Lessons from a Facebook photo challenge

DSCN7423
On a ferry from Tobermory to the whimsical Flowerpot Island.
IMG_1440
A tranquil afternoon stroll in Toronto’s High Park.
IMG_1967
Lunch in the clouds atop the Zugspitze.
IMG_2368
La vie en rose in Paris. A rose-coloured sunset with the Notre Dame in the foreground.
IMG_3271
A harvested lavender field outside the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, Gordes. We had just missed the harvest by a couple of weeks. Tant pis.
IMG_3890
The magic of Bretagne.
STC_3183
A breathtaking view of Gordes. To me, this is a wonderful example of living in harmony with nature, building a life to fit into the environment.

I was invited by a friend to take part in a photo challenge on Facebook, the premise of which is to share one nature photograph per day, over a period of seven days. As a general rule, I ignore invitations to participate in challenges and play games on social media, mostly because it is one more task to add to my ‘to do’ list and requires that I visit my social media pages at least once per day to post an update. Yet, I chose to accept this invite. Today marks day 7 of the challenge, and although I will be glad to take a break from social media for the next few days, I gained a few interesting lessons from the experience:

1. Wanderlust reigns.

While searching the hard drive of my computer for nature photos to share, I noticed that my attention gravitated not toward recent photos of beautiful local hiking trails and beaches but older photos taken during my and Mr. Wanderlust’s travels in Germany, France, Austria, Arizona, and other spectacular destinations. I don’t need to analyze this pattern to understand that I long to travel again.

2. I love cities with green spaces, and seek nature even in the busiest locales.

While on a weekend trip to NYC a year and half ago, I longed to stroll through Central Park after visiting the Museum of Natural History. In Prague, I loved hiking up Petrin Hill. In Paris, I enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg. When we travelled to Las Vegas seven years ago, we spent a day in the busy city, then woke up early the following morning for a two-day road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. Last year, while visiting Florida, we interspersed visits to the Disney parks with day trips to the beach. That photo of the hummingbird above? Mr. Wanderlust snapped it on the street in San Francisco. It’s safe to say that although we love interesting urban locales, we always seek nature, whether it’s in a park, a forest, the desert, or the seaside. Even in the busiest city, the view of a breathtaking sunset behind the skyscrapers calms me, reminding me to breathe deeper and walk taller while firmly planting my feet on the paved sidewalk.

3. Stepping outside is the quickest, most effective way to recharge.

I enjoy a quiet morning walk on my way home after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school. Although the mornings are crisp and some days can feel cold, that is my opportunity to engage in a moving meditation, setting one foot in front of the other with awareness. I return home feeling recharged and ready to clean the kitchen after breakfast, then plan my work for the day ahead. There is no need to go far to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

4. Social media sometimes has its merits.

I have become disenchanted with a lack of true connection on social media. It is easy to mechanically click ‘like’ on a photo or an update and I do not consider this to be a manner of engagement. Yet, some days, I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when someone takes a few seconds to type a comment, and this is something that I strive to practise, taking time to genuinely engage with others via the online world. This challenge has also served as a valuable opportunity for me to reevaluate the content I share on my social media pages. I am not one to post frequent photos of myself and selfies are not my cup of tea. In the future, I will dedicate my social media accounts to sharing more inspiring content related to beautiful natural landscapes and breathtaking city views, books and words in their many forms, art in its many expressions, and of course, yoga and meditation.

Do you enjoy sharing photos on social media of beautiful places in nature? Do you, perhaps, have an Instagram page dedicated to such art work? If so, I’m curious to take a peek. Please tell me about it in the comments below.

Favourites from around the web:

Now that you have read my thoughts on the ubiquitous ‘like’ button, here is more on that topic.

Using clickbait to recruit interest among young readers? I think it just might work.

This beautiful article on simplicity has gone viral over the past week. The word ‘mediocre’ is, of course, used strategically, so please take the time to read beyond the headline.

Minimalists are the quintessential connoisseurs of life.

From the archives:

Project: House Detox

I learned something about stress

Here’s to a week infused with inspiration!

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:

knit HP crystalspopcorn (1)

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.

hibernation
“Hibernation.”

Wishing you a week of gentle awakenings and inspiration! Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Three relationships

treatfortI opened my email inbox this afternoon to find the Daily JOMO newsletter from Christina Crook. In today’s quest toward a slower, more mindful life, Christina invites us to focus on three important people and to dedicate some time to them. When I first heard of the idea of choosing merely three people toward whom to direct my attention, I felt limited, immediately retorting that I am fortunate to have more than three people in my life about whom I care deeply and whom I wish to honour. Yet, I don’t believe that we are meant to think of the invitation in absolute terms. The choice can be turned into a daily ritual of intention-setting. The people we choose might be different every day or might remain the same for a week at a time. It does not undermine our relationship with anyone else who is dear to us.

