Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24: The Dawn of a New Era

Since the change from "bunny ears" to digital cable, I smile to myself because I realize that I haven't been watching that much television anymore. Even though I could watch whatever I want online, and I have a very good movie collection, I still would rather read. I find myself buying many more books and reading for hours. I feel that my vocabulary has expanded and my writing has improved. I go on the computer for the same amount of time as I did before, but I view different things. The good old regulars are there (facebook, email, youtube, this blog) but I've recently joined twitter and its opened up a world of possibilities. I am able to keep on top of, and up to date of what is happening in the operatic world. January is my new favourite time, because all the opera companies are announcing their seasons for the upcoming year. Not only are these exciting productions to look forward to, but I'm also retaining valuable information that applies to my job. Its a very exciting thing. It is the dawn of a new era for me.

On Thursday evening, I am embarking on a four day long journey to begin my training in the healing art of Reiki. I will be doing the Level 1 class for certification at the end of those 4 days. For those of you who don't know what Reiki is, I will include a blurb from a great book that I own. Feel free to google it and a read about it. It is an astounding method of healing that most people do not believe could possibly exist. But in fact, it has existed for thousands of years and was brought to the Western world in the early 20th century.

"The word Reiki means universal life energy. It is defined as being that power which acts and lives in all created matter. The word consists of two parts. The syllable "rei" describes the universal, boundless aspect of this energy while "ki" is in itself part of "rei", being the vital life force energy which flows through all living beings....The Usui system of Reiki is not only the most simple and natural healing method we know of, but it is also the most effective way of transferring this universal life energy. Once a person has been opened up to become a "channel" for Reiki, concentrated life energy will flow through his/her hands of its own accord and he/she will retain this ability for the rest of his/her life...Many scientists reached the point in their work where there is only one explanation left, namely that a superior intelligent force does exist: a universal spirit which is continually creating the universe out of itself...The therapist is only a channel for this energy, for it is not his own, limited energy which passes through him when he lays his hands on a person, but rather a universal one, which leaves him strengthened and harmonized afterwards. Reiki also makes its own way to the area of the body in need of treatment. It is obviously endowed with a greater wisdom than our own, for it seems to know where and how and to what extent a patient needs it without our being able to add to or subtract from the effect it produces....The fact that Reiki has enabled many people to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of religious matters while enabling them to experience spiritually in a more profound manner speaks for its universality."

This is slightly vague, because it does not talk about how the treatments are done, but I will leave that for you to explore. All I know is what has been done to me in my sessions. You have to remember that the energy will tell the practitioner where and for how long they need to treat a certain area of the body. The other most important thing to remember, is that each person's experience will be completely different from the next person. All I know, is that in my treatments I have had glorious epiphanies and I leave feeling energized and refreshed. Its an amazing feeling to know that all that bad energy and those toxins are leaving you.

Reiki was brought to my attention in my first year of university. My voice teacher at the time came with me to my audition for Laurier and he brought along his friend Susan, who happened to be a Reiki master. My 18 year old self had never heard of Reiki, but I would find out that it is something I would never forget. Throughout my undergrad, it came up here and there, and it was when I was taking part in the opera production at that time that I began to really understand the concept of energy and how powerful it was. I actually had two experiences on stage where I could feel the audience's energy and I could almost sense what they needed from me. It was very exciting and I didn't really know how to explain it to anyone. Now, I get it.

In my classes this weekend, I will be opened to channeling this energy and be able to treat friends and family members. I also hope to open a Reiki treatment business at some point, once I am confident in my abilities. I am incredibly excited and can feel the changes in my life that are just around the corner. I feel myself growing mentally and spiritually and becoming a whole person as well as a good singer. A new era begins.

Wow...I sound like a hippy. Peace :)

I will leave you with the Ethical Principles of Reiki:

Just for today do not worry. 

Just for today do not anger.

Honour your parents, teachers and elders. 

Earn your living honestly.

Show gratitude to everything.

