Good Exploring, Little One

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I’m well into My Year of Creative Living and, at this point, I’m appreciating (and sometimes begrudging) more and more the crazy, surprising and delightful ride that creativity is taking me on.

For example, what started as a simple goal (Write A Book) back in January spurred me to enrol in an online blogging course in the spring; hire a writing coach in early summer; and, travel 2 1/2 hrs north to Georgian Bay for a five-day writing retreat, from which I’ve just returned.

With all this, I’m definitely still on the path to writing a book, but my “Writing Life” has broken open and here I sit with all these words in me, all these stories to tell, and what seems like not enough time and space to get it all out.

Side note: my two new mantras right now are: “Be Patient And Be Willing To Pass Up Good For Great” and “Progress Is Progress“.

The writing retreat, in particular, cracked me wide open. Something about being in the most beautiful setting imaginable (Georgian Bay, I <heart> you), in two small, quintessentially- Canadian cottages, surrounded by 12 other crazy-freaking-amazing writers has given me a brand new set of lenses through which to see the world.

Everything I look at appears to me as a touching and story-filled photograph now. Words seem delicious and rich enough to eat. On the drive home, I realized that Writing and I are now in a serious, committed relationship (the best kind of relationship too… the one that keeps me both grounded AND sky-bound). Like all good and evolving relationships, I know I’m in for some tumultuous times. But I’m ready for the ride.

One of the most vulnerable stages of the writing process is sharing our work with the world. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice with vulnerability and putting my shit out there! With that in mind, I want to share three things I wrote at the retreat.

The first is a quick ditty, based on the photograph above. And it goes like this:

I want writing to feel just like this little baby who is exploring and looking with fresh eyes at everything around her, with no concept of what being messy even means. This little one has no judgement of herself. And she is loved simply for existing. She follows her heart and her curiosity without any preconceived notions of reward or consequence.

She isn’t scolded for getting dirt on her bottom or tracking mess into the house. Instead she is praised and held and celebrated.

“What a curious little explorer you are,” they say.

“Look at what you uncovered, clever little girl,” they say.

“What have discovered today?” they ask.

With a chuckle and a coo, they brush the dirt and mess off her hands, legs and feet. No harm, no foul.

Good exploring, little one.

 

The second is a poem I wrote:

Sisterhood

precious wind

of sincere love

roots me

and I rise high.

 

Lastly, a Haiku I wrote:

Dandelions

First bouquet for mom

So proud to be the giver

Promptly thrown in trash

 

What kind of creativity are you exploring these days? Are you in a serious, committed relationship with painting, sculpting, knitting, wood carving, square dancing, jewellery making, cake decorating, comedy, poetry or some other lovely creative pursuit? If yes, please share it with me here or on my FB Page so I don’t feel so alone in putting my work out into the world! If you’re not ready to share, tell me where you are in your relationship… just starting, deep in the trenches or perhaps just flirting from afar?

 

 

Walking Bravely and In Great Happiness

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As you may know, I declared this My Year of Creative Living. So far, I’ve taught myself to play the ukulele; took a tap dance class; spent a weekend dabbling in abstract painting; and, participated in a three-week blogging course.

What I’ve learned so far from these activities: creativity is the core of feeling really alive. I’m never so giddy, conflicted, anxious, thrilled or joyful than when I’m in creative mode. It’s a definite high, folks… I highly recommend it.

My current endeavour is… writing a book (ahh!). I’ve hired an amazing writing coach to guide me through this process and keep me accountable to the task (which is worth its weight in gold), and I feel like I’m diving into my most personal, meaningful creative pursuit yet. Its exhilarating and terrifying at once, which is the very definition of entering “the arena” of vulnerability, as Brené Brown calls it.

I was listening to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey speak about creativity in their latest meditation challenge podcast, and their explanation of creativity hit me on a whole new level:

“Creativity is the root of our biological existence.”

Our bodies – each and every cell – are constantly evolving and responding to brand new conditions. Chopra defines creative living as bringing freshness and renewal to each day, each circumstance. In this light, it’s easy to see that we are all – by our very biology – creative beings and the tired notion of creativity belonging only to artists and writers swiftly abates.

Creativity lives in our divine freedom to choose our response to any given moment.  The ability, however, to bring the freshness and renewal of creativity to each moment is, you guessed it, a practice.

