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?

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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.

A different narrative

Do you ever talk to yourself? In case you are worried about feeling snubbed by people who might claim to never have so much as thought about talking to themselves, don’t. A few days ago, I listened to this podcast about the merits of talking to oneself in the third person, with reference to research that has shown that doing so can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety through compassionate awareness.

I remember a time in my teenage years when I sat on the bathroom counter in my parents’ home, gazing curiously at the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I believe I might have shed those tears over some boy, but that’s an insignificant detail. As I sat and stared at my reflection, the writer in my head started to draw a narrative to describe the situation, complete with an illustration of the warm droplets on my face and how delicate my wet eyelashes appeared at that moment. The narrator’s descriptions made my inner turmoil seem commonplace, banal, and I soon turned my attention to something more interesting, allowing time to heal the pain.

The writer / narrator in my head has saved me many times by plucking me out of perpetually swirling anxiety-ridden thoughts and casting me in the role of an observer looking in from the outside. Gosh, I realise how strange all this might sound to some. Yet, it works for me, and it appears that others also have had similar experiences.

The premise of the research to which Jonathan Fields refers in the podcast is that when a situation goes sour and we are tempted to turn to self-deprecating talk of ‘not good enough,’ we can instead describe the scenario from the point of view of an observer. It’s the difference between, “I’m an awful mother. I failed today as a mother when my child threw a tantrum at the shopping centre and I ended up yelling at her in front of crowds of people” and, “(Insert name here) is a mother who had a challenging day today. After a restless night of taking care of her toddler, who keeps waking several times throughout the night, and having not had enough coffee, she lost her patience while shopping with her daughter. It was not a pleasant situation, but it’s over. The mother and toddler both need an afternoon nap to recharge and reconnect.”

The latter approach of talking about ourselves as an observer allows us an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate a situation from a more compassionate place. I will continue to refer to this approach as listening to the voice of the mindful writer or narrator within. Care to try it? Have you tried it?

I’m curious to read about your experience with talking about yourself in the third person. Won’t you please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Photo by Christichka Photography.

Four Things I Learned Recently

This is an exciting week for our family, and I promise to tell you more about it in a few days. For now, I will share with you four things that I learned recently and which you might find interesting in reference to your own health and wellness:

1. A lack of routine can present a setback. 

I stumbled and have been working to get back up. Following our move to NZ, my regular fitness regimen took a hit. Although I have continued to exercise, I lost my routine of waking early in the morning for yoga. We have been staying in a small, charming beach house, and although we are fortunate to have these accommodations, it has proved to be challenging to find room in the house where I could exercise without waking my family. As an INFP, routine is of paramount importance to me. If I don’t schedule something into my calendar, it might not happen at all. Likewise, although I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle and my energy levels are the highest early in the day, in the winter when the sun rises late, if I don’t make the effort to go to bed early and wake up before everyone else, I might not make time later in the day for my yoga practice. This week, I have adapted a new routine and am diligently working to stick with it. How do you feel about steady routines? Do you tend to veer off the path when on holidays?

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2. Variety and consistency are the key to a good fitness regimen.

Speaking of exercise, it might sound funny, but I designate certain days of the week as my cardio days. As I mentioned above, if I don’t schedule something in my calendar, I might never get to it. I do enjoy cardio and toning; both forms of fitness benefit and complement my yoga practice. Yet, sometimes, I forget about them altogether. Even with a consistent fitness regimen, I need variety. Some days, I enjoy ballet barre-style exercise, and on other days, I combine toning and cardio into one fun cardio pilates routine. Similarly with yoga, I might start with Vinyasa and end with Yin, then the next day opt for a restorative practice if that is what my body craves. The key is to design the practice intuitively. How do you feel about scheduling exercise? What criteria do you use when choosing a fitness regimen?

3. Different personality types have drastically distinct approaches toward starting a business.

Listen to the podcast here. This explains why Mr. Wanderlust is more inclined toward playing things safe when it comes to starting new projects, whereas I am more likely to abandon all prior commitments to launch directly into something novel and exciting. It turns out neither of us is wrong in our approaches. I’m curious to read about how this applies to your personality type and perhaps to your business venture or special project.

P.S. In the above podcast, there is also an update on new research that indicates that consumption of fruit and vegetables can nourish not only the body but also the mind, fuelling creativity and curiosity.

