Stories

Creating Light photo adventures & inspiring stories.
 

Nurture & Heal

{ Portrait 46 }

There is a visceral call from deep within to come home. To our bodies. Our spirit. Our ability to be with our selves. With presence, with honestly, creativity and compassion. 

We get caught experiencing our lives at a distance. Taking up a detached residence in the room at the top of the tower. Locked in for protection.

However, not realizing that in fact we're trapping ourselves. That through neglect and disrepair of everything below, those tower walls and their foundation, the very structures holding us up can and will come crashing down. 

Sonja portrait - eyes closed, hands on heart

And I've been there amongst the rubble. The devastating and messy result of not paying attention to the disconnect & the distance. Pushing too hard, too fast. And not taking the time and intention to care for myself in a nurturing sustainable way. I know what it's like to pick up those shattered pieces and put them back together. To laboriously, and tenderly re-lay the brick and mortar. Differently this time. Stronger. More aligned. And taking responsibility for maintaining it's strength and integrity.

Throughout this process, I've quested to define what self-care and self love mean to me. And it's involved a lot of listening. To my own physical body, creative being, and what brings me the most joy.

Realizing that it's not something that another person can tell me, or that I can find solely in an article or book. That it's something I need to choose and define for myself. 

And I was so very grateful to meet a beautiful soul creating a space for exactly that.

Sonja Portrait

Sonja and I met serendipitously a few months ago. And since then I've been able to be a part of the magic she's creating in the world. 

She is the founder of Nurture: A Retreat. A soul-filling weekend in the most peaceful oasis, Loretto Maryholme Spiritual Retreat Centre north of Toronto. A place and experience that encourages this personal growth through the art of loving self care. The retreat is attended by female entrepreneurs and creative/care-giving professionals and supports each of their unique journeys through a series of delicious, delightful and gorgeously hands-on workshops. It teaches some amazing skills, like gorgeous hand lettering, intuitive body movement & dance, and how to create healthy and nourishing delights in the kitchen. I was also personally honoured to facilitate the LANTERN workshop, helping women to celebrate the creative light within by making foraged flower crowns and getting them in touch with their inner goddess. All of this giving the participants the space & ability to choose, and create lovingly for themselves without judgement. 

Nurture Retreat - Dining table
Sonja in kitchen stirring pot.

Sonja let me photograph her in her kitchen. But this space is nothing close to ordinary. It is a room like many others, except true magic happens here. Love is infused and manifested through food. It is within this space that this inspiring woman comes alive. I felt so honoured to capture her in her blissful element. Creating wonder, stirring warmth, roasting deliciousness and folding layers of rich and light freshly whipped creme (a video included below of all said delightfulness).

Sonja's kitchen

Sonja shares what it means to truly care for herself. And how she incorporates these very meaningful practices into her life.  

"Self care means embracing it ALL. That my discomforts, fears, guts and darkness be met with acceptance and love. When that happens, it diffuses their power to run my life or keep me from my soul's purpose."

Sonja making food
Kitchen + Blackberry Pie

"I believe creativity is a way to foster this love. The relationship between myself and my darker parts must be nurtured and stoked and listened to, and I find the way has been to do the things I love, intentionally bringing them, like offerings, to the parts of me or my life I might not love yet."

Her go-tos are cooking/baking (obviously!) ....and also singing.

Roasted Coconut
Sprinkling roasted coconut onto blackberry pie

"I've folded difficult things into pie dough, or crafted lines of a song to sing like a balm to old wounds.

When the resistance inevitably showed up, I reminded myself of my intention: bring love to this! Bring love to this too! And that has been my mantra.

Since adopting this approach, I am seeing changes in my life I never imagined possible. It's what moves and motivates me to want to share this process with others."

Kitchen table + home cooked meal

Her advice?

"Start with doing something creative you know you love. Do that. Keep doing it. Follow the beauty in your life and ingest it daily, like vitamins.

Create and surround yourself with beauty intentionally in the spirit of building a foundation of lovingness that you can draw from and eventually face the unloved with it. Then, when something uncomfortable arises (and it always will - it REALLY helps to expect that), bring your chosen art to it.

