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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Joy in Nature

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“Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.” – Henry David Thoreau

I have mentioned many times before my love of nature. I find it healing, calming, relaxing, and the best place to learn and practice mindfulness. This is a place and time when we can just be, observe, daydream, explore, wander at all the beauty around us. There is beauty everywhere, in every moment, just waiting for us to find it.

GAZING AT THE CLOUDS

Anywhere you may be, in the mountains, at the beach, in a garden, even indoors by a window or the passenger in a car, you can pause and just look up at the sky. There is something so soothing, so relaxing about gazing at the clouds, as they pass by…trying to make up shapes of what they may look like. It’s something I used to do as a child, when I would lay in the grass for hours, which only seemed like minutes. Now I get to do this with my daughters, and sometimes by myself. In the words of Tyler Knott Gregson:

” Sit and stare up, up to the passing clouds and plane trails leading somewhere you are not. Sit and breathe, feel your lungs expand with the air you swallow, feel your body sink into the soil beneath you, feel the earth spin slowly. We are here such a short time, why waste it with the frenzied rush, the frantic fumbling? Sit and stare up, there will be clouds to calm you.”

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THE JOY OF FLOWERS

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Image Source: Katie Daisy

I love flowers. I love plants in general, but ESPECIALLY flowers. Their fragility, their colours, their fragrance, their joyfulness… I plant flowers every spring. This year I planted a mixture of wildflowers I got from Eminence Organics. (It is a skincare brand I used to work with, and a few years ago they were giving out these little packs of wildflower seeds. I will take pictures of them this summer when they are in full bloom:) I have planted them a few years ago, too, and they are so beautiful and make me smile everytime I see them).  Here are a few flower/plant-fun suggestions inspired by Katie Daisy’s “How to be a Wildflower”:

  • Make a flower crown out of wildflowers
  • Find a field of dandelions and make 100 wishes.
  • Spend an hour looking for four-leaf clovers. Press the ones you have in a book.
  • Press flowers

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THE BEACH

Walking barefoot in the sand as the waves kiss the shore is probably one of the most relaxing things you can do. I love the salty air, the smell of seaweed and wet driftwood, the little crabs, the seagulls, the eagles flying above, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand under my toes… I still love picking seashells and coming up with creative ways to use them at home for decor (thank you, Pinterest). I love to balance on all the logs or sit on a big rock and read a book while my daughters play in the sand and build sandcastles. We always bring our kite to the beach in the summer and fly it for hours! A new fun thing I learned to do with my daughters is collect a bit of ocean water in a bottle, and go home and paint together using this. My girls think it’s magical water, and it makes painting even more fun!

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HIKING IN THE MOUNTAINS

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” – John Muir

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Image Source: TylerKnott.com

This is my favorite thing to do in the entire world. I love the beach, I love the ocean, but when I am in the mountains is when I truly feel like I am home. There is nothing else that can compare for me. I have very fond memories of my sister and my brother hiking with our grandmother when we were very young, eating wild strawberries we found in the forest, finding a small clearing and having picnics in the grass along the trails,  getting caught in the pouring summer rain, picking forget-me-not’s and making flower crowns, stopping at a random, in the middle-of-nowhere fruit stand on the way back home and buying a whole bag of fresh cherries. Now I go hiking with my own family…my husband and our two daughters…we still pick berries and eat them along the way (blackberries, salmon berries and huckleberries), we still have picnics under big old trees, we dip our feet in rivers and lakes and let the waterfalls spray our faces. We’ve come across squirrels and deer, mountain goats, wild buffaloes and moose…and once, a family of black bears. We collect pine cones and leaves and lie on the soft mossy ground under the trees.We still make flower crowns from wildflowers and we make wishes on dandelions.

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And for the days when we cannot be outdoors, here is a visualization meditation  I learned from the book “Calm”, by Michael Acton Smith, that you can use when you want to go back to nature: (I would also recommend the Calm.com website that has some wonderful guided meditations, where you can customize your animated background images and your background sounds/music (mountain lake, ocean, rain, etc)

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I hope you all have a beautiful, joyful day!:)

PS: I will write a review in a future post about Calm, the App and their book, because I really love them, and I have found them very helpful. 

 

 

 

Where I come alive

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What if our religion was each other?

If our practice was our life?

If prayer was our words?

What if the Temple was the Earth?

If forests were our church?

If holy water—the rivers, lakes and oceans?

What if meditation was our relationships?

If the Teacher was life?

If wisdom was self-knowledge?

If love was the center of our being

– Ganga White

A week ago, I came across this quote in a book I was reading:

“If we keep in our minds that one day each of us will die, we can cherish every moment that we are alive.”

