March 8, 2019 I had the extreme honour of giving the Keynote Speech for the Women of Influence Conference 2019 in Grande Prairie, AB
Here is a revised copy of my presentation. If you are interested - its a bit of a read.
“Everyone can’t be in your front row.
Life is a theatre so invite your audiences carefully. Not everyone is strong enough and healthy enough to have a FRONT ROW seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance.
It's amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships, friendships, fellowships and family. Everyone can’t be in Your FRONT ROW.
Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are just going downhill?
When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse? Which ones always have drama or don't really understand, know and appreciate you and the gift that lies within you? Everyone can’t be in Your FRONT ROW.
The more you seek Spirit or God or Your higher self What ever you believe and the things of Spirit, the more you seek quality, the more you seek not just the hand of Spirit but the face of Spirit, the more you seek things honorable, the more you seek growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW and who should be moved to the balcony of your life. Everyone can’t be in Your FRONT ROW.
You cannot change the people around you...but you can change the people you are around! Ask Spirit for wisdom and discernment and choose wisely the people who sit in the FRONT ROW of your life.
Remember that FRONT ROW seats are for special and deserving people and those who sit in your FRONT ROW should be chosen carefully. Everyone can’t be in Your FRONT ROW” ~ Author Unknown
This is a poem I have shared with family and friends and on my social media at least once a year for 8 years - it was sent to a fellow Chopra Center Certified teacher by a beautiful (also fellow teacher) African Woman named Scholastica, I love that name – you know darn well that she is going to teach you something! She is an amazing Woman of Influence in her community. We all truly need to surround ourselves with women like her. This poem is something that has resonated with me so strongly, and I sometimes need a reminder myself..we as women not only need to be strong leaders – we need to sit in the "Front Row" of Women in our lives and cheer them on.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this celebration and awards ceremony today! It is a complete honor and I am humbled by this opportunity. I would like to congratulate every single nominee for these Awards! You are all a “Woman of Influence,” someone in your community, in your front row has recognized the amazing differences you provide. I wish every nominee the very best in your work and in your lives. Happy International Women’s Day! This is now 110 consecutive years of celebrating equality and the rights of women in our world. We are all part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and if you can tap into your gifts – and create #balanceforbetter in the lives of those you choose to share those gifts with – from any industry, or any charitable organization you are winning the evolutionary battle that was set before ‘us” – we are reshaping the future on our own terms now. Women have come a long way on this journey, yet I believe we still have a long way to travel forward to truly feel the #balanceforbetter. That being said, is this not an incredible time for women?! I think all you have to do is take a moment and tune into social media, television, radio, and newspapers to see that integrity, conviction, compassion and personal values are leading the change we wish to see in this world.
I know I am not exactly a familiar face to many here, so I will share some of who I am. According to Ancestry.com, I am 25% Native American, French settler, Eastern European, Asian, Irish and Scottish - basically a melting pot of Canadian genealogy. I am also a mother to two incredible adults, stepmother to a son that just completed third year machinist, mother-in-law to a beautiful nurse, daughter, sister to one brother and 5 beautiful sisters, teacher, friend to many here in Grande Prairie, as well as my hometown of Slave Lake and more amazing Souls that literally span around the globe.
I have had a journey with work, working in the hotel industry, oilfield, Child and Family services, and am a certified yoga and meditation instructor, Women’s workshop facilitator, and newly venturing into clothing design. Along with my diverse past and present careers – I also have a very large blended family.
To quote the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” – believe me, an entire village raised me.
My parents where 15 & 17 when they had me, not an easy journey for any teenage couple. They had plans of putting me up for adoption – but as the story goes, once my grandfather had laid eyes on me plans changed and brought me home to my mother and grandmother from the hospital allowing me to sleep in their night stand next to his bed for the first few months of my life. My father is an important and integral part of my life – but circumstances changed with no surprise due to their young age. When I reached the age of four, my mother remarried a man. Although it was a short-lived relationship in the grand scheme of our lives, he left a long-lasting negative impact due to the time we spent together. Just to give you a glimpse of who he was - The day he legally adopted my brother and I, he ran through the door smiling, getting down on bended knee embraced my little shoulders and said - "I always wanted a daughter, even if she is an Indian." (insert eye-roll) *Side bar – I guess every village has to have one of those?
I didn’t understand at that age what he had meant by those words, but I knew whatever it meant – he was not exactly convincing with his excitement.
