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.
I would appreciate your assistance to spread the word about, well, my words. Please share this blog with a friend (or two).
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:
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
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
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
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.
Supported butterfly pose
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.
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.
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.
The practice of yoga can be considered intuitive in the sense that it reminds us to slow down and breathe. Yet, I know firsthand that it can sometimes be challenging, while moving through a flow in class, to not pay attention to the gorgeous person on the mat next to me, who exalts in deep backbends and effortlessly hops into a perfect handstand. That’s when matters become competitive, and competition is far from intuitive.
Today, my idea of what yoga is or what it ought to be is very different from the understanding of the person on the mat next to me. Some claim that Kundalini is the only way to go, that it helps them to tune into their higher selves, to develop better self-discipline. Others might like traditional Hatha yoga, holding each pose for eight full breaths, not rushing to move. Then there are the serious Ashtangis who love a sweaty challenge. Want to know a secret? I have been the Ashtangi wannabe, looking forward to the funky pretzel-like twists, binds, and deep backbends. Several years later, I was known to express the now embarrassing, stand-offish statement that the only real yoga is traditional Hatha yoga. Then, I changed my tune when I found a happy medium in Vinyasa Flow.
Today, I gravitate toward a natural movement-based practice, flowing in soft, seemingly effortless dance-like undulations from one pose to the next, with some pilates and barre exercises thrown into the mix. On other days, I unwind with Yin and restorative poses after a long walk. To me, that is the definition of intuitive movement. It’s about practising in a way that feels best to me. These days, my body whispers to me to move a bit slower, taking the time to enjoy each moment, to move beyond the pose and flow from within.
The same applies to eating, slowing down to ask myself what my body craves and what it needs here and now, using discernment to make appropriate choices. My compassion toward my own decisions allows me to greet others with compassion and acceptance of their journey.
Amid the pressure to look a certain way, to work out a certain way, to consume certain foods while abstaining from others, may we find the courage to make our own rules, to move the way we want to move, to make the decisions that are right for us, all the while paying close attention to the whisper-thin reminder to focus on what is here, now.
Although I have been leading restorative yoga classes for the past several years, yesterday was my first candlelight restorative class at a relatively new and absolutely charming yoga studio off Main Street Markham. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to guide classes in this space.
As I prepared for yesterday’s class, designing the sequence, packing my essential oils, and creating a playlist, a wave of nervousness rose over me for a few brief moments. This isn’t something new. As an introvert, I often get slightly nervous when preparing to venture into new territory to meet a new group of people. I wonder about how I will be perceived. Will Xavier Rudd’s and Trevor Hall’s words resonate with them, or do they prefer music without lyrics? Do they like to move gently before settling into long-held supported poses?
I heard the whisper-thin nudge to breathe, to soften my shoulders, welcome in the new opportunity and avoid using the term ‘introvert’ as an excuse. I was reminded of a line from one of my favourite poems by Mary Oliver:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Yoga is my passion and my dharma, and I want to share it with as many people as I possibly can. I acknowledge the experience of nervousness, then let it go, shifting my focus to continue walking my path with honesty.
I picked up my yoga mat bag, essentials oils, iPod, lips balm, and house keys, slipping them into the small pocket of the canvas bag. Having kissed Wanderlust Juniors goodbye, just before heading out the door, I slipped a folded sheet of paper into the pocket of my bag in order to share Mary Oliver’s words with the new yogis I was to meet. I read the poem to them during Savasana and finished the class to the sight of genuinely warm and grateful smiles.
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992 Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Do you tend to feel nervous in new situations? Do you sometimes experience ‘stage fright,’ even though you may have previously spent many hours speaking before a crowd? What reminders do you use to bring yourself back to the present moment, to focus on serving your dharma, walking your path? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion.
