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i have concerns.

about our environment and high cancer rates.

about misguided corporate interests, and about suppressed and controverted wisdoms, knowledges and truths.

Mother Earth in the Hearti’m concerned about the vitality of our planet and all that live upon it.

and, i am interested in having a strong, healthy, pain-free body in which to live until i die.

i think many of us share these concerns.

so, i try to make choices and live in ways which create change and make a difference in all of these realms.

that is why i choose not to buy a new car – ever. nor upgrade the only cell phone i purchased in 2009.

it is why i no longer provide so many disposables – like paper towels and bottled water – in the studio, and am challenged to decrease the plastics in my home.

that is why i can’t take a plane trip for pleasure only or use a microwave for cooking meals.

that is why, when coming upon tempting amazing moss alongside a forest path, i cannot step off the worn way to wiggle my toes in lushness.

this challenge – of arrogance and ignorance – is forever with me. i am primarily a steward, not a consumer; a creature, not a conqueror.

 

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personal care and home care products are an easy — well, relatively easy — area in which to make better choices. in fact, home made products are easy to create and effective.

so

i stopped dying my hair.

did you know, over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products?

i used to dye it for the sake of novelty, with a bit of vanity thrown in. imagine, repeatedly soaking my head in chemicals, allowing excess chemicals to float down the drain and into our earth, our water table, and being complicit in my hairdresser repeatedly exposing herself, and those around her, to these chemicals …. for novelty and vanity!

and that says nothing of the role model i provide(d) my children.

i shake my head about that special kind of insanity now. i enjoy my steadily changing shades, shifting perpetually from brown to a soft grey with glints of silver. and, being free of the tyranny of roots… now that is liberating!

not only did i stop dying my hair, i wash and rinse it with simple household products, like baking soda and apple cider vinegar, no extras added.

saffronand, did you know, there are plenty of safe, home made dyes you can use? hit up your favourite search engine and find saffron and walnuts and raspberry leaves as alternatives.

 

 

i make my own toothpaste.

it involves safe household products. plastic packaging, harmful chemicals and corporate nonsense is not required. sea salt, coconut oil, baking soda and some calcium magnesium powder. a couple of drops of spearmint essential oil makes it wonderful.

i oil pull.

for more than a year now, it has been a morning ritual. and, it has made a significant difference to the health of my gums, which have been gingivitis plagued and sore for many of my adult years.  i was a bit nervous about the process in the beginning and so started with coconut oil. however, i soon switched to sesame oil and find this oil more pleasant and effective.

many years ago, i was under the misapprehension that my pearly whites should be as pearly white as possible. when i quit smoking, i ‘rewarded’ myself with dental whitening. i’ve come to learn the folly of this and just have to smile in fond forgiveness. first off, the ‘reward’ of not smoking was improved health for myself, my family, my environment and other concomitant effects.  it was rather ego-based to run out and apply chemicals to my teeth – in my mouth! – largely because i could. i’ve come to appreciate my teeth being as white as they’re going to be, rather than as white as it is possible to make them.

i stopped using commercial facial cleansers and moisturizers.

i oil cleanse.  right now i’m using a mix of castor oil  and grapeseed oil, to which i’ve added two drops of lemongrass essential oil. i have been experimenting with different base oils – so far, grapeseed oil,  avocado oil and sweet almond oil, always in a mix with castor oil – to see what works best for my skin’s needs. i am liking the grapeseed and lemongrass concoction.

i began oil cleansing during the cold, dry months of winter and found it precluded the need for a moisturizer. now the long,  sunshine-filled days of summer are upon us and i am noticing the protective properties of this mix. having given up sun screen years ago, my gradual exposure lengths seem to be supported by oil cleansing.

