The Joy of Trying New Things

One fun unexpected thing about 2020 is it has been a year of being pushed out of my comfort zone. When I look around at things that are happening in the world I know that I have been fortunate in many ways. Though this year isn’t what I had envisioned, and I have often had to adapt, I have also found that some of this has provided great learning experiences for me.

When my business had to shut down in March due to Covid-19 guidelines I quickly took my classes virtual. I was lucky to have a tiny bit of previous experience with Zoom, but the whole thing was definitely not easy for me. I was so nervous those first virtual classes. Since then I have played with different platforms, cameras, rooms to shoot in and more. I still have so much to learn.

Yet, I adapted. Months after that first virtual class when a local TV station wanted to visit my studio I was extremely nervous but so much more prepared with all that virtual class experience. Now I am collaborating with them on an upcoming project.

As the pandemic continues and opportunities for in-person classes have not returned to what they used to be I find myself nurturing new dreams and goals. One of those is to launch my first online course.

Though I can navigate some technology, a lot of it seems like a whole other language. Technology does not come naturally or easy for me. However, this is stuff I need to know, stuff I want to work towards these new goals. Over the past few weeks I have slowly started trying to work with new software and platforms. I started quite tentatively, reaching out for help often.

Today though I tackled several mini projects on my own. I had success! I was reminded of the phrase “neurons that fire together wire together”. I could almost feel those neurons at work. The more I am doing, the easier it is becoming. I can feel myself learning.

Maybe technology is easy for you. Maybe yoga and fitness don’t come naturally for you. Maybe you would like to try but you’re nervous or unsure where to begin. This year has been one where so many yoga and fitness instructors have taken their offerings online. I encourage you to find one you connect with and give it a try. You might just surprise yourself like I have surprised myself with these small technology victories.

Perhaps my new online course is a right fit for you. It’s designed for those who have never practiced yoga, been away from yoga for a while, or those who want to deepen their foundation and knowledge in the practice.

It’s a great time to begin a yoga journey.

You Never Know What Others May Be Going Through

I did my yoga teacher training through Namaskar Yoga in Saskatoon under the guidance of Kathleen and Doug . Approximately once month for a little over a year I would spend a weekend immersed in learning various aspects of yoga. At the beginning of each weekend Kathleen would remind us that we never know what others might be going through. She reminded us that just by looking at others we might not see the struggles and challenges they were facing at this moment. Anyone in our group could be having a hard day including our teachers. Therefore she stressed the importance of kindness towards one another.

I have been thinking a lot about that lately. As we enter the second wave our pandemic which is proving to have higher numbers than the first wave, I see people struggling to maintain their usual optimism. As I hear those I know with small businesses tune into the daily news briefings, I see the fear and the worry they have about how another lockdown might impact the future of their dream and hard work. Even those who know and often give gratitude for their many blessings are now struggling with the weight of what the winter ahead might bring.

I definitely don’t have all the answers. I have no interest in accidentally falling into toxic positivity by talking about gratitude and all the self care things you could be doing. Though there is value in gratitude and self care, it seems to me there is also value in acknowledging this unique time we are in. Maybe you are struggling today and not being able to practice self care or gratitude is just another thing you are feeling bad about at this moment.

Instead, this is just a reminder that we really don’t know in what ways those around us might be struggling. This is a little reminder to be kind to those we encounter. Perhaps what we initially see in them is not the whole story. Maybe there is more going on that if we knew might change our initial reaction and judgement. This is also a little reminder to be kind to yourself. We might be struggling and think that it is just us. We might wonder how everyone around us is doing okay but why we’re not. I assure that you are not the only one. You are doing the best you can at this moment. Today that is enough.

Pockets of Happiness

I have found that happiness does not mean having everything perfect all the time. In fact, it seems when that is our focus happiness actually alludes us.

As I sit in my century old house with popcorn ceilings, an ugly yellow kitchen floor probably dating back to the 70s, and a grass-filled strawberry patch just beyond my window that needs hours of work, I could find things to be miserable about if I was so inclined.

Instead, I find happiness can be cultivated by finding and focusing on the little pockets of beauty and joy that surround our everyday lives. It is found when we have appreciation for these little pockets of perfection. It grows when we nurture little neglected corners of our space and bring beauty back to them.

When I look out my kitchen window or sit on my back deck I see the lilac arch. Lilacs bloom this week that were planted to border my property by occupants long gone. A path that has been worn through one section of these lilacs connects my little oasis with the outside world. Every time I return home I must pass though this lilac arch. As a writer I often muse what fairy tales I could create out of this lilac arch.

This lilac arch brings me immense joy. Today the air is heavy with the scent of lilac. Across from the lilac arch a robin has nested on the side of my house. Her babies arrived on Sunday. From a distance I have counted four young ones. Periodically mama takes a break sits on a lilac branch, watches me garden and chats to me. This is happiness.

