10 Lessons from the West Coast

The view from the top... of my building

Happy six month Vanniversary! One of the keys to a successful partnership is celebrating milestones, even the little ones. That was one of the lessons we taught in this episode of The Awesomeness Advantage. I thought in honour of my six months in Vancouver, I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far (about life and about myself).

  1. I love mountains, ocean, and forests. Being surrounded by this beautiful scenery has shown me just how much I love connecting with nature. Running along the ocean and doing a mid-run meditation on the beach has proven to be super grounding for me. I encourage everyone – especially you land-locked folks – to take a drive into nature. It will change your day, and maybe even your life. Who knows. It changed my life seeing the west coast mountains a year and a half ago; now it’s the view from my bedroom.
  2. Strangers can become family if you approach them with an open heart. One of my biggest fears about moving was not making friends, especially being in a new city by myself. I was happily dropped into the middle of a conscious, loving family of people that welcomed my presence and connected with me on so many levels. It’s unlike any experience I’ve had.
  3. I’m, like, really funny. Don’t interpret that the wrong way, I mean it in the sense that I love getting more in touch with myself, and figuring out what my strengths are. My sense of humour has helped me to get through difficult and sticky situations. More than anything, my goofiness has proven to that I have the ability to make people feel better about their lives. From dancing in the aisles of Whole Foods to The Awesomeness Advantage, I love to make people laugh.
  4. Everyone is a mirror. Every person you attract into your life is a reflection of yourself in some way. I knew this before, but I’ve really started to embrace it since being here. It’s made my communication and interactions with people way more intriguing. For every annoyance or elation I experience in someone else, I’m given the opportunity to ask myself where that’s showing up in my life. The self-expression you admire in a some girl singing to herself as she walks down the street is a quality you also carry, but might not fully want to share (yet).
  5. You can’t change anyone. Or the past. Or how people will react. The only thing you really have control over is how you react in this moment. My crew here has helped me to be more authentic. To me, this means learning to how to share what I’m actually feeling and voice my needs. Doing this empowers me and allows for clear communication between all parties. I can’t change anyone, but I can change how I react, which might influence how they react in return. Kindness is always better received than passive aggression or snippiness.
  6. I love love. It’s easy to get caught up in negative speech patterns and hating on other people. I know this first hand, because it’s a way that women typically bond (“She looks gross” or “You’re way prettier”). Vancouver’s given me a love-reality check: I’d much rather talk about how awesome people are. I’d rather encourage the positive aspects of a person, than trash-talk the negative aspects of another (remember point #4). Why not raise your vibes by being positive and in love with your life, rather than lower your vibes by being in a state of jealousy and fear? Reframe how you articulate your thoughts and you’ll notice changes happen all around you.
  7. I love staying in. In Toronto all of my friends were a minimum 30-minute subway ride away.  Now living in downtown Vancouver and having the majority of my friends living in my building, I rarely leave my condo (let alone my neighborhood). I enjoy lounging on my couch with some vino, tunes, and good people. Not only do I save money, I get to create real connections.
  8. Spiritualism is cool. I didn’t doubt this in Toronto, but I never felt like I connected with anyone on this before I moved. Having a connection to source/Universe/Divine/whatevs makes life’s ups and downs flow together with meaning.
  9. I love crystals. I keep them in my bra, my pockets, and under my pillows. There’s a fifty percent

    I have a raw piece of quartz I use on my seventh chakra during meditation and it’s a serious connection amplifier. Yeah it’s kind of like this…

    chance of finding at least one with a broad hand sweep under my duvet. They make a difference in my attitude and my spiritual connection (see point eight). Say what you will, crystals are sweet. And pretty.

  10. I’m worthy of my dreams. I’ve learned that a lot of people, myself included, have difficulty accepting their worthiness. It seems much easier to give rather than receive and allow the Universe to deliver your dreams. I don’t know where in our culture we started to accept this untruth, or how we even allowed it to occur. I know I am worthy of my dreams. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of healthy relationships. I am worthy of abundance in all areas of my life. Accepting these facts is something I work on every day.

