The Dove Ads: Good or Bad?

The New Dove Ads: Sketches of Beauty are the latest buzz in cyber space.  If you haven’t seen them take a peak below or through their website here.

Many people, women especially, responded with positivity saying things like it hit close to home, and brought them to tears.  I myself felt this initially as well.  But there has also been some negative reaction as well.
Please take a moment to read this fantastic blog, with some very thoughtfully articulated points. (click on the fantastic blog part!)

So how do you feel now?  
I think they both perspectives have validity.  I try not to take anything as purely one sided.  I think what makes someone beautiful is that they love and accept themselves and their physical body is only one component of that.  It is unfortunate that racial/cultural equality wasn’t shown in the video either… and that the company has also done blatantly sexist videos for their other products (axe).  BUT, I will still support something that gets us thinking about being kinder and more loving to ourselves – even if it isn’t perfect.  After all isn’t that what they’re encouraging us to do?

Advertising is a tricky thing.  Someone’s facebook status said she wouldn’t even look at the video because even if it had a good message in the end it was still an advertisement.  Yes, even though there is no product placement.  But what is my blog?  Isn’t it advertising me?  Isn’t it just a way to share my ideas, beliefs and put a little bit more of ‘me’ into the world?  Some advertisements are creative, thought-provoking, emotionally stirring.  Some you could argue are even art.  But do we discount their validity, their effect, their power because they are advertisements?

While I would be happy to do without “them”, our world is so connected to marketing and advertising that I wonder whether we can exist without them (I mean we can but how could we stop it).  Until the time society is not driven by consumption and therefore steered by marketing campaigns I will gladly support companies that strive to put even a little consciousness into their ads.  Perhaps, just as we take steps to better ourselves, they are also taking baby steps to improve their way of thinking/acting?  (or maybe my rose coloured glasses are just permanently fixed to my face?!)

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What I say is what I am…

I was in dance school when the concept of language really became interesting to me.  Funny that as I’m learning to communicate without words their importance became so clear.  Teachers there began to talk about what (and how) you say and it made me realize the words we choose and the way we say it has a huge affect on our behaviour/actions.

As I continued my teaching (as a gymnastics coach, dance & yoga teacher) I try to be very conscious of what I say.  Our words can be limiting or opening, negative or positive, defeating or empowering, etc.  When we speak with children our awareness is often heightened because of a role we play in their development.  As Peggy O’Mara says “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”

Speaking out loud helps us to register what we’re actually saying.  (Hopefully) We choose our words to others carefully and selectively, but what about what we say to ourselves?  This post comes about as I prepare for a 2km erg test in a few hours.  It’s not a lot of fun.  Basically (for me) 8ish minutes of pain.  And so I’ve been thinking about what I will say to myself in those moments…. when it starts to hurt, when the doubt is louder than the faith, when I want to quit, when I don’t know why I’m doing this in the first place, and I could go on and on.

You are what you believe yourself to be – Paulo Coelho

Everything in life is about choices.  What we think and what we say are exactly that.  A little while ago I posted about choosing which thoughts to surf, and I have to remember that today.  Because even though there are moments where the voices of doubt grow louder, the belief, positivity and joy are still in there… I just have to play DJ and adjust the levels a bit to drown the bad ones out!

And so in this challenge today (and in every other aspect of my life), I will not let my head be my own worst enemy.  I will not defeat myself before I begin.  I will choose to believe, and if I begin to think thoughts that aren’t supporting me I will ask myself what I would say to a child, or to you… and then I will listen to the trust grow within me, and know that I can overcome anything, that with my relentless spirit I will do more than get through it I will conquer.

Thanks for this little public pep talk.  Think about the words you say to yourself and the thoughts you think.  Manifest the good within you and watch it blossom!

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can do it BABY

THE Boat Race

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Tomorrow thousands of people will gather in West London next to the Thames River to watch 18 men battle 4 1/4 miles in 159th The Boat Race.  Since 1829 crews from Oxford and Cambridge have met annually to test their strength, stamina, courage and will in a rowing race that many in England hold in higher esteem than the Olympics.

