Laveanne Lavender Fields: A Touch of Provence

This summer for me is a time of exploration in my own country’s backyard and to my delight, I didn’t have to venture far to discover something extraordinary. Lavender fields! Laveanne Lavender Fields is about an hour away from Toronto.

My friend Karolina joined me on this adventure one warm sunny July day.

We decided to take the scenic route to get to Laveanne, as opposed to the highway and we were in for a treat. We not only passed by little charming towns, but also saw so many greenery and rolling hills. The further away we were from Toronto, the more surreal it felt that we were travelling somewhere abroad.

When we stepped onto the property of Laveanne, we felt like we were transported into the lavender fields in Provence, France. The view of more than 10, 000 lavender plants was breathtaking and the fragrance of them were definitely in the air.

At Laveanne, July is blossom month. I was glad that I took some time out during July to visit this lovely haven with Karolina.

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We started our early morning at the charming boutique and were in heaven browsing through so many lavender products, mostly made on site. Then we strolled through the plant nursery. Finally we stopped in front of the big maple tree outside and were greeted by our yoga teacher, Elizabeth. She guided us on a 60 minute gentle yoga class outdoors and then a 30 minute meditation walk through the lavender labyrinth. Elizabeth gave her students an option to walk through the labyrinth barefoot or with shoes. I chose barefoot, so I can feel more connected to nature, and at the same time draw energy from earth, which is a practise known as “earthing”. I loved how earthing was combined with the walking meditation here!

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At the end of yoga class, we visited the pop-up restaurant on the terrace, overlooking the lavender fields, and enjoyed a variety of lavender infused food. Everything was so delicious!

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We originally anticipated spending a few hours here and ended up spending the whole day! We took time to stroll through the fields, take photos, and bask in the sun on one of the benches. Time seemed to just slip away quietly in this beautiful and tranquil environment.

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In the words of Karolina, “I felt like I was at a spiritual retreat.” Truer words were never spoken. Laveanne is a sweet haven where one can find peace and beauty away from the hustle bustle of city life, and feel rejuvenated body, mind and spirit at the end of the visit.

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10 Things Yoga Taught Me

In the beginning of 2016 I delved deeper into yoga by completing my 200 hours yoga teacher training in New Zealand and ended the year, and began 2017 with a yoga retreat in the United States.

Aside from practising the asanas, mantra chanting and meditation that are all part of yoga, it is the yoga philosophy which I call “life lessons” that has a profound impact on how I think, act and feel now.

Yoga taught me…

1. The most important time is NOW.

Life is short and nothing stays the same forever. Everything is in constant motion and change is inevitable, so enjoy, be mindful and live in the present moment.

2.The most important person is the person you spend time with NOW.

Whether you are at home with your family, or at work with your coworkers or elsewhere with others, be mindful and present with them.

3.The most important pursuit is making the person you are with NOW happy.

For me this means bringing joy to those around me, so be kind through thoughts, words and actions.

4. To let go!

Whether it is things, people, emotions or situations, letting go is essential to be able to live in the now and enjoy it at the same time. What is done in the past cannot be undone, so it stays in the past, and the future is uncertain, so why not live in the present? Also letting go of things that no longer serves you is important, whether it is a relationship that has run its course or possessions that may be tying you down or you actually no longer need, but you’re still hoarding it.

5.To spend time in nature as it grounds us in the present moment and calms the mind.

6. To trust the universe to provide.

Trust what you’ve done, it is enough.

7. To stay open-minded and open-hearted.

When you do this, you’ll be surprised by what you learn from people and situations and most importantly, about yourself!

8. Self-care is essential.

In order to help others and be there for them 100%, taking care of self first is crucial, so “me time” is not selfish and it’s also a form of meditation.

9. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

It has been scientifically proven that grateful people are physically and mentally healthier, experience more joy, have higher self-esteem and are more resilient in difficult life circumstances. Therefore, practising gratitude is a no brainer!

10. To breathe deeply.

On a daily basis we tend to forget to breathe deeply due to our hectic modern lifestyle. Inhaling and exhaling deeply has great benefits for our health such as reducing stress and promoting relaxation, and improving the digestion. In addition, breathing deeply equates to longer life.

