Celebrate Life with the Day of the Dead Retreat

Fall is in full colour and Halloween will soon be here. Costumes and candy are fun, but another special celebration for the same day may have deeper significance for our personal development and the larger aspects of our lives: The Day of the Dead. 


Day of the Dead SkullsThe Day of the Dead (or Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday, in which Mexicans celebrate and honour their deceased ancestors and loved ones. It isn’t a day for grieving, but rather is believed to be a time for the souls of the deceased person to visit and celebrate with them. The Day of the Dead was originally celebrated at the beginning of summer, but after the colonization of Mexico by the Spanish, the celebration was changed to align with the catholic celebration of Allhallowtide on November 1. The oldest form of the Day of the Dead is believed to have been first celebrated in 2,500 – 3,000 BC. 

The Celebration begins on October 31, when children make a children’s altar to invite the souls of other children to visit. On November 1st, the souls of adults come to visit. Finally, on November 2, the most well known part of the celebration begins, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three day festival is filled with marigolds (the flowers of the dead); muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.

Our Retreat

Over the Halloween weekend (Oct 30 – Nov 1) we will pause to remember our deceased loved ones with story telling and feasting. The death of people we love is one of the great wounds of life. With this in mind, The Day of the Dead retreat is a weekend for you to remember, share, celebrate and honour deceased loved ones.

Attend this retreat with someone in mind to honour.  Bring photos, mementos, favourite foods and stories to share with others and create an altar.  The weekend will include meditation and yoga classes, our ever scrumptious food, and a cozy cabin all within the backdrop of the transition of fall, allowing time to decompress and return home refreshed.

Find the retreat details here for this unique weekend retreat.

3 Big Mistakes Most Guys in Relationships Make…


That Keep Them Feeling Trapped, Resentful & Feeling Disconnected From Their Partner

by Kurt Frost

It may sound clichéd, but we live in difficult times for men.  The demands of work and family can spread your time and energy thin and our “A.D.D culture” makes it really hard to focus on what is important without the next thing immediately demanding our attention.  

As a result, guys get lost, and when we do, we lose touch with ourselves and what makes our lives exciting and full of  meaning.  Less meaning and excitement creates frustration, builds resentment and causes anxiety. Not only anxiety over feelings of overwhelm, that we can’t keep up, but a growing hopelessness that we are failing. That we may never live the life we want.  This loss of self-fulfillment comes back to hurt our relationships, family and generally the world around us.

Pretty depressing, eh? You may find yourself wondering how you got to this point, but there are definitely 3 big mistakes that most guys make that will pretty much guarantee getting stuck here.  You’ve probably made at least 1 of them if not all 3.

  1. Not Taking Care of Yourself

Most guys are bad at taking care of themselves.  It looks different for everyone, but some common examples of poor self care are:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of time for yourself
  • Lack of time with other male friends
  • Poor sleep
  • Many more…

It happens for many reasons, but as you try to take care of everyone else, you do less and less for yourself and, over time, you end up being last in the quest to make sure everyone else is okay.  

This is definitely a recipe for disaster, as the less you do for your own well being, the less you have to give, much less function well in your life.


  1. Poor Communication with Partner

The effects of this one are probably the most obvious and at the surface for most guys in their relationships:

  • Feeling like you and your partner are “missing each other”;  your partner is not getting what you mean and you feel misunderstood by them too.
  • Being confused by your partner’s shifts in moods towards you; one minute you feel close and the next you are a jerk.
  • As much as you try to explain your thoughts about something, your partner is resistant and even antagonistic.  Maybe avoiding each other, or difficult subjects.
  • The list goes on…

Continued miscommunication in a relationship is toxic and will only increase the distance between you and your partner. This will undermine the rest of your life too, leading to effects in your self care and sense of purpose… it is all connected!


  1. Not Living With Purpose

Living on purpose means you live your life in a way that makes you feel energized and alive.  

If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know how to get there… or even know if you got there.  It is like sailing a boat; if you don’t have your destination in sight, you will veer off course. And if you know anything about sailing, that is not a good thing.