-Dr. Mikao Usui

This is the book that was recommended to me by my Reiki master Susan. It is very clear and concise. It is older, so the drawings are a little dated, but the drawings are obviously not the important part. Haha. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 17: Demystifying the journey of an opera singer

I just read someone's facebook status the other day that said, "This is a career that, I swear, takes years off your life, but oh Mama is it ever fulfilling sometimes." There are an abundance of people in this world that only know the first part of that sentence to be true. When I tell someone I'm an opera singer, I am usually asked if I've auditioned for Canadian Idol or if after being done university I have graduated to become a "certified opera singer". The truth is, our job is a complete myth to those who don't live in our world.

The most important thing that anyone has to remember is that everyone's journey is different. Not one singer will walk the same path as the other. This is not a 9-5 job that is the same day after day and that is what it is so extraordinary. For those reading who don't quite understand the "formula", I would love to enlighten you. I will again stress that everyone's journey is different, but there are a couple important landmarks that most singers visit.

1) University/College/Conservatory

The majority of opera singers find a love for their art somewhere in high school or earlier, and they seek out a post-secondary institution that will train them in the art. This profession is a very academic and cultured one. We study musical skills, theory, music history, acting, vocal literature, languages etc. First and foremost, we must become skilled musicians. In this day and age and with a recession, gone are the times where singers can get away with being poor musicians. Simultaneously, during all that academic study, we have our voice lessons. Someone once told me that an undergraduate degree in music is equivalent to a pre-med program, and trust me, it felt that way at first! We focus mostly on art songs, which are basically poems set to music by different composers--opera usually comes later in the learning process.

Now this is the path I took, but others study in conservatories where the academics are, for the most part, absent. The conservatory setting deals with mostly "hands on" training (voice lessons, coachings, rehearsals). Many people attend conservatories after they are done a degree as well.

2) Masters/Diploma

Because students go to university at 18, the majority of them decide to opt for more schooling. The voice is one of those tricky things that takes time to develop. I personally took the Diploma route, because I felt I was done with academics. This doesn't mean I don't still try to feed my brain, for I am a life-long learner! At Laurier, the diploma program was a one year program that focused specifically on opera. I sang all operatic repertoire and performed roles in excerpts, as well as a full role. I also performed in a self-produced year-end recital with my fellow Op. Dip. colleague.

3) Summer Programs

These are programs designed for singers to continue their training in a facility outside of a school setting. They are usually paid for by the singer (some are free, or partially subsidized). The majority of them produce operas and the singer is cast in an opera, as well as being able to take part in many classes. I am attending a program in May (that I have attended in the past) called Opera NUOVA. Along with my rehearsals for the show, I get to take part in voice lessons, acting classes, master classes, dance classes, yoga, tai chi, professional development classes, poetry classes...the list goes on. It is quite an extraordinary program. These programs allow the singer to get "on the job" experience, as well as to continue their training. Some last six weeks (like this one) and some are as short as one week. Not only do you get to take part in this fantastic training, but professional singers, pianists, directors and conductors make up the faculty, so you are also building a network of people that are already successful in their careers. Some singers attend these during their undergrad as well as after its completion.


4)Young Artist Programs

These are training programs created by specific opera companies. There are usually a very small amount of singers accepted (about 7-12). This allows for a singer to continue their training whilst being paid and being immersed in a professional environment. They usually perform the small or "comprimario" roles and also cover (or understudy) the lead roles being sung by professional singers. People in these programs can be anywhere from the age of 21-35, depending on their voice type. These are very competitive to get in to, and many singers audition two to four times before being accepted, or deciding not to audition anymore.

These programs offer a lot of exposure because you are performing on the main stage for an opera company. This usually opens up the possibility to sing for management (agents). Now, you don't need to do a YAP, as we call them, but you can sing for management elsewhere. All in all, YAPs are a great opportunity, plus you are getting paid to sing! Woo hoo!

From then on it takes time. Management will hopefully get you work and you will continue to climb the singer career ladder.

If you are interested in reading more about how a YAP program works, or to read a great book about being backstage at the opera, pick up Fortissimo by William Murray. It is about the Lyric Opera of Chicago's young artist program, where journalist William Murray follows these 12 young singers for a year and documents their experience.

I hope this de-mystifies what we do as singing artists. Yes, it is a long hard road, but it is so incredibly rewarding. Plus, if you love what you do, why do anything else?

