Four things that are saving me these days

Photo: View from the Kaimai Ranges, by Mr. Wanderlust

On Wednesday morning, I turned the calendar leaf to reveal the first day of a new month. It dawned on me that, although this new month doesn’t feel remotely like the Novembers I have come to know, with their cold gray rain-drenched streets and trees that shed their cover in preparation for a blanket of snow, it’s nevertheless the second-last month of the year. And oh, how time does fly. That same day, I walked through the local shopping centre, where tall artificial Christmas trees had popped up overnight, to the sound of Christmas songs playing. November has always been my least favourite month in the northern hemisphere, and although it feels different in NZ, where sunny days are interspersed with warm springtime rainfall, I remain vigilant of the state of my thoughts and emotions. The reason I prioritise self-care and consistently work to improve my wellness habits is precisely because it’s much too easy for me to slip.

These days, here are four things that are saving me and helping me to stay well:

1. Walks in nature

On most mornings, after I take the Wanderlust Juniors to school, I walk to the beach or through the reserve. Some days, I drive to the local hills or the Mount for a more challenging walk to the summit, where I stand in awe, gazing from above upon our spectacular city. From time to time, whenever Mr. Wanderlust is able to steal away from his work for an hour, he joins me. Sometimes, we ride our bicycles in lieu of walking. I wrote previously about the resistance I have been feeling, as of late, toward more formal forms of cardio. Of course, yoga is a necessary daily practice, but I also crave fresh air and outdoor movement. Once outside, I often feel I could walk for hours. Some days, I listen to music or a podcast, but I prefer to tune into the sounds of the ocean’s waves or birds around me and take it all in, observing the ornate seashells as I pass them on the sand, the sheep that graze on the hillside. I walk briskly, but my mind remains in a state of meditative flow. If I’m lucky, from time to time I’m able to eavesdrop inconspicuously on an interesting conversation that I file away as possible material for a story.

2. Healthy routines

About two months after our move to NZ, I began to feel particularly homesick. I went through what immigration experts term the ‘fight or flight’ phase, during which I compared everything in NZ to what I had come to love in Canada. Then, I would nitpick at everything that did not appeal to me as much as I had hoped it would. At the same time, I began to drown my emotions in jars of Nutella late in the evening. Believe me, dear reader, that for me to admit to this feels shameful. I have always prided myself on being a careful eater and I have always had a difficult relationship with sugar. I know that it’s best for me to avoid it altogether. These days, I am picking up the pieces of me that I misplaced during that challenging phase. One day at a time, I plan carefully, eating three healthy solid meals, and avoid snacking after dinner. I brush my teeth, slip into my pajamas, and unwind with some Yin or restorative yoga, followed by reading a few pages from a book before turning off the light. I myself have often felt that this routine sounds rigid, but it helps me to feel my best, and for Vata, consistent healthy routines are key.

3. Community

Community is another major factor in adjusting to our new life in NZ. It’s easy for me to be a hermit, to stay at home all day and avoid any social interaction. However, when I do start speaking with our neighbours or the members of the fitness club who attend my classes, the conversation often ventures beyond small talk and leaves me feeling fulfilled. Moreover, online interaction via the blog also brings its delights. Yesterday, I received an email from a friend who told me about how much this blog helped her friend when he was going through a challenging time. As a writer, I enjoy putting my work out there, but I often wonder about who actually reads it and whether anyone cares about the content I produce. Similarly, as a yoga teacher, I want to know whether I deliver the type of class that other expect to attend and whether, in my classes, I am able to effectively address issues that others often struggle with. That feedback is invaluable to me and helps to connect me to the greater community, both online and offline.

4. Small celebrations

Earlier this week, our children celebrated their first Hallowe’en in NZ. Hallowe’en is a new holiday here and was not celebrated traditionally the way it’s celebrated in North America and some parts of Europe. With the longer daylight hours, the Wanderlust Juniors trick-or-treated when it was still light out, and stopped at only one spooky house among the non-ornate ones. Nevertheless, they enjoyed every moment of their outing and were particularly delighted that they did not need to wear winter jackets over their costumes the way they used to have to do in Canada. Seeing their excitement reminded me that every day is to be celebrated and that dressing up is fun. When I shared this article on my personal Facebook page, about one of my favourite fictional characters and films, lamenting over the casual dress in NZ, a friend commented to remind me that I should feel free to dress up and express my style any day. She’s right, of course, and I intend to do just that. I feel better when I put more effort into my outfit, even on days when I don’t have anywhere special to go. We should not need to wait for an occasion. Instead, every day can be a special occasion if we make it so.

Your turn: What is saving you right now? If you live in the northern hemisphere where November is the cold month in-between fall and winter, what do you do to turn up the hygge and make this time of year more enjoyable? Please leave a comment below. 

In the spirit of community-building, thank you for sharing this blog with a friend. 

New on Instagram:

IGNov

Open to Wonder

When the days seem dark and bleak, shrouded in misery, seek out sunlight.

