A different narrative

Do you ever talk to yourself? In case you are worried about feeling snubbed by people who might claim to never have so much as thought about talking to themselves, don’t. A few days ago, I listened to this podcast about the merits of talking to oneself in the third person, with reference to research that has shown that doing so can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety through compassionate awareness.

I remember a time in my teenage years when I sat on the bathroom counter in my parents’ home, gazing curiously at the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I believe I might have shed those tears over some boy, but that’s an insignificant detail. As I sat and stared at my reflection, the writer in my head started to draw a narrative to describe the situation, complete with an illustration of the warm droplets on my face and how delicate my wet eyelashes appeared at that moment. The narrator’s descriptions made my inner turmoil seem commonplace, banal, and I soon turned my attention to something more interesting, allowing time to heal the pain.

The writer / narrator in my head has saved me many times by plucking me out of perpetually swirling anxiety-ridden thoughts and casting me in the role of an observer looking in from the outside. Gosh, I realise how strange all this might sound to some. Yet, it works for me, and it appears that others also have had similar experiences.

The premise of the research to which Jonathan Fields refers in the podcast is that when a situation goes sour and we are tempted to turn to self-deprecating talk of ‘not good enough,’ we can instead describe the scenario from the point of view of an observer. It’s the difference between, “I’m an awful mother. I failed today as a mother when my child threw a tantrum at the shopping centre and I ended up yelling at her in front of crowds of people” and, “(Insert name here) is a mother who had a challenging day today. After a restless night of taking care of her toddler, who keeps waking several times throughout the night, and having not had enough coffee, she lost her patience while shopping with her daughter. It was not a pleasant situation, but it’s over. The mother and toddler both need an afternoon nap to recharge and reconnect.”

The latter approach of talking about ourselves as an observer allows us an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate a situation from a more compassionate place. I will continue to refer to this approach as listening to the voice of the mindful writer or narrator within. Care to try it? Have you tried it?

I’m curious to read about your experience with talking about yourself in the third person. Won’t you please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Photo by Christichka Photography.

Silver hair, maturity, and why I celebrate my age

“The weird thing is, you get more comfortable in yourself, even as time is giving you less reason for it. When you’re young and beautiful, you’re paranoid and miserable. I think one of the great advantages of getting older is that you let go of certain things.” – Helen Mirren

In a couple of days, I will officially be in a new age bracket on those ubiquitous household surveys. Trivial questionnaires aside, signs of aging inevitably appear from time to time in the strands of silver hair that sparkle in the sunlight, and little laugh lines that radiate from the corners of my eyes when I smile. Some might say I should start thinking of colouring my hair or consider the latest injections, but in truth, I love my sparkly hair, and laugh lines have never concerned me. There is plenty to celebrate about turning 35:

I choose to be curious and celebrate the changes I experience in my body. I may not be as flexible as I was 15 years ago, but I am stronger in my yoga practice and feel comfortable about slowing down instead of pushing myself to go faster and to burn more calories. My joints might talk to me from time to time, and I treat them with the kindness of warm oil massages, baths with epsom salt, and warm, nourishing meals. I no longer count calories and try to burn them off during intense cardio sessions or with sweaty power yoga. Slow-flowing yet challenging Vinyasa, interspersed with delicious Yin and meditation practices feel better in my body. I pay closer attention to my digestive health and cycle-sync my fitness plan.

If it were possible to return to my early 20s, with the life experience I now have under my belt and a more mature outlook on life, I would have been more successful in university and with my career. I do not wish I could re-write the past, but I value the opportunity to continue to progress and learn, and learn, and learn. There are still many unanswered questions and so much to discover.

In my 20s, I seized opportunities but had to learn to say ‘no’ to what in retrospect I knew from the start was not the right fit for me. Today, with the intention of holding space for self-care and to offer a greater focus where my attention is most needed, I do not hesitate to decline certain invitations. In the same breath, I say ‘Yes’ to other incredible opportunities, even when I feel that my knowledge or talents might not be adequate. Instead, I prepare myself to learn as I go. I confidently create room for potential. I teach my children to do the same. It is my wish for them to feel confident in themselves and their abilities, but also to strive to do better and to be better versions of themselves every day.

