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.


Antelope Canyon Katia

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.

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.

Favourites: March 10th edition

A few simple highlights from the past week:

Knitting

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!

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!

Just 15 minutes: carving out time for what brings us joy

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.

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Reading in the company of Miss Tigger

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.

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The eldest Wanderlust Junior snapped this photo while we were goofing around at home.

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. 

I would appreciate your assistance to spread the word about, well, my words. Please share this blog with a friend (or two). 

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.