Friday, September 3, 2010


    “I’m so afraid. Please, god help me.  I fear I’ve made some terrible mistakes and     that I am somehow heading for a disaster of huge proportions.”

Believe it or not, these are the first few lines of a recent journal entry of mine. When I wrote this, I was battling an episode of fear that was so crippling, I could not go 5 minutes without feeling intense panic and a sense of doom. Given my reputation for optimism and my ability to find learning in every challenging experience, many might find it hard to believe that I would be capable of going to such a dark place. Thankfully, I can recall only a few times that I have felt like that in my life, but nevertheless, under certain circumstances I have found myself in the grip of a fear so unbearable, it made me question my worth, my choices and everything I believe in.

If I were to explain how I got to that place, I would have to say that it seems to be set off when I perceive that there is some threat to my ability to meet the basic human needs of my family (food, shelter, etc.). This must be a very deep core issue for me because, In almost any other situation, I am a pillar of strength and yet when this issue is triggered, I somehow develop an irrational fear-based thought process around it.

If you have ever felt this kind of fear, and I’m guessing most of us have at some point in our lives, it is important to understand that, even though we do not want to encourage fearful thoughts, we must also recognize that when these “dark nights of the soul” do happen, they are a necessary part of our process of self discovery.  In my case, even though I felt quite powerless at the time, there was still a part of me that was able to view myself and my thoughts objectively and try to assess what was going on for me emotionally.  But I was still caught in a “thought loop” because there were very real circumstances that needed to be dealt with and I had no idea how to fix the problem.  Every time I succeeded in distracting myself from the negative thoughts, the reality of the situation would become obvious, once again, and I was sucked back into the pit of desperation.

 Over two weeks passed before I was finally able to regain my power and change my thoughts, but my rational mind was reminding me all along that the more I allowed myself to indulge the fearful thoughts, the more I was reinforcing them and giving them power.  I knew I was attracting more of what I did not want, and because I was able to recognize this, it gave me the strength I needed to keep trying over and over to reject the fearful thoughts and eventually come up with a plan to banish them entirely. And this is really the key here.  The reality of the situation has not changed but my perception of it has.  I can now think the same thoughts that would have made me panic a week ago and still feel calm and in control.

It is remarkable. I would even say it’s a miracle!

     “Please help me. I need a miracle. Show me the way. Tell me what to do and I’ll     do it. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t     want to be afraid anymore. I don’t want to be in the dark anymore. Please help     me find the light and stay there”

So, what changed?

Well, first, I wrote that journal entry which ended up consisting of over 2,000 words by the time I was done.  That was on a morning when I woke up and the panic started the moment I opened my eyes.  I knew I could not get through the day unless I did something and the only thing I could think of was to write.  I was hoping it would purge the feelings and make me cry. I needed to cry so badly but I had not been able to for weeks.

    “I wish I could cry and unlock all of this terror, but I can only seem to manage a     few stray tears that leak out. What I feel inside is like a dam that is ready to burst,     but its so strong and immoveable right now. Maybe, on some level, I worry that if     I let it go, I’ll completely fall apart.”

As I wrote, I allowed myself to verbalize all the most horrible thoughts that had been going through my head. I blamed and berated myself for every choice I had ever made.  I told myself that I was being punished for all my mistakes and I called myself every bad name in the book. Reading it over now, I realize that I had to get out in the open all the secret things that I blamed myself for and had never really acknowledged. It all seems ridiculous now, but when I was in the darkness, I really believed it.

Then, I questioned how I could have made such mistakes, been so foolish, stupid, selfish etc. I questioned my motives and my beliefs and where they had got me.  And next came the apologies. I said sorry to everyone for every thing I had ever done. After that, I began to ask what I could do to make it right again and realized that I had to forgive myself before I could move on.

By then, I had become calmer and it was then that I began to make statements about what I  needed and wanted. I asked to feel better, for answers, miracles, understanding and growth. I asked for help.

When I was finished writing, I meditated for the first time in months.

