Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Breaks

Spring Break started today. I'm so excited.The kids are home and up at the crack of "why don't you get out of bed like this on a school day?" There are plans on every child and teenager's agenda just waiting to be crushed by the reality check of Mom and her trusty fiscal strategy and acceptable risk policy. All in all the air is electric with the excitement of freedom. A quick poll and the number one reason kids are happy for March Break....the actual break. The break from teachers, homework, early bedtimes and early mornings, the break from routine. And they are going to get it--the break. I'm going to, this year, just like in years past allow them (within safety and financial restraints, of course) to do what they want, enjoy what they want and thoroughly escape from school and routines. There will be video games and hockey games, eating Nutella out of the jar and lounging in PJs all day. It's not the way every parent views the March Break opportunity but I think it's incredibly important to return to the basics of just being a kid. It's a fresh start, it's self care, it's a great way to prepare for the second half of the school year. It's Detoxification! 

Get in on the act! Beyond staying in your PJs until 3 and watching movie marathons check out some of my favourite ways to Detox everyday life...

For the Body
I start mine this coming week. A real food detox similar to one I did last spring but I found this Book (via Dr. Oz) that feels like a real and do-able cleanse for my family who cannot realistically survive or navigate a harsh regiment of a juice cleanse or other fad.

For the Home
Open the windows, change the furnace filter, fill the halls with fresh air! Wash comforters and drapes. Clean out the cleaners and replace some of the harsh chemical ones with natural alternatives where you can. This is something that is getting easier and more affordable as more mainstream natural products come on to the market. I admit, my use of natural cleaners is equal to my ability to recycle; good intentions meet realistic manageability. But there are some great ideas to implement where you can.
Natural Cleaning Recipes

For Relationships
Okay, I don’t have a link for this one but I know from experience that sometimes the very best thing you can do for your relationships with family and friends is to step back, take a break. I always find I appreciate everyone a little more after a pause. Do this often and when you are happy with people so that while you are ‘away’ you are rejuvenating not stewing. Taking this break when you’re angry is toxic not detoxing.

Social Media Detox
This is vitally important in today’s connectedness; so important that I try to do it once a week. I leave the media for a day. It’s hard and I’m not always successful but I try. Could you do it? 24 hours without Facebook, twitter, texting, Pinterest, Instagram. Could you eat a meal without posting a picture of it first or hang out with friends without ‘checking-in’? Could you not ‘selfie’ for a day? It’s harder than you think but sooooo good for your mental health. In social media we are always comparing ourselves to the very best of everyone else’s life (nobody posts reality). Detox, enjoy your own life, compare your happiness to…well—how happy you are. If you can’t manage a day each week, at the very least commit to a weekend each month.
Social Media Detox

In the end Detoxing is like cleaning out your closet and getting rid of all the things you don’t wear anymore; it opens you up, makes you feel wonderful, physically and mentally. It makes room for new and wonderful experiences. Above all it is a way of loving yourself that can improve your happiness, patience, health and zest for life!

Here’s to fresh starts…and spring breaks!

Happy Weekend J



Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Problem is We Think We are Grateful

It is no secret that I am a student of gratitude, a practitioner, a believer, a proponent and a practiser. Gratitude is my muse, the spiritual cornerstone of my personal growth, the secret foundation of every successful relationship I enjoy, and my solace in times of life’s inevitable sadness. I talk about it, write about it, drive other people crazy asking them to look for it. I post, ponder, reference and quote great followers of Gratitude. But what is it? More importantly can it really change your life?

Gratitude is this….

It is a state of ‘being’, a position from which to view the world. Gratitude is, as they say….an attitude but much more that this; Gratitude is an approach to living that strengthens your values, deepens your compassion, fuels your forgiveness and transforms the ordinary into an experience.

Gratitude is highly misunderstood and its power greatly underestimated.

Most people think gratitude is about saying thank you. ‘Thank you’ is a nice thing; it is good manners, an act of social convention. ‘Thank you’ is a note in the mail that follows a party, a handshake, a hug, a smile in exchange for kind words and deeds. It is an utterance that acknowledges the receipt of goods, gifts, kindnesses and service. ‘Thank you’ is an act we teach our children so they can get along in the world, the ‘Yang’ to the ‘Ying’ of please. It is pleasantry; necessary, rote, expected pleasantry but it is not Gratitude (This is very good news for those of us who fail miserably at social convention).

Gratitude is the depth of understanding that anything we can be ‘Thankful for’ can just as easily not be ours.

This line stops me. It takes me immediately to a place where I imagine a world without my children, without my husband, my home, my parents, my siblings, my work, my friends, my dog, my sight, my hearing, my ability to breath, walk, write, eat, read. It ignites within my heart a sudden a deep appreciation for every ‘thing’ I am blessed to have.

The lump in your throat that arises in the moment you consider the loss of a single precious gift, that is gratitude.