It’s been an amazing six months, Vancouver. Thanks for calling me out here!

Taking a Step Back in Time with Music

I’ve discussed my love for music and it’s power of keeping me in flow. It’s rooted deep in my bones. Going

The beaches of Cabo were beautiful... I've got a different mountain view these days.

without music is like going without food or water; it can be done for a certain amount of time until I feel myself needing it, craving it, even fantasizing about it.

I got my first iPod-like device when I was seventeen. This is when I started organizing my songs by the month. Each month I create a new playlist to keep track of what songs I’ve recently added (since the “Recently Added” file just isn’t organized enough for me). Ever since I’ve started to create these lists, I’ve found myself going back and listening to the old ones.

Since I was seventeen I’ve had a few different music devices, so some of my lists have been lost over the years. When I’m going through a musical dry streak (i.e. I don’t have any new songs I’m obsessively listening to), I go back about eleven months to an old playlist. I’m not sure why, but the old tracks I feel like listening to are always from ten to eleven months prior.

I can close my eyes and remember exactly how I felt at that point in time. I remember where I was, who I was with, what I was going through. I remember how each song made me feel, and observe that feeling from a new, outside perspective. It’s interesting. It takes me somewhere comfortable, somewhere I’ve already been to and I start to get nostalgic. This week I was listening to my playlist from last April. It reminds me of my trip to Cabo. It reminds me of the walk I took from my parents house to the subway station, where I would go to meet my boyfriend for our gym dates. It reminds me of my cousin. For just a moment, it reminds me how easy it would be to go back to all of that. And if I’m being honest, it’s hard to not want that.

Everything’s better in hindsight right?

Just like music keeps me present and in flow, music also keeps me grounded and reminds me of what I’m creating for myself. I won’t grow or expand by wishing it was last April.  But I can certainly still enjoy Machu Picchu while strolling along the sea wall, being grateful for how far I’ve come.

Pause. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Pause. Repeat.

Thank you.

Other favesies from last April:

Reminded – Tyga ft Adele

My First Song – Jay-Z

Rolling In The Deep – John Legend

She Said – Plan B

Forever – Wolfgang Gartner ft Will.i.am

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

I do miss Toronto, especially as summer rolls around. Photo credit: Farida Wahidi

En route back to Vancouver, I had a moment of sadness as I looked out the window at the YYZ tarmac. I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the moment of homesickness I felt. While I was back in my hometown, I didn’t get to see all of my favourite places, or eat at all of my favourite spots.  I didn’t get to spend time with all of my friends, and I would’ve loved an extra hour with my mom.  I didn’t have too much time to reminisce as I made new memories with my Vancouver family in downtown Toronto. So as I sat in my pod, it hit me that there is a part of me that really does miss living in that city.

While I was home, I had a situation where I was given the chance to be authentic and honest about my feelings, and step out of my comfort zone. I got to honour how I felt and instead of making up excuses, voice what I was experiencing emotionally. It was uncomfortable for a moment. Fear and apprehension held me as I shared my real feelings, but also empowered me. This situation also allowed me to honour the other person’s feelings. It helped to remind the Universe (and myself) what type of people and situations I want in my life and which ones I am ready to move on from. I’m going confidently in the direction of my dreams, with the faith that letting go of my past will propel me further, faster.

At dinner one night at Fresh, my girlfriend turned to me and said I was glowing with happiness.  I confidently told her I couldn’t foresee myself moving back anytime soon. I love the mountains and ocean. I love my roommates, my apartment, and my life in Vancouver. But homesickness is a funny thing: it doesn’t care about any of those factors. It reminds you of what is familiar and what is comfortable. It reminds you that you could easily fall back into that life without many adjustments. So, what’s keeping me on the coast?

