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

Life goes on

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“Place your hands in the soil to feel grounded. Wade in water to feel emotionally healed. Fill your lungs with fresh air to feel mentally clear. Raise your face to the heat of the sun and connect to that power to feel your own immense power.” ~Victoria Erickson

I have written before about my love of nature, but how can I not feel so much love for something so beautiful and healing!

Last week we just got back from Whistler. We go there quite often since we live only a couple of hours away, but it’s usually just for the day. This time we went for a whole week. That is all I wanted for my birthday…to immerse myself in nature, together with my family, for an entire week! We did a lot of exploring, hiking, climbing, swimming, and even playing in the snow, we had picnics by the lake as the sun was setting…and of course, there were moments of doing absolutely nothing.

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I like to go off the beaten path usually. I really love to be surrounded by the wild…and the raw. It’s where my soul feels completely free! As John Muir said: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” There is such a profound message when you are in nature: everything is perfect exactly as it is.

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The first few days it was cold….about 3 degrees Celcius for the high. We hiked through forests COVERED in lichen, protected from the half rain/half snow. It was beautiful! The air was so clean and fresh and crisp and it was so quiet. We came across beautiful lakes, and we just sat there and enjoyed the silence. Here, on top of these mountains, life felt so peaceful and calm…completely oblivious of what is going on back down there in the cities…all the traffic, the noise, the hustle and bustle of every day, the chaos… We had left it behind for now…like we found the pause button and here time stood still ♥ I felt so free and timeless. There was no sense of hurry here, no noise…a place where you could just be.

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One of the forests we hiked through looked like it had burned down in the past. The bark of the trees was completely charred, but some trees were still standing. Among them, new plants were now growing, where the old trees that didn’t survive the fire were once standing. What a beautiful reminder of how life keeps going…even after destruction and devastation, there is new life that grows. There were so many beautiful flowers in this forest, purple, white, yellow, even wild roses, and the most beautiful soft pink and lavender-tinted grass, which I had never seen before! ♥ …hard to believe that not long ago, this very place was all in flames, and was now bursting with life again! Life keeps going…

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As the days got warmer, we took the gondola up the mountain where there was still lots of snow, and had snowball fights with our girls. It’s so much fun to just let go and be a child again!

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We also hiked to see the train wreck. It was a nice hike through the forest, along the river, past a waterfall and some really amazing scenery. I think you can get there by taking the train tracks, but what would be the fun in that? Plus you would miss the river, the canyon, the waterfall… This train wreck is pretty wild! Parts are even hanging off the cliff. Apparently it derailed and crashed through the forest many years ago. It was too expensive to clean up, so it was left here. People have now turned it into a place to do bike stunts and Whistler made the area ‘graffiti approved’.

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On the last day, we hiked to Rainbow falls. It’s a really fun hike, quite steep but absolutely worth the adventure. The water was so clean and the air was so fresh! We just sat on rocks and let the mist from the waterfall cool us down from the steep hike we just did. It was rejuvenating!

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There is just so much to explore and so much to learn out there, on this wonderful planet! No matter how chaotic life may seem, nature, to me, is the place that feels most healing…it’s that comforting feeling of coming home, where you can be exactly who you are, wild and raw, and that is perfectly ok. Everything will be ok. Life goes on…

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In this moment, in this breath

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Happiness really is an inside job. Life should feel good on the inside, not just look good from the outside. And happiness can be found in the smallest moments. That’s what a happy life really is – a string of happy moments. Most people are just so busy pursuing a happy life, that they miss out on all the moments.

How many times do we catch ourselves think or say: “Once I get this, or do that, or become that, or go there…then I will be happy”? Eckhart Tolle said: “Stress is caused by being HERE but wanting to be THERE.” So why not, even just for today, we focus on the NOW? It really is the only time that truly counts.

We need to stop racing through life just to get it over with and hope we get to a happy future. What about now, this very moment? Are you present right NOW? Are you tuned into your body, into your breath, in this very moment? Are you aware of how exactly you are feeling? The things you are grateful for this very moment? What about the beauty that surrounds you…right now? What things feel uncomfortable? Can you maybe try to relax and soften even just a little bit? What would make you happy in this very moment? What step can you take today, big or small, that would bring you joy?

Here is a beautiful and simple mindful meditation I absolutely love, that can help me come back into the present moment:

Set a timer (I like a soft bell) for 10-30 minutes.

Close your eyes, and begin noticing your breath. Observe the air going through your nostrils, then going out. Observe the the abdomen expanding and contracting. Don’t try to control anything, you are just observing what is happening in this very moment. There is no need to change anything. You are just noticing.

After a few breaths, bring your attention to your body. Begin with your head… your scalp, then your ears, then forehead, eyes, cheeks, lips, jaw, then neck, shoulders, chest…move your attention through your entire body, all the way to your toes. All you are doing is scanning your body. As you move through each area, see if you notice any parts that may feel tense…or if they tingle, or maybe they are numb. You are just observing. If you feel any tension or tightness, maybe try to see if you can soften or relax that area with your next breath. There is no forcing here.

Once you have scanned the entire body, go back to your breath. Notice how you are feeling right now, in this moment, in this place. Take a few deep breaths, in and out through your nose, then wiggle your fingers and toes and then slowly open your eyes.

May you have a Grateful-For-This-Life Kind Of Day!

The Breeze At Dawn

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The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

~Rumi

I have always loved this poem by Rumi. It is such a beautiful reminder that every day, every single moment of our life in fact is an opportunity for us to experience and learn new things with fresh eyes (beginner’s mind)… No preconceptions, no expectations, just experience, observe, learn…. Every. Moment. Every moment we can ask ourselves: What can I do next that will help me the most? That will nourish me the most? That will serve me the most?

In a world full of distractions, full of noise, full of chaos, it is so easy to go on auto-pilot. The human brain runs only on about 12 Watts of power. That is not much, so in order to conserve energy, the brain tries to take shortcuts, by forming and following patterns based on previous experiences. This can be very useful for basic survival, but by doing this, by going on auto-pilot, we also tend to miss out on a lot of wonderful things and experiences.

The good news is that if we practice present-moment awareness, if we tune into the moment with a beginner’s mind, with no preset expectations, we can get ourselves out of auto-pilot. Isn’t it amazing how we have the power to choose our experience of life in every single moment? Isn’t it wonderful how we can find some stillness amidst all the chaos just by tuning into our breath even for a short minute? From a state of awareness we can make more conscious decisions, and maybe more nourishing ones.

Of course, we all still fall back into auto-pilot from time to time, but the more we practice mindfulness, the less we will “go back to sleep”….the more aware and awake we are in life, in every moment.

The simplest tool, our anchor to the present moment, is our breath. Simple, yet so powerful!

Throughout the day, take a pause for 1 minute, and just count your breaths.

Breathe in. Breathe out. – One
Breathe in. Breathe out. – Two
Breathe in. Breathe out. – Three

It doesn’t matter how many breaths you fit in. It doesn’t matter how long your inhale or exhale was. The only thing you are noticing is how many breaths you took. You are not comparing to anything or anyone else, there is no expected limit. It is what it is in that moment.

So try it now. Set a timer for one minute….or 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. Count how many breaths you took. Do this whenever you get a chance to, in those times when you are waiting in line…How many breaths till you get to the till? Do this on the bus…how many breaths till you get to your stop? Do this on your walk home, or when you are taking a shower. All these moments can turn into such blissful moments and can change your whole day!

I hope you all have a blissful weekend!

PS: Image Source: Pinterest – Dawn of Gods by Giorgos Malamidis