When Malcolm first mentioned his interest in coming to England and rowing in the Boat Race following the Olympics I was a little skeptical.  I knew it would be a wonderful experience – I just didn’t know how much fun it would be, for both of us!  I have cherished this experience for a number of reasons, one of the most important is seeing how much fun Malcolm is having both on the water and in the lab.  Much to my amazement I also enjoy being on the water – except for that first outing (which was the equivalent of beating my head against a wall).  I started rowing (to be honest) because I was jealous of the team environment.  When you leave a sport you’ve basically grown up in, it’s hard to replace that environment.  I’m lucky because I’ve been able to find that in University (Cheerleading team), Dance, Crossfit and now rowing.  But it’s addictive.  Once you have it, you never want to let it go.  I saw it in the Canadian M8+ last year, and in the Blue boat here…

But enough about me. I’m writing this because I’m so proud of my husband. Of what he and his teammates have worked so hard for over the past seven months (and all of the years before).  It has been exciting to see every step of this process, watching how they have come together, pushed one another, elevated each other and have overcome each challenge they faced.  Preparing for the Olympics was a challenge in and of itself, but how these men (and women) balance that training with their academics is more than admirable.

I hope tomorrow the crews have the opportunity to showcase themselves, their talents, their hard work – and to do so without interruption or disturbance.  I’m excited for tomorrow… and if you are too, you can watch the race on the BBC here in England (and on the internet too), or on tape delay on Sportsnet in Canada.  There’s also a live text feature that will outline what’s happening as occurs.  Click here to access the link.

There is also a great article on Malcolm… check the link below!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/9962555/University-Boat-Race-2013-Oxford-stroke-and-Olympic-champion-Malcolm-Howard-remain-calm-before-storm.html#disqus_thread

And some fantastic shots of training (and from the race too I’m sure) here

Tomorrow is going to be a thrilling race, and though I’m not part of the boat I’m honoured to be along for the ride.

My letter to Patrick Chan

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Dear Patrick,
First of all I want to say Congratulations on your third World Championship title.  This isn’t a letter to talk about “Chanflation” or other ridiculous things. It’s in fact to tell you, you deserve it! 

Yes, the LP may not have been your finest performance, but you would be the first to admit it.  However, winning a championship is not only about two programs, it’s also about all of the components. And you are the complete package.  Like the Canadian Champions before you, you show impeccable technique and strong performance qualities.  But to me you combine these like none-other.  You are effortlessly powerful AND graceful.  You seamlessly meld footwork into jumps into choreography and back… you show strength not only in your skills but in your choreography… and yet demonstrate a sensitivity and gentleness that makes you endearing too.

But this isn’t a letter to tell you things you already know.  Or to boost your ego.  I wanted to write to you because I saw some of the interviews you did before Worlds and well what I wanted to say is, I get it.

I understand how at the peak of your game you begin to question what you’re doing, and what you want.  How just a year out from the Olympics when things are going so well, for some reason there’s a change – and things aren’t flowing so smoothly.  It happened to me too.  I had come off of being the most medalled Canadian Athlete at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.  Then a knee injury took me out for about six months. Undeterred, I returned to competition as if nothing had happened.  But looking back at what followed, something was happening.

In the 1999 Pan American Championships in Winnipeg a fluke mistake (nearly falling on my face out of a spin) placed me in 4th – and would eventually lead to me not making the 2000 Olympic Games.  Perhaps it was the pressure of the hometown crowd? Perhaps it was the doubts that began to creep in?  Perhaps it was as you experienced, that you just needed a change.

I often think that being in sport one must utilize a kind of ‘auto-pilot’.  This is important so that we don’t interfere with the knowledge and experience of our bodies.  But sometimes when our training gets on auto-pilot we need to shake things up.  I think your change in location is an excellent example of this.

But I think something else needs to shift.  In an interview you spoke about enjoying working hard – putting in time in the gym etc.  But can you find the joy in your skating?  Can you go back to the excitement of how the ice feels under your blades?  The thrill of your feet moving blazing fast?  Nailing your most complex jumps?  The goosebumps when you live the music?