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being a good global citizen is not easy. in so many ways i violate and/or compromise the environment and my own ethics all the time. sometimes i think i’m making a good decision, only to discover that i’ve not been awake or have not done my homework. small businesses, once ethically and lovingly producing the personal care products i have come to love and trust (e.g., Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine) have been purchased by large, not so ethical, businesses. the higher price tag i once budgeted, willing to pay that bit extra for quality and ethics, is now no longer warranted and is going into coffers i choose not to pad.

being aware, striving to do better, taking the time for some research, stepping beyond ‘convenience’ and personal ‘wants’, a sense of entitlement, and having/doing something simply because i can. there’s where i can make personal choices. there’s where i can minimize my environmental impact and my cancer risk,pare back my consumption and learn to live in greater harmony with you and this precious planet.

really, it all comes down to: just because i want, and just because i can, are poor reasons for getting, having, and doing.

peace.

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chi-runningi first read ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer in 2005. i have spent parts of the past dozen years of my life running, but i am not a runner. when i would run consistently and attempt to add volume to my weekly distances, i inevitably would experience injury, of some sort or another. my shift into easier running came when i began barefoot running and worked at changing my running style – my gait, my foot fall, my cadence, my mindfulness. i still am not a runner, but i do love running.

i recently came upon ChiRunning Coach Eric Collard on twitter when there was a feed about him offering a ChiRunning Workshop in Halifax which i wanted, but was unable, to attend. one tweet led to another, and Eric Collard will be in Charlottetown on February 23rd serving up 4 hours of running sweetness.

EricCollard-ed-200x300Eric Collard is one of 11 certified ChiRunning instructors in Canada and has taught the technique to over 350 people from coast to coast over the past two years. he is also an NCCP-certified triathlon coach, a Running Injury Prevention Specialist and a lululemon Alumni Running Ambassador.

for more information, you can simply check out his site at www.ecinc.ca or better yet, contact him at info@ecinc.ca

here’s what he has to say about ChiRunning and his workshop:

What is ChiRunning? Why should I care?

A lot of folks ask me what ChiRunning is all about. No, you don’t do Tai Chi while you run and no, it’s not that you move around with a chai latte in your hands either!

ChiRunning combines the principles of tai chi while teaching proper running biomechanics. It simply goes back to basics, moving the way we used to when we were kids. It’s a great way to get started as a runner and if you’re experienced, to simply improve your technique. Everything in ChiRunning goes back to the guiding principles of energy efficiency and injury prevention.

With proper posture (aligning your shoulders, hips and ankles all in a straight line), a slight lean and relaxed ankles you can start to feel the pull of gravity when you run. It makes a huge difference in terms of efficiency and injury prevention, as you will not be relying on muscles for the main source of propulsion. One of the great benefits of the technique is that it really teaches participants how to be gentle to the body, as there is less pounding on the joints. If you’re lighter on your feet, not only will your body thank you down the road but you will also enjoy your activity a lot more and more likely to incorporate it into your day-to-day.

Another great advantage of the technique is the mind-body connection. It changes running from a sport to more a practice, very similar to yoga. It also makes you go inside yourself so you’re more aware of how your body moves, instead of muscling the miles away.

***
the 4 hour workshop will be held

1pm  – 5pm

saturday,  february 23rd

at

the whole way health & fitness studio

306 university avenue, charlottetown

registration is on line at Eric’s website

ChiRunning helps all runners, even those of us who are barefoot

ChiRunning helps all runners, even those of us who are barefoot runners

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’tis the season.

you know, for moderately- to flat-out-filled social calendars, dipping into credit lines, indulging in gastronomic delights and potent potables (thank you Alex Trebek), and increased familial/colleagial/bestie demands.

so, you may just find yourself caught up in the festive frenzy, like i am wont myself.  eating more — of what you should or perhaps more of what you shouldn’t, or but more nonetheless —  sipping too many cocktails or eggnog lattes, shorting yourself on sleep. you know, not finding time in each day for you, for your usual withdraw & rejuvenate rituals. maybe you even allow that self-critical soundtrack in your head to loop on about how you aren’t looking after yourself, just crashing through the season to burn out in the aftermath.

what’s to be done about it then? how do you remain patient and feel peaceful, stay connected to the joy that lives within you? how do you look after your self?

do kindness.