It is pretty easy to find for those big, what I refer to as, ‘life’ assets; family, friends, safety, prosperity, and health. The real magic, the transformative power of Gratitude however—that, is found in discovering the same level of appreciation for the smaller ‘living’ assets. Ordinary, mundane, day to day events, routines, gifts and people that go without notice; the gifts that support our lives but whose importance we do not see until that are actually gone.

If you can cultivate the same deep appreciation, a gratitude for these things that you have for your Life assets your view of life will be transformed forever.

There are 2 wonderful tricks for cultivating more gratitude in your life for ‘Living’ assets

The first trick deals with ‘things’. When you come in contact with a ‘thing’ imagine for a brief moment what it would mean for your life if that ‘thing’ we’re not available to you. When you put on a sweater imagine how you would stay warm if a sweater did not exist. When you start your car, imagine how you would get to work, or the doctor or your child’s game without it. When you pick-up your grocery cart at the store, imagine the struggle it would be if you had to carry all the items you wished to purchase in your arms. As you reach for your phone to text your child away at school….imagine if that convenience didn’t exist? How would you cope without an oven, a hairdryer, your toothbrush, your bed, a furnace, your shoes, your coffeemaker, your computer? You don’t have to dwell, just take a snapshot in your mind of life without the object of the moment.

Trick number 2 is about ‘people’. Strangers are easily replaced with other strangers; our lives are intersected every day by dozens of nameless faces. It makes people invisible. It makes feeling gratitude for their contributions to our lives less important than identifying the ways they inconvenience them. To find a deep appreciation for people and their impact on your life you have to view them from the ‘underside’. You have to look beyond their action, peel back a layer and appreciate what it means for them to be where they are. The girl who serves your danish in the morning doesn’t do it because she loves you and serving you danish, she does it because she has a family to support. When your child’s teacher phone conferences you after school, you need to appreciate that he could instead be home with his own children. The doctor treating you could very well be ill, terminal perhaps. Would you know?—probably not, but if you did, would you be grateful for his devotion to healing others? I always think of this strategy when I see Mike doing the dishes; he hasn’t worked less hard than I (harder most often), he hasn’t got less to do or doesn’t want to put his feet up any less than I do and yet he chooses to lend a hand. I can say thank you to him, and do—but inside I feel an appreciation for what it means for him to be standing at that sink.

You begin with these two little tricks and soon a feeling of deep appreciation for everyday normalcies becomes second nature. You begin to see more good in the world around you than bad and in turn more good exists. In truth nothing changes except your perspective.

Around our house we have a saying lately ‘Perspective is 9/10 of the Law’, It is a silly little saying but so incredibly true, the way you see things is the way things continue to be seen. The more gratitude you cultivate the more you will find you have to be grateful for. You begin to find the grateful lining in everything (this scares you a little bit the first time you find yourself grateful for something crazy like dog poop—but you get used to it).

Something else happens when you actually feel the gratitude for the moment behind the social convention of uttering the ‘Thank you’ phrase—you feel the weight of those words, they take on meaning. Another little secret….the receiver feels it too. 

You can always tell a thank-you from a bless-you.

See how many 'Thank-You's' you can replace this week with the real thing, it will change everything else that follows.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eye Off The Prize

One of my favourite moments of any day is the time I spend on my yoga mat. I practice in my living room because that is where I am comfortable and where the only one who might see me is the dog (who incidentally, does not care that I pose in my pj’s or house pants not Lululemon).

There is a happiness that overcomes my spirit when I settle myself down on the mat, a smile that lights up from the inside and a pride in taking the time to care for myself. I love the pace of Hatha and the patience of the movements and I love the message delivered by my instructor today…..

“In your practice today I want you to focus on wilful determination and non-concern for results”

What a beautiful way to treat yourself.

The statement is a simple reminder that there are two aspects to every undertaking; the effort and the success. Being in a mindful state asks us always to be focused on the effort. What a great relief of pressure it is to give yourself permission to concern yourself only with the action and effort at hand understanding that the results or success will determine themselves. If you love what you are doing success is a natural consequence.

Most successful people will tell you that the success they’ve ended up with looks nothing like the success they set out to achieve. In most cases it surpasses anything they could have limited themselves to in their wildest dreams or think-tank sessions. In most cases people find themselves surprised by the results.

They are not alone, I find myself astounded when I suddenly realize that I am looking at my own ass.

The truth is that if I set out focused on making this happen I would be celebrating my wretched failure in traction, and gulping down a Robaxacet cocktail.

But by simply keeping my focus on the effort, the breath, the push and surrender of the instructed posture… to my amazement I find myself in the most astounding postures!

This is the beauty of yoga. Success or failure is never a goal but success always emerges; much to my surprise and generally doubled when I manage to untangle myself back out of any given pretzel pose.

I love the line the instructor leaves with as the session ends as well…

“Maintain this subtle state of mind and carry it with you throughout your day”

And suddenly yoga is right up there with coffee in the ‘must have’s’ of a successful day.

Happy Pancake Tuesday!