I dress better in my 30s than I did 10 years ago and feel more comfortable in my body. I know what works best for my body and what I can wear to look elegant yet comfortable at the same time. Cute and tiny string bikinis were once a must for me at the beach; otherwise, I felt, I looked uncool. Today, I prioritise sun safety. Although I still favour two-piece swimwear (I have a long torso and generally do not enjoy one-piece suits), I also don long-sleeved linen button-down shirts, wide-brim hats, and slather physical sunblock on any part of my body exposed to the sun.

I read better books today, both fiction and non-fiction. I read books that nurture my creative side and help me to be a better mother, partner, yogi, writer, and teacher. I also read books that challenge my worldview and expand my knowledge base.

The silver hair and age lines are inevitable, and they come with a beautiful territory. I admire confident older women with impeccable style and their hair in a chic silver bob, with perfectly manicured nails and Manolo Blahniks. Getting older need not suggest letting one’s hair grow wild or wearing baggy clothes to hide one’s figure. I hope that I will, some day, get to be a chic silver-haired grandmother who rocks gorgeous high heels (okay, maybe just on special occasions). For now, I celebrate with gratitude 34 wonderful years and look forward to what the coming year has to offer.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below. How do you feel about aging naturally? 

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.


Favourites from around the web:

On yoga and aging: A fantastic interview with Desiree Rumbaugh and Michelle Marchildon

Women and Moon-Cycle Empowerment – A great interview on how we can be more in tune with our bodies by cycle-syncing not only our yoga practice but also how we design our lives off the mat.

How to Build Resilience in Midlife – Excellent tips to practise staying resilient to overcome setbacks. I think this is a must-read for everyone.

Leap When You’re Almost Ready – We don’t ever have to be 100% ready to make a move. As Mr. Wanderlust likes to say, I tend to jump the gun without thinking something through. I always respond that I say ‘Yes’ first, then figure things out as I go. When I go with the flow, the experience exhilarates me but never leaves me feeling terrified.

Minimalism is a lifelong practice

We started to downsize our possessions well over two years ago, evaluating the items that we use on a frequent basis and discarding the ones that rested on an out-of-reach shelf at the back of the linen closet. We have been working to simplify our lifestyle while continuing to enjoy our adventure. One might assume that after two years, having sold a house and moved overseas, we would have pared down our possessions to our maximum benefit. At least, that’s what we thought. Three months in a small house allow plenty of opportunity for reflection on what one needs to live comfortably.

During those months, we rented a small two-bedroom beach bach (kiwi-speak for ‘cottage’) while waiting for our shipment container to arrive. Last week, upon moving into our house, we were reunited with some 90 boxes of various sizes, containing the items we had packed four and a half months ago to be shipped from Canada to NZ.

While staying in the beach house, we had not missed much of what we had shipped. We had everything we needed, and we were reminded of just how little one truly needs to live comfortably. Our clothes were stored inside individual suitcases, and for the first few days after moving into our house, I worked to become accustomed to walking into my closet to get dressed in the morning, instead of reaching for a suitcase. Shortly after we landed in NZ, I purchased an immersion blender in lieu of a larger standing blender. This small blender works perfectly for smoothies and soups, yet does not take up much room inside the kitchen cupboard. Several weeks ago, while baking a cake for the eldest Wanderlust Junior’s birthday, it occurred to me that I did not have a mixer to make frosting. I used the said immersion blender and the result was better than expected. These days, I choose multi-purpose tools and only spend money on what I know I will use frequently.

