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“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn

Sometimes, we just need a nap. A long nap. A very, very long nap. Here’s a story about a tired holiday weekend, and the lessons of which I have been reminded.

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I was looking forward to the Easter long weekend and the many plans to spend three beautiful days with our family. On Thursday night, after a four-day work week that felt longer than the usual five-day week, I felt blissfully tired and headed to bed earlier. I was fully expecting to wake up at 5 a.m. to start the day with a gentle yoga practice and a meditation session while welcoming the sunrise. Instead, on Friday morning, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock several times before realizing I felt utterly exhausted. I turned off the alarm clock and chose, instead, to pay off the big sleep debt I accumulated earlier in the week while staying up for a few nights to take care of our younger child who was sick with a stomach bug.

I woke up at 9:30 (very unusual for me) to see the sun streaming in through the window. Yet, my brain felt foggy even after I drank an extra cup of strong coffee with almond milk. Had I overslept? Too much of a good thing isn’t helpful, either. The day was glorious and the sun felt warm. We shed our jackets and went for a walk around the neighbourhood, wearing only our sweaters! However, the walk wasn’t as relaxing as we had hoped it would be. Our younger son, having just gotten over the stomach bug, was now fighting a sinus cold. Exhausted and ready for a nap, he felt uncomfortable and kept whining, finally laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to walk any farther. I wasn’t the only one dealing with brain fog. The fuzziness continued into Saturday and Sunday during a roadtrip to visit our family. By this point, the weather went from sunny 14C on Friday to snow and 2C on Sunday. Once again, I slept in until 9:30 and woke up feeling not only tired but also with a sore throat. By this point, our youngest child had a runny nose, and I knew I was headed toward the same outcome. Suffice it to say that I was not a lively conversationalist during Easter brunch at my in-laws’.

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Our plans for a lively, fun weekend didn’t work out the way we had hoped they would. I’m still dealing with sleep debt and had a difficult time getting up on Monday to prepare for the new work week. I haven’t stepped on my yoga mat in the past four days, and now I have come down with a cold.

But I’m not writing this to whine.

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Despite the exhaustion, despite the strange (and somewhat depressing) weather patterns, despite the busy pace, I am grateful. I am grateful for another weekend spent with our loved ones. I am grateful for good food. For strong coffee. For cuddles with my favourite people. For warm hospitality. For Easter chocolate. I am grateful for a small window of time, thanks to my parents’ offer to babysit, when Pawel and I were able to head out on Saturday night to the book store once the kids were quietly snuggled in bed together. I am grateful for the ever-growing stack of books by my bedside. I am grateful for hot tea to soothe a sore throat. I am grateful for the beautiful warm, sunny days and the promise of spring. I’m also grateful for snow and rain, because chilly grey days remind us to slow down and take better care of ourselves. I am grateful for events that don’t work out as planned. I am grateful for the reminder to make the most of every day, to enjoy it all to the maximum, even when gratitude is the last sense I want to cultivate.

Here’s to a fantastic week! Let’s make the most of it, every day!

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What I have been reading:

What Compassion Looks Like: The Lesson of the Flowers  – a brilliant article by Karen Maezen-Miller. I keep picking up her book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, whenever I need advice. I first read this book when my firstborn was only two months old. My copy of the book is dog-eared and underlined.

When I Married My Mother  by Jo Maeder. A memoir of a woman caring for her aging, ill mother.

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers. This book has been on my ‘To Read’ list for the past few years, since I attended an incredible workshop led by Sarah Powers. I’m happy to have finally acquired it.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I read and loved Rubin’s The Happiness Project  and had to get my hands on her latest publication. By the way, I still have Happier at Home: The Days are Long but the Years are Short on my ‘To Read’ list. I think I will pick it up after I finish Better than Before.

