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I was recently at yoga in plank pose and the instructor said “lift your chin and your gaze to look forward just past your hands so it’s not so dire”. It really resonated with me.

When we are defeated, we hang our heads, in pain, or in shame. Our shoulders slump, our throats become closed off, and we inhibit our ability to speak and verbalize, and things can feel pretty dire. When we are proud and energized, we feel light. Our chins lift, we can speak clearly and use our voice effectively.

Some of the trappings of everyday life even lend to us taking this defeated shape. We sit at desks with our shoulders rounded forward. We stare into our phones with our heads down. Perhaps you’re sitting this way as you read this now. 

After a recent conversation with my coach Jacki Carr about using my voice, she sent me this excerpt: 

“…so what blocks us from expressing our truth, our outrage, our creativity, or our needs? What makes us close down the throat, bottling up the emotions, or annihilate our ideas before they can make it out of our mouth? What makes us hide behind silence?

Shame at the core, fear for one’s safety, or simply being out of touch with the core self make us unable to bring the inside of ourselves out to meet the world.”

- Anodea Judith, Eastern Body, Western Mind

Whoa: "out of touch with the core self" really hits home for me. For a few years, I felt like I wasn’t being my full self. I had a few experiences that left me disheartened and rocked my confidence and didn't notice how much it was impacting how I was showing up. During this time, I still created a lot of opportunities for me to use my voice and yet I never fully stepped up. I often chickened out of saying the bold things that rang true for me. What if they don't like what I have to say? 

Even from a young age, I never really felt a deep sense of self. I have been known to be adaptable, perhaps at my own expense. A skillful chameleon. I get choked up easily. When I feel shame, I get a lump in my throat and shut down. My communication isn't clear and I am not able to express myself clearly. So it didn't surprise me when I found actual lump in my throat in 2016. Call it "woo-woo", but here's what I believe: your body manifests what your mind and spirit are experiencing.

It turns out I had a golf ball-sized growth on my thyroid gland that had been growing for years. Thankfully it was benign and I had it removed this past summer.

Now that the actual physical block has been removed, I feel more empowered than ever to use my voice to speak what's true for me. Part of my recovery from surgery involves massaging my scar, lifting my chin high and proud to stretch through the front of my neck to prevent any further tightness. With the new sensation from my incision, I have a constant reminder to lift my chin and stand proud. It's a simple but effective way to, shift perspective, become present and remember to use my voice.

Right now, wherever you are, lift your chin and your gaze, feel the space it opens up. Breathe a little deeper, take a look around you, and feel your energy and your mood shift. See, it's not so dire.

xo Syd

For years I have had a vision of hosting a retreat for women that serves to give them the opportunity to take some time for themselves, move their bodies with intention, eat some nutritious food, and set intentional goals.

The vision has been so clear for so long, and I can't tell you how many times I have chickened out for fear of no one being interested, or of saying or doing the wrong thing. I had been waiting for the "right" or "perfect" time, for someone to give me permission to do what I know in my gut is going to make an impact. I want to share with you what's at the root of of this retreat - the "why". Here goes.

1. I have felt the chaos, pressure and overwhelm of everyday life and the need to take a real break

There have been times in my life where I wish time would stand still for just a few moments so I could catch my breath, or even take a breath. The pace of life has often left me weary, shrunken, and disheartened. It’s when I realize I am living in prison walls of my own construction, trying to abide by the social rules of the world, that I can find some levity and remember that I have choice. I get to decide what works for me. I get to demolish those walls (even if it is one brick at a time). I am determined to not have my life look like anyone else’s or to get caught up in comparison chasing someone else’s ideals. I have found it challenging to find clarity while also keeping up with my daily responsibilities. This is an opportunity for you to lean on your support network and trust that things won’t fall apart if you take a couple days for yourself.

This retreat is not about running away, but rather finding space to move toward the things that really matter to you. Give yourself a break.

2. I have experienced the power of rest

When did rest get all tied up with laziness? Or is that just me collapsing the two on each other? I doubt it. So many of the women I know want to do all the things, and rightfully so, because they are capable. However, I have also witnessed that we aren’t very good a resting. Like, really resting. When was the last time you slept in? Or did something with the express purpose of winding down? I ask because I have a tough time with truly disconnecting myself. I’ll go to lay down for a nap and end up spending twenty minutes scrolling through my Instagram feed (not resting). I have had a massage and spent the entire time feeling guilty and/or thinking about all the things I have to do the rest of the day (not resting). I have sat down to read a book and picked one called “Side Hustle” only to wind up frantically taking notes and feeling like I’m not doing enough with my life (not resting).

When I have allowed myself to truly rest, I have felt my body loosen up, my mind unhook, and a general sense of calm settle in. It’s magic. Take rest.

3. I have seen how cathartic speaking and writing our truth can be

We have all kinds of thoughts rattling around in our brains and we have a lot that goes unsaid. I have felt the choke hold of not saying something I should have. I have also experienced getting it out and felt the release and space it opened up. You know how a weed won’t die unless you pull the entire root out? Same goes for the mind. So we work it out together.

4. I know the power of movement

I have never felt more alive and self-expressed than when I move my body. This has evolved from being a competitive athlete to now moving my body in ways that make it feel good. Getting blood moving through, flexing your muscles and organs, all helps to move things out of the body and mind that you may have been holding on to. Not to mention the high of endorphins coursing through your veins. We’ll move together.

5. I know how time in nature can provide perspective          

You know that feeling of fresh air in your lungs, space to explore, no distractions. Nature has a way of grounding and humbling like no other. We’ll get out into nature, explore some beautiful scenery, and perhaps gain some new creativity and perspective.

6. I have experienced the potency of women coming together

In this busy world we live in, it’s easier than ever to believe we are separate. We see edited versions and highlight reels and can easily assume we must be the only person who doesn’t “have it all together”. When we take time to connect in person, outside of the context of daily life, we often experience that we are more alike than we are different, and how interdependent we are. Groups of women in particular possess a certain magic.

Above all else, I designed this retreat to help you elevate your experience of life. You have everything you need to curate the life of your choosing. Together, we'll make space for you…

To PAUSE, and take time to appreciate this precious life.

To CONNECT with each other, nature, and yourself.

To RESET your intentions and create some new goals.

I can't wait to share this experience with you.

xo Syd

Click here for more info on the MAVEN Mountain Retreat in Banff, AB on April 5-7, 2019.