Of course I knew that,  but I don’t always approach life as “What if today was your last day?”. Especially when I feel stressed out or overwhelmed, I tend to go on autopilot. It’s almost like I shut down on the inside and my body is a remotely operated machine, just going through the motions. Some days are like that..chaotic, stressful, noisy, robotic. But when I go on autopilot, I miss all the wonderful things, too, and I will never get these moments back! Nothing lasts forever. So I have the option on going on autopilot to get through stressful days that make feel uncomfortable, and in the process miss out on all the wonderful things, too, or embrace it all….the stress, the worries, the chaos, but also all the things that make this life so beautiful and precious, and just be in the moment with whatever that may bring. It is all part of the whole experience, isn’t it?

Reading that quote made me then ask myself the question….Well, what is it then that really makes me feel most alive? When and in what circumstances do I feel fully present and at most ease? For me it’s a very easy answer: in nature and with my family.

For me, that is when I feel timeless. That is when I feel abundance, joy, gratitude and am fully present. That is when, even when I am stressed out or worried or overwhelmed, I somehow become more at ease. So, I have been making the conscious decision to truly live every moment like if it were my last. Embrace whatever it is…with tears or laughter, just fully experience it all, feel it all, because it will eventually end.

So in honor of this, I have been going through photos we took on our adventures. My family and I spend a lot of time in nature, where we connect, where we feel most liberated, most ourselves.

Walking under big rocks and through caves to get to waterfalls…

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Getting sprayed in the face…

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Hiking to the top of the mountain to get above the clouds on a rainy day…

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Walking through mossy forests…

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Writing our initials in the sand…

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Dipping in glacial lakes…

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Walking barefoot in the sand and watching beautiful sunsets….

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Throwing rocks…

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Hiking on trails between tree tops…

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Picnics on secluded beaches…

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Climbing tree stomps…

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Exploring river trails leading to a heritage farm…

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And many, many other adventures….How can I let life just pass by, when there is so much beauty all around!?

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PS: All images are mine

Living in Rhythm – Spring Cleaning

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Tomorrow is February 4th. In the Chinese Calendar, this day is the “Li Chun” solar term, which means it is the beginning of spring. This is the date my acupuncturist told me I can begin my detox.

When we look all around us, in nature, spring brings a sense of full potential, of rebirth, of awakening, of growth. Spring is a time for renewal. Everything gets a fresh start. It is the time to get rid of everything that no longer serves us, and make room for the new. It is a great time to get rid of clutter, cleanse and purify, in all aspects of our lives…in body, mind and spirit.

Starting with  de-cluttering our physical space, it is the time to “spring clean” our homes, our offices, our wardrobes, our garages …to give away, donate, get rid of things you no longer need, to scrub and clean surfaces, to purify the air with invigorating and refreshing essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass and rosewood and add fresh plants that naturally purify the air and give us Oxygen in return.

Spring is also the time to purify our own bodies. As the sun starts to rise earlier and earlier, so should we. Begin the day with a tall glass of warm water and lemon to help cleanse your liver. Follow with 5-10 minutes of invigorating body brushing each morning. This will help remove lymph stagnation and improve circulation. (I will go in greater detail on body brushing in another post). Practice “breath of fire”, which is a great detoxifying, purifying, energizing breath. Engage in invigorating and heating practices and activities – outdoors. Walk outdoors every day, even for 20 minutes, preferably in nature and soak up the energy from the sun (preferably between 7-10am).  Eat lighter, drier foods and include lots of heating spices like ginger, black pepper, turmeric, rosemary, nutmeg. Avoid heavy foods, and go lighter on the oils and fats (even the healthy ones). Think about what is in season in the springtime and try to incorporate those as much as possible into your meals (such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cilantro, parsley, fennel, dill, cilantro, kale, leeks, apples, pears, oranges…).

For skincare, using cleansing masks (clay masks are great for this), energizing body and foot scrubs and taking detoxifying baths. I make my own body scrubs by mixing pink Himalayan salt or brown sugar with jojoba oil and a few drops of essential oils. For a detoxifying and invigorating body scrub, I grate fresh ginger and squeeze out the juice through a piece of cotton cloth, squeeze half a lime, add 1/2 tsp of honey, add pink Himalayan salt and half a cup of jojoba oil. I mix them all in a bowl, then scrub my whole body, fill the bathtub with warm/hot water and soak in for 15-20 minutes (The body scrub becomes my bath soak). While I am in the bath, I imagine all negativity drawing out and dissolving away, to make room for positive, healing energy. I also make a sugar scrub that I use in the shower in the morning with brown sugar, a base oil like sweet almond oil and a few drops of lemon and peppermint essential oil. It smells so good, and it makes my skin so soft:) For a body moisturizer, I also make my own: I use plain jojoba oil and mix in a few drops of pure lemon essential oil and a few drops of neroli essential oil.