Maya Angelo once said, “you don’t always remember what they did, or what they said, but you always remember how they made you feel.” In this situation, I remember it all clearly. This was a defining moment in my life; it set the trajectory for how I choose to live my life today. The day we left my mother refers to it as “the great escape.” Even though he was no longer in our "front row" – and truthfully tossed from the balcony, the energy of those four years stayed with us three – my mom, brother and I for a long time, showing up in how we handled or mishandled and trusted the relationships with others and ourselves in our lives. Thank goodness for my grandmother, a constant, a rock and the greatest Woman of Influence in my life. She taught us the importance of education, community involvement, spirituality, trusting my intuition, and leaning on the women in my life when needing strength. Although she herself endured many challenges, she rarely complained and she was a woman ahead of the times and a strong member of her community.
My grandmother was one to never let us sit around and wait for a “guy” to do the hard physical work. If you couldn’t do it by yourself, you gathered more women to help. In her late years she spent her time at a quaint little campground on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake. It was a place the women in her life could go to escape the stresses of outside world.
One particular day she was riding around on her little scooter eyeing up the situation: my aunt and mom had hammers and saws working on a porch for her trailer, another aunt on the roof sealing it for leaks, my cousin just drove in pulling her 5th wheel trailer and was setting it up to spend the week, my sister just parked after a day in the patch in her welding truck climbing out in her dirty coveralls cracking a beer and removing her hat to let down her long blonde hair, and I’m in the water, waist deep with a ratchet set repairing a new boat lift while the repair man squats on shore yelling & pointing instructions while I’m yelling back directions on where he could go... That evening we all gathered around the camp fire our circle of women, tired & quiet, when out of her tiny little body she lets out a boisterous laugh, loudly saying - “I love my girls!!” We all looked at each other and joined in her laughter.
Because of her, and our conversations – I began the journey into meditation, spirituality, and trying to discover whom I was meant to be if we could have only side stepped this man from my youth. Which led me to my teacher trainings approximately 15 years ago. I had always wanted to become a schoolteacher; I loved the idea of sharing knowledge with others for the betterment of themselves. It was a true reflection of the principle of giving and receiving. But I am somewhat of an introvert and I had no desire to stand up in front of a group of people and speak. So, when the opportunity presented itself to teach meditation and yoga, I felt it would be a perfect fit for me, not only because it was something that resonated so deeply with how I wished to live my life, but also because most of my students would have their eyes closed, focusing on her or himself.
How many of you, by a show of hands, want to be more successful and happy in your life? Do you have a meditation practice? It is said that 80 % of the most successful people on the planet have some type of mindfulness or meditation practice. They also have drive and ambition to follow with the meditation. This may sound contradictory but, That’s why I quit my practice for a short time. It was creating an overwhelming amount of amazing ideas and I wasn't quite ready to upgrade my level of drive and ambition. Seriously, I did take a break – because I still had moments of distrust lingering inside. I’ve had a personal practice off and on for 20 years. My meditation journal that I use during the day to take notes – not while actually practicing meditation - was so filled with incredible ideas... I panicked one day over the work that could be involved to manifest them all. Please note* you do not have to follow through with every single idea! I had a daily practice, meditating consistently every day for 30 minutes twice a day for quite some time.
My health improved and after following an inspirational spark, I began to train hard to ride my bicycle 4178km from Grande Prairie to Ottawa! If I would have stayed in the distrust and postponed that ride and just continued my meditation practice by just one more year - (again, you do not have to act on every single idea) Facebook would have been invented and I could have saved myself from ass blisters and started a go-fund me page! 4178km in 28 days really was an incredible journey... that is a story for another day.
I do notice that when I let the meditation slide – my life becomes more chaotic, less organized. Meditation goes beyond our fight or flight; allowing us to go from reacting to life events to responding with better choices. Like this morning, feeling a little nervous about this speech - I was offered a shot a tequila before I came up here today – as tempting as it seemed, I took a deep breath and said no. And! I didn’t want to be a "woman under the influence" around all of you amazing women! So began my practice again, starting slow. A few minutes twice a day, thinking - I want little ideas, little goals, less stress, better health, better sleep at night, creating a daily routine... feeling better my practice grew, back to 30 minutes twice a day... the journal began filling up again, amazing ideas waiting to manifest. I could feel them wanting to surface. One particular inspiration stayed with me, like my bike ride – I felt the importance of this one, researching for a year, phone calls, emails, reading books, contacting people around the entire world to create - ladies pajamas! So much better than a bike ride. My experience is, when you meditate – you tap into something bigger than yourself.