  • aahhhhhh

    aahhhhhh

    to yourself.  first thing in the morning give voice to loving yourself, really caring about yourself. set an intention for one act of self-kindness during the day. be specific about it. i will take 10 minutes away from that pile of reports/laundry/dishes to meditate/breathe/walk. i will go to bed 10 minutes earlier than usual tonight. i will take a long soak in a sweetly fragranced tub this evening. i will make sure i drink plenty of water today. and, whenever you notice that you are not being kind to yourself, smile at your folly and set out again.

  • to others. stop by the local humane society with a donation of cat food. make a double portion of supper and bring one portion to a neighbour. stop by a friend’s office with a freshly brewed cup of tea – stay and chat a while. smile and say thank you to every person who serves you today. spend time with someone you haven’t spent enough time with lately. leave a note in a loved one’s pocket.

 

remain present.

  • maintain your own flair in entertaining, decorating, holidaying. do what comes from your heart not what looks so fabulous in your best friend’s living room. check in with your personal values and allow them to guide your decisions.
  • be mindful in your daily activities. the food you prepare is love and nourishment for those who eat it. the staff room counter that you wipe provides space for a co-worker to prepare lunch. a slight hesitation on the gas pedal invites that car to merge in front of you and allows that driver to make the light that brings him/her home sooner to family. even the smallest of acts and what appears to be minor decisions can be offered with great love and thoughtfulness. bringing the intention of service to others into your chores and routines will shift your world.
  • gratitude-rainbowspiral1practice gratitude. end your day by thinking of three things from the day for which you are grateful. share this gratitude practice with friends or family – make it a lively conversation over the evening meal or when chatting with your cherished friend.
  • plan & divvy up duties and responsibilities.  well in advance, decide on menus for larger gatherings you might have and create the shopping list. list errands and delegate some of the go-gets. ask for help when you need it. have others feel involved by not doing it all yourself.
  • find a chore you enjoy doing and find time to do it by yourself, in an unhurried way.
  • let go of the ‘shoulds’, try shrugging off ownership of the judgements of others, relax into the hubbub around you, surrender to grace.

the best that you can offer others is yourself. your self, present.

it isn’t what they unwrap that is most important.

it is you, smiling and ready with a kindness.

it is you, laughing at yourself.

it is you, caught twirling in the music and sparkling in the light.

it is you, mesmerized by the beauty that is them.

this season, do mesmerized and hold joy.

merry be.

 

 

 

 

 

queen anne's lace happy to just be

I went out for a run this morning. By 7:ooam the sun was already high on the horizon and was given chase by a bank of clouds which, for most of my run, kept the sun hidden. The moon, still fullish, was translucent and high in the western sky.  It beckoned me on my out run.

I had trouble staying in my body and out of my head this morning. The  times when the thoughts float easily away, and I sift into the vastness, aware of being the wind, the birdsong, the rays of sunlight; those runs are sublime. And then there are runs like today’s, when I just can’t get out of my own way. I fall into thinking about something, generally planning my day or my week, and being so immersed in the future I fail to notice the  now. The sensations of the moment are lost to me: the soles of my feet landing softly on worn asphalt, the gentle trills of chickadees, the trickle of sweat that collects slowly in the edge of my hairline and, having gathered sufficient importance, runs along the edge of my face. The breeze once causing my eyes to tear slightly as I ran into it now ruffling the fine hairs on my forearms, my breath matching my stride matching the pulse of the universe.

The peace and wisdom that come of emptiness were not to be today. Mindfulness remained elusive and I, stuck in my ego, struggled to complete the run.

Eventually I came to my senses, abandoned the effort, slowed to a walk and enjoyed the blossoms along the roadside.

this is not me, but add a couple dozen more leads and you have the idea

I have sleep apnea. Moderate sleep apnea to be exact, where I stop breathing during sleep about 6 times an hour on average.  At least that was the frequency of my small deaths and snorting, choking resurrections at the time of diagnosis in 2002 when I inarguably spent the worst hours of my nocturnal life in a sleep lab.

