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Monica Lau, Founder of Sovereign Life Initiative Talks Plant Medicine, Stigma, Creative Play & More!

We were so excited to virtually sit down with the lovely Monica Lau, Founder of The Sovereign Life Initiative, and talk a little bit about plant medicine, stigma, creative play, and beyond!

On top of running the ship at Sovereign Life Initiative, she is a plant medicine & integration life coach, that is making a tremendous impact in the lives of her clients and within her community.

Monica had her first experience with cannabis in high school. "We were all experimenting with stuff, and that's kind of how that got started." Since her initial introduction, Monica has found a shift in her perspective when it comes to consumption. "When I first started using it, it was all about fun, it was all about getting high, and now there's more purpose to using cannabis." She focuses on all of the ways it can provide benefits in a balanced way. "Whether you're looking to connect with yourself more, maybe you need to chill out because you had a hard day… it's a lot more mindful, it's a lot more purposeful, in using cannabis, than it was before."

We instantly related to Monica's personal experience of coming out of the "cannabis closet”, "I feel like it is very dichotomous in that, with your friend groups or people who are more accepting of the use of cannabis, there is no hiding it. You're talking about it, you're happy to talk about it, you're proud of it, and then there is the other facet of it, where professionally you might not want to disclose that you are a cannabis user/supporter or part of the community. Then of course depending on, for me at least, my upbringing, my family was like the last to know. This was partially because of the fact that there is a lot of stigma still around it, a lot of fear, and misunderstanding, and misinformation about cannabis… yeah my parents were probably the last ones to know about it."

While Monica did not face traditional stigma, she has faced a kind of counter-stigma as a result of not meeting the expected "character type" of a cannabis consumer. "I have never faced the traditional stigmas of, like 'If you use cannabis that you're a stoner or a burnout, or you're lazy.' It came more as a surprise to people that I do use cannabis and I love cannabis. I'm not really sure, maybe it's because I didn't fit those stereotypes in that I'm a working professional, and I'm not a lazy person that they didn't see the two being paired together, or me being someone who would use it."

Monica has seen several benefits from cannabis consumption. " Definitely improved sleep, which was what had gotten me using it in the first place. I was struggling with a lot of stress and anxiety around school and found it really difficult to sleep so I was using cannabis to help with that. As I grew up, and my relationship developed with cannabis now it is a very integral part of everything that I do because there are so many ways that you can use it and so many different types of strains. It's really exciting now!" She loves that there is literally a product for everything, "Got a sore muscle? You can use a topical! Wanna have some chocolate and get a little bit high? You can get an edible! There are so many ways that you can use it and yeah it's been kind of a game-changer."

When it comes to strains Monica is a fan of a good OG. “My favorite strains are like OG Strains. So Jack Herer will forever be my favorite strain, and then Champaign, Connors Comfort...a lot of these are Sativa leaning as most people are starting to figure out.” She also let us know about the amazing Tweed Houndstooth cannabis oral spray, quick-acting with 25 mg of THC per dose, this is an amazing option if you are on the go!”

It can very much feel like walking into Wonka's Playhouse of Weed when you go into a dispensary these days, and we love it!

She expanded a bit more into stigma and what she believes people get wrong about people who consume cannabis, "That they're lazy and unmotivated. Another thing is that it feels like there's this idea that cannabis is only for a certain age group, the young. That's certainly not the case at all, but it almost feels like oh after a certain age you just don't do that anymore. That has been more surprising to me in dealing with that area of stigma."

We are huge believers in providing accessibility and education to older-skewing markets because people in this segment can benefit so much from cannabis products and plant medicine.

Education and accessibility are both reasons that we are thrilled about what Monica is doing through The Sovereign Life Initiative. "The Sovereign Life Initiative is about this movement towards self-governance. You know our ability to choose our lives for ourselves and in the way we want to live it, and to be in control of our bodies and our minds. The initiative part of that is helping others find that for themselves. To help them feel confident, empowered, and capable of creating a life by their design, and to be free of a lot of the social pressures, a lot of the self-limiting beliefs that are around, and just to live life to the fullest! Be happy and have fun while doing it!”