That afternoon and the morning that followed, each of my two best friends visited me. We shared our pain and we wept together. I felt more honest and deeply connected to each of them than I have in over 35 years of friendship.  I had been “broken open” and it allowed me to embrace our friendship and be present on an entirely new level. I was reminded of how we are all living through our own versions of hell at some time or another and that our suffering can take up so much of our precious time and energy if we let it. I felt such gratitude and compassion for them and for myself.  I felt whole again.

Since then, I have continued to meditate every day. The problems I am facing are still there, but now they seem manageable. I am organized and productive again and I have regained my trademark Optimism (thank god!)

As horrible as it was to live through, I’m grateful for the experience. I feel stronger now and I have learned more about myself in the process.  I realize that there is a deep psychological connection between my new role as a single parent and my experience growing up as the child of a struggling single mother and the learning continues...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This week's Inspired Living Post

For my new Inspired Living segment on Newstalk 1010's Buddha Lounge Show, it occurs to me that I have created a whole new job description for myself:

Look for everything that’s good in the world.
Talk about it.
Write about it.
Teach others to do the same.

What could be better than that???

This is the first in a regular series of articles I will be publishing which focuses on "Real People Living Inspired Lives". I will share with you some of the truly Inspiring People, Places, Events & Stories that I encounter in my everyday life and I will also be encouraging you - the audience - to email me or the show and let us know who or what YOU think is SO Inspiring so I can follow up on it and perhaps include it in an article or on the show. Go to to share your experience.

Regardless, I hope you will check in with this blog or the show for your regular dose of Inspiration.

Synchronicities and Benevolence

It happened on Good Friday. A beautiful, warm, sunny day. Thinking all the stores would be closed, I donned a pair of old flip flops and ventured out to do some window shopping and grab a coffee.  To my delight, many of the stores were open and Yonge Street was alive with people. With every step, I became more appreciative of this glorious day. 

At one point, I stopped into Chocky’s to find some socks and underwear for my boys.  As I meandered about the store, the sales clerk was extremely helpful and we chatted as she assisted me. Then, a woman and her two daughters came in and I overheard her asking if they had any flip flops for sale. This caught my attention because mine were in pretty rough shape and I had thought about getting a new pair.  The sales clerk said she did not have any flip flops and the woman went on to say that her boots had given her blisters and that’s why she needed the flip flops. I laughed to myself, thinking about how amazing it was that this random event revealed two synchronicities.  First, it was just this morning that I had thought about throwing out my flip flops and second, it was only the day before that I had been speaking to one of my kids and recalled with affection how, in my younger years, I often preferred to walk on the city streets in my bare feet. It just seemed so obvious to me. I should offer my flip flops to her.

The woman was very appreciative of my offer, but was not about to take the “shoes off my feet”.  Of course, I completely understood, however it would have made me very happy if she had taken me up on it.  Nevertheless, we struck up a conversation and it wasn’t long before yet another synchronicity was revealed. 

We discovered that the woman and her daughters knew my son, Ryan, but that was no real surprise. Ryan knows everyone. What really gave me goose bumps was when they told me that Ryan had become a hero of sorts when, after a party one night, he was in a fast food restaurant and saw one of the local thugs trying to sell a stolen cellphone.  Ryan recognized that the phone belonged to his friend (one of the daughters at Chocky’s) and, knowing how upset she had been by the incident, he decided to buy it back for her. Needless to say, I was very proud to hear that Ryan had performed such a benevolent act but even this did not really surprise me.  Ryan has always been that kind of person and while I would certainly put Ryan’s good deed and general good nature high on my list of things that Inspire me, on this day, there was another simple, unexpected bonus which made my heart sing. 

The woman, her daughters and I chatted a while longer, and made plans to keep in touch. They left the store and I went to the counter to pay for my items. The sales clerk, who had overheard our conversation, smiled and asked me “Are any of these things for Ryan?” “Yes”, I said. “As a matter of fact, they are!” “Well, then”, she said,  “I think both of you deserve a discount.  You, for offering the shoes off your feet, and Ryan for getting that girl’s phone back.”

I have to say that I was practically speechless.  This sales clerk really had not investment in what she overheard, and yet she felt inspired enough to make the gesture.  I don’t know if she was the owner or an employee, so I hope she doesn’t get in any trouble for giving the discount on that basis.  Rather, I’d like to add Chocky’s to the “Inspired Living Friends Network” and encourage everyone I know to shop there.