120 electrodes, attached mostly to my skull and chest, carved deep painful canyons into the sides of my head as I tossed and turned under a stiff, antiseptic bedspread. The electrodes provided impulses of my after hours biochemical and physiological life which translated into scribblings on a graph, all while a video camera recorded my drooling fitfully sleeping self and a live feed camera projected my gasping thrashing beauty rest to a screen which was observed by nodding, bored coffee swilling backshift lab techs.

It was, excuse the phrase, a nightmare.

When I was later informed of my night time apneic alter ego, I was advised to undergo laser surgery. When I was later informed of my night time apneic alter ego, I was advised to purchase and use a CPAP machine. Oh, yes….the advice was directly related to that which made the advising physician the most money: one was my referring specialist and the other was the owner of the sleep lab.  Of course.  So, I did neither. Of course (do you know me??)

Instead, I started to attend to my breath with greater awareness.  There were many moments when I held my breath.  On occasions when I was afraid, anxious, lost in thought, underwater or in the midst of exertion, I was prone to holding my breath. Instead of having my breath work for me I was frequently, mindlessly, allowing it to work against me.

Establishing a yoga practice was a helpful way to begin a breathwork practice as was lifting weights, pilates, biking, sculling and running. In the midst of any of these activities breath awareness is a key to success. Rhythmic breathing in particular patterns, like my two pace inhale three pace exhale on short runs or the pressurized exhale of a heavy kettlebell session, carry me through the work.

It wasn’t until I started a (regular) sitting practice, however, that I learned to carry my breath awareness into my everyday life — off the mat, off the cushion, off the bike. This created a fundamental shift in Being Mindful. Discovering that ordinary experiences present extraordinary opportunities to be fully present and awake was the epiphany which brought joy and vibrancy into each moment of my day.

This is beyond cool. Discovering that what we need most is fully within us, integral to our being, waiting to be noticed, appreciated and nurtured…

If you suffer fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, chronic illness, indigestion, sleep disorders, depression, negative thoughts, or irritability you might very well benefit from becoming breath aware.

Improving your breathing can be achieved through activities such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation.

You can perform breathing exercises to improve your breath. For example:

  1. Practice Breath Awareness – With no need to change your breath, simply observe it and take note of its qualities.  Don’t try to influence your breath, simply follow the breath cycle with your observing mind. Is it deep or shallow, smooth or jagged, fast or slow?  Sit in a comfortable postion with a tall supple posture. Follow the rhythm of your breath through inhalation and exhalation. Where does the inhalation end and the exhalation begin? Where does the exhalation end and the inhalation begin? Spend five minutes daily on this exercise.
  2. Attend to the Exhalation – Focus on the exhalation with the goal of becoming more aware of this part of your breath cycle. Place your hands on the sides of your rib cage  and gently squeeze the breath out of your lungs as you exhale. Draw the bellybutton in toward the spine and up under the ribcage in order to expel all the air.  Release the ribs on the inhale.  Repeat for one minute.
  3. Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing, sometimes called Belly Breath – In a comfortable position on your back, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your lower belly.  As you inhale, allow the breath to fill your belly, floating your lower hand upward. The hand on your chest shouldn’t move. Exhale through pursed lips, feeling your hand draw down toward your spine. The hand on your chest still shouldn’t move.

When your focus is on your breath, allow other thoughts to float easily away.  Stay present in your breath, release your past and future, acknowledge thoughts as they arise in your mind and return your attention, always, to your breath.

With regular practice you will find all manners of lightness, health, wisdom, clarity, and release in your breath.

Breathwork and mindfulness are a practice. Be kind and loving towards yourself as you explore the potential of your breath. The opportunities can bring you to a vibrant wakefulness, a shimmering compassion, a resonating truth.

Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?  ~ Mary Oliver

Today is filled with new possibilities and my thoughts create my day.  I began this morning with an attitude of intention and set my course for a positive, creative, joy-filled day.  Every path I cross will benefit from the smile which arises naturally from this attitude and the sense of play and passion I bring to all my actions.