In your meditation practice, this is the time to get clarity on what your intentions are for this year. What are your hopes and dreams? What do you want to accomplish this year? What do you want to get rid of? What do you want to make room for? This is the perfect time to plant those seeds, to nurture them and watch them grow throughout the year.

So let’s embrace spring’s promise of new beginnings and full potential, and dream big!

HAPPY SPRING!:)

(Please note: If you have any medical conditions, any allergies or sensitivities or are pregnant, please check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner to find out if these practices are suitable for you)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rhythm of Life

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When I went for acupuncture last week, I told my doctor I would like to start a detox. She told me I can’t do that yet. It is still winter. In the winter, you build and restore, nourish and reflect. I can start a detox in February she said, after February 4th to be specific.

This got me thinking. In most ancient traditions, they are very in tune with the rhythms of nature. If you have ever studied Ayurveda, you will know that there are specific rituals (in diet, lifestyle, daily activities, yoga practice, etc) that are followed depending on what time of the year it is.

And it really does make sense. Just like nature, our internal rhythm also fluctuates. Our moods, our energy, our vitality…they go up and down, in and out. We are affected by nature, we are affected by the seasons, we are affected by the solar and lunar flows… This makes me think of what Dr. Vasant Lad said:

“To say ‘yes’ means to allow a thought or circumstance to flower, to let go and expand. […] The trees say ‘yes’ to every season. When spring comes, they say ‘yes’ and they flower. When summer comes, they say ‘yes’ and become dry and thirsty. When fall comes, they say ‘yes’, change color and are ready to drop their leaves. To say ‘yes’ means to surrender – to every thought, feeling and emotion. It means to let go, and letting go is a journey towards the heart.”

To surrender, to stay in harmony and balance with the natural rhythms plays such a huge part in our wellbeing…inner and outer.

So until February, like my acupuncturist suggested, I will still continue to follow winter’s rhythm…a time to go inward, to reflect, a time to build, to nourish, to strengthen. In Ayurveda, they recommend daily warm oil self-massage to nourish, sipping on warming teas, eating warming, in season foods. This is not a time to lose weight. It is a time of building strength and stamina without depleting yourself of energy or nourishment. It is a time to go inward, to reflect. Winter is all about nourishment of all your senses: sight (walking in nature, natural sunlight), hearing (healing music), touch (warm oil self-massage, warm baths), smell (woody trails after the rain, fresh air, grounding essential oils in your baths, massage oils, candles), taste (warming teas and nourishing, warm foods).

My doctor suggested I practice meditation daily. Go for early morning walks, preferably in nature, and try to soak up some sunshine. Practice deep, slow, grounding breathing. Have warms baths with grounding essential oils like sandalwood. Listen to healing music. Sip on ginger tea with honey. Go to bed earlier.

In February, I will write up some tips for Spring, but until February 4th, I will be sticking to my hot teas and warm baths, my ginger broccoli soup and delicious stews, daily self massage and daily family walks on the beach and gentle hikes on local trails:D

 

 

A walking meditation

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A walking meditation this morning

Adding mindfulness to your movement can be very calming and healing. Paying attention to the way your feet land on the ground, peel off, lift and land again, the way your knees bend, the way your whole body moves…any sensations, any emotions, any thoughts that arise, just notice them all, and let them go. Just go back to your steps. ..walk slowly and then fast, walk on pavement, then grass, then rocks, then sand, and notice if there is any difference in how it physically feels, but also any shifts you may notice in your emotions. I ended up balancing on logs, and i felt an immense joy! It felt like I was a child again, playful and so fun!

We can introduce some mindfulness into all our physical activities, whether it is walking, yoga, tai chi, cycling, playing tennis, boxing… pretty much all movement.

For my practice, I choose walking. It is something I do every single day, and it is a very big part of my life. You can do this practice anywhere, but I prefer it in nature, on trails, on the beach, where there are no loud distractions around me, and where I feel most at peace.

Some days, on my walks, I listen to uplifting music, and others I choose the music that surrounds me, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, and the seagulls, birds chirping in the trees, a waterfall, the sound of rain, and my breath.

There is a sense of peace and freedom when you focus your attention on the present moment. When thoughts come to mind, you just notice them and go back to your steps, to your breath. It’s a beautiful feeling to live right here, right now ❤