Day 16 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Daily Meditation

I like what this post (#19) had to suggest regarding meditation, because meditation is one of the things I put near the top of my priority list (along with yoga, running and writing, the three other things I basically never do) but have a hard time fitting in. This suggestion is a really workable approach.

Here’s what they say:

“What follows is more a mindfulness exercise, but one that is incredibly effective: Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And think of your five senses. Touch: what can you feel at this very moment? Taste: what can you taste right now? Sound: what can you hear? Smell: can you smell anything? Sight: what do you see in front of you? Be specific and really explore your senses. Slowly take stock of each of them – one by one.”

Right now, I can…

FEEL that it must be about 23 degrees Celsius in this gym. Good thing I got enough sleep last night (thanks melatonin!) or I’d be dozing off. I can also feel the hard bench under my bum, and my wool socks are itching a bit around the cuff.

TASTE a bit of an aftertaste from the green onions I had on my chicken wrap. I am thankful right now that I didn’t use red or white onions!

HEAR gymnastics coaches speaking loudly, kids squealing, parents chatting and beams & trampolines & the vault pounding, bouncing and vibrating.

SMELL nothing much, but a faint smell of lavender from the Oh! Baby Body Lotion I just put on my hands. (ALERT: Shameless plug! I work there and love their stuff!)

SEE about three dozen parents browsing on their smart phones and gossiping with one another. Below the viewing deck where we’re all sitting, I can see some jumping, tumbling and balancing going on.

The only issue with this is remembering to do it each day! I love the idea of working more mindfulness into my life (and I like to use different ways of doing this), but with any of the methods, it is a matter of remembering to do them. I need to build the habit! For now, I am going to write FEEL, TASTE, HEAR, SMELL, SEE on the palm of my hand to help myself remember.

Meditation written on hand

Other ways I try to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my routine? Savasana before and after yoga class (or for an even deeper zen feeling, Yin class); trail running (as mentioned though, I haven’t done that for a while — hoping this month marks my return); free writing; sitting quietly in the woods; visualization before going to sleep or after waking up (I use exercises from The Best Meditations on The Planet).

Tomorrow, I’m going to employ Kanban boards in my writing practice – I’ve got the poster board all ready to go!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 8 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Reset Your Habits

In another tip from her post, The Time Jar: 5 Time Management Tips That Will Change Your Life, Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less says:

“I read another book recently called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business that has also greatly impacted how I structure my day.  One of the many interesting points the book made is that our brains are wired to form habits.  These habits can become good or bad, but once something has become a true habit, a different part of our brain takes over and we begin to perform that particular habit on autopilot.  This means we no longer have to use mental energy to perform the task, which leaves our brain free to focus on getting other things done.

I used to get frustrated with myself because it seemed like I would start out my day so well, but at the end I would just fizzle, with no energy left to put towards any sort of productive endeavor.  After reading this book, I realized that because my willpower in a given day is limited, the more good habits I create for myself, the more willpower and energy I will have leftover to use towards other things.

I decided to make a list of the things I wanted to do automatically every morning.  My list included drinking a glass of water, planning my day over a cup of coffee, having personal devotion & prayer time, then writing for at least 90 minutes.  After several weeks of doing this every day, I finally stopped thinking about it.  I would find myself in the kitchen drinking my water before I was even fully awake.  It takes almost no effort to get my day started off right, and at the end of my writing session, when I take a morning break, I still feel refreshed and ready to conquer the rest of my day.”

I find the idea of limited will power interesting. I had never really thought of it that way. I definitely know I have limited resources, and I can’t force myself to do everything on my To Do list.

The morning isn’t the issue for me. In the morning, I have to get out of bed. Things get moving pretty quickly in our house most mornings, and while I’m definitely the slowest one to roll out of bed (or usually close to the slowest), I still have to get up right away and get started. There isn’t much space for new habits in the morning, as my morning habits consist of some work, usually (checking the social media streams for different businesses; or checking emails for my different jobs); making coffee; and getting breakfast for myself and sometimes other people. I’d love to add yoga into the mix but for the most part, I think that it’s best if I just leave that for another time of day. In the past week, I have added the habit of setting an intention at the start of each day, and I like that and want to keep it up. I’ve also started drinking a jar of water kefir before I have coffee, and I’ve found that that makes me feel good as well.

So, today, I thought about some other habits I’d like to build, that wouldn’t just stress me out more; and when I could build those habits.

One time of day when I tend to be a bit lost, and have time but not a lot of reserves, is after I’ve picked up the kids from school. I only pick them up three days a week, so it’s not like it would be a daily habit, but maybe I could meditate in my office for five minutes right when we get home. Even on the days that I don’t pick them up, I tend to be around home and winding down right around 3 pm.

So in closing, I will continue and/or start the following habits:

  1. Set an intention for the day (before getting out of bed).
  2. Drink a jar of water kefir (right when I get up).
  3. Meditate for five minutes in the afternoon (around 3 pm).
  4. Write down five things I’m grateful for (before dinner).
  5. Choose my outfit for the next day (before bed).

