Beeds has beat on wellness
Tom Kernaghan - Sep 11, 2019 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

Let loose and find your childlike self, where all things are possible! This is just one of the many wonderful messages you will find on Elizabeth Beeds’ engaging Interior Wellness Show videos, which clearly convey that the quest for health is not only necessary for an enjoyable life, it’s doable and fun right now! But then, Beeds knows this stuff inside and out. With more than 25 years of experience as a yoga instructor, wellness coach, business trainer, event planner, and the publisher and editor of Interior Wellness magazine, she knows how to inspire individual and community wellness.

Beeds has studied biology and environmental studies at the University of Victoria, trained in hatha yoga and Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow yoga, served as a vitamin and supplement expert, and she continues to direct the annual Interior Wellness Festival, so she also knows the science, strategy and the stories behind well-being.

Elizabeth, your reach and output are staggering! And yet your presence is so affable and unassuming. To me, you embody what it means to “have one’s arms around it all” in the right way. What drives you? What’s the secret?

I genuinely care about people, and I have a passion for what I do. By passion I mean a feeling I would do this no matter what. I love bringing people together, inspiring and connecting them, and giving them options for a better, healthier life. So it rarely feels like work to me, as it’s all about making our world better. Saying I have my arms around it all makes perfect sense, because it’s how it feels to me. I do a lot of things, but they are all connected and come from one place: the heart. That is what drives me.

Interior Wellness and the magazine are many years old. It’s exciting to me that you’re a passionate story seeker and community builder, pursuits deeply important to us at BWB. What motivated you to expand beyond teaching yoga to connecting people and sharing information on this scale?

Yes, actually we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary of Interior Wellness magazine this fall. You are right, I started off as a yoga teacher and had a passion for health and holistic healing for 20 years before that. It is something I was drawn to at a young age, but at the time I started seeking there were not a lot of resources. I was motivated to change that, and so I started the magazine.

I was teaching yoga and working as a nutrition consultant in a health food store. One day I saw people in the community coming into the store, looking at the yoga poster on the bulletin board, and then walking out of the store with their arms full of grocery bags. I thought to myself: They need something to take with them, because they are never going to remember what’s on that board.

I also noticed that all the yoga teachers were putting up their own flyers, and I thought, we should just staple them all together. So I sat down at my computer, having had no computer experience, and next thing I knew a magazine popped out! I saw the need in the community, the idea was put in my heart, and it just happened.

After a while the magazine had so many remarkable practitioners and businesses in it that I wanted to bring them all together in person, so I then decided to put on an event. What started as a small, half-day yoga class with six teachers has evolved into the three-day Interior Wellness Festival with close to 50 teachers and over 70 workshops. It has been an incredible evolution to watch, especially as it continues to exist because the community keeps requesting it. Also, I always align the event with a charity. So far I have raised over $20,000 for different charities in the community.

Your magazine’s pieces are deliciously concise. Here’s a challenge: Tell me a brief story about something you experienced on your journey that moved you in a way that surprised you.

Well, the magazine itself surprised me. Not only had I no computer experience, but I had no journalism or editing experience. I was a yoga teacher and health nut, so I was very surprised to find myself publishing a magazine and putting on large-scale events. This wasn’t something I had planned. My intention to staple some flyers together took on a life of its own and grew into an ongoing success. I just had be willing to do the work that was laid out before me.

We like to finish our profiles with a fun fact many people may not know. Care to share?

I used to be a mountaineering guide in the wilderness mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. This is probably what sparked my love for nature and soulful transformation.

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Sep 09, 2019 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Erica. Erica Pretorius is a partner at Deloitte and leads the telecommunications, media and technology practice for Deloitte. She is also the national leader for the Technology Fast 50 program. When Pretorius isn’t showcasing new technology companies, you’ll most likely find her hiking around the Lynn Loop trail in North Vancouver.

What inspired you or drew you to work at Deloitte?

Deloitte was the largest professional services firm to really work with the most interesting, innovative companies. In university, I was drawn to the information communication studies course. It was described as being a translator between business and technology. I still get to play that translator role. I’m one of those few people that still does what they studied to do, and I love that.

Technology is an industry that supports our culture and what we want to do in the world. It can solve really big problems and allows us to have the work/life balance we all want when living in a beautiful place like British Columbia.

Tell me about your career path.

I worked my way up at Deloitte, but when the tech sector started taking off and we were seeing more software companies enter our ecosystems I gravitated towards them. Deloitte enabled me to focus on these emerging companies and try different initiatives. I did a lot of cybersecurity compliance work, helping companies secure their customer’s data. I felt like an entrepreneur within a larger organization. A lot of the stuff I was doing had never been done before. And once I was able to prove the value of my work to new tech companies, it was really about building a team that could support me. We took the model that we developed in B.C. and implemented it in Ontario. Now we’re in the process of sharing our learnings from Deloitte and other tech companies in Europe.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?

Four years ago, we were introduced to Accelerate Okanagan. We were able to present on a variety of topics and really engage with the tech community. The Accelerate Okanagan team understood how to bring value to service providers and sponsors, which really helped us connect. They knew we were trying to get to know companies who wanted to be connected to the industry. Since then, we’ve expanded the number of people working for Deloitte who are living in the Okanagan. Accelerate Okanagan has been great in getting them involved with the community.

How do you and your firm support tech and entrepreneurs?

We try and bring best practices to the different industries. We have education sessions on a variety of topics: government incentives available to companies, cybersecurity and privacy, and business chemistry. The other big piece of what we do is the Fast 50 program, which showcases smaller or relatively unknown companies. Appearing on this list often leads to new customers, venture capitalists and potential business partners for those companies.

Why do you believe that it is important to invest time in regions outside of Vancouver?