I realized, as a few stray tears fell down my face on the plane, that I wasn’t going to grow if I went back into my comfort zone.  The six months I’ve spent in Vancouver has taught me more about myself than I’d realized. It’s taught me how to be authentic, what type of people I want in my life, and given me a better idea of who I want to become. It’s introduced me to a group of people that I feel closer to than any group I’ve met. I actually feel like I belong in that family. I’m an important part of a community that operates out of and in love.

Along this journey of moving out and away from home, I’m learning as I go. None of us really know what we’re doing all of the time. I can do all of the card readings and meditations I want: all new experiences are going to feel scary. I think the key is to step into that fear of not knowing the end result. If you keep repeating the same actions, you will keep getting the same results. And that’s not what I want for my future. I want the results to keep getting better.

Living, and Eating, In the Moment

I was happy to discover that the Maple Leaf Lounge has some healthy options :)

Traveling does a funny thing to me: I tend to “allow” myself to eat foods I don’t normally consume (keep in mind, I am an avid flexitarian, and I set flexible guidelines for my dietary choices based on how my body feels). During my trip to Toronto, I woke up one morning to some freshly, made-with-love whole wheat bread. Normally I forgo wheat, since it doesn’t get along with my body all that well.  But hey, it was still warm from the oven, what was I gonna say? No, I don’t want your beautiful bread topped with local Ontario honey, almond butter and banana? Sorry, I’d rather stare at it longingly wishing that “I ate wheat”?

I could also make the argument that the dialogue would be more like “Sorry, I don’t want to cripple my guts by eating gluten”.  I get that.

Instead I decided to live in the moment.  In that moment, my eyes widened and my stomach growled and my legs lurched me forward towards the kitchen where I carefully sliced two pieces of bread for Kelsey and I.

And you know what? I felt great.  The mindset you have while eating impacts your body that much. It’s not something I eat all the time, and the circumstance – made with love, fresh, and my body literally pulling me towards it – called for it. I didn’t think “Damn I’m going to have the worst stomach cramps after this,” I thought “Oh my gosh, this is freaking delicious” and savored every crumb.

So what’s the difference between eating and living in the moment, and letting your food “exceptions” get out of control? Well the first way to tell the difference is by checking in.  You already know which foods you usually avoid and why.  If you find yourself craving them or being drawn to them, stop and ask yourself why that is. Is it because you don’t have any other choice, or is it because you had a crappy day and it’s your comfort food? Change your mindset: If you’re travelling and really don’t have any other food choice, reframe your thinking. Try, “Wow, I’m so grateful to have this food! My body loves and can handle eating this right now because it’s nourishing me.” If you simply crave the food, not because you’re hungry (and are probably quite emotional at the same time), try thinking “I am safe to be in control of my emotions.  I fill myself only with the clean food that my body enjoys and absorbs. I eat only foods that make my mind, body and spirit feel good.” Breathe. Pause. Repeat.

I love traveling. I love the excitement of the plane taking off, and exploring new cities.  The places I will travel to might not always be able to accommodate my food choices. The friends I have don’t all subscribe to the same dietary guidelines as me. Living in the moment keeps me grounded, and eating in the moment keeps my body and mind happy. Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll miss out on Kodak moments and freshly baked bread.

Sometimes it helps to have someone hear you out on your food cravings, and help you sort out why you’re drawn to certain foods. Sometimes, that someone is me abigail@abigailchristens.com.

Flight AC8: Some May Call It Luck…

My first time in a pod... There was copious dancing and giggling for certain

A year ago, I didn’t picture myself on a first class flight to Toronto from my new home in Vancouver, with my incredible room mate/wife/awesomeness partner Kelsey. My life has been chock-full of jet setting and giggles these days, and I have never been more grateful to be exactly where I am.  Did you know they have adjustable tabletops in first class? So convenient.

I’ve been in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Executive Lounge twice in the last two weeks (it may not sound like a big deal, but I’ve never flown this way before!).  And you know how I got to experience these things? By manifesting them, and by expressing gratitude to be exactly where I am.  Some people like to call this luck; I like to call this being awesome. Don’t get this blog post confused with bragging.  This is post is straight up gratitude.