Although we were happy to be reunited with a few favourite items, we also understood that we had shipped certain items that we had outgrown within the past few months. Mr. Wanderlust and I understood, after looking at the too-many travel souvenirs that we had kept, that we no longer enjoy many of those items. They are sitting in a box that is to be donated to an op shop (thrift shop, for the non-kiwis). After drowning in the numerous photo albums we had brought with us, I made a decision to stop printing photos on a regular basis. This also applies to our wardrobe. I learned recently that I prefer to wear well-made black, grey, or dark blue tights for yoga, leading me to donate the colourful tights that had been sitting sadly in my closet, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Uncomfortable yoga tops accompanied them in the donations bin.

Some might think that simplifying one’s wardrobe means living with 10-30 items of clothing, and while I do have a seasonal capsule wardrobe, I admit to still having too many items in my closet and will continue to pare down. Some might think that minimalism means living in a tiny home. Others might expect a minimalist to have one nine-to-five job in the interest of simplifying the routine. I work multiple jobs with non-standard hours, and I enjoy this rhythm. Minimalism might be the latest fad word, but for me, it is a lifestyle practice that I am pursuing at my own pace as I continue to re-evaluate what works best for me and my family today.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below. I’d like to know whether you have a bin into which you add items to donate to an op / thrift shop.

Four Things I Learned Recently

This is an exciting week for our family, and I promise to tell you more about it in a few days. For now, I will share with you four things that I learned recently and which you might find interesting in reference to your own health and wellness:

1. A lack of routine can present a setback. 

I stumbled and have been working to get back up. Following our move to NZ, my regular fitness regimen took a hit. Although I have continued to exercise, I lost my routine of waking early in the morning for yoga. We have been staying in a small, charming beach house, and although we are fortunate to have these accommodations, it has proved to be challenging to find room in the house where I could exercise without waking my family. As an INFP, routine is of paramount importance to me. If I don’t schedule something into my calendar, it might not happen at all. Likewise, although I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle and my energy levels are the highest early in the day, in the winter when the sun rises late, if I don’t make the effort to go to bed early and wake up before everyone else, I might not make time later in the day for my yoga practice. This week, I have adapted a new routine and am diligently working to stick with it. How do you feel about steady routines? Do you tend to veer off the path when on holidays?

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2. Variety and consistency are the key to a good fitness regimen.

Speaking of exercise, it might sound funny, but I designate certain days of the week as my cardio days. As I mentioned above, if I don’t schedule something in my calendar, I might never get to it. I do enjoy cardio and toning; both forms of fitness benefit and complement my yoga practice. Yet, sometimes, I forget about them altogether. Even with a consistent fitness regimen, I need variety. Some days, I enjoy ballet barre-style exercise, and on other days, I combine toning and cardio into one fun cardio pilates routine. Similarly with yoga, I might start with Vinyasa and end with Yin, then the next day opt for a restorative practice if that is what my body craves. The key is to design the practice intuitively. How do you feel about scheduling exercise? What criteria do you use when choosing a fitness regimen?

3. Different personality types have drastically distinct approaches toward starting a business.

Listen to the podcast here. This explains why Mr. Wanderlust is more inclined toward playing things safe when it comes to starting new projects, whereas I am more likely to abandon all prior commitments to launch directly into something novel and exciting. It turns out neither of us is wrong in our approaches. I’m curious to read about how this applies to your personality type and perhaps to your business venture or special project.

P.S. In the above podcast, there is also an update on new research that indicates that consumption of fruit and vegetables can nourish not only the body but also the mind, fuelling creativity and curiosity.

4. Aromatherapy continues to come to my rescue.

A few years ago, I started to experiment with essential oils. I am sensitive to various conventional products and, naturally, don’t want my family to be exposed to harmful substances. As such, I continue to concoct my own natural cleaning products for my yoga mat and for our home. Likewise, I only use skincare products that are naturally derived and gentle on my skin. I have always enjoyed specific scents but have recently become increasingly sensitive to certain fragrances, leading me to be selective about products that are not strongly scented but nevertheless provide me with a welcome aromatherapy boost. I was recently introduced to HZP + Co, a company based in the Bay of Plenty, our new home in NZ, which creates natural skincare products with the most delicious light scents. I can’t say enough about the beautiful Hydra-Defence Serum and Cream to Body Oil, created with local kiwifruit, mamaku leaf, and kowhai extracts. The Wake Me Up Splashwater, with a blend of citrus oils, has become my magic mist on dark mornings when it’s challenging to roll out of bed. Do you enjoy scented skincare and/or home cleaning products? What are a few of your favourite scents?