The success of B.C. should not just be measured on the success of Vancouver. I would like to see thriving economies outside of the metro because it creates a lot more options for our people to work and stay and live in the province.

Can you speak to the value of mentorship?

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for fantastic partners that have spent a lot of time helping me navigate challenges. They’ve been great examples of what you can be, or demonstrated skills that you can develop. I think it’s important to have a variety of people that you can learn from but there’s nobody else like you. You shouldn’t just be emulating someone else. You should be using your own personality and developing skills to amplify your strengths.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or that you’d like to share?

My dad taught me each person’s opinion makes sense when you look at it from their point of view. There’s so much division in the world, I don’t think people spend enough time thinking about what the other person is going through.

What word or phrase would you use to describe yourself?

Get it done. When my team and I develop an idea, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the right approach is. My strength is in pushing the team forward to execute the idea. That way it doesn’t just sit as words on paper.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 30, 2019 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Jason. Jason Lotoski is the founder and CEO of Tonit, an app that provides a community for motorcycle riders around the world. When Jason isn’t finding more ways for motorcyclists to connect, you’ll catch him riding around Area 27 on his BMW S1000RR.

Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? 

When I was 12, my dad was helping with the accounting for concerts at The Bluff [Editor’s note: Those were the ZZ Top days]. I thought it would be a good idea to sell glow sticks. I was a kid. I was 12. I thought glow sticks were the best thing ever! I was also trying to raise money for my dog’s $4,000 cataracts surgery. 

I asked my dad if I could set up a booth and he said sure. I ordered a bunch of glow sticks online. They were two cents for a bracelet and three cents for a necklace. I turned around and sold them for $2 and $3, and I ended up making a profit of $4,500 on the first concert.

What inspired to start your company Tonit?

Quite a few years ago I created a Facebook group called Sport Bike West so I could find people to ride with. It wasn’t long before I was booking show-and-shines and selling branded clothing. Sport Bike West grew to a point where it was hard to run. People were wanting to start Sport Bike Wests all over Canada, but they weren’t keeping up with their rides or putting in the effort. I started thinking about how nice it would be to have one place where riders can connect with their community.

What do you love about the Okanagan tech community?

I love the people. Everyone’s here to help. Everyone’s here to get along and grow businesses. There are no egos involved. It’s not about whose business is bigger or whose grew faster. Every one of us is having ups and downs. But we all support each other. That’s what I like.

What’s your journey been like with Accelerate Okanagan?

The programs and the mentorship have been amazing. The mentors are there to help you grow a business, and they genuinely care. The cool thing is even when they don’t have all the expertise, they’ll pull in another mentor to help.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from the Venture Acceleration Program (VAP)?

The Venture Acceleration Program (VAP) focused a lot on validating your idea. That’s the greatest thing. Are you going to have a real business? Is this something people will want to use? Find that out as quickly as you can. Survey people, ask questions and get everything organized. 

My engineering background trained me to validate plans, designs and the overall process, and VAP really complemented that. VAP really allowed me to improve my surveying skills. I was able to ask  better questions, assess audiences—not just my sport bike club. It also ensures I don’t forget to validate the new ideas. Now I know you have to build your alpha, revalidate, debate, rebuild. It’s a process.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Jeff Keen once told me my job was to build the biggest, best, fastest, most amazing company I could build. When I’m planning with my team, I put that bug in their ears, and you can just see everyone is like ‘f*ck yeah, we are!’

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Go for it … and get a mentor. Go for it as fast as you can, learn as much as you can. I was working on Tonit for six or eight months alone—I had no one. I didn’t know anyone else that was starting their own business. I didn’t know organizations like Accelerate Okanagan existed. That can make it stressful. But hell yeah it’s awesome! Best thing ever. Very stressful though.

What impact has mentorship had on your business?

Let me put it this way: If I were an investor, I would not invest in an entrepreneur if they didn’t have a mentor. The value of a mentor is huge. It doesn’t matter who you are. I don’t think it’s impossible to build a business without a mentor. But if the same person had a mentor, they would probably build it twice as fast.

Mentors aren’t always there to tell you you’re right or wrong. They’re there to remind you of high-level goals and to pull you out of the weeds. They’re not in your business day today, so it’s easy for them to keep you accountable to those long-term goals.

Treat your insides well
Contributed - Aug 29, 2019 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

By Tom Kernaghan

Love your life from the inside out, and you will discover and maintain your complete wellness. For Judy Holt, owner of Lake Country’s JH Health Coaching, this is a way of life—one she has been committed to for 29 years. As a certified holistic life coach and an independent Shaklee distributor, Holt knows the inner journey to well-being starts with what we put in our bodies.

Shaklee health products are thoroughly tested to be safe, proven and guaranteed. But it goes even further than the amazing vitamins, supplements and personalized health plans she offers to her clients. Having met Holt, I can say there is something about her outlook, and her nature, that embodies and harmonizes all four pillars of Balance Well-Being. Her guiding principle is that by living from a heart-centred place, we can do the most good for ourselves and for others.

Holt also teaches law of attraction principles and is the author of a 2008 book called “1 Potato, 2 Potato, Couch Potato to You.” Drawing on all facets of her training and experience, her mission is to help people—from individuals of all ages to entire families—find the freedom and flexibility to grow into their best, fullest versions of themselves and live healthier, happier and wealthier lives.

I know your ultimate focus is all encompassing when it comes to health and well-being, but let’s start with the products themselves. What is it about the Shaklee offering that is so special?

The Shaklee product offering is unique because the company has a 63-year history of clinically tested food supplements, and non-toxic home and body products. They are positioned in the growth sector of health and wellness with vegan and gluten-free certified skincare that is Beyond Organic, their philosophy of guaranteeing the highest standards of safety. And their sports nutrition, which includes a variety of science-based meal replacements for their Healthy Weight life plan, is used by many Olympic athletes.

