Those pesky fluctuations

Yoga chitta vritti nirodha. – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

NOTE: My family and I will be on a wee break until the week of April 24th, when I will next update this blog. I will continue to check in on Facebook and Instagram, so please follow me there.


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The weather patterns in my part of the world have been erratic, with rain and 5°C one day, then sun and 19°C a few days later. Spring tends to be lazy in Ontario. In Ayurveda, it is believed that nature and its elements greatly influence our inner state. If you have been feeling tired and your thoughts and emotions have been running in myriad directions as of late, you are in good company. These days, I vacillate between wanting to start ten different projects and craving a long nap, and that is okay. Nature is curious and we are curious beings, though in our quest to create some semblance of stability we, in effect, sometimes end up with enormous frustration.

Yoga teaches us that changes are inevitable. Sutra 1.2 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states that ‘Yoga chitta vritti nirodha,’ or ‘Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.’ In fact, it is not only the mind that we attempt to still, and try as we might, activity will always continue to occur in some manner. So, what exactly is the point of attempting to still those fluctuations, and how can we bring about a state of stillness?

When I first started practising and studying yoga and meditation, I expected to experience that often advertised stillness and was looking forward to the transformation toward complete clarity in everything I do on a daily basis. As miraculous as yoga and meditation might be — and they truly are magical — I soon learned that to continue to enjoy their benefits, I must continue to practise. Just as nature is in a perpetual state of flux, so are our minds, emotions, and physical bodies. Nothing in this world is constant. We continue to grow, learn, and evolve, as do others around us. Yoga and awareness practices help us to understand these changing states and accept their ebb and flow, and in so doing, we practise merely staying afloat and learning to become more adaptable, more agile, as we learn to surf with reverence on the surface of the vast ocean of wisdom. 

If changes are inevitable, then the only way to the other side is by accepting what is. Yoga and awareness practices might not cease our thoughts from occurring altogether, but perhaps, slowly, we might learn to ignore the constant chatter and listen only to what is most important here and now. Over time, the volume of the chatter might become reduced to a mere whisper somewhere at the back of the mind. As we learn to be compassionate with our thoughts, accepting that they are there but choosing to give up attempts to chase them down the rabbit hole, we start to also become more compassionate toward others around us and their opinions and personality types. To me, acceptance and compassion are the definition of living in harmony with ourselves and the world around us. And truly, life is much more pleasant when we make the choice to accept its changeable ways.

Many of us come to yoga and meditation in an attempt to find that elusive sense of stability and grounding, and that is precisely what we should be doing, but perhaps it might be beneficial to slightly tone down our expectations. As a person of Vata dosha (air element), I constantly strive to find my footing. Instead of seeking solid ground, I have learned to think of the surface beneath my feet as a surfboard that sometimes washes ashore for short periods of time, allowing a reprieve. Soon enough, the tide will rise again and I will be adrift. I remind myself to continue practising, to dig deeper to find my balance and allow my heard to open to possibilities. That is how we learn to enjoy the current.DSCN6735Comments? Questions? Please leave a note below. If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please click ‘share’ to tell others about it.

Community

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. – Phylicia Rashad

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I have been making a conscious effort to step outside my comfort zone, to reconnect with friends who are dear to me and to become more open to making the acquaintance of interesting people. It doesn’t take long for me to become used to retreating to my home, to spending my days in complete quiet and isolation. Although these habits help me to stay on track with productivity, sometimes it is good to take a break from the seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list and consciously make a choice to meet a friend for tea and a chat the need for which we did not recognize before but acknowledge as we walk away after the rendez-vous.

I’m not alone in isolating myself. I see other parents at the school, dropping off the children in the morning and collecting them in the afternoon. Sometimes, we stop to exchange a bit of small talk, but rarely do we intentionally carve out time to meet to catch up, to have a real conversation. This comes as no surprise. After all, as parents, our families and careers are our utmost priorities. Yet, in the midst of our dedication, we tend to forget about the world outside our walls, a world caught up in the same routines and similar thoughts and concerns.

Although this might sound obviously true to you, it occurred to me only recently that if I sometimes feel alone and isolated, other mums in the community might also feel that way. Last week, my dearest girlfriend hosted a surprise party for me (more on that later) at which I had the immense pleasure of seeing our beautiful local mum friends looking simply stunning, dressed in beautiful classic outfits and holding flutes of champagne, enjoying the evening in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. I was humbled by their presence and the time they took out of their busy schedules to celebrate with me. Together, we expressed immense gratitude to our friend and her generous, caring mother for meticulously planning the evening and flawlessly orchestrating all the details, allowing this incredible community of women to join in one place and share a most unforgettable evening.

