Monday Meditation: Beliefs

Every day we experience the world around us through the lens of our respective belief systems. Some of these beliefs are so ingrained in our minds that we’re no longer conscious of why or how they became part of our mental framework in the first place. Beliefs that our parents instilled in us as children, ideas about our own personalities or the world around us that we heard from friends or partners, or assumptions we absorbed into our psyches as a result of difficult life events.

 

But what happens when we challenge our deeply held beliefs? Do they still have meaning within the context of the lives we live, or the lives we want to be living?

 

EmPOWERed YOUth is a fabulous book by father and son, Jeffrey and Michael Eisen that demonstrates the impact of questioning our beliefs. It tells the story of their own personal struggles, their relationship, and the power of open communication and support between parents and children. There are many life lessons in this book, which offers moving narratives as well as powerful exercises for the reader to engage in. But what is readily apparent is that by examining their respective belief systems, both Jeffrey and Michael were able to consciously repair many areas of their (and each other’s) lives that were causing them pain.

 

It’s not always easy to explore your belief system, not to mention letting go of beliefs that you’ve held onto for decades. I’d liken it to getting rid of the most stubborn weeds in my garden. But as I’ve discovered over the last couple of months, (with much credit to Jeffrey Eisen) releasing certain patterns of thinking — or “belief habits” as I’ve come to call them – is extremely liberating.

 

This week, allow yourself to observe the lens through which you view the world. And ask yourself, what beliefs no longer serve you?



Doing Yoga for a Good Cause

There are so many reasons I do yoga: it grounds me, it stretches me out, it strengthens my body, it connects me with my breath, it clears my mind, it decreases stress, it makes me happy, and it keeps me moving. But on March 3rd, 2013, I’m doing yoga for a more important reason: to raise money for arthritis research. I’m participating in the Power of Movement.

 

The Power of Movement is a yoga fundraiser hosted by the Arthritis Research Foundation. On Sunday, March 3rd, thousands of Canadians will take to their mats for this great cause. For the second year in a row, I’m proud to be a Power of Movement champion. Last year, I wrote this post explaining why I’m so passionate about the initiative.

 

Arthritis comes in many shapes and forms. There are over 100 different types, and it estimated that 4.6 million Canadians live with some variety of the disease. The Power of Movement, Canada’s largest yoga fundraiser can make a huge difference in the lives of many.

 

This year, I’m proud to be teaming up with fellow champion Lisa Barkin and taking our Whole Living team to the Toronto event.  The master class is being taught @Jason_Crandell and I know it is going to be an incredible day.

 

If you’re in the GTA and want to be part of the fun, Lisa and I would love for you to join our Whole Living Team. And if you can’t make it to the mat, I hope you’ll consider a donation to give the gift of movement to all Canadians living with arthritis.

 

Namaste,

Annabel

 



Monday Meditation: Celebrate

My wise friend, and creative life coach extraordinaire, Jamie Ridler, once said to me: “There is something to celebrate everyday. Let’s not get so busy looking at what’s ahead of us that we forget to celebrate our accomplishments today – both big and small.” I think of these words often, especially when it comes to celebrating the smaller moments of life.

 

 

Often we associate the word celebrate with big events – such as birthdays, holidays, occasions – or with major milestones, such as getting a promotion, or signing a book deal.  Of course, all of these happenings do deserve a celebration, and I’m always up for a champagne toast! But I think it’s equally, if not more important, to celebrate the daily moments, the smaller happenings that contribute to our happiness. Because it is the smaller moments, the everyday actions that allow us to arrive at the “bigger” events.

 

What if we approached each day with a celebratory nature, a readiness to applaud ourselves and others for a kind action, for changing a thought pattern, for just being here, for being alive and breathing. It may not be a mindset that we can maintain at all times, but perhaps it can shift our thinking on those difficult days.

 

Today, I’m celebrating the fact that I finally tackled a to-do list I’ve been putting off (man, it feels good!), that I have carved out time for yoga and meditation in my workday, that my kids and I are healthy again after a month of crazy sickness in the household.

 

Looked at individually, these may not seem like momentous things, but as I am reminded of so often, gratitude in small things can alter your view of the world.

 

What are you celebrating today? Congratulations! I’ll raise a virtual glass to you.

 

 

 



Monday Meditation: Unplugging

 

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, e-newsletters, daily updates, tablets, laptops, iPhones, smartphones, texting, messaging, posting, updating, checking in. If you’re like me, trying to keep life relatively simple while at the same time maintain virtual relationships and an online presence, the amount of mental clutter, buzz, and constant information can become overwhelming. Hence, the theme of this week’s Monday meditation: unplugging.

 

We all know it’s good for us to check out and turn off our technology at times, but for many of us it’s also tempting to just check in on Facebook one last time before bed or while the kids are happily playing and don’t appear to need your immediate attention. And then minutes, or sometimes hours later you look up from the screen and…well, you get the picture.

