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Archive for the ‘death and dying’ Category

The Circle of Life: When A Parent is in Their 90’s

The Circle of Life: When A Parent is in Their 90’s

My 91 year old father is currently in Acute Care after having a suspected ‘flu’ which knocked all his systems out of whack.  It has been a full week of observing roller coaster emotions and trying to remember to calm myself by ‘coming back to my breath.”

There is a very small ward of 10 beds that dad is in, on the same floor as the birthing unit.  Some of the elderly patients seem to be transferred to the ‘6th floor’, which I have found out is the ‘Hospice’.  We are hoping that Dad will be transferred back to his assisted living facility.  Whether he improves or whether this is the beginning of a decline, as he says ‘aging is a progressive disease’ and I am faced with considering his passing.

It strikes me that the Circle of Life is sometimes complete on this floor.  The babies come into this world, and the elders pass on.

It is a very profound time.

Women | Health | Life: The Importance of Family & The Circle Of Life!

We gathered extended family together yesterday for an Easter Sunday Brunch. We are at that tender stage of life where the transitions are many. There are elders passing on, new boyfriends, relationships changing and our generation preparing to move into retirement.

We all commented on the adorable babies and little ones dressed in their Easter finery.

We followed customs from my childhood and remarked on the passing of time. We mentioned those who couldn’t be with us; nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters in law and my mom, who passed away many years ago.

If you have seen “The Descendents”, which surprisingly I thought was very good, you will appreciate that we also experienced the vulnerable sweetness of an elder with Alzheimer’s and the wonderful good health of another elder in his 90’s.

Yesterday, we were missing the young babies but otherwise we experienced the full circle of life.

At the end, it’s all about our family isn’t it?  Whether a birth family or a global family, our relationships define and sustain us and support us to live a life in balance.



Easter Sunday Brunch with Grandpa and the Grandkids et al!


Women | Life | Health: Words of Wisdom ~ The Guest House by M.J. Rumi

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they are a cloud of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each guest has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


This is one of my favorite poems! I have found that the more I welcome every visitor, the lighter and airier my ‘house’ becomes, there is a freshness and newness with each day and it is easier to greet each visitor with laughter!  This is not to say that it has been easy!  I have found it really hard to ‘welcome’ emotional pain, or perceived wrong doings by someone close to me.  While ithasnotbeen easy, I have found a deepening sense of enrichment coming to my life.

Enjoy your day and as a guest to my blog, lets share a laugh together with this adorable child and camel! This picture I found on facebook, I don’t know who took it, however I would love to acknowledge the photographer.

in peace and mindfulness



coaching to set your heart on fire and soothe your soul


Women | Health | Wisdom: It’s My Dad’s 90th Birthday Today

My dad turned 90 today!

Yesterday, my brothers and I hosted a party for him at the church where he was both pastor and parishioner for many years.

There was laughter and some tears.

At the end, my Dad spoke and it was incredibly touching as it seemed like he was saying all the things he would like to say at his funeral if he could! He spoke words of wisdom and said he was excited about his next phase and for us not to be sad when he passes.

It is an honour to celebrate my Dad’s 90th with him!

Happy Birthday Carl Johnson!


Women | Health | Life: Words of Wisdom and Life Lessons About Women & Heart Disease

Continuing with the story about women and the heart….

Some background;  for the past 20 years or so, I have been delving into what used to be called ‘New Age Spirituality’, and now I simply call it ‘my spirituality’.  My spirituality feels like a personal and unique blend of Christianity and Buddhism, with hints of other major religions thrown in with a lot of meditation and yoga.  I’ve read many self help, personal development, integral theory, and new age spirituality books.  As a working mom and professional woman, I did a mid-life career shift (after a couple of decades working as a Nutritionist ) and took professional training into life & leadership coaching, using a body centered, whole systems orientation.

About three years ago, my husband informed me that two ‘suspicious spots’ had been seen on his lung.  Not long after, I attended a seminar about critical illness insurance for the self-employed business woman and decided I needed to take out this type of insurance as I had a family history of both cancer and heart disease.  We were in a state of hopeful/hopeless anticipation of the results of his lung biopsy.  To add to the health concern, my husband had also developed pulmonary emboli also known as lung clots, in both lungs.

As one may imagine, I was very worried about my husband, about our family, about how I would support three daughters as a professional woman if my husband died.  My mind utilizes ‘worst case scenarioizing’ very well!  At the time I was 51 years old.

I was also going through menopause and was taking a compounded progesterone for the symptoms.

We had just returned from a sailing trip where we had ‘weathered’ a significant storm of over 40 km per hour winds and where our engine had almost failed, resulting in a very scary couple of hours on the water with an accompanying surge of adrenalin.

