Skincare rituals

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My philosophy on skincare has always been a holistic one. Beauty is harmony in body, mind and spirit. The face is usually just a reflection of what is going on inside our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Your diet, your lifestyle, your environment, your thoughts, your emotions…they all show on your skin. Just slapping some cream on your face will not really solve your skin problems. Diet and lifestyle are crucial when it comes to healthy skin, even more than skincare.

When it comes to skincare, my philosphy is to nurture the skin with healing, good quality products through beautiful rituals, like massage, mindful meditation, and setting intentions…

How do you usually apply your skincare? Do you just apply your cream in 2 seconds and off you go? What is your dialogue with yourself when you are caring for your skin? Does it come from a place of judgement or one of a love and acceptance?

Here is my advice.

In Chinese medicine, the heart meridian passes through the tongue where it spreads out to the face. This is maybe one of the reasons why we have that glow when we are happy and in love. 

First, center yourself. Be here, now. Even just for 2 minutes. Have the intention that this is a time to pause and nurture.

So when you look in the mirror, before you apply your products, set your intention. Don’t say something with a negative connotation like… ‘I want to get rid of my wrinkles’… Opt for something like ‘May my skin be healthy, nourished and balanced’ or ‘may my skin glow with vitality’…Whatever it may be, make it something positive.

Then apply your products. Choose products that are healing and nurturing, that make you feel good. I am not a fan of any products or procedures that wound the skin in order for it to heal and as a result produce more collagen. First, all those products and procedures do more damage in the long run. Everytime you wound your skin with strong acids and overexfoliation, overly drying products, lasers and everything else that promises that ‘quick fix’, you increase inflammation, damage DNA, and distroy your skin’s immunity. I could write an entire book on this, but I will just sum it up and say that I personally believe in strengthening and nourishing practices instead.

This brings me to my next point, and that is massage. It can drain lymph, stimulate blood circulation and therefore bring more nutrients to the skin, increase skin function, relieve tension, relax, firm and lift muscles, release toxins, help products penetrate better into the skin…the list goes on and on…and let’s not forget: it feels AMAZING! I posted a few techniques on facial massage and acupressure in the past, so feel free to take a look at those, or try out others that are out there on youtube.

This doesn’t have to take long. It can be 2 minutes….or, if you have the time and feel like it, you can make it 30 minutes. The main idea here is to just carve this little time for yourself, and make it feel good.

Of course, topical application is just a small part of healthy skin. A healthy diet (good digestion, good quality, organic whenever possible – ingredients, supplements when needed, lots of water, a healthy microbiome), a healthy lifestyle (avoiding toxic products and environments whenever possible, staying active, practicing yoga or another type of physical activity you may prefer, practicing pranayama, spending time in nature, fresh air), and a healthy mind and spirit (through meditation, expressing and practicing gratitude, connecting with others) are all important parts of healthy, beautiful skin.

I hope this inspires you to approach skincare from a holistic level and that we all stop buying into the quick-fix, no pain no gain philosophy.

Here is to a healing, nurturing journey to healthy, glowing skin!

Ps:

One last thing…on botox…as you probably guessed by now…I am not a fan. I don’t judge anyone who does it, of course, but please if you are planning on doing it, consider the following:

Botox atrophies muscles. As we age, our capillary bed in our skin (the blood flow) decreases significantly. When you weaken muscles, you decrease circulation even more. This literally starves your skin. So the skin, although it has no wrinkles, it looks lifeless. Also, it slackens a lot. It may be wrinkle free, but gravity still pulls on it, and since muscles are weak due to atrophy, everything just droops even more. This is why most botox users end up having fillers and other procedures after a while. And those are a whole other mess.

Another thing to consider is that there has been quite a bit of research on muscle memory. When we are happy, we smile and we contract certain muscles. This goes the other way around as well. When we smile, we tend to feel better. There have been several studies showing how if certain muscles are not triggered during facial expressions, the emotion associated with those expressions is not felt to its full extent.

And one last thing that I learned in a natural skincare seminar…there is a whole book about this actually, but for all new moms out there…babies, before they learn how to speak, they look at their parents and read their facial expresions. They learn how to read emotions and it is a way for them to understand the world and most importantly the people around them.  Something to keep in mind.

