Owning your power

I haven’t posted in quite some time (sorry about that!), but this morning I had a revelation that warranted sharing….

The last little while has presented our family with a variety of challenges. It’s just general life events (man this whole ‘adult responsibility/decision making’ stuff is a blast isn’t it!), but all of those little things can add up and begin to wear you down.  This morning both my husband and I had reached our limits.  We were frustrated, upset, and I personally felt powerless. Many of the issues we’re dealing with are beyond our control, and a lot of things in our lives are unknown right now.  Having patience in a sea of uncertainty is a feat in and of itself without all of the other little things springing up here and there…

But I realized as I battled those feelings of frustration, fear, anger, and doubt that I was giving my power away.  It felt like I was walking around with my heart outside of my body, or my brain not inside my head!  As if someone was leading me blindly.  But I gave them permission to do that. I basically held my hand out.

Thankfully after a bath and some meditation/mindfulness – I’M BACK!
By allowing other people to dictate my reaction I was giving them all of my power.  I may not be able to control other people, the outcome of a situation or a decision that is made BUT I have complete power over my response to it.  I’m not saying one shouldn’t feel those initial reactions of frustration or doubt because they are natural (and ignoring them may cause them to fester etc). However by letting go of them, focusing on what is within your spectrum of control, and manifesting the desired outcome we can better handle everything that comes our way in a more positive and productive manner.  It’s not easy, it takes mental and emotional stamina – but in the long run it is a more sustainable attitude than being ‘beat up’ by the people and situations around us.  We waste a lot of energy thinking of probable outcomes, things that could possibly go wrong, or fearing the worst… While one shouldn’t be blind to what may occur we need to save our strength to deal with whatever happens when it actually arises. And by cultivating a good attitude and nurturing a state of mind that is open, ready and free of clutter (yes… those voices…) we can conquer whatever challenge may come along.

After all, as they say in Desiderata “Many fears are born of fatigue, and loneliness”… and one of my favourites:

“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.” – Thomas Carlyle

I have been fortunate to have been introduced to meditation and mindfulness through my yoga practice, teacher training, and then through my own interest (and courses/studies I’ve pursued).  My experience with it today just reminded me of the immense benefits of this type of daily practice.  And here’s a quote that summarizes it beautifully.

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” – Tich Nhat Hanh


Have a beautiful day dear friends xo

Try Easier

In today’s class I shared some wise words that a dear friend shared with me many years ago.  I’ve held them in my heart and tried to put the concept in place… it’s a challenge to change our habits but a very useful skill to have.



Do you ever feel frustrated as you try to get something accomplished? Those “little buggers” known as inertia, “brain fog”, anxiety and a host of other maladies seem to hold us back from realizing our true potential.

Occasionally, as I begin to write, (or begin any new creative task) this often happens to me too… So how do I handle this “writer’s block” effect?
First, I “clear the space”.  I turn off all the “noise” on my desk. Usually, I get into my easy chair and relax (not my normal office chair – but one that’s “comfy”).

Then, I turn on some of my favorite music – calming, inspiring, music that “stirs my soul” like Steve Roach. (Steve’s music also appears in Dream-Minder).

Now, “the stage is set”. And it’s all perfect, right? Not always…
I get writer’s block like any one else, but what I’ve learned is to not force it. Instead I take a step back from it and ask “What am I inspired to write?” And in almost all cases, the creativity opens up…

But my books haven’t yet been finished… I’ve probably been trying too hard.  So several months ago, I was led to a very cool new book called “Accidental Genius” by Marc Levy.

Marc tells a story by Robert Kriegel – famous business consultant and “mental coach” for world class athletes.  He writes:
“Kriegel was training a sizable group of sprinters who were battling for the last spots in the Olympic trials. During a  practice run, Kriegel found his runners to be “tense and tight” – victims of “a bad case of the Gotta’s”

Levy continues…
“Conventional wisdom would have dictated that these highly skilled athletes train harder, but Kriegel had another idea. He asked them to run again, only this time they were to relax their efforts, and run with about nine-tenths their normal intensity.”