The practices of letting go of comparison, staying present and cultivating your awareness for what’s true for you in this moment (and not what your long-standing, self-limiting stories tell you) nurture your creative life. And it nurtures what you are likely seeking for yourself: to feel alive, to feel worthwhile and to feel so very you as much as possible in your life.

I invite you to rebrand yourself as a creative being, starting today. I mean, you already are a creative being… and now you have the choice to start seeing yourself this way and living your life from this perspective.

What would it be like to approach your job, your marriage, your parenting and your personal growth as a “creative type”. As an artist, even? As someone who walks “bravely and in great happiness”, as so beautifully said by artist Robert Henri?

It is, after all, in your nature – in your very cells – to do it.

 

Creativity Needs…

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Ok, I’m a month or so into my Year of Creative Living and I had a big “a-ha” today.

A quick recap: to kick off my Year of Creative Living I started tap dance lessons about four weeks ago, and also picked up a ukulele at the beginning of January to teach myself how to play.

So far I’ve learned that tap dancing is REALLY HARD! Between trying to remember the footwork (in slow motion) and keeping the rhythm with the steel toes and heels, it’s basically on par with learning rocket science for me. To make matters worse, there is NO glossing over mistakes in tap; if you miss a step, you don’t just see it, you HEAR it!

During my first lesson I swore I could feel the neural pathways growing in my brain (and that brain of mine is not as elastic as it used to be, so it was more like an exercise in bushwhacking the neural pathway than gently laying down new tracks).

And then there’s the fact that there are varying levels of expertise in the class. So while three other women and I quietly whisper “heel-toe-heel-stamp, heel-toe-heel-stamp” to ourselves whilst clodhopping across the dance floor, there’s a handful of other students tappity-tapping their way across the floor at about 3x the speed and style, right next to us.

And do I really need another reminder of my age? Oh, my knees! Oh, my feet! Oh, my hips! Seriously!

But, I confess: I love it. It’s playful. It’s fun. And funny (especially when I catch a glimpse at myself in the mirror looking so very, very uncool). And, every so often I get the steps down for more than 45 seconds and it feels awesome.

I feel the same way about learning to play the ukulele. When I first brought my little Uke home, I was so excited. I showed everyone who came over and played chords for my kids, my husband and for my ungrateful little dog. I even recorded a video of myself just days after getting it. I found my ukulele mentors on YouTube and bookmarked an online ukulele tuner (as instructed by my YouTube ukulele instructors), so that I always ensure my ukulele is playing at its best.

Six weeks in and… well, let’s just say that I thought progress would be faster. I faithfully click onto my YouTube instructors each day to practice my strumming and chords. I play along to videos and sometimes belt out the lyrics while I play. But I thought I’d be ready to serenade my loved ones by now. Instead, I’m still visited by a whining dog begging me to stop every time I pick up my Uke to practice.

But again, I love it. It’s fun. And I never really started out to become expert at this (although I secretly want to ukulele-rock your socks off!) I just wanted to give my thinking-brain a rest and try things that help me let go and play around.

Today, however, I had the a-ah! I was speaking with a dear friend who had seen the video I recorded of myself with my new ukulele and she told me how much she enjoyed watching me be so kind and compassionate with myself in this new challenge. I hadn’t scolded myself. I hadn’t excused myself. And I hadn’t hid my newbie-ness from the world. In fact, I posted the video to my Facebook page for all to see.

I got what she was telling me because I remember feeling that self-compassion when I recorded it, and I still do. I also feel this way about my tap dancing lessons. I’m not frustrated or embarrassed or seeking perfection. I’m just putting myself out there, trying it and having fun.

So here comes the a-ha… as I’m chatting with my friend about the lightness of the self-compassion I’m showing in the video, I thought to myself, “Wait. Why am I not bringing this same level of self-compassion and playfulness and ease to other arenas in my life? How about being that playful with my coaching and workshop consultation business? How about being that light and easy with my desire to exercise more and improve my health? How about showing that level of self-compassion for the mistakes I make at my job every day? And… this is a big one… with my parenting?”

So creativity needs compassion with a playful and light touch. And, I’m coming to realize, so do a lot of other aspects of my life.

Tap and strum on!