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Do you have a few additional minutes to stay and read? 

One year ago on the blog: Anniversary

Two years ago on the blog: Marriage Lessons from the Past Nine Years

A favourite from around the web: The Myth of the Teachable Moment

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A tranquil scene on one of the beautiful paths to the summit of Mount Maunganui
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Exploring Papamoa Hills

Please leave a comment below to join the conversation, and thank you, as always, for sharing this blog with a friend! 

Self-care and intentional usage of social media

I have always had a conflicted relationship with social media. I opened a Facebook account in 2007, when the platform was in its early stages and the question at every social gathering was, “Are you on Facebook?” I was newly married at the time and spent my days in the corporate world while working toward a Master degree in the evenings. Facebook became a fun way to connect with current and past classmates. A year later, the initial excitement wore off and after an episode of social drama, I deleted my account.

Two years later, when I was pregnant with my first baby, I joined an online forum on which I made friends with other expecting mothers. Inevitably, our friendship migrated from the forum to Facebook, and I created a new account for myself to remain in touch with my new friends. Two years later, I completed my initial Yoga Teacher Training, started guiding classes, and used Facebook to maintain contact with the yoga community. I gave birth to my second baby and changed jobs. I’m certain that all this information is imprinted in a remote dusty corner of the platform’s memory bank. In time, like many others, I started to use Facebook as a distraction from the more serious activities that demanded my attention. I found myself scrolling mechanically instead of focusing on my work. The more I scrolled, the worse I felt. Instead of connecting with others, I felt more isolated.

I have deactivated and reactivated my account. Last year, for almost a year, I only used Facebook to update the Mindful Daydreamer page. I enjoyed my long-term social media detox and the freedom that came with the reminder that I could have dinner in a beautiful restaurant without feeling the need to take photos of the intricately presented main course. I baked muffins and didn’t snap a pic to share with my friends. We went on family trips and I didn’t announce it online. I joked about pretending to live in the lull of the early 2000s, before Facebook took over our lives. Several months ago, I created a new personal page in order to remain in touch with my friends and family who are geographically far from us. Yet, we use Skype for real conversations and again, I question the merits of the other ubiquitous platform.

I have accepted that for me, a casual attitude toward social media provokes anxiety and a sense of isolation. Call it FOMO or use the latest more popular term, but when I feel low, I find myself wondering about how to increase the number of my followers on Instagram and (almost) consider posting selfies with pseudo-inspirational comments below them. It’s an ugly downward spiral. And so, instead of deactivating my account, I have decided to use social media more responsibly.

With a focus on self-care, I have adopted the following practices to help me use social media more mindfully:

1. Never check email or social media updates first thing in the morning or within at least one hour before going to bed.

2. Check updates once or twice per day, for a limited amount of time, and with a clear purpose. I watch the clock to be sure to only use each platform for the amount of time I have allotted.

3. Refrain from posting live updates, unless with a specific purpose. From time to time, I record live Facebook talks, but I no longer post spontaneous content. I take many photos throughout the day, then share one of them if and when the timing is right. Before sharing anything, I ask myself what purpose it would serve, whether my audience would find the information useful, and whether the update is uplifting.

4. Intentionally choose to follow inspiring people and material on social media.

5. Refrain from paying attention to the numbers of followers.

6. Repeat to myself: Life is what happens when we are not staring at a screen, and most of it need not be shared online.

Do you have additional tips regarding self-care in relation to mindful usage of social media? Please share them in the comments below.