 

I hope this post inspires you to live mindfully and joyfully this year.

May your 2017 be filled with wondrous little moments and you enjoy them as they are unfolding! 🙂

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Duli, Taiwan: Yoga Retreat for the Body, Mind & Spirit

Katrina Mayer, author and motivational speaker, once said: “Time spent in nature heals your body, mind and spirit.” I found this quote to be especially true as I enter the last leg of my year-long travel journey. After a few months of nonstop travelling from country to country, and then settling back into life in Taipei as a student learning Mandarin once again, I felt I needed a little getaway to reflect, relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with myself. Call it divine intervention or whatever you will, one night as I’m googling away on my laptop searching for travelling to Taitung, I found out about a yoga retreat taking place there at the end of June.

I’m so happy to have discovered Teacher Joe’s (Joe 老師) 3 days/2 nights yoga retreat in the scenic Eastern tropical region of Taiwan. The sceneries along the way from the train station to our retreat centre in Duli, a small village in Taitung county, was absolutely breathtaking: trees so green and lush, and the ocean has 3 to 4 different shades of blue. After seeing this, I now understand why the Taiwanese always recommend people to go to Taitung. Fewer people come here, so it seems as if it is untouched by the human hand. It’s like nature in its true form.

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I love the secluded area of the retreat centre called Oceantree Yogasurf Ecocamp (https://www.facebook.com/TYTguesthouse/). It is run by a very down to earth and extremely welcoming couple, Mark and Kite, and they have two very cute children, plus two friendly and docile dogs. Mark teaches surfing, while Kite teaches yoga.

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From here, I really felt in tune with nature, from listening to the singing of the cicadas,to the chirping of the birds and sounds of the ocean waves. Seeing the neighbouring pineapple field and the farmers harvesting the pineapples, and then eating the pineapples in our vegetarian meals was an incredible experience. I always thought that pineapples came from trees like coconuts, and never thought to investigate it. When I discovered they actually came from the ground, I was in awe and once again am reminded that in life, we take a lot of things for granted, or it’s based on our own ignorance. At that moment, I made a pact to be genuinely more aware of things around me and not to take things for granted.

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The pineapple field

 

The vegetarian meals in the retreat was a reminder to eat healthy and of the connection between earth and us. I’m inspired to cook healthy homemade vegetarian/vegan meals when I return home to Canada, thanks to this retreat centre’s talented creative chef Jake!

At this retreat, I discovered 4 new things about myself:

1. My Mandarin has improved a lot since last year, despite taking a 4 months’ break from it. I was comfortable being in a full-immersion Mandarin speaking environment. For the most part, I understood what everyone was saying and I could communicate with them. Of course at times I would be confused, and could not find the right vocabulary or grammar pattern to talk. I’m still learning the language. At the same time, I realize that taking a break from a language and then getting back into it truly works!

2. Sometimes you just have to cast your fear aside and not think about anything, and do it. Thanks to Mark’s encouragement and attitude that “surfing is fun and like playing in the water”, that is exactly what I decided to do for my first surfing lesson. I have always been afraid of the water even as a kid even though my parents put me through swimming lessons. In the process of letting go, I learned that I love surfing! It is so fun and it is definitely something I want to continue so that goes hand in hand with relearning swimming as an adult.

3. Another huge fear I have decided to cope with this year throughout my travels is to try to overcome my phobia of dogs. In the past if a dog came near me, I would be freaking out, jumping up and down, and even getting on the table to get away from it. Therefore I cannot be in the same room with it. Two months ago, after meeting a very well-trained dog in Macau, I guess I got some courage to see if I can continue to be closer to dogs. This time even though I’m still apprehensive, I noticed that it is okay for me to be in the same room with them if they are well-behaved like Mark and Kite’s dogs, as long as they don’t pay too much attention to me.

4. I used to think that I’ll never be able to do aerial yoga because it requires a lot of flexibility and doing craziness high up. It is amazing to discover what happens when there is a very good encouraging yoga instructor (thank you Joe 老師!!) and when I let go of my doubts. Aerial yoga is actually not as difficult as I perceived it to be, and it is really fun!!!!