 

 

The Year Behind The Work/Life Lab

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Circle Back: I updated this post on Jan 30, 2015, changing a word I used to more accurately reflect my actual experience. When listing out the stressful events of 2014, I mentioned an “addiction” to sleeping pills. It’s been bothering me that I used that word, because I would not qualify what I went through as an addiction at all. What I experience was a dependence on sleeping pills to help me deal with the insomnia I was experiencing. It was careless of me to use a word like addiction, and certainly doesn’t honour the true struggle that those dealing with addiction have to endure. My apologies.

 

I promised myself to take a break from blogging for the month of January, and I almost kept my promise. We’re close to the end of the month, and there is nothing like a self-imposed hiatus from writing to make me burst at the seams wanting to express myself.

I spent some time in late December and early January planning for the year ahead. And in doing so, I couldn’t help but look back at the year just passed. And specifically, I couldn’t help but look back at The Work/Life Lab and the weekly posts I wrote in an effort to inspire readers to shake up their world a little bit and see if a little shift here or there could make a positive difference in their work and personal lives. I loved my year of writing under this construct, as it forced encouraged me on a weekly basis to think up different experiments and to write stuff that felt fun, challenging and meaningful to me.

But as much as I loved writing The Work/Life Lab, looking back I realize that the content of my writing was certainly an arms-length from what my year was really like, “behind the curtain” so to speak. The Work/Life Lab was structured and instructive; my life, meantime, was just plain messy. It was a damn challenging year, but – as all challenging times tend to do – I learned so much along the way about how I want to be in this world.

In many ways, 2014 was my year of “trying to keep my shit together.”

Don’t get me wrong; lots of great and wonderful things happened. I met my hero (and secret BFF) Brené Brown in San Antonio, and learned all about The Daring Way™. I cultivated new and meaningful friendships with some awesomely strong, creative and trailblazing women. I travelled to BC with my family and was completely filled up with the beauty of the west coast. And, we moved to a new home which provided a fresh, new chapter in our family’s life.

But, all the while I was writing those daring, upbeat posts for The Work/Life Lab, I was coming head-to-head with some of life’s biggest stressors:

  • My 6-year old son was diagnosed with ADHD
  • My marriage was seemingly on the brink of kaput
  • I started medication for anxiety and depression (for the third time)
  • I suffered with insomnia for 6 months straight (with a corollary dependence on sleeping pills to deal with said insomnia)
  • We got totally scammed by the movers on our moving day, and not only suffered the financial damages, but the humiliation alone seemed to tarnish any sense of a fresh start in our new place
  • I learned the hard lessons about starting my own business which included:
    • this is damn hard!
    • it takes a long time and a lot of work to see the fruits of your labour
    • you will get your ass kicked, a lot
    • not making money sucks
    • it’s hard to know what to work on first
    • it’s hard to know what to work on second
    • it’s really easy to feel like you’re the only one having a hard time

I’m not sure how I managed to keep my shit together this year, but I did. I didn’t do it all gracefully, mind you. There were definitely ugly moments throughout. But, as I said above, I did learn a lot about myself and the world along the way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And so, from a deep place of gratitude, I share with you just three key things I learned in 2014:

Never Underestimate The Law of Least Effort

This continues to surprise me. After all, I spent most of my life digging in my heels whenever life’s challenges came up at me. Struggle. Worry. Lament. Ruminate. Repeat.

I wrote about The Law of Least Effort in The Work/Life Lab, because when this lesson hit me, it hit me hard. The lesson? When I feel my body tense up against whatever is happening in a given moment, chose ease over struggle, calm over conflict. Make peace with reality and what is, and start living from that place of acceptance. I have to practice this, over and over. But I slowly feel it’s becoming my default. In fact, I chose the word “EASE” as my theme for 2015.

Whenever I feel opposition, discord or dissonance with anything or anyone, I ask myself, “how can I have ease with this?” Just asking the question relaxes my body and brain. And usually a sense of peace and alignment filter in, and I can make a choice at that moment that, at the very least, doesn’t go against my authentic self. At best, my next move is one that is life-affirming for both me and those around me. I cannot tell you how much this perspective has changed my life. And it certainly helped me get through My Year of Trying To Keep My Shit Together.