When I rode my bicycle it wasn’t just to loose weight, that was supposed to be a bonus – which frankly didn’t even happen— it was to raise awareness over human trafficking and raise the age of sexual consent in our country -delivering a petition signed by 100,000 to Parliament hill and to help raise funds for a single mother wanting to build a home for herself and her children here in our city. I also didn’t create the pajamas to allow myself and others to have a cozier night; it is hopefully going to raise awareness around domestic violence and help Women and children looking to create a new ‘Front Row’ in their lives. That’s what meditation does; besides the extreme and well studied physical benefits, it helps you to connect with a collective energy - to create balance within yourself and in someway to create balance for better in your community.
Although my practice continues to fluctuate stalling and starting, One practice that I consistently do, every single day, which was shared by my own meditation teachers is what we call “the four Soul Questions” – understanding that even when I cannot feel the answers immediately - I let spirit, or the creator, or god or the universe work out the details.
The first question is: Who am I?
Beyond the roles that I play in my life mother – wife – sister – friend, but who am I on a much deeper or expansive level.
What do I want?
What are my goals, dreams and desires? What do I put on my vision board? Going even a little deeper – asking Why I want it and imagining how it would actually feel if received – getting clear and specific with the details.
What and/or who am I grateful for?
Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes and take a deep breath in, list three things or people that you are grateful for. Notice how you feel when you are in that space. You cannot be in a place of anger or resentment when you are feeling gratitude. The women here today are being awarded because of gratitude from the people that nominated you today-noticing your efforts in the world. When you show your gratitude towards others the energy expands and either circulates back to you while almost always is paid forward.
What is my purpose in life, meaning How Can I help? How can I serve my community? Again, the women here today listened to this internal question whether they consciously realized it or not and created action steps to be of service to their community by using their talents and gifts. The women we have seen in the media are asking on a grander scale of how can I help while portraying integrity, moving forward by leaving their ‘roles of importance’ to stand up for what truly feels right for the collective.
In yoga, which means yolk or union, we practice a sequence called Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskar – to give thanks for a new day filled with life-giving light and sustenance. We begin with tadasana - mountain pose, which means to stand in equal, steady, and balanced stillness coming to the front of our mat – hip width apart while grounding our feet down in to the floor, shoulders back and down away from our ears, lengthening our spine and unclenching our jaw and standing strong… then flowing through the sequence with our breath. A perfect reflection on how we would like to live off of the yoga mat… balanced, grounded, head up, and standing strong…and breathe.
When I describe you - (for those reading, maybe call someone in your life that you know needs to hear these words) I’d like you to please stand up if are able, if not just place your hand on your heart. Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to do yoga postures!
Please stand up if you are a woman who owns a business no matter the size,
I’d like you to stand up, if you employ women in your business or corporation,
I’d like you to stand up if you work with women,
Please stand up if you are a stay at home woman busy raising your children,
I would like you to stand up if you help empower women through charities, through your church, through cooking a meal for a person in need, through donating clothing or an item to women in need,
stand If you lend an ear or a shoulder to a girlfriend, a neighbor, a woman in the grocery store, or even by offering the gift of a smile or a prayer to a woman who may be in your front row.
Now, take a look around the room, look into the eyes of your neighbors, at the people behind you, or across the room (you can wave at your friends).
Now connect with someone beside you, one person to look at while placing your hand on your heart, taking a moment to say out loud to each other “I will stand up for you!” Meaning that I will support and help you to create a sense of balance in your life. Take a moment to breathe that in and feel those words.
I’d like you to continue to stand up - metaphorically (not physically please be seated) I would like you to continue to stand up for women once you walk out this door. I believe you all will because you are here attending this event. Continue to stand up knowing that we as women bring so much value to business, we bring so much value to the community, to any industry.
Allow yourself to expand your Front Row, consciously practice non-judgment, for everyone - without criticism of gender, race, or partisan, setting a simple, kind, intention of supporting and understanding that we are all in this together. Close your eyes... take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth while gently asking yourself, “How can I help?” “How can I do it with integrity, using my strengths and talents, and leading with grace and ease, support or be a Woman of Influence?”
Now gently open your eyes.
By either sitting in meditation or standing tall in mountain pose – ask these four questions daily - “Who am I? What do I want? What am I grateful for? And How can I serve?”
You CAN bring #balanceforbetter to your CommUnity.