Also know: that if the CONTAINER is love, then anything that happens or arises within it is acceptable to be loved. Any feeling/emotion/circumstance/instinct, etc. We can be that container, because we ARE, intrinsically, unconditionally, love."

She has another retreat coming up in the fall, just sayin!

 
Tiffany - 100 Portraits

Getting Messy ~Tiffany~

Vivian - 100 Portraits

Practicing Surrender ~Vivian~

 

 

Getting Messy

{ Portrait 45 }

I sat there on my mat with a piece of clay in my hands. Cool, but increasingly warming to my touch. My eyes closed and my mind focused on the malleable surface between my fingers. Pushing and kneading the earthen contours.

Exploring. Playing. Creating.

Like a kid again. 

Until, a tightness crept in. A presence of a voice within, constructing the end game and seeking comparison in the aim of perfection. And in turn, I found myself trying to smooth all the rough edges with an obsessive sense of judgement. Finding faults, and cracks everywhere. 

This exercise, a part of Tiffany's yoga + art therapy workshop, illuminates what happens within so many creative and human endeavours. It stops being about the joy, and the wonder and the experience.

And the simple act of creating for creation's sake. Living for living's sake. Just...being.

Instead, it starts to mirror our deeper fears, and the pressure that comes with trying to achieve perfection, or our definitions "success". 

Tiffany painting

Tiffany is an art therapist and yoga & mindfulness teacher who beautifully weaves together these two arts to create a unique healing practice that brings out the playfulness, curiosity and presence in those she teaches and works with. 

Tiffany_creating art

I asked her why she does the work that she does...

"Because everybody hurts. 

Because everybody has to face challenges in their life. Because life gets messy and the practices of yoga, mindfulness & art therapy have all helped to navigate & process difficult thoughts and feelings about challenging experiences in my life. More importantly they’ve helped me to build supportive coping practices for whenever life throws me another curve ball in the future...Which it will, because life is full of curve balls."  

"Life is full of a lot of light, joy and beauty...And sometimes you have to allow yourself to “get messy” to realize that."  

paint on hands

Tiffany finds that a great deal of the joy in her life comes from connecting with others.  And she is grateful for all of the people she's met through her work & the lessons that they have taught her. As a yoga teacher, an art therapist and a human-being, Tiffany's intention is to always to help others with whatever it is they are experiencing in their life, and to help them feel a little less alone in that experience.  

"Some of us release stress by moving our bodies, some of us gain self awareness by creating an energy scribble with a crayon, some us cope with stress by sitting still, and some of us just need to feel that we are seen and heard by another human being."

"The beauty of yoga and art therapy is that they are both supportive mindfulness-based practices that help a person to simply noticing how they are right now. From that place a person can move forward and I just simply do my best to create a safe space to hold each persons experience & process." 

Tiffany portrait

She also talks about how she connects with her well-being and her practice of self-care...

"When life gets really messy it becomes very difficult for me to practice self-care. My tendency is to keep busy by helping others in the midst of my stressful situations and this leads to me burning out. I tend to become very good at “doing” and I have felt in the past an incredible amount of guilt around making self-care a priority. This is something I’ve learned about myself over the years and something I continue to work on. For me it always comes back to setting appropriate boundaries, this includes honouring your need for self care. 

black and white paintbrush
artwork
Tiffany_yoga pose with paint brush

I think the greatest joy in my life comes from connecting with my family and close friends. Just being in their company is what makes my heart truly smile. I’ve learned that every moment is precious with those you love so I just try to soak up every moment that I can with them. This might include watching silly television shows, or cooking a yummy meal together, or walking my dog, or having a laugh attack that makes my belly hurt, or sipping a coffee in silence."

"Being with those I love & adore is the best thing for my soul."