I’m excited about tomorrow! I’m going to finish reading Slaughterhouse Five so I can start Day 9 of this experiment: Read Walden by Henry David Thoreau! I even own it! And I’ve never read it! But The Paleo Mama recommends reading it as one of the tips on her list, 72 Tips to Simplify Your Life, so I took that as a great nudge to get going on it.

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 1 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Each Morning, Set an Intention

Here is the task that I chose for the first day (from Headed Somewhere’s blog post, 10 Ways to Be Happier in Your Own Home):

“Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day.

In The Art of Happiness, the Dali Lama says ‘Every day, think as you wake up: today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.’ Wow. What a wise man. I tend to wake up with a strong visceral reaction that says, ‘Attention human beings: Be afraid of me before coffee. Be very afraid!’ Setting a daily intent makes a huge difference. Your daily intent could be something like ‘be productive’ or ‘enjoy today’s delicious moments’ or it could be something more specific like ‘say thank you to my loved ones today.’ But it should not be another ‘to do’ item on your list.”

(From http://headedsomewhere.com/2012/10/12/10-things/)

Image from “Headed Somewhere” blog (click image to view original post).

Well, I did this on day one. I woke up feeling pretty darn good, took a bit of time to gather my thoughts and let my brain and body wake up more, and then I set my intention for the day. It was, “Find your centre.” To me this meant that if things got harried or I started to feel anxious or stressed, I should try to remember to find my centre, that calm place I can go to, to remember who I am at my core and stay focused on what’s important.

This ended up working really well. There were a few minor wrenches thrown into my plans throughout the day – locked out of the house when I needed my swimsuit to get in a workout; late picking up the kids from school. Andi, my girlfriend, also received a couple of pieces of bad news. A good friend unloaded on me (as she is welcome to, and I was happy to be there for her), and the other drivers on the road were being real jerks. Each time something threw me off, I remembered to find my centre again, and over the course of the day, things went more smoothly because of this and I felt better overall.

Then Andi and I went on a date to a concert, in a bar, and the main act didn’t go on until 12:15 am. We were up until 2 am or so when all was said and done, and ended up with a total of about four hours of sleep. So when I woke up this morning, I could not for the life of me think of any other intention for my day than, “Nap.” My brain would not even function at 7 am when I was still trying to drag my butt out of bed. I tried to think of something meaningful, something that would actually help me throughout the day. Nothing came to me. Even mantras I often use for meditation didn’t seem to hold any real meaning.

While I lay there, our kitten (she’s over a year old now, but she’s still our kitten) climbed up beside me and started to hardcore snuggle me. She showered me with love and purrs, and I felt great. Suddenly I thought to myself, “What if my intention for the day somehow related back to this? What could I say that would remind me of this moment?”

We have strange kitties, who like to be all covered up in blankets.

We have strange kitties, who like to be all covered up in blankets.

And what did my poor, exhausted brain come up with? “Find the kittens.” It’s pathetic. That’s all my poor little mind could muster. What it meant to me was either, “Find the bits of your day that are as precious as this kitten,” or “Literally look for kittens.” I wasn’t sure but the minutes were ticking by and I needed to get myself and the kids ready to walk out the door.

The really funny thing is, my day was filled with kittens. My colleagues at work shared photos and stories of their cats, I enjoyed some kitties on Instagram, there were plenty of kitten cuddles throughout the day, and cats seemed to show up everywhere. I also had a few moments of random beauty that made me think “Is that a kitten?” Like, are the mountains a kitten moment? What about a Chinook arch? A hot cup of tea? Sure, why not?

In the end, my really dumb intention still worked. I mean, probably because it was about kittens, so it couldn’t really miss. But I’d say that so far this strategy is working. I look forward to continue using it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be checking out how different it is to start my day with my outfit already chosen. Pin hereblog post here.

And of course, the dedicated board for this series is here.

Sunday: Anything is Possible

Yesterday, I wrote about Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. That post provides the context for this one.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Today was our first day of talking about the “Seven Laws” with Neko. We didn’t do a specific activity today (and I don’t expect to every week), but I did tell her that we were going to be talking more about spirituality and the big ideas involved in that. I didn’t go into a long-winded explanation of the idea behind “everything is possible,” but kept it simple and will wait for the questions to come naturally.

Today, we read several chapters of “The Magician’s Nephew” (the first book in the Narnia series) and also watched Spirited Away – and we talked about how seemingly impossible things happen in both.