It is the giving, not the getting, which will bring me happiness.  Accumulating, possessing, and holding on to ‘stuff’ creates emotional, spiritual, environmental and financial burdens in my life.  I set out this morning with an intention to live with less.  I will not purchase goods today, I will not covet tech gadgets, books, or other items.  I will very much appreciate all I have and will care for my belongings with respect, cherishing especially that which is well worn with love and use.  I will devote time to decluttering my home, and put thought into where and how I shall pass on what I do not need.

I will move mindfully through my day.  I want to appreciate the sights and sounds, smells, textures and movements of my life.  I will feel the nuances of my emotions; I will be present for those with whom I come in contact.  I will allow sensations to wash over me in slow waves.

I will think about one past hurt which I still harbour and I will let it go.  I will forgive and move on, giving up the burden which is not mine to carry; freeing myself of what holds me back from enjoying this moment.

I will remain excited and curious about my future and about upcoming endeavours and events, but I will live today’s joys and sorrows fully.  I will leave behind past accomplishments so that I can focus on working hard today.

I will love all I do today and will learn something new from every person or group of people with whom I interact.  I never think “TGIF” because I truly enjoy what I do each and every day and strive to have a seamless integration of all the spheres of my life.  My work is not a job, it is a passioned and reasoned choice I have made for myself.  My work is what I make of it.  I choose to make it fun, rewarding and satisfying today.

The Secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly. – Buddha

I hesitate to state that I am glad this week is drawing to a close.  I try to stay where I am in time, neither wishing away future days as I count down to some spectacular vacation or event nor regretting the challenges of current/past days, hoping for them to be over quickly.  Staying in the moment can be a struggle by times though.

This week was very busy.  Not at all in a bad way, but somehow my focus was not up to snuff. I could elaborate a combination of reasons for this, but that is hardly the point.  Accounting for how I got to where I am is more like an apology than a life lived.

what if my planner looked like this?

My reliance on my day planner was challenged on Tuesday, the fullest day of my week I might add, when the planner was forgotten at home.  The only time in my life I have managed this. Not only was the order of my day a bit fuzzy and the client files I required missing,  the administrative tasks I wanted to accomplish had to be abandoned for wont of the necessary bills/forms/notes/etc.  All were snugly tucked into the pages of my at-a-glance 2010 which was still at-a-home 2010.

Twice this week I lost track of where I was while teaching class.  This is really not a good thing.  As much as I ask class participants to stay in their minds and bodies, I left mine.  The consequence of this would have been to leave them rather unevenly worked out, having done shoulder presses on one side and not on the other or some such imbalance.  Thankfully I have attentive and confident people in my classes.  They are helpful in pointing out my moments of mindlessness, ensuring my return to their best interests and their collection of all they deserve.  If there were a ratemyfitnessinstructor.com, I’d not want to look at it for this week.

Not only has the day planner been recalcitrant this week, so too have some of my other files and papers.  This morning, for instance, I left home without the class program for my morning kettlebell class.  I thought I had left it in the studio yesterday, in anticipation of this morning’s class.  I was wrong.  I had brought it, and left it, home.  This necessitated me constructing a class program in the half hour before class.  Not a bad thing really because I put together a program I was really happy with, but it did prevent me from accomplishing other tasks during that time.

So, the week is drawing to a close.  I am somewhat relieved.  On the other hand, I am so grateful for this week.  I have had wonderful experiences.