I considered my day today, at home with the Wanderlust Juniors, feeling tired due to the new adjustment to daylight saving time and having been awakened too early to tend to a boy with a — thankfully — mild case of food poisoning. My attention was required here, ready to assist with the construction of play forts; entertaining two little artists by sharing the pages of a colouring book; making raw chocolate treats; and slicing apples at snack time. Here were two relationships that demanded my undivided attention. The third person was my mum, who brought along treats for teatime and with whom I enjoyed a couple of lovely — albeit short — hours.

The three people often choose us. All that is required of us is to accept the invitation to remain present.

Please remember to click ‘share’ to tell your friends about Mindful Daydreamer.

Favourites: March 10th edition

A few simple highlights from the past week:

Knitting

A delightful new knitting project!

LianeMoriarty

A great book.

DSCN6030

 

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!

Capturing the creative spark

Let’s talk about the spark. No, no, not that spark! I’m referring to the creative ideas that emerge briefly from a field outside our periphery, often at the most inopportune times, sometimes even in the midst of a meeting with the senior management. Mid-sentence, as I type notes for the document that will become the official minutes, they whisper to me or appear somewhere in my mind, waving coquettishly, reminding me of a long-ago idea that I had shelved somewhere to focus on more important priorities. Most often, ideas show up in the rare quiet moments when I drive home from work, or while in the shower. Every time, I remind myself to discern between whether it’s best to continue to focus on the current task before me, or to allow myself to daydream.

I never intend to silence ideas by waving them away, sweeping the dust until such a time when I would be ready to offer my undivided attention and unconditional passion to creative pursuits. So, when that elusive spark appears at those most unexpected moments, I remind myself to cautiously invite it to remain, luring it in by offering it my attention, however brief, until a time when I can be lost in the creative flow. I have returned to the habit of toting a notebook and pen in my purse, recording ideas as they arise, capturing the hints. The spark is here. It wants to be caught. I accept the invitation to play, to be challenged, to dance with the waves.

How do you capture the spark?

Are you enjoying this blog? Please click ‘share’ to tell your friends about it!

Photo: Christichka Photography by Christa Pauwels

Favourites from around the web: March 3rd edition

So, it is March, the first month of spring in the northern hemisphere. In spite of that fact, in southern Ontario, the cold weather prevails right now, and with it the will to hibernate. I have been craving time to read and craft. January and February were exceptionally busy months for us, and I feel called to slow down.

How are you doing?

If, like me, your interest lies with solitude and a slower pace, you might enjoy the following:

A few moments for meditation, or podcasts to enjoy.

Taming anxiety-driven thoughts.

Food for thought, for educators and parents.

Holding onto old-fashioned presence.

I learned to cook, do laundry, and manage other aspects of my home on my own, but I have always been a solitary learner. This concept is alternative and intriguing.

One week at a time.

Here’s to a tranquil weekend!

Little reminders

DSCN5818

DSCN5817

DSCN5813

DSCN5815

DSCN5807

DSCN5820

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!

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.

jan2

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.

jan4

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.

jan5

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.

jan1

 

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

travel1

2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

Blonde4

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

vacation1

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

DSCN6752

5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

walk

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

DSCN2494

7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

IMG_1740

8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

August113

9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

August112

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

dscn4462

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

fantasybooks

Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

The top 11 books I read in 2016

For several reasons, I recently discarded my book journal. Before recycling the notebook, I did a quick count of the number of books I read over the past year: 36. Of those, I wanted to share with you my favourite 11, in no particular order. Please note that only two of the books on this list were published in 2016. I strive to read a mix of classic and contemporary novels, but do enjoy that natural high every time I receive an email notifying me that a freshly printed, newly released book I have been looking forward to reading is on hold for me at the local library. Choosing a list of favourites is not an easy task; there were many that almost made the list, but I decided to cap it at 11. Here are my picks for this year’s favourite books:

  1. The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton

The Course of Love by [De Botton, Alain]

Alain de Botton shares incredible insight into the human mind through the story of a typical married couple. The lesson: There is no ‘happily ever after.’ Marriage requires work on both sides, but that work allows one to better understand his or her partner, making the journey of riding the ebb and flow enjoyable and rewarding. I love this book for the beautiful writing and ideas that left me with much to contemplate.

2. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Ove is a grumpy man in his late fifties who at first might not seem very likable, until we read on and learn his story of love, grief, disappointment, and deep longing. The short, charming, whimsical chapters kept me turning page after page and left me craving more when I finished reading the prologue. I was introduced to Backman’s writing earlier this year and he quickly became one of my favourite authors. His storytelling is delightfully funny while touching on serious subjects. Backman reminds us to take life less seriously, appreciate the ordinary people (and pets) who surround us every day, and remember that everyone has a story. A Man Called Ove reminded me, in some ways, of the film Amélie.

3. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman

Another funny and heartbreaking story of love, loss, and complex relationships among people, told through the witty, quirky words of Backman. This is a delightful story of Elsa, her eccentric grandmother, and the legacy the grandmother leaves behind as she continues to empower Elsa, her family, and community posthumously. From time to time, we are fortunate to meet a person who lights up the room with a magical presence. That person does not see the world the way we do, and the stories she tells are different from ours, yet they are about the same ordinary subjects. Such people tend to change our worldview and of those around us through their fairy tales, allowing us to see the enchantment behind what at first might appear banal. This is the message of this charming book.

4. The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder: A Novel by [Donoghue, Emma]

A haunting, captivating story of Lib, a nurse who apprenticed under Florence Nightingale, summoned to a small village in rural Ireland to keep watch over a young girl, Anna, who refuses to eat. What at first starts as an attempt to disprove the wondrous miracle with which the religious community is obsessed soon turns into an assignment to solve the mystery of whether Anna might be a victim of slow murder.

5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

StationEleven

Station Eleven begins with a production of King Lear in one of my favourite theatres, the Elgin and Winter Garden in Toronto. In the midst of the play, the actor Arthur Leander collapses on stage and dies of a heart attack. Jeevan Chaudhary is a paramedic in training who attempts to resuscitate the actor. Observing the real-life drama unfolding on stage before her is Kirsten, a child actor who was greatly inspired by Arthur’s work and feels a strong curiosity to learn more about his life. Two days following the death at the theatre, the world is plagued by Georgian Flu, an epidemic that sweeps throughout the globe. Among the survivors are Jeevan and Kirsten, who separately struggle to make new lives for themselves. Read my full review here.

6. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

For the past few years, I have been drawn to fiction set during WWII. I picked up The Nightingale after fans of All the Light We Cannot See, which I cannot praise highly enough, recommended this book. This is a touching story of the passions of two sisters who differ drastically yet fight their own complex battles during the war, working to stay strong for their family and refusing to give up on love in the darkest times.

7. Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith

I confess, I chose this book for its interesting cover and also because I was looking for a quick weekend read. What I found in the pages within was a beautiful, rich, delicate story of love, loss, and hope. Isobel is a quiet librarian with a fascination for memories, both her own and those of others. In her spare time, she browses antique and vintage clothing shops in search of materials to satisfy her nostalgic longing. As with Amélie, I imagine that if Isobel and I were ever to meet, we would quickly develop a friendship born of the realization that we have just come face to face with a kindred spirit. This is by no means a ‘chick book’ and the ending is not that of fairy tales; this story is beautiful as much as it is bittersweet.

8. The Go-Between, by L. P. Hartley

The Go-between by [Hartley, L. P.]

A coming-of-age story set in the Edwardian English countryside, in the middle of a hot summer, where Leo stays with his school friend and becomes a messenger between the friend’s beautiful and sophisticated older sister and a farmer. The imagery and symbolism in this novel are powerful and haunting, leading to a climax that will change Leo’s world for ever. The beautiful writing and a fascinating story are irresistible.

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is a delightfully enjoyable epistolary novel and I did not want to put it away when I reached the last page. For several days after finishing it, I found myself wondering about the characters and creating stories in my mind about how their lives on the island continued to unfold. I highly recommend this charming book to anyone who enjoys WWII fiction with a focus on the kindness of humanity.

10. The Muse, by Jessie Burton

I enjoyed Burton’s The Miniaturist, but The Muse kept me completely enthralled. This is a beautifully written book with a carefully laid plot, rich with elements of mystery, art, symbolism, and a sense of place in London and a small Spanish village. The story presents two parallel plots, of a Caribbean immigrant in London in the 1960s and an artist in rural Spain in the 1930s whose lives are delicately interwoven in unexpected ways.

11. The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time: A Novel by [Guskin, Sharon]

The Forgetting Time is a mystery without the typical elements expected of a book of that genre. Janie is a single mother whose son, Noah, has disturbing memories of his past life. With the assistance of a researcher, Janie and Noah search for the woman whom Noah misses and slowly piece together the story of how Noah was murdered. This is a meticulously planned and very well written science fiction novel that centres on a subject that I would typically avoid. As a mother, I found this book at times challenging to read. Yet, I kept being pulled by the exploration of the subjects of love, deep connection, belonging, co-dependence and independence.

What books did you read in 2016 that you would recommend? Please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.