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:
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?
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I wanted to take 15 minutes to answer a few emails and update my Facebook page. Half an hour later, a noise from the adjacent room startled me and I jumped, snapping out of my social media-induced trance, realizing that I had been scrolling my newsfeed mindlessly. At what point did I tread off my intended task of updating the blog page and into the Facebook deep-water whirlpool territory? I would guess it started at the 15-minute mark, after the updates had been posted and when I started to procrastinate. Within those 15 minutes, I could have put away the embarrassingly high pile of laundry that had grown before me earlier that day, played with my children, practised a few poses on my mat or meditated, or played the harp.
Like many others, I often venture off my focused, intentional path. However, I much prefer to approach my days with awareness, carefully designing a schedule that allows me and my family to cross important tasks off our ‘to do’ lists while carving out time for what is most important. Like many others, I have often caught myself saying, “I haven’t been knitting / playing the harp as of late because things have been so busy.” Two years ago, I started to track how I spent my days and what I do during those designated 15-minute breaks that I allow myself in the midst of cleaning the house, doing laundry, etc. Although I no longer track my schedule, I have become more conscious of how I choose to spend my time.
It occurred to me that I could get on my yoga mat, read a chapter or two in a book, journal, or practise playing a new song within several short increments of time throughout the day. When I make a conscious effort to carve out those mini breaks every day, I no longer complain about not having enough time to do what I love and what nourishes and inspires me, allowing me to be healthier and more relaxed. I call those 15 minutes my self-care break. It’s important for me to schedule them into my day. I don’t often have an hour-long chunk of time during which to practise yoga, play the harp, knit, read, or engage in my other umpteen interests. However, I am able to create 15-minute segments four times per day during which I can enjoy one of those activities, ending the day on a calmer note, feeling more fulfilled. Self-care is a priority.
How do you make time for what you enjoy most? Please share your tips in the comments below.
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Last year, I set out to focus on being Present in 2016. This year, my intention continues to build on the themes of presence, awareness, and mindfulness, to pay close attention to and seek out the magic that surrounds us every day. I also acknowledge that often, magic is in a spark that lurks just beneath the surface, waiting to be reawakened by our inspiration to live a life that is more robust, reaching beyond the bleak, dust-covered exterior, allowing ourselves to mine deeper with our own curiosity toward a greater potential.
And so, my goal — or mantra, if you will — for 2017 is to create magic.
I will make more time and space:
to sit in silence
to meet a friend for tea and heart-to heart conversation
to laugh with my loved ones
to enjoy family hikes
to practise yoga, moving with ease
to make music
to play with fun recipes in the kitchen
to make cosy, pretty pieces using luxurious yarn
When we make self-care a priority and consciously clear space for what matters most, we create magic.
What I do not want is to rush, to feel scattered, and to waste time. To me, those actions are the antithesis of magic. They dull creativity instead of stoking its precious embers.
Do you have a goal, mantra, or word for 2017? To help you fine-tune your focus, you may wish to reflect on the following:
What practices worked for me last year?
What actions and/or habits did not serve me last year?
What do I want more of in the new year?
Spend some time journaling, then read your responses and look for key words that show up on the page. Use those words to create your goal statement or mantra, or choose one or more words on which to focus this year.
If you would like to share your word / goal / mantra with me, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a creative 2017!
Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.
Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment!
If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:
This year, I am starting the month of December with a radical new holiday intention. Instead of rushing to and fro, over-planning, and over-indulging, I choose to do one task at a time, say ‘no’ to what I do not want to do or because it simply doesn’t feel right at this time, and slow down to sustain my mindfulness practice. I intend to move as much as possible every day, even if I can only spare 15 minutes in the morning after a later-than-usual night. Speaking of late nights, I also vow to go to bed earlier, whenever possible. Like many, I require additional rest in the darker, colder months of the year to remain healthy and feel well-rested.
In addition to those usual self-care intentions, I am taking on a challenge that to many might seem completely counter-intuitive right before the holidays: I’m giving up refined sugar. I could have waited until January to quit sugar, but I don’t believe in wasting time, nor do I enjoy waiting to do something that I can do right now, especially if it is a beneficial change that I can make today.
For me, refined sugar (white or brown) is a substance on which I have come to depend, and this, to me, is problem. While some might be able to have one cookie once per week, then happily enjoy a few dessert-free days, that cookie sends me into a frenzy every time, amplifying cravings. According to Gretchen Rubin, I am an abstainer and as much as I might wish to convince myself that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, it turns out that when it comes to sugar, it is far from the truth for me. And so, on this first day of December, my challenge is to stop consuming sugar. Is this a permanent change? Maybe. Nothing is permanent, nor, in my opinion, should we expect it to be. I might choose to eat dessert on special occasions, if it feels right, or I might decide to remain strict with myself once and for all. Dessert ceases to appeal to me when I have been sugar-free for a couple of weeks. So, resisting treats at Christmas should be a piece of — sugar-free — cake.
