Monday, March 28, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Waiting for Easter

“The waiting is the hardest part.”
  ~~Tom Petty

Goddess knows, this can be true. The waiting is just so darn hard. As we sit on this Easter eve and the anniversary of the birth of my daughter Meghan whose death I write about in my book, Back to Happy,  I am pondering the season of Lent and the idea of resurrection. 

We do so love a good resurrection story.

Star Wars and The Matrix films (also a lot of American musical theatre) gave us some great modern day examples to work with. We love that resolution and that feeling of completion and optimism that a good strong happy ending has to offer. After a season of suffering, there is redemption. 

In a good piece of music there is variety in the score. There is harmony and dissonance and ultimately, resolution as the composer takes us home and allows us to sit with those last few notes and sense the finality, the closure. We are taken on a journey that touches our soul through the senses of the body.

In the Christian tradition of Lent, we are charged to examine the things in our lives that distract us from our connection to God and remove them if possible. We are called to repent and humble ourselves before the Lord with the knowledge that we are made from the dust of the Earth and destined to return there. It’s pretty brutal really. In essence we are to look squarely in the face at our mortality and see how it can inform us about our lives.

As we work toward Easter there is a tendency to rely on the resurrection story to unfold in an expected way. We know it’s coming so we don’t really worry too much. If we are optimists by nature, this idea of resurrection is ingrained into our psyche. We trust all will work out in the end, the resolution will come and we will find joy again. In the Jesus story the message is clear; have faith and even after the darkest of times the light is sure to shine again.

But waiting for the light to reappear can be really difficult. In Back to Happy, I write about healing from grief and loss and finding happiness again. The grieving process is a journey for sure. It takes time, and requires attention and intention to move through it with relative ease. Everyone must find their own way. There were days when I thought I would not ever feel joy again. The light at the end of the tunnel was often nowhere to be found. 

Much like grief, in addiction and recovery there is a process that must take place for the brain to rewire itself and, like grief, the process must run its course for it to be effective. In the waiting, if there is not promise of a final resolution, hope can be lost and despair can set in. Without the example of others who have traveled down the path of recovery successfully, addicts have little to hold onto during the recovery period. This is why the twelve step programs are so effective.  There is companionship for the waiting period, guides for the journey.  I have recorded several podcasts about addiction. Find them here.

When Happy Healthy You! podcast guest Mary Sidhwani was diagnosed with cancer, she had to face her own mortality. It was frightening for her as she spoke about in the interview. She was humbled and forced to reexamine her life in a deeper way. As a psychotherapist she knew she needed a shift in perception in order for her to deal with the challenge of cancer and to heal from the trauma of the diagnosis. 

How can we use the resurrection story in our lives to keep us moving toward the light, toward our eventual healing and also help us with the waiting? In her podcast, Dr. Sidwani gives us some great tips for dealing with the “shock and awe” of a trauma. In Back to Happy I list nine (hopefully) practical tips for moving through grief. There are so many other inspirational books, support groups, religious practices and healing modalities to help us move more gracefully through the period of waiting. The season of Lent offers its own wisdom for moving through dark times back into the light of resurrection.

During Lent we are tasked with the waiting. But we are to wait with a purposeful nature. We are to wait upon God, having removed from our life anything that might deter or distract us from divine presence. Sure we give up chocolate if the craving of it keeps us from thinking less about God and more about the hershey bar. But even more, we give up the ego addictions that keep us from forgiveness, charity and love. We are to accept the eventuality our own death with faith, knowing that even in that, we are redeemed, re-birthed, resurrected. Lent is waiting - on steroids.

Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. 
                 ~~Philippians 2:3-8, Jerusalem Bible

Lent is a practice and I liken it to yoga. If we approach every yoga practice with a beginners mind, we are open to what the practice has to offer on any given day.  In tough poses we are asked to be with what is, tight muscles and all, and with each breath to be present to our divinity. When we come to Lent with a beginners mind, truly empty of expectation and open to whatever it has to teach us, we are reminding ourselves to wait well with purpose. We empty to make room for more light with the hope of healing, rebirth and resurrection. 

Namaste and Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Truth About the Happy Healthy You! Podcast

“You and I exist inside of love, and occasionally we realize it and live out of our deepest purpose and identity.” 
                         ~~ Richard Rohr

If you are a regular listener to the Happy Healthy You! podcast you may have noticed that we rotate the subject matter so that body, mind and spirit are somewhat equally represented. For example, last week we heard from my friend Julie Reisler about creating sacred time for ourselves in the form of retreat and the many benefits that can come out of it. We talked about the value of stepping away from the business (busy-ness) of life to take time to just be still, open ourselves to something new and nurture our innate divinity.  Next week we talk with a bikini competitor about eating well and training our bodies for bathing suit season. Couldn’t be farther apart in subject matter, right? Maybe so.