Can you get out of your head and into your body.  You don’t need to force yourself to be good. You are. You don’t need to try hard to be a champion. You deserve it.  You have earned it, time and time again.  Trust your training.  Trust the years of work you’ve put in.  And enjoy it.

During my yoga teacher training Eoin Finn helped us realize we are at our best when we are being a CONDUIT.  Perhaps you could try the same thing with your skating… allowing it to flow through you.

I know, and I think you know in your heart of hearts that you have everything it takes to be Olympic Champion.  Trust that knowledge, honour that faith.  My coach said “you’re too smart for your own good” and I feel like you are as well.  Allow yourself to be all that you are.  Allow that journey to be filled with happiness and fun.  Allow the ups and downs to happen, the good and the bad. And realize that they don’t need to affect you.  You can choose to go with the good and release the ‘bad’.

“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” 
~ Jonatan Mårtensson

I’m excited for your year ahead.  Enjoy it. Embrace the challenges and savour the joys.  Hold your head up high.  And Go For It!  We’re all behind you… well, at least this lady is (and my Nanna is a huge fan too!)

Best wishes xo
~ Erika

 

International Day of Happiness: 30 Minutes of Wonderful

DOH aim

Today is the first International Day of Happiness as resolved and declared by the United Nations.  It is a concerted effort to collectively change our way of thinking and acting so that we may create a happier society (and world) through bringing happiness to others.  Check on the website to take the pledge, find out how you can nominate a happy hero, send Cheers or learn Actions for Happiness.

A year or so ago I had the privilege of watching a documentary on happiness called Happy.  This incredibly moving film inspired me on many levels as it interviewed and examined peoples’ lives and experiences in different countries and cultures.  For 72 hours, they are renting the film for only $2.99!!! I highly recommend you watch it.  (click on Happy to go to the website!)

Finally, there is an idea that has been germinating inside of me for a little while.  One of my favourite films growing up was Steel Magnolias.  In it, is one of my all time favourite quotes:
I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime full of nothing special.

And so I’m kickstarting my THIRTY MINUTES OF WONDERFUL project!
I am challenging myself (and you) to do something that makes you happy, feel joy, bliss and is wonderful for thirty minutes EACH day!  Take pictures of it, write a comment to me about it, encourage your friends and family to join you!  And remember variety is the spice of life.  Maybe your wonderful will be singing or having a dance party in your kitchen or living room, perhaps it will be trying a new recipe, or picking up the phone and speaking to a friend or loved one.  Maybe it will be getting your sweat on – hitting the gym, the yoga or pilates studio or busting out a killer wod!  Go down the slide with your kids, make crafts, paint a picture, write a poem, take a picture, snuggle your pet!

The aim is to:
* Set aside quality time for you and for feeling good each day
* Make it a decided and focused task (put away the electronics – at least some of the time)
* Choose things that make your body, mind, and soul grow and shine
* Connect with others and share your happiness and pleasure in what you’re doing
* Slow down and learn to appreciate the incredible things that fill your life
* Expand your horizons by trying new things
* Smile, laugh, love and overflow with bliss!

Please join me on this new adventure!  I hope to expand this project to another area of my webpage – but please bear with me (my tech director is currently busy with a big boat race hehe).  I would love to hear from you with your comments, ideas, suggestions and of course how YOU spent your Thirty Minutes of Wonderful!  Email me at erika@erikahoward.ca

Today I’m going to dance class and will enjoy exploring movement and music with some pretty wonderful people – and then some wine and laughs with good friends!  Bring on the bliss!!!

Find your happiness, share it & see it grow...

Find your happiness, share it & see it grow…

Feel Good News: March 19

Wow. Talk about Terrific Tuesday!
This is going to be a smorgasbord of things to make you FEEL GOOD, find GRATITUDE, SMILE, LAUGH, and hopefully radiate more HAPPINESS.

