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Remember that WonderBra Women of Wonder project that I’ve been doing? I know it’s been ages, but I’ve been quietly doing the assigned missions behind the scenes here and just haven’t had a concentrated period of time to edit the footage (which is admittedly painful and unfun for me – but I’m starting to get the hang of it! I also figured out how to upload high quality vids to YouTube, so this one is far superior to my previous efforts).

So here is my fifth mission, in which I was instructed to “rediscover my community” by doing something nice for my neighbours. I feel pretty fortunate to live in a building where I know all my neighbours, to varying degrees. But I have a special relationship with my next door neighbours: we look out for each other and support each other. They even have a key to my apartment, as they willingly feed my cats when I’m out of town.

I decided to whip up a batch of Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing, a recipe from the excellent food blog Patent and the Pantry which I had been obsessed with all autumn. It works well for Christmas, too, so I definitely recommend making some of these amazing cupcakes for whatever obligatory staff/family gatherings you have to attend over the holidays.

This mission was sweet and fun. I so rarely spontaneously do something nice to express appreciation for the people in my life. It was also a reminder that community happens in the small connections with the people around me. We can all make conscious efforts to create community, one cupcake at a time.

My fourth mission for WonderBra‘s Women of Wonder project was pretty sweet: Think of the person that inspired you to discover yoga and let them know how it’s brought joy into your life.

The person who inspired my yoga journey was my good friend Lesley. When we were both students at the University of Victoria in the mid-90s, she took a semester off school to study at Yasodhara Ashram (affectionately and repeatedly referred to in the video as “the ashram”) in southeastern British Columbia. At the time, I thought it was the craziest and wildest thing a person could do. But it had an impact on me, for I started to take yoga classes at the university gym and then really got into my practice a couple of years later, when I was depressed and lonely in England.

In 2004, I also took the bold step of spending an extended period at Yasodhara Ashram – a life transition that was unthinkable to me nine years earlier – and then, like Lesley, I went on to work at ascent magazine. Through 15 years, several countries and numerous personal changes, the friendship between Lesley and I has held strong. Now, I live in Montreal and she lives with her husband and 7-year-old twin daughters in Victoria, BC. We stay in regular contact and see each other once a year or so.

It was fun to take the time to have an extended Skype call with Lesley and recount our friendship. We’ve never really talked about the role of yoga in our lives and our friendship, and it felt good to thank her for all that we’ve shared. Please bear with my elementary video skills, and I’m sorry that we only get half of Lesley’s face and my face is really big. I’m still figuring out how Call Recorder works.

Was there a particular person who inspired your discovery of yoga? What yoga-based relationships in your life are you grateful for?

In addition to the regular scheduled missions, the five Women of Wonder were all assigned a theme to reflect on. I had opted for “community,” but since it was a popular choice among the wonderful women, I got stuck with “happiness.”

As I said in the video, I wasn’t particularly happy about having to talk about happiness, since it’s not something I’m really interested in. I thought about how happiness fits in the yoga system and realized that it’s not a big topic. Yoga is concerned with the cessation of suffering and the idea of bliss, but happiness is seen as impermanent, an emotion, and something that we are futilely chasing after.

While I was sitting in the park on a sunny Sunday morning in Montreal, yakking about bliss, an amazing and beautiful thing happened (you’ll have to watch the video to see). It was a perfect combination of timing and serendipity.

I posted this little video on my Facebook profile page, and it struck up an interesting conversation among my friends. They liked the video but were dismayed that I concluded by saying I was speaking “for WonderBra.” Some of them observed strong reactions in themselves, and while they’re supportive of my work, they’re still baffled (even, perhaps, “repulsed”) by the sponsorship thing.

My wish is to use this opportunity as a way to get my voice out, to inspire women and to have some fun. So far I feel that I’ve been doing that. But I’m also aware that I’m doing this “for WonderBra,” even though I (and hopefully, my readers) am benefiting. As much as I love the idea of riding in a helicopter for fun, I wouldn’t have done it unless something like WonderBra was footing the bill. I didn’t want to sit in a park and talk about happiness ~ that was WonderBra’s idea (well, the happiness part at least ~ the park was my brilliant idea).

But my content is still my content, and I am still me. I don’t feel that has been compromised or co-opted. But I’m wondering: Does corporate sponsorship undermine the content of this blog? Does this Women of Wonder campaign resonate with you, engage you, or repel you? How does it compare to other high-profile “empowering” campaigns, such as Dove’s campaign for “Real Beauty”?

 

For my third mission, WonderBra arranged for me to attend a live taping of the CBC show, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (formerly known as The Hour, now with a new name and format). As I said in my video intro, I’ve always dreamt of hosting my own TV show so I was super excited to watch one being made! Also, I was looking forward to stepping foot inside my favourite Canadian media institution, the CBC.

The guests on the late-night magazine-style show were Canadian “treasure” Tom Green and rock band Hot Hot Heat (who played two songs, including one for the Christmas Eve special). It was just a coincidence that both guests happened to be Canadian, since Strombo (as he’s affectionately known) has a wide range of musicians, actors and politicians on the show. I had missed previous week’s guests MIA and Robert Plant (omg, what I would have done to be in the same room as him) and upcoming guests Juliette Lewis and Clint Eastwood.

I wasn’t allowed to film in the studio (although I did anyway, and got chastised by Strombo for doing it, so have since destroyed my contraband footage), but I can’t even convey how fun it is to watch a TV show being filmed and produced right in front of my eyes. There are whole lot of people running around with clipboards and doing stuff, including somebody who tells the audience when to clap and a couple of others who carry cords so the cameramen don’t trip.

When I arrived at CBC hq, the first thing I did was tweet about it, which lead to a spontaneous pre-show encounter with Strombo (see the vid for details) – we talked about yoga and his interview with Russell Simmons. I was amazed that even though Strombo is one of the most respected journalists in Canada and has interviewed some of the most influential and recognized people in the world, he paid attention to his Twitter feed and sought out a little yoga blogger like myself.

After the taping of the show was over, there was a chance for questions from the audience and somebody asked Strombo if he was ever nervous about interviewing accomplished, famous or powerful people. He responded, “No, because I’m impressed by everyone who’s alive. Just living is a big accomplishment, surviving is awesome.”

Watch the episode of George Stromboulopoulos Tonight as it aired on TV.

My second WonderBra mission: a day at the spa to rediscover my beauty. Oh yeah. In my world, “going to the spa” means going to a gym in my neighbourhood after 7pm to take advantage of half-price admission ($5) and utilizing the whirlpool and sauna in the change room. So I was delighted to spend a whole evening at a real spa, with fresh towels, a robe and pleasant smells. I booked an Alizé package at Strøm Spa Nordique on Montreal’s Ile-des-Soeurs. The package included an hour-long body treatment (a mango exfoliating chocolate wrap), a Swedish massage and unlimited access to the “thermal experience” (the Nordic style hot and cold pools).

The experience was beyond words ~ watch the video above to get a taste of things. Body work and soaking in hot water are sacred, intimate acts so I’m not able to give a lot of detail. I’m also recovering from a three-week episode of lower back pain, and the treatments and hot pools worked out the remnants of pain. I left feeling pain-free and blissed out.

As I noted in the video, I wasn’t comfortable pulling out my camera and filming while people (and I) walked around in fluffy towels and robes. I arrived at the spa just moments before my first treatment, so I was in a flurry and had no time to film beautiful environs (other than a quick shot from the balcony above the pools). Once my treatments finished, it was dark and hard to film. Anyway, whatever, excuses excuses! I’m getting more comfortable with being on camera and editing video. By the end of this campaign, I’ll be a pro!

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