It’s been a while since I’ve written a Monday meditation, and I’ve missed the act of writing them down, of sitting with the words as they take shape.

 

This week’s meditation is on perception, and the way we allow ourselves to view the world. We are provided with opportunities daily to make judgments on situations, to assign labels to people or relationships, to have an opinion on the actions or beliefs of others. It is human nature to react from our personal viewpoint, from our current life circumstances, which are simply a culmination of our past experiences.

 

 

As I try to impart to my kids, it’s important to recognize that every situation we are involved in, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between, is being seen by us through our own lens. Sometimes the lens can be a little blurry (whether clouded by emotions, bias, or simply the circumstances of the day), and sometimes it can be crystal clear (when we can be as objective as human nature allows).

 

When we’re conscious that the world around us is viewed through more than just our own lens, it can broaden our perspective on life and our daily events.

 

This week, when you’re challenged by something, or are finding it hard to put a situation into perspective, take some time to meditate on what lens you’re looking through. If you imagine seeing the events through a different lens, does it shift your thinking?

 

Happy meditating!

“If stuck, move.” 

 

It’s a simple concept and may seem completely obvious, but there have been many times that I’ve been stuck in a rut (or an emotional state) and haven’t been able to see a way out of it.

 

On days when I have writer’s block, feel overwhelmed with to-do lists or exhausted from a night of broken sleep, when the first instinct I have is to go straight back to bed, the only thing to do is move. Whether it’s rolling out my yoga mat to do a few sun salutations, or slipping on my running shoes for a walk or a jog, the sheer act of moving my body kickstarts my mind.

 

When my kids are getting at each other or going stir crazy inside the house, we change the dynamic by getting outdoors and being active.

 

Movement propels us forward physically, but also mentally. Regardless of how we’re moving, we’re creating fresh energy and changing our situation. It is and always will be my best “way out.”

 

What’s your best way to get out of feeling stuck?

 

I love summer. Longer days, lots of sunshine, lighter clothes, brighter colours. Everything seems easier to me in the summer. I have more energy, I need less sleep, and I seem to have a more relaxed attitude to pretty much everything. I feel more spontaneous, and well, just more fun.

 

But the eternal student in me also loves the fall, and the beginning of a school year.  September feels like more of a new year to me than January 1st. Fresh starts, fresh notebooks, new experiences. This year, more than ever though, I’m realizing that I could really benefit from taking my summer attitude into the school year with me. And I’m sure my husband and kids could benefit too.

 

So, I’ve come up with three things that I can do to mix a little summer into my back-to-school mindset.

 

Stay Open And Adventurous

 

There’s less structure in our household in the summer. My workload changes, the kids have fewer activities, and we have extra long weekends. As a result, I do more things on a whim, say yes more, and make more last-minute plans. This year, come fall, I’m determined not to get bogged down by our schedules. I might not be able to do half or full-day excursions with the kids like we can do in the summer, but we can have spontaneous playdates or dinner parties, I can throw our meal plan out the window every so often, and I can embrace new adventures with the kids.

 

Be Outside As Much As Possible

 

I love the outdoors. And so do my kids. We’re all happiest when we’re out of the house, in the backyard, the park, in nature, or doing something active. A simple bike ride around the neighbourhood is our family go-to for antsy kids, sibling fighting, or general summer lethargy. This fall, I’m resolving to take every opportunity to get outside. Fresh air and activity are good for the body but are just as important for the mind.

 

Take Things Less Seriously

 

I think everyone has a more laissez-faire attitude in the summer. I know that I’m more relaxed in most situations, whether it’s driving in the city, worrying about being on time for things, or simply getting the laundry done. Yet everything that needs to be done gets done. So, this September I’m still going to pick my kids up on time, see my clients, file my articles, take care of the house etc etc. I’m just aiming to keep this relaxed summer attitude, to not worry about silly stuff, and to take everything a little less seriously.

 

 

Who’s with me? Is there anything from your summer mindset that you’re taking with you into fall?

 

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.

If you’ve ever been to a yoga, meditation or Pilates class, odds are you’ve heard one of the following phrases: “stay connected to the breath,” “breathe deeply,” or “it’s all about the breath.” While there are many reasons for deep conscious breathing in all of these practices, what good does it do us outside of the yoga studio? What’s the big deal about breathing?