The Sovereign Life Initiative offers several services that provide life-coaching for clients, “Life Coaching is something that’s a little newer on the screen. It’s not therapy, but it definitely feels very therapeutic to have that space to kind of figure out what your next direction in life is. The sort of services that I offer work hand in hand with plant medicines, and helping people figure out how they can fit that into their lives, how they can support their daily routines with it. A lot of the subject matter that people come with is all over the place, from finding happiness and purpose to major life transitions like moving to a new country or a career change. It is really fun being a part of people's journey of self-discovery and improvement, and if we can partner plant medicines along with that I am totally game for it!”

We love that Monica’s own coaching style is rooted in fun and creative play. “It’s kind of cheesy ok, I was thinking about that. It's seriously fun! We talk a lot about difficult things, especially when people are trying to understand or find purpose in their life or what happiness means to them. It’s serious stuff and you get to uncover a lot of challenging material, and so that’s the serious part of it, and when we do this work we are serious about it. We are really about figuring out what’s going on and how to break through and obtain some of those goals. But, what’s really important in all of that is while we are dealing with really difficult and challenging material is that we have a little bit of fun, and we have that opportunity to play and be silly, and like, try ridiculous ideas that we wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to. Man, life can’t be that serious all the time! We gotta have a little bit of fun along the way.”

When it comes to inspiration, the change she helps bring in her clients’ lives keeps her motivated. “One of the things that sort of led me to coaching, and I often see in my clients, is that moment of breakthrough. When they have that light turned on and they’re just like ‘Oh my god, this has been in front of my eyes the whole time!’ and now they get it and they’re clear on their goals, or they can figure out who they are, or make connections that they couldn’t before, and now that they can see it and it has like a shape and form, they now have the ability to work towards whatever their goals are. So yeah, it’s that moment when it clicks and you can see they just get really excited and they’re like ‘Oh my god, this is it!’, and that stuff is really exciting, and it’s really rewarding, and such an honor to be a part of.”

One of our favorite things about the Sovereign Life Initiative is that it taps into the freedom of creative play. Monica spoke to us about why this is so important, “As kids, we play all the time and it’s really encouraged, and as we get older whether we get busy with various things that go on in life, or maybe adults just don’t feel like play is something that doesn’t really fit in. We don’t have the opportunity to explore different thoughts, and different ideas, or different ways of being. Creative play comes into coaching a lot, or into life, a lot for me at least to create that space where you can think of things in a different way, you can try out new personalities, you can try out new scenarios or ways you would have handled things differently without some of the consequences that could happen if you were to do it in real life. More importantly, it gives you that space to see things from a different angle, and I think that that's very important when you’re looking for solutions to things that are difficult or that seem to be problems that always come up because we’re so stuck in our habits and patterns. A lot of society is also really restrictive, there is a certain expectation of a lot of people about what stage in life they are supposed to be in due to their age or what accomplishments they have. That checklist, we all have this checklist and it can be really restrictive. For some people, it might not be for them or they need to find a different way to do that so that they can do it in a way that makes them happy, and is true to them...and ultimately leads to happiness and fulfillment.”

Monica’s interests in plant medicine and wellness go back to her childhood and traditional Chinese medicine. “My mom’s a pharmacist, and funny enough anytime that we were sick she would turn to traditional Chinese medicine first, which is all plant-based. Even though it looked like swamp water, tasted like swamp water, smelled like swamp water, that stuff worked! As I grew up and started to experiment more with other things like cannabis and other plant medicines I realized that there’s a lot of power in them, and far less side effects than a lot of other prescription medications had.”