Well, you never know what you’re gonna get from the Happy Healthy You! podcast and I kind of like it that way. Actually, I believe it’s really deeper than that. For me, I believe it’s God that likes to keep me guessing so that I don’t get too attached to any one idea and see it as ultimate truth. I like to defer to Her when planning the podcasts and so sometimes things do not always go as I plan. Sometimes I think God rather enjoys it when I squirm, as I did a little this past week.

I like to plan ahead a couple of weeks for each podcast and as I was preparing for my interview with my friend Val Wiest (the bikini competitor) the thought came to me that went something like this: “Girl, this is Holy Week. Easter is next Sunday. You’re gonna talk about bikinis?”  

National Cathedral 

Busted.  I was raised in a generically Christian religion (Episcopal) and I have a great love for sacred scripture and the teachings of Jesus. (Also Mary Magdalene, the first to see the risen Christ, but that’s another podcast.) So I celebrate the Paschal season with reverence and respect. There is much to glean about ourselves and our relationship to the God of our understanding by studying the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so I am all-in come Lent. 

So God and I, we had a little “talk” about body, mind and spirit and what the podcast is really all about and here’s what we came up with, together.  I share it with you, dear listener, only if you are interested.

Peel an orange. Go ahead, I’ll wait. (If you don’t have one handy, just peel it in your mind.) Really dig your fingers into that peel and pull it back from the fruit. Notice how it slides fairly easily off to reveal the tender, juicy meat of the orange. Now take your fingers and run them over the front and the back of that peel. Notice the texture of the front and the back, it’s thickness, the bumpiness (sort or reminds me of cellulite) of the front and the pithiness of the backside. Despite the slight lumpy exterior, observe how the outside appears shinier and smoother than the inside which begins to take on the texture of the fruit itself. As we venture inward to explore the orange we notice that the inside wall, not visible from the outside, is much more similar in texture and appearance to the meat of the fruit.

An unpeeled orange has a distinct fragrance but things really begin to get fun once the peeling begins. Remove that tough exterior and you notice the sweet aroma bursting forth as it is released from its casing.

Hold the naked fruit in your hand. Feel it’s weight. Observe it’s fragility without it’s outer layer. Without that layer, perhaps it becomes apparent that the fruit inside would whither and die in short time.

Now, pull apart the fruit and notice the perfect sections. This begs for an elementary school lesson in fractions with its segments that fit together perfectly as one. Take a bite of one of the segments and notice the sensation of the fruit on the tongue. Perhaps the mere suggestion of taking a bite of the orange elicited a response on your tongue. That was your brain sending a signal to your salivary glands that there’s a party ‘bout to happen in your mouth.

How does that orange feel in your mouth? Notice the sensation of the juice  as it trickles down the back of the throat. How does it feel to know that this orange is now making it’s way into the body in which you live, integrating and becoming a part of all that you are. You are essentially changed forever by the presence of this fruit in your system. The body is affected on a cellular level, mood can be affected with the addition of this natural sugar into the system, perhaps even a sense of gratitude arises in appreciation of this succulent nurturance that the fruit offers to you as you begin to digest it’s loveliness. This of course begs the question, who or what is doing the digesting, the appreciating, the questioning?

Aha!  Now we get to the real pith of the orange story. Hey, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Get it? Oranges are sticky…

Please stay with me. We’ve come this far…

So, what does this orange have to do with Happy Healthy You! the podcast and living a whole life in body, mind and spirit? Well, I am so glad you asked. We will try to explain.

The peel obviously represents that outer shell that we present to the world. It’s that protective, adaptive exterior that keeps the insides together, somewhat safe and shielded from the good opinions of others. It’s also a bit of a deterrent to predators who might want to wantonly eat of our sweetness.
The inside of the peel begins to meld into the outer part of the fruit, adding another layer of protection perhaps (or maybe a reminder that we are, all of us, layers just waiting to be peeled back to reveal to the world our inner beauty and yumminess).