The guilt of unbusyness

When Mr. Wanderlust and I were considering a move to NZ, one of the major deciding factors was our quest toward a quieter life. We had become used to working full-time in the corporate world, rushing every morning to prepare breakfast and pack lunches before taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, then rush again to the school at 5 p.m. to pick them up from an after-school program, then rush to an evening class. Yes, I did just use the word ‘rush’ and its derivative thrice in one sentence. Our children used to spend more time at their school than we did at our workplaces. Every family must make its own decisions about how to bring up children, based on individual values, and this lifestyle never sat comfortably with me. Although we both enjoyed our work, we sought a schedule that would allow us more leeway to truly enjoy life without needing to race toward the weekend at breakneck speed. That was why we moved to NZ.

Mr. Wanderlust continues to work full-time in our new setting, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead several yoga classes per week. I am continuing to search for additional opportunities, but I do so at a more relaxed pace. After leading classes for three evenings in a row, I felt tired on Thursday last week and decided to dedicate the day to myself, to read, enjoy a leisurely walk, and do some knitting.

I would love to say that I felt gloriously relaxed while sitting on the cosy couch. Instead, I felt guilt at sitting on the couch on a weekday afternoon when many others, including my partner, were immersed in their work. I felt guilt at dedicating some time to my well-being when I could have invested that time in more lucrative pursuits. I could have spent that time preparing dinner for our family. Have you ever felt that pang of guilt? It tends to visit at the worst of times, often after we had been running off our feet and the much awaited downtime has finally arrived. That’s when it sneaks up on us.

We chose the slower life and are continuing to work toward it. I remind myself daily that there is no need to rush, or to spend every waking minute working or planning ahead for the work that is yet to be done. We do not need to schedule every minute of the day. Instead, we should carve out time to focus on self-care. We should carve out time to enjoy a walk in the park or on the beach. We should slow down to say ‘hello’ to a neighbour. We should prioritise leisure time on the couch or in bed with a great book and — in my case — yarn and needles. We should spend more time gardening, practising yoga, or enjoying a delicious cup of coffee at a favourite cafe. It’s also about becoming comfortable with the pangs of guilt that sometimes sneak up on us, then giving ourselves permission to simply sit back without adhering to a packed timetable.

Having spent the afternoon on the couch, I felt recharged as I drove to pick up the Wanderlust Juniors from school, then helped them with their homework and prepared our dinner. Here’s a little known fact of adulthood: Becoming less busy helps us to put our lives in perspective, fine-tuning our focus for the work that matters most; in turn, we end up wasting less time on what is inconsequential. 

It’s a radical decision, to work toward becoming less busy and to enjoy life at a slower pace, and I am embracing my quiet rebellious side. It’s okay to do less and be more.

How do you practise becoming less busy? Please leave a comment below.

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Beautiful Waihi Beach

Favourites from around the web:

The Kind Gesture that Helps Elizabeth Gilbert Find the Light on Her Worst Days

Creative Ways to Inspire Your Yoga Practice this Summer

The Life-Changing Habit of Journaling

How to Retain More from the Books You Read

How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day

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Waihi Beach in late June

What’s an introvert to do?

Two conversations, 14 hours apart, have served as a reminder for me to a) stop overthinking everything, b) get out of my cosy, comfortable, safe shell, and c) drop the labels.

The first exchange was with a woman whom I met on Monday evening. Having lived in several places before settling in NZ, she discreetly snuck in a peace of advice for me to work harder at making friends with the locals, many of whom, in her opinion, are more reserved than North Americans. She must have sensed a whisper-thin trace of loneliness that rested, unspoken, between the lines. Immediately, a sarcastic voice somewhere at the back of my head jeered, “Oh, lovely news for an introvert like me, who has often dreaded the mere idea of having to make the first step toward meeting people.”

On Tuesday morning, as I walked back to my car after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, a friendly voice brought me to the present moment, dissipating thoughts of a not-so-distant past. I turned my head and was met with the beautiful smile of a fellow yoga mum who beamed warmly at me as she invited me to attend a class at her studio. More reserved, my foot, I smiled to myself.