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Aside from making connections with the others, here are two of my other favourite moments on this yoga retreat:

-Waking up early at dawn to do beach yoga as we listened to the sounds of nature (ocean waves, birds and cicadas singing) around us, and seeing the sunrise.

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-Facing the pineapple field and feeling the ocean spray touch my face once in a while as I’m reading about mindfulness in my quiet spot.

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In reflection, this yoga retreat in beautiful and serene nature was indeed perfect healing for my body, mind and spirit. I am filled with gratitude and look forward to living with mindfulness and finding peace within myself each day! 🙂

The Power of Positive Affirmations

This summer I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to get my kids yoga teacher certification. One of my favourite moments during training was a 20 minute drawing and breathing activity where we reflected on who we are in an authentic honest way.

It seems we are constantly surrounded by noises, chaos and the hectic pace and demands of our daily lives whether it is from our family responsibilities, work tasks etc. I find it especially true in the twenty-first century whereby technology or social media plays a really big role in most people’s lives. In the process of meeting the demands of this pace of life where we just live on “autopilot”, we lose ourselves, the core of who we are. There is no time to really think about who we are and what we want to do in our lives to be truly happy. It can be so dire, that some people experience mental, physical and emotional burnout and depression overtime.

This drawing and breathing exercise reminded me once again how important it is to really “pause”, whether it is for a few minutes or one hour out of our daily lives to simply breathe and connect with ourselves and think positive thoughts. Remember: “You are what you think.” These positive thoughts are essentially positive affirmations that help us to realize and actualize our potential and dreams.

One of my dance instructors once shared with us her positive affirmation. She said that every morning when she wakes up, before she does anything, these are the words she utters: “I am happy. I am healthy. I am blessed.” We all thought it was a beautiful way to start the day. As part of her class, we made it into our routine to end the class with these words. I truly felt these words and believed it about myself as I continued my everyday life.

Here are my positive affirmations from my yoga drawing and breathing exercise which I truly see and feel as my true self:

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I have this on my cell phone that I look at as a daily reminder. 🙂

What are yours?

They can be as short and simple as my dance instructor’s or as long as mine or anyway you want them. It only matters that you are finding time to pause, breathe, reflect and believe in the power of these two words: I AM.

Go and try it, and see how powerful your own positive affirmations can have on your life to achieve genuine happiness!

Greetings from Abroad!

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Hello from Taipei!

I know that it has been a long while since I’ve been here and you may be wondering why the complete silence. So, let me explain…

For the past 6 months, I’ve been busy preparing for my year abroad, from researching, getting paper work completed to finally packing! I feel blessed that my profession allows me to take time for myself to rest, reflect, rejuvenate and grow.

I’m really excited that I’ll be combining my love for travelling, meeting new people, and embracing new cultural experiences with my passion for learning during my sabbatical. To be precise, I’ll be learning Mandarin and getting deeper into yoga! In fact, my travel abroad adventure began in The Big Easy (New Orleans) last month already where I completed my Kids Yoga Teacher Training with an amazing Canadian trainer, Aruna Kathy Humphrys of Young Yoga Masters, and a wonderful supportive like-minded group of American classmates. Sightseeing in New Orleans and eating tons of mouth-watering Southern food has always been on my bucket list, and I’m happy I checked that off!

Fast forward to now, I’m currently living in Taipei. I flew here a week ago and am slowly getting over jetlag and settling into my new home. I’ve enrolled in a university program to learn Mandarin for foreigners at the National Taiwan University, and am looking forward to beginning class next week!

While Taipei will be my home base for the next 12 months, I also have some travel plans for New Zealand, Australia, Bali and other places that I’ve yet to decide on.

Quite a few people asked me before I left if I’m afraid to be travelling solo and not know anyone in any places I’ll be going to, and to be honest, there are moments when I doubt myself and get scared. However, for the most part I’m absolutely thrilled to embark on this adventure of a lifetime and to fulfill some of my dreams. I only think of the positives. I had a beautiful memorable time in New Orleans and met friends whom I know I’ll keep in touch for life. The beginning of my travel adventure in New Orleans was definitely a promise of yet more wonderful things to come. 🙂

One of my good friends shared this quote with me: “To travel alone is to get lost on purpose, in order to be found.” I hope this quote will inspire me to find my own true path as I travel physically, mentally and spiritually throughout some parts of the world.