 

The reality of life nowadays is that there are many distractions. People enjoy spending time online or plugged in, and there are people whose livelihood depends on it. For many, it has become extremely difficult to enjoy moments of quiet, of just being, without “checking in.” But truthfully we have a choice over when and how much time we spend being plugged in, or rather when and how much time we spend “unplugging”.

 

When I was in high school and went on holidays with my family, there was no email (remember those times?), no texting (pagers weren’t even around then…), and phone calls were certainly far too expensive to consider (especially if we were travelling internationally). When we went away as a family, we were gone, disconnected, and truly unplugged. We would arrive back home refreshed to a few phone messages on our answering machine (once we actually got one), and I looked forward to the first get-together with my girlfriends to get the scoop on all that had happened while I was away. There were usually some minor dramas to catch up on, but it gradually became apparent to me that life had just continued on as per usual. And here I was ready to jump back in.

 

 

I’m coming off a long weekend of being unplugged, of visiting with a close friend from out of town and her kids. And, although I didn’t go away, I’m reminded of that high school feeling of returning from a holiday. I feel refreshed, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the online world. Sure, there may have been some minor (and major) dramas while I was offline, but I’m pretty sure that life has continued as per usual. Unplugging on a regular basis is both a positive and vital experience for me.

 

This week, I encourage you to explore your thoughts or feelings about being unplugged. Does it cause you anxiety to be offline? Are you constantly checking social media, your phone or your email? What would happen if you didn’t?

 

And if you do “power down” this week, I hope you enjoy your time to the fullest.

 

 



Monday Meditation: Compassion

 

Compassion. It’s a concept easily lost in the busy-ness of our days. Someone cuts us off in traffic, a store clerk is rude as we buy our groceries, and we get frustrated or angry. But what if we sprinkled a little compassion on the situation? What if we looked behind the behaviour of these people?

 

 

We’ve all had times where we’ve been the person cutting someone else off, or been rude to someone, perhaps even without realizing it. We’ve all had days where our life events have created a chain reaction of negativity that we’ve passed along somehow to another person. And if that person reacts negatively back – gets angry or frustrated – it tends to fuel our own negativity. But if that person reacts with compassion, sensitivity, and gives us a positive message, often it can change the course of our thinking. Perhaps it makes us stop and reflect on our behaviour, or perhaps it turns our day around and gives us that boost of friendliness or kindness we sorely needed.

 

We encounter numerous situations each day, through our own personal actions and thoughts, our interactions with our families and friends, and the way we relate to strangers. Behind every action we take are long and complex life stories that have brought us to this point.

 

If we can practice compassion during times when other people are challenging our patience or testing us,  we have the power to make a difference in both our own and someone else’s day.

 

This week, take some time to reflect on the practice of compassion. Are you compassionate with others, but not with yourself? How can you bring a deeper sense of compassion to your everyday?

 

Wishing you a thoughtful, and compassionate week ahead.



Two Yoga Poses For Sleep

Sleep. It’s such a precious commodity. Yet most of us experience trouble sleeping at some point in our lives. There are countless reasons for this: mental stress, physical stress, an inability to fully relax, the list goes on. And when sleep eludes us, it can cause even more anxiety because we become overly focused on the sheer act of getting to sleep.

 

 

Rest assured. There are ways to ease the body and mind into dreamland. The first step is to create an environment that is conducive to sleep. Put away or turn off your computer, smartphone, tablet or television, and establish a quiet zone in your bedroom. Then try some yoga and relaxation techniques to further calm the body and the mind.

 

 

Here are two yoga poses to relax the body at nighttime.

 

 

 

Child’s Pose: From kneeling, sit your buttocks back towards your heels and release your chest downwards. Relax your forehead on your forearms. Imagine opening a trap door in the middle of your forehead that allows any thoughts or mental clutter to fall right out of your mind. Hold for 2-5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legs Up the Wall: Lie on your back with your legs up against a wall, and bring your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Let your heels rest on the wall, and allow your legs, hips and back to completely relax. Hold for 2-5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a meditation exercise that encourages deep mental and physical relaxation.

 

 

Autogenic relaxation: Find a comfortable position lying down, and take a few deep breaths. Bring your awareness to each area of the body from the feet to the head, and mentally encourage that area to release. For example: Say to yourself, “My feet are relaxed, my feet are relaxed, my feet are completely relaxed.” Repeat with each body part. By focusing on each area of the body, you are releasing unnecessary tension and allowing the body to come into a state of rest.

 

Combined with a quiet, dark sleeping environment, the above exercises should help bring on a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!

 



Monday Meditation: Messages Of the Mind

We humans can be hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up for the littlest things.  “I wish I was better at this.”  “Why couldn’t I do that right?” We compare ourselves. “Why can’t I be more like her?” “How does he do it?” Many of us live with a constant stream of self-criticism when we don’t live up to the expectations we put on ourselves. And these messages have an impact.