“Life purpose” is a verb, not a noun. You need to “do” your life purpose in little ways each and every day.  Your purpose isn’t a goal, per se, but rather a way of being that you need to keep checking in with to see if you are on track.  

Put another way, it is you engaging all of you and feeling like you are moving towards a better version of yourself.

A big sign that you are not living with purpose is if you are feeling frustrated that your life is being defined for you by your partner, your kids, your boss, etc., etc., etc.  It feels controlling and leaves men often feeling angry and resentful.

All of this can change!

As you have seen, there are many ways for your life to get off track, but there are also many solutions you can implement to help you claim the life you desire and start living with the purpose you deserve.  

Men need their own space to get back in touch with what feels right. The Power of Purpose Retreat For Men does this. During this retreat you will address these 3 exact problems and leave with the solutions you need to be happier and excited about your life again! Find out how we will accomplish this here.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?


In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the following list are also realistic outcomes from practicing mindfulness:

Gains in working memory

Stress reduction

Less emotional reactivity 

Relationship satisfaction 

Numerous research articles have run studies on mindfulness and have discovered meditation has been directly related to self-reported positive affect. More interestingly, these results reveal that even short-term commitment show marked differences in the brains of people who practice mindful meditation versus those who do not practice mindful meditation. A study involving people with mindful practice ranging from one month to twenty-nine years were compared to a pool of people who hadn’t meditated. When shown graphic pictures, the former group was better able to disengage from the stimuli and instead focus on a cognitive task versus those who had no practice with mindful meditation.

More insights and explanations from these research studies, along the other uses of mindfulness can be found here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx 


We invite you to practice mindfulness with us as we guide you on your journey to your inner wise self. Join us this January 1st for our “Get Clear on Your Year” retreat.



Keeping up with Sugar Ridge Events on Facebook

Sugar Ridge Facebook Events PageYou can always come to our website to see our Upcoming Retreats and Events, as well as our Events Calendar, but you can also keep up with the latest Sugar Ridge news by following our Facebook Events Page.  Just select Subscribe and you will have all the info on our upcoming retreats as soon as they are posted on Facebook.



Meditation Will Change Your Brain… For the Better!

When most people think about meditation, they think about learning to relax or lower their stress.  It certainly will do that, but it does so much more!  Feeling relaxed and stress free are beneficial states that will come and go.  While it is important to be able to induce positive states to centre ourselves, research has shown that these states can be converted into traits, leading to the increase of grey matter in the brain.  Specifically, grey matter associated with attention and emotional regulation.

This neurological change from state to trait, is important because increased attention and emotional regulation are the opposite of what ails us.  If you can have more attention (or are more mindful) you can keep yourself on track better towards what you want to or should be doing rather than letting life pull you around and being reactive to life situations.  Having greater emotional regulation means that a negative thought or feeling is just a noticed negative thought or feeling and not the first step in a downward-spiraling negative reaction that is at the core of anger issues, anxiety and depression.  Learn to strengthen these two traits and you will feel less stress more often, you will feel more in control, you will feel happier.  Not just after you meditate, but you will have an increased tendency for it the rest of your day or week.

In this great (16 min) TED Talk, Mathieu Ricard talks about this research and speaks of the importance of using meditation to increase altruism.  He makes a great case for it, but I think the real interesting gem are his slides on the grey matter changes in the brain.


This slide shows how when long-term, experienced meditators – with over 50,000 hours of practice! – are put in an MRI, their brains light up in significantly increased ways as compared to people with little to no experience with meditation.  (They are really using their brains!)  As impressive as this is, though, it can also be discouraging for new meditators as 50,000 hours is a high bar to reach… roughly 30 years of practice if you meditate for ~4 hours per day!  But, stay with us, because the benefits of meditation do not take that long to start taking hold!

Increased activity in meditater's brains.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


After a mere 4 weeks of doing mindfulness meditation an average of 27 minutes per day, participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program showed a massive increase in grey matter density.  There is hope!

Increase in grey matter after only 4 weeks of meditation.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


To actually change your brain for the better meditating for 4 weeks, for 27 min per day!  Wow!  That works out to roughly only 14 hours of practice for lasting neurological changes.  Many people spend much more time than that on Facebook or watching TV!  Think of the benefits.