What is one of the first questions you ask your clients about their health habits?

I ask how they’re feeling and just have a conversation where I really listen to them. I offer a free, no-obligation health assessment through an online link to show their top health goals and current lifestyle habits. When we chat I suggest supplements or things they can do to reach their goals.

You’ve been a Shaklee distributor for almost 29 years now. What initially drew you to their culture, and how has your focus evolved over the years?

What initially drew me to Shaklee’s culture was the company’s values of making a difference and creating a healthier life for anyone and a better life for everyone. It’s about family, freedom, contribution and flexibility. These aligned with my values and coupled with the golden rule philosophy of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ which is how I live my life and do my work. My business has evolved to incorporate more of a mindset and focus on wellness that includes meditation and teaching law of attraction principles.

Having run your own health business for so long, how do you see your current role and contribution to the health and well-being of your clients and the community? Tell us a bit about your Wellness Movement.

I see my current role as a lifestyle coach, the scope of my work encompassing diet and lifestyle, with a mindset focused on the whole wellness picture. Also, I coach and mentor a team of others to build their own Shaklee businesses. In these ways, I’m creating a wellness movement of heart-centred and health-conscious individuals who are passionate about guiding others to live their best lives. It’s a global movement of hundreds reaching their wellness and income goals.

Time for the fun finale. Care to share a story, tendency or tidbit of info about you others may not know?

Fun story. I became a grandma (Nana) three months ago, and it’s the most special phase of life! I absolutely love travelling, and outdoor sports and activities. I’m addicted to good health, fitness and mindfulness, and connection with family, friends and fun is a huge part of my daily why.

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays (this week on a Thursday).

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 27, 2019 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet John. John Sechrest is the founder of the Seattle Angel Conference and the catalyst behind the OKGN Angel Summit. When Sechrest isn’t working on improving the startup ecosystem in Seattle, you’ll find him in his garden, riding bikes with his wife or planning his next trip to Estonia.

We recently caught up with Sechrest to learn more about his passion for ecosystem building and how he got plugged into OKGNtech.

What got you involved with entrepreneurial ecosystem building? 

The (Corvallis-Benton) Chamber (Coalition) in Oregon hired me as their economic development director back in 2006, and the way I saw it was with economic development you have four choices: recruitment expansion, retention, tourism or startups. I knew that Oregon wouldn’t put enough money into recruitment and that expansion and retention would only give us more of what we already had. Then there was tourism, but that had its own budget, so that only left startups. So the question is how do you get a town of 50,000 people to get used to startups? Do an angel conference to change the conversation completely. So that’s what we did. As of today I have launched conferences in San Diego, Kelowna, Anchorage and Seattle. So we now have California, Oregon, Washington, B.C., and Alaska. The full West Coast!

How did you get plugged in to OKGNtech? 

I am constantly working to build more startups and make better angels. One of the things we see with startups is they get angel-funded the first time, then they don’t all make it to the second round of (venture capital) funding. Which makes me wonder: What are these other companies going to do? I began looking into what companies have to do in order to go public in Canada. So in the process of trying to figure that out, I started talking to lawyers in Seattle to uncover the differences between going public in Canada versus the United States. Through that process I got introduced to Mike Macaulay from Lawson Lundell. The Lawson Lundell team are partners of Accelerate Okanagan and the OKGNtech community, and it wasn’t long before he invited me up for a visit.

Why do you love your job?

I am passionate about making things better. The next time you see someone walking down the street with a sign saying something isn’t right, I bet you that the answer to solving that problem is a scalable business. At the core of angel investing is the ability to produce the next economy, whatever that is. And if you’re able to do that well, not only do you make that change but you now have more money so you can do it again and again. It’s a sustainable mechanism for making the world a better place.

What was it like being involved with the OKGN Angel Summit?

You guys ran it at a different level than most of the places that are running it. You guys had a much different flavour and structure than what I am used to. I really think you guys pulled off a great process. It was different having this back-end engine that is Accelerate Okanagan during the process because there were a bunch of things that I would have worried about where you just sort of shrugged your shoulders and took care of it. I am used to doing most of the heavy lifting, so that was entirely different for me. You are also the only group that has ever done swag! That was interesting, I have never had angel summit swag before!

What surprised you about running the OKGN Angel Summit here in the Okanagan?

The thing that has been the biggest change for me is that I have always been in control of certain components of the process. In the last six months, I’ve had to explain it to three different communities that are fundamentally different from each other, and so I’ve learned a lot about where I have to explain things and where I don’t. Your team probably felt like you were drinking from a fire hose with this process, but so was I! I was constantly trying to understand what are the components that are necessary for this to move forward.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The one piece of advice that I am constantly going back to is something I first heard while doing kung fu in college, and that advice was ‘slow down, go back to basics, make sure you have the foundation.’ So whenever I have been overly excited, which I tend to do a lot, I have to remind myself that slowing down and staying attentive makes all the difference.

What is the biggest mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Customer development is fundamental. What I have learned is that some entrepreneurs don’t want to be wrong. They don’t want evidence that proves that they aren’t right, and so they don’t test things because they think that it is a waste of their time. They believe that if they just muscle their way through they’ll get what they want. But that’s not the reality. The world is going to do what the world is going to do, and if you don’t want to adapt it is going to be a much harder lift.

Can you speak to the value of mentorship?

To be an entrepreneur and to create a startup is to be crazy. You have to be motivated to do something abnormal, which usually means that you don’t know what it is that you’re about to get into. However, there have been other people that have run down that road with the same set of crazy and they’ve bumped their heads against things and can at least tell you about those bumps.