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I have been contemplating the idea of perfection. I confess that I spent the past 30+ years trying to do everything perfectly, to be perfect, holding myself to the highest standards. I have been doing my best to be positive, to be the perfect mother, the perfect partner. Interestingly, despite my efforts, I continue to stumble, as we all do. The harder I try, and the more rigid the rules which I set for myself, the more challenging it is to get back up and keep moving forward.
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The other day, a woman whom I know through social media made a comment about how I seem to have everything ‘together,’ based on what I post on my profile. She was surprised when I mentioned to her that I was going through a rough time with something. Here’s a reminder: Let’s not judge people’s lives by what they post on social media or the way they appear to us in person. Let’s remind ourselves that no one is perfect and neither can our attitude be positive and uplifting at all times. We have perfect days. We have not-so-perfect days when we stumble with every step and wish we had just stayed in bed. Let’s be patient with ourselves and others. Let’s be kind and compassionate toward ourselves and others. It’s a big lesson to learn, but somehow, it feels like a sweeter lesson from a less nagging voice than the one that reminds us to always strive to be perfect. I am not always happy. I am not always positive. But I’m here and I’m doing my best. You are here and are doing your best. We are continuing to learn, and that’s enough.

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Image courtesy of http://jaymantri.com/

My eyes scan the long lined piece of paper in my left hand. In black ink, I have crossed out the blue items I have already completed. Yet, there are still so many blue words on the page, uncrossed, and not very attractive.

I dislike the word ‘busy.’ I’m not looking to make myself ‘busy.’

I still have much to learn.

I surround myself with reminders.

I’m still learning to slow down, to stop rushing to get it all done.

Simplify the ‘to do’ list.

Focus on one task at a time.

Don’t over-analyze.

Ignore the mess.

Embrace the chaos.

Breathe.

Sleep when you can.

Have faith.

Trust that it will all work out.

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This week, I’m reminding myself to keep my mind and heart open to receive delightful surprises, such as this sneaky neighbourhood watcher whom we met during a Sunday afternoon walk.

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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

MaoriHeiMatau

This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

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Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

Photo By Joshua Earle

Photo courtesy of https://unsplash.com/

On a Monday evening, I arrived at home from work and, after changing into my pajamas, was about to head downstairs to start preparing dinner. First, however, I thought I would check my email. In my email inbox were 20 new ads from various retailers, quietly shouting at me about their latest promotions. Since I was already at my computer and remembered that I was expecting a reply from a friend via a private message on Facebook, I opened a new tab in my browser only to see that not one private message but 50 notifications were awaiting my attention. Fifty?! I shut the lid of my laptop and took a deep breath, exhaling to release the feelings of overwhelm.

When I returned to my social media accounts later, I took a proverbial step back to look at what, exactly, was taking up space on my feed. Pictures of food. News about a celebrity who deliberately tried to embarrass herself in public. Articles about why a Paleo diet is the best thing we can embrace. Articles about why sugar is terrible for us. Articles about loving ourselves as we are today. Articles about why too much meat is unhealthy; about why certain types of fat are good; about why a juice cleanse is not for everyone. Articles about free-range parenting, a controversial topic that sparks angry debates. Memes about breastfeeding in public, shaming the opponents. Articles about why the yoga selfie phenomenon has gotten old. Articles about why the yoga selfie trend is inspiring.

That is the information of which I made note within the five minutes I allotted myself for checking social media before sitting down to work on my writing. I did not click on any of the above articles, nor did I comment or click ‘like’ on any of the pictures and status updates I saw. Yet, I was feeling – frankly – exhausted after merely skimming through all the information. Enough.

When I told Pawel I was thinking about taking a long break from Facebook, he asked me why it bothers me as much as it does. I know I tend to engage deeply with a lot of information, and I am the first to admit that after reading several articles with conflicting information, I feel the need to take a long nap. This social media exhaustion, as I have come to term it, can take a toll on my energy level.

I realize, also, how counterintuitive this may sound to those of you who may have found this blog post through one of our social media outlets. Pawel and I appreciate each reader of this blog. For that reason, if you wish, I invite you to subscribe to receive the updates from this blog in your email inbox once a week (sometimes twice).

I am making space, simplifying my life, directing my energy where it is truly needed most. I am stepping back and choosing to create less noise. I am choosing to ignore the noise. This is part of my practice of mindfulness in the age of social media.