My dearest friend is my inspiration for this week to make room for true connection, to trust, to dare, and to get out there to meet a friend for tea, a glass of wine, or a walk in the park. Taking that first step toward making a connection is, I would be prepared to argue, the most challenging part of building a community. Once we make space and step outside our comfort zone, life conspires with us to create its magic. And how inspiring it is to witness!

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Favourite links from around the web:

Audiobooks and the obsession with productivity. I found this fascinating, as I have previously enjoyed listening to audiobooks while out for a walk or painting walls in our house. Reading is a slower, more mindful and intentional manner of enjoying stories, though I am not ready to dismiss audiobooks altogether.

Creative women and success. This subject has been occupying my thoughts as of late.

Book towers. I don’t feel ready to give it a try; however, I enjoyed the well-written essay, and it’s an interesting concept to contemplate.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing this blog with a friend! Wishing you a week of mindful connection!

Renewal

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching. – Emily Carr

A few captures from the past week:

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As we welcome Spring in the northern hemisphere, we are invited to reflect on what, in our personal lives, is waiting to be reawakened. What has been dormant throughout a winter of hibernation and a lazy pace?

Last week was the annual spring break for the Wanderlust Juniors, though the weather made it feel more like mid-January with a windy, cold start to the week. We could be found at home, nursing ourselves to good health; I’m still waiting for my voice to return after a bout of laryngitis. In seeking comfort, we turned to the typical old-fashioned — or maybe the currently trendy hygge-esque — wool blankets and mugs of tea with honey, made forts, watched movies while munching popcorn, and crafted. Today, however, I feel ready to return to my routine and renew my intention to create magic.

I am renewing my commitment to sit in meditation for 10-15 minutes in the morning, following my physical practice. Although I love meditation for its soothing quality and as a disciplinary practice, my practice has lately become sporadic. I am ready to reignite the spark of inspiration.

Is there an intention that you are ready to renew? Please tell me about it in the commends below. 

Favourites from around the web:

I am made of equal parts wanderlust and homebody fibres, as is this writer.

Guided meditation from Tara Brach.

Inspiring podcasts.

More on decluttering.

Wisdom from Mary Oliver.

From the archives:

Feeling yoga.

What meditation is really like.

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“Hibernation.”

Wishing you a week of gentle awakenings and inspiration! Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Three relationships

treatfortI opened my email inbox this afternoon to find the Daily JOMO newsletter from Christina Crook. In today’s quest toward a slower, more mindful life, Christina invites us to focus on three important people and to dedicate some time to them. When I first heard of the idea of choosing merely three people toward whom to direct my attention, I felt limited, immediately retorting that I am fortunate to have more than three people in my life about whom I care deeply and whom I wish to honour. Yet, I don’t believe that we are meant to think of the invitation in absolute terms. The choice can be turned into a daily ritual of intention-setting. The people we choose might be different every day or might remain the same for a week at a time. It does not undermine our relationship with anyone else who is dear to us.

I considered my day today, at home with the Wanderlust Juniors, feeling tired due to the new adjustment to daylight saving time and having been awakened too early to tend to a boy with a — thankfully — mild case of food poisoning. My attention was required here, ready to assist with the construction of play forts; entertaining two little artists by sharing the pages of a colouring book; making raw chocolate treats; and slicing apples at snack time. Here were two relationships that demanded my undivided attention. The third person was my mum, who brought along treats for teatime and with whom I enjoyed a couple of lovely — albeit short — hours.

The three people often choose us. All that is required of us is to accept the invitation to remain present.

Please remember to click ‘share’ to tell your friends about Mindful Daydreamer.

Favourites: March 10th edition

A few simple highlights from the past week:

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A delightful new knitting project!

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A great book.

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Our current quick-and-easy ‘go to’ dessert: banana and chocolate chip cake.

From around the web:

Important for HSP to remember.

A mindful approach to difficult emotions.

Self-care.

Environmental responsibility..

More mindfulness.

For the yogis.

On letting go of books. Mr. Wanderlust and I recently significantly downsized our enormous library; we can empathize with the author of this story.

Life lessons.

Instagram Favourite:

I enjoy following the explorations of Zero Waste Chef. Her profile states the three inspiring rules she follows to run her kitchen: “Rule #1 no packaging. Rule #2 nothing processed. Rule #3 no trash.”

Wishing you a tranquil weekend!

Favourites from around the web: March 3rd edition

So, it is March, the first month of spring in the northern hemisphere. In spite of that fact, in southern Ontario, the cold weather prevails right now, and with it the will to hibernate. I have been craving time to read and craft. January and February were exceptionally busy months for us, and I feel called to slow down.