So the real value to mentorship is perspective. Perspective from the people that have done whatever crazy thing it is before you. Doing good customer development can cut your risk in half, and having a mentor can cut it in half again. Their experience and point of view is hard to get any other way, and it’s so important. Otherwise, you’re running really fast forward blindfold on.

Massage for well-being
Contributed - Aug 21, 2019 - Columnists

Photo Credit: Contributed

By: Tom Kernaghan

Give a person a massage and they can reach a state of well-being. Teach a person how to massage and they can reach their potential. For Sharon Strang, instructor and owner of Focus Bodywork, life is about seeing possibilities and literally using your hands to fulfill your dreams. 

Sharon is a 25-year veteran masseuse and gifted instructor who helps her students to learn the art of massage while inspiring them to embrace the art of living well. As the former owner of The Wellness Spa, former massage teacher at Okanagan College, Kelowna, and a lifelong student of spirituality and wellness, she now offers fun, easy-to-learn private courses in healing massage. She also offers workshops in hot stone work, and guides practitioners in launching or expanding their massage businesses. 

She has expertise and stories born of experience, and she is here to help you on your journey, both personally and professionally. 

We were thrilled to learn more about Sharon and her work. 

Recently I heard someone describe the feeling of being a “walking head”, oblivious to the needs of the body. We often talk about thoughts and emotions manifesting physically. How can addressing the body’s stresses improve our well-being in the other direction? 

Stress has been proven to be the main cause of poor health. It is held in our bodies as suppressed emotions. I believe emotions are the glue that holds thoughts in place.  Stress manifests physically as tight muscles or what I call energy blocks. 

We actually hold emotions in common places throughout the body, which you can read about in You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay or in Debbie Shapiro’s Your Body Speaks Your Mind. For example, one place we hold fear is in our stomachs, thus the expression “butterflies in our stomach.” Fear is also held in our legs. We hold frustration and anger around our shoulder blades, along our trapezius muscles at the top of our shoulders, and in our arms as well.

So when we receive a massage, or bodywork, or when we exercise, it helps to relax the muscles, improve body circulation, and release suppressed emotions or pain. In my massage, I also make sure that I support my clients in breathing “into the sore spots.” The breath is a very powerful tool to release stress. And when we exercise, we naturally breathe more, making it great contributor to maintaining well-being.

Your work is about restoring balance, creating harmony, and supporting others in meeting their potential. Why were you first drawn to teaching in addition to offering healing massage? 

That is a good question! I just have a passion for helping others to succeed. And I have always wanted to be a teacher, since I was a little girl. So when I learned how life can be easier by becoming more conscious of my Self, I just wanted to help other people be happier too. During my life of personal growth training, I have learned that there is always a solution to every problem — or challenge, as most people like to call it. 

I was a single mom, trying to make ends meet, and was able to successfully become a business owner. I am basically a self-taught entrepreneur with my massage business, through my training as a Master Breath Integration Practitioner. It taught me that we all have the power inside us to create our dreams and to be successful, whatever that may look or feel like. My main goal is to teach this and inspire others through my massage courses.

You offer a variety of courses and workshops.  Your eight-month certificate program sounds comprehensive and full of resources, including small business tips.  What challenges do you address when you work to empower your clients and prepare them to run a massage business? 

The main challenge most people face, in my opinion, is the fear of becoming successful, not the fear of failure, as Marianne Williamson says. Discipline and commitment are the key to success, and I find that most people only stay committed some of the time. In our minds, we can make discipline and commitment very difficult by procrastination, which is simply fear. I point out that this is the block, and we have to “feel our fear and do it anyway,” to borrow from the title of another great book. Fear is not always real! Make a plan — intention and specific goals — and then follow it through, no matter what! It is also very important to be disciplined in staying balanced and taking care of all parts of you — mind, body, spirit, and emotions. It helps you to stay strong in all ways, so that you can maintain your commitment to your goal. It’s all connected.

Your couple’s workshop sounds like fun! Considering that wellness can vary from person to person, is it important for couples to improvise or custom-fit the massage techniques to suit their relationship? 

Yes! When it comes to massage, everyone does it a little differently, and the quality of the experience comes mostly from the energy of the person who is massaging. It is just an inherent thing, since we use our intuition as well as our knowledge when we massage properly. So everyone custom-fits the massage for each person they work on, even though they use the same basic techniques. And when it involves your partner, with whom there is a closer bond, I am sure there is custom-fitting to suit the relationship!

Describe what balance and well-being mean to you.  

For me, balance and well-being mean: 

  1. I am taking responsibility for my part in whatever happens in my life. For me this means first being aware of my thoughts and feelings, because this leads to my circumstances. If I do not like my reality, then I need to change something, starting with my thoughts!  
  2. I am asking for support! When the going gets tough, I feel that it is important to ask for support. We are not alone on this planet. This can include receiving bodywork such as massages, physiotherapy, or energy work such as Reiki or Healing Touch, or just simply talking with friends. There are many more ways to receive support. 
  3. Having a regular exercise routine, three days a week, while eating healthy and drinking lots of water.  
  4. Having compassion for myself in that I am not perfect, and forgiving myself when I do fall from my path.
  5. Having a close relationship with my spirit. Meditating daily or at least five days a week. Also praying, doing yoga, going to spiritual gatherings, and reading spiritual books.
  6. Keeping an open mind. Continually learning through courses, but always being aware of my intuition as well — and then balancing those two together in my life.

The fun finale! Share something quirky or interesting about yourself — something many would not know. 

When I was 25, I made an amazing, life-altering trip to Europe, Morocco, and Asia for sixteen months. I spent at least a month in each country that I visited. Travelling by bus from Turkey, I went through Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and then into India and Sri Lanka, where I spent four months.

Sharon Strang
(250)215-1564
[email protected]

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.