I Get To Define Success and Failure

I scheduled – and subsequently cancelled – quite a few programs and events I was offering this year through Sabrina Guerin Coaching. It’s a good thing – and also a tad ironic – that my major offering is The Daring Way™, a program that teaches people the importance of being vulnerable and showing up in your “arena” even when there are no guarantees of success. I live this every day, especially in wanting to share this program with the world. There were times when I sat there thinking, “I am getting my ass kicked with this coaching thing and trying to bring The Daring Way™ to my little corner of the world.” This sense of failure is hard, hard, hard. And sometimes made me fantasize about how easy my life would be if I would just give it all up.

Then I read The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, and I got it. I got schooled, big time. And here’s the lesson:

It’s all invented.

That’s it. So simple. It’s all invented. And, if it’s all invented, then “we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us,” say Zander and Zander. So, I promptly sat down and invented my definitions of success and failure. So…. According to moi, success is:

  • serving the world while also being authentic
  • having the guts to put myself out there, again and again
  • honouring the commitments I make to my clients
  • helping and inspiring others
  • showing up
  • doing my best with what I know and what I have at the moment
  • honouring my intuition

And, according to moi, failure is:

  • not trying at all
  • dumping all over myself
  • hustling for worthiness
  • buying into other people’s definitions of how things should be
  • giving up
  • making it all about the money

I like these definitions. They work for me, and they are posted on my wall as my gentle reminders that I get to invent what it all means.

It’s The Ordinary Moments That Count

There are a lot of Brené Brown quotes that I love, and I post them a lot on my website and Facebook Page. But there is one that has been steadily creeping into my consciousness. It’s not one of my go-to quotes; it has never really landed for me… until the last few months. And now it’s almost becoming a mantra:

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

This is the essence of mindfulness, which I wrote about a lot last year in The Work/Life Lab. It says to me, forget about the next big thing you are waiting to have happen. Forget the next special event, the next vacation, the next day off… whatever you think is somehow going to be more joyful than the moment you have right now. And stop comparing. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing and thinking that somehow they have arrived in the Land of Extraordinary while you’re stuck waiting on stand-by. And stop thinking about the way your kids “should” be, or the way your marriage “should” be, or the way you “should” look. If you get too busy chasing down the extraordinary, you will miss out on the joy of what is here, now.

Last year was a lesson on Stop, Breathe and Be In This Ordinary Moment. Ahhh…joy. I found how joyful it was to simply to be alive, to be breathing and doing whatever I was doing with whomever I was with.  I released any expectations I had of how things “should” be and stopped squandering the joy that was right in front of me.

 

So who knows what 2015 will be, but it’s off to a pretty good start.

My son is still a whirling dervish, and practicing the Law of Least Effort is helping me deal. My husband and I are in a stronger place now and our marriage feels like a place of warmth and comfort again. I’m sleeping normally (whew!) and I stay present in my moments of anxiety and depression. Our new home is, in fact, a new, fresh chapter and we are blessed to be surrounded by the best neighbours, ever. And, I’m busily making plans for delivering The Daring Way™ in new and different ways in 2015, all of which you will be hearing about very soon!

What were your lessons from 2014? Or, did the lessons I describe above resonate with you at all? Tell me, tell me, tell me! I’m setting an intention to open up more about myself in this blog, and I invite you to do the same. Let’s have a conversation about it! I hereby declare that my blog will be renamed, Daring Matters. This year, I will explore all things vulnerable (like opening up more about myself in this blog), courageous and self-compassionate!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #52: Month-end (Year-end) Mindfulness – Last But Not Least… Meditate

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #52: Month-end (Year-end) Mindfulness – Last But Not Least… Meditate

In last week’s post, I mentioned that I’m a sentimental fool. So I’m sitting here, writing the final post of The Work/Life Lab and feeling many sentimental emotions: proud (yes! I wrote 52 posts this year!), relieved (yes! I made it to post #52!), grateful (that my posts have resonated with some of you, so much so that you’ve taken the time to reach out to me to let me know), and concerned (what am I going to write about in 2015?).

Ok, on to this week’s post… which is my monthly instalment on mindfulness. When I first posted about mindfulness back in January, I mentioned that I believe so strongly in the importance of mindfulness that I would write about it monthly, encouraging you, dear reader, to experiment with bringing yourself into the present moment in different ways. So much of our stress, anxiety and problems stem from the fact that we are either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. There is so much peace and ease and wisdom to be found in the moment; right here, right now. And the more we can practice bringing ourselves to the moment — and releasing any judgement of ourselves or our situation (to me, this is the most important piece of mindfulness) — the more we can live in the joy, calm and sense of expansive time that we all crave.

