Let me take you with me.
Have you been searching?
Or just feeling that something isn’t right? That things could feel… better than they do?
Within these pages, you will find some MYNDspace.
M - mindfulness
Y - yoga (postures, meditation, breathwork)
N - naturopathic
D - development
Here, you will encounter a space where the philosophies, central tenets, and practical teachings of the items above come together to allow you to regain control. To guide you to a calmer, more peaceful, more contented state of mind.
Not to worry. You don’t have to practice any one of these items to be able to learn from them. But truly, as you read and become acquainted with the various teachings derived from these schools of thought, you may find yourself actually wanting to.
I’m sure, like me, you wouldn’t appreciate anyone pushing their dogma upon you. As much as I’ve lived and breathed (and subsequently loved and been changed by) the practices above, you may not be familiar just yet. Or possibly you have had experience with one or more of these but wish to delve deeper. You shouldn’t have to buy cork blocks or sit cross legged ‘om’ing for hours to get close to them. Or to feel comfortable with your understanding of what they’re about.
I think a lot of people feel a sort of that’s not for me distance with these practices. Not so much, I think, because of anything inherently off-putting or uninviting there, but more an unintentional barrier to entry by virtue of their non-secular roots and/or a perceived esoterism they are cloaked in. There is Sanskrit and chanting and beads and hand positions and what does it all mean anyway? What could all of that possibly have to offer me, if I’m not a Buddhist nor have any interest in Hindu deities?
I just want life to feel more fulfilling.
I wanted to write something that would remove this veil for those who are either at the beginning of or still miles away from that same nudge of the gut that I had over 12 years ago. To gently open the door and let the sunlight stream in on these ancient, profound yet easily accessible disciplines. The guidance we glean from them has the potential to change everything for us - regardless of our religious status or belief systems.
A note on why I include ‘Naturopathic Development’ with the other items in the grouping. When I was in school, we were taught to focus on the foundations of health (diet, hydration, movement, environment…) things we term “lifestyle factors”. Although we are trained in and use various other modalities in our treatment plans, it’s a common experience amongst NDs that these Lifestyle Factors are the ones that create the biggest shifts in the health and wellness of our patients.
I sit across from folks every single day who, despite their primary reasons for coming to see me, are also living with overwhelm and anxiety. When these words come up and patients confirm their presence, 99 times out of 100, we also see dysregulations in sleep, digestion, cognition, hormones and more.
Equally ubiquitous in those with even minor anxiety, is an underlying state of discontent or dissatisfaction - though usually these pieces have not registered as something to work on, to treat or to want to resolve. For most, it’s how it’s always been - they don’t seem to remember a clearcut onset, but rather, feel it’s been ‘ever since I can remember’. For others, there is a known major event, trauma or crisis that precipitated the shift and yet time, in these cases, has not healed all things.
Because my particular leanings align so well with the preponderance of scientific research supporting mindfulness, meditation and yoga for so many conditions (namely anxiety, depression and other mood disorders), I find myself discussing mediation apps, mindful eating techniques and the ways that conscious breath can hack the nervous system, daily.
The Lifestyle Factors section on all of my treatment plans is also never without notes on food and water intake, exercise, journaling, sleep routines and getting outside. Not because I like these things the most or ‘have a feeling’ about their impact, but because the copious positive studies that exist unequivocally back these as hugely effective treatment strategies for most every possible health concern. And when I ask patients, who a few months later are feeling a much greater sense of control over their moods and behaviours, “what do you think made the greatest difference for you?”, the response I always get is, “that lifestyle stuff”. Bingo.
I’ve been pretty deliberate about where I’ve placed emphasis here. Most people understand as a matter of logic / common sense that diet, hydration, exercise and sleep will have some significant effects on our relative states of wellness or dis-ease. Certainly, we need help understanding exactly how to implement changes in these categories that are specific to our individual needs, histories, etc. which is why these are major conversations in any ND’s office, mine included. The other pieces, the ones I’ve highlighted and tried to demystify within these pages, are the diamonds only some have unearthed. They are not just for Buddhists or hippies or any ‘type’ you may be imagining. These diamonds are, in fact, waiting for all of us.
MYND: it’s a healing, earth-shifting, inclusive space. It’s right here, right now, for you.
Let me help you unlearn the lie that this is just how life feels. Let us rip apart the myth that what’s common is what’s physiologically ‘normal’.
These are the tools you’ve been missing.