Thanks to Chockys (2584 Yonge St, Toronto), Marsha & Co, and Ryan.


Just came across this today. It's from May 7, 2009 but was never posted.  Must be a good reason for that.


Funny, how breakthroughs often happen without warning.  There we are, living our lives, struggling with the difficulties that are thrown in our path and begging the universe for a break in the drama.  Sometimes it seems as though there will never be a resolution to our problems and we feel defeated, powerless and maybe even hopeless.  But then, one day sunny day in May, we find ourselves sitting across from our best friend who is going through challenges of her own and, as we try to help that friend gain clarity about her situation, we find ourselves blown away by our own wisdom.

That’s what happened to me today.  Twice.

Now, for those of you who know me, its not unusual for me to sit there spewing a monologue comprised of various anecdotes and personal insights, and this time was no different except that the ideas that I was expressing came through so strongly and clearly and with such energy and conviction that we both knew it was more than just me talking.  It was truth. 

But that, in and of itself, is not really so remarkable. We have all experienced moments of such absolute clarity that we wonder if we might be tapping into some greater sea of consciousness, right?  And I believe that we all have that power, whether or not we know it or believe it.  So, what was so interesting about today was that, as I spoke, it became evident to me that the level of clarity regarding my beliefs seems to have shifted suddenly.  Its as if I have reached a new level of understanding about (dare I say it) the meaning of life and, even though I haven’t felt very connected to my source recently, it seems that the spiritual work has continued behind the scenes without me even being aware of it.  I had been so distracted by my circumstances over the past two years that I had neglected my spiritual practice almost completely and for me, having served as a guide for others to stay connected to their spirit, I felt that I had not only let myself down, but that I had not been able to practice what I preached to others and that was very troublesome to me.  I kept wanting to regain my footing and waited for inspiration to return so I could have the focus to take action and feel as if I was in control of my life again, but the whirlwind that had taken over my life had its own agenda and it was all I could do to just hang in there until the storm blew over.  Throughout this process I did understand that there were significant lessons I was learning which had to do with trust, letting go, taking risks, relinquishing control, shattering old beliefs, discovering my truth etc... and the insights were abundant.  However, the chaos continued and so I questioned what it was I still needed to learn.  There was still a piece that I must have been missing.

Today, the skies cleared and I realized what that piece was.  That piece is called Surrender.
I’m beginning to think that the gift humans cherish so dearly is actually the one thing that prevents us from finding the peace and deeper understanding the we all strive for.  What gift is that, you ask? 


I’m going to let that marinate for a while.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Inspired Living Segment to Launch on Newstalk 1010's Buddha Lounge Show, hosted by none other than "Yours Truly"!

I'm happy to announce that I will be joining host Natasha Dern on Newstalk 1010's Buddha Lounge Show for a regular segment called "Inspired Living with Tracy Richards".

The focus of the segment will be "Real People Living Inspired Lives" where I will share with our listeners some of the truly Inspiring People, Places, Events & Stories that I encounter in my everyday life. I will also be encouraging our listeners to email us and let us know who or what YOU think is SO Inspiring that we should include it on our show.
I was Inspired to do this segment because of my passion to help others discover that we have the power to create a better life.  So much is going on on the planet and in our world and so many of us are experiencing a great deal of upheaval.  We may feel overwhelmed by what is NOT going right, which creates more of the same, so I thought that, instead, we need encouragement to look for what is GOOD about our world!

So, I'm inviting everyone to tune in and listen to our first two segments on Sundays, beginning April 25th 1-2 pm & May 2nd 1-2 pm. The Buddha Lounge also airs a rebroadcast the following Saturdays @ 8-9 pm, so don't miss it!

Please direct comments or questions about the show to:
Tracy Richards
c/o the Buddha Lounge Show
Newstalk 1010

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Little Voice

In the past three years or so, it seems that the world has exploded with new ways of communicating.  In early 2007, I had never sent a text message and had barely heard of Facebook, but by May of that year, my reliance on both those mediums had grown incredibly. A major reason for that was the Jarvis Reunion, because I had reconnected with so many people with whom I wanted to stay in contact. I would later realize, however, that there was one person I found at the reunion that I didn’t even realize I had lost touch with. That person was me.