Tiffany portrait

Tiffany is a gorgeous human being inside and out. And I was so glad to have seen her magic at work that day on the mat at 889 yoga surrounded in a sea of art supplies. I am truly inspired by her courage to take some of the hardest experiences of her life and transform them into a way to help heal and bring the joy of creating to others. She is something truly special

Tiffany Merritt | Art Therapist & Yoga Teacher

Music by ~ Odessa - I will be there

{ A big grateful thank you to 889 Yoga for letting us use their beautiful studio for our photoshoot. }

 
Vivian_dancing

Practicing Surrender ~Vivian~

Sacha Portrait

Our Sisters ~Sacha~

Practicing Surrender

{ Portrait 43 }

We see strength as an ability to stay in control, unfazed. To not let things get to us, to put on the mask of braveness everyday. To push on and march forward, ignoring the whispered voice inside is telling us to stop and pause. 

We see weakness as being soft, and when our range of emotions surging inside overcomes us. When all that anger, and sadness, and frustration spill out of us. When we're hurting and not able to control our actions. When things are messy and the front of perfection crumbles. 

But I'm learning to find the art in surrender.

To let go of the labels and the compartmentalizations.

To know that we don't have to be feminine all the time to be a woman. That we have more strength than we know and it's okay to show it, sometimes through vulnerability. That we can express our fears and our sadness, and that it doesn't make us lesser. And allowing ourselves to take up space in our own lives, and the lives of others. 

The surrender is a softness. A practice in listening, truly listening. To what's inside. 

To allow for imperfection and embrace it.

And I saw that same act of surrender in Vivian. Amazed by her courage and inspired by her choice to start a new chapter, stepping away from that which no longer served her. To rediscover her passion. Embracing the struggle and beauty of it all.

Vivian portrait

Vivian originally ventured into online entrepreneurship because she was looking for more freedom. Prior, her soul and spirit felt like it was being more and more stifled as more and more of her time and energy was spent in a cubicle.

She left her cubicle job in early 2014 to fulfill a deep desire to see and explore more of the world, leaving for Southeast Asia and Australia with a one-way ticket, two backpacks, and a lot of surrendering. 

"For the first time, I felt like I was truly calling the shots on my life (and not just doing what was expected of me from others!) I felt free, finally. Every day was a new adventure, never really knowing what was next. Every day was filled with this child-like wonder and awe, meeting new and inspiring people, and see confirming what truly matters most in the world for me."

After the trip she knew she couldn't go back to a regular 9-5, it just wasn't right for her. She needed something that would allow her to be location-independent, as well as provide more flexibility in what, who, when, and how she did her work. 

"Ultimately, I wanted to base work around the lifestyle I wanted for myself, and not the other way around."

Vivian portrait

When I asked her why she does the work does she said:

"I've realized that connection is what ultimately fuels me. I want a life where I have time for what matters most to me - connection with self, others, loved ones...and a greater power - we're all one. I have also gotten to connect with a lot of people from around the world with my work - which is always so nice! The work I do now is a great coming-together of my skills, experience, personality, interests, and creativity. Funnily, it's come back full-circle to the creative realm, which I loved as a child, but lost along the way. But it makes sense, you follow your gut, trust with all your heart, and it comes together."

Vivian portrait

I also asked her how she makes time to connect with her well-being and world around her...

"I'm such a planner by nature, so I try to make sure I schedule time for myself to journal, reflect, and plan, and time with loved ones so I can get out of my head - having an online business means sometimes not seeing real people for days!  When I neglect to make time for this, I'm knocked off balance and it affects me physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, I don't really have a choice, because I feel like everything starts going wrong and it forces me to stop and re-connect! Honestly, it's a practice, and there's (lots of) periods where I'm completely off-track. The last few months have been all on building my business and I can feel the unbalance."

Vivian portrait

"A big piece of it is figuring what I want and don't want, and creating boundaries for myself."

"The relationships in my life are important to me - so I schedule time to make sure I re-connect with myself, my partner, family, friends, acquaintances, and even time to meet new people and check in regularly. 

In connecting with myself, dreams, and desires, I journal a lot. I keep close to my feelings and hone in on what is working and what isn't; and if it's not working, how to fix it. I try to regularly practice asking myself how I want to feel (inspired from Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map) - and the logical part of me also likes to break things down into smaller steps/goals. Purging of things/people that do not serve me is also something that helps me make space for things that do. 

In the spring and summer, I find every excuse to just be outside and soak up the fresh air and sunshine. Hammocking amongst the great big trees is definitely one of my favourite past-times. It's calming, grounding, and humbling. 