How are you doing?

If, like me, your interest lies with solitude and a slower pace, you might enjoy the following:

A few moments for meditation, or podcasts to enjoy.

Taming anxiety-driven thoughts.

Food for thought, for educators and parents.

Holding onto old-fashioned presence.

I learned to cook, do laundry, and manage other aspects of my home on my own, but I have always been a solitary learner. This concept is alternative and intriguing.

One week at a time.

Here’s to a tranquil weekend!

Slow mornings

Sunday morning.

A few overripe bananas alone in the centre of a large ornate bowl.

Hungry bellies await breakfast.

A yawn escapes while the countertop is set with a metal bowl, a whisk, and measuring cups.

The bananas are peeled, then mashed.

Milk is poured, with juice of half a lemon squeezed to replace buttermilk.

Coconut oil melts in the skillet.

The dry and wet ingredients intermingle in a large bowl.

A handful of chocolate chips tossed into the mix. Why not?

Coconut oil sizzles as batter is poured onto the hot surface.

The routine is tranquil, meditative.

The kettle emits a gentle whistle as the water inside boils.

Tea. Pancakes. Coffee. Maple syrup.

Simple, like Sunday morning.

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In the interest of saving time amid a busy weekday routine, we celebrated Fat Tuesday a couple of days early. In truth, Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition chez nous. Here is our favourite banana and chocolate chip pancake recipe:

Ingredients:

2 medium-size very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup buttermilk (or a cup of milk with lemon juice squeezed into it)
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut sugar or white sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
handful of chocolate chips
additional coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, bananas, buttermilk, sugar, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter showly. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently.

Fry 2-3 minutes per side on a skillet lightly greased with coconut oil or butter. Serve with maple syrup and/or other favourites.

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Place share a favourite pancake recipe in the comments below.
 

Valentine’s yoga: new video

Some of my readers might remember the YouTube yoga channel on which I used to share videos. For several reasons, I chose to put the channel to rest after two or three years. Over the past weekend, I created a new YouTube home with the intention of sharing short but effective yoga practices with you, based on my personal practice. It is my hope that the videos will benefit anyone with a schedule that might not allow for a regular full-length practice. Once upon a time, I could not conceive of the idea that a yoga practice could be less than one hour in length. When the Wanderlust Juniors were born, I had to change that perception in order to fit self-care into an already packed schedule. You might choose to practise in the morning before work or before the children wake up for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or in the evening before dinner. Your practice is yours to coordinate into your schedule.

As I set out to film the video, the Wanderlust Juniors were playing quietly in the basement. Toward the end, however, and in spite of the closed doors, the sounds grew louder, as they most often will when two school-age boys lose themselves in a game of pretend. The neighbour’s dogs likely became excited by the sight of a squirrel in a backyard tree, adding to the sound effects. As I reviewed the video, I started to note these and various other aspects that did not appeal to me. I started to become self-critical. The truth is, dear reader, I felt slightly nervous while filming. I considered not uploading the video, thinking it might be wise to re-film. I scrapped those thoughts for now. The video, as you see it, is honest, real, and almost completely unscripted. This is me, in my home, with all the sounds that surround me on a daily basis. I reminded myself that there I was, reviewing a video I made with a focus on self-love; I should walk the talk. Please do not judge too harshly. In the future, I will continue to play with filming while figuring out how to improve angles, lighting, sound, and more.

In the meantime, please enjoy this self-love practice, and leave a comment below this post or below the video to let me know the one thing (or more) that you love and appreciate about yourself. Please also remember to share this blog and video with your friends. Thank you for your support.

 

Making February a bit brighter

Last week, I overheard an exchange between two colleagues who were complaining about February, referring to it sarcastically as everyone’s favourite month of the year. Many years ago, I might have agreed with them and rolled my eyes at yet another cold winter month, but these days, I refuse to join the pity party. Instead, I focus on self-care, and at the risk of sounding nauseatingly sweet and obnoxiously bubbly, I will confess that I do seek the silver lining. February is a month I celebrate. Here are a few special occasions and favourite rituals that help to make my February a bit brighter:

Aquarian birthdays. Dear reader, you might dislike astrology and think of it as bogus pseudoscience at best. Some days, I agree with you. However, I also happen to really like Aquarians and their eccentric, artsy, often off-the-wall quirky personality traits. A friend who studied astrology gifted me ten years ago with a birth chart, which showed that my Moon sign is in Aquarius. Perhaps that is one reason why I feel such a connection to these fascinating people. The youngest Wanderlust Junior is my favourite Aquarius and we celebrate his birthday this month. The birthdays of my children are as important (or perhaps even more important) to me as they are to them. The births of my children were the most pivotal moments in my and Mr. Wanderlust’s lives. So bring on the celebration. This year, it will be a small one for us, but we are making the most of it.

