Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Here we are in 2011.  I often take the start of a new year by reflecting on the last year.  2010 was full of ups and downs, mostly ups.  Then I look at what I am lucky for in the present.  I have a healthy body, a happy life, a great partner, amazing children, a beautiful house, enough food to eat, fantastic friends and a family that loves me.  What more could someone ask for.

I know a lot of people take the new year to assign themselves resolutions.  There is huge media hype around this phylosophy as well.  Things like sign up for our gym and get a 20% discount, or join our weight loss program and avoid sign up fees, oh and these I love "make your new year's resolution to be driving in a new car".  Yes because a new car is going to dramatically change my life... no not really!  Anyone who works in the health and fitness industry knows that many people sign up in January for fitness memberships and classes but then by February or March the numbers dwindle.  Do people lose motivation, do they get to their goal wieght or physique and go back to their old lifestyle?  Or does life just get so busy that they can't handle another commitment?

I understand the need or desire for exercise and diet programs after the holidays.  If you read my earlier post even I let go of real life during the Christmas season.  We socialize more, we eat more, we drink more and because of all of these things sometimes exercise less.  Of course all of these things will change the way your body looks and feels and may motivate you to make a new year's resolution to join a gym or weight loss program.

There are other resolutions that people try to do as well that take conscious long term effort.  Things like trying to be neater, being nicer to others, spending less, decluttering and the list goes on.  Some of these things are really hard to do.  The big difference between these and the ones above is that there tends to be more support for weight loss and exercise than there is for "putting your keys away when you get home" for example.  They still take effort just the same.

How about just being present instead of making a resolution?  Going into January saying to yourself that I am going to be where I am.  If you join a gym do it because you want to make a life change not a resolution.  Change your diet because eating bad food is not good for your body, not only because you want to lose 10 pounds.  Put your keys away every day because you are tired of losing them.  (Maybe that's a good one for me).  Yogi's believe that it takes 40 days to take a bad habit and change it into a good one.  120 days for the habit to become a part of you.  This means that if you do something positive for 90 or 120 days or more the rest will come.  It will no longer be a new year's resolution it will be who you are and something you always do.  So when asked the question are you the type of person who puts their keys away you can say yes!

So this year I resolve not to make any resolutions.  I'm not sure if I will pick up any new 120 day positive "habits", although putting away my keys sounds good.  I do resolove to be present in what I do and why I do it.  Not bein absent minded in my choices of the food I eat, the exercise I do or don't do and the list can go on.  In fact being present is not really a resolution at all, it is something I strive for on a daily basis.  So I will continue with this practice, after all it is working for me so far...


Sunday, December 26, 2010

What happened to the Niyamas

I honestly think the Christmas/New Years season brings out the worst in me.  I am trying to be non-judgemental about it and non-harming to myself about it but I can't help it. 

A bit of review for those who may not know - the Yamas and Niyamas come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You can find many translations into english if you are more interested.  It basically outlines how a yogi can live.  The yamas and niyamas are more detailed "codes of conduct".  Kind of like the ten commandments in Christian religion.  The yamas are things to abstain from and the niyamas are things to observe.

For me during the holiday season I could do more of the observances and, honestly my practice seems to fall to the wayside a little bit.  The first Niyama - Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.  Would not say my inner body stays clean, I definately drink too much. I'm  not a lush or anything but my once in a while glass of wine is certainly more frequent.  I also find a Christmas time I am eating things I don't normally.  I am a vegetarian but Christmas day that goes out the window - I have bacon for breakfast that my dad cooks and then I have a small bit of turkey for dinner.  Not to forget the million pounds of sweets and chocolates that I consume.  The second - Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.  At a time when people are giving I sometimes think "oh wouldn't it be nice if we could have that".  I am usually a very satisfied person.  I am thrilled that I have a wonderful family, lots of food to each, roof over our heads.  The third Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline & thereby mental control.  My yoga practice of mediation and asana goes straight out the window.  It is like my vacation from work, having my family home and entertaining gives me some reason not to have time or not to take the time to practice.  The last two Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within, and Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.  One would think that on a very Christian holiday I would be reminded more to keep up on my readings and mediations.  But no, again I feel lethargic and would rather sit and each chocolate and watch TV, surf the internet and play board games with my family. 