I have often hid behind the ‘introvert’ label, using it as a shield from the outside world and as an excuse to stay at home with my books, living vicariously through literary characters and their adventures instead of creating my own. Classifying myself as an introvert is akin to making a sweeping generalisation about the characteristics of a certain group of people. Besides, even extroverts enjoy a cosy evening at home from time to time.

So, what is an introvert to do in a new town, in a new country? She shall be compassionate toward herself and others. She shall ever so gently nudge herself out of her comfy shell, reminding herself of her past triumphs and hiccups that have served as incredible lessons. She shall leave behind any previous labels that have been assigned to her before and which she had assigned to herself, that have served to educate her about herself and the world around her but which, at times, can feel divisive. She shall keep an open mind and an open heart. She shall brush aside traces of doubt before they threaten to disturb her peace. She shall give herself room for introspection, but remind herself that here, in this moment, is where the potential for magic dwells.

I suspect that these reminders might also be timely for others.

Thank you for reading and sharing this blog with a friend.

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*** Both photographs used in today’s story are courtesy of the incredible Christa Pauwels of Christichka Photography. ***

Favourites from around the web:

10 Literary Romances, Put to the Happily-Ever-After Test — The perfect amount of entertainment to accompany my mid-morning tea.

Making a Marriage Magically Tidy

Integrating Yoga into Daily Life — A great podcast with Canadian yoga teachers Natalie Rousseau and Melanie Phillips

How to Care Deeply without Burning Out

How to parent like a minimalist

To the Hills – Part II, in which we meet an unlikely tour guide

The first time I visited Papamoa Hills, with the Wanderlust Juniors, we walked along the main track to the summit. A week later, when I returned to the hills with Mr. Wanderlust, we climbed over a fence, beckoned by an irresistible view, and chose to take the path less travelled. The choice was easy. We walked toward the sun and the dew-glistened grassy peaks that reminded us of a scene from The Hobbit. The main path provides a great cardio and lower body toning workout, but that’s not what we were after on this day. I have been working to move away from my old tendency to rush through life, to choose to work harder, to move faster, to get more done in a short amount of time. These days, I give myself permission to slow down and enjoy the journey. I’m tired of trying too hard to make something happen. I have been making conscious decisions to keep moving ahead with an attitude of ease and softness.

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These days, I also allow myself, from time to time, to be guided by someone — or something — else. I settle into the backseat and let someone else drive and navigate. Like Alice, I lean into the adventure and allow curiosity to write the story. We wandered along the grassy, gently sloping path, welcoming the warmth of the sun on an otherwise cool morning. As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves almost face-to-face with an unlikely tour guide: a brown cow. She stood still before us, her gaze wandering between us, the visitors, and her fellow grazers on the hillside, behind the low electric fence. Somehow, she had become separated from them.

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The cow sauntered before us and we followed at the same unhurried pace, not daring to attempt to pass behind her every time she slowed and then came to stand still. She positioned her body to block our path entirely, then reluctantly turned her head to glare at us, unimpressed. We had intruded upon her as she tried to make sense of her predicament and now waited for her to continue to move forth. We followed her lead, accompanied by the curious surveillance of the other cows whose breakfast we had interrupted. They ogled us while continuing to chew mouthfuls of grass, their scent transporting me to my childhood summers on the farm in Siberia where my mother grew up and where, much to my repugnance, my grandmother had once attempted to teach me to milk a cow.

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After a short meditative walk, our reluctant tour guide reached a fence and a locked gate, and without so much as a quick glance at us, stepped off the path with surprising grace, giving us passage over the fence, and proceeded with her own snacking on a particularly lush mound of long grass. We turned to thank our gentle guide for leading us along the path and saw that, although she remained separate from her herd, she resigned herself to this situation and continued to do what came to her with ease.

