A while back I had the pleasure of meeting Deepak Chopra at a media event. When I reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime interaction, it amazes me how far I've come personally and spiritually and how much his words of slowing down and taking time to breathe every day would become such a big part of my daily curriculum. Life truly wows me sometimes. Things really do come full circle. As a long-time magazine editor and writer for various outlets, I know I have been blessed to work in the industry that I have. So on to what happened...
Perhaps my wanting to go to this special event was two-fold: On a personal note, I had been going through my own spiritual journey since a health scare in 2013. Professionally, I wanted to learn more about his important messages on how to live happier and healthier. I've always loved yoga too so that was a no-brainer. But for some reason, as soon as I opened the invitation, I knew this wouldn't be your average media event where editors and writers mingle and talk shop or gossip about the latest cutbacks and how print is a lost art. This was going to be a life-changing experience for me so I took it as a sign I had to attend now matter what.
For those of you who don't know, Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned physician and expert in mind-body healing, and has written over 65 books including New York Times bestsellers. He has a huge following in every country, along with many celebrity clients, and is highly respected around the globe for his thought-provoking teachings about alternative medicine. I was excited.
We had to remove our shoes at the door when we got there. A tad unusual for a press event, but after all, it was the opening of the new Chopra Yoga Center in Toronto so it made perfect sense. And actually put everyone at ease.
Deepak entered from the back of the room and the applause erupted. Not surprisingly though, with hence his incredible allure. It was almost as if he had walked out on to Oprah's stage. He was wearing a nicely tailored suit and he stood in front of the table that was set out for him to sit at so he could be up close and personal with our small privileged group. He opened by asking us what we wanted to talk about, which spawned a few giggles from the crowd.
We wanted to hear his thoughts on life, love and happiness of course!
He spoke clearly and calmly and looked straight in people’s eyes as if to invoke some sort of trance. As we listened to his theories on the best lifestyle practices for brain health, and how important they are for busy parents, he said: “Every now and then, stop, and ask: ‘Am I aware? What am I aware of?” And the world will open up.” The audience was silent.
His words filled me with emotion and pride. I’ve made some changes in my life over the past 10 months that have made me a stronger, more self-aware person, too. And hearing him speak about this topic right there in front of me was the affirmation I needed that I’m on the right path.
We were also able to ask him some questions. I was up.
“What was the inspiration behind your book Super Brain?” I asked him excitedly.
What came next was not what I had expected. Deepak laughed. Laughed! (Well, maybe more of a chuckle but it was directed at my question particularly. He said simple and sweet, it was a great question because of the answer he was about to tell.
“It was inspired in the bathroom,” he chuckled.
Turns out he met his co-author Rudolph Tanzi, PhD. in the bathroom at a conference and they casually started talking about the brain and how it was the key to health, happiness and well-being. After a few hours of brainstorming (literally) they had decided to write a book together. Wow! Now, I knew people did a lot of thinking in the toilet, but this was crazy.
What else did I learn?
He said regular exercise, yoga, proper breathing techniques, sleep, meditating at least twice a day, and avoiding alcohol are all imperative to self-awareness. In other words, getting to know yourself inside and out is critical to being happy and healthy. This all made perfect sense to me.
But he also said that multi-tasking is the one skill you can’t make better with practice.
“If you’re doing everything at once you’re not doing anything at all.” This was my biggest takeaway.
I thought about this for a moment. It's so true. As women we try to do it all. We want to be superwoman 24-7. And we pride ourselves on our multi-tasking skills. In fact, it’s often our survival technique. But to my surprise, Deepak didn’t agree with this theory. He told us that women. and moms specifically, need to realize there’s more to the precious time we spend trying to get everything done.
“You need to meditate every day, and if you don’t have time, then you need to do it more,” he explained.
In other words, those of us who claim we don’t have enough time to do things for ourselves, are really the ones who need it the most. So true.
