A meaningful life on earthApril 21, 2022
Text + photo Catherine BernierFor Earth Day, we asked surfer, mama, jewelry maker and yoga teacher Rachel Barrett about her vision of a meaningful life on earth. Between two laundry loads and playful time outside with her daughter Lola, we ended up engaging in an intimate and refreshing conversation about different aspects of life we need more than ever to address openly. For the nova scotian, home is Mother Nature, home is a safe place to reconnect us to ourselves, home is an inclusive and supportive space.
On well-being at home
We moved into our home just before the pandemic. I was in the early weeks of pregnancy as a first time mama and life suddenly felt so chaotic and out of our control at that time. There was so much fear of the unknown swirling so I really came to focus my mental energy on what I could control. To dedicate pockets of our little space to be an online yoga studio, a home gym and home office while exploring how to keep showing up and stay connected. Slowly our sunroom has evolved into a little indoor greenhouse with a wall of plants growing that I constantly propagate and share. It’s always nice to see things bloom through the winter and to have those shades of green around. I also appreciate the connection with houseplants as a major balancer and reminder of the subtle growth and change always happening. Something about getting my hands into the earth especially in the colder seasons has become a welcome ritual and meditation. For me, home is a safe space to gather that nurtures all the habits that connect us to ourselves, and each other.On finding balance
As a freelancer and full time mama, our rhythms at home flow and change constantly. I'm currently working on some future yoga retreats and wrapping a couple writing projects. I laugh saying this, but it is always a mission of sorts to make the absolute most of every minute of Lola's nap. It’s my time to check in on emails, finish a jewelry order or keep the house in check. I run hill sprints in our driveway with the baby monitor or do an online pilates class to get a quick boost of energy and make sure I check in with myself before the laundry. In the evenings when my partner gets home I get first dibs on surfing if there are waves.Surfing continues to bring so many opportunities, and layers of healing into my life. Returning to the ocean again and again has a way of regenerating my spirit especially after a busy day chasing a toddler around. The early days and weeks with baby and lockdowns really brought on an intensity of going through postpartum without ‘the village’. I'm so grateful to now have a group of mamas and supportive friends in the community that empower me to explore that balance of it all while also normalizing that it feels hard some days, because it is!
On a supportive relationship with nature and collectivity
There’s a deeper appreciation and urgency to protect her. Living on the coast you see the plastics that wash ashore. We walk the trails along the marshes and streams that flow to the sea, it is obvious how everything is connected and you see the disconnects that are there too.
As a surfer and scuba diver, the experiences I have had with the ocean transformed my awareness of both environmental sustainability and accessibility. So many of my passions are nurtured here in Nova Scotia but I also see we have a long way to go to elevate the global majority in nature and especially in the ocean. I'm honoured to be a part of The North Preston Surf Program pushing to increase diversity in the sport of surfing in particular with Nova Scotians of African descent. In our community there are connections with nature that for a multitude of reasons have been lost.I also love organizations like Meditation Ocean who strive to build resilience in community through oceanic meditations and responsive terrestrial action. Bringing the visuals and sounds of meditative scuba experience to land for participants to join in. And Textured Waves who highlight women of the water of all shades inspiring women to take up space, exquisitely.
I'm currently waiting on ear surgery which has broadened my understanding of what accessibility and inclusion means especially when it comes to nature. Personal experience is a powerful connector. My eardrum may limit me in the water but how many people are physically limited by getting onto the beach, or without access to transportation and getting there in the first place?
On deep appreciation into the present momentFor Earth Day, I wish each person could take 5 minutes of nature appreciation. Even one minute. Even one breath! Feel the wind. Can you see the sky or hear birds singing in the trees? Even in a busy cityscape, could you observe nature pushing through the cracks of concrete or coming back to life after a long winter?
An intentional pause is such a powerful way to tune in. As we become more conscious of taking those pauses to notice the changing thoughts, emotions or the subtle changes in the breath we are more in tune with the nature around us, but also, with our inner landscapes, edges and openness. Nature appreciation can then become something that is simply happening regularly, all the time without you having to think about it. Nature becomes a priority no matter how big or small. I love seeing how little bits of simply noticing over time can transform our attention in new and unimaginable ways. We notice how time in nature makes us feel. How we sleep. As a new mom, I had my baby on my chest in her wrap snoozing at the beach to the sound of the waves as often as possible. The soothing sounds of nature might have the same effect on us if we let it.
On passing values
I grew up with my mom tending a big garden in the yard. My brother would fall asleep in the mint patch as a child, nibbling away. We go and pick blueberries together from the same bush at my Grandmothers that’s been growing all these years. I hope my daughter can keep the childhood wonders of nature close. Community and open conversation. Collaboration and care for one another. Eating food freshly picked from the yard. Growing plants, pretty flowers and growing memories too.
My grandmother will be 95 in a few weeks and as I sit together with her, my mother and my daughter spinning on this rock in space the future feels bright. I hope for her to see herself in nature. To embrace the soft and the wild, to explore, dream, play everyday and embrace the potential of a better world one moment at a time.
Rachel Barrett (@luminousandwild) is enthusiastic about making movement practice accessible and sustainable. She brings a mindfulness based approach to creative sequencing through the awareness of ease and breath. With certifications in Vinyasa, Hatha Yoga, Mindfulness Yoga for youth and Qi Gong she offers a multifaceted lens for the inner journey and outer reflections. When she is not teaching yoga, Rachel’s favorite pastimes are toddler paced walks at the beach with her family, and sharing waves with the neighbours.