Monica is a big believer in accessibility to plant medicine and building bridge ways to educational tools. "I think the access is great, certainly here in Toronto we have a lot of access to a lot of different types of cannabis, and forms that it comes in. I really think the important part now is education. Aside from breaking free, or undoing some of the stigmas around cannabis use, it’s also telling people and showing people the different ways that cannabis can be used. It might not be a panacea, although I feel like it is, there is a possibility to use cannabis in everyone's lives, if they find that it is suitable for them. It’s not restrictive to age groups or ailments.” Monica is excited about the re-emergence of fun and cannabis, as an alternative for alcoholic beverages as we shift to a more health and wellness-driven culture. “Cannabis is also kind of breaking into that space where it can be fun again as well, and it can be used in those party-like situations responsibly of course. We’re seeing a lot of that coming in which is really cool, and it offers an alternative to some of our usual ways of enjoying ourselves.”

One of the projects that Monica is a part of is creating community education programs and access points with local dispensaries. “We’re kind of choking at the bit right now to get these programs running. Obviously with our current pandemic situation hosting real live events with real people together in one space is a bit difficult. The main thing with that <the project> is creating connections with our community, and creating a space where people can come in and ask their questions about cannabis. Dispensaries can sometimes be a little intimidating. There are so many choices and so many things you can do, creating seminars or drop-in hours where people can come in and ask their questions and find the cannabis that can help with whatever they are looking for. One thing I am really looking forward to is a ladies' brunch day where they can come in and kind of experience cannabis for themselves. I know a lot of ladies are now turning to cannabis, but I also feel like it is a little bit of a space where we’re not talking about it with each other and how we can use it as a wellness product for women. So that is something that I would really like to begin to do, and because there are so many fun ways to use it I think it will be a really neat little program to do for them to explore all the different ways to use it.” Brunch, cannabis, and education, sign us up!

When it comes to plant medicine and her own routine, Monica likes to have a little bit of everything in her arsenal, “I have a different thing for everything. Obviously, my favorite way of consuming cannabis is either vaping flower or tincture. So, I have my arsenal for daytime, all Sativa dominant or Sativa leaning strains. Often during the day, I want something fast-acting so I’ll smoke it. At night or when I want to wind down, I then turn to the indica strains, usually in tincture form because it is a bit longer-lasting. It just depends on the activity. Right now I’m finding using cannabis for my meditation routine to be really really wonderful to kind of get in the zone and stay with that practice. So that right now is kind of where it’s at for me.”

Something that we were very interested in learning more about is how plant medicine can help us tap into profound truths, higher consciousness, and can help us break through past limitations. “This is definitely an area of passion of mine. We shift a little bit into the psychoactive plants like psilocybin and mushrooms, and what we find here is that these psychedelics have a way of disrupting our default mode network, which is how our brain kind of relays information around, and it creates a little bit of disorganization but in a good way. It ties back a bit into that creative play where we are allowed to, or suddenly we are able to make connections in our brains that weren’t able to before. Allowing us to either see a situation from a different angle or feeling more connected with parts of ourselves or feelings that we have that are disjointed. Certainly, there is always this huge feeling of connectedness to the world around us, especially with our social distancing and our isolation. Connection has been something that we’re lacking, and I feel that plant medicines and psychedelics have a way of connecting ourselves with ourselves and with the environment and nature around us. There is a lot of exciting research going on right now with psilocybin and its implications in mental health and in palliative care. It’s providing people with another alternative. I am really excited that’s happening for us now. It’s time for that paradigm shift to happen, to challenge our traditional ways of doing things, and actually turning back to a little bit of our past. Psychedelics aren’t new, but they’re having a new resurgence now which is really exciting.” We are also super excited to see what’s next in the world of Psilocybin and plant medicine alternatives to pharmaceutical medication.

