New Feature: Monday Motivation!

There’s just something about Mondays, right? I like to think they can set the tone for the rest of the week, so I’m introducing a new category for the blog- Monday Motivation!

First thing on Monday morning I’ll post something I find motivating with a sentence or two about how I plan to act on it. I really hope some of you will join in in the comments with your own ideas. Let’s start our weeks off on the awesome foot!


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Today I’m going to add extra time to my self-care activities: 5 minutes to meditation, 10 minutes to yoga, and 30 minutes to reading.

What can you do to make today the best?

A Better, Perfecter Me

I have these moments sometimes where the “new” me is so close within my grasp I can almost reach up and touch her. Let’s call her “Finished Margaret”. Finished Margaret’s mindfulness practice is highly developed. She never dissolves into a stressball for up to 30 minutes (or longer!) before stepping out of the narrative and […]

Take a Breath and Get Through It

Most of the time I go through life like I’m in The Lego Movie (well, that one part of it).

Monday wasn’t one of those times, and neither is today. Today has been…[redacted].

I know I’m not alone in feeling like the days when I most need to sit still and be quiet are the days when that’s hardest to do. Days like today, when my to-do list is a mile long and time seems even more finite than normal.

When of course there was a big delay with my connecting train, and the bank teller took forever to help the person ahead of me (and why was there only one window open??), and…

Do you see what I was doing there? I was telling myself a story. An never-ending narrative about why today is horrible and I don’t want to sit quietly and I want to have a beer and take a nap.

I'm pretty sure he's just rolling with today.
I’m pretty sure he’s just rolling with today.

I actually have a lot of appreciation for days like today.

They remind me of how I used to live pretty much every day. Lost in a narrative about how bad things were, just waiting for enough time to pass the it would be “acceptable” to turn on the TV and escape my life.

When I start to feel that old urge to flee, that’s my cue to take a nice deep breath and be grateful for the progress I’ve made. It reminds me that this too will pass.

Now over to you: what do you do when you’re having a bad day? Have you shifted towards healthier habits?

A Bittersweet Day

Inhale: 1, 2 Exhale: 1, 2, 3 It’s somewhere around 6:30 am. I’ve been out here for a while and I have a couple miles left to go. I never wear a watch, so time moves strangely. Really, it’s as though I’m out of the time stream entirely. All I can feel are my feet […]

Forget Perfection and Make it Work!

Recently, I outlined what a perfect morning routine looks like to me, and how I planned to start implementing it right away. That’s all well and good on a morning when I’m working from home, but what about when I’m in the office? Here’s some things you might not know about me:

  1. I have a long commute, on a good day I can get to and from work in just under an hour. On a bad day, 90+ minutes.
  2. I use public transportation, and it takes two trains, buses, or a combination to get me from Chi to Evanston with waits for each, plus just under two miles of walking (each way). My actual time on any given train or bus is generally less than 20 minutes (less than 10 on the purple line).

So, I definitely get how difficult it can be to fit in self-care in the morning!

Today “should” have been a 45-minute run followed by stretching and a moderately long seated meditation. Only I had a client first thing, and there’s no way I’m getting up at 5:00 am. Not gonna happen.

This morning wasn’t going to be perfect, but there was still time for better self-care than just a quick mindfulness meditation. I did 10 minutes of yoga while my yerba mate steeped, and then I drank the tea on my yoga mat and wrote in a journal.

In which our intrepid heroine attempts parallel feet at Howard terminal while waiting for the train
In which our intrepid heroine attempts parallel feet at Howard terminal while waiting for the train

Then I got creative. I had almost 10 minutes to wait for each train this morning; a perfect opportunity to practice Tadasana!* My yoga teacher likes to say that Tadasana, “is an everything pose, or a nothing pose”. I like to use the time I spend waiting for my train to arrive to make it an everything pose.

It’s this kind of flexibility that leads to better self-care. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’re never going to get started.

How about you? Any clever ways you sneak in some extra care on busy days?


*This is not an endorsement for yoga journal and I am not a yoga teacher. I cannot overstate how strongly I believe that yoga should be learned in person from a qualified professional.

 

 

The Scary Changes

I’ve noticed that the more real and authentic I’m able to be on this blog, the more people engage with it and with me outside of it. Well, having meaningful human contact is one of the main purposes of my life, so let’s keep that up. Before we continue, I’m gonna throw up a Trigger Warning for disordered eating talk on this post.


I’ve been pretty candid in the past about my dietary experiments, namely, playing with adding and subtracting certain foods to my diet. I’m extremely comfortable (and enjoy) playing with the “what” aspect of mealtime. “How” has proven to be a much trickier subject.

I have a lot of issues with food and eating. The reasons are irrelevant, just know that they are old and deeply ingrained.

As I’ve been spending time trying to improve my wellness, I recently took a long, hard look at my actual eating habits. What I found… wasn’t pretty. It’s amazing what we can overlook about ourselves.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten very serious about incorporating mindfulness practice into mealtime. It’s something I’ve tried in the past, but never managed to make a habit out of it. Asking me to take one mindful bite of food? You’re basically asking me to run my nails down a chalkboard. Do not want.

But my life is about adventuring toward wellness, not running full speed away from it. So I did what I always do when things get tough: I set a timer for 5 minutes and ate as slowly and mindfully as I could until that timer went off.

