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Apparently, doing nothing is a good theme for me. I achieved my highest score yet, this past week…

My total: 28 (out of a potential 35)

On analyzing this week’s successes (and challenges), it becomes clear that it is no coincidence that we Canadians celebrated our last long weekend (until the winter/Christmas holidays). Thanksgiving. A time for nourishing our souls, our tummies, our relationships.  The waning of the moon further contributed to the feeling of yin: peace, settling, the exhale. And an excellent time to practice “doing nothing“.

Thanksgiving for my husband and I was a little different this year: because we are currently on our fall cleanse, we were unable to participate in the voracious gorging at a couple of family Thanksgiving dinners. We brought our own delicious, detox friendly food to one, and on thanksgiving itself, ended up making our very first Thanksgiving for two. A gluten-, dairy-, soy-, processed-, alcohol-free thanksgiving, full of delicious autumn foods done perfectly: home-cooked and extremely nourishing. And, they lasted for meals after. 🙂 Score for taking time for body.

The energy of the weekend – gratitude – was quite dominant and palpable, everywhere I turned. And when that feeling is so overwhelming, it is difficult NOT to sit with it a little… bathing in this happiness. We found ourselves in peaceful quietude more often than not, breathing in the air, doing walking meditations, and feeling soothed from deep within. Emotions ran high and flowed with a cleansing feeling. In fact, I even wrote a poem. Now how is that for taking time for the mind?

Doing Nothing was also soul-soothing. We did not touch our work all weekend. As I mentioned, the quiet moments were many. this past’s week’s challenge to “take time to do nothing” was a nice change, and, as I mentioned in my last blog post, made me rethink my definition of productivity. This week, I feel refreshed and more ready to take on what the days have in store. I did take time for soul this past week, and I can feel the difference.

(And lastly, it is hard to avoid taking time for others during this thankful holiday. Perfect score there!)

What is our theme this week?

Take time for your spirit.

Vague, yes. But ask yourself this question: how do you nourish your spirit? Spirituality is a word that can garner quite opposite reactions. When approaching the subject in yoga classes, there can be undesirable reactions: mental (or physical) fleeing, reading “religion” from “spirituality”. But spirit is universal. Spirit is removed from religion – religion is just one of many ways some human beings nourish their spirit. Spirit is whatever you want it to be: it is that “je-ne-sais-quoi” that flickers deep inside, that moves you and gives you purpose. And this week, I want you to fan those flames, feed that fire, and remember your spirit.

Express yourself.

Make art.

Dance.

Enjoy your own rituals – religious or not.

Write (another) poem.

Just put your ear down next to your soul and listen hard. ~Anne Sexton

A day later again… I must have been practicing this week’s mantra:

Take Time to do Nothing.

Can’t blame me, I was busy doing nothing.


Before we get into this week’s soul challenge, I suppose I have to report my results of Week 2. Week 2 was regrettably a little worse than Week 1. Yes, I should have learned some lessons from Week 1. Yes, I should have been able to pull myself out of those patterns I identified last week. However, I did not. But, you know what? That’s okay. This is a learning process, and each week I am more mindful of my daily “health practices” and my obstacles.

My total: 25 (out of a potential 35)

As I look to where I did not earn points this past week, a pattern does begin to emerge. The days that I am in the office are definitely the days I do not always get in all aspects of our challenge. The days that I am in the office, I wake up panicked from the beginning – planning, over-thinking, and shuffling my own health off to the side in order to worry some more. And these days, in the office, are also the days I tend to sleep-in in the mornings (and miss my morning meditation) since I started the planning, over-thinking, and worrying the night before.

(Warning: Attempt to (over-) simplify some pretty complicated theories below…) 

In traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver is the organ of “planning” (next to many other things). When one is “stuck” in a pattern of over-planning, especially in bed at night, we look to the Liver. In the body, the Liver is responsible for orchestrating the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) around the body. It also stores blood, controls our tendons and sinews, and houses the “Ethereal Soul” – the Hun. If this smooth flow of Qi is not optimized, things get stuck, stagnant… including our Hun. The Hun gives us the drive, the direction, and the purpose for, well, our lives. Of course it does – it is the conductor, the overseer of plans. Thus, if Qi is not flowing as it should, we not only experience physical symptoms of “stuckness”, but also, emotional symptoms of “stuckness”. Some people are constitutionally more prone to imbalances in the Liver. And, through the years, I  have discovered that I am certainly one of these people.