Enter the ‘Self Love Circle’
Contributed - Aug 14, 2019 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

By Tom Kernaghan

Cindy Maki once made a rocking chair with the legs on backwards. While this was an amusing mishap on a path to a woodworking career she didn’t pursue, there is nothing accidental about her true work. For Cindy, a trained life coach and energy healer, getting unstuck and moving forward in life requires the clarity and courage that results from focusing inward and learning to love ourselves. The owner of True Vision Coaching & Healing Arts, she has spent 15 years helping dissatisfied people to confront their self-doubts, avoid comparisons, and trust their hearts to guide them toward better lives.

Cindy understands that reaching a new perspective and direction is not always easy to do alone. A graduate of the Coaches Training Institute in California, a reiki master, and a woman who has experienced profound personal challenges, she is keenly aware that achieving the self-awareness needed to release, shift, and reset our lives requires self-acceptance — and sometimes the support of others.

Enter the Self Love Circle. Cindy has created a variety of sessions and workshops to support her clients and teach them what it means to love oneself in practical terms every day. We were excited to learn more about how she found her true vision and how she guides others to find their own. 

First let’s look in the mirror. Every day you look yourself in the eye and repeat a mantra over and over. What do you tell yourself, and what has it taught you about what so many of us struggle with? 

When I look at self in the mirror each day, I have a practice of acknowledging the reflection I see, and truly loving the person who looks back at me. This didn’t happen right away, and there were a lot of tears and persistent trials by fire, until eventually I got to the place where I know I have my own back without question or hesitation. Now I know I can get through any challenge and overcome adversity. Most importantly, I love my life!

If you don’t mind, I want to talk about something you went though that many haven’t — the loss of a son. Unimaginable to most, this experience was and is your reality. How did confronting and dealing with his death deepen your understanding of yourself and your work?

Experts report that we each deal with grief in our own way on our own timeline, and to some extent I believe that to be true in my case. It is definitely a process and one that can get stunted depending on one’s beliefs. It’s coming up to an eleven-year journey for me and perhaps I am not done yet. What I do know for sure is that my spiritual beliefs and the work I practice supported me tremendously in moving through my grief, loss, and healing. Of course I had unlimited support from family and friends too. I went from a state of shock and disbelief in the beginning (this was not supposed to happen in my life; my son, Cody, died from suicide at age twenty-two) to a sureness in knowing that I am always safe, loved, and can survive anything that comes my way. I am here for a purpose. My experience took me from being a victim to being a witness with a choice about how my life unfolds. 

After much reflection I came to the belief that Cody’s death was the worst thing that could ever happen; yet I was still here, thriving in my own way. This realization has filled me with deep gratitude, and now I feel kind of invincible in a wise way. I understand that I am here in this life to share my learning and keep on going. Not because it’s what my son would have wanted, but because I want to live and contribute. I value my life and the time I have to live. Life is precious and sometimes short, and so I want to guide others to their own true vision for life so they can live it!

Now for the Self Love Circles — a lovely and comforting name. How do these look and work, and what is one of the most profound discoveries people make when they participate? 

Self Love Circles evolved from my own practice of healing after Cody passed away. They happen in person or online and follow a simple structure that allows for sharing, reflection, and discussion with like-minded people. Generally, there is a new topic each time a circle gathers. There is discussion about what self love is, how to develop a self-love practice, and the development of a personalized recipe for self love that each participant will create over time. Every person comes away with their own “a-ha.” However, being with others who are also experiencing a disconnect, feeling overwhelmed, and lacking support is a gift in itself. The realization that you are not the only person who feels the way you feel is reassuringly powerful; it brings hope and relief. In addition, my sense about profound discoveries made by participants is that they learn to talk to themselves in a way that is not judgmental, nasty, harsh, or downright abusive. That kind, encouraging self talk is a practice that can be developed and can make a huge positive impact on our day-to-day life.

You’re originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario. How long have you been in Kelowna, and what brought you here? 

I moved from Thunder Bay to Kelowna in December of 2018 following a knowing that came to me: it’s time for Part Two of my life. It was an interesting mix of recognizing it was time to move from my comfort zone (where it definitely felt like something was missing), letting go, and starting anew. This was a huge learning in trust for me, accepting one step at a time rather than having the whole plan in place before acting — which in my experience keeps a lot of good things from getting started and happening!

Tell us something quirky or interesting about yourself many would not know. Feel free to elaborate on the rocking chair, or surprise us! 

I am a collector of heart-shaped rocks; it’s a hobby I stumbled on quite by accident. When I lived in Ontario I spent the summers boating along the rugged shores of Lake Superior, where I loved walking along the beaches and picking up rocks. One day I found a distinctly heart-shaped rock and said to my partner at the time, “Look at this heart-shaped rock I found.” To which he replied there is no such thing. I get inspired by a challenge, so it was the beginning of my mission to collect them. And yes, I moved my heart-shaped rock collection with me to Kelowna!

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.

‘Book whisperer’ knows stories
Contributed - Aug 07, 2019 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

By Tom Kernaghan

“Connect to your story, your purpose, your why.”

Pamela Lynch believes your book matters and encourages you to hone your skills as a unique storyteller. She guides you through the book creation process from concept to celebration. Lynch’s commitment is to help you birth your book and share it with your audience. This is a path she knows well.

The creator of Alesia Publishing, Lynch married her 31 years in traditional book publishing with her love of universal laws and ancient wisdom to launch a niche publishing house. She works with coaches, healers and change makers who focus on transformation for themselves or their clients. Lynch also specializes in working with elders to capture their story in the form of a legacy memoir. An intuitive, collaborative leader and “book whisperer,” she sees the highest potential in others. Lynch’s mission is to work with people whose passion is to share their wisdom.