  • I enjoyed a funny movie with my partner, along with a lovely snack and a bit of wine.
  • I worked with a new private training client and am excited for all she will achieve.
  • I took proud possession of 17 new kettlebells and have been passing 9 of them on to their excited owners (the rest have cozied in to peaceful co-existence with current studio kettlebells-in-residence).
  • I worked with four other most amazing private clients, all of whom bring so much in to my life.
  • I have had new class participants all week long and welcome them to kettlebell training, yoga, and core classes; and I so enjoy the repartee with and amongst the longer-term more familiar participants.
  • I met with a reporter from The Guardian to approve a story which will be printed on Monday and I am so excited about this exposure.
  • I followed new and cool tweeps and was blown away by the power and effectiveness of  Twitter as a social media marketing tool, feeling thankful to the two individual marketing consultants who have passionately set me on this course.
  • I was so very happy to hand over payment to a young graphic designer, also trying to create a new business, for the amazing designs she delivered which will soon be put on t-shirts.
  • I have been repeatedly humbled by the large kindnesses of those who enter or pass through my life and are willing partners in promoting my work because they are receiving so much from the effort they put into it.
  • I was honoured to spend an evening with truly fine friends; strong, resilient, beautiful women with whom it is as easy to laugh as to kvetch.
  • I tromped wet sunny parks with a bright, friendly warm woman with whom I have partnered to provide an outdoor fitness program.  I am beside myself with excitement about this adventure.
  • I hugged and was hugged and I laughed often.
  • I drove home under amazing stars and the warmest of crescent moons.
  • I shared simple, delicious food, lovingly prepared, with my family and packaged up a birthday parcel to mail off to my oldest magnificent babe.
  • I tweeted and emailed and blog-commented and facebook chatted with near and dear near and far friends and family.
  • I visited my chiropractor with whom I have a great relationship and while he messed with my messed up foot we caught up on a year’s worth of news.  I missed him.
  • I taught my first all-male kettlebell class; so fun.
  • I had a fab lunch out with my youngest daughter.
  • I shared lovely snuggles and had some great sleeps.
  • I walked in the sunshine and watched a week’s worth of awe-inspiring sunrises.
  • I worked hard in yoga class, leaving a much better person than the one who had arrived.
  • I relished the smell of my clothing which had dried outside.
  • I read so many interesting things, inspired by all of them.
  • I washed my car though I truly believed the grime was holding it together; it did not collapse into a smallish rubble heap
  • I got an oil change.  This was for my car.  My mother always used “getting/needing an oil change” as a euphemism for sex.  It is always a good week.

This week is drawing to a close.  Upon reflection I am not glad for this, nor am I unglad.  Next week I will practice mindfulness with greater perspecuity.

Oh, maybe I’ll do that right now.  Excuse me while I locate my mind.

My Stroke of Insight

Have you read Jill Bolte Taylor’s account of her experience of  and recovery from stroke — My Stroke of Insight?  Have you checked out her intriguing and informative TED broadcast?  (And I’m just going to pretend there wasn’t that Oprah appearance.)  If your answer is ‘no’  then you have something to which you can look forward.

Bolte Taylor was a young, intelligent and actively employed neuroanatomy researcher — brain scientist — when she observed herself experience a stroke at the age of 37.  Her book is the chronicle of this event and its sequelae along with a high school level crash course of basic brain functioning.

If you are metaphysically curious (like me) or a bit of a neuropsychological geek (like me), or have had your life touched by stroke (like me) or if you just plain enjoy a fascinating and engaging slice-of-life story (like me), then Bolte Taylor’s account has something to offer you (yes, like it did me).  The book is a fast read, so set aside a few hours in your comfy, sunlit peaceful spot and wander through this amazing woman’s brain/inner life — her insights, passionately conveyed, provide valuable lessons.  You will be inspired to create further balance in your own daily adventures.

The more aware I remain about what my brain is saying and how these thoughts feel inside my body, the more I own my power in choosing what I want to spend my time thinking about and how I want to feel.

stained glass brain

We are not at the mercy of the scripts and narratives we play in our heads.  We have the power to stop thinking things which bring us pain and dis-ease.  This is a powerful understanding which allows for a calm and assured sense of  personal agency.

I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me pain . . . I have the ability to choose a peaceful and loving mind . . . I can own my power and stop thinking about events that have occured in the past by consciously realigning myself with the present.

Stay in the present.  Show up for your life.   That is everything; that is all.

photo from getty images

Throughout my independent adult life I have always enjoyed washing dishes.  Yes, you read that correctly, I have always enjoyed washing dishes.  I have a dishwasher in my home, and one in the two homes before living here.  None of them have every been used, at least not for washing dishes.

