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.

The in-between month

 

November. Living in Ontario, I acknowledge solemnly that this typically grey month is my least favourite time of the year. I call it the in-between phase when the trees stand bare, having been disrobed of their fiery leaves, awaiting the coming snow. This year, however, I’m choosing to acquiesce to the changes. Instead of resisting the transitions of nature, I welcome them. I retreat into the cosy comfort of the interior of my home, with its warm blankets on the sofa, the aroma of chicken broth steaming on the stove, bottomless mugs of tea and thick books, and laughter-infused living room dance parties with Wanderlust Juniors before the quiet of story time snuggles in the ‘big bed.’ I choose to delight in the in-between time as the sun continues to wane, remembering that soon enough, it will reawaken again and a new cycle of its year-long journey will begin just before Christmas. That idea in itself is heartwarming for me.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, how do you feel about November? Do you have a strategy for making the most of this time of the year?

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Seeking enchantment

Humming songs about Thumbelina while skipping toward the patch where wild strawberries smirk as they play hide-and-seek.

Running along the rustling golden path laid carefully with delicate cascading leaves.  

Stopping to twirl now and then, silver bells of laughter playing with the gossamer leaves of the surrounding trees.

Seeking demure mushrooms that lurk behind the robes of gnomes disguised as tree stumps. 

Constructing cosy moss houses for the faeries on the floor of the lush green forest.

Wandering off the path to explore, sometimes discovering surprises both pleasant and fascinatingly spooky.

“Mama, does a witch live in the little cottage in that clearing over there? Do you suppose she’s lonely? The squirrels and birds must keep her company.”

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The memories of my childhood days of playing in the pine and maple forests remain strong with me to this day. I seek solace on the winding paths, allowing myself to be guided. I thirst to hear the whisper of the trees, the rustle of the leaves, to dance with the breeze and swaying willows and to stand rooted, attentive to the murmurs of the mysterious life that surrounds me. It always made perfect sense to me that the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien chose to set many of their stories in the forest. The setting has always been enchanting and continues to enthrall. 

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Several years ago, while visiting Fussen, Bavaria with Mr. Wanderlust, we chose to walk up the misty mountains toward the quietly bewitching Neuschwanstein Castle. The visit brought my fairy tales to life before me, overwhelming my fantasies as I sought to absorb the visit with great gulps, urging the colours, textures, and smells of the castle to remain in my memory without ever fading. The building lured me within and hypnotized me. My affinity toward it is that strong. I listened attentively to the strange stories of King Ludwig II, recounted by our tour guide. Prior to visiting the impeccable castle, I had read the fascinating story behind the Fairy Tale King’s idealistic vision for the perfect dwelling, and his story spoke to me, from one lover of magical storytelling to another. Standing in the lavish rooms of the castle and admiring every carefully planned refined detail, I felt I understood the king’s passion, and I whispered as much to the walls that were silently watching the processions of tourist groups. Those walls tell wonderful Medieval stories with their murals, yet I imagined the secrets they keep to themselves, with all that they have seen and heard over more than the past century.

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After Mr. Wanderlust and I reluctantly left the castle, we took a walk in the darkening Black Forest beneath an overcast autumn sky and the heavy canopy of trees to marvel at the beauty of the swan castle from different angles. I read about the Black Forest in my favourite fairy tale books, and its significance was heightened for me at that moment. I saw what Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty saw on their own walks through the woods to collect mushrooms and berries. Shhh, don’t tell me they are fictional characters. If you have ever walked through those woods, I’m sure you were awed into stillness, allowing magic to weave its way around you, silencing your logical mind, if only for a few moments.

I continue to seek that magic every time I step onto a forest path. I wish to reawaken the enchantment, to bring back to life the fascinating stories of my childhood… If only for a few moments.

Have you ever felt such magic? Tell me about it, perhaps by leaving a comment below. 

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

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.