4. Aromatherapy continues to come to my rescue.

A few years ago, I started to experiment with essential oils. I am sensitive to various conventional products and, naturally, don’t want my family to be exposed to harmful substances. As such, I continue to concoct my own natural cleaning products for my yoga mat and for our home. Likewise, I only use skincare products that are naturally derived and gentle on my skin. I have always enjoyed specific scents but have recently become increasingly sensitive to certain fragrances, leading me to be selective about products that are not strongly scented but nevertheless provide me with a welcome aromatherapy boost. I was recently introduced to HZP + Co, a company based in the Bay of Plenty, our new home in NZ, which creates natural skincare products with the most delicious light scents. I can’t say enough about the beautiful Hydra-Defence Serum and Cream to Body Oil, created with local kiwifruit, mamaku leaf, and kowhai extracts. The Wake Me Up Splashwater, with a blend of citrus oils, has become my magic mist on dark mornings when it’s challenging to roll out of bed. Do you enjoy scented skincare and/or home cleaning products? What are a few of your favourite scents?

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Do you have a few additional minutes to stay and read? 

One year ago on the blog: Anniversary

Two years ago on the blog: Marriage Lessons from the Past Nine Years

A favourite from around the web: The Myth of the Teachable Moment

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A tranquil scene on one of the beautiful paths to the summit of Mount Maunganui
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Exploring Papamoa Hills

Please leave a comment below to join the conversation, and thank you, as always, for sharing this blog with a friend! 

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:

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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.
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Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
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It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
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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!

May 5th / 6th: Simplicity, and local exploration

Here is a small selection of favourite moments from the past week:

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A breezy Sunday afternoon on Leisure Island, with a view of Mount Maunganui.
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Cilantro (coriander in NZ) catching a few cosy rays on the windowsill.
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Posting mail to a few special recipients overseas.
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Joy is a new-to-me beach cruiser that feels like it’s always been mine.
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Simple and delicious.

Favourites from around the web:

We have been doing plenty of sightseeing, but we are also working to balance it with quiet time and simplicity. Why simplifying may protect our children’s mental health.

Quirky. How reading makes our lives better.

This resonates. How to make and keep friends as an adult.

Self-care. A YogaLand interview with Tiffany Cruikshank regarding self-care idea for spring’s transitions.

Here’s to a pleasant weekend!

April 29th: Family. Adventure. Discipline. Home.

After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:

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Redwoods giants rising above us.
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Hobbit-sized clothes on a line.
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Fluffy clouds on four legs.
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A beautiful illustrated edition of a beloved book, and a comforting flat white. These are a couple of my favourite things.
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This boy and his delight at the sight, smell, sound, and feel of the ocean as it beckons.
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Autumn colours reflected in the tranquil water.

Favourites from around the internet:

Why we make things

For the fellow traveller: Simple ways to feel at home when you travel.

On a similar note to the above. Finding home wherever you are.

For those in the northern hemisphere, 20 ways to savor springtime.

Compelling. Why you should read books you hate. I’d love to read your opinions on this. Would you like to leave a comment below?

Magic and science mingle yet again. Meet the biologist who says trees have their own songs.

Celebrate who you are right now.

Favourite words:

I loved this advice from Helen Mirren on femininity, strength, and the freedom that comes with ageing.

Wishing you a weekend of adventure and/or focused discipline — you choose what you need, then seize it!

Renewal

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching. – Emily Carr

A few captures from the past week:

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As we welcome Spring in the northern hemisphere, we are invited to reflect on what, in our personal lives, is waiting to be reawakened. What has been dormant throughout a winter of hibernation and a lazy pace?

Last week was the annual spring break for the Wanderlust Juniors, though the weather made it feel more like mid-January with a windy, cold start to the week. We could be found at home, nursing ourselves to good health; I’m still waiting for my voice to return after a bout of laryngitis. In seeking comfort, we turned to the typical old-fashioned — or maybe the currently trendy hygge-esque — wool blankets and mugs of tea with honey, made forts, watched movies while munching popcorn, and crafted. Today, however, I feel ready to return to my routine and renew my intention to create magic.

I am renewing my commitment to sit in meditation for 10-15 minutes in the morning, following my physical practice. Although I love meditation for its soothing quality and as a disciplinary practice, my practice has lately become sporadic. I am ready to reignite the spark of inspiration.

Is there an intention that you are ready to renew? Please tell me about it in the commends below. 

Favourites from around the web:

I am made of equal parts wanderlust and homebody fibres, as is this writer.

Guided meditation from Tara Brach.

Inspiring podcasts.

More on decluttering.

Wisdom from Mary Oliver.

From the archives:

Feeling yoga.

What meditation is really like.

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“Hibernation.”

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

Favourites 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!

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.

Knitting presence

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.