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.
Three days ago I had a Cardiac Ablation or RFA (Radiofrequency Ablation) to rectify my heart’s short circuit. Basically, without getting too technical, an electrophysiologist conducted an Electrophysiology Study (EPS) to test my heart’s electrical system and how it works, and once he figured out the areas that weren't working, he destroyed (ablated) the "dead spots". It's called an "AV Node Ablation due to a Slow Pathway."
Turns out I had an unusual dual-pathway where the blood flowed and this is what was giving me problems when pumping blood to my heart. So one of the pathways was eliminated. The procedure was quite invasive. Four catheters were inserted into my blood vessels (veins) on both sides of my groin and moved along until they reached my heart. Radio frequency energy traveled through the catheters in order to “silence” the cells where the abnormal rhythm was coming from.
I remember laying on the operating table anxiously watching the numbers on the screen. The surgeon instructed the “heart pace” technician to elevate my heartbeat to 250 bpm into a state of tachycardia, and then slow it down to normal, and then up again to 300 bpm, and so on. This went on for two hours so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was.
Even though I knew I was in good hands, and in a controlled environment in the hospital, I had no control over what my heart was doing and felt very overwhelmed and constricted; not knowing if my heart would stop at any time. But the deal was that they had to emulate the irregular heart episodes I'd been having because they've been interrupting my normal way of life. And at 40, with two small kids, this wasn't ideal. So when they finally found the faulty circuits, an electrical surge was sent down the tubes -- and I felt the burning sensation (heat) as they burned the dead areas in my heart.
After it was all over, and I was back in my bed, I had a panic attack when two nurses were putting pressure on my incisions. They were pressing so hard on the four tubes to stop the bleeding that I instantly felt faint. They called two more nurses in to help and immediately dosed me with Gravol to calm me down. I remember the exact same symptoms when I had a panic attack a year ago in the cafeteria at work -- cold sweats, feeling sick, and not knowing whether to fight or flight the scene. Then I cried uncontrollably. The nurses at the Trillium Cardiac Health Centre were amazing and knew exactly how to get me through it. A half an hour later, I fell asleep.
After I woke up, the doctor came to speak to my husband and I about how the procedure was a success. Then I was allowed to get up and take a few steps. But when I did, a pool of blood gushed from the top of my right leg. The blood did not clot at one of my incisions and there was blood all over the hospital floor. The nurses rushed me back to the bed and applied more pressure in order to avoid losing too much blood. They said it could have been a result of me not going to the washroom and my full bladder was putting pressure on my groin. But finally, after more pressure, I was able to get up and go to the washroom (I couldn’t even force myself to go on the bed pan).
The next day, I was instructed to take it easy and move slowly. I had to hold my incisions every time I sat up or down or used the stairs, but I could have a shower and take the bandages off. I felt some periodic shooting pains in my chest and an aching pain in my groin where it was starting to bruise. I also felt a pressure on my left side that went through to my shoulder blade – similar to how I felt last January (2013) when I had my initial heart scare. (Read my full story in Chatelaine magazine.)
Today I am walking more, but still slowly, and feel much better. The doctor told me not to go back on my heart meds and wait to see how I feel at our next follow up appointment in 8 weeks. I am hopeful that my fast heart beat does not come back, and so far, it's looking good. I am so thankful for my family and friends who are here to help me.
I hope to (in some small way) help others who may have noticed some irregularities in their heartbeat, unusual shortness of breath, or panic attacks, and alert those who are under a lot of stress. Don't sit back and think it's nothing, because it could lead to further complications down the road. Believe me, if there's one thing I've learned from my heart journey over the past 13 months, it's to listen to my body. Please call your doctor today and be heart aware. Stay well.
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 our annual rituals at Life Class is to ring in the New Year by reflecting and sharing our lists of accomplishments and letdowns for the past year. Letting go of the past, celebrating all that we’ve done, and embracing new challenges for the future is so liberating. After we all had a chance to share, cry and inspire, we burned our coveted lists as a symbol of shedding the past and looking forward to what’s to come in 2014.
Although we don’t know what will happen for sure (especially as many of us take on new adventures in amazing new places) we do know one thing, and that's that we’re all grateful for what we have and what we’ve done over the past 12 months. Therefore we will pull from that energy and look forward to what comes next. To be honest, all we really can hope for is peace and happiness, which is what I wish for you!
Happy Holidays and All the Best for 2014!
Why do we always equate New Year's resolutions with things we have to change or improve upon? Why can't we just celebrate what we've accomplished and look forward to what's to come?
I prefer to look at this time of year as an outlet for inspiration to soar. For us to appreciate all that we have and who we have in our lives. To reflect on the last 12 months and not revel in what went wrong, but rather what went absolutely right!
Last night I saw my favourite girls at Life Class and we did just that. WE SOARED! We’ve been getting together for almost two years now. But it seems like we’ve known each other forever (maybe we have in a past life).
At first I wasn’t sure how close our little group would become given that I only knew one of the ladies in the beginning. But the very first time we met there was a special connection between us that I know will last a lifetime. Not to toot our own horns, but all of the women are talented, motivated, intelligent and extremely ambitious both personally and professionally – so as you can imagine, I was honoured when asked to join.
Every time we get together, the originators Jen and Janey lead us through meditations, reflections and some of their stellar coaching techniques where we share and inspire one another. I love the fact that we are all equals and no one is left to feel alone. Being able to connect, really connect, with other like-minded women is truly a gift – and I will always thank them for how they have inspired me to pursue similar great things (stay tuned!). I couldn’t feel more comfortable and at ease with myself each time we are brought together. And I can’t believe how much I’ve grown just knowing them.
Do you have a group of friends that make you feel like you can do anything when you get together? If it's been a while, call up a friend and grab a coffee or a bite and catch up. There's no better reinforcement in life than a great convo with a BFF!
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?
Tuesday was the first day of school. Sigh…A time for parents to get their kids back to a much-needed routine after the long, lazy days of summer. Well, not so lazy around our house as we were at the dirt bike track every weekend for races and the kids were practicing all week long leading up to the national championships; but nonetheless, fall is a time for change — a new beginning, heavier traffic and hockey season! Yay!
My son Connor, 9, entered grade 4 “on the second floor of the school!” he so proudly reminds me every minute – and my 4-year-old, Brock, started junior kindergarten. Holy smokes, where did the time go? Not only was this a big day for both of them as they met their teachers, picked lockers, and strut down the hallway in their newly pressed uniforms; but it was a big day for me as well. No, I didn’t cry (those who know me well know I’m not a crier) but I am a happy snapper. Yes, I’m that mom: I couldn’t stop snapping photos of them with their backpacks and grins from ear-to-ear.
I don’t know how many shots I’ve gotten of the kids with either their hands in front of their face trying to avoid my "just one more photo, guys pleease!"My kids know me all too well... if I don’t feel I’ve got enough shots on my regular camera, I’ll take a few on my phone as well for quick upload to Facebook. I know, I know, there are much more important things in life than showing off my gorgeous little boys to my friends and family who already know what they look like, but, do you blame me?
As if the million pictures I took just the minute before weren't enough to showcase this special time in their lives. Hey, they'll thank me when they're older. And yes, I'm sticking with that.
What's your most memorable first-day-of-school moment? Take a moment to think about how you felt and how you made it special for your family.
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.