Fellow singers, please pass this post on to any of your family and friends if you don't feel like explaining why you don't sing in a band or have any desire to audition for Canadian Idol! Haha.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 14: Enjoying the process

My friends and readers!

I took a couple-day hiatus (audition, work etc) and I can honestly say I really missed writing here. The past couple of days have been a whirlwhind of things for me.

On Wednesday I had a voice lesson and it was just a glorious continuation of the discoveries I made the week before. Not only do I feel that my technique is becoming secure, but I feel that I am understanding singing from the business side of things. It isn't until you are immersed in the operatic singing world that you understand what its like. I am so thankful to know more and more people each time I attend an audition or a concert.

On Friday I had my audition for the Highlands Opera Studio that takes place in August in Haliburton, ON. It is a fantastic program headed by the well-known Canadian tenor Richard Margison, and his wife and co-artistic director, Valerie Kuinka. It was so lovely to show up there and see so many familiar faces, I even made new friends. I was chatting with someone about how fun auditioning actually is now, because its like a reunion every time. Valerie and Richard really make the auditioning process worth your while. Not only do they listen to you, they give you a large amount of feedback while you are in the room. These are no "drive-by shooting" auditions. Here is a recent article about the program and about why it was established in the first place:


I was very nervous to do this audition because I was living in my own head and determining what the outcome would be. Then I remembered what I had read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: it is about the process, not the outcome. It is so important to enjoy the process. I am so thankful I did just that. It was an amazingly positive experience and a privilege to sing for Val and Richard.

After my audition, it was so nice to spend time with three of my favourite people in the entire world and have dinner with them. Two of them are singer friends, and my university roommate and close friend. I consider myself so lucky to know them because they are all beautiful strong women. We had dinner at my absolute FAVOURITE Toronto restuarant called Fresh at Bloor and Spadina. It is a vegetarian restaurant that makes some of the tastiest dishes and smoothies I have ever had. I think my friends are going to start getting sick of that place because I always ask if we can eat there.

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Opera Hamilton's Popera at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton. I have briefly met two out of the four singers that were involved and it was great to see them in action. I was incredibly impressed with how the Opera Hamilton Orchestra sounded. A personal highlight for me was baritone Phillip Addis singing the Count's aria (Hai, gia vinta la causa) from Mozart's Le Nozze. I'm telling you, if there was any role in the operatic repertoire that I could sing--ignoring voice type and gender--it would be the Count. I would kill to sing that aria. As my friend Jan would say, "It's one of my shower arias." Maybe one day I can make a gimmick out of that...reversing genders in opera. It would prove to be a very interesting show I think!

I definitely took the weekend to relax and I may have had a forbidden treat or two, but onward and upward I sometimes say (hopefully soon it will be always). I still fight with myself on being stuck in the past and regretting things...but I'm working on it. Tomorrow is a new day. Until then, a lovely quote for you to ponder:

"Courage allows you to run your own race. Courage allows you to do whatever you want to do because you know that it is right. Courage gives you the self-control to persist where others have failed. Ultimately, the degree of courage you live with determines the amount of fulfillment you receive. It allows you to to truly realize all the exquisite wonders of the epic that is your life. And those who master themselves have an abundance of courage."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 9: How to Use Our Gifts for Good

Good evening,

Today I want to outline a principal from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It is something I hope to do more of and that I admittedly have neglected for some time; not in its entirety, just in its frequency. It is the principal of selflessly serving others. I took time to ponder on this chapter when I read it, because I wanted to make sure I understood what I really needed to do.

First of all, I will elaborate on what the principal is about. In the book, Julian says, "One of the most essential of all of the virtues for enlightened living that I can share with you, John, is this one: when all is said and done, no matter what you have achieved, no matter how many summer homes you own, no matter how many cars sit in your driveway, the quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution."