These outermost layers are important parts of the orange. They allow it to function in the world as an orange without issues of identity. Though each piece of fruit appears unique, there is no question about it’s orangeness (it’s orangehood?) The inside of the fruit is, of course, the meat of who we are - our sweet, fragrant, juicy, sticky selves - so complex, so fragile, yet so very perfect in design. And so darn delicious!
We’ve yet to mention the orange tree, from whence it (we) came. Back on the tree it was (we were) connected to the other oranges, happily dangling there on the branch as we grew to our full ripeness. The mother, the tree, provided our nourishment as we prepared for our eventual separation and ultimate destiny as the mature fruit we were to become.

Whoa! Bet you never think about an orange in the same way, right? Me neither.

The simple way of looking at this is we are here in this world in these bodies to exist together and to grow into our version of the precious fruit we are destined to become. We are given thick skins so that we can survive the harshness of the world around us as our beautiful, sweet and fragrant spirits ripen within. 

If we simply focus on the shell, the exterior, we miss the point. If we only look at the inside of the fruit we also miss it. And Goddess knows if we hang around on the branch for longer than we should, nothing ever gets done!

We are, all of us, the same sweet juicy beings on the inside awaiting our full ripening, our time to shine (here’s the mind/body part). But we must always also remain consciously aware of the significance of the tree. That tree (spirit part) gave us life and part of it continues to reside within us after we are physically separated from it.  And that’s the miracle.

Mural in the Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea at National Cathedral
So as we enter into this Holy Week and you wonder why I am talking about bikinis and retreats and other such seeming frivolities, remember the orange. Hey, eat an orange and try to ingest that we are all made of so much more than we can ever begin to appreciate. We are mind, body AND spirit all working together to bring us to our true ripening.

Happy Easter and Namaste!

P.S. When you listen to the bikini podcast please remember the orange story and that those oranges we love so much have cellulite too. 

What? It’s true.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Value of Retreat

"In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."
                                   ~Albert Camus

When I turned 50, I treated myself to a women’s retreat in the mountains of Vermont. I didn't know anyone else who was going and I had never, ever done anything like this. I had been a wife and mom for so many years and was primarily focused on the needs of my family so the idea of taking time for myself in this way had never really occurred to me. But as I reached this milestone birthday, I started wondering where my life was going now that my parenting skills were no longer needed in the same way. I started searching for something that would shake me up a bit and maybe be just a little scary - you know, scary enough to give me a little kick in the pants. A women’s retreat seemed to be just the ticket. It was, I believed, just what I needed to celebrate my entrance into the second half (hopefully) of my life and give me some inspiration to create new and exciting things for myself. 

The experience proved to be this and so much more. Overcoming the mild anxiety I felt about traveling alone, meeting all new people and trying something new (in this case mountain biking) gave me a new feeling of confidence and independence. The new friends I made taught me so much as each woman on that retreat had a story, reminding me to have compassion and love for myself and others. The challenging (really, really challenging) mountain biking reminded me that I was capable of so much more than I was giving myself credit for and I was inspired to add some new things to my daily routine once home. 

That retreat opened the door to many more adventures, solo and with friends, and I wished I hadn’t waited so long to take the first one. Since then I have done yoga retreats, spa retreats, silent meditation retreats, running retreats and the list goes on… I may be a little obsessed. In all seriousness though I am convinced of the value of taking time to do this for reminding me about my vision for my life and helping  reshape myself into the woman I want to be. Each time I have come back home with new information about myself, spiritual insight, greater confidence and healing benefits as well. 

Retreat. The word itself connotes turning away from that which is assaulting or threatening. To retreat is to step away from the fray, the chaos, the battle, and return to a sense of safety and peace. To “treat” ourselves with renewal, reconnection and relaxation.

We all need retreat from the world from time to time. A good, well-planned retreat can give us that peace, that sense of restoration that gets us back to our center and reminds us of our purpose here on the planet. A good retreat takes us back to our true selves. It’s healthy for body, mind and spirit. Especially spirit. Retreat is essential for us if we are dedicated to living our spiritual truth. But we must first find our own personal best way to achieve the desired results.

Retreats can take so many forms. A day retreat at home can be restorative as can a week-long getaway. Whatever the format and location, the important thing is to unplug from the day to day routine and find time to relax, reboot and reconnect with yourself. There are so many opportunities and ways to do this. Simply taking a day to stay home, unplugging from all technology, taking time for contemplation, meditation and self-care is one way to do it. It’s affordable and can be great for getting back to our center. With a little planning, the day can be filled with healthy food, rest and activities that help bring us back to ourselves. A suggested schedule might go something like this: wake-up, stretch and/or yoga, healthy breakfast, meditation and/or prayer, journaling, walk in nature, vision boarding, light lunch, self-massage, bath with aroma therapy, nap, yoga, breath-work, meditation, light supper, deep listening to sacred music and reflection, snack of herbal tea and fruit and nuts, guided meditation, sleep. This is just a suggestion. There are so many ways to customize your personal time away.