So, is meditation a cure all?  No.  It isn’t even a guaranteed permanent change.  There is an expression that you get more of whatever you pay attention to.  Just as learning to watch your thoughts and emotions will make you more mindful, attentive, and have greater emotional regulation, if you slip back into paying attention to anger, you will get more angry, pay attention to worry and life seems scarier.  However, with less than 30 minutes per day of mindfulness meditation to bolster you against these slides to the negative, it is a very small payout for the tremendous payoff it gives.

Compare these results with the money spent on psychiatric medication, on the rampant lost hours from sick leaves from work, even from the subjective lost hours, days and years of your life spent being unhappy and less productive.  Meditation seems pretty darn cost effective.  It’s a gift to give yourself and improves your relationships with others in your life.  Imagine if mindfulness were part of the regular school curriculum?  What a world we’d have then!

So, learn to develop a meditation practice and if someone implies that you are dense, you can respond with pride that yes, your grey matter is very dense, thank you very much!


Learn mindfulness meditation in one of Sugar Ridge’s upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 5-Day Retreat




Add Some Healthy Awesomeness by Vegan-ifying Your Baking

Brown FlaxseedsThis is Kurt, Sugar Ridge’s resident baker (dishwasher and snow removal service). One of the first things I learned when I started to make my baking more vegan for guests was how to replace eggs in a recipe.  There are actually many ways to do it, but a really easy one is to use ground up flax seeds and water:

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds     +     1/4 cup water     =     1 egg

You can buy ground flaxseeds, but I prefer to buy the seeds whole and then grind them as I need in them in a coffee grinder.  (The flax oil from ground seeds can apparently get rancid if left for very long un-refridgerated.)  Once the seeds are ground, mix them with the water and let stand for about 5 minutes until it becomes gelatinous.  You can then add this mixture to your recipe.  More water can be added if the recipe seems too dry.  (For those who can’t eat flax, chia seeds can be used in the same way.)

Flax and water seems the most all-purpose egg replacement that I have found, but another one that is great sometimes is:

1 medium banana (mashed)     =     1 egg

Because banana has a very distinct flavour, it may not be the best choice for many recipes.  However, it is because of its flavour that I have used it in my chocolate chip brownies on occasion.  Like with the flax and water, you may have to add (or leave out) some liquid from the recipe to get the right consistency.

I am not against eggs and do often eat them.  My philosophy is that if I can make food healthier and not lose the flavour or the joy of eating it, why not do it?  With that in mind, flax is an extremely healthy food.  Doctors and nutritional experts are always telling us to get more of it, so  why not find ways to add it in more often to the food we eat?

The same goes for bananas.  If I can add a fruit (or vegetable) to some food and the end result is that it will turn out as good or even better as if I didn’t, then I am definitely making the substitution.  It is the little things that we do that make the difference in our health.

We’ll be going over this and a whole lot more at our upcoming workshop next Saturday (December 13th): Holiday Vegan Cooking & Baking Classes Weekend.

Photo Credit: HealthAliciousNessLicense

Meditation at First Light

We love Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons First Light event.   First Light is a Christmas celebration Sainte-Marie holds every year at the historic site.  It is always a crowded event with many visitors walking through the many candle-lit buildings, listening to live, seasonal music and sampling Christmas baking!  There is also a craft sale with many amazing local artisans and Sainte-Marie collects massive amounts of food donations to give to a local food bank.  It is easy to see why this is one of our favourite events of the year!

A highlight of the event for us is the longhouse, where there is an aboriginal drumming circle.  Sitting around a fire, listening to an elder tell stories, teach songs and drum for the group.  It is not only fun, but a very meditative experience.  It is definitely Liz’s favourite place to be at the event and she will sometimes sit there for an hour listening and meditating.  On weekends that we have groups at Sugar Ridge during First Light, she has invited guests to come with her to experience this with her.  Tonight is no different.  The participants of the Yoga & Meditation retreat will be there soaking it all in.

A videographer friend of ours, Alla Lifchits, was there on Thursday and made this amazing video, touring through the event.  She really captured the feel of being there, so we wanted to make sure to share this with others who could not make it… or inspire others to come out tonight for the final evening of the event.