 

 

We know that we have to breathe to live. But breathing deeply and consciously can make a huge difference in how we live. Here are five ways we benefit physically and mentally by the simple act of conscious breathing.

 

An Energy Boost – For those days when you’re so tired you could lie down on a bed of nails and sleep for hours. By focusing on deep, energizing breaths we can boost our energy levels, and combat mental and physical fatigue. We’re bringing in fresh oxygen and helping increase the supply of blood and nutrients to our body.

 

The Great Stress-Reliever – For the times when your kids or your spouse or your boss have pushed your buttons and your head might just explode out of frustration or anger.  By taking deep, calming breaths, you can reverse the stress response. Your muscles and mind can then relax, enabling you to gain perspective on the situation. It’s pretty difficult to hold onto muscle tension or stay angry and stressed when you’re breathing deeply.

 

Keep Your Appetite Honest – For the times you’re trying to monitor your food intake but all you want to do is have that extra brownie and/or bag of chips.  When we breathe deeply into our diaphragm, not only do we keep our digestive system running smoothly, we are also forced to pay attention to when our stomach is full. Have you ever tried to take a deep breath after overindulging at a meal? It’s nearly impossible without feeling like you’re going to see the meal again (except it won’t be on a plate this time).


 

Healthy Heart – For the days, weeks (or months) when we’re running around between kids’ activities, work, family commitments, and we’re taking care of everyone else except for ourselves. With women being more likely to die from heart disease than any other cause, staying connected to the breath becomes extra important. Deep conscious breathing has been proven to reduce blood pressure, improve blood circulation, and lower the heart rate, all of which contribute to the wellbeing of the heart. 


 

Slowing Down – For when the only time you wind down is by falling into bed at night exhausted. Being mindful of our breath allows us to truly listen to our bodies. It causes us to slow down, gain clarity on our physical and mental state, and gives us a little more space in our day. Who couldn’t do with a little more of that?

  In the days ahead, why not try to breathe a little more deeply? And let me know how it feels.

 

It’s the first Monday of 2013 here at Annabel Fitzsimmons Whole Living, and the first post of the year. Happy 2013 to you! Talk of resolutions abound, but I’m taking a new approach to the new year. I’m using January as a time to reflect, and build a foundation for the year ahead.

 

The theme for this week’s Monday meditation is balance. The word balance brings up a wide variety of reactions from people. Some people view it as an unattainable goal, an over-used buzzword, or a concept that places undue pressure on us in an already pressure-filled world.

 

But this week, I’m going to challenge you to throw your idea of balance out the window, and think about it through fresh eyes. Balance could be as simple as the physical ability to balance our bodies upright down the icy sidewalks of this snowy winter. It could mean eating a balanced meal that fills our bellies and gives us energy. Balance could mean standing on one foot in tree pose or staying upright on a spin bike as you get your cardio on.

 

This week, as you take some time to reflect, I ask you to meditate on the many different aspects of the word balance, and the many possibilities the word holds. Try to let go of preconceived ideas about the meaning of balance (somebody else’s idea of balance is not going to be the same as yours) and explore what kind of balance you’d like to see in your life for the year ahead.

 

2013 lies before us, full of potential and promise. May our meditation on balance this week allow us to move into the year full of positivity and optimism.

 

If you’d like a little daily inspiration on the theme of balance, please follow along the 21 Days to Balance initiative I’m involved in this month. You’ll get fast and friendly nutrition, exercise, yoga and meditation tips from nutrition expert Lianne Phillipson Webb, fitness expert Samantha Montpetit-Huynh and me.

Last week’s meditation was focused on letting go, on releasing habits, behaviours or thought patterns that no longer serve us. Today, as we start our fresh Monday slate, let’s meditate on the word embrace.

 

It is easy to embrace the parts of life we love, the foods we like to eat, the people we are happiest being around, the activities we enjoy doing. But what about the parts of life that are necessary to our daily living yet don’t make our hearts sing? The minutiae. Like taking out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry (I have written before about my laundry mantra). Or the behaviours or habits of others that irritate us? (Looking at you, dear husband, who cuts his sandwiches on the counter.) Or the parts of ourselves we are always so quick to judge ourselves on? (Looking at me and my competitive nature.)