To re-cap, between us; we had money worries due to reduced income, health worries, significant additional stress, menopause, three daughters to support and help with college, possible lung cancer, a really bad scare, pulmonary emboli and a recently purchased critical illness policy.  I also found out later that I had undiagnosed ‘essential hypertension’ or high blood pressure. I had ‘gained a few pounds’ over the past years although I regularly exercised, was a non smoker and drinker and ate in a healthy way!  I looked pretty healthy for my age.

I engaged in daily meditation and walks and was reading a lot of Buddhist teachings about ‘keeping the heart open’ and  without actually being trained in the practice, using a breathing practice called tonglen , where you breathe in the pain of the world and breathe out clear healing love.

What happened was that I was ‘broken hearted’!  My heart literally broke!

On a Monday morning after a ‘power walk’ and coffee, I experienced shortness of breath and felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  This heavy sensation wasn’t in any way painful, but it was uncomfortable.  I had a tiny bit of pain in my neck and right shoulder.  The ‘heavy’ sensation came and went about three times after which I googled ‘symptoms of a heart attack in women’.  I basically had all the symptoms and had my daughter drive me to the hospital half of me thinking that I was having a panic attack and in my mind, calling myself a ‘drama queen’ and the other half, the holistic health half saying ‘listen to your body and take this seriously’!  I’m very fortunate that I did listen to my inner wisdom and trust my body’s messages!

I was not having a panic attack, I had in fact had a ‘spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)’, where an flap of tissue from inside my heart artery tore off the wall of the heart and blocked the blood flow, resulting in a heart attack or MI.  I found out later that this type of heart attack is diagnosed in 70% of the cases upon autopsy and is not very common.  It happens more often in women and is associated with stress and changes in hormones and blood pressure. It has sometimes been called  ‘Japanese Widows Syndrome’, as when a Japanese woman would suffer a heart attack  and die, just after her husband’s death!  In the hospital, my Cardiologist, Dr. Hamburger said that I had a ‘broken heart’, likely in some part caused by stress about my husband. If you google ‘SCAD’, you will find much more information

This may all sound very sad and upsetting and yes, it is and it was.  However, as a result of all of the above, our lives are better and we will live healthier and longer!  I can summarize the good results as:

– my ‘essential hypertension’ and ‘Syndrome X’ was diagnosed and I am now on appropriate medication.

– my husband was found to have a ‘clotting deficiency’ and likely would have died young from a heart attack but is now on the appropriate medication.

– as a result of thinking he had ‘lung cancer’ (he doesn’t) , my husband’s doctor reacted very quickly to my husband’s back pain (caused by the blood clots in his lung), which likely save his life.

– we both made further major healthy lifestyle changes.

– I received a significant critical illness claim which has helped tremendously with our daughters’ post secondary education!

– I have developed a very healthy respect for the power of spiritual practices and am daily reminded of what a beginner I am!

– I appreciate every day that I am alive and my family is well.

– I still chuckle that a former dietitian (moi)  would have a Cardiologist named Dr. Hamburger!

– I tell my story to help inform other women about heart disease, the symptoms of a heart attack in women and SACAD, so that any woman feeling ‘weird sensations’ (heaviness, difficulty catching your breath, tightness in chest, shortness of breath)  in her chest, will go immediately to the closest hospital emergency ward!  Please check with your local health authority for a complete list of heart attack symptoms in women.  In Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is a great resource!

– I practice meditation and yoga and have a wonderful life!  I’m not quite sure what to make about the financial windfall part of this, however, I believe the ‘law of attraction’ was at play!

My life lessons from this experience?

– trust your inner wisdom

– listen to your body messages

– we are more connected than we think

– the mind body connection is powerful!

– trust that even though sad things happen, there is a bigger stronger more powerful loving force at work!

– the law of attraction is powerful!

– women are wise

– sometimes bad things turn out to be good things

– pay attention to life work balance

– have fun, be joyful, love!

Please share this information with other women and be aware that heart disease and stroke are big health issues for women and take good care of your heart and your health!


in peace & mindfulness,




Mind | Body | Spirit ~ Words of Wisdom: Self-Care Tips to Improve Your Emotional Health

Women & Self-Care Tips and Life Enchantments

“Embrace Chaos & Unexpected Turmoil”!

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” F. Nietzsche

My pattern has been to run away, deny, numb out, stuff down and ignore, chaos or unpleasant emotions.  This was the pattern in my family of origin and I have been well trained.

I notice that this pattern is not unusual.  Folks use food, booze, work, shopping, TV, adrenalin highs, drugs and sex, to name a few, to stuff down the reality of their lives.  We have been taught to “be nice”, “not rock the boat”, “be polite”.

Through my spiritual practice, life long learning and coach training; I have been exposed to an alternate view point; that of welcoming chaos and using this time of emotional upheaval as a gateway for deeper spiritual connection and meaning.