Lynch thrives on collaboration and a profound exploration of freedom. She sees the stories from our past pain and the alignment with the dreams our soul is nudging us to pursue. She’s dug into her own story only to see her purpose revealed, and is very familiar with the joys and challenges of looking within to find one’s truth. Lynch offers a 64-day writing and accountability program, and fun retreats in exotic locations. These help you stay connected to your story and the writing process.

Your first online master class is rich with guidance and insight. Let’s start there. One combination of ideas that stuck out for me is the desire for freedom. What fundamental freedom are we seeking, and how will telling our stories help to put it within reach?

We speak and think in stories, and are storytellers just like our ancestors who passed stories down through the ages. Telling our stories connects us to our past, and we create our life from that perspective. When we are willing to change and shine the light on our story, we illuminate the truths and the lies that formed subconsciously in early childhood. We become open to questioning the very tales we sought so hard to protect. When we are aware of our limitations, we realize that we have the power to change our story to one that matches our true desires rather than embracing one that is comfortable and familiar. When we are feeling unfulfilled, it is a nudge from our higher self to alter our story to come into alignment with our trajectory to live our life’s purpose and experience freedom. The freedom comes after we acknowledge it is a great privilege to be the creator of our story.   

You explore a very powerful double-barrelled obstacle to completing a book: distraction and doubt. A client comes to you ready to write but caught between the competing desires for both change and certainty (which you juxtapose quite wonderfully). How would you put them at ease in order to move forward?

Our desires for certainty and uncertainty seem to be conflicting, but clients come to understand they fuel us in different ways. The desire for certainty arises when you have a dream or an idea, and the doubter shows up to keep you safe yet undermines your desire. There’s a wonderful process I share to invite the doubter to be an ally rather than foe. Clients also learn the eight ways we sabotage ourselves and how to modify the behaviour that takes us out of the writing process.

This is an exciting time in your life, as you are enjoying the culmination of many experiences and challenges over decades that have prepared you to help others. Let’s focus on one. How did connecting to your own story prove to be such a pivotal moment on your journey?

Earlier I alluded to using ancient wisdom in my business. Humans are born to see patterns, and one of the ways we can see and understand these patterns is through numbers. Ancient civilizations used math to solve complex ideas, and many of us have forgotten that we can attune to the energy of the numbers. After being introduced to numerology two years ago, my divine purpose blueprint revealed my higher purpose, gifts, blessings, strengths and obstacles. It changed everything for me.

Care to share an interesting fact about yourself that most would not likely know?

I was 29 years old when I earned the distinction of receiving my black belt in Shotokan karate from sensei Miguel Palavecino, an accomplished master in martial arts. He was also uncle Mikey to my son, Sean, who was raised in the dojo (training hall). Shotokan karate’s founder, Gichin Funakoshi, built the first Shōtōkan dojo in Tokyo. In Japanese, karate means “the way of the empty hand.”

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 01, 2019 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Monika. Monika Brenner is founder and creative director at Monika Brenner Designs, an Okanagan-based creative agency focused on brand strategy and interactive design. When Brenner isn’t making magic for her clients, you’ll find her grabbing a quick six (ounce) of B.C. wine, chilling with her cat Prada or video chatting with her fans on Instagram (@designermon).

We recently caught up with Monika to learn more about her design career and her experience working for Disney.

What inspired you to pursue a career in design? 

I was always a big yearbook nerd, and I actually jumped into yearbook a year earlier than was normally allowed (Editor’s Note: what a rule breaker!). Once I was in, I became the layout queen. After I graduated, my dad was like, ‘Okay, you can work at the Wrap Zone or you can go to school’ and I was like, well, I guess I’ll go to school then! My dad was actually the one that suggested I study graphic design, so I really have him to thank for my experience at the Art Institute of Vancouver and my career as a designer.

How did you get your foot in the door at Disney’s Club Penguin? 

I moved back to Vernon after I finished my design program at the Art Institute of Vancouver. I was out for lunch with my mom one day and we bumped into a family friend. She suggested I apply for this new company in Kelowna and explained that it was some Disney thing. Pretty sure she called it Penguin Treehouse or something like that!

As soon as my mom heard Disney, she was hooked. She literally bugged me about my application every day. I can still hear her saying, ‘You need to apply! You need to apply! You are Disney! You NEED to apply!’

It’s funny because when I was in high school, I played a game called Neopets all the time. To be honest, I was a bit of a Neopet fanatic. At Club Penguin I was part of an all-star team responsible for building another kind of virtual world, so all that time I spent on Neopets really paid off.

What have you been up to since you left Disney? 

After I left Disney, I worked for a startup called Minga. It was while I was working with them. I started taking on a couple of design contracts on the side. The contracts just started to pile up so I decided I had to make the switch to full-time freelance.

I never thought that this is where my career would go; it just kind of happened. Now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve never loved doing something more in my entire life. Being able to work with so many different people on so many different projects is just so exciting for me.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? 

Well, to start, I would highly recommend the Art Institute of Vancouver! They have a really great program; I loved it. But what I found to be the most beneficial thing for me, design-wise, was working alongside experienced designers. Once I graduated, my first six months of working at Disney taught me so much! I attribute a lot of my design knowledge to my community of designers! We do design nights all the time, and just having that collaboration is so powerful.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re looking to get connected with the graphic design community, follow the Ladies, Wine, and Design nights.] 

What is one word that describes you and why? 

One word that describes me? Hmmmm … sassy AF? Oh wait, that’s three words, isn’t it? Seriously though, I am really loud and proud. I would like to be known as eccentric, but I don’t know if I am there yet. But it’s in my goals. I think that comes with cooler glasses, bigger jewelry … and brighter pants!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

The best piece of advice I ever received was in a feedback session. A little back story: When I was fresh out of school, I was quite high on my high horse and wasn’t very good at taking feedback. When I would receive feedback I would get upset, like visibly upset, and I would make it all about me.