HOW TO READ THIS BOOK
The book is comprised of six distinct sections:
LANGUAGE: Defining foundational terminology
AWARENESS: Becoming conscious, awakening
YOGA: Pose tips, tricks & takeaways, on and off the mat
MASTER TEACHERS: Wisdom from the leading authorities in this space
INSIGHTS: Perceptions with real life applications
START BY SITTING: An initiation into meditation
While each graphic-text pair works as a standalone insight or lesson, collectively these work together (in whichever order you consume them) to lift the aforementioned veil and create a sense of general understanding. You may wish to read one pair from each section daily or enjoy one section at a time. Either way, I hope that you will come back to these pages again and again as you become increasingly acquainted and comfortable with the material.
In time, you will notice overlap and synergism between the disciplines. My hope is that you will find some or all of it useful and helpful in traversing your own seasons of life. If, after you’ve finished reading (or somewhere along the way), you have the sudden urge to roll out a mat or sign up for a meditation class, then I from-the-heart encourage you to follow that nudge as far in as it takes you.
Why did I write this?
For years, I told myself I ‘should’ be meditating. That I probably ‘should’ take up yoga. For years I didn’t get within miles of these things. All of my shortness of breath and disturbed sleep and overwhelm… I was too busy studying or working or getting on with the business of the everyday that I honestly didn’t connect the dots. Didn’t realize those things were fixable, nor had any awareness that they needed fixing. I was too damned busy to notice.
One day, on a whim, I signed up for a paid, twice weekly, yoga class offered at my University. The teacher was equal parts genius and wild eccentric. There were certain positions I was pretty sure were in no Yoga text ever. We also spent the first 20-30 minutes of each class breathing in various strange ways. Manipulating our inhales and exhales, sending all sorts of inner dust out into the world by way of our nostrils. Pumping diaphragms like our bellies were water balloons. Hand on heart, this man would bring in newspaper clippings of athletes mid-game, extolling the virtues of their limber spines or youthful knees. Calling the classes ‘odd’ would be something of an epic understatement. Certainly they bore zero resemblance to the countless yoga classes I’ve since attended. Unconventional approach notwithstanding, this experience woke me up.
As though out of nowhere, I began sleeping restfully. Hm. I didn’t realize it was sub-par to begin with. The gasps of air I would take every few breaths altogether disappeared. I felt calmer. Though we didn’t seem to be doing much in the classes (no rapid heart rates or burning muscles achieved), the changes in my health and wellness were so in-my-face, I couldn’t help but take notice. It got me really, really curious. So I practiced more.
When I graduated, I moved to Western Canada and decided my welcoming would be a two-week stint spent on the grounds of an ashram I knew little about. Where silent meals, meditation, yoga, and 8 hours a day of physical labour were a way of life, 7 days a week. There, I was introduced to concepts I had never heard of let alone practiced or even understood.
Craving more immersion, I spent the next year working for one of the leading Yoga studios in the area. There, I had the freedom to attend all classes and, importantly, was also given constant access to the beautiful spaces between; the empty, mirrored, sun-filled rooms, the books and malas and teas, the unending conversations with a community of like-minded people as well as an open door to monthly workshops and lectures given by Master Teachers from around the globe.
I worked, I practiced. I worked, I practiced.
Yoga, I soon realized, was opening a mind-body unit that didn’t think itself closed. I walked as though on air. I became acquainted with the concept of Yoga ‘off the mat’ - finding in-class/on-mat teachings so surprisingly life-applicable and useful when encountering challenges in life outside of the studio. Though I didn’t have the words for it then, I was cultivating present-moment awareness; this was Mindfulness.
Years of practice later, I found myself contemplating a career in natural health from a compound in the Indian Himalayas, completing a 200 hour intensive Yoga Teacher Training course. Our enlightened teachers (all local swamis) lectured to us daily. In stories and verse, they made the spectrum of human experience comprehensible, clear, and packed serenely away into the place in my brain where light shines and confusion is a long lost stranger. To complement all of the philosophical teachings, we partook in more hours of meditation, more posture and breathing classes than I care to calculate. I felt I understood....everything. Though of course I don’t, what was more important was that I had all the tools I’d ever need to make my way through this ‘life thing’, joyfully. When the road became inevitably rocky, I had them and used them. As I do still.
I came home, emboldened. Nature and these practices were THE MEDICINE.
I studied for 4 more years to become licensed as a Naturopathic Doctor and to be able to share this medicine, in my own way, with every soul who was seeking.
Aren’t we all seeking?