Of this second attempt Kriegel writes:
“The results were amazing! To everyone’s surprise, each ran faster the second time, when they were trying “easy” And one runner’s time set an unofficial world record.”

“Fine for running”, Levy says, “but does that idea hold up in any pursuit?
Kriegel continues:
“The same is true elsewhere: trying easy will help you in any area of your life. Conventional wisdom tells us we have to have no less than 110% effort to keep ahead. Yet conversely, I have found that giving 90% is usually more effective.”

Conventional wisdom… Is it possible that by buying into that conventional wisdom stuff – that we’ve duped ourselves…?

Have we lost touch with our Hearts and our Spirits by trying too hard? If we’re so in charge of our lives, why do so may of us not realize our Dreams? Why is it that so many people give up on what really matters most to them? Could it be that they’re trying too hard?

What would happen if you made the choice to “try easier” in your life? How could that affect:
*    Your Job
*    Your Financial Life
*    Your Social Life
*    Your Family Life
*    Your Health
*    Your Spirit

In what part of your life are you trying too hard?

Will you allow yourself to “Try Easier” today – so that this part of your life has the chance to open up and just BE? In other words, as our quote today by Amelia
Barr, reminds us:
“. . . it is always the simple that produces the marvellous”

You deserve to live a simpler life, with less stress. A life that makes you feel light, energized and passionate…

In short…
YOU deserve to live your Dreams…  Today!
Why wait for something to happen when you can re-light the torch… the torch of passion that kindles within you right now as you read this…

So, take a moment and…

B  r  e  a   t  h   e  . . .
step back from your “reality” and Dream . . .

As you do, you’ll re-connect to YOUR “childhood imaginings”, and re-claim your Spirit and be well on your way to Living Your Life’s Dreams… B r e a t h e, and take a moment to Dream today my friend.  And So It Is….   by Paul Bauer


Perhaps Paul’s words resonate and impact you as they did to me.  If so, play with going with the flow, giving over to YOUR incredible abilities and trusting that by letting go and trying easier (in lieu of forcing or fighting) we can actually get even further. 

As always, I welcome your comments, questions and feedback!  I hope you have a wonderful day!
Blessings ~ Erika

Taking on the World

Today I woke up to a lovely little inquiry from a dear friend, and so this blog post is for you Alana, for you and for your athletes who are ready to take on the world!  But this also goes out to my Turquoise Ambition girls who’ll be shining bright at Westerns!

Competitions, performances, and tests are these incredible things we love and sometimes may love to hate.  It’s the time when we have to put everything together, the days-months-years of work, sacrifice, dedication and passion.  Since I was a young girl I loved performing. I loved sharing what was so much fun with others as it made it even more enjoyable.  And then there came a time when competitions were less fun and way more stress.  From that time I have worked very hard to get back to that original mindset… and these are some of the things I do.

1. You have the same job to do. 
What you are doing (your routine, the skill you are performing) does not change whether you are in practice, at a local competition or at the world championships or Olympics.  The only thing that may be different is your mind and how you are seeing it.  So choose how you see it.  Use your mind to visualize your home gym or a comfortable environment.  Or begin now to visualize where you will be performing.  Trust your muscle-memory.  While you need to be aware and calm enough to assess what’s happening in that moment, you need to rely on your auto-pilot to a certain extent… as Nike says: Just Do It. No more. No less. Exactly as you’ve practiced day in & day out.  You don’t need to be better you just need to be YOU.

Remember pressure doesn’t actually exist, it is just your perspective. Change your mindset if it’s not working for you.  But know too that nerves are a good thing – they help give you that edge. Make them work for you too!

2. Trust.
When the mind believes the body can achieve!  In moments of doubt we change the way our mind and body perform an action or skill. Doubt leads to hesitation which throws off your timing, speed, power etc.  When you believe in yourself and commit fully you’re able to do it ‘like you always do’ and are calm and aware.