You know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it felt indulgent in the best possible way to take my time over my food and really focus on it. To pause occasionally and take a deep breath in the middle of a meal. I could do this.

Now when the timer goes off I don’t necessarily stay at the table and finish my meal in a mindful state; sometimes I want to get back to my reading, etc. But sometimes I do. Either way, I eat slower than I did before, and feel way better after the meal is over.

I’m not going to lie, this was a scary change for me to make. Engaging thoughtfully with food and mealtimes felt like a mountain too steep when I was at the bottom. Now that I know I can do it, I actually want to do it. The one time (so far) I’ve forgotten to do it, I was disappointed because I didn’t enjoy my meal as much.

Sometimes following through with the scary changes can lead to a much better place. Be brave and adventure on!

 

Slowing Down

I have so much to do today that I am going to meditate for two hours instead of one -Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday I finally kept a promise to myself; way back in the winter I decided that one day, when the weather was warm, I would sit under a tree by the lake and meditate for as long as my heart desired.

I haven’t felt so free in a very long time. The strong winds, pounding waves, the movement of the grass and leaves, I felt like they were allowing me to finally release some of my old wounds. After those two hours, I felt lighter than I have in a long time.

It was a revelation in many ways, but one thing that struck me the most yesterday was how much time I seemed to have for the rest of the day. Normally, my days go whizzing by in a whirlwind of activity and thought. Yesterday I was constantly amazed by how early in the day it was. I’m sure that part of that is that I set no tasks for myself beyond the meditation and eating.

There’s more to it than that though. I had my phone and computer off all day (well, until I caved at 6:00 pm), and I focused on one thing at a time.

It inspired me to try a mini-experiment: for the next week, I have turned off the email alerts on my phone. In fact, the only alerts I’ve allowed are phone calls and texts.

So far, I love it! I’m so used to being immediately reachable via email that I thought it would feel like I’d lost a part of myself. Instead, I feel more able to really focus on the task at hand.

I have been just as productive today as I would be on one of my whirlwind days (I ran, I went to yoga class, I cooked for myself, I ran errands, I did laundry, and now I’m writing this post!), but I feel much calmer than I normally do.

I think a two hour meditation day is going to become a weekly event! How about you? Have you tried anything similar? How did it work for you?

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. –Carl Rogers

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my old posts over the past couple of months. There a a few ideas that I’d like to revisit when I have the time and mental space. This seems like a good place to start.

As I’m softening, breathing, smiling, all the things I like to do, and then came that blessing. It felt like a little contraction in my heart just to hear it.

I still remember that moment very clearly. It could have happened this morning instead of 9 months ago. It was one of those moments that stopped me in my tracks and pointed me in a new direction. It also introduced me to Val, who is amazing.

The idea of accepting myself in each moment, of not trying to force myself to change with willpower alone, has been one the most powerful tools I’ve gained so far on this journey.

The first time I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I accept you and love you” and actually believed it; that was when things really started to shift for me.

I used to be a very negative person, I was always beating myself up for my mistakes and demanding perfection. Accepting my own fallibility with the same love that I extend to my friends and clients really changed my outlook on life.

I grew and became the positive, cheerful person I am today. From pessimist to optimist, just like that.

It took a lot of struggle and heartache for me to get on this path, and I wouldn’t trade any of it away.

 

Believe It!

I made this thing!
I made this thing!

A couple months ago I was in a panic when both the women I share my room with were planning to leave. My mind immediately jumped to all the best nightmare scenarios, mostly about how I would never find new tenants and this beautiful business I’m building was going to crash and burn. That’s a lot of stress.

That’s only the beginning of the story. What I did next would surprise anyone who has known me for longer than the past year.

I paused. I paused and took a deep breath; I asked myself if I was letting my fear hold me back. If I was missing out on an opportunity for something bigger that was made possible by this change in circumstances.

What I realized is that instead of fighting against the opportunity I had just been given by finding tenants to sublet all my available days, I could choose to add more days. More chances for clients to come and see me. I let myself sit with the idea, and the word that came to me was “Abundance”.

Every day since I had that little revelation, I have taken some time to sit with that word and embrace what it will bring to my life in the fall. I made the picture I posted at the top of this and put it on my computer. Every time I sit down to type anything it is in my line of sight; reminding me that I don’t have to be afraid of failure and that I can embrace success.

It’s a small shift that had a huge impact on me.

What word do you want to watch over you today? What would you like to welcome into your life?

Think Community

The first yoga class I ever took was a free community class held by Patricia Hyland on Sunday evenings. It was an amazing introduction to yoga; Patricia was so warm and welcoming, plus it was free! I have also gone to some amazing community meditation classes and events.

One of the aspects of yoga and meditation that resonates most strongly with me is the idea of community and generosity that so many studios and individuals embrace. In spite of needing to make a living*, there are so many options out there for people with limited means to still get the benefits of attending these types of classes and workshops.

Once again, our friend the Internet makes it easier than ever to find local resources. Just use the search engine of your choice and search for “free (yoga/meditation) your city” and give a couple classes a try. Here’s a website listing free and donation yoga classes for Chicago.


*It was such a good day when I realized that I had enough money to start paying for classes again. I get more out of them because I am paying in time and money now, so I am even more present. Plus, it feels great to make a financial contribution toward someone else living their dream.