As a young child I was an avid church goer, I was part of a youth group and I belonged to a close-knit congregation. In that time of my life, I would volunteer at the drop of a hat and I was head server (otherwise known as an altar-boy or altar-girl in my case). I often would jump at the chance to help at a nursing home or to serve during the hot dog lunch following the service, but as I grew older some things changed. Now, I'm not saying change is negative, in fact, it is incredibly positive, but I think I just lost sight of a few key elements for a while. With age came freedom, but also responsibility. It was up to me to really look back at where things changed and why. I won't return to the person that I was at that time, for I happen to like who I am now, but I can re-incorporate some qualities and values that have been dormant for a while. One day a time.

To improve our quality of life we have to change our perspective as to why we are here on Earth. We have to look at the gifts and talents we are given and what they are meant to do for others. We are not only individuals...we are part of the collective. It is in being good to ourselves and others that we can truly do the good work we were meant to do on this Earth.

I'm not suggesting we all quit our jobs, move to Africa and build schools (unless that is what you really want/need to do!), I am talking about starting small. It could be anything from letting a car into your lane during a busy traffic jam or helping someone carry heavy groceries. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we are all joined in some way, and by helping a fellow human being, we are making strides in the right direction for someone else and also for ourselves.

I have thought about why I really do what I do and why I have been given the gifts I have been given. For the longest time I thought I was given the gift of a voice/presence on stage solely to entertain, but it is much more than that. I have the ability to sing from my soul and I know that in doing this, I have the ability to touch other souls. Music is incredibly healing (this point is even brought up in TMWSHF) so theoretically, I am a healer. I do my job because I love it and I excel at it, yes, but I know why that is. I don't keep my gift for myself and hide it behind closed doors, I stand on a stage in front of an audience and I share it. To entertain, to soothe, and to heal.

Let me share a story with you from the book that might really hit home. Honestly, it made me pretty emotional.

There was once an old woman whose loving husband died. So she went to live with her son and his wife and daughter. Every day, the woman's sight grew worse, and her hearing grew worse. Some days her hands trembled so badly the peas on her plate rolled onto the floor and the soup ran from her cup. Her son and his wife couldn't help but be annoyed at the mess she made, and one day they said enough was enough. So they set up a little table for the old woman in a corner next to the broom closet and made her eat all of her meals there, alone. She would look at them at mealtimes with tear-filled eyes from across the room, but they hardly talked to her while they ate, except to scold her for dropping a spoon or a fork. One evening, just before dinner, the little girl was sitting on the floor playing with her building blocks. "What are you making?" her father asked earnestly. "I'm building a little table for you and mother," she said, "so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big." The father and mother were moved to silence for what seemed like an eternity. Then they started to weep. In that instant they became aware of the nature of their actions and the sadness they has caused. That night they led the old woman back to her rightful place at their big dinner table and from that day on she ate all her meals with them. And when a little morsel of food fell off the table or a fork strayed onto the floor, nobody seemed to mind anymore.

After reading this, I realized I was picturing my grandmother's face as the grandmother in the story. It sunk in. Compassion is a powerful emotion. The parents in the story weren't bad people, they just needed a little spark or reminder. For me, this book was the spark. Julian suggests that we take the time to meditate or think each day about what good we can do for others. I've already started doing this, and as cheesy as it sounds, its changing my life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 8: Food as Medicine

My friends and readers,

I hope you had a glorious weekend...I certainly did. 

Yesterday, I was able to spend the day with my mom. We are both busy ladies and Sunday is usually our day together. Before embarking on our shopping extravaganza, we went to the local diner for breakfast and it was in that dingy place that we shared a really nice moment. We got to talking about my life and singing, and I took a moment to thank her. I stopped, put down my fork (I was eating a slightly flavourless spinach omlette) and I looked at her and said, "I know I thank you from time to time, but I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, that I am so thankful for you. If I didn't have your love and support I wouldn't be able to carry on singing like I do." We both teared up in the local diner amidst families and the scent of fried food. My mom then looked at me and said, "You know...I was speaking to my one friend the other day and I told her, 'I breathe because I have a daughter.'" Needless to say, there was more crying and then we laughed at ourselves because we were crying. What a lucky woman I am. 

After breakfast we went to Costco to stock up on some things (they sell monster-size bags of quinoa for cheap!) and I found this great book! My mom had recently read about the author in the Spectator (the Hamilton newspaper) and she was really excited about it. Isn't it so funny that her book was one of the selected books being sold at Costco!? Universe, I am again listening to your signs. 