A simple, relaxing meditation

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This is a very simple meditation I have been practicing lately that I absolutely love! I have read about it and heard about it in many books and meditation apps, but I just started practicing it lately. It’s a present moment awareness meditation similar to the ‘noting’ meditations, but this time just focusing on positive thoughts and sensations, and then labelling them. Our brains have a negative bias, which means we usually spend more time and energy focusing on negative experiences than on positive. Sometimes this can be useful, and it can be part of our defense system; however, sometimes it is nice to just pause for a few minutes each day and focus only on the positives. Doing so can be a very relaxing experience.

Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Next, begin to note any positive sensations or thoughts that arise at the moment. Describe them to yourself in simple, positive one-word labels like ‘calm’, ‘bliss’, ‘relaxed’, ‘quiet’, ‘softness’… whatever it may be that you notice in the moment, that is positive. There is no wrong answer here. When you notice negative thoughts arising, or that your mind has wandered off to the past or future, simply and gently tell yourslef ‘let it go’, or ‘release’, or ‘hey, don’t go anywhere’ (the latter is my personal favorite, and it is from a relaxation meditation from Emma Mills). Then, just come back to your postive words. Do this for as long as you’d like. When you are done, simply stop noting the words, take a few deep breaths, and then open your eyes.

“No more words. In the name of this place we drink in with our breathing, stay quiet like a flower.
So the nightbirds will start singing. “

-Rumi

Gratitude

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One practice that has always made a big difference in my life, is starting with some gratitude first thing in the morning. I used to write in a gratitude journal, but the truth is after a few months, I found my mornings so busy that I felt too rushed, so I would skip the journal…A day here, a day there…then it became a week…then a few weeks…

I was not going to give up on this practice though, because it really does set a great tone for the rest of my day. I just found a different way to practice it, that could fit better in my morning routine.

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Now, first thing when I wake up, when my eyes are still closed, I practice a short gratitude meditation. In that first moment I realize I am awake, that moment I am aware of my breath again. I think of all the wonderful gifts in my life and allow myself to FEEL how this gratitude fills my heart. Then, I set my intentions for the day, and let them sink in, like planting seeds.

The thing I found about gratitude meditation is that you really have to FEEL it, not just think of the things you should be grateful for, not just writing them down or saying them out loud. The real benefits of gratitude meditation come from that FEELING in your heart you get when you are truly grateful for something.

I once tried a gratitude practice I learned from Dr Pratima Raichur (she is such an amazing woman!!!), where, in a quiet place, you begin by listing some of the things you are thankful for in your life. Then, you meditate on losing these things…your home, your health, your ability to walk, your sight, your loved ones…anything that is truly precious to you…and then, one by one, you imagine receiving these gifts back into your life- FEEL  the full effects of these reunions, FEEL the deep gratitude you have in your heart. That is what gratitude meditation should feel like…That humbling realization that all these amazing things in your life are such precious gifts! Nothing should be taken for granted… This is such an amazing practice, but Pratima says it can be quite intense for some, so use a little caution if you decide to try it.

I hope you all have a beautiful day, filled with much love, happiness, peace and gratitude! ❤

Note: First image source: Pinterest.

 

Little things

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At the beginning of this year, I started a journey towards a more mindful life. I wanted to find ways to achieve a more balanced sense of health and wellbeing, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

I still have a long way to go, but I have learned a lot. I didn’t notice it right away, but now, as I reflect upon my days and compare them to how I would have gotten by a year ago, there is a definite shift.

It’s easy to get information nowadays on health and wellbeing, but not always easy to incorporate them into your day, and also figure out what actually works for you. I am the type of person who gets really excited about a project, and takes on waaay too much from the beginning. I do well for a while, but then life happens, and I completely stop. I lose my momentum. I realized it is because I have always had pretty unreasonable expectations.

This year I tried something different. Each week, I tried 5 new wellbeing/mindfulness/healthy practices….Pretty small ones…small enough in fact that sometimes I wouldn’t even notice that my routine was changed at all…but little by little, my life has shifted.