Meditation is a good winter “medicine”

Meditation has been well researched and shown to be good for us in all sorts of ways. A recent Globe and Mail article talks of a study which showed that mindfulness meditation had a strong effect on the immune system.

Morning Meditation at Sugar Ridge Retreat CentreUsing a meditation group, an exercise group and a control group (that did nothing different), the researchers wanted to see which group would fare better during a month in the middle of flu season.  Both exercise and meditation lowered the number of people getting sick by 25%, but meditation had a few extra benefits.  Those that meditated and got the flu had the least symptoms and those in the meditation group missed the least work days.  That is pretty convincing for the power of meditation!

Meditation is one of the simplest things you will ever learn, but it will challenge you for the rest of your life.  If you are interested in learning to meditate (and get a pumped up immune system!) Sugar Ridge has several great programs for over this winter for you to try:

Yoga & Meditation Weekend Retreat
December 26 – 28

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Retreat
January 4 – 9, 2015

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8-Week Program
January 20 – March 10, 2015



5 Elements To Set the Stage for Great Communication

Liz and KurtSo, you want to talk to someone about something that has been bothering you. You may know what you want to say.  You may even know the communication skills you need in order to be heard well.  But, do you know that many of the things that can make your conversation fall flat or be ineffective happen even before you say your first word?

Everyone says that good communication is crucial to a healthy relationship.  There is lots of advice for the skills of communicating well, but creating the right conditions and environment for that conversation to happen is equally as important.

Here are five elements that will help prepare you and the environment for a really effective conversation.  Keep in mind you and the person you are going to talk to are part of the environment:

Right Time

Just because you want to talk, does not mean it is the right time to do so.  You need to find a time that is convenient for both of you.  You may be ready, but the other person may need time (to prepare or calm down, or maybe they’re busy with work, kids etc.)  You will need to schedule the talk in at a specific time.  To determine the right time to meet, you should consider a time when you will be uninterrupted (by kids, coworkers, etc.) and when you are both not tired or stressed, so you can be alert, focused and relaxed.  It sounds crazy to make an appointment with someone you’re close to but it is more likely to end well if you talk at a mutually convenient time.

Right Place

Wherever you happen to be when you want to talk is not necessarily the best place to have this conversation.  Not all places are created equal for this task!  A good place to talk should be quiet, comfortable and free of distraction.  Now, this does not mean that the only good spot to talk is to be holed away in some closed room.  Maybe the best place this time might be on a bench in a park, the mall, or Tim Horton’s.  The right place might even end up being on the phone.  Often it is hard for two people to find the right time and place to meet and many great conversations have happened over the phone.

Set the Topic

It is important to be clear about what you want to talk about when you make that appointment. Mutually decide before you start talking exactly what it is that you are going to discuss. This is best done before you meet to talk or as the first thing you do after you sit down together.  If you are not both on the same page as to what is to be discussed, misunderstandings can come up and the conversation can seem more like two conversations moving past each other, never to meet.  So, be clear as to what each of you want before you start.

It is also a good idea to determine together at the outset what the common value is that you share.  In other words, how do you both want the same thing?  For example, often couples argue about how to deal with their children.  They both want the best for their kids, but perhaps have different ideas of what that should look like. 

To keep conversations on track, and not go sideways, it’s helpful to keep a notepad handy so that if one of you brings up a separate topic it can be written down and not be forgotten or brushed aside. You can come back to it later, or in a different conversation, rather than heading off on tangential conversations.  This way you don’t end up leaving the conversation feeling more distant, and frustrated than when you started.

Something else to consider when setting the topic is asking what is the desired outcome of the conversation and how you will both know you when you have achieved it?  By doing this, you are starting with the end in mind and can keep using that as a touch stone to see if you are on track with the talk.

Physically Prepared

It may seem odd to need to be “physically prepared” to talk to someone, but it is important and is very often overlooked.  This is not the type of being “physically prepared” like it is to prepare for a marathon.  This kind of preparedness comes in two broad forms: being calm and aware.