One day a mentor of mine pulled me aside and he said, ‘We are not giving you feedback because we think that you did a bad job. We are giving you feedback because this is an opportunity to do better and to evolve. Remember, this is a collaborative process.’ Bottom line: You can’t take feedback personally. You have to look at it as an opportunity for growth!

Are there any fellow designers you take inspiration from?  

Jessica Walsh from Sagmeister and Walsh inspires me. Seriously, her stuff is really vibrant and really loud. Sagmeister and Walsh is a design studio in New York. They’re pretty cool!

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, definitely not. Being an entrepreneur is hard and super challenging, but I am in it now, and I am never going to go back. Four years ago, when I was at Disney it wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind. I just started filling up with so much work that it just happened, and I love it now.

Get that fulfilled feeling
Contributed - Jul 31, 2019 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

By Tom Kernaghan

How do you take charge of a frigging monkey on an emotional roller-coaster? First of all, stop listening to its crap. Secondly, don’t get on the ride just because it wants you to. Thirdly, create a new reality ride for yourself and shift in that direction. If all of this sounds as compelling as it does daunting, then you are ready to meet Kasia Rachfall, an intuitive natural health practitioner, life coach, healer and artist for women who want to “ditch the midlife funk and live with no regrets, and create the impact they long to be recognized for.”

Rachfall understands how past stories, programming, and belief systems can block and limit the potential for living fully and happily. Not only is she educated/certified in transpersonal psychology, life coaching, Akashic records reading, neuro-linguistic programming, specialized kinesiology, stress indicator point systems (SIPS), time line therapy, thought field therapy (TFT) and Reiki, but she has gone through her own long healing journey and discovered why “ticking all the boxes” of life did not leave her feeling fulfilled.

Rachfall fully admits that she is not for everyone. She is feisty, forthright and fun, and absolutely here to help other women over 40 who are determined to gain self-knowledge, trust themselves, and move toward what they want. She has attained mastery over her own roller-coaster monkey mind and is ready to help you with yours. So we were thrilled to learn more about her and how she rolls (pun fully intended).

I remember my female friends in university. They seemed wild, fierce and unapologetic. But more and more I hear about women roughly my age who are struggling to live authentically. The outside world has no shortage of pressures,  I know, but what happens WITHIN women by midlife that hijacks their true selves? 

Life happens, and it can be so hard that we forget our true nature, which takes the wind out of our sails and makes us feel like we are drowning. But it starts early. There are so many expectations, belief systems, programs, traumas, and epigenetic influences that get heaped on to us as soon as we are born into this world. We may have dreams and goals, and yet feel so incapable and unworthy of them because of all that crap that bogs us down and makes us forget that we have a choice and that we are actually really powerful.

For so many women life becomes what they believe they are expected to do. They get a career, buy a house, have a relationship and then kids, have friends, support their kids’ interests, et cetera. At the same time, they try to deal with their emotions and take care of their bodies, and this can often feel like an existence more than a thriving life. They feel like they should be happy but deep down they aren’t and this carries with it secret shame. 

After taking care of everyone else, they feel they’ve lost themselves. They know they are meant for more, but the shoulds and expectations have eaten up all their time and energy, leaving their bodies tired and sick, their brains foggy, their sleep patterns compromised. They yearn for more meaning and joy, and try a bunch of things to help themselves, but this only chips away at the problem and makes them feel they are doing it all wrong, losing traction and momentum towards their own dreams. 

Right around age 40 they are faced with a midlife funk, and that craving for more from life becomes too strong to ignore. They begin to choose and invest in themselves and their own well-being. This means asking for help and being willing to receive it, so that they can truly commit to the healing work that reconnects them to their own spiritual journey, helps them to say yes to making an impact, and removes the layers that keep them from remembering their wholeness. 

You offer many modalities—specialized kinesiology, art channelling and Akashic reading work—but where do you start? What do you look for in the women who seek out your services, and what is the essential desired outcome?

I’ll start with your last question. My deepest desire and vision for our world is that we stop passing down our pain to our future generations. This is why I do this work and why I’m so dedicated to learning about mental, physical, and emotional health and mastery. I believe we are never broken. We simply forget how powerful and capable we are because life puts layers of limitations, beliefs, programs and conditioning on us. The more we know and understand how we work and how the universe works, the easier it is to embrace our own power and make decisions and choices to help ourselves and others. We heal, grow and thrive faster when we take a holistic approach and include the mind, body and spirit.

I work with a four-stage model of the healing journey, and I tend to work best with the women who are at stage three of healing. They are truly ready to finish healing rather than just dabble in another thing that sounds cool. These women have been on the spiritual path for some time and no longer believe they are victims of their past. They are ready to work with me to take responsibility for healing their pain. This doesn’t mean any of it is their fault. It simply means that they are finished living with it and are ready to do whatever it takes to feel better, to remember their wholeness, and no longer carry the past like a concrete backpack. They are ready to step on to the growth and thriving path; to become the version of themselves who trusts, believes and takes action with confidence; and to make an impact and to be recognized for it.

This doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen faster than you think. Healing doesn’t have to take a long time and doesn’t have to be hard work, but you’ve got to be ready for full commitment and participation. I don’t tend to attract women into my practice who are still committed to their pain and suffering.

I love the integration of specialized kinesiology and the Akashic records in my work because it allows me to give both the body and the soul a voice, understand what they want, and help women to release the layers of stress, trauma and drama held in the body and energy fields so they can move into possibilities and potential. This involves identifying limiting beliefs and feeling their backlog of emotions in a way that releases them rather than fuelling and perpetuating them. It’s a wild emotional ride at first because so many women feel unworthy, not good enough and are easily triggered by their circumstances. They just want to know what to do and have the courage to take that first next step. 