I started each week with 5 new practices. For example: breathing exercises for a few minutes every morning, yoga for 20 minutes every morning, body brushing every day, journaling before bed. I tried to keep them up for a whole week, and then noticed what worked and what didn’t…What made the biggest impact in my day…and at the end of the week, I commited to the one practice that I felt was the easiest to keep and made the biggest impact. I carried that practice into the next week, where I tried 5 new things…and so on…

Months later, I have accumulated all these small new habits that I realize now have become a fluid part of my day. They are my routine, just like brushing my teeth when I wake up. They were such small changes…in small increments, almost unnoticeable…but now, I realize just how much of a difference they have all made.

Everyone is different, and what works for me will not work for someone else. I think this is why it is so important to always be open to learn and grow and be mindful of what feels right and what doesn’t. Accept change. Embrace it. Be grateful for every experience.

One last note, which has probably been the most profound for me this year, was realizing how negative my thoughts really were. I am still a work in progress, but I have definitely improved the quality of my thoughts this year. I realized that we really have no control on the future. No matter how hard we try and do our best, we cannot control the outcome. We sometimes have the illusion that we do, but we don’t. We can control our actions to a certain extent (laws of physics and nature still apply…unfortunately, no matter how much I want to, I still cannot just spread my arms out and fly…)…The ONLY thing we can control in this life is our thoughts. We have unlimited possibilities. We can dream so big!

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Image Source: picturequotes.com

Why do we chose to dream of negative things, of worst case scenarios…when we have all this potential…why not dream and think of the best possible case scenario!! Why not think of beautiful things that make us happy, of things working out instead of going wrong?  If you cannot control the outcome no matter what, why add to your stress by living worries of things that might never even happen? Why worry and stress over things that HAVE happened, that you can also not change. It will not change the outcome either way, so why not think positive in the meantime, and when the time comes, just deal with things in the moment.

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Image source: Pinterest

All you can do is your best in every single moment, whatever your best is at the time. That is all. It is when we attach ourselves to a certain outcome that we become unhappy….because we think things should go a certain way…and sometimes they don’t…If we just did our best and then tried to let any expectations go, we would be much happier.

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Image Source: heartcommunicators.com

In the next days, I will post the little shifts I have made that have worked for me. You may try some of them and see if they work for you. Maybe you already do them..or maybe they are not really for  you…or maybe they will inspire you to look for other ways to improve your day and your life.

For now, let’s all just dream big, do our best and let all expectations go!

 

 

 

Stop and smell the roses

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“A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which their heart first opened.” ~Albert Camus

On Sunday, we had a million things to do…errands to run, house to clean, laundry to do, groceries to get…On our way to the grocery store, we stopped at a local farm fruit stand and bought a big box of fresh blueberries and two boxes of raspberries…and then my husband and I looked at eachother and we both decided to put our plans aside and go for a picnic and a walk in nature. We walked on trails, we had a picnic under a big shady tree and stuffed our faces with berries for dessert….

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Then we walked some more, and we arrived at the rose garden.

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There is something so relaxing about spending an afternoon in a rose garden, on a warm, sunny, summer day.

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While my husband and our older daughter relaxed in the grass, I walked through the garden with my younger daughter, went around every single rose bush and smelled all the roses.

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We admired the different colours, the different textures, and of course, the slightly different scents of all the roses.

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I watched my daughter, who was in complete awe of all these beautiful flowers, the way she got excited about all the different colours and completely mesmerized by the fragrance. Her world is filled with wonder.

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Funny enough, it is the exact same world I live in, only I take too many things for granted… She ran with so much excitement and stared at every rose, and stuffed her entire face in each one, to inhale the intoxicating fragrance.

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I followed her… I hadn’t felt like this in a while…that beautiful expansive feeling of a fully open heart… We spent quite a bit of time, going around the entire rose garden, stuffing our faces in roses and roses and roses.

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We eventually walked back to the car and drove home…House chores will have to wait till the next day:)

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What about you? What fills your life with wonder? What makes your heart soar?

Moments

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May you notice when you are happy.

May it be a golden place in the center of your chest.

May it turn up the corners of your mouth without your permission.

May a laugh escape before you can hold it back.

May you be the blue sky.

