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!

I have friends who jam their schedules from morning to night, who — despite a busy work-life — pack their weeknights and weekends with a variety of activities, and who thrive on full calendars. I also have friends who prefer to stay at home, who keep their calendars quiet and full of white space because these people unravel if they get too busy. I’ve always fallen somewhere in between the two, living a continual dance between the thrill of busy-ness and the peace of a quiet calendar.

 

But what I’ve noticed in the last few months is a pulling back of sorts, like an invisible rein is drawing me more and more towards stillness. In a time when it seems that all around me things are speeding up, I feel the strong urge to slow down. To say no to things. To be very picky about what I take on.

 

Perhaps it’s because as my children get older they have more activities, inherently affecting the overall ebb and flow of the family calendar; perhaps it’s because I’m finding deeper appreciation of the small, simple moments; perhaps it’s because I care less about proving myself or defining my success in relation to others than I once did; or… perhaps it’s all of those things and none of them. Perhaps it’s simply a phase of reflection and quiet, which we all need for varying reasons at different points in our lives.

 

Whatever this means, one theme stands out for me: knowing my limits. Physically, my energy limits change depending on how active my work is on a given week. If I have a particularly busy teaching week, I know that my body is more tired than during a week when the work scale tips in favour of writing. But during a heavy writing week I notice I may have more physical reserves but my mind gets tired more easily.

 

My meditation is always my true north when it comes to re-calibrating my limits. When I drop in to meditation, both my mind and body send signals that are right there in my face. And I cannot avoid seeing or knowing what I need. Sometimes all it takes is a five-minute practice to know that I’ve taken on too much, or that I’m antsy because I have energy that needs to be channelled into a project.

 

Knowing my limits isn’t always easy to accept. There are many things I want to do or feel the urge to get involved with but then have to weigh those things against whether I really have the time or the energy. With social media it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of who’s-doing-what and how quickly and look-at-that-awesome-project and do-you-want-to-join-us-for-this? It’s a yes-girl’s dream. But as a yes-girl, I feel that invisible rein pull even more tightly right now. Because even though I’m enthusiastic about so many things and I do genuinely want to say yes, yes, yes, I’m trying to be aware of my limits.

 

In past experience, just as a low tide is followed by a high tide, my periods of quiet and reflection have often preceded bursts of great creative energy and new chapters. But whatever this quiet may be, I am savouring it and accepting it.

 

Do you know your limits? How do you stay true to them?

 

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?

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

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?

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.

 

 

Hello!

 

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out Annabel Fitzsimmons – Whole Living.

 

This labour of love has been a long time in the making. A huge thank you to ChickleDesign for their amazing work (and patience).

 

This new and improved site came about after I realized that I was carrying five business cards and running three different sites covering the range of stuff I do in my “life work”. So I spent the last year figuring out how everything could sit in one place. What became clear along the way is that everything I do has a similar intention: to share resources to empower people to live healthy, fulfilled and whole lives. It might be through a physical path (like yoga, Pilates, or running); a mental path (like meditation, reading or creative writing); or simply through finding humour in everyday life situations.


So, why the name, “whole living”? When we look at our lives as a whole, they are the sum of many parts, of many roles. All of these parts in equal or unequal terms make us the complex and fantastic people we are. We should never be defined – or define ourselves – by one aspect of our lives. Instead, knowing how these parts of us fit together at any given time allows us to celebrate what works and makes us content, or when to make a change if something needs changing. To me, this is whole living, or living with awareness.

 

Whole living is about constantly recalibrating life to include the things, people and activities that are important. It is about knowing what works for you, your family, your relationships, your career, and for your physical, mental and emotional self. Life is full of contradictions, of glorious extremes. But what is important at the end of the day is looking at life as a whole, as a big picture.

 

This site will be a landing pad of information that can contribute to healthy, happy and whole living. You’ll find yoga information and podcasts, meditations for adults, bedtime meditation for kids, health and wellness articles, and news on my classes, workshops, retreats or speaking engagements.

 

Some days you’ll find yoga tips or sequences here on the blog, some days you’ll find a parenting story, some days you’ll hear about my latest food fad and sometimes I’ll be sharing links to stories or articles I think might be of interest to you.

 

I hope you’ll take a look around – whether it’s to develop a practice, to have a read, or to take a listen. I look forward to a sharing a whole lot of living with you.