My goal for 2017: Create Magic

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.

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I will make more time and space:

  • to read
  • to write
  • 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 dance
  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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If you would like to share your word / goal / mantra with me, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a creative 2017!

Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

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:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

Festive season yoga time-out

Have you been busy? Although it’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, the festivities often start in early December. On top of that, there is the seemingly endless list of things to do and people to see before and during the holidays. For me, this pace has felt too hectic and I am looking forward to slowing down, taking some time to spend in solitude. Yet, I also know that when we chase something for which we long desperately, we often end up tripping over our own feet. Instead, I have been doing my best to set aside just 10-15 minutes every evening to rest and recharge. I could tell you that I spend that time in meditation, but lately, I have been feeling restless. Restorative yoga postures, however, allow my mind to follow my body into a settled, peaceful state.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading a group of beautiful women through a restorative yoga and intention-setting workshop at the lovely, cosy Forward Motion Yoga studio. The ladies graciously allowed me to take a few snapshots of them relaxing in a few of my ‘go to’ poses. So, join me for 10-15 of silence. Simply choose one of the poses below, read the instructions, and enjoy breathing deeply. If you have more time to spare, try two or more of the postures below in the sequence in which they are presented here. Please note that you will need a bolster or two large, firm rectangular pillows. You will also require at least two blankets. If you do not have yoga blocks at home, books or rolled-up blankets should be sufficient. Lavender-scented eye pillows or towels are optional, but I highly recommend them for the delicate, soothing aroma.

Supported wide-legged child’s pose

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Place the bolster (or two pillows) lengthwise on your mat. With the knees wider than the bolster, or as wide as your yoga mat, bring the big toes to touch. Fold forward over the bolster and either rest your forehead on the mat or turn your head to one side. If your knees are sensitive, you may place a blanket beneath the knees on the mat and/or between the thighs and shins. I also like to place a rolled-up blanket between the lower belly and the thighs to allow my lower back to round. If the bolster feels too low, prop it up by placing a rolled-up blanket or block beneath the bolster or between your face and the bolster. Allow the shoulders to soften, and breathe.

Supported spinal twist

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Come to sit resting on your right hip with the knees facing toward the left side of your mat. The right hip and thigh should be snug against the bolster. Twist from the navel to square the shoulders to the front and start to walk the hands forward. Again, feel free to lift the bolster higher with the use of the blankets or blocks. If your neck is healthy and you would enjoy a deeper twist, you may turn your head toward the right side of your mat. Otherwise, either press the forehead into a blanket on top of the bolster, or rest on your right cheek. After about 5-7 minutes on the right side, repeat the twist on the left side for the same length of time. Twists are excellent for the muscles along the spine and for the digestive system.

Reclined bound angle pose

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This gentle backbend opens the heart and hips. Place one block (or a thickly rolled blanket) at the medium height at the top of the mat. In front of that block, place a second block at the lowest height. Then, set up the bolster with the top portion atop the blocks, cascading downward. Come to sit with your lower back snug against the bolster. Keeping the spine long, use your hands to recline over the bolster. It’s a great idea to place a cushion or rolled-up blanket beneath your head at the top of the bolster. You may either stretch out the legs in front, perhaps placing a rolled-up blanket beneath the knees for additional support, or bring the soles of the feet together and open the knees out to the sides, with blocks or blankets supporting the thighs. If the backbend feels too deep over the bolster, you may need to sit with your lower back a few inches away from the bolster and place a blanket or cushion between the bolster and your sit bones to support the sacrum. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and allow your arms to rest heavy on the floor, with the palms open toward the ceiling. Melt your body into the floor and props, feeling fully supported.

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A variation of the backbend with the legs stretched out in front. You may place another bolster or blankets beneath the knees for additional support.

Supported butterfly pose

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Like supported child’s pose, this forward fold offers a chance to retreat from the noise into this cocoon shape. Sit on a blanket to elevate the hips, bringing the soles of the feet together or an inch or two apart, creating a diamond shape with the legs. I like to place blankets beneath the thighs to support this gentle hip-opening pose. Place the bolster on top of your shins, elevating it with the use of blocks, if needed. A blanket can be placed atop the bolster for additional support for your head. Allow your forehead or the side of your face to be heavy as the weight of your body leans into the props. Relax, and breathe into your backbody, starting from the kidney areas and moving up toward the top vertebrae.

Legs-up-the-wall pose

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If you have been on your feet all day, or dancing for several hours at the office party, this pose might be just what the yoga teacher ordered. Come to sit with one hip close to the wall. Leaning back on your forearms, begin to walk the hips toward the wall while reclining back, placing a blanket or cushion under your head for support. It is optional to elevate the hips with the use of a bolster or blankets, simply sliding the bolster or blankets beneath the hips. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and soften your torso on the mat, allowing the palms of the hands to open toward the ceiling and the weight of the legs to sink into the floor.

As always, I invite you to leave a comment below. Let me know your favourite restorative yoga pose, and feel free to share with me your trusted time-out methods to which you turn during this season.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend who could benefit from this soothing practice!

Please remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new exercise program or yoga practice.

Peppermint lip balm

When the weather outside is frightful my skin becomes particularly dry. I turn to my favourite sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and essential oils to keep my skin and lips healthy over the winter season.