What is gratitude? It is the act and state of thankfulness.  It is thinking in a way of abundance versus lack.  It’s focusing on “Oh my gosh, look at all these amazing people, opportunities and things in my life.  Thanks Universe!” It’s appreciating what is right in front of you, not looking off into the distance hoping to see something else.

Now, that isn’t to say that goal-setting isn’t important.  Goal setting and setting intentions are integral parts of my life.  But how can you expect to receive when you don’t notice what you’ve already been given? Imagine if every gift you gave somebody was received with the question “What else?” You probably wouldn’t want to give them a gift, ever.

What do you have in your life that you may have looked over?  Maybe it’s the fact that you live at home and don’t pay rent while you save to move out.  Or even though you don’t have much of a savings, you still have food on your plate at every meal.  Even better, maybe you’re in a supportive, loving relationship with someone that shares your values and wants you to succeed.

I am grateful to be able to visit my hometown, all expenses paid.  I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to increase the abundance in my life with high-vibing people that care about me and my success.  I am grateful for the excellent service I am being given while I type up inspired blog posts for the world to read. As I express gratitude for the life I am living, I allow more incredible experiences into my life.  Well… okay. Thanks Universe!

I’m still here! But not for long

It’s been two and a half months since my last post, sorry to leave you guys for the summer!  But with fall comes that back-to-school feeling, and that feeling of “getting back to work” returns.  I have a pretty big announcement though…

I’m moving to Vancouver!

I’m so thrilled, I can’t even begin to explain it.  This summer gave me a lot to think about, what I wanted for myself, for my life, for my career.  I started realizing what I want in a home and in a relationship.  While I’m sad I have to leave so many amazing people in Toronto, I’m going to be living in a city I fell in love with last year.

On the drive home from Whistler. I've got a better camera now, and fully intend on taking better pictures!

Near the harbour, October 2010

I’m excited, thrilled, giddy, scared, nervous and calm all at the same time.  Every bone in my body knows this is the right choice.  So that’s one part of the news.  The other part is that I’ve got some clearer direction on what I want to go back to school for.  Since being blessed with my amazing job working for Marni Wasserman, I’ve realized my passion for food.  I hope to go back to school to get my natural chef certification in a couple of years.  Which to me, is almost more exciting than moving!  But that’s in the future.  Vancouver is in one month.  One.  Month.  Holy crap!!

But back to regular blog stuff.  I cooked up a storm amidst my excitement about writing this post.  Two recipes I MUST share:  Quinoa-Salsa-Bean Bake and Strawberry-Maple-Chocolate Muffins (wipe the drool off of your chin).

Quinoa Salsa Bean Bake

3/4 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup cooked beans (I used mung beans)

3/4 cup salsa (I had some amazing homemade salsa from my sisters boyfriends mother… I hope they get married, this salsa was delicious!)

Topped with Angela’s Quick and Dirty Cheeze Sauce (I only had sweetened vanilla almond milk, and would definitely recommend getting plain unsweetened like the recipe says)

Layer all ingredients (in said order) in a greased casserole dish (increase or decrease amounts as you see fit, I used what I had room for).  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350F. I serve it over some thick cucumber slices (I had a nachos vision in my head, using cuc’s instead of chips).  Makes enough for three servings.  You best believe it’s my lunch tomorrow!  It isn’t my most creative dish, but I’m kind of on a use-whatevers-still-in-my-cupboards thing right now.

Strawberry Maple Chocolate Muffins

3/4 cup whole spelt flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp apple sauce

1/3-1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp maple extract

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

~1/4 cup xylitol (a new ingredient for me… it’s a redwood tree sugar, cooks, tastes and bakes like sugar with no blood sugar impact and low in calories)

1 tbsp chia + 3 tbsp almond milk/water

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl.