You must trust your teammates and your coaches implicitly.  And if you begin to question yourself remember their faith in you.  Do it for one another.  Friendship is a powerful motivator. Know that together you can do more.

When we dream alone it is only a dream, but when many dream together it is the beginning of a new reality.” ~ Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Depending on your personality and tendencies you may live more in your head, your heart or your body.  But often our thoughts and feelings can lead our actions astray…. If we ‘feel’ nervous we may begin thinking negative thoughts and our behaviour follows suit.  However if we act with confidence, faith, strength – all of the qualities of a champion we are cultivating winning thoughts and feelings.  So stand up tall, chin up, shoulders back, strong core, be proud, eyes focused & centred.

4. Be a conduit
When I have experienced flow (or peak performance state) it feels as if the performance is coming through me.  All you need is within you, so how can you ‘get out of your own way’ and let that skill, talent, strength come out?  You don’t need to force it – trust your training, and give over to all of the work you’ve put in.

5. Enjoy
Attitude is everything.  When we’re having fun we can do all of the things I’ve mentioned much easier – trust, flow, let it happen, go for it.  And at the end of the day, and in many years down the road the joy, the fun, the incredible memories you made is what you’ll remember…

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.” – Henry David Thoreau

Courage is the capacity to confirm what can be imagined.” – Leo Rosten

There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh


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 cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The last two years of my life have been about rowing. It is something that we’ve lived, breathed, ate & slept. Of course up until four months ago I hadn’t sat in a boat or picked up an oar.

My life was about helping my husband, Malcolm Howard in his quest for a second Olympic medal.  After he and his teammates achieved that goal in London this summer, we moved to Oxford in order for him to pursue his Masters.  With little to do initially, I jokingly said to the OUWBC President who was coaching some of the Oriel Novice Women “Should I learn to row?”.  The next day I had a tank session.  And that’s how my rowing career began.

I took to the water after two tank sessions, likely under some false preconceived ideas of what it would be like.  After watching Olympic crews I knew I wasn’t going to be good, but I  didn’t think the suck would be so bad.  I came off the water that day in tears and has VERY reluctant to go back.

The next outing was an inter-college mini regatta. My crew won. Things were looking up.  After a long pause for my return-to-Canada-Visa-trip and the Holidays it was back to training.  This was where things actually got fun.

I began to like erg-ing. Anyone who has done Crossfit with me knows my disdain for the erg.  I think it was invented as a torture device.  BUT, little did I know I would enjoy 25 minutes pieces, and be thrilled to be back in the gym doing circuits and pushing hard to build strength and fitness.

The weather in England has not been very rowing friendly this year.  Flooding meant many red flags and ‘closures’ of the Isis.  While this did mean some fun trips to Wallingford (including one where Malcolm and the OUBC squad were training as well… talk about trying to keep your head in the boat while your husband yells “ERIKA” as you row by!), it also meant that the ‘newbies’ didn’t get out on the water as much as we’d hoped.

Then the 6th week of term arrived. I had been away in Canada for a wedding and returned to Oxford just in time for Rowing On.  This is when boats in the lower categories have to race a time trial in order to qualify and rank themselves for Torpids.  I’m happy I remembered how to row, having not been in a boat for a few weeks, and even happier to say we qualified!

Now the task will be getting the boat to move quickly, while we keep our focus amidst the craziness around us.  I’m not 100% sure what the experience will be like, but BUMPS racing is insane. Boats are lined up along the river according to ranking, and the objective is to catch and overtake or bump the crew in front of you.  I feel like it’s rowing+american gladiators… and I’m oh-so looking forward to it!

Hopefully I will have many stories to share by the end of the week!
Keep your fingers crossed for us and send some Oriel love this way 🙂

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
~ Confucious

P.S The boat race is only 33 days away.  Check out theboatrace.org for information or whichblueareyou.com to vote for Oxford and the Dark Blue!!!!