About October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ Anne Shirley / L. M. Montgomery

There is magic in October, the kind that summons creativity in its many forms. It’s in the rainy day that somehow gives us carte blanche to rest on the sofa all day on Sunday, simply lounging, drinking tea and reading, reading, reading, then closing our eyes for a guilt-free nap under the woollen blanket. The crisp morning sunshine illuminates the post-rain sparkle of the joyful pumpkins and crimson maple leaves that appear to have turned overnight — or is it just that we never before stopped to closely pay attention? It’s time to slow down and allow that swirling inspiration to land right here at the tips of our fingers hovering above the keyboard or a sleek fountain pen.

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I grew up in a northern climate in Belarus and enjoyed colourful autumns in my childhood, then spent 5 1/2 years in Israel, where autumn was slightly cooler than the summer, transitioning into a wet and grey winter for a couple of short months. When I moved to Canada, almost 21 years ago, I was delighted at the reintroduction to the transformation of all four seasons, how ever (too) long or (too) short they might seem to us at times.

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And so, I continue to attune to those memories, to inhale deeply the smell of the foliage, wet after the cleansing rain. My footsteps on the confetti forest carpet-path are deliberate as I crunch the amber leaves. The changes are exhilarating, reminding us to slow down and enjoy the fleeting moments, the shorter days. Every season is beautiful in its own way.

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In Canada, we are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. Wherever you are in the world, I invite you to join me in taking some time out of your day to sit outside in nature, get grounded, breathe, and fully appreciate this moment with all it has to offer.

Less noise, clear focus

 

We visited my parents in ‘cottage country’ and while there, lounged on three different beaches, went snorkeling, SUPing, and hiking. We watched glorious firey sunsets, sat by the bonfire and toasted marshmallows, then gazed at the stars sprinkled across the velvet sky. We ate freshly picked local blueberries, peaches, and corn. We fished a snake and crayfish out of the lake, observed them more closely, then released them. We rode on a mountain roller coaster and one of us even decided, on a whim, to go ziplining for the first time. We reveled in the tranquility of nature away from the city.

August113While away, I also celebrated my birthday and set a new intention for my personal new year:

I want to live with less noise and with focused intention, directing my attention to whom and what matters most.

Over the weekend, I picked up my phone once per day for a few minutes, quickly glancing at my email to ensure that there was nothing pressing to which I had to respond. In truth, I was reluctant to pick up the phone. I have grown tired of the noise and overload of information. In spite of the quick glances at my email, I enjoyed an extended break from technology and, specifically, social media. I did not miss it.

Maybe the fleeting, magical days of summer are to blame, or maybe it was the effect of getting away from the everyday routine, but the tech break sparked ideas in my mind: I could delete my social media accounts. Yet, I know that many people use Facebook to send private messages, and it’s good to keep in touch. It’s also a great way to communicate with the wonderful readers of this blog, for whose support I am always grateful. Perhaps I could take a sabbatical from social media for a few months?

August112For now, I have decided against taking a true sabbatical from social media. I will still be here, will continue to publish stories on a weekly basis, but social media posts from me will likely become less frequent. Time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it in front of a computer screen.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the beach, on a forest trail, or hiking up a mountain.

I would like to know how you make space for intentional living with less noise. Please leave a comment below.

 

Scheduling playtime

Last weekend, Mr. Wanderlust and I planned to paint the bedrooms in our home. On Saturday, he painted one of the rooms while I did laundry. We couldn’t bear staying indoors on the first summer-like weekend of the season, and that is why we spent an entire day exploring the city and the beach with Wanderlust Juniors, visiting our old neighbourhood in Toronto, to which we return when given the chance. Discipline, especially when it comes to home renovations, is not my strong suit. Give me permission to explore at leisure, and I will be eternally grateful. That is why schedule and discipline are important to me. As an INFP, the idealist, it’s natural for me to dream the day away, forgetting all about my responsibilities. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t think twice before heading out the door to drive to the forest for a long walk, then make my way to a favourite cafe, followed by the park or the beach to write in my notebook and read for many hours.

Planning and careful scheduling are important, and although housework and other weekly routines need to be planned in advance, equally important to me is to schedule time to play. I carve out daily time for yoga, pilates and/or dance, and weekly writing time, as well as date nights with Mr. Wanderlust, because unfortunately, what we enjoy is often superseded by something else that seems more pressing but most often isn’t really all that important.