2. Mix wet ingredients together in a larger bowl, and add in dry.

3.  Scoop in greased muffin tray and bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Makes about 6 muffins.

How to Enjoy Cooking! My Top 3 Tips

I think I’ve figured out why people need guidance planning their meals for during the week: they aren’t excited about cooking, or what they’re cooking.

This is a rough generalization, but it occurred to me as I was looking through my fridge to figure out dinner.  I have all these containers filled with things I’ve made over the last couple of days, and they’re all delicious.  When I see a recipe I want to try, it’s all I can think about, and taking the trip to the grocery store for ingredients gets me genuinely excited.  If I could spent all of my money on good food and other health food store goodies like supplements and fancy water filters, I would.  Clothes shopping is great, but I have trouble spending $100 on chic, post-gym Lululemon sweaters when all I can think about is my grocery list.

Is that weird?

So for me, I don’t really plan my lunches and dinners simply because I cook so much that I tend to consistently have leftovers.  I’ve had clients tell me that setting aside time to cook just isn’t a priority for them, and they’ve wanted advice on how to eat on the go.  You know, like what are the healthy options at Subway.  I have a lot of trouble with this question because I can’t, from my professional standpoint, say that it’s going to be healthy for them.  Things like choosing whole unrefined grains, loading up on vegetables, skipping the dressing and the cheese, and portion control are all thing to keep in mind, but it’s really not enough.  Sorry, this is probably a bit disappointing for some of you.  Nothing the food court can offer will ever be as healthy or delicious as what you make at home (my boyfriend made a comment the other day that I was allergic to food courts… It could very well be true).  Not to mention how much money you save.

Here are my top three tips to enjoy cooking:

1.  Get inspired.  Start following food blogs and read their recipes.  You might not love every single thing they post, but it will probably inspire you to make something similar.  This is the main reason I cook: I see what other people are eating and I want it too.  Try going to a cooking class (if you live in Toronto, I can recommend some amazing ones!).  Here are some of the blogs I follow:

http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/

http://fullynourished.ca

http://www.healthyexposuresblog.com/

http://ohsheglows.com/

2.  If you have friends, roommates or a significant other (chances are you all have at least one of those), choose one day a week, or even a month that you’ll come together in the kitchen to make some beautiful foody love.  This night can be paired with a fair amount of wine or other beverages, and provide an amazing way to start a Saturday night.  Good food, some pinot grigio and a night out? Sounds perfect to me.

3.  Splurge a little bit.  This might be asking too much from some of you, but realize that what you eat is what your body makes itself out of.  If you put a deep fried french fry in your mouth, you’re going to feel like a deep fried french fry: fatty, gross, and filled with starch.  If you eat a mouthful of brown rice with grilled tempeh and miso gravy (see recipe here), you’re going to feel just like that: healthy, nutrient-dense, and happy.  So spend a little more on your food, as in, buying real foods, and enjoy what you’re eating.  I’ve found spending a few more cents on food I’ll enjoy makes me want to cook it.  Same goes for appliances.  If you need a food processor or a blender, find a cheap one to start with and try making some recipes.  Just having the appliance in your kitchen will remind you of that recipe you saw a while ago that used it, and will inspire you to start cooking.

What inspires you to cook?  Comment below!

Happy Easter!

So pretty!

Happy Easter everyone!  While I’m not celebrating religiously, I have been celebrating with some good food.  I could comment on the Mini Eggs, the Crème Eggs and the cheap chocolate bunnies at the dollar store, but my opinion on those are probably pretty obvious at this point.  On a related topic, I read about a vegan truffle company in Toronto that is making bunny “buttons” instead of goodies resembling bunnies.  Such a cute idea… I didn’t realize the vegan lifestyle extended this far!  I watched a TED talk by Mark Bittman that summarizes the evolution of processed foods very well (click here to watch) – very interesting if you’re interested in learning more about the harms of your typical processed meal.

Do you guys eat differently than your family?  How do you deal? Comment or email me at abigail@myinnerglow.com!