I do indulge by substituting maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, and honey for white and brown sugar when baking cakes and cookies or preparing oatmeal for breakfast. Personally, I do not ever develop a dependence on those healthier sweet alternatives and therefore am able to indulge in them mindfully, in moderation.
Do you wait until after the holidays to set resolutions for a healthier lifestyle? Is there an intention that you would like to set for the month of December?
In the midst of chaos, may we remember to return to the source, to continue to seek stillness. When the ground beneath our feet feels unstable and an ache pulses in our chests, may we remember to look to Nature for the greater lessons. May we continue to tend to our gardens and hearths, to smile at our children and marvel at the special fleeting moments of grace.
May we find comfort in uncertainty and trust that love will prevail.
I would love to tell you that I wake up at 5 a.m. every day, feeling refreshed and wide awake, ready to hop on my mat and flow through a perfect practice. Go ahead, picture me in headstand, handstands, and various fancy arm balances. Some mornings, that’s precisely what I do. On other days, I choose to sleep.
The Autumn season, though I love it, often leaves me tired, adding at least an extra hour to my sleep requirements. Tack onto that additional responsibilities at home and at work, and I often feel too fatigued by 9 p.m. to keep my eyes open for a chapter in the current book that I’m reading. In the mornings after less than 7 hours of sleep, I sometimes feel groggy when my alarm clock goes off and, realizing that there is no way I could possibly drag myself out of bed, I choose to sleep for an extra hour instead of using that time to work out. For me, sleep now takes priority over exercise. When I ignore my sleep needs and power through a workout, or anything else on my daily agenda, my immune system suffers. Such is the fate of the Vata dosha.
Rest assured, I do make time for exercise, even if it’s 10 minutes of yoga or 20 minutes of yoga and pilates. Movement in the morning is what wakes me up, especially since I rarely drink coffee these days. Sometimes, if my schedule permits, I take a walk at lunchtime, which often gives me a boost for the afternoon at the office. And some nights, when I’m able to get to bed before 9 o’clock, I wake up at 5 o’clock the following morning, feeling ready for a vigorous cardio barre pilates and Vinyasa workout. Since routine keeps me in check, I do my best to be in bed before 9 p.m. in order to wake up refreshed at 5 a.m.
Each day is different, and I remind myself to make healthy choices as I go, focusing on infusing my day with the lessons of yoga, rather than leaving my practice on the mat. I practise Ujjayi breathing while seated at my desk. I remind myself to maintain good posture and stretch periodically while at my computer. I move as much as I can throughout the day, drink plenty of hot water and herbal tea, and enjoy healthy meals. This is my balance. I’m doing my best, and that’s enough.
How do you maintain a healthy balance when life picks up its pace? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.
Last week, during a drive to and from cottage country for a work-related event, I listened to The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at Itby Kelly McGonigal. The idea that stress is not dangerous is relatively new to me. Ten years ago, I used to avoid difficult situations and experiences because of the stress and anxiety that they most often connote. Since then, I have learned that when we try to avoid potentially challenging situations, we often do so to our own detriment. Instead, by accepting each scenario as it comes, responding to it accordingly while keeping a focused and calm mindset, we can deal with stress in a mature and mindful manner. Our response to a situation determines our experience.
Yet, our mindset is only one piece of the puzzle. As a yoga and meditation practitioner and guide, I have learned that the state of the mind influences our physical and emotional states. As a student of Ayurveda, I have also learned that our physical energy and the energy of our environment have a tremendous influence on our emotional and mental wellness. If I spend a quiet evening at home, by 9 p.m., I feel blissfully tired, both in my mind and body. If, instead, I spend several hours before bedtime running errands and doing housework, my mind is abuzz due to my physiological state.
September has been a busy time for our family. I typically avoid the use of that ubiquitous word because of its myriad convoluted meanings. For most of us, life moves fast and we must prioritize. The autumn Vata season is a time when we tend to start new projects, take on too much, and generally run ourselves off our feet, feeling spaced out and far from grounded. For me, whose dominant dosha is Vata, this is a time of year when I especially must make self-care a priority, eating warm and unctuous foods, keeping up with my daily warm oil massages, drinking hot liquids, moving slower, and enjoying plenty of rest. Yet, over the past few weeks, with changes to our family’s routines, I have not had many chances to slow down. Instead of going to bed earlier, I catch myself loading the washer and cleaning the kitchen at a late hour. We have been working diligently to avoid over-scheduling, paying no mind to the expectations of our fast-moving society and the priorities of the people who surround us. It has not been easy to completely isolate ourselves from those expectations, to heed only to our own directions. Yet, we remind ourselves that we know ourselves best and must continue to prioritize self-care, creating a schedule that feels intuitive and logical to us, whenever possible setting aside less important tasks for another time.
Here is today’s lesson: Stress is real and inevitable, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, we must continue to approach life with a lighter attitude. Nevertheless, we must also make space for ourselves to slow down and pay closer attention to our own physical and emotional signals, instead of trusting the power of the mind to get us through challenging situations. Self-care must always remain a priority.