 

There is power in our thoughts. Negative thoughts are like weeds. They multiply and attach to other thoughts until they clog up the mind. Positive thoughts can be harder to cultivate, but the effect they have on us is freeing. Akin to a door or window being opened, allowing in sunlight, and fresh air.

 

Just as it takes effort to pull weeds from the garden, it takes effort to shift away from negative thinking.

 

This week, let’s meditate on the messages in our minds. Are there recurring beliefs or negative statements that seem to be on repeat in our heads? Can we shift those messages into positive ones, or replace them with new, fresh thoughts?

 

I’ll leave you with a quote: “What we think, we become.” What do you want to become?



How Our Daily Activities Affect Our Health

 

Do you carry a heavy purse on one shoulder? Commute to work, only to spend eight hours sitting at a desk?  Cross your legs when you sit? Carry your child on one hip? Hold the phone to your shoulder with your ear?

 

 

Whether we realize it or not, every action we take in our daily life – big or small – has an impact on the way our physical body functions. And over time, any stress on our bodies creates an imbalance that could sap us of strength and energy. For some, an imbalance may result in nagging muscle aches or pains; for others, it may manifest in a chronic condition.

 

 

So how can we become more aware of the effect of our everyday actions and prevent our “bad habits” from wrecking our bodies? Here are three ways:

 

 

Visualize Your Day

 

In your mind, walk through your typical daily activities – from getting out of bed in the morning to going to bed at night. Visualize the way you’re standing when you brush your teeth, the way you sit at your desk, talk on the phone, eat your lunch, play with your kids, sit on the couch, even your workout regime. You might be surprised at how many activities you engage in that create imbalances or put negative stress on your body.

 

 

Brainstorm some ways to combat these imbalances. For example, if you drive long distances or sit at a desk all day, schedule stretch breaks where you can counteract the stresses of sitting with gentle back bends and some neck and shoulder stretches. Or if you carry your purse on one shoulder, try to be conscious of switching arms as much as possible.

 

Body Check-In

 

In the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening, perform a “check-in” with the body. Here’s how to do it: Get out of that office chair and rise to a standing position. Direct your attention to each body part and notice if there are any areas of tension, pain or discomfort. See if you can trace this discomfort back to an action or activity (large or small) that you recently engaged in.

 

 

Once you have a focused awareness of your body tension(s), perform some gentle but targeted stretches to release tightness in the muscles. The more time we spend connecting our minds with our bodies, the more likely we are to catch and stave off negative stress before it creates strain on our muscles or joints.

 

Regular BodyWork

 

Incorporate regular bodywork into your life. Just as cars need regular maintenance, so do our bodies. Making an appointment to spend time working on your body increases your awareness of your physical habits and their effects. Whether it’s in the form of a monthly massage, a weekly yoga class, or a daily guided relaxation, bodywork is a fantastic way to maintain and nourish a healthy, balanced body. And as an added bonus, your mind will feel refreshed as well.

 

 

So, as you head off into the rest of your day, bring a greater awareness to everything you do. You might be surprised at the results.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on January 11, 2011 in my weekly health and wellness column over at That’sFit.ca (no longer in publication).



Monday Meditation: The Breath

This week, instead of meditating on a theme, phrase or idea, we’re going to turn our attention to our breathing.

 

It may sound simple, but it’s amazing how much mental clutter surfaces when our focus is purely on the breath.

 

 

Here are a few tips for the Breathing Meditation:

 

  • Decide how long you’ll be meditating for and set a timer.
  • Find a comfortable seated position (or lie down on your back), close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Don’t try to control the breath, just notice the rhythm of inhalations and exhalations.
  • As you breathe in and out, observe any thoughts that come through your mind. Try not to let yourself attach any weight to these thoughts. Imagine they are like clouds passing through the sky, and refocus on your breathing.

 

As you practice the breathing meditation, notice any patterns that come up in your practice. Is there a point in the meditation where you seem to get distracted or find it a challenge to continue? Do you get agitated or uncomfortable part-way through your allotted time? Are you tempted to finish the meditation earlier than planned because your mind has filled with to-do lists for the day ahead? It is often at the most challenging times during our meditations that we need to be gentle with ourselves, remind ourselves to simply be present, and bring our attention back to the constant and steady rhythm of our breathing.

 

May your week be as calm and steady as your breath.

 

Want to know more about the breath? Read What’s the Big Deal About Breathing?



Gratitude Exercise

Gratitude. There are always aspects of our lives to be thankful for. Being grateful can shift our moods, change our interactions with others, and give us an important perspective on our lives.

 

Take two minutes to complete this exercise on gratitude and see how it affects you.

 

Grab a blank piece of paper or turn to a fresh page of a notebook. For the next two minutes, write down everything in your life that you have to be thankful for.

 

Observe how you feel afterwards. Could you write more?

 

Bringing awareness to all that we are grateful for is a powerful tool in maintaining a balanced approach to life.

 

For more tips on balance, check out the #21DaysToBalance initiative.