So, the more I plan, over-plan, and re-plan… the more stuck I get. It’s an ironic concept. That phenomenon which I am trying to prevent by “over-planning” (wasted time, inefficiency, lack of productivity, unpreparedness) is actually WORSENED as I think myself into a loop. (Yes, there are physiological reasons and treatments as well, but emotions are often a large part of root cause.)

And so, we come back to our “soul” challenge of this week:

Take Time to do Nothing.

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~ A.A. Milne

Okay. Some people may not like this. If you start searching for quotes about “nothing”, you start to come up with things like “If you want to be nothing, do nothing” or “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. However, I don’t mean do NOTHING nothing. I mean: take a little time out each day for silence. Take time for something that is not conventionally “productive” (though, according to me, it is much more productive in the bigger picture). Take time out to be present with LIFE – imagine being an infant again. Observing, watching, taking in… seemingly doing nothing productive, yet growing by the minute. It is when we allow ourselves to stop that we can let our bodies talk. When we stop over-thinking things, ideas emerge. When we clear our heads, we make space for more.

Ideas on how to do nothing:

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no means a waste of time. ~ J. Lubbock

More ideas here: http://amolife.com/character/the-art-of-doing-nothing.html

Oops.

Tuesday marked the end of our first week of the “take time challenge”… and I was afraid to tally up my results. As a teacher, a naturopath, and a potential role model, I am acutely aware of the importance of “walking the talk“. Authenticity is for what I strive every day – and, when there is a disconnect between what I believe/teach and what I do, there is a deeply unsettling feeling. A mixture of anxiety, shame, guilt, and the other emotion that has no name that comes around from my core knowledge that those are all life-sucking emotions to feel.

This, unfortunately, was the feeling I walked around with over the last week.

This, alone, is an unfortunate turn in my own “Take Time Challenge”. However, on adding up my own results, the clouds cleared. Things aren’t that bad.

My total: 27 (out of a potential 35)

Where I earned points: A Wednesday night chamomile bath with a book, a fairly regular meditation practice, small breaks for sunshine even if I didn’t have time for a full “workout”, lots of connection with people

Where I lost points: A lunch skipped, a few days of not leaving my work for anything, forgetting our theme some days, procrastination

I can learn to celebrate the little achievements, and now I am conscious of my “learning objectives”.

  1. Work can often overpower my need for nourishment – in body, mind, and soul. However, to be the best that I can be in my work, I must be nourished. I must feel complete. I must be present and awake and balanced.
  2. Though it is important to walk my talk – it is more important to move forward without shame or guilt or those other unnamed feelings. Kindness and compassion towards one’s self are the answers. If the path to optimal health and balance in boy, mind and soul were simple, then we would all be there. There will be obstacles – celebrate not only when you have crossed them, but also when they become visible. This is the first step to formulating your way over, under, around and through.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

So, let us introduce the theme for week 2 (sorry I am a day late!)…

TAKE TIME FOR THE HERE AND NOW.

“Whatever I’m doing at the moment is the biggest thing in life — whether it is conducting a symphony or peeling an orange.” – Arturo Toscanini

Ideas for how to do this daily:

  • This is an easy one, if you read the quote. The key is presence. Mindful action. Being here, now. Going a little slower to take time and “smell the roses”. Noticing the details, and delighting in them.
  • Be Here, Now.
  • Another quote for some hints:

“If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, touch it, or smell it, you can be present with it. It is of the present moment, and so it brings to you the opportunity to be present with it.” – Leonard Jacobson

Enjoy!

ImageTake Time.