Washing dishes has fulfilled many of my needs over the years though these needs may vary across time.  And yes, there are times when the task holds little reward for me, though this is a rarity, or when I have completed the task just to get it done rather than to enjoy the experience.  Now, there’s a phrase — enjoy the experience — most folks would never pair with washing dishes.  You see, my attitude towards washing dishes is such that applying the label ‘chore’ to it just doesn’t seem right.  A ‘chore’ is generally an unpleasant task or something so routine and mundane it is performed mindlessly.

On the practical side then, my family has only consisted of five people, at its largest.  Today there are only three of us in the house.  I cannot fathom owning enough dishes to allow us to continue eating while we wait for the dishwasher to be full enough to run.  I wonder if this concept, of having more ‘stuff’ (in this case dishes and more space to store them) in order to do less really works for people?  Or, is it more stuff in order to do more?  Either way, I have trouble here.  Five people does not = too many daily dishes, so three surely does not.

The practical aside, I’ll let you in on the great wonders of washing dishes:

  • it is the rare family member who wants to help, so I am assured of time to myself.  No one will even stick their head in for fear of being recruited to a tea towel tabata.  Washing dishes is like solitude on a schedule.
  • my hands are in warm, sudsy water.   Are you there?  The warmth is comforting, relaxing, soothing.  There is a therapeutic value here in which I revel and, as an additional benefit, my cuticles are gently softened.  Some people pay for this and call it aesthetic services!
  • in a relatively short period of time, I can take a cluttered and soiled space and create order.  I can take stacked glassware, sloshing with dregs, scattered cutlery and spent pots, and turn them into squeaky cleans glinting from their assigned cubbies.  The sparse counter profile is pleasing in its austerity.
  • cleaning up is an act of love, as important to me as part of how I care for my family as the creation and consumption of shared nourishment.  When my partner is doing the cooking, I enjoy providing the follow through, the continuity in this important family ritual by leaving the kitchen tidy.  I also love the feeling of having the room ready for the next scrumptious tryst.
  • there is a lovely window above the kitchen sink.  I can observe clouds pass, hummingbirds flit,  black hollyhocks gently sway, damp sheets billow on the line, a fast moving skunk skitter under a crumbly shed, snowflakes drift down or drive horizontal, frost patterns on the pane, garage lights come on when he arrives home, potato harvesters trolling the field, crab apples bright in maturity, a burning bush of sentimental value pass seasons, paint peeling, spiders of the fat juicy variety live a lifetime, webs of silver, too tall grass, a treeline which cannot be separated from the beauty of the skyline, the pointer on the outside thermometer.  There is much to observe.
  • washing dishes is frequently a time when I can be mindful.  I can breathe, I can be aware, I can just be.

The point of meditating is to bring about a greater degree of mindfulness, so that your entire life can be transformed.

To some extent this can happen naturally; the mindfulness we develop in meditation simply spills over into our daily lives, and we find ourselves being more aware of how our mind and emotions function in everyday encounters with the world, leading to an increased freedom from reactive emotional and mental habits.

But we don’t have to simply hope that our meditation will have an effect on the rest of our lives. We can consciously choose to use everyday activities as opportunities to practice mindfulness.

~ from Wildmind

Oh, and if I were a portrait kind of girl, I might have mine done while doing dishes.

Generally I eat a pretty clean variety of foods.  Family meals are bountiful: fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, little in the way of refined sugars, nutrient-stripped grains, and added or substitute chemicals.

Where I sometimes falter is in portion control and in adjusting my food intake with variations in my activity levels.  So, for example, as winter wears on, frigid temperatures, drifting snow and decreased hours of sunshine challenge me. In search of solace, I tend to increase the serving size of my morning hot breakfast.  By the time February is breaking, I am eating 3 full servings of steel cut oatmeal topped with yoghurt and pepitas instead of one.  Or, when I was living through bilateral adhesive capsulitis, resulting in an imposed sedentariness which I hated, I continued to eat as if I was still throwing kettlebells around 3x a week.

During these times, I invariably gain a bit of weight and, in the latter example, the weight gain was coupled with substantial muscle loss.

Mindfulness has, in these instances, gone by the way side.  I have eaten without awareness, without attention to how I feel while I eat, and without gratitude.