I can’t wait to share my everyday travelling/learning adventures and bucket list with you and thank you for being part of my journey here!

Stay tuned!

XO, Violet

Some very thoughtful items I've received from dear colleagues and friends (THANK YOU!), or I bought on my own for my year abroad that I've packed with me. :)

Some very thoughtful items I’ve received from dear colleagues and friends (THANK YOU!), or I bought on my own for my year abroad that I’ve packed with me. 🙂

 

 

Life Lessons from My Dad

There is an old Chinese saying that comes to mind about the fleetingness and truth of existence. It is “birth, old age, illness and death”. Almost every “healthy”  human goes through each stage, as it’s the natural progression of what we call life.

With deep sorrow, I share with you that after a long and courageous battle against cancer, my beloved dad passed away peacefully three weekends ago. Over the past few weeks, I realize that while my dad has physically left my family and I; his spirit lives on through myself and my family members. He will remain in our hearts forever through the wonderful memories we shared together and the lessons he taught us.

I dedicate this post to my dad, 3 times cancer survivor and my role model. In this post, I would like to reflect upon qualities or values that I greatly admired in and learned from my dad. I call these qualities or values “life lessons”. Thank you in advance for taking your time to read about my dad: a very remarkable, courageous and optimistic man.

 

1. Courage

In the past 7.5 years, my dad repeatedly demonstrated courage in facing and battling against three types of cancer. Such courage is considerably admirable; every time I accompanied him to chemotherapy or cheered him on at one of his surgeries, he would face these painful sessions head on with a brave countenance. I had never once seen him break down, cry or scream in agony. No matter what situation, he fearlessly met the challenge and difficulty without hesitation or cowardice. Even till his last breath, he faced death without fear; he told us he was ready to go without any regrets.

 

2. Strength & Resilience

When I mention strength here, I am not talking about physical strength. I am referring to mental and inner strength.  In my opinion, strength and resilience are interchangeable. My dad fought valiantly in every single battle against cancer, despite the pain and physical weakness from surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, and later, from the rapid and unstoppable tumor growth. However, he was always resilient in his spirit to recover. I still vividly remember his last surgery (removal  of his entire stomach) one year ago: the doctor recommended for him to walk around the hospital ward a few times a day with his walker to regain strength. Although it must have been extremely painful for him to get up after the surgery, dad would walk slowly but steadily around the ward independently, refusing support from any of us. My dad most definitely had the strength and resilience of a warrior.

 

3. Optimism

In the face of bleak truth, dad was still the epitome of optimism. He always believed he would overcome cancer and live a long life. His positive attitude helped him a lot to overcome obstacle after obstacle during the past 7.5 years. He enjoyed reading a variety of magazine articles and books on eating and cooking right to treat and prevent cancer, and then tried them out for himself and his family. Also, he knew leading an active lifestyle would help in battling against cancer. Whenever it was good weather, I would see him happily riding his bike to meet his friends at the local cafe or go grocery shopping. Not one moment did he ever give in to the hopelessness and helplessness of a cancer patient; he continued to live life to the fullest with joy and hope. Every relative, family friend and acquaintance I talked to in the past 3 weeks confirmed what I already knew: dad will forever be remembered as an eternal optimist with a zest for life.

 

4. Frugality, Generosity, Hard Work & Selflessness

My family and I noticed something quite astounding as we were going through family albums. My dad actually wore the same pair of glasses for almost 25 years! He had these glasses from the day he was in university until I graduated from high school. This discovery really brought home the fact that he was a very simple, kind-hearted man, who found joy in the little things such as working to provide for his family, eating dinner with us, and being creative with reusing recyclable materials. He rarely spent money on himself,  except buying himself a cup of coffee and the newspaper to be enjoyed at the cafe. While my dad was frugal on himself, he was always generous with his family and friends, and even strangers. He was the type of person who would give money to strangers with a sob story, without doubting the authenticity.