Thanks to my wonderful sister in law, it was brought to my attention that tomorrow is actually the first UN International Day of Happiness!  Visit the website and sign the pledge: I will try to create more happiness in the world around me.  Let’s help happiness spread like wildfire (or perhaps like contagious laughter) and share some good feelings, good deeds and good actions in your community.  Use the #happyday hashtag on twitter… and then keep going!  And make every day a happy one for you & those around you!!!

One of my “keys to happiness” is GRATITUDE.  If you find yourself struggling to find the joy in your life, discovering the little things you’re grateful for may help to open that door.  To combat depression and seek happiness this is exactly what Hailey did when she began her 365 Grateful project.  As a photographer she captured images of little things in her day that she loved and was thankful for.  It has subsequently become a book and is in production to become a film!  Visit the website to learn more, and to unleash the “extraordinary power of gratitude”.

From time to time I think we all struggle to find the joy in life.  It’s often due to the stresses of our every day lives.  Pressures and deadlines in our jobs, being overwhelmed by our to do lists and the lack of time to get things done, and the want for more down time (or in my case currently – too much down time).  I find myself fighting the flow of life.  Like a fish trying to swim upstream I waste so much energy trying to be happy.  When in fact, I think that deep down our true nature is one of happiness.  I believe that as children we come into this world with a certain understanding of ourselves and of life.  I believe it is this knowledge that feeds our intuition and instincts.  However our challenge in life is that we experience and are taught things that may veer from this innate truth.  That is why I love and appreciate children so much.  Some of the things they say reveal their understanding and how they see the world.  Watch this video and take a peek at some of the incredible insights of this nine year old:

Can you let go of your head and trust your instincts?  Listen to that voice deep inside and know your truth…

Finally, this is a feel good video that may move you to tears (ok it may just be me and my ‘over active tear ducts’).  Before I moved to England, I had the privilege of working with Special Olympians in rhythmic gymnastics.  It was such an incredible opportunity that filled me with love and helped my heart grow bigger than the grinch’s!!! This video was taken from Dale Lowe’s blog.  Kitchener, Ontario will host the Special Olympics International Tournament over the next few days and this video (taken last year) shows an incredible example of the spirit of sport and what true sportsmanship is!

The motto this year is “Yes I Can”.
You can too.
You can be grateful. You can be happy. You can share your joy and inspire others.  You can do good deeds and help others.  You can trust yourself and know that you are a part of this incredible web of life and the universe.  You can make a difference. You can be the difference.

 

The man with a turnip for a head…

With a little extra day time hours on my hands, the internet becomes a great abyss (and a great time waster).  But I am thankful for it from time to time when I come across little jems like this: The Man with a Turnip for a Head.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a production company called hitRECord.  It features video, image, audio and text from online collaborators – and when you upload something you can share in any profits made.  A pretty cool concept, and a nice way for someone to use his notoriety to promote others!

Take a peek at this wonderful little short narrated by Gary Oldman.

So what’s your turnip?
I think we all have turnips whether they can be seen externally or not.  We have our little hang ups and things we tend to obsess over.  What causes these sensitivities may be a variety of reasons… I now have a knee that doesn’t bend the same.  It’s not a big deal – except if you want to be a dancer or squat a lot of weight (aka live my life).  But I’ve had to accept that it’s who and what I am.  And by integrating my turnip I empower myself to overcome any disadvantages (perceived or actual) it may cause.

If you’re into crossfit there are some videos going around that showcase this.  A man in a wheelchair doing burpees, or a woman who broke her leg doing one-legged burpees!  But there are many more: like this man with brain cancer who won a marathon while pushing his daughter in a stroller! These are examples of people who own their turnip, and don’t let a situation own them… we all have choices to make in how we deal with what happens to us in life.  If we honour the things that make us vulnerable they won’t zap our strength.  And in doing so we then become open to accepting differences in others.  We all want to be accepted and supported.  Treating yourself and others with kindness and grace is how to achieve this.  Some people have no trouble showing compassion to others yet cannot demonstrate the same thinking to themselves.  If you don’t appreciate and love yourself, how can others?

Embrace all that makes you YOU.  It creates a rich tapestry that weaves together your strengths, differences and unique qualities and makes you stronger as a result.