May 4th is on the other side of the weekend, plus a few days, and it marks the birthday of the late Audrey Hepburn. You might ask yourself, dear reader, whether I’m a crazed fan who remembers the birthdays not only of her family members and close friends but of her favourite actress. The answer is yes. Yes, I am. I also remember Mozart’s birthday and admire his music greatly, but that’s beside the point. This week’s post is a tribute to the legendary Audrey Hepburn, or AH. I sing Holly Golightly’sMoon River to Wanderlust Juniors while snuggling with them at bedtime. I sing Sabrina’s La Vie en Rose while washing the dishes. I have been known to walk into hair salons and ask the stylist to chop off all my hair, à la Princess Ann in Roman Holiday. I have read and reread all the biography books that have been published about AH. She is an inspiration to me not only in style but also the lifestyle she led.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about my transition from intensive HIIT workouts toward walking and dancing. These two forms of exercise have become my choices for exercise that does not feel like exercise. I recently started to let go of the more rigid and competitive forms of fitness that require me to work at high intensity for 20 minutes. In truth, no matter how little time I spend on bursts that bring my heart rate to 80-90%, I do not enjoy that time. Instead, I prefer to take a long walk – the longer, the better – in my neighbourhood, even if that means getting up even earlier than I used to. What all this has to do with AH is that she also was an early riser and, as her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, writes in Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit, AH enjoyed long walks with her dogs. Instead of dogs, I have a cat, who happily stays at home to nap or watch the world from a cozy spot on her windowsill, but I, too, enjoy long walks.
And so, after feeding Tigger, and following my daily yoga practice, I slip on my comfortable running walking shoes and head out for a 5 km walk, greeting the sunrise, allowing the bright golden rays to bathe my face as, at once, the cool morning breeze gently brushes my face. I watch as the world around me starts to wake up, listen to the serenade of the birds, observe people as they settle into their cars in the driveway, preparing to drive to work. Sometimes, I wear earphones to listen to my favourite music and focus on the melody, the lyrics. At other times, I allow stories to weave their way through my imagination as I let go of my practice of mindfulness, giving myself permission to play. I feel the solid ground as I firmly set down one foot in front of the other. I move, I breathe, I feel. Cold, rainy days beckon me inside to dance in the warmth of my home, but I mostly crave movement outdoors. And that is why I walk. I am not a runner; my knees don’t allow me to enjoy the activity. Walking provides me with the fresh air and movement for which I thirst. Earlier this week, I was away on a business trip during which I saw the world out of the tiny airplane window, then was surrounded for two days by the walls of the airport, the hotel room, and the office building, without an opportunity to step outside. It’s good to be back home with my family, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to return to my daily walks. Walking is my hobby. Walking is my calming cardio. Walking makes me a happier, grounded, lighter woman, mother, and partner. I suspect AH would have said the same.
Where is your favourite place to walk? Please feel free to leave a comment below. Do you know someone who might enjoy this blog? Please feel free to share it with a friend.
Several years ago, I followed the thought process that if the number on the scale rose slightly following the holidays and a few big dinners with friends and family, I would need to amp up my cardio routine, to work harder to burn the extra calories. Of course, yoga was very high on my list of priorities, but only if the routine was a challenging power sequence with hundreds of Chaturanga Dandasana variations. If I missed a day of exercise, the sense of guilt would permeate the entire day. Scrolling along my Facebook newsfeed and seeing the progress my friends were making with their runs or cross-fit training sessions would remind me to push myself harder to keep up with them.
Slowly and organically, as I continue to study and explore Ayurveda in relation to my lifestyle, my attitude toward exercise also continues to evolve. Today, I approach every form of exercise with the same frame of mind with which I arrive on my mat for a formal asana practice. I no longer judge my progress based on that of my peers. Instead of counting calories and allowing the number on the scale – in fact, I no longer use a scale – to dictate my daily workout, I crave mindful movement. Chaturanga variations are no longer high on my radar, though I do enjoy them once a week. I still love the occasional powerful core workout and arm balances because they leave me feeling strong and connected to my core power. Yet, stillness helps to create the right balance. I alternate dance with 20-minute HIIT workouts thrice a week – the jumping variations are fabulous for awakening the lymphatic system – but those are always followed by a grounding and cooling yoga sequence.