We will continue to log in to update our Instagram, Twitter, tsu, Pinterest and Facebook account once a week to share our blog with you. Pawel will continue to manage our accounts at this time. And of course, we always enjoy connecting with you. Please feel free to leave a comment or email us directly through our website.

In the meantime, here’s a spring-themed recipe for a raw plant-based lemon tart that we whipped up last weekend within about 25 minutes. The original recipe is from Wholefood Simply, which is one of our favourite blogs. However, I modified it slightly and below is my version of the tart. Enjoy!

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Raw Plant-Based Lemon Tart

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

½ cup walnuts

9 pitted dates

1-2 tbsp coconut cream (from full-fat canned coconut milk that has been refrigerated for at least eight hours)

A pinch of salt

½ tsp natural vanilla extract

Filling:

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup walnuts

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Zest and juice from 2 lemons

¼ cup maple syrup

1/3 cup coconut cream (see above)

Pinch of salt

Preparation method:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the crust in a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until the ingredients start to come together, forming a ball.
  2. With your hands lightly moistened, press the crust into a greased non-stick tart form.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the filling in the food processor and pulse until creamy and well-integrated.
  4. Fill the crust, using a spatula to spread the contents evenly.
  5. Decorate with thin lemon slices, if you wish.
  6. Place in the fridge for a few hours to allow the tart to set. You may also overwrap the tart with foil and plastic wrap and freeze it, if desired.

Enjoy!

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We needed to take some time to adjust to a new change in our household. After a blogging hiatus, we’re back and ready to share more of our adventures and ideas with you. To our loyal readers, thank you for your continuing support. And if you’re new to our site, welcome! We hope you will enjoy its content and will share it with your friends.

My older son and I were sitting at a local coffee and doughnut shop yesterday in the evening after dinner, enjoying a mini escape from the house, a mom-and-son date. While I waited for my mint tea to chill, I watched my son and answered his questions about the various signs he kept noticing in the small shop, advertising sandwich combos, a new roast, and free WiFi (“What is WiFi, Mommy?”). He was sipping his hot chocolate, slowly at first, until he started to take bigger slurps and finally finished it before reaching for his double chocolate doughnut. Like me, my son has a sweet tooth. I have often wondered whether in our family, we all have a sweet tooth gene that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. When I started to introduce my son to ‘real’ foods as a baby, I offered him pureed beans alongside pureed yams. Guess which one he relished, seated in his high chair with a smile full of sweet-tasting orange-coloured happiness. The other vegetable was promptly spat out, as soon as the BPA-free teaspoon touched his lips.

As a student of Mindfulness, I have a profound interest in how we can utilize Mindfulness practices to change negative habits into lasting positive ones. Particularly, I have been applying the practice to my personal eating patterns by observing my emotions and thoughts during stressful/challenging times, noticing the foods I crave during those times: anything made with sugar.

I am also a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work, the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, to be released on March 17th, explores the science behind habit-forming behaviour. Visiting Rubin’s website, I came across this quiz and as I read the post, I had to pause to listen to the ‘ding ding ding’ sound coming closer toward me from a distance.

It turns out that some people are natural moderators while others are abstainers. As much as I don’t enjoy labels, what this means is that for some people, like me, it’s easier to give up sugar cold-turkey and after struggling through the initial 14 days or so, to abstain from sugar altogether. Others more easily take the approach that ‘life is too short to miss out on treats,’ and are able to stop eating dessert after the first two bites. Rubin mentions yet another fascinating fact, that moderators often try – unsuccessfully – to turn into abstainers, and abstainers – again, unsuccessfully – attempt to become moderators.

This information provides a different perspective for my practice. It also leads me to wonder whether, perhaps, Mindfulness practices that relate to food consumption come more easily to people who are naturally better at moderating. On the other hand, a daily seated or walking mindfulness meditation practice might come more easily to a person who takes the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I would assume that people who are able to effectively abstain from consuming certain foods would also be naturally better than others at repeating the same behaviour every day. I might be wrong, but to learn more, I will just have to read Rubin’s new book and continue practising.

What are your thoughts? Would you say you tend to choose the ‘all or nothing’ or the ‘you only live once, so let’s enjoy the treat’ approach? Please feel free to comment.

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