Doesn’t that sound delicious? Now, planning your personal retreat will be up to you. You will need to have healthy meals and snacks  at the ready as well as any journaling and vision boarding  materials, bath salts or oils you might like, etc. It’s a good idea to have everything planned ahead of time so there is little for the mind to think about. All of the details are taken care of so that you are best able to relax, let go and be open to receive any inspiration that wants to come in. The conscious mind can take a rest and the unconscious which really runs the show most of the time gets a chance to speak up. We become aware of the repetitive thoughts that consume our mind and keep us from achieving our goals and truly being happy.

If at all possible, do take a retreat where everything is planned for you and you have little to do but show up. It’s really a nice thing to do for yourself and I highly recommend it. The advantage of attending a retreat where the schedule is set, the food is prepared and you can relax and let go is that you are free to just focus on yourself. What a concept huh? In my experience, this kind of retreat is the best way to really release the pressure that can build up from everyday life. Sometimes all it takes is getting to a new location, seeing new things and letting go of daily routines to bring us back home to ourselves.

There are so many great retreat ideas out there. Just do a little research and find the one that works best for you, your schedule and your needs. Perhaps a visit to a spiritual center or monastery is in order to get you reconnected to the God of your understanding. These types of retreats can be designed for your personal journey or can be a group experience and can be quite affordable. There is also the added advantage of spiritual direction at many of these retreats that is attractive to some. If you want to do yoga, there are lots of great retreat options out there for you. If you’re a foodie, take a cooking retreat and learn a few new tricks in the kitchen. Nowadays, the opportunities are literally endless. Just do your homework.

Of course, I am quite partial to a retreat I have planned in June with my good friend Julie Reisler, the awesome coach and empowerment specialist. Julie has been featured on many of the Happy Healthy You! podcasts and is such a fun and inspiring human being. We decided earlier this year that we wanted to bring together a group of women and provide the opportunity for them to not only relax and have fun, but also to reconnect with joy in their lives. And, as Julie says in this week’s podcast, take it back home and “spread it around like peanut butter!” 

I love that!  As women, we are the “spreaders of joy” for those we love.  But we can’t spread anything unless our own tanks are full first. We do so much for others, we must take care to first nurture ourselves or we risk burning out and even worse, negatively impacting our health. We know you want to be the best you that you can be. For Julie and me, that means staying joyful and happy and healthy. We want to be the best versions of ourselves so we can serve others and also be an inspiration for others to be their best selves. A rising tide lifts all boats after all.

So, please come with us in June and we will help you reconnect with that best version of yourself with some well-planned, joyful activities. You won’t have to lift a finger, just get yourself there and we will take over from that point. Here are the important details. For more information, please contact Julie or me. We’d love to talk to you about Joy Camp 2016!

Join us for 
JOY CAMP 2016! 
June 5 - 8 
Scottsdale, AZ 
Picture this: You. At an extraordinary women’s retreat. At the luxurious iconic boutique Hotel Valley Ho. This June. All designed to have you transformed (with way more joy going on) from the inside out. 
Here’s what we promise:
* loads of joy
* sunrise + nightcap yoga
* make your own mala beads * meditation 
* hikes on some of the most gorgeous trails * delicious food
* relaxing spa treatments
* personalized barefoot fitness training 
* workshops on purpose, passion + presence
* group + private sessions with a renowned medium * 1:1 private coaching
* time to chill your buns + relax 
Your hosts, Julie Reisler + Connie Bowman, are ALL about finding more joy and helping you do that in the most delightful way. Relax, reboot and reconnect with your beautiful joyful self. 

Contact: or to hold your space. Space is limited. 
$1450 single room || $1250 double room
Wanna extend your relaxation retreat? Come three days early and stay late for just $136/night (typically $300+/night; exclusive of taxes and room charges). 
Pricing includes: three nights at the Valley Ho iconic hotel, most meals and healthy snacks (one dinner on your own), yoga and meditation, group workouts, mala bead making, hiking, wellness workshops and a gift swag bag. Price goes up on March 1, 2016. 
Reserve your spot NOW with a $100 deposit. For additional special JOY CAMP rate and spa reservations, reserve soon! Full amount due May 1st, 2016. 
With boundless joy, 
Julie + Connie