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Normality is a paved road: It's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.

Vincent van Gogh

Finding Your Bliss magazine is all about uplifting one’s soul. Bliss readers receive nuggets of inspiration to explore their internal and external environment for a more joyful life.

As a local yoga teacher in Toronto, I often encourage family, friends and students to practice the art of uplifting others.

However, a key ingredient is the preceding practice of self-love and self-compassion.

After we commit to loving ourselves, we become familiar with a vocabulary of healing words that can uplift others. Our language and intonation create a trusting inner circle that expands far and wide to include our acquaintances.

Have you noticed that your self-care rituals give you a certain confidence? With yoga and meditation, we are asked to look within; this inward reflection is a useful step in meditation practices. We are privileged if we are able to nourish our bodies and fortify our emotional states with yoga practices. We can then transmit peace outwards to our communities.

Now, to shift gears a bit…

We should not sugar-coat the year 2020.

I appreciate van Gogh’s quote above, about normality versus the fertile challenges life brings. This quotation reminds us not to expect an uneventful or conventional life. From this simple truth, we can develop the capacity to recover from conflicts and misfortunes.

Our brains and central nervous systems are designed to embrace challenges and to grow from them. Resilience is the resulting gift. If we are not reasonably challenged, our mind will stagnate.

The past few months in isolation have been unsettling, especially for those of us who live alone. Yet the lessons are there: important lessons of resiliency and adaptation.

We’ve all observed the impact of COVID-19, and many of us have experienced the greatest of losses. While at home in isolation, we have been watching the news cycle more often. We’re exposed to a full kaleidoscope of beliefs, opinions, and emotions, many unfamiliar to us.

We benefit from sharing in these conversations, and some of us will have the stamina for healthy debate. This is how we expand our knowledge. It is my opinion that we are in need of a bit of provocation to unearth our resilience.

Our ability to acknowledge various perspectives brings us closer to conflict resolution; we cannot silence others, yet we can understand how our own words, our rhetoric, can be framed toward peaceful aims.

Our habitual routines and livelihoods are currently in uncharted territory; this could lead to internal growth. For example, I’ve noticed that I’m now more patient with changes, cancelled plans, and unexpected delays.

Alongside our experience of isolation, we’ve witnessed clear evidence that racism still exists, and that there is much suffering experienced in the BIPOC community.

But how do we address this so healing can take place?

Most of us hold prejudices, yet we fear being misunderstood or judged ourselves! We’ve been able to reflect on this while in isolation. Personally, I swam through unconscious streams where my identity did not prohibit me from going. It took deep meditation and research to understand this.

We all have natural methods of understanding and interpreting the world around us.

Every four years, many conflicting opinions and ideologies come to the surface in the American election cycle. As an American, I feel the tension. And I believe Canadians feel it too.

Let us all identify where we can learn, improve and practice compassion in every room we enter. For me, this means recognizing when someone needs encouragement, praise or a reassuring nod. Perhaps our current isolation was a necessary catalyst for us to listen deeply, to read, and to study the human psyche.

In my case, I find ways to make people laugh. Simply laugh. This is another gift, to laugh at a silly joke or gesture.

We are called into service in myriad ways. My path revealed itself through my emotions. Once my maternal response was activated, I could authentically show up and listen to the larger community. People who are of different races and cultures give us the gift of new perspectives, inspiration and wisdom.

So how can we show up and help others? How can we be more inclusive and expand our friendship circles?

We start with loving ourselves, and grow outwards from there.

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