Otherwise, it's seeing the opportunities in every moment to connect, and that comes from being present. That's something I'm working on moment-to-moment!"

Vivian Ngai  | Creative virtual assistant

Providing business + design support for holistic entrepreneurs and changemakers: 

{ A wonderful big thank you to the Yoga Sanctuary on Danforth Avenue for opening their beautiful light-filled studio for our photoshoot. }


Meghan

Getting Lost ~Meghan~

Sacha - 100 Portraits

Our Sisters ~Sacha~

Our Sisters

[ Portrait 41 ]

Let's throw away the yard sticks.

Stop looking at others and cutting them down in our minds to build ourselves up. 

Let's stop the measuring. Stop judging the distance between each other. Stop trying to constantly find our place in the pack. Of thinking we're better, or kicking ourselves for feeling lesser than. 

Because those imagined faults are just fractured mirrors of our own inner critics.

As a women I've been guilty of cutting down others of my gender. My mind populating with thoughts of cruel comparison. So that I can feel mighty, for a moment. To feel that little bit bigger. And within the same breath, judging myself just as harshly. 

These past few years I've learned the importance of sisterhood. Of being more intentional about supporting and not reducing the women in my life. The girl on the subway, the woman at work, our best friend, our mother, the lady standing next to us in the elevator. 

Because by lifting others we are also elevating ourselves. When we stop comparing and start caring about the women beside us, I believe that they can fill our lives with much more than what they can take away.

Sacha - Forest Goddess

I have never seen a better example of this than Sacha. A wonderful soul that devotes her time and dazzling energy towards elevating the lives of women. Acting as a vibrant, compassionate, and kick-ass springboard, empowering their relationship with themselves, their lives, their power and and what makes them feel most alive.

Even during the short time I have known her, she has filled our moments together with so much colour. Whether it be over coffee, or during our forest photoshoot playing among the kaleidoscope of fall leaves. She has such a beautiful, unabashed passion for living. Her light and her words are an inspiration. 

Sacha - portrait, laughter

What makes you feel most connected to your work, your wellbeing and body, and your sense as a woman?

Being able to reach out and make a difference with women who are change makers and heart-centred humans is one of the biggest forces that pulls me forward in my work. To be able to act as a trampoline for another females dreams, hopes and ambitions (and have them reach higher) is the biggest reason I do what I do and the 'why' behind my work. I truly believe that as women fall more in love with themselves and are empowered to speak up, act out and stand up for what they believe, this planet will transform, heal and regain peace.

Sacha Portrait

Making sure to be that same way with myself is how I make sure and integrate this with my own well-being and body. Allowing my work to be fuelled by my intuition and listening to what my heart is saying is how I best serve me. As a woman I have the incredible ability to create life from scratch and so my body is this extraordinary vessel that allows me to impact the world. Being sure to honor that by being in flow rather than force along with deep nourishing self-care are some of the ways I do that in my life.

As woman being in 'sisterhood" is the biggest and best way to stay connected to my sense as woman. Whether they are biological or not, surrounding myself with amazing females is one of the most nourishing and sourceful experiences in my life.

Sacha_portrait leaves

We live in such separate, compartmentalized worlds now and the sense of belonging, community, tribe and sisterhood are long forgotten. My access to feeling the most alive come from allowing my heart to open up to other women and being a safe space for theirs so that our beauty, grace, magic and power are reflected back to us in our connections. 

Sacha_portrait with tree

What do you want most for the women in your life and that you work with?

If I were to really look at what difference I want to make on the planet it would for sure be that women feel empowered to live out loud, on purpose and unapologetically true to who they are. 

But if I look even deeper at what I want MOST for the women in my life and the ones I work with it would be that they are so madly head-over-fucking-heels in love with themselves that they can't help but wink at themselves in every reflective surface they pass. 

That the woman they see looking back in their reflection is their biggest source of power, truth, strength and love. That when they say "I love you" to the mirror the woman looking back at them believes it. 

Sacha Lalla | Feminine Leadership Expert 


Stories Within ~Abby~

Getting Lost ~Meghan~