A food journal, on the other hand, allows me to become aware.  My portions, my patterns, my consumption of macro and micro nutrients, and the internal (emotional) and external (situations) factors which have an impact on my eating stare me directly in the face.  There is no hiding from these words on the page.

I have provided nutritional counseling as part of my work.  I can recall the client who, daily, enjoyed an afternoon snack of english toffee cappuccino and chocolate danish without being conscious of the effect this additional 920 calories/39g of fat was having on her health.  I also recall the client who, in a three day food diary, was unable to list one fruit or one vegetable (the french fries did not count) amongst the chicken strips, donuts, toaster waffles and fast food she had consumed over this period.  These same foods were being consumed by her husband and two young daughters as well.

the write stuff

the write stuff

So, if you are going to make just one change in your eating, keeping a food journal is the change you want to make. Several studies have shown that keeping a food journal is an indicator of weight loss and weight maintenance success.  What an easy way to put yourself on the winning team!

Your journal is the What, Where, When, Why and How of your relationship with food.  It instantly increases your awareness of what you eat, when you eat it,  how much of it you eat, and why.  You can easily identify the areas where you can make changes.

High caloric beverages and snacks, tastes consumed during meal preparation, finishing what is left on your child’s plate and other mindless eating practices reveal the places for easy interventions.  Because we tend to underestimate the amount of food we eat or forget those extras, like cream in the coffee or the candy dish on the co-worker’s desk, a journal can be very illuminating.  Once it is written down, it is very hard to stay in denial about poor eating habits.

Emotional eating patterns can also be revealed through a food diary.  If you use food for emotional reasons, such as loneliness, a journal will help pinpoint these issues.

If you have never tracked your eating patterns in such a formal way before, you will be amazed at how much you will discover about yourself. If you have maintained a food diary for a while but have allowed it to fall by the wayside, now is the time to pull out those old pages, reread them and commit to another period of recording your journey.

You won’t regret adding mindfulness to your eating patterns.  Heck, you might find adding daily activities to the journal useful as well.  Before you know it, you’ll have gained a lot of insight into your self-care/self-abuse patterns and you’ll have the information you need to create change.

So, if you are going to journal:

  1. be clear on your reasons — is it about identifying emotional eating patterns or tracking hidden calories?  Knowing why you are journaling will help you include the right kind of information
  2. what will work for you? For most people, including the time you ate, the amount or portion size, and whether you were hungry when you started and sated when you finished will be valuable information.  If you are concerned about emotional eating, recording how you were feeling before, during and after eating may be of use as well
  3. recording in the journal immediately after eating will be more accurate than waiting until the end of the day.  It is important to include unplanned eating, binging or overly indulgent moments.  At the end of the day we might tend to overlook these events.
  4. you don’t have to be perfect.  Lapses in recording or bare minimum recording are acceptable.  Strive for consistency in your journal recordings, but be forgiving when this slides.
  5. if you are concerned about portion sizes, measuring and recording this is important.  After a bit, you can relax on the measurement because your understanding of serving size will be improved.
  6. recording BLT’s are important.  Every Bite, Lick and Taste adds up — the condiments you consume, the crusts from you child’s sandwich, the scattering of Smarties in the staff room.  Don’t let these ‘add on’ calories be your downfall.
  7. the four most common barriers to food journaling?  Shame or embarrassment about your food consumption; hopelessness about changing your eating patterns (a food diary can’t help me); the inconvenience of writing every thing down; feeling bad when you eat off track.  Mistakes happen.  It is time for you to accept your slip ups and continue on.  Using these excuses has not worked for you so far.  It is time to accept that you are human and to keep yourself on track.
  8. review what you have written.  Do this regularly.  Look back at what you recorded last month, last week, yesterday.  Acknowledging your behaviours and reflecting on your decisions is an important part of change.  Do that now.  Do that regularly.

If we are too busy, if we are carried away every day by our projects, our uncertainty, our craving, how can we have the time to stop and look deeply into the situation-our own situation   ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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