On future Sundays, some activities I’d like to incorporate include:

a) meditation or quiet time – probably guided. The idea behind “everything is possible” is connecting with the larger consciousness and understanding that we are one with the universe and everything in it, so even some quiet meditation provides the groundwork for a lifetime of tuning in to higher consciousness.

b) nature walk – by examining small and large objects in nature, from a stone or some moss, to an old tree or the ocean, we can connect with nature or a higher power very easily. Plus, of course, it’s very important for kids to be in nature on a regular basis. And by talking about the amazing things that are possible in the natural world, we can be reminded that there are powers much greater than ourselves.

c) discussing problems or situations in our lives, and possible solutions – this wouldn’t be a planned activity, but if Neko is having a problem, or we’re having one as a family, talking about solutions could be a great way to open our own eyes to different possibilities.

d) build a labyrinth for a walking meditation – I think this could be really fun in the winter, but you could also do it with stones in the summer.

e) draw or colour a mandala – this is yet another way of reminding ourselves of our connection with a higher power, and our place in a complex world, and universe. MandalaProject.org includes some great information and ideas about both mandalas and labyrinths. Mandala colouring books can be purchased from mandali.com, or you may want to print off single colouring pages.

You may also want to simply read a book, or watch a movie to tie in with the “anything is possible” idea. Fantasy books and movies tie in, in a simplistic way, but for more of a message, how about:

Book ideas: Stone Soup (Ann McGovern), Oh The Places You’ll Go (Dr. Seuss)

Movie ideas: March of the Penguins, A Dolphin’s Tale, Ponyo, My Neighbour Totoro, Babe

The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents

For a long time now, I have wanted to incorporate Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents into our daily life. As with his Seven Spiritual Laws for Success, the book plots the laws and lessons by weekday, so that each day of the week corresponds with a spiritual lesson to work on. I really enjoy his ideas for relating the lessons to kids – each law is put into language that kids can understand, although many of the ideas are still so abstract that parents will only be able to touch on very simplified versions of the ideas.

I think that there is potential to make this a very central part of our homeschooling schedule, with activities ranging from language, to art, to science tying in to the lessons from week to week. I’ve made lists of ideas and will be posting them on the corresponding days next week. These include book and film suggestions that tie in to the lessons.

Importantly, as we go through the spiritual lessons day by day, we, as parents, need to practice the laws as well. For instance, Wednesday is about the Law of Least Effort, when we tell our child, “Don’t say no – go with the flow.” Chopra tells us to accept situations as they occur; take responsibility for our situation; and relinquish the need to defend our point of view. As we have conversations with our children about these themes, we need to be honest with them about our own actions, reactions and feelings, whether we succeeded that day, or in the past, with the lesson, or whether there was a time when we were unable to

I’ll also try to remember, as Neko talks to me about her dreams and feelings, to not be judgmental of the things she comes out with.

Ideally, I would like to make a felt or magnetic weekly calendar, where we could mark which law we’re learning about each day, things like the weather and events or classes, and well… okay I haven’t thought about it much beyond weather and the Seven Spiritual Laws. I’ve tried to find an example of something similar to what I’m thinking but I can’t find anything close! If I make one, I’ll post a photo.

The days are as follows. I’ve listed a few ideas here, though like I said, I’ll be going into more depth over the next week (starting Sunday, Jan. 22) as I post the laws day by day.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Activities for today would centre around meditation, being in nature, and discussing the different possibilities in a particular situation.

For the expanded version of ideas for Sunday, click here.

Or maybe we build a walking labyrinth in nature for meditation?

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

Activities today would centre around gratitude, giving gifts and compliments, and receiving gifts and kindness with grace.

For the expanded version of ideas for Monday, click here.

Tuesday is a day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

Today is a day to talk about choices, and how we can choose how to act or react in any situation. This is a great time to talk to your children about how to know whether they’re making the right choice. Activities for today might include talking about choices we’ve made today, and how they affected our lives and those of others.

To be honest, this is the day I’m having the most trouble with, as far as coming up with actual activities, or books. How on earth do you teach a kid about something as abstract and complicated as karma? I would welcome any ideas!

For the expanded version of Tuesday, click here.

This little quote is a good start, though.

Wednesday is a day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Today’s activities focus on finding the game in work or chores; taking responsibility for your actions and reactions; and identifying the work that doesn’t feel like work to you. Some ideas might be floating boats down a stream, wandering without a destination, or engaging in creative pursuits.

For the expanded version of Wednesday, click here.

“Flow Back” by Tim Donnelly

Thursday is a day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

Today is about identifying what you want, and putting that intention out to the universe. Some activities might include making a vision board, practicing visualization, or making prayer flags.

For the expanded version of Thursday, click here.

Here’s a great example of a vision board from the blog “The Parenting Files.”

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

This is a day to let those intentions from yesterday go and allow things to happen the way they’re meant to. I’m trying to gather ideas for some experiments that have unpredictable results to do on this day. This is also a good day to play a board game, enter a contest, and burn or otherwise release the intentions you wrote down on Thursday.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

Saturday is about discovering your own talents and skills, and using them to enrich your own life and lives of others. Activities today focus on spending time pursuing your talents, volunteering your time and talents for others, and learning about historical figures who have changed the world with their own unique talents.