P.P.S Next year stay tuned for when Malcolm takes up either dancing or rhythmic gymnastics (we’ll be holding a vote for you to decide which!!!!)

Do one thing a day that scares you

Fear is defined as an unpleasant often strong emotion.  We resist unpleasant feelings, and yet these are often the times where much growth, learning and development happen.  Here’s a video of a young boy overcoming his fears to much celebration.  I think we would commend not only his talent but foremost his strength and courage.  We admire it so much in others… so the next time you are fearing an activity perhaps instead of thinking of the unpleasant outcome recognize that you may be inspiring those around you.

Don’t let your fears stand in the way of your dreams.

365 Opportunities

Tis the season… you know Champagne, Resolutions, Life-evaluations. That sort of thing.
Since I aspire to those things on an almost daily basis, this will and won’t be one of those kinds of posts.  New Year’s resolutions seem a bit funny to me.  Once a year goals are wayyyyyy to few and far between.  But it does seem like a convenient time to look back at the year that is soon to pass… perhaps it’s because generally speaking we finally have a bit of time off!

I feel that way too.  In fact I did a lovely Gratitude exercise today at the end of my little Yoga Session where thought over everything/one I was thankful for… It has been quite a remarkable year – for myself and my dear husband.  There were many firsts, many moments that took my breath away/made my heart swell/brought tears to my eyes (ok a lot of those!)/and that I learned and grew from!  There are things I never would have imagined – announcing at the Olympics or being in Oxford to name a few!  None the less these opportunities and adventures are what make life so rich and interesting.  Being open to them and listening to the lessons of the universe is what helps me live fully, learn immensely, and feel so deeply!  To be open is one of my missions in life.  (And it is always on top of my resolution list – that is if I had one!)

This year, my wish for you is to OWN YOUR POWER.  You are in charge of your destiny.  You command your happiness.  Each day is an opportunity.  Each moment a choice.  Perhaps this may seem like an over-simplification but I believe if you’re not happy with the choices you have made – the life you are living – you have the power to change that.  You may feel like you don’t have the will power, resources, ability or strength. But you do.  If you look around you, or search the internet you will see incredible people taking charge of their lives.  There’s the old adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How badly do you want it?  How much do you believe in your dreams?  Do you think you are worth it?

I hope you know that you CAN be everything you ever wanted.  It may not happen over night. It may not happen easily.  But then again, the best things in life never do – do they?!  So keep your dreams close to your heart.  Listen to the universe for clues, signs and support.  This is your year… and even though there are hardships and disasters, disease and misfortune – all around there is also kindness, beauty, love, friendship.  We have a choice with what we focus on.  And in doing so what we attract to our lives.  What do you want to draw to you with magnetic force?

It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
~ J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

And so, as this New Year and its 365 days of possibilities hover on the horizon I wish for you a few simple things: love, peace, faith, challenges, opportunities, learning, growth, laughter, triumph and BLISS!  Two questions for you… what’s in your heart? And what are you doing New Year’s Eve?


(I’m having a fun little party a la moi – which means me+Basil+a bottle of bubbly = 2013 here we come!!!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to an amazing 2013!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s to an amazing 2013!

Presence: the best gift

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

For the past few years, Christmas has provided me an opportunity to write a note to those close to me, reflecting on the year and sending wishes for the upcoming New Year… However this year, Christmas has come and gone and alas, no message.  While I love cards, I’m horrible at sending/mailing Christmas ones.  I do appreciate the internet for it’s ability to reach across the miles – especially since the last few years have taken me here, there & everywhere.  So as the time to write a note diminished, and my guilt for not doing so increased I had a realization.  Perhaps the lesson of that experience is: to go with the flow.  I am big on setting high expectations (for myself, situations, and often others as well).  Perhaps it was as I was running in the sunshine yesterday, or laughing with my niece on video chat, or even as I lay savouring (also known as attempting to digest) all of the delicious tastes, sights & sounds of the day that this realization dawned on me… perhaps it’s just a simple way for me to feel better… or perhaps it’s the knowledge that we all have a choice.  I can choose to feel angry/sad/upset that I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do in my mind. Or I could instead, choose to fall asleep sending thoughts and wishes of love and fondness to those whom I wish I had been able to write or speak to…