When you are upset, your body’s sympathetic nervous system (the body’s “gas pedal”) revs up physiological systems like your breathing, blood to your muscles, etc. as part of the stress response.  This is read by the brain as, “Let’s be ready to fight, run away or freeze!”  What usually comes out of this state of mind are emotional reactions and many distorted thoughts.  So, until your physiology slows back down again, your mind will be on alert, making it very hard for you to effectively have a rational, calm conversation.

To achieve a calmer body (emotions and mind), some time away from the person/situation/location of what is stressing you is helpful.  Psychologist, John Gray (the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus guy) says that you might want to wait up to 12 hours before attempting to talk again, after a heated exchange.  Some deep, full breaths (in through the nose, down to your abdomen and up to your shoulders, like you are filling a tank, and then calmly exhale) are also extremely effective to slow down your physiological response.

Once you have calmed your physiology and are clearer of mind again, you want to think about being very aware of your physical behaviour while talking.  Go into the conversation being mindful of using a calm voice and open body posture.  An open posture means to not cross your arms and keep your chest open.  This will make you look less defensive and inviting for the other person to feel more comfortable to open up themselves.

Right Mindset

Being physically prepared goes a long way to having the “right mindset” for a conversation, but there are still some important factors to be considered.  Before meeting to talk, set the intention of how you want to show up in this conversation.  Quite simply, think about how you will need to act, talk, listen, etc. to be the best person you are and act from your highest self. That’s the person who is capable of respecting and honouring the  other person, regardless of whether they act from their highest self or not. This is a matter of self-awareness, specifically, being mindful.  If you mindlessly go into the conversation, you leave open the possibility of being triggered in some way and end up in an emotional reaction, followed by old habits and ways of thinking – definitely not highest self attributes.  However, if you mindfully set the intention, keeping this mindset in the forefront as you speak, you stand a much better chance of following through with it.

Clarify what you want to say; don’t prep a lecture (be open to being moved or changing your views after listening to your partner). Examine your emotions as you consider the topic to be discussed.  If you are immediately angry or sad or scared, notice how that will influence the way you will show up in the conversation.

Now you are ready to communicate!  There are many, many ways a conversation can derail and not go well.  However, some preparation ahead of time goes a long way to really setting the stage for you and the other person to converse at your best.

The tools from this post are a few of the many things that will be covered in the upcoming Can You Hear Me Now? Couples Retreat.  Come nourish your relationship and reconnect with your partner with this or any of Sugar Ridge’s other Creating Connection Retreats.

Mindfulness Everywhere!

Mindfulness is popping up everywhere nowadays.  Google and General Mills (the Cheerios people) both have corporate Mindfulness programs, McGill University trains all of its medical students in it, even the U.S. Marines apparently have a program for their soldiers.  So, it should be no surprise that schools are adding mindfulness more and more into their school day. CBC Radio’s The Current had a great segment yesterday that discussed how B.C. schools are using mindfulness, to great success, in the classroom.

The benefits of mindfulness are no secret to us here at Sugar Ridge.  In fact, Sugar Ridge was born out of a desire to help others cultivate a greater sense of mindfulness in their lives.  Mindfulness shows up in every yoga class we run and there are very specific programs for individuals, like the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Retreat, that allow you to take more time to understand and cultivate mindfulness into your daily life.  MBSR has many benefits (which is also discussed in the CBC podcast, above), but, beyond learning to slow down and lower stress in your life, it has been researched to effectively address issues surrounding anxiety, depression, chronic pain, ADD, and many other specific physical and mental health issues.  It is quite amazing that such a straightforward and simple process can have so much benefit to our lives!

As demonstrated by the corporate forerunners of Google and General Mills, companies are seeing how mindfulness not only helps employee wellness and productivity, but the bottom line: when people are less stressed and more focused, they miss less work and can work more effectively.  Sugar Ridge also has mindfulness-based programs to bring into the workplace.  From ongoing mindfulness training for your staff and half day workshops right in your workplace, to offsites at Sugar Ridge and corporately sponsored retreats.  There are many possibilities and the right program can be tailored for your company`s specific needs.

We are excited to keep mindfully bringing about greater awareness in individuals and organizations.  It ultimately makes for a happier world.  And, we`d all love that!