I am a firm believer that food is truly our medicine and we can keep our bodies healthy all the time using food to do so. The standard North American diet (or the aptly named SAD for short) can be incredibly detrimental to our health and many of us don't know any better because we were trained to eat this way since birth! Yes, when our bodies are young and resistant we can sometimes tolerate this diet,  but why tolerate anything we don't have to? After doing a lot of reading and experimenting over the past 3-4 years, I have realized how much food is really our saving grace. In Western Medicine, the doctor gives us an antibiotic or drug of some kind as a quick fix to our problem. They treat the symptom, not the whole person!

This author is actually from Hamilton, my hometown! Her book is called Meals That Heal Inflammation and her name is Julie Daniluk. She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and on The Dr. Oz Show, among many others. She is a registered holistic nutritionist. Holistic meaning that she treats the entire person using nutrition. I've only read through about 89 pages and I am so thankful to have found this book! It goes in depth with information that has only been lightly touched on in other reading material I have come across. I was/am suffering from many of the problems she highlights in her book and I now feel like I have an extra tool in helping me combat these nagging issues. After all, disease is our body telling us that something needs to be dealt with. A small example of a form of inflammation that many people overlook is bloating and gas. If this is something you regularly deal with, you are eating things that are causing you inflammation in your gut.

We are brought up to believe that as we age, our bodies will break down and we will just have to deal with pains we didn't have at a young age. This isn't true. Our bodies have the ability to remain in good working order into our 70's 80's and even 90's. It's all about what we put into them.

Here is the introduction to her book, just so you get what I'm talking about:

"Let's face it: your pain may be directly affected by the foods you eat on a daily basis. Take white sugar, which I'll compare to a debit card. When you "insert" white sugar into your body, you have to cough up the funds in your account, such as B vitamins and chromium, to complete your transaction (that is to metabolize it). Over time, your repeated consumption of white sugar depletes your account of nutrients. If you fail to continually top up your vitamin and mineral reserves, you may end up with an overdrawn account. As a result, you will lack the necessary nutrients for keeping inflammation in check. there are other pro-inflammatory foods as well, and I will point them out to you as we go along. 

This book is a catalyst for change. It will provide you with a systematized plan to reduce inflammation, while explaining how food works as a healing tool. The book is laid out in two parts. The first part is an introduction to the science of inflammation. The second part of the book is packed with quick reference guides, delicious recipes, and tips on how to revamp your kitchens and cook with a new healing vision.

Meals That Heal Inflammation is a cutting edge plan that steers clear of inflammatory choices such as white sugar, harmful fats and processed foods, replacing them with healthy choices such as natural unrefined sweeteners, healing fats and anti-inflammatory vegetables. For example, raw honey is a sweet ingredient frequently used in the recipes in this book. Honey works as a powerful antibiotic. It destroys the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that is sometimes the cause of gastric ulcers. When the bacteria are kept in check, inflammation of the stomach is reduced. Meals That Heal Inflammation will inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle. It may not be easy to start, especially since we're conditioned from birth to eat in a certain way. If we retrain our palates and taste buds and return to the diets of our ancestors, great rewards await. Remember, so much of our healing is in the mind. By eating healthy every day, you're giving yourself a beautiful affirmation: I love myself enough to eat the things I need to heal." 

Not only does she deal with the food itself, but there is a lot of information on the emotional attachment we have to food. After all she is a holistic nutritionist. There are reasons we eat what we eat and many of them are emotional.

I am actually going to see a Holistic Nutritionist this evening for my first appointment! I am so excited to learn from her and tell her all about the reading material I've found. I'll report back on the appointment. 

If this intrigues you at all, pick up her book or visit her website. Its quite amazing. I post the link and the cover image here. 

 On that note, I will leave you with something inspiring from, yet again, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari:

"Happiness is a journey. It is also a choice that you make. You can marvel at the diamonds along the way, or you can keep running through all your days, chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that ultimately reveals itself to be empty. Enjoy the special moments that every day offers because today, this day is all you have."

I'm totally smiling right now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 5-Friends

Friends and Readers,

Sorry that I wasn't able to post yesterday. It was a busy day, but it was a productive one at that!