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We continued our journey, climbing over fences to sit on a bench overlooking peaceful farmlands, our new neighbourhood, and the vast ocean beyond. I twirled and danced, singing a few lines from The Sound of Music, much to the amusement of my husband, who was thankful for our solitude on that quiet hill. Then, we proceeded with our walk to the summit, relying on the maps upon which we stumbled along the way. As for our tour guide, I suspect she quietly awaited the return of the farmer at the end of the day, then gratefully followed his lead. How’s that for a lesson in acquiescence?

Are you enjoying this blog? Please share it with a friend.


 

If you were not able to join my live Facebook video earlier this week, you may watch it at your leisure. In it, I share with you my insights to help you reconnect to mindfulness and joy on a daily basis.


Interested in reading more? Here are a couple of posts from the archives:

A year ago on the blog: A story of commitment, dedication, and love

Two years ago on the blog, and something with which I continue to grapple today: A Story to Tell

To the Hills – Part I

On Tuesday, June 13th at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time / Wednesday, June 14th at 12 p.m. NZ time, I will be LIVE on Facebook, talking about how we can practise mindfulness and rediscover joy every day. I look forward to chatting with you.


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The sun’s rays broke briefly through the low moody clouds as we sat on a bench that was missing its third plank. The Wanderlust Juniors ate mandarins and granola bars, then the eldest boy fine-tuned his binoculars, a family antique gifted to him by my dad, to better observe the sheep grazing on the hillside. The gloomy clouds reflected our thoughts and emotions, having said goodbye to Mr. Wanderlust the night before at the airport. On Day 1 of his week-long business trip, we felt his absence.

I gently encouraged the Wanderlust Juniors to continue walking up the track to the summit of Papamoa Hills. Reluctantly, they agreed to my idea with the promise that they would later relax at home with a movie. Given a choice, in a manner not at all resembling their usual enthusiasm for adventure outings, they would have spent that entire day indoors, coming up with ideas that would inevitably lead to some kind of trouble. In the interest of self-care, and in trying to keep a copacetic state in my household, I could not have agreed to such a proposition. We needed to leave our small beach bungalow, with its stuffy misplaced emotions. I needed to clear my head of concern about Mr. Wanderlust as I waited to learn of his safe arrival at his destination after a 16-hour flight. I also needed space to breathe after having stopped too many mischievous incidents within the first hour after the boys’ too-early rising. Shortly after 8 o’clock, having packed a small picnic and my camera, we took a short drive to the hills.

The crystal-clear air beckoned forth as we walked the inclining path. The low silver pillows of clouds hovered menacingly overhead, yet we solemnly continued our trek. One boy would stop after every few steps to play dreamily with stones that he picked up along the way, or to collect a couple of sticks. The other would race ahead, then halt and wait for us to catch up. It would be dishonest of me to say that I did not at times feel a pang of frustration at the snail’s pace of our walk. That feeling would arise every time I noticed that another person who had passed by us not long ago on the way up was already returning down the path toward us. I reminded myself to enjoy the flow, however slow it may feel at times, to stop when they stop, to move when they move, to forget my agenda and give up control. Besides, I shrugged, anything is better than trying to entertain two bored boys inside a small home. Before long, we had reached the summit but did not linger. The triumphant ascend reminded my two excitable boys of their adventurous enthusiasm and they raced each other along the winding track to the parking lot.

Later, at home, following a comforting Skype chat with Mr. Wanderlust, the atmosphere felt significantly lighter. The sky released its own heavy weight as the rain came after lunch, making our afternoon at home with a movie and banana-chocolate chip cake all the more cosy.

A week later, Mr. Wanderlust and I returned to the hills for a morning date. Come back on Friday to read part II of the story, in which I tell you of our outing with an unlikely tour guide.

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Favourites from around the web:

Wisdom from Anne Lamott

In defence of slow fitness This is my approach to exercise.

Networking 101: Make Friends Not Contacts

Five ways to survive entertaining as an introvert This is always a good reminder for me.

Something quirky for the fellow grammar nerd: The Oxford Comma’s Online Dating Profile

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

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The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

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Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

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We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

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Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

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Adorable residents of the mount.

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Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!