Likewise, I don’t have a natural tendency to be a strict, practical parent. I’m your typical easy-going hippie mom who prefers to discuss big ideas with her children than remind them to do their homework. Enforcing discipline in our home by reminding Wanderlust Juniors about their responsibilities as part of the daily structure is something that I don’t enjoy, yet I continue to remind myself of the ‘bigger picture,’ of the importance of teaching them lessons early on in order to allow them to succeed in life. Then, I wonder whether this is the correct approach or if I should parent intuitively.

Perhaps that is the reason why, given the chance, we choose to explore. Strict scheduling and self-discipline get me through the week, allowing me to stay on track while taking care of my family. And then, we reward ourselves with permission to play outside without a care – well, at least without too many cares. Whether our playground is the beach, the forest, the park, or a city neighbourhood that we haven’t visited in a while, we seize every opportunity to get out and wander, allowing our souls to retreat from the daily responsibilities at home and at work, giving ourselves full permission to be dreamers.

How do you create the perfect balance between self-discipline and time to rest and play? Please leave a comment below.

Walk like Audrey Hepburn

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’s Moon 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.

Our mindful Disney vacation

Yesterday, we returned from a week-long family vacation in the sunshine of Florida and the Bahamas. This was our first big family vacation. Prior to this, we had enjoyed road trips and cottage getaways in Ontario, so by ‘big vacation’ I mean that this was Wanderlust Juniors’ first time on an airplane. It was also the first time on a cruise ship for all four of us, and we spent a wonderful week together.

We wanted to take our children to Disney World for the out-of-this-world experience. However, I have a very low tolerance for crowds and do not enjoy roller coasters. Although Mr. Wanderlust has a slightly better tolerance for both crowds and rides, we planned our vacation carefully. After hearing excellent reviews of Disney cruise lines and learning about the option to embark on a three-night cruise to the Bahamas, we were sold. We reasoned that if we were to find that we did not enjoy the cruise, at least we would not have had to suffer through it for too long. Nothing to worry about there! The experience turned out to be relaxing and entertaining, and the three days flew by too quickly. At Castaway Cay, a private Disney island in the Bahamas, Mr. Wanderlust got to cross an item off his ‘bucket list’ after feeding stingrays and snorkeling with them. I half joke that he must have been an oceanic creature in one of his past lives, given his passion for aquatic fauna, and he doesn’t rush to correct me.

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Off the Disney Magic and on to enjoy a day at Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas

Following the cruise, we planned to visit two Disney parks. After careful consideration of the various options, we chose to visit Magic Kingdom because we wanted to see the classic, and Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones attractions. However, before heading back to Orlando, we drove in our rental car along the coast from Port Canaveral to Barrier Island Sanctuary in Melbourne Beach. Mr. Wanderlust is a cause-related partner of The Sea Turtle Conservancy, located in Gainesville, Florida, and although we were not prepared to drive for a few hours to that location but were in the vicinity of Barrier Island Sanctuary, Mr. Wanderlust wanted to pay a visit to this educational centre to share his passion for ocean life advocacy with Wanderlust Juniors. We learned about the sea turtles that nest on the local beaches, and the potential threats they face. We also explored the local beach and admired the gorgeous green plants that grow on the path that leads from the educational centre to the beach.

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Exploring the beach near Barrier Island Sanctuary

On Monday, we visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom and, thanks to a relaxed itinerary and carefully chosen Fast Passes, were able to thoroughly enjoy eight hours at the park, without ever feeling rushed. We allowed Wanderlust Juniors to choose the rides and respected their decision to avoid certain others. We also created many opportunities to rest in the shade while having a snack and drinking water. Packing our own lunches with groceries from the local supermarket was not only a cost-effective but also a healthier alternative to many of the conventional eateries at the park. We left Magic Kingdom feeling tired but happy. We provided Wanderlust Juniors with a choice for the following day: visit Hollywood Studios or drive back to the beach near Port Canaveral. They chose the latter. Like their introvert outdoor adventure-loving parents, they prefer a balance of quiet days outside in nature and several hours spent among fun crowds.