Take a few minutes from your hectic day to slow down. Find a quiet spot in your house or close your office door at lunch and do a 15-minute meditation. How does this make you feel? Are you ready to take on the rest of your day? Try to meditate once a day (preferably in the morning) as it will help clear your mind and relieve stress.
On this last day of Heart Health Month, February 2014, I wanted to share a little bit about why it means so much to me.
It all started on Christmas morning in 2012. I felt a heavy tightness across my chest that I had never felt before. It felt like someone was tightening a belt around my breasts and holding on for dear life. The feeling lasted for two weeks and was so foreign, but I just shrugged it off as normal holiday stress.
After our family returned from a trip to Florida a few weeks later, I started having scary heart-racing episodes 3 to 4 times a week. They would start and stop suddenly for no apparent reason – and it felt like I was running a marathon even at rest. I was also having more headaches than usual, aches and pains in my upper body, shortness of breath going up and down the stairs, and was tired all the time. One morning at work, I even had a panic attack standing in line at the cafeteria. These events were not usual for me because I’m not a smoker and not overweight and have always considered myself a healthy person.
But the next night, as I was putting my kids to bed, I had the most horrific feeling. I got a sharp pain in my right shoulder that shot all the way down my arm. It felt as though someone hit me hard with a baseball bat. Then pain started to trickle around my back so I ran downstairs to where my husband was standing in the kitchen. My arm started to go limp.
Panic-stricken, he asked if he should call an ambulance. But I screamed “No!” because it was my right arm. (Needless to say since then I’ve learned that women can experience different symptoms like pain in their right arms, a feeling of indigestion, or back aches during an attack – but you seldom hear of it.) Then, I had an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. It was only 8 o'clock but if I had of stood there any longer, I would have fallen to the floor.
Looking back I know I should have gone to the hospital that night, but I was in denial. After all, I was only 39 and I had to get the kids to bed, right?!
This is a typical reaction of moms, and women in general, which I've since coined "Supermom Syndrome." It's when we simply do not think about ourselves in times of need.
This was the beginning of my heart health journey and now 13 months later I am happy to report that I am feeling better than ever (except for a torn meniscus in my left knee but that was my own fault during an intense workout. Ouch!).
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my heart health is that if it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. I wasn’t leading a bad life before. I don’t smoke. I'm not obese. I have no history of heart disease in my immediate family, and I don’t have high blood pressure. But I was stressed – and I didn’t realize how much. My body was ready to shut down and I wasn’t ready to listen, until I had to.
This past month I’ve been fortunate to tell my story on various radio and television shows and I hope that my story will inspire others to think about their heart health and take note when their body is telling them to slow down. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important.
According to a recent Leger survey commissioned by Jamieson Vitamins, only 25 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 25-44 believe they are at risk of heart disease, which is so not the case! In fact, the CANHEART Health Index states that 90 percent of Canadians in this age group are actually in poor cardiovascular health. That's 1 in 5.
It's not just an older person's issue. I'm proof of that.
So there you go, my friends. This is just a snippet of my tale and the self love and healing continues. When I reflect, I truly feel my health scare was a catalyst for what I am doing now: Helping spread the word about being heart aware. After all, the universe does work in mysterious ways and perhaps this is what I was meant to do.
I hope you'll check back for more on what I’m doing to stay on track with my eating, exercise and supplement program; as well as tips on how to lessen the stressors in your life. These are the things that I took for granted before my wake-up call last January and I really want to make sure you think about them in your own lives.
Stay heart aware,
Every time I look at my children, I am truly humbled. I still can’t believe that they’re mine. Even underneath all the dirt, cheekiness, messiness, and often craziness, they are real little people trying to figure out the world around them.
For those of you who don’t know me outside of cyberspace – I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, and most importantly, a motivated (sometimes control-freakish) mom of two awesome boys. Connor is 9 and Brock is 4.