In a storm, light a candle, sip tea from your favourite mug, or call a friend whose brilliant smile will warm your heart.

When the noises around threaten to overwhelm us as they grow increasingly louder and create conflict, seek a quiet corner, even if that corner is inside a small closet.

When doubts are menacing and everyone around knows everything about what we should do next, where we should plan to go, and how we should behave, seek stillness.

Often, the answer is to do nothing at all.

When we have grown weary of chasing after solutions and have researched potential outcomes to no end, what more is there left to do?

Nothing. Nothing can be great sometimes.

When we feel lonely, may we seek out other footprints in the sand.

May we open our eyes, minds, and hearts to Wonder.

As I stepped onto the path between the dunes leading to the beach, I felt the pull of the ocean’s tide, heard its gentle whisper to be silent and let it do all the talking.

We have not always been friends, the ocean and I, but these days, I am letting it share its secrets with me. I remain forever a humble student in search of Wonder.

It’s here. It has always been here.

DSCN0041

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend who might find resonance in these words.

If we are making ourselves too busy, what are we trying to escape?

I made a mistake. I made the mistake of making myself too busy. A few weeks later, when I came down with a bad cold due to burnout, I understood that I had filled my schedule to the brim because I was too afraid to face a tumultuous issue that was brewing under the surface.

As always, the irony of the situation dawned on me when I felt I had nothing more to give. There, on the couch, feeling too weak to move, I was forced to pay attention to the signs that were before me all along. Instead of sweeping the proverbial dust under the rug, I held it in the palms of my hands, breathed it in and made myself sneeze a few times, blaming it on the virus, before allowing myself to face the big elephant. By doing too much, by constantly moving forward, we often keep ourselves from thinking about what makes us vulnerable. It’s easy to get up in the morning and get to work, to tackle the grit without asking ourselves why we tackle it and whether it serves an ultimate purpose. In making myself busier than I needed to be, I avoided the big question of how I was actually feeling and what I truly wanted to do.

If we are making ourselves too busy, what are we trying to escape?

We must slow down. We must slow down to allow creativity to flow. We must slow down and give ourselves permission to feel the emotions that will arise, instead of attempting to deny them. We must be honest with ourselves about what we truly want to do, why we resist certain projects, and whether we are actually meant to undertake any of those projects in the first place.

When I’m quiet, I hear an inner voice that asks me to simplify, to allow myself to tune into the creative flow. That voice begs me to pay attention to the signs that are before me. After that, I gently nudge myself to take just one step in the direction that feels right to me at this time.

What signs are before you? Have you been paying close attention to them and heeding them?

abc

Favourites from around the web:

Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones

“Dr. Davidson’s team showed that as little as two weeks’ training in compassion and kindness meditation generated changes in brain circuitry linked to an increase in positive social behaviors like generosity.”

Three questions to ask yourself before buying something – I follow a similar approach.

How to enjoy exercising without making it feel like a chore – For me, it’s all about moving my body in a way that allows me to feel healthy, strong, and energised but grounded.

Community, and the importance of getting to know our neighbours, is a subject that has been on my mind often as of late.

Words and treasures

Less than three weeks after our arrival in NZ, we visited the local library and opened an account. Since then, many a Sunday afternoon have been spent at the library with the Wanderlust Juniors, helping them select Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs and Tintin comics, then perusing the shelves for woodworking, mythology, and sailing books for Mr. Wanderlust, and new fiction, non-fiction, and knitting books for me.

No matter where in the world, I feel at home when I step into a library or a quirky, charming bookshop. Some derive pleasure from dipping their hands into containers of beans or lentils; I find it by running the tips of my fingers gently along the spines of books that line never-ending shelves. I pause at a book that feels somehow strangely familiar, and open it to a random middle page only to listen to the whisper of the spine like the lazy creak of a door that has remained shut for much too long. I breathe in the comforting smell of the pages and wonder who has held this book in his or her hands, and how long ago. Did they enjoy reading the words on which my eyes now rest?

DSCN8541

Sometimes, inside a book, I find bookmarks in the form of a bus ticket or a sticky note. I once worked with a woman who complained of always losing her bookmarks. She didn’t bother with them and, instead, heeded the clever advice of her son to use a sticky note. That way, she smiled, it would never fall out of the book. A few years ago, I found a daisy pressed between pages, its dried white petals carefully preserved by a reader who had sat frolicking in the long grass after making daisy chains — or so I like to think. I myself often find maple leaves and flowers pressed by me between the pages of my own books. I never remember the circumstances under which I chose to preserve one leaf over another, but I always try to keep the prettiest ones after assembling a bouquet in the Canadian autumn.

Of course, such gifts are rare. Most often, treasures are presented to me not in the form of bus tickets or dried flowers but in the words and thoughts that take flight with each page that we turn. What a wonderful gift it is, to assist a writer to bring a story to life my merely reading it.

What are a few of your favourite books? What are you reading these days? Please leave a comment below with your recommendations.

DSCN8535

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

May19b
I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
May19c
Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
May19d
It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
May19e
I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

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!

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