Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It's been a busy few weeks at Awakening Choice.

I had the pleasure of presenting (for the my 3rd year) meditation workshops at Tim Horton's Wellness Weekend on April 16th and 17th up at the beautiful TIM HORTON'S MEMORIAL CAMP in Parry Sound.

For a reasonable fee, employees of Tim's, their families and friends escape the daily grind and go to camp one weekend each year. What really thrills me is that the proceeds from the weekend go towards the TIM HORTON'S CHILDREN'S FOUNDATION which helps economically disadvantaged kids go to camp.

Being one of 5 kids of a travelling salesman and a hard working housewife, I never did get to go to camp but knew some who did and I admit I was quite envious as I read their "I wish you were here" letters. But this I know for sure... they never had as much fun as an adult can have at camp!

There's no cooking, cleaning up or thinking about food until you have to choose from the delicious offerings laid out before you; no phones ringing at all hours of the day. Rod and I have 2 business lines at home and we don't answer calls "after hours", but, what we consider "after hours" is ambiguous at best and there's no escaping anywhere the phone's distinctive ring tone. The moment we hear it, pointer-like we freeze, stop what we're doing and listen, just in case it's important — which is subject to interpretation. So, though we don't have to answer its call, we're continually on hold.

At camp, other than my commitment to teaching, my time is my own. Ahhh, no demands; no responsibilities.

Whatever shall I do? Maybe I'll take part in dance, tackle the climbing wall, go for an eco tour, have a massage, learn soapstone carving or just hole up in my log cabin room and read or snooze, sit and chat with fellow campers by the fireplace or lay on the dock gazing at the starry night sky?

Saturday night is party night and the best dance party ever! Dozens of women (and, this year, one brave male soul) rock on to the tunes of the MUSKOKA ROADS BAND from Parry Sound. Got a request? They can play it.

Though this weekend was rainy and cold and we woke up to a blanket of snow on Sunday morning, there was more fun to be had before we loaded up in the Tim's bus for our trip home. Some people car pool it but I prefer the atmosphere of the bus. On the big bus I can read, write or watch the onboard movies. Though I'd seen it at the theatre, I took in another viewing of MORNING GLORYon the way home (check out what they do to the guy who plays Ernie Appleby - hysterical!).

To all of those meditation workshop participants (15 on Sat and 21on Sunday) snuggled into the couches, draped over chairs and splayed out on the floor, covered with blankets, their heads resting on pillows as they drifted off into relaxation with me; to the staff that provided us with such lovely accommodation and food (many of whom were once TIM'S campers themselves!); and to the people at TDL Group for again accepting my offer to present my passion THANK YOU!!!

When you're in a TIM'S drop some spare change in the DONATION box for the camp. If the kids at TIM'S camp have half as good a time as I did your donations have been well spent indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gettin' the ya yas out

After Rod and I'd paid our mortgage off we went nuts purchasing furniture, a new bed and bedding to go with it, blinds, a carpet (all needed, by the way) to mention just a few items, along with some other "stuff" not needed so much, but enjoyed. After all was said and done we sat on our new couches with our feet up on our new coffee table in a state of shock. What the hell had happened to us? We'd uncharacteristically spent what we would have saved from our next 3 mortgage payments.

I have a theory that we shop not only because it gives us that temporary high, but also because it gets the ya yas out. My theory goes on to explain that we also shop more when we feel anxious, sad or depressed about anything or deprived.

Keeping on a tight budget is kinda like dieting - you deny, deny, deny yourself until you just can't bear it anymore and you consume the whole damn chocolate cake instead of allowing yourself a nibble now and then.

click on cartoon to enlarge
copyright Nance Thacker 1986
What has me thinking about all this was hearing someone, just yesterday, utter the phrase "pent up consumerism". There must be a cartoon for this, I thought...and there was, from the THACKER cartoon archives circa 1986.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Have a great day NOT SHOPPING!

Further in this post you will find a video titled STORY OF STUFF; HOW THINGS WORK, ABOUT STUFF by Anne Leonard. Though the video's over 20 minutes long, it's well worth taking the time to listen to what she has to say about our consumer culture and its effects on humanity, the earth, sea and sky. Plus, I really like the simple style of animation that she uses to get her point across — very effective.


Now, I've got my share of "stuff", that's to be sure, after all, as human beings we are all virtual waste producing machines and I'm not just talking about the stuff that exits our orifices. There's also the "crap" that we buy into which propels us to buy crap, tire of it, tuck it away or throw it out so that we can buy more crap and on and on.


I find it amazing how a prized item that has given me such pleasure in: hunting it down; purchasing it (there's the real pay off — that big rush of satisfaction and accomplishment that is anticipated from the moment the flame of desire is a mere spark of inspiration); the using, wearing or eating of it, eventually becomes "stuff" to be stored or "crap" to be gotten rid of. More often than not, the very moment we attain our object of desire, is the beginning of its decline in favour.


These three examples stand out for me:

The notion that you can "save money" by spending money sends the message that saving money is good; the reality is that this isn't the way to do it. Reality check — once it's spent it's gone, I don't care how good a deal you got, besides what are you going to do with the money you "saved" but, buy more "stuff".

After declining to sign up for a department store's BONUS POINTS CARD (explaining that I'm a hit and run, not a browsing, type of shopper) the cherry toddle-oo the cashier gave me was, "Have a great day shopping". Have a great DAY shopping? Is she nuts? Was she listening at all? You want me to have a great day? I just got my "stuff" now get me outta here. Time spent browsing is too much time spent in "you suck" territory; too much time spent in temptation's lair. Hey, I'm not immune.