I am constantly learning and they are constantly surprising me. So as I tucked them into their beds tonight, I couldn’t help but think of the things they’ve taught me in their little lives so far. They’ve taught me that I don’t have to prove anything to them, because even on my worst days, they are still there to greet me at the door with a big smile. They’ve taught me that there really is nothing like a mother’s love for her children and the special bond that is formed from day one. They’ve also taught me more about myself than I could ever have done on my own – and that being a parent can be really tough.
Now I’m not sure if my blog will be around when they’re old enough to read and understand this (or whether they’d even want to), but my hope is that they grow into loving, street-smart, grounded people who respect life and those around them.
I'd like to thank my kids for accepting my flaws, and helping me realize that they are a reflection of me. My kids make me happy. They make me mad. They make me proud, and sometimes, they make me sad. But most of all, they make me who I am today.
So in the spirit of Mother’s Day coming up in a few months (hey, I like to prepare early), I’d like to salute all moms out there who are humbled by their children. No matter how they came into your life, they are a part of you forever. And I want you to know that you are doing an amazing job.
What do you cherish the most about your family? Take a moment to hug someone you love so much today for more than 15 seconds. It feels so good.
This past year has taught me so much about myself as a career person, mom and wife. I have realized that my health is more important than any job, connection or promotion - and that happiness can only come when your true passions are being honoured. My family being my number one priority with my health leading the way.
I have learned first and foremost that without your health you can't be there for your children. So I have changed my way of living and thinking.
TODAY I am recharged and look forward to an exciting year. I no longer think of my career as a means to an end, but rather, an end to a means. I love what I do and share my elation with friends and family, but not because I feel I need to.
TODAY I no longer feel the need to climb for the sake of climbing or impressing anyone.
TODAY I reach for new heights in my heart and soul because it inspires others.
TODAY I am more myself than ever before, and I love it. The world is now my stage and my efforts to help others achieve their goals and aspirations is the reward.
What do you reach for in your heart? Are you following your dreams? Are you fulfilled? Think about these questions on a daily basis and try to take small steps to reach your goals. Even the smallest change can make a big difference.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to address specific questions that I've gotten over the years from readers who are still looking for the "inside scoop" on how to get ahead in the fitness industry. Things such as:
How do I take the first step in the fitness world? What kind of jobs are there in the industry? What's the secret to losing weight? How can I land a magazine cover? How am I going to balance training with my family? or Do you think I'll ever look like so-and-so?
Well, my friends, the truth is that there is not one simple answer that suits everyone's needs. Take it from me, it all depends on what your ultimate goals are, how you plan to achieve them, by when, and what's your desired outcome. Maybe you want to get a six-pack back after baby, your doctor is advising that you need to strengthen after surgery, or perhaps you want to lose a few pounds for your wedding, enter a fitness contest for the very first time, or train for a marathon.
But are your goals realistic? That's the million-dollar question! Well, whatever your motivation to get back to fitness, one thing's for sure, it takes two things to make it happen: DEDICATION and A PLAN. Are you ready to take on fitness?
We all have different reasons for focusing on our health. What are yours? Send me your questions and my plan is to address every single one — and if I can't through my own experience, I will go to the best people in the industry to find out for you. Because the more people we can help get back to fitness, the better. Are you in?
As a kid I was never afraid of a challenge. For 15 years (until I turned 18) I spent most of my time in the studio or traveling around North America as a competitive Irish Dancer. In my teens, I remember training very hard, sometimes 7 days a week, with the best instructors. Competition was fierce on the stage and even in class, but nonetheless, I managed to make it to the World's Competition three times representing Canada.
Back then failure never seemed to knock me down. I always got right back up (even if that literally meant falling down during a performance or practice - or not placing as high as I had hoped after months of training). I didn't care what other people thought of me. I was young. I was proud. No one could take that from me.