Joseph Campbell is “an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: “Follow your bliss.”[1] In his book “A Hero with a Thousand Faces”, he outlines a “hero’s journey” which is an archetypal myth found in many “narratives around the world”.  A hero’s/heroines journey is one where “ A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (from Wikipedia)

Alexandra Amor, in her book “Cult: A Love Story” talks about her painful experiences in a cult and her recovery have ultimately brought her deeper relationships with her family and re-connected her with her “voice” and personal power.

Many ancient traditions as summarized in the 13 moon natural time calendar hold the view that dissonance  or chaos is a powerful and highly positive dynamic or ‘the necessary forces of liberation evoking a release from rigid structure and format.  As we release which no longer serves, we make way for new opportunities and understandings to emerge.

With the coaching process and certainly I notice this with my coaching clients (if they are courageous enough to stay present in their process) there is usually  a phase in the coaching where they  feel like there life is actually starting to fall apart rather than get better.  I reassure them that this is a profoundly important phase, the phase that I call getting into the slimy, smelly, chaotic slippery, mucky mess of life.

If they can work through this phase, if we can acknowledge in a very light-hearted and gently respectful way, that our lives are a “full catastrophe”, if we can live in the moment  and simply accept this phase, there is  freedom, joy and a deep sense of well-being that emerges.  Upon reflection, folks often see this chaos or crisis as an initiation into a life of deep meaning and fulfillment.  It is the chaos within ourselves that allow stars to be born!

My friends, this week play around with the following recommendations from the 13 moon Natural time Calendar:
“Self-care Tips and Life Enchantments”:

1. Let go, let yourself be absorbed by life itself.

2. Welcome spontaneity, seeming disruptions and unexpected detours. Release allegiance to limitations, reliance upon format, or fixation upon control.  Un-do, break-down, mix it up!”

3. Do something totally spontaneous and uncharacteristic this week!


In peace & mindfulness,


Remembering and a Future of Peace

Remembering and honoring our veterans and praying for peace & unity!




Remembering Three Amazing Women & Your Self-Care Enchantments

iStock_000004187612XSmall pumpkin

Remembering Three Amazing Women & Your Self-Care Enchantments

“What we have not known is how to begin from our own centre, how to begin from our own experience, how to make ourselves as women the subjects of the act of knowing”

– Dorothy Smith (A Canadian Sociologist, known for her work with feminist theory and women’s studies)

This quote is a wonderful reminder that each of us women, has a center point, a still point, an internal place of equilibrium, of power and energy that can fuel us, feed us and inspire us. Inspire us, to get to know ourselves intimately and to get to know each other intimately. A friend, fellow coach and colleague, Debra Rafel, in fact, used this concept as her key business identifier.

This inner center is your “shakti sage” place and I have written quite extensively about the shakti sage qualities over the past year.

During this time of “All Hallowed Eve, Dia de los Muertos and All Saints Day” I want to acknowledge and remember three amazing shakti sage women who embodied their shakti sage essence and inner knowing and have now passed on.

I mentioned Debra Rafel earlier. Debra left us far too early after a brief critical illness. Debra leaves behind young twin daughters and her husband. Debra introduced me to yoga and we shared numerous cups of tea over deep and interesting discussions.

I also wish to remember and acknowledge Anita Roddick (the founder of the Body Shop). I had the great pleasure of hearing Anita Roddick speak in Vancouver in the late 90’s. She walked on stage, wearing a funky understated outfit and totally captivated the audience of over 2000 women. She modeled her “shakti sage” essence to me by standing fully in her powerful presence. It was clear to me then as it has been in the ensuing years that she “wore her skin well”, that she knew who she was and what she stood for and that this “knowing” informed all of her actions.

Finally, I want to remember my mom, Renata Wenzel Johnson, who passed on Thanksgiving Day 1996. Mom introduced me to the “act of knowing” and taught me patience and humility.

So, lovely shakti sages, for this week, your self-care enchantments are to use the following questions to explore your inner knowing:

1. Who do you wish to remember and acknowledge?
2. How can you engage with your shakti sage presence daily?
3. How can you deepen your self knowledge?

peace & namaste,

Zoey – founding hippy at hippy grandma

Zoey Ryan
life, business & leadership coach for women
inspiration * clarity * wisdom * enchantment

“Coaching for your heart & soul and the heart & soul of your business”

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Mothers, Grandmothers & Daughters

“Mothers, Grandmothers & Daughters”

The month of May contains some significant events, “Beltane” and “Mothers Day”, and so the theme for this month is celebrating and honouring the creative power of women and moms and daughters of all kinds. I intend to go deeper into the sage part of shakti sage and discuss sageness, wisdom, intuition and a women’s way of knowing within subsequent e-bulletins. Today though, I want to also write about being a “dog mom” and how animals can be a very significant part of our self-care and loving-kindness practice. Dogs practice amazing self-care!