The one mindfulness practice that we have not explored yet in the Work/Life Lab is actually the granddaddy of mindfulness: meditation. There has been a lot of focus on meditation over the last few years, with Anderson Cooper being the latest to “drink the Kool Aid” saying that a visit to a meditation centre changed his life. In fact, there has been so much written about the benefits of meditation that I’m not going to delve too much into it here. Basically, you need to know that meditation:

  • Increases your health (boosting immune function, decreasing pain and inflammation)
  • Improves your intelligence (increases grey matter related to memory and thought, increases brain volume connected to emotion regulation and self control)
  • Boosts your social life (better social connections, improved empathy and compassion and increased resilience), and
  • Helps your mental health (decreases stress, anxiety and depression)

… all of which increase your enjoyment of life. This infographic by Dr. Emma Seppala give a great overview of meditation’s benefits.

Sitting in meditation unnerves some people. For those who have tried it, you know how difficult it can be to get going with a meditation practice. Meditation is not about just sitting in silence. It’s about calming your mind, clearing the chatter. This feels almost impossible when we’ve been conditioned for so long to continually think through our moments, rather than be in our moments.

But this is, after all, the Work/Life Lab and this is about experimenting in your life, right? Ok, so here’s the deal: I want you to try your hand at meditation for seven days straight, only 10 minutes a day. That’s it. Of course, I hope that a taste of meditation over seven days will spill over into a lifetime practice… but let’s just start with seven days.

The basics of meditation: sit comfortably; take a few deep breaths and then just breathe normally; notice tension in your body and release it with your breath; then bring your attention to your breath (and the feeling of the air entering and exiting your nostrils); and, when a thought enters your head, acknowledge it and let it go. That’s it. Do that for 10 minutes and you’re done.

I have two recommendations to make as you undertake this experiment:

  • Use a meditation app to help guide you. My favourites are from Deepak Chopra, and are called Ananda. There are three you can download: Infinite Abundance, Living in Love and Conscious Health. You can download one meditation per app for free. I love these apps because you can choose different types of music to play in the background and also set the amount of time you want to meditate. Then you have Chopra’s lovely, calming voice guiding you through the meditation. There are many more meditation apps out there; try a few and see which ones work for you.
  • For your first foray into meditation, try doing it lying down just before you go to sleep. Read this superb article on How to Meditate Lying Down, by Hwansan Sunim. I think this is a great place to start because it’s easier to fit in 10 minutes of meditation right before you go to sleep, plus it has the added bonus of helping you actually have a better sleep.

If you already meditate (yay you!), then your challenge this week is to mix up your meditation practice a little. If you normally sit for your meditation, try a walking meditation. If you normally meditate 20 minutes, extend it to 30 minutes. If you normally meditate by yourself, try joining a meditation circle at your local yoga studio. Any variation from your normal routine will do. The idea here is to expand your experiences of meditation and see how other forms of meditation serve you.

One important rule: do not judge yourself! Do NOT say you’re bad at meditation. Do NOT say you’re not cut out for meditation. Do NOT say you should meditate better. These are all false beliefs, and they are your inner saboteur’s way of dissuading you from quieting the mind. There is no right way. And the very act of trying to calm your mind and quiet the chatter is meditation. It’s all about the effort and energy of paying attention, of noticing your thoughts and the space between your thoughts. That’s it.

I would love to hear how your experiment with meditation goes, so please leave a message below or leave a comment on my Facebook Page.

With that, I bid you a beautiful New Year full of ease, peace and joy!

 

P.S. Dear Readers… I am taking a short break from blogging! I’ve decided to take the month of January off from writing, and will be back at it in February 2015. Be well!

 

 

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #39 – Month-end Mindfulness: Staying With The Joy

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #34 – Month-end Mindfulness: Staying With The Joy

We all seek more happiness and joy in our life but, interestingly, joy is one of the hardest experiences to “stay with”. Most of us spend our time in the longing place; a place where we are in a constant state of looking forward to feeling joy. For example, I will feel joy when the weekend comes, or I will be happy when I lose 1o pounds, or I will be content when I find a new job.