 

What would happen if we embraced all of these things happily, and accepted them as part of the larger fabric of our lives. What if each of our daily movements became a lesson, a celebration of sorts, or an opportunity to shift our mindset? What could we let in?

 

Could embracing a different attitude open our views of ourselves and the world a little wider? It could be as simple as embracing patience on our daily commute and letting that person into the traffic jam ahead of us. Or embracing the idea of trying things we haven’t done before, and perhaps discovering a new favourite form of exercise.

 

The possibilities are endless if we’re willing to be open to them, embrace them. What can you embrace this week?

This week’s Monday meditation is about letting go. There are always things we hold onto tightly. We might have ideas or habits or relationships that we are scared to let go of because we think they define who we are. Opinions and beliefs that we are so invested in that we can’t see beyond them. Or we may simply have ways of thinking or doing things that we feel we can’t change because we don’t know any different.

 

From small choices or actions to deeply ingrained habits, there are always aspects of our lives that we can let go of. By recognizing – and letting go of – these behaviours, thought patterns, emotions, expectations and interactions that no longer serve us, we can adapt, change, and discover new perspectives.

 

Sometimes it’s painful to let go, sometimes it’s frustrating and difficult, but more often than not – when the letting go has happened – we feel a sense of freedom, ease and potential for positive growth.

 

This week, turn your thoughts to the idea of letting go. What do you feel is weighing you down, holding you back, or keeping you stuck? If you need a little help, here’s a mini guided meditation to get you started. Another activity that is extremely helpful is writing down daily things you’d like to let go of.

 

Here’s to letting go. May it be a freeing kind of week.

I had the privilege of teaching yoga last weekend at Simply Blossoming, a yearly women’s retreat in Haliburton, Ontario. I taught morning yoga classes and a couple of yoga workshops to the group. I was also lucky enough to participate in some of the other workshops offered, had a reflexology appointment, went on a nature hike, meditated, sang, journalled, and spent time with this group of diverse and fascinating women.

 

I’ve been on many retreats, as a participant, a host, and as a guest instructor. Regardless of what role I play in a retreat, I am amazed at the transformations that occur. Whether it’s a weekend retreat or a weeklong retreat, the action of getting away from our everyday, of “retreating” is powerful.

 

Over the years, there are a few things I have learned about retreats and, coming off a profound weekend, it seemed like a perfect time to share them.

 

If you’re thinking of going on any type of yoga, meditation, or spiritual retreat, here are 7 things you should know:

 

1. You don’t know why you’re there until you get there.

 

You may think you know why you’re going. You may think your intention is clear from the moment you put down that deposit, but often it’s not until you’re actually there, physically there, that why you’re really there becomes apparent.

 

2. You will gain perspective.

 

When you are removed from your daily life, your obligations, your roles and responsibilities, a wonderful thing happens. You can see your life for what it is, warts and all. You have the ability to step back from the minutiae of your life and look at it in a big-picture kind of way.

 

 

3. Be ready to face your life head-on.

 

When on a retreat, it is difficult to avoid the emotions, insights and realizations that occur. Be prepared to take a honest look at your life, and all the areas that are working (or not working, as the case may be). We are often surprised by the parts of our lives that come to the surface during these times of reflection.

 

4. Be compassionate with yourself

 

At some point, during the retreat, you may feel crabby or out of sorts. It might be short-lived, it might last longer. Know that this is okay, and look for the deeper reason. Sometimes we’ve discovered an uncomfortable truth about ourselves, or we’ve hit a roadblock in processing something, or perhaps it’s as simple as we’re just eating a different diet, have low blood sugar or need a nap! Be gentle with yourself, and listen to your body.

 

 

5. Try new things.

 

There will always be new experiences to try on a retreat, and some will seem weird or “out there”. These are often the sessions you stand to gain the most from. So, if something scares you or is out of your usual routine, try it, and observe your reaction(s).

 

 

6. Write things down.

 

You will process so many things during a retreat. You may have small realizations or grand epiphanies, but I guarantee if you don’t write them down you’ll find it hard to remember exactly what that thought was and why you had it during that particular workshop.

 

 

7. Be open.

 

Of all things, this is probably the most important. Everyone is on that retreat for a reason (and referring back to #1, most don’t know why they’re there until they’re actually there) and we all stand to learn from one another. Suspend judgment, listen, and be open, and your experience(s) will be that much deeper and richer.