My clients also learn about neuroplasticity to rewire their brains and bodies for the habits and beliefs they want to have. I guide my clients to avoid and navigate the post-healing apocalypse loops of habit, behaviour, thought and emotion that are so easy to slide back into while on this path. They uncover their own definitions for success, impact, spirituality, self-love and connection. They cross bridges of change and build strong foundations on which to build their lives after the healing work is finished. They become the self-trusting versions of themselves that fully believe in their missions and purposes, trusting that the process and the universe will have their backs and illuminate their paths in divine timing.

This brings us back to your first question. The Akashic records—the quantum universe’s information field or vibrational archive of the soul’s path—are usually where we begin because they offer clear insight into the purpose of the patterns and struggles that my clients have. The records fill in the blanks and explain a lot about why my clients find themselves in the circumstances they do and what they can do to shift and redirect towards what they want instead. We then turn to specialized kinesiology to identify and remove the muscle memory of stress and old programs from the body and energy field. We continue to work with both the Akashic records and kinesiology to peel back and release the layers that are no longer necessary for the client’s growth and focus on what the client wants to create in her life.

I know you also have also studied business communication and love to connect by speaking and reaching out to people through your podcast. Tell us a bit about this work! 

I love to speak and teach. In fact, according to my numerology I am an innovator, and I am meant to teach what I learn. Over the years that I’ve been doing this work, I’ve created many resources and tools (videos, courses, articles, flowcharts, and more) to help women navigate the mental and emotional rollercoaster. To this day, I use these whenever I myself need them—because they remind me that I’m in charge. Many of these are free on my website and my YouTube channel. 

I also host a podcast called Permission Granted Podcast with three colleagues, and we discuss topics and concerns that matter to women today. We’re scattered across North America (New Jersey, Minnesota, and B.C.) but manage to coordinate ourselves every couple weeks to record our episodes, which are available on Soundcloud. It gives us a way to connect with each other and support each other as we live our lives and run our businesses and to support other women who are seeking a community and are ready to thrive and lead in their lives unapologetically. 

I remember your talk at BWB’s Storytelling Tuesday a few months ago. It was honest, engaging, and powerful — very much related to the work you do. Can you tell our readers a little about how your journey has inspired your passion to help other women? 

I had no idea why I was unhappy. As I saw it, I hadn’t really experienced any trauma and thought that only people who had “bad things” happen to them were unhappy. My family immigrated from communist Poland to Canada when I was nine years old, and then my parents got divorced when I was a teen. And like many teen girls, I had body image and self esteem issues. But otherwise, over the years, I felt like my life was okay. 

That changed after the birth of my children, when I experienced horrible suicidal postpartum depression and saw no meaning in my life. I felt a lot of shame about this because I had so much to live and to be grateful for—my amazing husband, my healthy kids, my family, my job, my home—but I felt incapable of feeling any gratitude. I wanted to escape because I felt trapped in my life by responsibilities and expectations. 

I hated being alive. I hated being a mom. I thought life on this planet was a sick joke, and felt like a victim of circumstances and suffered deeply. I didn’t know how to handle my negative emotions and so I numbed myself to them and pretended they weren’t there. The problem there is that we can’t selectively numb ourselves and so I couldn’t feel any joy either. 

I tried counselling and antidepressants but when I didn’t feel any better after a month or so, I knew there had to be something different. One night, as I contemplated how one actually ends one’s life, I heard this voice in my mind that said, “You created this, and you can uncreate it.” I was blown away by this thought. Although I had no idea how I would change my life, I was relieved that there may be another way, a better way. 

Then I discovered the work of Dr. Wayne Dyer and began devouring all this teachings. None of it made sense at first, but I felt compelled to keep learning. Incrementally I felt better and better all on my own. I began following the crumbs of inspiration and one thing led to another. I read more books, took programs, and met people who showed me how much potential and choice I actually had. I went back to school to get various certifications and a master’s degree in psychology. I began working with other moms who wanted happiness but didn’t know how to go about it. I was intrigued by neuroscience and energy work. By following these crumbs, I continued to help myself, to discover my own spiritual path, and I was able to fully heal from my depression and my shame.

I firmly believe that we are always whole but life causes us to forget this, and that by choosing to walk a healing and a spiritual path we remember our wholeness and take charge of our own power. 

What do balance and well-being mean to you?

I used to think that balance meant every slice of my life pie had to receive equal amounts of my attention and energy. This was crazy making and impossible because inevitably something would slip through the cracks. It was when I honestly looked at what was important to me and what I wanted to say yes to that I was able to balance my life more easily. Some slices of my pie get a lot more of my attention than others. My family and my mental, emotional, and physical health are the most important, and next is my work and my community. There are other smaller slices, of course, but they are not priorities as such. 

By being clear on the true priorities I can manage and dedicate my time and energy accordingly. Sometimes one slice requires all of my attention and I know that I can easily give it because the other slices are also taken care of. All that to say that balance to me means knowing what’s important to you and having the energy to devote to those priorities. This knowing brings a sense of peace and freedom because it’s easier to say no to things that don’t fit and yes to things that matter. Well-being means feeling content and settled in our own life and trusting that we can take care of what we say yes to and also be taken care of in return. 

Now for the fun finale! Care to share something quirky or interesting about yourself that our readers may not know?

Ha ha. I feel like I’m pretty much an open book! Speaking of books, I love to read and I usually gravitate towards stories with happy endings and warm fuzzy emotions. I don’t like to be scared or stressed out when I read! So when I do come across a book and I don’t care for the ending or I disagree with the author’s story choices, I rewrite the scenes or the ending to suit my taste. I don’t let anyone read these rewrites, but it makes me feel better to change the story to how I think it should have gone.

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays.

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