When it happens that we actually find ourselves in a joyful state – when we stop to pay attention to the very moment we are feeling joy – that moment flits away. To truly feel and embrace a joyful moment can actually be quite disconcerting for us. We don’t know what to do with it. We rarely stay and savour those moments of pure joy. Instead, our minds take over and we are quickly delivered back to a state of worry, stress and suffering. We revert to catastrophe-thinking and come up with all of the possible disasters that are about to strike us now that we are feeling happy. Or we recall all of the things left on our to-do list and quickly feel stressed and overwhelmed. Or we start to panic because it feels perhaps like we’ve arrived at something and we don’t know what’s next. Or we default into thinking that we are somehow undeserving of the joy, and start to criticize ourselves instead.

When we start to really pay attention to our state of being at any given moment, it’s actually quite amazing to see how much of our time is spent in states of frustration, worry, sadness, regret or anger, and not joy. We long so much for joy, and we seem to so rarely cultivate and stay with those moments that bring us these feelings of lightness and ease.

This week’s Work/Life Lab experiment will have you embracing mindfulness by embracing your joy. Here’s what you do: pay attention and try to catch yourself in joyful experiences this week. When you find yourself feeling content, satisfied, happy or joyful, breathe into it. Don’t analyze why you feel joyful. Don’t judge whether you have a right to feel joyful. And by all means, don’t talk yourself out of it! Bring awareness to your body and the actual sensations that your joyful experience is bringing to you. Breathe into it and just stay there. Send your “thinking-mind” for a quick coffee break, and just feel the joy. That’s it. Simple, no? Well, we’ll see!

If you can start to linger in these states of joy, you will notice them more when they happen and you can start to cultivate those moments more often. This, in turn, can help you manage your stress and anxiety levels (which tend to happen when you are thinking of the past or looking to the future), and keep you in the present moment. If you have difficulty staying with your joyful moments, try what Dr. Brené Brown recommends: default to gratitude. Instead of being swept away by negative, stressful or catastrophe-thinking, go right to expressing gratefulness for the moment that’s bringing you joy. This is an amazing practice that keeps you mindful, in the present moment and staying with the joy.

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #37 – Practicing Playfulness

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Welcome to The Work Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #37 – Practicing Playfulness

Yesterday we hosted eight children at our house for my son’s 6th birthday party. It was a Lego-themed party and we made sure there was plenty of time and space for pure Lego creativity. The kids were most engaged when we handed each of them a paper bag filled with random pieces of Lego and told them to build whatever they wanted with the pieces they got, and then to explain their creations to each other at the end. The result: nine VERY different creations, each with a backstory so detailed that we were running out of time hearing them all.

All this playfulness was set against the backdrop of me and my husband rushing around, making sure all the other details of the party were unfolding as they should: sandwiches made, check. Loot bags filled, check. Candles in the cake, check. Serious, serious business. The party was a success, but it was the kids who had all the fun.

So, this week in the Work/Life Lab, let’s have a little fun ourselves. Let’s cultivate Brené Brown’s 7th Guidepost for Wholehearted Living and cultivate some play this week! Let go of exhaustion (and seriousness) as a status symbol, and have some kid-like fun.

You can do this any way you want, but here’s the deal: you have to practice it every day this week for at least 15 minutes each day. And it has to be fun for fun’s sake (that is, I don’t want you to take a particular task you have to do and play some upbeat music in the background just to make the task more palatable). The focus is on the fun all by itself.

Think back to what you loved to do as a kid, and recreate that. Did you love swinging at the playground? Go do that. Did you love dressing up? Go do that. Play a board game. Pretend you’re a spy. Play a pick-up game of soccer or basketball. Go for a bike ride with nowhere to go. Colour in a colouring book. Or get some Lego of your own and get building (but don’t follow the instructions! Be a Master Builder instead!)

Just make sure you’re not doing this while trying to accomplish something else (not even watching tv). Carve out the time for yourself to just have fun, and see what results. Do you feel refreshed? Giddy? Nostalgic? Bored? (By the way, if you feel bored, you’re not doing it right) Do you feel panicky or anxious because you’re not accomplishing something productive? If so, stick with it. It’s a definite sign that you NEED more playfulness in your life!

Have fun, folks!