– Kate Bartolotta

I saw this quote up on Project Happiness, and it really struck a cord with me. It got me thinking…Life is not this big solid moment, it is made up of all these little moments, all tied together. Some of these moments are filled with love and joy and happiness and others are filled with grief, sadness or fear. We tend to focus so much on those moments that cause us even the smallest level of discomfort (like getting all the red lights on our way to work) and yet when it comes to the small things that bring us joy, we rarely even pay attention.
I was thinking about this on my walk today. With mindfulness, you can notice all the small happy moments that otherwise just pass you by unnoticed. When I walk, I go through a million thoughts (shopping lists, to do’s, wishes, worries, things I am excited about). Yes, I am grateful and appreciate the beautiful scenery, but I haven’t REALLY stopped to notice how these things I am noticing actually make me FEEL. On this day though, as I walked, I looked around at the roses…

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…red, pink, white just cascading over fences and their beautiful fragrance lingering in the air, and I thought to myself…. THIS makes me happy…just looking at these beautiful roses puts a smile on my face…inhaling their beautiful fragrance, puts a smile on my face… then I continued with my usual thoughts
…..and then I came across a pond with a beautiful white swan.

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As I stood there, the swan came right up to me…and again I thought…THIS makes me happy…admiring this beautiful, graceful white swan…and I smiled and then continued my walk…and thoughts arose again, about my daughter’s school, about what meal I should make, about a lost puppy sign a saw posted on a pole… Then I walked by the playground and heard children laughing and saw them playing…so much joy and made me think of how much my daughters love playing at that playground…and just thinking of how blessed I am to have my two daughters made me happy again…When I got home, I hugged my little one and we sat together and read a book…and I smiled and thought …this is LOVE and HAPPINESS…right here, right now, I am noticing it.

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“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘IF THIS ISN’T NICE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.'” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

I Love You

 

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“Love should be like breathing. It should be just a quality in you – wherever you are, with whomsoever you are, or even if you are alone, love goes on overflowing from you. It is not a question of being in love with someone – it is a question of being love.” -Osho

Today, after my morning walk at the beach, as I sat down on a log for my daily meditation, I decided to focus on love. Love is such a beautiful, warm feeling and it should be celebrated every day. It is like an invisible, unbreakable string that connects us all. Today’s meditation was on love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness… for myself, for those I hold dear, for those who make me uncomfortable, and then for all beings.

I remembered a story told by Denise Leicester a while back. She talked about a Guru in India asking his audience : “Where is love?”, and someone answered: “Love is in my heart, Baba!” To which he replied: “You make Love very small and you very big….” He then continued : “Love is unlimited and love is everywhere, in every molecule; it is the energy that sustains creation. Human beings are like a beautiful strand of pearls – the thread that connects us is love, and both forgiveness and compassion bring us back to this simple truth.”

I believe we are all love. Love is our essence, our nature. There is this beautiful connection we all have with eachother. We can see it all around if we pay attention. It’s the compassion we feel for someone we don’t even know, who looks like they are going through a hard time, it is the helping hand a stranger gives you when you are in need, it is someone across the globe reading your blog and thinking about you and wishing you the best, even when they never actually met you, it is a warm hug from your children or spouse, a sympathetic smile from a friend, a kind gesture from a stranger who sees you are struggling, a letter from someone you wronged and has forgiven you, perfect strangers welcoming forest fire evacuees into their homes … Of course these are just very few examples, but we are all love and love is all around us…The media tends to focus so much on stories that inspire hatred and fear that I just think sometimes we get a little lost in negativity and forget to pay attention and realize that there is a lot more love than hatred. We just need to go inward more often and remind ourselves who we truly are.

On that note, for today’s meditation, try focusing on love.

Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose.

Now move your attention to your heart. See if you can sense your heartbeat. Focus on a feeling of warmth radiating from your heart center, like a little spark.

Now affirm loving thoughts for yourself. Next, imagine someone you love. It can be more than one person. Affirm the loving thoughts to them now, as if they were standing right in front of you. Next, try to affirm loving thoughts to someone you may be holding feelings of resentment towards. To finish, affirm loving thoughts to all beings.

Feel how the warmth that started as a little spark has now spread through your entire body.Let this feeling flow freely through you. Feel how your whole body is light and love ❤

Now come back to your breath. Take a few deep breaths, then wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes. ❤

‘I will reveal to you a love potion without medicine, without herbs, without any witch’s magic; if you want to be loved, then love.’ – Hecaton of Rhodes