At that time, I was married with 4 boys, living in an affluent suburb.  I had a grand home, a cottage in Muskoka and my children went to private school.  I owned a Wellness Centre, was a practicing Psychotherapist and had been growing spiritually for over a decade. I had worked hard over the past 20 years to create my “ideal” life and I don’t think anyone, in their wildest dreams, would have imagined that 3 years later I would have separated from my husband, sold my business and moved back downtown...least of all, me. 

It’s not that there were no warning signs along the way. There were many.  But, I was determined to believe that this lifestyle I had created would eventually lead to happiness, and even though there had been a little voice inside me, all along, saying, “this isn’t you”, I chose to ignore it.

What happened in the few months surrounding the Reunion literally ended up changing the course of my life.  During this period I encountered several major challenges.  First, I had a life threatening health issue, which made it necessary for me to take a leave of absence from my business. That led to a financial crisis which, coupled with my health concerns, added to the tension in my already troubled marriage. It seemed that the little voice inside me was tired of being ignored and had been replaced with an emphatic scream. I needed a wake up call, and the universe was determined to get my attention, once and for all.

Being in the company of people whose only experience of me had been 30 years before, I realized that who they saw and who I had become were two very different people.  Its not that I had become a bad person. In fact, the opposite was true. Over the years, I had devoted myself to becoming the best version of myself that I could and I believe that I had succeeded.  I had no issue with the woman I was now, but the girl I had been in high school had somehow disappeared.

Seeing myself through the eyes of those old friends gave me a very profound insight and one of my life’s greatest gifts to date. It came at a time when my inner world was in peril and I was broken down and vulnerable. I was looking for answers to why this was all happening to me and because of that I was open to seeing who I was from another perspective. It helped me to understand what the little voice inside me had been trying to tell me all along: That, in the search to create my ideal life, I had become focused on “becoming” something or someone new and improved. I had suppressed what I believed to be the imperfect parts of myself because I thought I needed to protect myself from the pain of old mistakes and past trauma and to prevent myself from having to live through that pain again. In doing so, I became disconnected from the essence of who I was, which led me to feel incomplete.  Even though my life had seemed perfect on paper, the little voice inside had been saying, “This isn’t you. It’s only part of you. There are pieces missing, and until you find them, nothing in your life will feel balanced.” The more I continued to ignore the little voice, the further I drifted away from my true self. But eventually, the little voice enlisted some backup from the universe and I finally started listening.

What unfolded as a result of this insight was far from simple and over the months that followed it became clear to me that, in order to become whole again, I would have to make some very drastic changes in my life. Unfortunately, that meant bringing a few chapters to a close.  The process of selling my business and ending my marriage proved to be painful beyond comprehension and yet I managed to get through it, comforted by the fact that I was finally listening to my heart.  It has not been easy and I would not wish that kind of pain on anyone, but I have never once doubted that I was doing the right thing, and that I find remarkable. There is a kind of certainty I have now that I did not have before, and that comes from embracing all the aspects of myself, the good, the bad; the dark and the light.  I no longer think in terms of what I am looking for to make me happy but rather, what I already have. I am committed to the discovery of my own truth and I continuously challenge myself to just “be who I am”.  The skeletons in my closet have all been revealed, and I’m not ashamed of them. After all, they helped make me who I am today, and I’m proud of that person, warts and all.

Most importantly, I do my best not to ignore that little voice any more.  It is the voice of my inner truth, authenticity, and integrity its the best way I know to find my way on this journey.

"There Is A Voice Inside Of You
That Whispers All Day Long,
"I Feel That This Is Right For Me,
I Know That This Is Wrong."
No Teacher, Preacher, Parent, Friend
Or Wise Man Can Decide
What's Right For You- Just Listen To
The Voice That Speaks Inside."

            - Shel Silverstein

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Journey: a Poem by Mary Oliver

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.
~ Mary Oliver ~