When it comes to advice for people just starting to use cannabis and/or plant medicine, Monica has the following advice, “Rule of thumb, always start low and go slow. You can always have more, you can’t have less. The other thing is (well I guess I am a little bit of a nerd about it) keep a diary about it!” She explains that this kind of journaling is helpful to track experimentation across strain, product types and consumption methods. “There’s so many ways to take it and they will affect everyone a little bit differently. So keeping a little diary about how you are feeling on certain strains or the way that you took it can really help people understand how cannabis can fit into their lives, and then what options to choose when they are faced with that same kind of issue.

For those looking for a little extra guidance when it comes to balancing a busy schedule with cannabis consumption Monica says planning and trial runs are super helpful. “Try it first on a day that you don’t actually need to do the task, just in case (you never know, right). Understanding how you react to the different types of cannabis or plant medicines is going to be a real key on balancing productivity. Also, laying out some goals you want to have done when you are using the plant medicines can help you stay focused.

She also provided some thoughts on some ways that users can practice self-care with cannabis. One of the things that I really enjoy is the self reflection part of it. Having to check in with yourself about what is it that I need right now? What will help me get there? And what would be the best suited option to get me there?” She said this does come back into a bit of that creative play and self exploration, along with keeping a journal to know what works best for you. The key point is to check in with yourself. Something that we don’t do often enough is to check in with yourself. What’s really going on here? What do I really need, and is there something that could help me?”

We love that Monica is helping people reconnect with themselves and really thrive and flourish. It only makes sense that she put together the gorgeous and simple 4 SImple Steps to Revive Your Thrive. “That’s a fun one to just liven things up and shake things up again! We’re so busy in our lives and a lot of us have responsibilities or routines, or you just get kind of stuck in doing what you are always doing, it’s like inertia. 4 SImple Steps to Revive Your Thrive is an opportunity to check in with yourself. Something again, like we just mentioned, we just don’t do often enough. It is a way to kind of reignite some passion.” This passion can range from a habit you want to pick up again, a project that you have always wanted to try but never got started and beyond. “Yeah, it’s just to liven things up, shake things up, and get you excited about yourself again, and get excited about the life that you’re living.” Click here to learn more about 4 SImple Steps to Revive Your Thrive.

Monica is excited about the developments in the world of plant medicine, and how we are moving towards decriminalization, “One of the things that’s important to me, and again ties into the Sovereignty, is our ability to choose for ourselves, and how we care for ourselves. As we begin to see more of these alternative medications or alternative treatments coming to the forefront we are now given the options to choose something that is right and that fits. While traditional medicine has its strengths and it’s needs, we definitely still need them. The whole world is looking for something different now, whatever that may be. In the area of self-care and medicine and health, plant medicine and psychedelics is going to be one of those things I feel will really be able to provide that.”

Monica is currently super inspired by Dr. Rachel M Knox, MD, MBA, “She is doing some really great work with the ECS or Endocannabinoid System, as well as cannabis. She just has this way of explaining things that are so easy to understand. Her energy is infectious, and I really like the work that she is doing,”

As far as what’s next for Sovereign Life Initiative and Monica, you can expect exciting things! “Continuing to push this message of combining personal development with plant medicines together. I am looking forward to the opportunity to do the Women's Brunch, to do these different kinds of get togethers or social events around cannabis. I think the main thing is that I am really looking forward to being able to do this in the flesh. Real live breathing people is something that I am really looking forward to!”

Monica believes that the world can learn something about community and camaraderie from the cannabis community. Similar to us she has been overwhelmed by the warmth and caring nature of the community. It is a beautiful thing to see so many people with a goal of making things better and supporting each other. “Even if cannabis was removed from that, which I don’t think will ever happen, but it is that idea of supporting one another and creating a community, and if the world could do a little bit of that and unite behind having the same excitement and passion towards cannabis it would be wonderful.”

We couldn’t agree more, and it was a wonderful experience getting to speak with such an awesome and tenacious member of the cannabis community. We can’t wait to see what’s next, and look forward to many community brunches and mediations to come!

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