First of all, I want to say "Thank you." When I was in Waterloo, I ran in to studio mates (I won't say past studio mates because I am still part of the Barber studio, just not a Laurier student anymore) and I was so excited to hear that many are reading my blog. I am also getting a great response from people on Facebook who let me know they are reading! I am so happy that you are taking the time out of your day to read this. After all, that is why I post. Keep reading! I hope to keep motivating you and feeding your minds with interesting things. This is my goal. And thank you for following me on my journey. The process becomes much more enjoyable knowing that there are readers out there. I am thankful for you all!

I had a phenomenal lesson with the amazing Kimberly Barber. I had discovered some things during my practice over the holidays. I am always amazed that most of the discoveries I have don't happen in the studio...they happen in the practice room. It is in the studio that we expand on those ideas and go further. I love the dialogue I have with my teacher and how we are able to get to the root of things much quicker these days. Open minds and open hearts equal good singing. I am so thankful for life-long learning.

When I was in the city, I was able to spend time with two of my very dear friends. I didn't realize how much I had missed them over the break until I was with them. Being an only child, my friends are my siblings, I love them just as much as I would if we were blood-related. I am amazed at how strong they are, how much I see them growing as human beings. I learn from them and am inspired by them. They also learn from me. What more could one want? I am thankful for my friends.

I was able to spend time last night with my best and oldest friend. Amongst her birthday celebrations, we watched our favourite guilty-pleasure-teen-girl show. Now, before I tell you what show this is, I will say it has to do with vampires. I am going to tell you right now...the two of us were vampire movie/t.v. fans WAY BEFORE this ridiculous empire of Twilight books and films came out. We are original Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans (the original 1992 film starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry and Canadian, Donald Sutherland!) and the t.v. show starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz (swoon). Ok, maybe I still have a little teenage-girl left in me. Haha.

We watched the Vampire Diaries after a 5 week long hiatus. We had been waiting since probably May of last year for a good kiss to happen between two of the lead characters. The writers had been teasing viewers with close personal contact and the odd face graze for way too long. Well, needless to say, the kiss happened. You know you have found your soul mate in a friend when she got JUST as ridiculously excited as you did. We were giggling, we were screaming, we were hysterically laughing...I felt like 13 a year old all over again. It was fantastic. I am thankful for life's little pleasures.

In examining all these activities that I took part in in the past couple days, I realize how we have to savour and enjoy all of these little things. What are you thankful for? What makes you giggle like a 13 year old? In this age of technology and a fast paced life-style, do we truly stop to look at the little things we are so lucky to have? After writing this post, I realize how little I really need to be happy. It's incredibly comforting.

I'll leave you with a small paragraph from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari on friends:

"A person with three solid friends is very wealthy indeed. Friends add humour, fascination and beauty to life. There are few things more rejuvenating than sharing a belly-bursting laugh with an old friend. Friends keep you humble when you get too self-righteous. Friends make you smile when you are taking yourself too seriously. Good friends are there to help you when life throws one of its little curves at you and things look worse than they seem."

According to this passage, I'm rich. I am so thankful for that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 3-Be selfish!

Good morning! 
Days 1 and 2 have both been very good days. Exercise, good books, good movies, good food. All is well.

I watched The Notebook last night and cried like a baby. We're talking sitting on the couch in comfy (and really unattractive) clothes, holding a box of kleenex and having a good old ugly-cry by myself. It was incredibly therapeutic. I felt cleansed. Sometimes its really nice to have a full blown ugly-cry session. If you don't know what I mean by ugly-cry, picture red eyes, mouth hanging open, your body being racked with sobs and all separated by a nose-blow a minute. Just plain ugly...but sometimes being ugly is incredibly beautiful. 

Earlier in the day I went to the gym and I was really not feeling being on a treadmill. I had to force myself to run for 20 minutes, when usually my minimum is 30 minutes. I fought and fought with myself and then my mind wandered to my blog and then I thought about what I just wrote on my blog that day. I wrote about will power and the fact that I have some! So, I whipped out my mantra: "I am more than I appear to be, all the world's strength and power rests in me." It may have been hard at first, but I kept repeating that phrase in my head until the 20 minutes was up...and interestingly enough...the time flew by. This is my first example of me conquering myself and using my will-power. It felt good. A small victory that will hopefully lead to larger ones.

