the thymus gland or pancreas of a young calf or lamb. As my vegan friends retch, I am only glad it wasn’t what my dining companion originally suggested. But there were also wonderful things like muscles in gaspacho, olive brioche, a yummy ravioli, bacon and scallops, chocolate mousse, orange ganache, as well as standards like lovely mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls with butter (served clockwise).

I think the chef really enjoyed challenging us and seeing our reactions at his reveal. Partly sadistic perhaps, but more out of curiosity I think. He really thought about textures as well as taste for us. Personally, I was amazed at how my sense of taste was not what I thought it was. We marvelled at how pretty the meal was that we had destroyed so unconsciously. We applauded him and his sous chef for the wonderful job.

So we sat with our dining table and dissected the adventure of the meal all over again, and all our crazy manoeuvers. Like when I took a scallop from a woman who was not able to eat shellfish (she had been pre-warned), and then later I thought how weird it was to negotiate that in the dark having never even seen her face, and having a scallop passed to me by hand. Rules out the window. And that was the true adventure of the evening, not how we interact with food, but how we interact with people. Isn’t that most of our adventure in life, in fact?

I love my ghost stories, but I would not have missed this scary Halloween adventure for all the scallops in the world. If you get a chance, try it!

Introduction to the Labyrinth

Every time I introduce someone to the labyrinth I have both anticipation and anxiety. I have been walking a labyrinth for meditation for over 10 years. The labyrinth I walk is in the Anglican Church around the corner from me.

The first person I introduced to it was my sister, 10 years ago, and she still attends. She introduced her friend Aryana.  Aryana was so taken with the process of a walking meditation through the labyrinth that she started to visit labyrinths all over our province, and all over the world. My sister and Aryana recently returned from Chartres, France which has a famous 12th century labyrinth in the cathedral there. Our labyrinth in Vancouver was patterned after the very same one. Aryana loved the labyrinth experience so much that she wrote a unique guidebook of labyrinths all over the West Coast which she sells in bookstores and at the labyrinths themselves.

I introduced a group of writers to the labyrinth as part of a course I was running about connecting to your Muse. One writer was so enamored she started a project of leading the blind through the labyrinth. Another writer made a self-discovery that she had a hard time stepping outside the lines that society had drawn for her. She discovered this because she did not know what to do when someone was coming towards her in the labyrinth (there is not enough room for two to pass within the lines). We asked her why she did not just step aside? As there are no walls, just lines. This observation helped her realize that she was overly concerned what others thought, and this kept her creativity in a box.

The labyrinth has a knack of reflecting back to you who you are and what you believe. When I took my joyful friend who loves children, and has a childlike innocence of her own, she was less comfortable with the adult quietness and reverent solitude of it. But, it was during this visit that something happened that had never happened before or since. A few minutes after she entered the labyrinth, a whole group of young children came in the door. Normally, the labyrinth is reserved for adults. I had never seen any young children there before. To me, it was the energy of my friend who brought them. Or that’s what I prefer to think. She had fun with their playful energy, even if others found it disquieting. I was completely amused.

Today, I introduced another good friend to the labyrinth. I started walking it myself with one eye on my friend. I always hope people will gain something and have a positive experience, but my anxiety is they will not. My anticipation is that they will and I will witness or learn something new through them. It took me a few moments to drop the anxiety, to drop the anticipation, and focus on my own journey through the labyrinth.

My own journey often starts in a place of gratitude. Thank you’s to the universe for all that I have. Then, I usually end up asking for either guidance or healing. Far too often, as I grow older, I am asking for some physical healing of my complaints that come with an aging body. However, I remember in my first years of walking the labyrinth asking for psychic healing often. Today, I wondered if my younger friend was asking for psychic healing while I was asking for physical healing. And I started to reflect on our need as humans, for healing. When did we start asking for healing? When do we stop? Was there ever a time when we were whole? Is the process of life a process where we are continually incurring psychic, physical or spiritual wounds that require healing? Can you remember a time in which you had never experienced a hurt feeling? Or, lately, when my body is not experiencing some hurt? Do we not start out crying shortly after we enter this world? It seems we start to accumulate wounds as soon as we start the path. All of us have a need at some moment to pause and ask for healing in order to restore ourselves.

An interesting note, approximately at the age of six to 12 weeks old all babies inherently start laughing. Some research says that they do not need to see others laugh to learn how to laugh. It is as if we were put on this world to experience both joy and pain. But we often put our focus on the pain and ask for healing. This is not our fault. Pain is hard to ignore. We have only three choices other than to drug ourselves. The first is to seek healing. The second is to accept. The third is to distract oneself. These are all great lessons in themselves.

To seek healing takes effort. Currently, I am dealing with the condition known as frozen shoulder. It is a very frustrating condition and I have put in a great deal of effort towards healing it. Yet, the progress, has been excruciatingly slow. At this point, you must concede to a certain amount of acceptance. Acceptance is probably the hardest lesson that all of us must face in one form or another. Pain is very difficult to accept, in whatever form you are dealing with it. That is where distraction comes in. That is where laughter comes in. Rumi said that when laughter rises from the body it is glad to be gone. There is a lightness of being that is achievable only in joy, and distraction from our worries and pain. Meditation asks this of us too. Still your mind from worry, and painful thoughts and allow joy to enter the void.

When do we stop asking for healing? Perhaps never, if we, “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” as Dylan Thomas said, and do not want to give up. But perhaps we could put more effort towards finding joy, finding laughter, in small things and feel blessed in distraction. Now that science has amply confirmed the healing power of laughter, perhaps in distraction is where most healing is truly found. The best distractions are either immersions into things that demand total focus, or they are things that give us of joy and laughter that is “glad to be gone.”

My friend, who I introduced to the labyrinth today, said thank you, but I did not ask her if it was “good for her” or not. I did not want to intrude or make her feel like she should have received something if she did not. I accepted whatever was there for me and for her. Fortunately, while there, I did become distracted by my own reflections and have been distracted again chronicling them here. I do make an effort towards healing, and I ask for it, but I accept that I do not always have total control over it.  Now, I am ready to go into the world and seek joy and laughter.

PS – My friend later shared her experience in the Labyrinth where she became confused and thought she might have stepped across a line and gotten
on the wrong path. She was very upset until she realized the parallel to her own life where she was questioning, perhaps too much, whether she was on the “right” path and thus making herself unhappy. She realized that like being in the labyrinth itself, it doesn’t matter.  There is one path in, and one path out,
and no such thing as a “right” path. Another labyrinth lesson.

Kathrin Lake is the author of From Survival to Thrival and conducts writing and presentation excellence events in Vancouver and a writing retreat in Mexico. See www.survivaltothrival.com/services/retreats