It wasn't until my twenties that a different kind of competition took over my life. Pressure to land a great job and make a name for myself. Being able to tell my friends and family what I was "doing for a living" seemed like an accomplishment in itself. So I kept pushing myself. Climbing the corporate ladder was the new challenge. It became my priority. Not only because I was learning so much and had more responsibility, but because I could tell people. I was still strong - but in a new way.
Then once I had children, I felt a rush of excitement I had never felt before. I immediately loved them so much and never thought I'd love anything as much again. And I still haven't. Not even close. My responsibilities have changed (as they do) and my competitive edge in life has become even clearer.
My role as a mother has been the most challenging yet. It is very different to what I thought growing up. In fact, if you had of asked me years back, I would have told you that I didn't think I'd have children. There was no time.
But life works in mysterious ways. The competition I deal with today is within me. The expectations on my personal abilities to be a good parent have changed me - and I am OK with that. I still push myself in all areas of my life and try not to compare myself to other more seemingly capable moms - but that can be challenging. The good news is that I am confident in myself to take on the experience.
What are the biggest challenges in your life? Have they changed? Have you changed as a result? Write them down and think about how you've grown as a person to get to where you are today.
You'd think that because I've worked in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years that I'd be full-on into my workout routine 24-7. Well, think again. I find it tough to fit it in too! After altering career paths, changing houses, two kids, and dealing with a killer commute everyday, I'll admit my training regimen hasn't been up to snuff lately. Yikes!....... So there's no time like the present to get back on schedule — No more excuses!
4 tips to help you get into the swing of things:
1. Stop procrastinating! Working out and eating healthy are essentials to a good life. You have no one else to blame if you're not getting to the gym. Do your own groceries? Buy clean. Spend too much time at the shops or online? Pour that time into a workout or prepare your meals for the week. Don't allow your friends and family to have more energy than you.
2. Find a workout partner. If you're flying solo, no problem! Take up a Yoga or Pilates class with a friend or go for a fast walk three times a week with a neighbour.
3. Set a specific time to work out and stick to it. After the kids are in bed, after the lunches are made, after homework is done, after you've checked your email. Instead of watching the finals of your favourite reality show, DVR it and watch another time. Believe me, you'll probably lose interest anyways which means more time to exercise.
4. Have fun! Need I say more? If it's not fun then it's not going to last.
You want to know what's liberating? What will make you feel good, relieved, and less stressed?
Every once in a while, go through your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin profiles) and get rid of any unnecessary news feeds, connections, or friends that are adding additional stress to your day. Some examples may be ex-flames (unless you have an OK relationship with him/her and you want to stay in touch for some reason); ex-husbands (unless there are children involved, so that's up to you); ex-mother-in-laws (self-explanatory); annoying friends you weren't even friends with in high school; and old colleagues that you "liked" because you thought at the time they may be good connections for future jobs or you felt obligated when you worked with them. I know all too well how cumbersome news feeds can get when they are littered with stuff you're not interested in. Who has the time?
So stick with motivational sites (like this one!), inspirational people, products and services that you want to learn more about, causes or organizations you support, and of course, close friends and family. Also, a word of advice: Set up a separate business page if you want to spare friends and family from your self-promotion etc. Oh, and never feel obligated. The goal is to relax when you're checking your feeds because social media shouldn't be something you have to do — it's a place to connect with friends and family, or network with professionals in your field. Just be aware of what sites you're on and why you're there. And lastly, remember to support those people you like; and that those you're connected with respect what you have to say. So pay it forward: Be informative (when necessary), stay current, and, above all, have fun!
What do you do to clean out the clutter in your loves?
Kerrie Lee Brown is a sought-after health and lifestyle expert. She writes books, blogs and articles and is published all over the world. Kerrie Lee is also a heart-health survivor and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows sharing life-saving tips for women on how to listen to their bodies and slow down. Kerrie Lee is a mom and proud Canadian living in Denver, Colorado.