Since I was a little child, I associated hard work with my dad. He was always working extra hard from Monday to Sunday, to raise my brother and I, so we could have the best of everything. He even uprooted his life in Europe by moving to Canada so his children could have a better future. I believe dad’s simple, hardworking and frugal life is something to look up to, as he was able to raise two successful children and have his own property with his wife in a new country. He built a happy and rewarding life based on the foundations of hard work, selflessness, frugality and generosity.

 

5. Actions Speak Louder than Words

Dad was raised in a family and culture that did not display affections or express feelings outwardly. As a result, I used to think he was incapable of love. Now I know that his every action showed his immense love and care for his family. For example, he would make me a hot breakfast every morning during the week, and always took care of the maintenance of my car. These thoughtful gestures definitely showed his love for me. From my dad, I have learned that actions speak louder than words; it is a valuable lesson and reminder for me when interacting with people around me.

 

My dad’s “life lessons” are his legacy for me. My only wish is to be able to live by his example, passing on his legacy, as I continue to grow into the best person I can be, and move forward in life. I am truly honoured and proud to be my dad’s daughter.

In loving memory of my dad: tulips are a symbol of Spring and eternal life. May his legacy live on through me and he rest in eternal peace in heaven. :)

In loving memory of my dad: tulips are a symbol of Spring and eternal life. May his legacy live on through me and may he rest in eternal peace and happiness in heaven.

 

 

 

 

Breathe In & Breathe Out = Accept & Let Go

As the year is coming to an end, I would like to thank each and everyone of you for reading, commenting, complimenting, and supporting my blog throughout the past six months.  Who knew that my little blogging exploration on my journey into healthy eating and balanced living is still going strong?  I did not anticipate that far ahead, and to know that I’m slowly but steadily gaining more wonderful readers and/or blogging friends as time goes by, is truly amazing.  I appreciate and am thankful for YOU! 🙂

Aside from connecting with loved ones and dear friends during this holiday season, something else that I appreciate and am thankful for in December is the opportunity to reflect.  Having this opportunity to reflect personally and professionally allows us to set goals and strategies to continue to grow and develop as a person of many roles (e.g. daughter, sister, friend, teacher, student etc.) for the next year.

An important lesson I learned this year, as I’m reflecting, is what my dearest wise friend Zainab shared with me at the beginning of the year while we were at a yoga conference.  She taught me a very simple meditation technique or coping mechanism when confronted with a stressful and/or difficult situation, personally or professionally.  It is simply to take a few minutes to BREATHE in a quiet space.

Here are the steps:

1. As you’re breathing in a deep breath slowly, accept what has happened in your mind.

2. As you breathe out slowly, let whatever has happened go in your mind.

3. Continue this technique as long as you want to and once you feel calm, you’ll feel peace in your heart and mind too.

I practised this meditation technique whenever I experienced the downs in my life.  It truly works and  I can honestly tell you that learning to “accept and let go” is the best medicine for my physical, mental and spiritual health this year!  Furthermore, I realized that there are some events/situations and people’s behaviour/attitude that are out of our control.  Frequently, these “out of control” situations or behaviour are what we consider  “awful, bad, or horrible” and upsets us.  Well, the only thing we can control is the way we react to and think about it.  To put it simply, we need to “accept and let go”, and not dwell in the past.  The power of positive thinking and being in the present does wonders for the body, mind and soul, and truly makes us happy from the inside out.

I wish you all happiness, love, peace, success, good health and beautiful moments for the upcoming new year! 🙂

Breathe in and breathe out, and let’s welcome 2014 with renewed energy, hope, and dreams!!

Looking at the beautifully icycle covered tree , as the sun shines on it, in my backyard after the ice storm last week reminded me that beauty exists even after the storm.  Just like breathing in and breathing out, we need to remember:  "Remain calm when a storm hits your life and remember the sun is never too far away." :)

Looking at the beautifully icicle-covered tree , as the sun shines on it, in my backyard after the ice storm last week reminded me that beauty exists even after the storm. Just like breathing in and breathing out, we need to: “Remain calm when a storm hits your life and remember the sun is never too far away.” 🙂