We picked up a new addition to our family a few weeks ago, Teagan Olive (after Olive in “Little Miss Sunshine”) Luna (it was a full moon the day we picked her up) Ryan is now 13 weeks old and I think we miss-named her. She should have been named Teagan Marley Ryan! It is easy to forget how much work a new puppy is. I feel fortunate that there are five of us in the house to help care for her.

My heart is wide open and vulnerable this morning as we are also saying goodbye to Tasha Cubby Ryan, our 13 year old dog. Tasha has been very ill and as I write this, we are waiting for the vet’s office to open, as it seems that it is Tasha’s time to pass on. It strikes me as being very profound and full of awe that we as a family are participating in witnessing the beginning of a life and the ending of a life at a time that there are so many other family transitions. One daughter is leaving for New Zealand for a work exchange year, another daughter is courageously facing a big challenge, and then will join her sister in New Zealand. Our third daughter is almost finished high school and is excitedly looking forward to her future. It feels like a time of huge change and transition.

So, as a mom of both human daughters and dog daughters, I am treasuring this snapshot in time. This little piece of time today, when we are all still together. We have the chance to hug Tasha and tell her good bye. We can giggle together when Teagan (aka Marley) pulls the toilet paper all over the house. We can be excited together about travel adventures and journalism school and bungy jumping in New Zealand. We can have a group hug and tell our daughters how much we love them and what cool kids we think they are. We can remember 13 years of Tasha and her little habits and the way she followed “her mom” every where. We can talk about our moms, who have passed on and describe memories from our childhoods. We can cherish each other and think of animal moms and people moms and single moms, mothers of the earth, and double moms and the love that a mother and child share.

Being a mom has brought me the greatest joy of my life, has cracked me wide open, taught me patience and humility and has forced me to experience a much wider range of emotions. As moms, we nurture, we love, we care for, we are wise and strong and soft and gentle.

Let’s celebrate moms of all kinds and ponder the following questions.

1. Write and/or think about your mom, what did you learn, what are you still learning from her? How has she influenced you?
2. Write and/or think about your grandma…, what has your grandma left you as a family legacy?
3. Honour the mother in you, honour that caring, nurturing, loving, feminine part of you, that “Great Mother” that is a part of us all.

Just got back from the vet’s where we all shared in saying goodbye to our darling Tasha. Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors for this week, as I am proofing my writing with tears streaming down my cheeks.



Zoey Ryan
founding hippy at hippy grandma
?life & business coach for women
?inspiration * clarity * wisdom * enchantment?
Coaching for your heart & soul and the heart & soul of your business!

Keep the hippy love flowing with purchases from Hippy Grandma: an Eco-Boutique selling fair trade, earth friendly treasures.?

Women's Life: Self Care Enchantments for Oct 30, 2008

We have been exploring the concept of life patterns and the notion of paradox, yin and yang.  I attended a wonderful Diwali celebration last night and there were lights and candles, beautiful bright sparkly colours, exotic aromas and wonderful people.  My daughter and I got mehendi henna designs on our hands and I was adorned with traditional Diwali makeup including a vibrant blue and pink eyeshadow and a bindi  spot on my third eye.


It is a powerful time of the year with Diwali, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and All Saints Day.  It seems to me, that what these celebrations highlight is the juxtaposition of light and dark, life and death.


We do not talk about death easily, yet it is so much a part of our experience of life.  Our community recently lost a vibrant young man in a tragic car accident.  We drive by the accident site almost daily and we and our daughters know the family.  The sharp point of the pain is really sharp at the moment for our community and while there is a memorial at the accident site and there will be a service, it seems “too small”.  It seems like we should be gathering closer and talking more and doing more for the family.  It feels like the whole community should be wailing and keening and sobbing, yet life goes on.


It is a very powerful practice to consider both life and death; light and dark.  Your enchantments for this week deeply honour this notion and in the spirit of shared intention, I offer the following “enchantments”.


Self Care Enchantments for the week:


1.  Remember and honour those who have already passed on.  If you choose to, learn about the Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) Festival as celebrated in Mexico and adopt one of the rituals.


2.  In your personal life, what patterns are asking to be let go of or are ready to “die”?


3.  Dressing up in costume can be incredibly fun and liberating even if it is simply wearing a wild scarf or bindi spot, so, go for it, dress up in a costume and balance the dark with the light, bright and sparkly.


“The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched” – Henry David Thoreau


We would love to hear about your experience with these enchantments.  Please share about your learning and exploration with these enchantments in the comments section!






Zoey Ryan

coach . catalyst . shakti sage

life & business coach for women

“Coaching for your heart & soul and the heart & soul of your business”


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