In other news, I read a new chapter of TMWSHF last night. The main topic of this chapter was goal setting. Here is a five step formula to setting and seeing your goals through to the end:

Step 1: Form a clear mental image of the outcome

  • i.e. weight loss: envision yourself as a lean, fit person, full of vitality and boundless energy

Step 2: get positive pressure on yourself

  •  i.e. the public pledge: tell everyone you know that you will lose the weight

Step 3: attach a timeline to your goal

  • when do you plan to start and end this task?

Step 4: stay with your goal for 21 days

  •  the power of ritual is effective (complete tasks towards your goal at the same time each day)

Step 5: enjoy the process

  •  a day without laughter and love is a day without life 

This is exactly what I decided to do for myself. 1) I chose to begin a detox. I see a healther, happier me at the end of it. 2) I post my progress on this blog, facebook and twitter to tell the world what I am doing...it keeps me honest. 3) I have decided to do this for 4 months. 4) I am planning to stay with my goal for longer than 21 days...to make sure these new habits are solidified. 5) I am enjoying the process! I look forward to posting on my blog and to really focusing on change and a re-organization of my thinking. 

This 5 step formula can help you set goals of any size. Big or small, goal setting is incredibly important. Take time each day to visualize yourself as you want to be. Create a dream journal where you write down your goals. Review your journal daily. Thinking about yourself is very important. Be selfish. 

Unfortunately, in this day and age, the word 'selfish' has always come with a negative connotation. THIS IS SILLY. In my opinion, I don't think enough people are selfish. We need to take care of ourselves, love ourselves. How are we supposed to love others if we can't love ourselves? I'm not saying trample on other people to get to the top, I'm saying always know what you want and what you need. BE SELFISH in all positive connotations of the word! 

To conclude, I will leave you with some words of wisdom from this book that I can't get enough of! This particular quote is taped up beside my bedside table:

"Every second you spend thinking about someone else's dreams, you take time away from your own."

Well, I am off to the gym and then to Waterloo for my first voice lesson of 2012. I'm so glad, Christmas break was agony. I need my singer peeps (and amazing voice teacher and mentor who I so admire). Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 2-Self control and QUINOA

Day 1 was a success! I am well on my way to making some great changes. 

I thought I'd share some more wisdom that I read last night from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (TMWSHF for short). 

A challenge I always face is my lack of self-control. This is something I have always blamed on my upbringing, my personality...even my horoscope (I'm a Leo). I would say that Leos always like to live in excess and we don't have any self-control. This, I have come to learn, is an excuse I have created to take the easy way out. "To build willpower and inner strength, you must first use it." So the goal is to stop making excuses and do it already! 

A tool TMWSHF gives us is the use of mantras. The word mantra is a sanskrit word with 'man' meaning 'mind' and 'tra' meaning 'freeing'. The spoken word can have a profound effect on our minds. The mantra to assist you when you are feeling short of will-power is "I am more than I appear to be, all the world's strength and power rests inside me." Pretty awesome, eh? Knowing that I have something like this to assist me in a time of need is incredibly comforting. I plan to repeat it to myself at least 30 times a day. 

On a more delicious note, I thought I'd share a brief recipe with you. It was the first meal I ate today...the one that began this detox. 

For Christmas, my mom got me a cookbook called Quinoa 365: The everyday superfood. Now, if you know me well, you'll know that I LOVE QUINOA (or as one of my dear friends jokingly calls it, Bimboa...you know who you are). It is one of my favourite foods that I try to eat every single day. For those of you who don't know what this amazing food is, I will enlighten you with a passage from my new cookbook!

