Happy International Women’s Day

#Choose to Challenge

On this International Women’s Day, I have one wish. That all human beings treat each other empathetically and with kindness. How different the world would be if we didn’t paint ourselves or each other into corners.

#ChoosetoChallenge is a great theme and we have to remember that challenging the powers that be comes with a whole new set of potentially scary baggage thanks to the cruel and hurting people on the internet. As much as I believe that speaking up and challenging the status quo is the best place to start, I know first hand that it can fall on deaf ears if you are not loud enough or if you are not willing to risk your peace and your family’s peace to make change. So, if you’re like most of us, start small; be kind, be supportive, challenge fiercely but intelligently and respectfully, and listen. Women are more than daughters, mothers and wives, we are capable co-leaders of the human race. Let’s build the foundation for future generations of women and men and everyone in between to soar together, in peace.


They are so important, all of them, even the not-so-great ones. Their experience can teach us. We may never act on their advice, but at least, it’s there. I have always had a fascination with elders. I am the person who wants to go through the photo albums in people’s homes and ask tons of questions about who is from where and what did they overcome and what impression did they leave? I also have a deep conviction that our elders and their pain sit within us, to a certain degree. I am not a psychologist, and I am not purporting to be anything other that a deeply curious person with a penchant for world peace but I suppose the books I read and the people I learn from have shown me that this is possible and I choose to believe it for many reasons, and some of them are even selfish.

We will all hopefully become elders, who do we want to be? How do we heal ourselves or tell our stories for the next generation to grow to be wise to guide the next?

I have this vision, it appears to be of a native circle, where there is an elder man or woman who is sought by the young for advice and wisdom. I always just thought this was going to happen, that there would be those people around to tap into. But who are these sages? Who are the wise ones? In an age where there are so many ways to communicate and yet everyone is separated and family is complicated and we have seen too much pain from the institutions that were created to plug that hole, where do we go?

Chop wood, carry water

A long time ago now, a woman who became very dear to me gave me some important advice that has helped me throughout my life. Her name is Victoria, she is a massage therapist and she doesn’t know this, but she is the person who started me on this path of what I’ll call ”hopeful enlightenment”.

I was a stressed-out, anxious mother of two at the time and I had a blocked lower back from pain. She came recommended to me by another wonderful woman who is a good friend of hers. I knew she was special because you had to be referred to her as well.  She wouldn’t massage just anyone, and I felt special that I was granted access to her.  She is a beautiful, independent, strong woman. I had no idea of her age at the time, but learned later that she was in her sixties and I was amazed at her strength and stamina.

I will never forget how happy I was to meet her.

She made her way to my house in Montreal in her little car and, every time, unloaded her massage table, candle, great music, bringing all her good energy into my space.  Every time Victoria came over, she helped me in some way, whether she had me on the floor doing various yoga postures and deep breathing exercises, or whether she had me be still and allow for some quiet to settle my brain, she seemed to know just what to do.

The piece of advice I want to talk about here was shared during one of these appointments, at a time when I was really having a tough time with the world. All of the news seemed so terrible on the radio, in the newspaper, and even the political climate in Quebec was taking its toll on our otherwise awesome piece of Canada.

Victoria showed up, saw the state I was in and when I told her how I was feeling she told me she didn’t listen to the news anymore because it never brought her peace and it just upset her. I have to admit, I judged her, thinking to myself: ”How in the world can you deliberately be uninformed?” She could see that I was weirded out, she said she knows what it sounds like but she does it for self-preservation. “Ok, I can see that”, I said, “but even if you don’t read or hear the news, you still get wind of the big stuff, the terrible stuff, the sad stuff, the unbelievably unfair stuff” and so on.

So I asked her how she stays so positive and kind and strong? She said: “You know what Sarah? When I feel like I’m getting crippled by thoughts of all of the pain and suffering in the world, I just chop wood and carry water.” She explained to me that she just gets through these tough times by doing what needs to get done, by going back to the basics and eventually time passes.

Victoria became a good friend, a bit of a spiritual mentor, and a modern day “elder” to me. She taught me important things that humans need to share with each other, in person.

Over the last number of years, I have told myself that old Zen proverb again and again. It’s so simple, it goes like this: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It has deep spiritual meaning but practically speaking, it’s a tool that I use to help me navigate the world and my thoughts when times are tricky. Just do what you need to do, one foot in front of the other, step by step…and in the end, have a little faith that you’ll be able to handle what comes. There will always be tough times, how we navigate them is what’s important; chop wood and carry water.