A playful, crafty mood and a shot of curiosity led me, several years ago, to create a recipe for peppermint lip balm that smells beautiful and works wonders. In addition, it can be made at home in under 15 minutes with a few ingredients:

  • Beeswax. I purchased a large 1 lb block of beeswax from a local online pharmacy two years ago, and still have plenty remaining. If using a block of beeswax, you will need to utilize a knife on a wooden chopping block to chip approximately 3/4 cup of beeswax. You may also purchase smaller beeswax pellets, which would save you some time and an arm workout.
  • Cocoa butter: approximately 1/2 cup.
  • Sweet almond oil: approximately 2/3 cup.
  • Peppermint essential oil: a few drops.
You will also need a few small containers for the balm. With this batch, I filled 12 small plastic containers that I found in the craft aisle of the local dollar store. I keep one for myself and gift the rest to family and friends.
The preparation is simple:

Melt the beeswax, and cocoa butter in a metal bowl over boiling water (double boiler technique), using a metal spoon to stir constantly, then carefully add the sweet almond oil.

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Melting beeswax and cocoa butter over a double boiler.

2. Add a few drops of peppermint oil. I added approximately eight drops to this batch and some might find it a bit spicy. The mint certainly will feel slightly cooling upon application.

3. Carefully and slowly pour the mixture into the prepared containers, dividing evenly. Allow the mixture to cool completely before screwing on the lids.

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Once completely cooled, the balm will feel solid. Only a tiny amount is needed to protect your lips from harsh wind and below-freezing temperature.
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

A radical new intention

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.

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How lovely is the Toronto Distillery Christmas Market, especially with all that sunshine! All we need now is a bit of fresh, sparkling snow.

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.

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Festive window decor.

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.

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I have previously gone off sugar for several long periods at a time, breaking fast when I convinced myself that I could eat just one tiny piece of birthday cake or a cookie. Although my will power is strong when it comes to other passions, it is not strong with attempting to moderate my sugar consumption. 

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 search of stillness

 

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 invite you to read and listen to this wonderful, timely poem by Wendell Berry, shared with me by Kristin Espinasse of French-Word-A-Day.
Wishing you peace.

Balance, or what my yoga practice looks like these days

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.

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Beautiful Georgian Bay in Autumn

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.

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Cosy local countryside views

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.

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This photo was taken two years ago by Mr. Wanderlust.

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.

I learned something about stress

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 It by 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.

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Making time for apple picking at a local organic orchard.

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.

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Apples: a favourite Vata food. While raw apples are okay in moderation, baked apples with cinnamon are most Vata-friendly.

More information on Vata:

In a recent podcast episode of Yogaland, Andrea Ferretti and her guest Niika Quistgard discuss excellent tips for self-care during the Vata season for people with Vata dosha and for everyone else who lives in our fast-paced society.

How Ayurveda is helping me change my approach to exercise, published on April 13, 2016

Self-care tips for the Vata Season, published on September 16, 2014

If you have additional self-care tips to share, please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

A timely reminder

 

On these particularly busy weeks, I return to the basics, reminding myself to go to bed on time, to eat well, to sneak in at least 15 minutes of yoga in the morning; and to stop, breathe, smile, hug, and listen to my loved ones. In case you missed it a year ago, here is my ‘go to’ advice from my grandmother for staying healthy in the midst of a packed schedule.

I will return next Thursday with a new edition of the blog. Thank you for reading!

Let’s talk about the mundane

I might never be less busy than I am today, and I am learning to accept this idea. If I am busy, it’s because I’m taking care of the people and the home I love. There will always be meals to prepare; sinks and toilets to scrub; clothes, towels, and bed sheets to wash, dry, iron, fold, and stack in the closets and dressers. There are always hungry mouths to feed, stains to wipe, and the laundry hamper doesn’t remain empty for long. You might be rolling your eyes, wondering why I am writing about something so mundane. The mundane is real life. We don’t discuss everything we do on a daily basis, but it’s there and it occupies many hours in the day. It’s a matter of fact. I used to think of the cleaning, laundry, and cooking routine as unpleasant, a waste of time that could be better spent at the beach, on the trail, or on the sofa with my journal and pen, a book, or knitting needles. Today, I remind myself that service is inescapable.

We clean, cook, and wash clothes for ourselves and our families. We prepare dinner in order to fill our bellies with delicious nourishing warmth while sharing it with our loved ones. We wash dishes after consuming a scrumptious meal. We mop the floors and scrub the sinks in order to continue to benefit from the space in which we spend so much time every day. I want my family to use a clean bathroom. I want them to wear clean clothes. I long to see the sparkle in their eyes as they walk into the kitchen and inhale deeply the scent of the yogurt cake or chocolate chip banana muffins rising in the oven.

On the days when the routine feels too heavy, I choose to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude, in turn, reminds me to move with intention, to pause to smell the chemical-free lavender-scented laundry soap, to breathe deeper as the vegetables simmer in a pot on the stove. Mr. Wanderlust is quiet as he vacuums the carpets and mops the floors, but I sometimes like to sing while wiping dust off furniture. We work as a team, each contributing to the beauty that we strive to maintain in our home.

Some days, if the pile of laundry to be ironed is too high and seems overwhelming, I resist the urge to grab my audiobook. Sometimes, it works, and the choice to approach the task with mindfulness is a rewarding one. At other times, that audiobook is the best company. I make decisions as I go along, making choices that are right for me and my family right here, right now.

We are busy, yes. We are busy taking care of whom and what we love. We also, however, value our ‘slow time,’ and when we set aside time to pause and savour this moment that we have created by serving, it feels all the more rewarding. It’s a delicate balance and to keep it, we must continue to exercise our creativity, re-adjusting as needed, always returning to Gratitude.

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Down time. My parents’ garden is a perfect spot to rest while listening to the sounds of birds and watching busy squirrels running to and fro.

Do you have tips to share for managing a busy daily routine?