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.

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

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.

On Friendship

 

It has been said that introverts tend to not have a wide social circle; instead, we hold on tightly to friendship with several people who truly ‘get them.’ I suspect that extroverts value special friendships just as much as introverts. I am fortunate to know a very special extrovert who enjoys our intimate catch-up sessions as much as she enjoys vibrant parties. She and I spent a wonderful afternoon together last Saturday, enjoyed strolling through the Art Gallery of Ontario and marveled at the awe-inspiring paintings at the Mystical Landscapes exhibit (aside: go see it if / when you’re in Toronto), then drank red wine and ate delicious Pad Thai at Queen Mother Cafe.

I cannot fathom having a meaningful conversation with a group of several people. A discussion, yes, where everyone gets his or her say, but not a deep conversation, the kind that fosters mutual trust and understanding. I believe that such conversations are essential to our well being, but there are not many people whom we truly feel that we can trust to listen and to understand, without the need to justify our emotions. They simply ‘get it,’ and if they don’t, they nevertheless accept without judgment.

I am grateful for a few such people in my life. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) might be convinced that ““Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world,” but I have found that they are rare and invaluable. We may not meet often in person, but when we do, it is as though no time has passed since our last tête-à-tête. One form of communication that helps to minimize the time distance is email. I am grateful for friends who don’t merely tolerate my electronic novellas but genuinely enjoy reading my updates, and I am delighted each time I open my email inbox and see their names. I long to read their happy tales and commiserate at the not-so-joyful ones.

 I raise a glass to you, mes chères amies! Thank you for being in my life.

 Is there a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while? Why not send an email or make a phone call today and plan to meet for coffee? I vow to make the time. 

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.”

fantasybooks

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. 

img_2134

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.

neuschwanstein

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.

Don’t judge a book by its size, or why I sometimes give up on books

To save some space in my carry-on luggage while packing for a business trip, I sought a thin paperback from my pile of books to read. The majority of those books are not compact by any means, but I did find one that I was glad to fit into my small purse. “Excellent,” I thought, until two hours into my four-hour flight from Toronto to Calgary, when I struggled to stay awake. Please understand, dear reader, that no matter how tired I might be, a good book will rarely, if ever, put me to sleep. I can easily fight sleep in order to continue reading, then pay for it in the morning.

I have recently become better at practising self-discipline when it comes to my bedtime, reminding myself that sleep is more important than reading. I turn off the lights before heeding the tempting invitation of “One more chapter.” The book I held in my hands on Sunday evening did not fit into the category of great books that I could devour in one sitting, given the opportunity. I gave the book another chance by continuing to read on my return flight, but didn’t find it any better. I look at it now and wonder whether, 150 pages in, I should continue to stick with it or abandon it altogether.

I used to feel guilty about abandoning a book after starting to read and finding it uninteresting, or simply not enjoying the subject matter, plot line, or characters. I have since become more strict about how I spend my time and am selective about the books to which I choose to dedicate my hours. I have learned to abandon books, yet the feeling of guilt lurks. Do you ever feel that way?

Whenever I start to doubt whether to abandon a book or to continue reading, I revert to a few criteria points:
1. The plot is boring or not interesting to me. This is somewhat tricky. I found James Joyce’s Ulysses boring but stuck with it because, well, it’s a classic. I might need to re-read it several more times before I can fully gain an appreciation for the book.

2. The writing is not great. I love good prose and dislike melodramatic inner dialogue that seems to spin in circles for too many pages. At the risk of sounding snobby, I will also say that I generally avoid books with language that is too pedestrian and books that read like a movie script without intending to be so. When it comes to non-fiction, I am averse to a preachy tone.

3. I dislike or feel unable to relate to more than one of the characters. I consider myself to be open-minded to various views, opinions, and personalities, but some characters can be simply drab. If the plot and characters annoy me, the challenge of continuing the book becomes cumbersome.

4. The book annoys me for one reason or more. This one goes hand-in-hand with numbers 1 and 3 above.

5. The subject matter is disturbing to me. I like some suspense and crime fiction, but tend to choose the classic Agatha Christie books or those inspired by Christie. I don’t mind classic macabre fiction, but generally stay away from thriller-style books the main objective of which is often to simply be sensationalist. I am also drawn to fiction set in WWII era, but can only take so much when reading true accounts of what happened during the war. This is not because I am disillusioned in any way. On the contrary. I am a grandchild of a holocaust survivor and grew up with real stories of the horrors of that time. Rather, as an HSP, I know that for self-preservation, I must approach such material with care.

books2

How about you? Do you read every book cover to cover, or do you abandon books that do not interest you? What is your criteria for giving up on a book? Please leave a comment below.

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.

DSC_0879

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.

dscn4402

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.

autumn2016

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.