 

 

 

The Work Life Lab, Week #26: Month-end Mindfulness – Lunchtime, Mindful-style

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Welcome to The Work Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work

Experiment # 26:  Month-end Mindfulness – Lunchtime, Mindful-style

I admit, it can be difficult to be mindful at work. The nature of work often means we are dealing with problems of the past or worrying about deadlines in the future. It’s tough to stay in the present moment when so much of our day is drenched in stress, demands and anxiety.

So for this edition of Month-end Mindfulness, let’s take advantage of the one chunk of time that is rightfully all yours: your lunch break. So many of us (me included!) are guilty of working through lunch breaks, scarfing down our sandwiches while responding to emails, meeting with colleagues or working on a project.

This is your week to reclaim your sanity by reclaiming your lunch break!

Here are the guidelines for this week’s experiment:

  • Eat lunch away from your desk. Do I even need to say that? Go to the lunch room. Go to a restaurant. Go outside to a park bench. It doesn’t matter… just DON’T eat at your desk.
  • When you have your food in front of you, take a moment before the first bite to:
    • Breathe
    • Look at the people around you
    • Breathe again
    • Look at your food and give a silent gratitude
    • Breathe again
    • Smell your food and give another silent gratitude
    • Breathe one last time
  • Take your first bite, and chew s-l-o-w-l-y!
  • Put your utensils down in between bites
  • If you are having lunch with others, agree not to talk about anything work related or anything negative. Keep the conversation light and positive. If nothing else, talk about the delicious food everyone is eating.

That’s it! Simple, but for some of you, a radical departure from your normal routine. For the half-hour or hour you have for lunch, try to stay present and keep breathing. Then, when you’re back at your desk, notice the impact that the mindful break has on the rest of your workday. Are you more productive? More calm? Happier?

Ideally, schedule this experiment for each day of the week (and hopefully every day from here on in). But, at the very least, give yourself the gift of just one full lunch break this week to practice eating mindfully to see how it impacts the rest of your day.

Happy, mindful eating!

 

 

 

Work Life Lab, Week 4: Month-end Mindfulness: Open Focus

Welcome to The Work Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work

Experiment #4 – Month-end Mindfulness: Open Focus

The Work Life Lab is going to dedicate the last week of each month to bringing more mindfulness to the workplace. Why? Because it’s good for you, of course!

In a nutshell, mindfulness will calm you down; help you be more responsive (rather than reactive); allow you to be more productive and creative; and, help you tune in to your reality, which may be more joyous than you think. PLUS, it’s a great way to let the past few weeks of Work Life Lab experiments settle within you, allowing for some good old unconscious processing of the shifts you’re making in your work life.

Mindfulness is about deliberately paying attention to your present moment experience, without judgment. It’s the last part that’s tricky, by the way.

Meditation is the granddaddy of mindfulness practices, but it can be intimidating to a lot of people because, well, it’s a hard practice to cultivate.

So, as an alternative to meditation, I offer you the following mindfulness exercise. It only takes a few minutes, so you can schedule it in several times a day (go ahead and set a reminder in you calendar right now! Set it for at least three times each workday.) The benefits of this exercise are two-fold: you will drop into mindfulness while doing it, and it will springboard you into a more mindful state throughout the day.

I borrowed this exercise, called Open Focus, from Martha Beck’s Finding Your Way In A Wild New World: 

  • Choose a singular object – perhaps on your desk or on a wall – to focus on.  
  • Take a breath and focus your eyes sharply on the object in front of you.
  • Without moving your eyes, broaden your attention until it registers everything in your field of vision, including the original object.
  • Now, without moving your eyes, make the object the foreground of your attention and everything else the background.
  • Next, still without moving your eyes, make the object the background and everything else the foreground. This one’s tricky!
  • Lastly, again not moving your eyes, focus on everything in your visual field at once. Breathe and bring everything into equal focus. As you bring everything into equal focus, repeat the mantra: “Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, all things equal.”

The thing you should notice right away is that it’s impossible to think of anything while you’re doing this exercise. Your brain goes into “wordlessness”, which is exactly the point. You want to give your chattering brain a break and bring it to a state of rest and stillness, experiencing your life as it is happening now, in real time (as opposed to the stories your mind is telling you about this moment based on your past experiences or anxieties of the future). It’s truly lovely and your brain will thank you for it.

As always, I would love to hear your experience doing this mindfulness exercise this week. Or if you have your own mindfulness practice, please share it. You can leave your reply below or on my Facebook page. Happy Mindfulness Cultivating!