Feel Good News: Sunday March 10

Perhaps you live in North America and the clocks went ahead (and you missed Justin Timberlake on SNL).  Perhaps it’s just a little dreary outside and they’re forecasting snow (and you live in England and missed Justin Timberlake on SNL).  Maybe you live far from a friend or loved one and while you aren’t a worm and don’t communicate through snuggling you still wish you could cuddle up to someone or hold hands like otters…

Ok those last few things may not make a whole lot of sense – but read this article, smile, pretend to be a worm or an otter or the little boy with the Princess and go out and have yourself a good day!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/the-happiest-facts-of-all-time

 

Breaking Open

Today is the day: 13.1

Some of you will have no idea what that means. But for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, they will have butterflies and nervous anticipation as they await the release of the first workout of the 2013 Crossfit Open.

Rewind to 2011. I hadn’t been doing Crossfit very long or consistently.  I remember the first workout was double unders (phew) and snatches. Snatch? What? I spent the whole day trying to learn the lift from videos and hit the gym early to try and make some inquiries as to how one actually gets the bar from knees to overhead (and that magical moment in between).

Snatch miracleI survived that wod (thanks to some ground to overhead leniency) and through the open I learned that I had way more to give than I had ever imagined.  It pushed me to become more serious about my training.  Later, I volunteered at Regionals and set my mind on competing there myself.

2012 brought more surprises.  I was eager to train and compete to help my team, although I really didn’t think I would be in a position to qualify for Regionals.  And that lovely snatch – well my one rep max became my three-rep max (100lbs).  At the end of the Open I shocked myself by been one of the top finishers from my gym (what the?! how’d that happen), and had the honour and fun of representing the Zone at the Canada West Regionals.

Almost hitting 105 at Regionals.

Almost hitting 105 at Regionals.

Another year. And another surprise. I won’t be doing the 2013 open.  Will I miss something like the 7-min burpee AMRAP? No, not likely. Although because I’ll always be a crossfitter I’ll likely do it today just for fun!

What I will miss is:
– Pushing myself past my limits and discovering I can go further than I thought possible, and know I still have more to go
– Watching my friends and teammates learn new skills, achieve new landmarks (PRs), and elevate one another to incredible heights and achievements
– Being part of a community no matter where I go.  In 2011 I went to Square One Crossfit  for one of the wods, and 2012 I did another at Reebok Crossfit Firepower.  Every box meant support, camaraderie, friendship and a competitive push
– The feeling of accomplishment after having faced down my fears, overcome them, conquered them and realized I AM SO MUCH STRONGER THAN ANYTHING I FACE
– The relief once the wod is done. Going through hell is hard. But let’s face it, it’s actually a lot of fun (aside from the burning, nausea, pain etc).  It’s the best drug there is right?!
– Pre/Mid/Post wod dancing (Miss Adrianna Haffey I’m talking about you!)
– Bettering myself.  These challenges strengthen every part of you: body, mind & spirit.

When Crossfit didn’t play into the cards this year I felt like a failure.  I felt like I was letting myself down.  I felt like everyone around me would be making incredible progress and I (by doing nothing) would be on a fast train backwards.  But training for the unexpected means that sometimes life will change your plans.  Sometimes what you want to have happen won’t be possible.  Sometimes it even means that there are other opportunities the universe has in store.  In the same way that our weaknesses don’t mean we’re not strong, being out this year doesn’t mean I’m not learning, growing and getting stronger… it just means I’m exploring other ways of doing it.

And maybe all it took for me to fall in love with an erg was to get in a boat on the water – that has to help my crossfitting doesn’t it?

Once again, I’m humbled by the lessons that life and sport continue to teach me.  And once again I’m going to be counting down the minutes until each wod is released.  Except this time with a few less butterflies in my stomach.

I love that they call sectionals the Open.  For me it is about being just that: open to new things/skills/wods, being open to our strengths and weaknesses, open to learning and growing, open to what other people are doing, and open to what life has in store… I wish all who are competing this year an incredible ride.  I’ll be cheering for you!