These days, before starting to move in the morning, I ask myself how I want to feel, and what my schedule looks like for the day ahead. Due to the fact that on weekdays, I spend eight to ten hours at the computer, I do choose a stronger heating but grounding practice. On weekends, when I go hiking, I choose a slower practice. In general, I gravitate toward slow-flowing Vinyasa, combined with Yin and Restorative yoga. It’s a question of the energy we need to balance at any given moment. Ayurveda teaches us that when we feel lethargic and heavy (Kapha imbalance), we need movement to stoke the fire element to help us wake up; when we feel irritable (Pitta imbalance), we should seek a cooling and grounding routine; when we feel anxious or scattered, a slow, warming, and grounding practice is the answer. The weather plays a big role in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. On cold, windy days (Vata weather), we are called to focus on grounding and staying warm. On hot, humid summer days (Pitta weather), a gentle, cooling practice early in the morning or in the evening is the ‘go to’ exercise. During my moon cycle, Yin or Restorative yoga, combined with a walk at a comfortable pace, allow me to remain grounded while pacifying the fire element. I start each daily practice with a few rounds of pranayama and a short meditation, and end with a longer seated meditation. The meditation component reminds me to clear and reset my focus each time, and also helps to set the tone for the day ahead.
No doubt, my approach to movement and my yoga practice will continue to evolve. My goal is no longer to burn calories, but to stay healthy and vibrant, physically, mentally and emotionally. My priority is not to exceed the standard set yesterday but to move in a way that allows me to feel grounded, light, open, and centred. I am following the intuitive cues of my body and my mind, adopting a softer, more feminine approach to exercise.
I’m curious to know whether you also have observed shifting patterns within your yoga practice or workout routine in the recent years or months. Perhaps your body craves a different type of movement and you have been exploring new avenues. Please leave a comment below, and feel free to share this blog with a friend.
On Sunday afternoon, as we enjoyed an hour of quiet time, Mr. Wanderlust and Wanderlust Juniors built Lego creations while I retreated to a different room to knit and listen to a podcast. As I listened to Michael Stone speak about the habit of multitasking and its negative effects, I laughed at the irony of the situation. There I sat, listening for entertainment, however educational, while knitting. I was in the midst of creating something while listening to a dharma talk about the importance of giving ourselves space to sit and do nothing.
Many knitters enjoy clicking their needles while watching a TV show or listening to a podcast. In fact, many even bring their knitting to the movie theatre, family dinners, and other social events. It has been said, half-jokingly, that knitters can’t stand to have their hands empty. I can attest to that. Once upon a time, I was the knitter whose fingers probably used to move in her sleep as she dreamed of knitting a sweater. I was in undergrad at the time and when I would visit my parents and my sister on weekends, my sister would get upset about watching me sit on the living room couch with my knitting. She said that although I could easily carry a conversation without looking at my yarn and needles, she felt as though I wasn’t fully present. I now understand how different a non-knitter’s perception could be from that of the seasoned multitasking crafter. In truth, we cannot be truly present while we multitask.
It can seem natural for us to listen to music while preparing dinner, or listen to a podcast while cleaning our homes.
What happens if we turn off the noise? Will the sound of our thoughts become amplified? What narrative will we start to hear? Can we learn to be comfortable with that narrative, to acknowledge it without attempting to silence it?
Can we, instead, turn up the soft sound of our breath at the back of the throat? Can we enjoy the feel of the rubber gloves on the skin of our hands as we wash the bathroom sink?
Can we fully experience the scent of the baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils that we use to clean the sink?
Can we stand at a bus stop without mindlessly glancing at our phones every two minutes, if only to check the time or, perhaps, to avoid the gaze of the people who surround us?
For the past few months, it has been my practice to spend one day per week without screen technology, never glancing at my laptop or phone, and sometimes without listening to music (TV never enters into the equation because I only watch an hour of TV per week, if at all). In addition, I refrain from approaching my laptop or phone after the end of my workday. I feel guided to deepen my practice. This spring, I choose to mindfully focus on one activity at a time instead of pairing it with technology and the possibilities with which it presents us. I am also making the choice to not share my experiences as frequently, however exciting they might be. I choose to keep certain stories and photos to myself and my family, instead of sharing them on Instagram. Maybe, I will tell a friend about my fun experience sometime later, when I speak with her on the phone or in person over a cup of tea.
Discernment frequently shows us in my life in the form of yoga, asking me to choose between a strong Vinyasa and a quiet Yin or Restorative practice. I can apply similar discernment to knitting and technology, choosing whether to listen to music or a podcast while I work on a garment, or to set aside time to knit without any background noise as an entertaining distraction.
Some say that ‘knitting is the new yoga.’ Both yoga and knitting are opportunities that show up in my life as reminders to practise awareness. May we give ourselves permission to enjoy the pleasures of living with presence.
Does this story resonate with you? Please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.