Finishing my tea I will soon head out and spend just 15 minutes nurturing the strawberry patch. In time, that will become another pocket of happiness. What are your pockets of happiness? What space can you nurture to bring a little more beauty to your day?

We all have pockets of happiness surrounding us. The trick of course, with work commitments, busy families, health issues, money troubles and all the other ups and downs of life, is noticing these little pockets of perfection.

Finding My Way to Meditation

I just can’t meditate” is something I used to say. Since becoming a yoga teacher it seems that is not an uncommon belief amongst the beginners or those unfamiliar with the practice of meditation that I encounter.

For many years the closest I could come to what seemed to be a meditative state was hiking through the woods along the Bruce Trail on the Niagara escarpment. But was that meditation?

I have come to believe that yes, that is absolutely meditation. As humans we sometimes have a tendency to like to complicate things more than they need to be.

Quick-after you read this sentence take a full deep breath in, hold for a pause then slowly exhale completely.

Congratulations! You just meditated.

Maybe not for long, but so what-you did do it. As you practice you can learn to focus your awareness even longer.

What I have learned about meditation

-It is a practice. You wouldn’t put on a pair of skates for the first time and expect to excel as a hockey player. Meditation is the same. The more you do it, the better you become. However, it does take practice.

-To me, meditation means quieting the mind, coming into an awareness of the here and now. It means stopping the thoughts about the past and the future and just being present.  Perhaps we are focusing on our breath. Perhaps we are focusing on something such as gratitude or love. Perhaps we are using a mantra to help focus our attention. Perhaps we are completely immersed in the present moment and the sights, sounds, smells around us.

It is for this reason I would say that my days hiking in the woods aware only of the birdsong, the smell of damp earth, the way the sunlight filtered through the canopy of trees was absolutely a type of meditation. My mind was completely focused on that distinct moment in time. I wasn’t worried about what I would be cooking for dinner later, or an argument I may have had with someone earlier.

How I learned to meditate

Through my yoga teacher training we worked on meditation modules. This helped me separate fact from fiction on what meditation really is. No, you don’t need to sit in complete silence for over an hour to be meditating. (Good thing-as that is not me)

Perhaps the weekend in mid October focused completely on meditation during the teacher training was the seed that was planted for me. Seeds however need care-they need water and sunlight to grow.

Despite enjoying all I had learned I suspect I still made excuses in my head in the days and weeks following the training “I get it in theory-but I’m not really sure where to begin” “I don’t have time” “I’m too busy to sit still”

That summer I had purchased my first fitness tracker, a Bellabeat. One of the features that made me choose this option was it came with a variety of guided meditations. Eventually, scanning through the meditations available on the Bellabeat I was thrilled to see there was one that was 1 minute in length. It’s easy to tell ourselves we don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, but come on-we just can’t tell ourselves that we don’t have 1 minute.

So I started. One minute was pretty easy. I bet I could do 3 or even 5. Soon 10 minutes was no problem. I enjoyed scrolling through the different topics offered and picked one that suited my mood for the day. Eventually though, I wanted something more.

Exploring through a variety of meditation apps I finally found Insight Timer 

While there is lots of great apps out there and everybody has their favourite there are several things I like about Insight Timer

  1. It is a free app to download and most of it’s content is free
  2. There is over 14,000 free guided meditations, talks, courses and music tracks
  3. You can search to find a meditation on a certain topic or theme (for example-anxiety, motivation, kid’s sleep)
  4. You can also search based on the length of time you want for your meditation from 0-5 minutes to 30+ minutes
  5. The app has an option to track your progress and gives you little ‘rewards’ as you reach milestones (it may be silly but this is a motivator for me)
  6. There is a timer app for those who prefer a silent meditation with bells to signal timing
  7. You can choose to engage with some of the other almost 6 million people who use the app. You can join groups such as Beginner’s Mind, Daily Gratitude or Poetry and Meditation. Depending on your privacy settings you can get messages from others such as ‘thank you for meditating with me today’ you can also send these message to others. It’s a little thing, but I like seeing these messages come in from around the globe. I also like sending out a little message of kindness to others.

Slowly my meditation practice has developed and grown. I still get distracted during meditations. I still sometimes make excuses and may find a week or two has passed since I last took the time to meditate. I will never be perfect in my meditation. However, I have found that when I do take a little time each day for some meditation I truly feel healthier-body, mind and spirit. I find greater contentment as I move through my days when meditation is a tiny part of the routine.

Perhaps you will give a minute or two of meditation a try. Remember to be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself and that it is a journey.

Namaste

Photo by Fabian Reitmeier from Pexels