Yesterday was the second Christmas I’ve spent as “Mrs. Howard”, and the first time that Malcolm and I hosted Christmas.  It just happened to be in Oxford, England – and we were hosting other rowers from the crew (who didn’t go back to North America) as well as some of their friends and family.  This could be perhaps one of the reasons why the note didn’t get sent out… but it is also the reason that Christmas felt so special this year.  First of all because Malcolm and I were together, and secondly because our little flat became a home as we welcomed other friends who were far from their homes.

This year, the role of Santa Claus (for me) was played by the UK Border Agency!  They gave me an early gift of seeing some of my family and friends as I returned briefly to acquire my Visa.  Then just as I was fearing it would take longer than expected and I would be in Canada for the Holidays, my visa was issued and passport returned!  I headed back to my UK home, just in time to prepare our little flat for the Holidays and for Malcolm’s return from their training camp.

Christmas to me this year (and all [adult] years to be honest) is never about the presents, and always about the presence. It is easy to take for granted the people you spend so much time with – your family, close friends, co-workers.  While we love these people so much, we can easily get on one another’s nerves, or take our frustrations out one another… but geography has given me perspective.  I have so many wonderful people who care so deeply for me.  They support me immensely, each in their own way.  They enrich my life with their love-stories-talent-perspectives-generosity-kindness (I could go on and on).  They love me for all of the beautiful-horrible-interesting-boring-lovely-awful things about me… and each time life takes me away from them I realize more and more how very precious each one of those relationships are.  I am so grateful to each of you.

Another Christmas lesson I learned this year is to appreciate the little things.  For example, I was in the kitchen baking and watching a Christmas movie when I heard the sound of music.  I paused the movie, but the sound faded out.  I continued on until I heard it again.  This time I peaked out our front window and saw a group of carolers!  I threw my jacket and shoes on and rushed out just to hear the tail end of a song.  A kind man and his daughter informed me that I had happened across our street’s annual carol sing, and then welcomed me to join in… and so as if in a fairy tale I walked along a sweet English road, surrounded by kind strangers and candle light, singing music celebrating this special time of year.

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

All of these small lessons and realizations have helped me see and appreciate the wonder of this time of year, and of the people I get to share it with.  Perhaps they will help you too… And so my (after) Christmas wish for you is to treasure those close to you, and reach out to those whom you wish were closer; to find beauty and joy in the simple pleasures of life (a song, a dance, a hug, a word); to recognize that all of the gifts you need you’ve likely already been given; to be open to what the universe might be suggesting (if we can listen closely enough); and finally to stay hopeful.  I think the poem Desiderata said it best:

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

May you and those you love find peace and happiness this Holiday.  And may the coming year bring you new opportunity, courage, strength, faith, joy, and bliss!  Much love, from our little family to yours!!

xo Erika (and Malcolm & Sir Basil)

The Earth without Art is just EH

I believe that beauty is all around us. I believe that anything is possible if our minds are open and we think creatively.  I believe that we are rich if love and spirit are abundant.

Life and people continually amaze me… watch this video and see why every thing can be a treasure. Everything is an opportunity for greatness, learning, passion and growth.

“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” ~ Favio Chavez



I recently returned to Canada to get a visa so that I can live/work in the UK.  On my journey home a man had a red suitcase and on the side he had written:

Everyone smiles in the same language.

How simple. How true. Let this be in your heart so that we may be open and accepting of one another.  Furthermore let’s remember that each of us can be happy, we simply must choose happiness. If you’re not feeling great, what can you adjust/finesse/change to make you smile? *pssst my key is gratitude, what’s yours? ~ eh.