What does this mean? I considered the title “Make Time”, but let’s be honest: in order to insert time for “x” activities, we (as the busy people we are) have to TAKE time from other activities. Time (as energy) cannot be created or destroyed. But it can be repartitioned (like space on your hard drive) to include other (more life-affirming) activities.

What is the “Take Time Challenge”?

One of the weekly yoga classes that I teach takes place over 10-week sessions. I’m constantly looking for ways to link classes together, to theme, to further motivate yogis to take yoga off-the-mat and into the world. Yesterday, on September 18, was the beginning of approximately our 15th round of 10-week sessions together. What could I possibly do that hasn’t been done before?

Seriously, this is what my yoga-class planning looks like at times.

In light of all the online “challenges” that I have been seeing online (the “Whole Life Challenge“, “Vegan Challenge“, “1-week Veggie Challenge“, “Whole30 Challenge“, “10,000 Steps Challenge“… I need not go on), I wanted to create one that I know is needed amongst my family, friends, students, patients, and… well, me. I was inspired by a book my good friend recently gave me as a gift (a.k.a. a friendly nudge in the right direction).  A (seemingly simple) little book by Dan Zadra called “Take Time“. In it, each page is dedicated to something else for which we must “take time“. Simple, no? Easy? No. Not in true practice.

Here are the “rules”:

  1. Each day, a maximum of 5 pointscan be rewarded:
    • Take time for Body (1 pt)
    • Take time for Mind (1 pt)
    • Take Time for Soul (1 pt)
    • Take time for Others (2 pts)
      • Note: for those who attend my yoga class weekly, you receive an automatic 5 points on the day of our class!
  2. The points can be achieved in the following ways (but creativity is always encouraged!):
    • Take time for Body examples (do one per day):
      • If you are a person who skips meals, take time to eat lunch
      • If you are a person who eats on the run, take time to sit and eat, no distractions
      • If you are a person who makes poor food choices (due to time restrictions), take time to cut up some fruits, veggies, or prepare your own whole food snacks
      • If you make excuses to avoid daily movement, do something (anything!) active for at least 20 minutes
      • If you work inside, go outside for at least 10-20 minutes
    • Take time for Mind examples (do one per day):
      • Meditate, at least 20 minutes. Note – meditation can mean any of the following:
        • Sitting outside or inside, in silence
        • Walking mindfully, in silence
        • Sitting alone, breathing, in silence
        • Any meditation technique that you have previously learned
        • Any meditation technique that you have been meaning to learn
      • Take a bath and relax the nervous system, at least 20 minutes
      • Take 50-100 mindful breaths (in one “session”)
    • Take Time for Soul:
      • This is determined weekly by my little book. I read a random page and quote in class, post it online here afterwards, and we keep it in mind ALL WEEK LONG. This is your chance to be creative with your “take time activity”. Keep it simple and achievable, and aim for 10-20 minutes per day.
      • THIS WEEK’S TAKE TIME CHALLENGE:
        • Take time to IMAGINE. 
        • “Let your mind fly toward ‘what-if?’ Let your what-if become ‘why-not?’ Then you are on your way. ~ Earnie Larsen and Carole Larsen
          • Examples of activities:
            • Start making your vision board.
            • Write down a vision of yourself at the end of 10-weeks.
            • Do something creative – draw, paint, sing, play.
            • Play make-believe with children.
            • Play make-believe with adults.
    • Take time for Others (bonus points!):
      • To achieve these points, you must take 2o minutes to be fully presentwith another living being in a day. This means:
        • no distractions (tv, internet, movies, video games)
        • no multi-tasking
        • just you and ______ (and ______, and ______ …) time to CONNECT
  3. We strive to be honest with ourselves.

The Power Triad…

And then what…?

Each week, I will be posing MY results of the week and the next “soul challenge“. (Follow my blog to receive email updates!) At the end of ten weeks, we tally up our results, and see what happens. 🙂 Perhaps a prize for the highest points? Perhaps the prize will be greater personal connection, within and without? 😉

Best of luck to you all. I will try to think of ways to make this more interactive and fun as we go along! Stay tuned…

Just me…

2010 Journey

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