Running tag

My yoga and Pilates clients inspire me daily. I am lucky enough to work with a wide variety of students. From 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds, my teaching practice offers me insight into many ages and stages of life.

 

 

The one theme that has surfaced repeatedly in the past few weeks is how vital a functioning, moving body is to our overall health. I’m sure many of you can relate to a time when you’ve been really sick or injured, and your daily routine has had to change dramatically. And then, when you recover, when you’re back to your regular schedule, you feel so utterly thankful and appreciative of what it feels like to be healthy and to move with ease.

 

Why is it so easy to ignore the gift of health and celebrate our ability to move our bodies until we are challenged by something that threatens these abilities? Many of us take our bodies for granted until we are faced with a stark reminder that the body is fallible and will not always work in the ways we need it to.

 

This week, I encourage you to spend some time being aware of and thankful for the different ways you use your body. For the ability to walk, to jump, to play tag with your children. For the ability to open a door for someone else, to carry your groceries, to strike a yoga pose.

 

Our bodies do so much for us. Let’s do all we can to appreciate them.

 

Happy moving!

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?

 

Although Spring has officially started here in Ontario, the weather is a little late to the game. But there is the promise of warmer temperatures in the air, and the longer days and more frequent sunshine are pleasant reminders of Spring’s arrival. At this time of year, I always feel a surge of energy, a sense of renewal. It’s instinctual.

 

I get the urge to spring clean the house, to get rid of all the clutter that has built up over the winter months and give our house a little makeover from the inside. I notice the desire to eat lighter foods – more salads and fresh, raw veggies – and less of the casseroles and thick soups of winter. Creatively, I am full of ideas and thoughts that have surfaced after simmering quietly in my mind during the early months of the year. And despite being a winter runner, running at this time of year offers a new sense of freedom, and I find an extra spring in my step (without having to navigate icy sidewalks or snowy streets).

 

Generally, Spring feels more like a fresh start to me than the ringing in of the new year.

 

This week I’ll be looking at the four corners of my life – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional – and asking myself where I need to focus my energies the most this Spring. Just as a garden needs nurturing in different ways as the seasons change, so do our bodies and minds. Are there any areas of your life that need a little renewal? This might just be the perfect time of year for it.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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?

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?