"Identified as one of the world's healthiest foods, quinoa has a complete combination of all life-supporting nutrients making it an ideal whole food to incorporate into your daily lifestyle. The versatility of quinoa makes it compatible with almost everything you eat throughout the year. Soups, salads, entrees and desserts can all be made with quinoa. It is very easy to prepare, regardless of your cooking ability. Quinoa is also considered kosher, as it is technically not a grain nor related to grains. Especially important for vegetarians or vegans, quinoa is a nutritionally superior source  of non-animal protein. Optimal amino acid content and ease of digestion make quinoa an ideal alternative to meat proteins. Quinoa is also a "good" carbohydrate...unlike simple carbs from processed foods, quinoa digests gradually. It keeps you feeling fuller longer  and can help to regulate blood sugar levels. Quinoa is also an ideal athletic-performance food because the complex carbs provide energy and endurance to hard-working muscles. Quinoa has been identified as ideal for gluten-free diets. In addition, plant lignans, or phytonutrients, are present in whole foods such as quinoa and are thought to be responsible for protection against a variety of illnesses. It is also abundant in linolenic acid, the essential fatty acid that has proven beneficial to immune response." It can be considered a rice substitute and is often classified as a grain. It has a crunchy/chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavour. 

So is quinoa amazing or what? On top of that...it tastes great and takes about 15 minutes to make. Add one part quinoa to 2 parts water. Set it to boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for approx. 10 minutes (covered). Turn the burner off and let it sit for about 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve. SO easy!

The recipe that I made yesterday, and I make it often because it is one of the easiest breakfasts to make is:

Almond Spice Breakfast Cereal 

1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
2-3 table spoons of almond butter (depending on how almondy you like it)
2-3 heaping tablespoons of hemp hearts (you can get these at any health food store or grocery store with a health food section)
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
add milk or water if you like it a little runnier
add some almonds on top if you want some extra crunch!

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together and eat! Super easy and fast. Feel free to be liberal with the portions...this is just an estimate of what I usually make.

This meal is protein and energy packed and perfect to start off your day! I go to the gym every morning so this is perfect before a work out. I hope you try it out and enjoy!

Tip: Keep cooked quinoa in the fridge for up to three days. I make it in large portions and keep it in the fridge so its ready for whenever I need it!

To conclude, an inspiring thought to take with you:

"The universe favours the brave. When you resolve once and for all, to lift your life to its highest level, the strength of your soul will guide you."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 1 of 4 Month Detox

Hello friends!

Here I am back and blogging and its 2012!!!!

I have decided to embark on a detox cleanse to assist in all aspects of my life! 2011 was an amazing year that brought about many opportunities and many hardships. I was a student for 5 years, and now I am a freelance singer that has to keep herself motivated and under control. This is an amazing time for me, but its proving to be a challenge. I finally have had enough of trying to stick with a cleanse, or a work out regimen, or a way to be more positive and then not keeping it up. I happened to pick up a book entitled "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari". It was recommended to me (and many others) by Kim Mattice Wanat, the artistic director of Opera NUOVA and the Vocal Arts Festival that takes place in May and June in Edmonton. I was fortunate enough to attend this program and learn from this amazing lady (and I will be returning this year to sing the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos :)). I had been meaning to purchase this book for quite some time, and its funny how I decided to buy in when I did...at a time when I needed it the most. Oh Universe...I am reading and accepting your signs!

I would reccomend it to everyone wanting to change some things in their life...whether you feel like something's missing, things are getting out of your control or you just want to read something inspiring. It truly inspires in a way that is simple and concise.

It wasn't until I started to employ some of the tools suggested in this book that I realized I really wanted to make a change once and for all. To work towards becoming a better person and learning to really, truly love myself. This, I've come to realize, is one of the most important things for a singer to accomplish, for we put ourselves out there every day waiting to be judged an critiqued. We have to truly believe in and love ourselves, knowing that we are worthy to be heard and seen. This lull time, when we are just beginning our out-of-school singing journey, is the perfect time to figure this out.

So I have decided to document my journey throughout the next four months of my life. I will post quotes (from this amazing book that I reccommend to all...I've added a picture of the cover below), recipes, amazing health foods (I am a health food nut) and general comments along my journey. This is a reconfiguring of my body, mind and soul. I hope this will inspire others to do the same!

Happy 2012! Day 1 begins!

I will leave you with the quote from "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" that inspired me to start this detox:

"There is nothing noble about being superior to some other person. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self."