A Little Inspiration from Brene Brown

It has been a week of ups and downs for me. I suppose this is typical for 2020. I started to write this evening with feelings of fear and insecurity and in that my purpose wasn’t authenticity and sharing goodness, . However, as I was writing I was reminded of something Brene Brown says, “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, just stand your sacred ground”.

I realized that my writing was coming from a place of try to ‘puff up’ due to my fears and insecurities. So I deleted what I wrote. I was going to stop writing altogether and watch TV, but then reconsidered. Instead I thought I’d share some of my favourite Brene Brown things.

If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown she is a researcher, storyteller and Texan. Her areas of research include shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy. She has written several books including one of my all time favourite books, The Gifts of Imperfection. She speaks in a down to earth, relatable way and indeed is not shy about sharing her own imperfections. Her writing also offers ideas on actions we can take to live our best lives.

Many people first came to know her through her TED Talk which is one of the most popular of all time.

Brene Brown also hosts two podcasts, Daring to Lead, and Unlocking Us.

After going down the Brene Brown rabbit-hole for just a little while I am now out of that place of insecurity and fear. Instead I am feeling inspired. I know 2020 has been throwing a lot at us. Maybe today or sometime in the week ahead you might find that you too are struggling in one way or another. Perhaps you will find spending a little time with Brene Brown is just the thing you need too.

50 Things to Be Grateful for in the Midst of Covid-19

I am a big believer in the benefits of cultivating gratitude. I have kept a gratitude journal on and off for over two decades. It is one of simplest tools I use that I can credit for helping me to stay positive, joyful, and seeing beauty in the world.

During this time where we are facing a global pandemic we suddenly find ourselves facing added stresses, fears, and anxiety. In no way do I want to diminish the obstacles folks are facing at this time. I can only imagine what some might be experiencing. Many of us have lost employment and are facing financial uncertainty. Those who are still working face the greater chance they may become exposed to the coronavirus and possibly take it home to their loved ones. As I am writing there have been over 3/4 of a million cases of Covid-19 with almost 40,000 deaths. Perhaps you have been affected in one of these ways.

However, even in the darkest times we usually have at least some things to be grateful for. I am hoping to share some things that I am currently grateful for. Maybe these things will help spark ideas of the things that you have to be grateful for in your life. Many of the things on my list are quite general while others are more personal.

If you find at times in the next days or weeks you are really struggling I encourage you to cultivate your own list. Spend the time, write it all down so on your dark days you can refer back to it and be inspired by your own words.

  1. Sunshine and blue skies
  2. The birds’ morning song at my window
  3. That my family and loved ones are safe and healthy so far
  4. Love
  5. Feeling Healthy
  6. Snuggles from my dog
  7. Solitude
  8. Time to read books
  9. Having lots of books in my home to read
  10. Lots of e-resources through my local library
  11. All the people staying home & practicing social distancing to help flatten the curve
  12. Unconditional love from pets
  13. All the essential workers who are stepping up and making sure we have the necessities, and working to keep us healthy and safe
  14. Canada’s healthcare system
  15. A cosy home to stay during this time
  16. Food in the fridge and cupboards
  17. Technology that is keeping everyone connected
  18. The opportunity to use the work I do to support charity
  19. Supportive friends, family and clients
  20. Time to give my house a thorough spring cleaning
  21. The scent in my home after washing the floors (thanks to a fabulous eco-friendly cleaner)
  22. That I can stay home, stay safe and not inadvertently pick up the virus, and worse unknowingly pass to another
  23. Time to play with learning a new language
  24. Lots of options to listen to all kinds of music
  25. That the weather is warming and I can start to put away some of our winter gear
  26. Cleaning the deck and anticipating sitting out there to read soon
  27. Starting to plant some seeds indoors
  28. Time to work on some writing
  29. Time to work on some learning
  30. Old movies on the TV
  31. Time to play around with my guitar
  32. Planning for a garden
  33. Going for walks with the dog
  34. The scent from essential oils/incense
  35. A good cuppa tea
  36. Being able to take virtual classes from a variety of yoga teachers and fitness instructors
  37. Time to meditate
  38. The free app Insight Timer
  39. Buds appearing on the trees
  40. Musicians doing online performances
  41. The creativity people are showing during this time as they try to stay connected and try to inspire others
  42. Museums offering virtual tours
  43. Time to try some new recipes
  44. The sound of wind chimes in the breeze
  45. Getting my bike out for a ride down a quiet country road
  46. Time to play around with some arts and crafts
  47. The beauty of sunrises and sunsets
  48. Seeing the moon and the stars
  49. Time to work on sleep rituals and working on getting a better night’s sleep
  50. A cosy bed to snuggle into at the end of the day

Gratitude Journal

With everything going on in the world it is a fabulous time for people of all ages to start or get back to the practice of keeping a gratitude journal. I was first introduced to the idea in the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach 2 decades ago. Since then over the I have kept a gratitude journal on and off.

While some people suggest sitting down with this journal at the end of the day, I find first thing in the morning works best for me. With my morning cuppa tea I simply add 5 things I am grateful for. It is a simple, short ritual that gives you a positive start to your day.

In The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown she discusses wholehearted living and one quality wholehearted people cultivate is gratitude. She claims gratitude is not something you either have or not. Instead, she discusses how wholehearted people practice gratitude and then become more grateful.

Often it is the little things that I am most grateful for. Today’s entries are- 1 . I am grateful that it is the first day of spring 2. I am grateful for sunshine and blue skies 3. I am grateful that Canada is taking Covid-19 seriously 4. I am grateful that I know so many people taking Covid-19 seriously and doing everything they can to prevent it spreading 5. I am grateful to have so many books to read while home practicing social distancing

Keeping a gratitude journal over the years is one tool I would credit for helping me keep a positive outlook. As we face uncertainty in the weeks ahead I would encourage everyone to give this daily habit a try.

Namaste

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