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Fun at Cocoa Beach
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Mr. Wanderlust is in the background, lost in deep thoughts.

We had a great day at Cocoa Beach and also went on an impromptu walk on a nature trail near Melbourne Beach. We cut our trek short because (a) by the time we arrived on the trail, mosquitoes started to come out in search of a snack, and we did not have bug spray with us. (b) We all were wearing sandals after a day at the beach, as the walk on the trail was a spur-of-the-moment decision. (c) We read in the guest book at the start of the trail that alligators can often be seen near the trail; the sun was starting to set and we did not want to find ourselves on a dark trail with alligators and mosquitoes. Mr. Wanderlust was somewhat saddened at having missed the prospect of coming face-to-face with an alligator, but I suppose that is yet another item to add to his ‘bucket list’ for a future travel adventure.

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While searching for alligators, we found a few mosquitoes and lizards.

On our last day in Florida, we visited Hollywood Studios, where the eldest Wanderlust Junior trained to be a Jedi, then battled Seventh Sister. We also watched the Indiana Jones show twice, went on a Star Wars ride, and explored a few other attractions. Once again, we took our time moving through the park, working around our relaxed Fast Pass agenda, and left after dark to head back to our hotel to pack for our return flight.

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Just singing in the rain at Hollywood Studios

And that, dear reader, is how the Wanderlusts mindfully enjoy Disney — with beach breaks in-between. We asked Wanderlust Juniors whether they prefer the beach or Disney parks. Their answer? Although they like Disney, they would always rather go to the beach. We couldn’t argue with that.

Have you visited Disney World or Disneyland recently? Do you have any mindful tips to offer to readers who might be planning their own family vacation to the parks in the near future? Please leave a comment below. 

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Making Room for Expansion

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A walk in the forest: one of our favourite ‘quiet’ activities. This was my ‘artist date’ for the weekend that has passed.

If spring is known as the time of growth and renewal, summer is for basking in the sunshine while enjoying the fruits of our labour. To me, this transition time offers a good opportunity for personal growth and exploration of new ideas, new interests and plenty of ‘quiet time.’

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We planted our vegetable garden over the weekend. Growing in our garden are eggplant, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, swiss chard, and sweet peppers. We also have rhubarb, chives, and blackberry bushes from the previous years.

The garden has been planted – both literally and figurative – and now is the time to tend to it, to promote growth by providing the essentials of sunshine, water and nutrients. The months between early May to late August tend to be very hectic for many people; sure, they are fun-busy, but they are fleeting, not always in a productive way. So, I am changing my routine this summer. Instead of filling my schedule to the brim with various summer-appropriate outings, I am clearing extra time in my schedule to dedicate to silence and personal growth.

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One of Pawel’s favourite ‘quiet’ activities.

Here are a few highlights from the month of May:

I don’t watch TV. I don’t miss it. – Giving up TV proved to be a non-event for me but has been essential to my personal growth.

Flirty Spring – I have been embracing my feminine nature more and more over the past few years, balancing out the masculine and feminine energies, allowing myself to receive life’s gifts amidst providing good care for my family.

Renew to Retreat – Minimalism does not mean life becomes boring. We can create big changes in our mental and emotional states simply by rearranging just one item to which we have become accustomed.

Magical Catharsis – On the practice of journaling as a ritual of emotional purging.

My Lifelong Experiment with Nutrition – Sharing my experience with this year’s spring cleanse. I have been reminded of our ever-changing nature and the importance of letting go of rigid ideas. Life is more enjoyable when we allow ourselves to be carried along with the ebb and flow.

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The sale continues in our online store until the end of the month, which means you only have a few more days to take advantage of the 30% off offer. We are also offering free worldwide shipping of every sale of a minimum of $100. Use the code ‘HappyBDay’ at checkout to receive your discount.

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What have been your traditional spring/summer self-care rituals? Are you doing anything differently this year to take better care of yourself?

THANK YOU for sharing this blog with a friend!