Valentine’s Day. Again, some of you might dislike this consumerist pseudo-holiday. And once again, I nod my head. Yet, amid the worldwide sadness, confusion, and anxiety that affects us at this time, I think we can use any excuse to celebrate LOVE. To me, Valentine’s Day is not a reason to spend money on overpriced chocolate and heart-shaped everything for a romantic partner — though that is a perfectly valid way to celebrate and I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to chocolate. Instead, it’s an invitation to reconnect to the love that resides within us and abounds all around us. It’s a reminder to take better care of ourselves, to practise self-love, and to express gratitude toward our friends and loved ones.

Shrove Tuesday. In the interest of refraining from over-scheduling our weekday mornings, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday on the Sunday prior with a fancy pancake breakfast. It helps that Sundays are traditional pancake breakfast days in our household, but we make this one ever more naughty with extra chocolate chips in our pancakes, and perhaps even a bit of Nutella on the side. Oh my!

Tea. After experiencing several health concerns that were exacerbated by coffee consumption, and after attempting to give up my love affair with java for the past several years, I have finally given it up. I still enjoy an espresso or a flat white from time to time (about once a month, to be exact), but tea has become my choice for a hot beverage. I love Earl Grey in the morning and drink green, rooibos, and mint tea throughout the day to stay warm and hydrated.

Essential oils. I enjoy using my oil diffuser to freshen the air in our home and keep the Wanderlust Juniors breathing easy at night. A few drops of eucalyptus oil work wonders for night-time congestion.

Electric blanket. At the end of the day, I look forward to snuggling in bed with Wanderlust Juniors while reading books to them before bedtime, then continuing to read my book until my eyelids become heavy. The warm fleecy blanket is a life saver on cold nights and makes bedtime reading even more enjoyable. The key is to remember to unplug it before falling asleep.

Fireside yoga. On chilly mornings, the thought of rolling out my mat in front of the blazing fireplace makes it much easier to get out of bed, and my muscles and joints thank me.

Epsom salt baths with lavender oil. This is my favourite weekly treat before bedtime, usually on Saturday nights.

Your turn! What helps to make your February a bit brighter? Please leave a comment below.

And remember, this is the shortest month of the year, so let’s enjoy it while it’s here. Spring surely must be lurking somewhere around the corner.

Little reminders

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On this last Sunday in January, I crave silence. My body wants to return to bed, snuggle under the fluffy duvet, retreat from responsibility. But the boys have politely asked for pancakes for breakfast, a favourite weekend tradition chez Wanderlust. They have been waiting patiently, playing downstairs, graciously granting us extra time to lie in. Our late breakfast, complete with leftover fruit salad the Wanderlust Juniors and I prepared the day before, is a welcome treat. Soon enough, we will get up and one of us will begin washing the dishes, then repairing the leaky faucet, while the other folds laundry with the help of Wanderlust Juniors. It’s a typical busy weekend morning.

Amid the busyness — oh, how ubiquitous that word has become, and how disliked — we allow ourselves pauses, making time to enjoy a cup of tea while reading an essay in a new favourite book; rolling out the yoga mat for a quick practice; watering the indoor plants and moving one of them to a new, brighter location where it immediately assumes a grateful appearance; knitting a few rows; or plucking the strings to create a melody. Those mini pauses are sweet reminders to make space to experience wonder.

Magic is waiting to be reawakened. It’s here, in the pile of freshly washed sheets and bathroom towels, as well as in the hoodies and jeans the pockets of which I forgot, yet again, to empty before throwing them in the wash. It’s in the chaos of the kitchen, the natural heart of our home, and in the solitude of the bedroom and the meticulously made bed, which inevitably attracts two enthusiastic boys who use it as a jumping pad.

The magic is there. It leaps out suddenly from a hilarious sentence uttered amid a serious discussion, when all pretenses are dropped and we start to breathe a little easier, snapping out of that bizarre spell, wondering yet again why we take ourselves so darn seriously so much of the time when joy is our natural state.

We need to take time out to remind ourselves of the strange pleasure of returning to the chaos, to the heart of our home, ready to greet our favourite people with renewed patience and compassion. Here and now, this is our calling. Would we really rather be anywhere else?

Are you enjoying there short essays? I would be grateful if you would also share them with your friends via email or social media. Thank you for reading!