“Self-care does not mean selfish.”
These were the words of Rona Maynard, former editor of Chatelaine magazine, in her keynote address to the audience at Breathe Now. And for me, that became the unofficial theme of the weekend-long conference for women.
Breathe Now, organized by four fabulous women (pictured above), happened this past weekend in Victoria, BC, and I had the good fortune, and privilege, of attending.
It was a weekend away from our regular routines, to nurture and nourish ourselves, to breathe…and to share our stories. We celebrated all the best parts of being a 21st century female: the fun, lighthearted stuff as well as the deep and the meaningful. There were too many workshops and events to detail here, but here were some of the highlights, for me:
As part of a panel on health, Sandy Ibrahim, a personal trainer & fitness professional (and mom), told a powerful story about her own decision to choose a healthy life, even though it meant essentially turning her back on her family of origin. A wonderful, natural speaker with a self-deprecating sense of humor , she admitted: “I’m lazy,”—which is a refreshingly awesome thing to hear from a fitness professional.
Bliss Prema spoke about her own journey, away from the fast-paced life as a film/TV agent in Vancouver to become a spiritual healer, yogi, and Indian Head massage practitioner. I loved Bliss’s talk and her presence and energy so much, I approached her immediately afterwards to learn how I could book an appointment for an Indian Head Massage with her.
We took one step closer to breaking down the stigma of mental health during a session called “It’s OK to Talk About It.” Airdrie Miller gave a compelling presentation about her struggle with—and ultimate success over—postpartum depression and the trial of losing her husband in his 30s to cancer.
We also celebrated the lighter side of being female. There were fabulous workshops on fashion, and beauty, and knitting….and did I mention the massage station? Plus, the cocktail party at funky/atmospheric Temple bar in Victoria on Saturday night was ridiculously fun. Between the fashion show and yummy nibbles, and the signature cocktail crafted by one of the conference founders, Janice…it was a fantastic opportunity to relax and make merry.
Rona Maynard’s keynote was a major highlight for me. Besides her encouragement about “self-care,” she shared wonderful stories about being a woman, and a mother, in the high-power world of magazine publishing in Toronto. She is a highly accomplished woman and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to absorb a little of her wisdom. Her talk was funny, wise, and down-to-earth. She encouraged us all to embrace the word no, and avoid stretching ourselves too thin: “NO protects your emotional ecosystem.”
Connecting with fellow attendees is always a fun aspect of a conference. The whole vibe was warm and supportive. I met tons of wonderful women and was happy to finally meet fellow yummy mummy Karen Humphrey, our food editor here at YMC. Karen also gave a wonderful, personal, and uplifting talk about her own journey towards building community.
The most memorable part, for me, was the final keynote address by Bif Naked. Her talk was truly breathtaking. She chronicled her life’s journey…beginning as an orphan in India to a childhood as a beloved adopted daughter/sister/class clown, to breast cancer patient, to her most recent challenge—heart surgery survivor—a mere 15 days prior to Breathe Now. She spoke from the heart about cancer. But she didn’t dwell on it—because, clearly, it’s not all there is to this fascinating woman. She spoke with an unbelievably compelling presence; the entire room was riveted. If you are ever lucky enough to have an opportunity to hear her speak: take it.
Through the weekend there were big belly laughs and, yes, there were tears. We moved, connected, ate, drank, cheered…
The central thread woven throughout the conference was the sharing of stories. Because, truly, every woman has a story to tell.
And it was this tapestry of stories that made Breathe Now such a wonderful experience.
*photos courtesy of Derek Ford Photography