And, one of my faves is this motto "Be seen. Be seen shopping," the Oakville equivalent of counting coup found emblazoned on promotional banners throughout the town a few Christmases ago.

If I sound a little judgmental, a little self-satisfied it's because, except for a few exceptions (knitting, sporting supply stores, One of a Kind Craft Show, a really great grocery store), I really don't like to shop. For the most part, shopping makes me anxious. Some people are "stuff" people and some are "experience" people. I'm the latter. Let me: travel and explore the outdoors and new places, indulge in the fare of a great restaurant, sit in a cafe (preferably in Paris) and watch the world go by, take time to write, read and play and I'm happy. But Leonard's video reminds me that everything I do taxes the earth and our resources. My purchases, well thought out as they may be; the requirements of the activities I enjoy, all take their toll.

I'm not sure what to do with all this. I just know that awareness is the spark to inspiration and maybe if enough people become inspired, creative ways in being in the world (while minimizing the damage we cause, or even giving back to it) may be discovered and what a wonderful world that would be!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


On Sunday March 27th at 1:10 pm, after walking for 4 hrs 40 minutes and 45 seconds I crossed the finish line of the 2011 AROUND THE BAY 30K, shaving 15 minutes off of the previous year's finish.


The marathon Gods were smiling on us as that day as the sun shone throughout the race. It didn't rain or snow, though a smattering of stubborn snow patches remained here and there from previous storms. The days leading up to the event were cold, dull, overcast, windy and often wet so it didn't bode well for race day. Was I going to trudge through the event in hiking boots or brave the predicted double digit cold temperatures in my Vibram 5 finger shoes? All I could think about was the terrible state of my feet after tackling last year's 30K in walking shoes, the blisters were so bad that I was forced to walk the last 3K in bare feet or risk not finishing. Once I got out of my shoes I felt some relief, though walking through streets with broken blisters felt a little dicey.

This year, I decided anything would be better than repeating the experience of my '10 finish, so I wore the Vibrams.
They look just like my feet!
 The worst part of the race was the 10 or so minutes that Candy and I stood around in the cordoned off area waiting to start. The shadows cast by the surrounding buildings kept the pavement at a freezing temperature which bit into the bones of my feet. As I shifted from foot to foot to keep them warm, accompanied by the occasional grimace, I looked like someone who had to pee real bad. I bent over now and again to wrap my toes in my "I am Canadian" 2010 Olympic gloves and my back pack ploughed into the back of my head each time.

For the first 3K my feet were burning from the cold and I thought maybe I'd made a mistake in not taking a pair of hiking boots as back-up. But, as we progressed, the sun soaked the pavement, making it warmer and warmer. The "barefoot" experience became very pleasurable indeed!

I'm pretty sure I was the only walker to wear these shoes though I counted 3 other runners in my model, one runner in a blue pair (which has segmented pads on the underside) and one truly brave soul running literally barefoot the whole distance. There were probably more "barefoot" runners (using the Vibrams) than I counted, but, being the only walker meant that I got chatted up, a lot. Walkers seemed less able to imagine covering the distance in these shoes than the runners, probably due to the amount of time it takes to walk vs run. So many runners would slow and comment on how they always wondered what the shoes felt like and asked, "Do you like them?", "Isn't it hard on your feet or back?", "How do you get used to them?" The answers are: definitely; nope, far more comfortable for me than shoes although my sciatic did begin to bother me towards the end of the run (see*); because I'm barefoot most of the time they take no getting used to, however if you wear runnners or walking shoes you may want to take a clinic in barefoot running. Check out your local running store/club, in our area that's - NEW WORLD RUNNER'S on Plains Road in Burlington.

When I was asked, "What do the soles look like?" I'd hop around to reveal the smooth, thin sole as we made our way along the route. The soles are smooth, have no grip, but do have some lines of wavy slices through the areas which need more ability to flex such as the balls of the feet and minor built up areas on the heels, base of big and little toes and the pad of the toes.
click on this pic to check out the soles
*By the last 5K my feet were burning a little from the stimulation of the surface beneath them, but last year they were burning, swollen, blistered and excruciatingly painful. I realized then that the last 5K are challenging for me with or without these shoes. Relief was gained by jogging down the hills which lessened the impact on my heels and gave my metatarsals different stimulation and though last 3K was flat, jogging now and then mixed the stressors up in a good way. It was during this time my right sciatic began to bother me but I chalk it up to needing longer training sessions and the addition of the back pack which kept on shifting throughout the course and was a major pain in the butt (note to self: next year smaller, snugger pack).

Hopefully, next year, the weather leading up to the race will be kinder and I'll be able to train more in the Vibrams. When I ran, the little bit that I did, it felt amazing - my feet felt light and without the cumbersome binding and padding of regular walking/running shoes my stride was natural and free...almost makes me want to run it next time.

I can't attribute the 15 min difference in finish time solely to the shoes. Candy and I fell into a system wherein we alternated when we used the loo. One would take a pit stop and the other would continue along.  Pit stop-pee would then run/walk to catch up to the non-pee'r and so no time was lost. Also kudos to the race organizers who placed enough stalls along the route that we never had to wait in line!

Best of all, I finished feeling fantastic in body, mind, spirit and sole!

Thanks to all who sponsored me for this run. Together, at last count, we raised $340. for St Joseph's Healthcare Foundation in Hamilton!

Thanks also to those great people who manned the watering/gatorade stations and the many supporters who lined the route cheering us all on, this is what also makes the event so much fun!