I almost look at the Christmas season as a vacation from my real life.  The sad part is that the "yoga portion" of  my life, if you can seperate it, is the part that I love.  I guess in life even when it is something you love, it is OK to take a break.  I have a commitment to myself and my practice one that a week of laziness cannot break.  Going back to yoga is not a new years resolution for me but a way of life that I love and enjoy!  If it takes 40 days to create a new patern, it must take about that long to erase it from your life?  Right!?
Maybe I should go practice now...  yup...  I think I will!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Take a Compliment!

This past week-end I attended a Christmas Party that a friend and her partner were throwing at their house.  I decided that since we had spent the night before with our two sons at a hockey game that I would bring just my daughter and have a "girls night".

Since it was a party I had Holly dressed up in her party dress and her party shoes.  I put her hair up in a nice pony tail, she even let me brush it this time.  She had super cute tights with a little ruffle on her bottom.  With her party dress on she had a lovely pink sweater.  Holly was so excited to go to the party that she had her coat on and was ready to leave before I was even ready.

I got my self ready as well.  I wore a new shirt that I had bought for the occasion, put on some make up, painted my nails.  I did my hair, I almost always wear a pony tail.  I pull out my favorite Fluevogs, black Mary Jane shoes that I adore.  I looked great!

We got to the party and Holly was shy at first but soon she was the life of the party.  The older kids took very well to her and were happy to show her around, carry her and make sure she had food.  They brought her to me when she asked for me and took her away when she was ready to play.  The adults fussed over her, wanted to carry her and exlaimed how cute she was.  Of course I think she's cute, she's my baby!

I had a lovely time.  Much needed adult conversation - I spend my days with kids.  I laughed, ate and had a glass of wine which I milked all night long.  I saw some old friends and was very happy that I went.

As Holly and I were leaving.  The host was holding her and told her she was beautiful.  I said thank you for her.  Then he said "just like your mommy".  At that I said "well I think she looks a lot like her aunt".  He then said something to me that I have been thinking about for two days.  You are just like your friend (his partner) "can't take a compliment when it is deserved".  As I said I have been thinking about this since he said it and he is right.  I am thrilled when people compliment my children.  Whether it is how adorable they are, how smart they are, talented, funny, sweet or nice.  THRILLED to hear it.  When someone compliments me, I don't know how to take it.  I get embarassed and either deflect the conversation or put myself down.  I know I am not alone in this.

I have been think alot about why people do this.  In my case it is not an issue of self esteem.  I know I am smart, funny, likeable, kind and great to be around.  Beautiful inside I know but outside I am working on.  It is the outside part that I have personal issues with.  Like a lot of us again, my hair is too straight,  my nose is to wide, I'm too short, my muscles are thick, my thumb is deformed (this is true), my breasts are too...  I dunno I'm working on that one, my feet are too wide and my cesarean scar is too crooked.  I am sure if I gave it time I could go on.  But why?  I could take all of those and switch it - my hair is soft and a beautiful natral colour, my nose is dignifying, I am a petite hight, I have a strong build, my thumb is original, my breasts have fed three babies, my feet are grounding and well the scar...  birthed my baby boy and saved his life!

If we could take all these negative things we think about ourselfs and practice ahimsa (non-harming) and be kind to ourselves and positive with ourselves.  If we took the word Namaste (the light within me recognizes the light within you) and believed it about others and ourselves, I think we might all be able to take a compliment a bit better.  So John if you are reading this... thanks for the compliment - I am working on it!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paying it Forward

I heard of a guy the other day who helped an elderly woman who had run out of gas. He drove to the gas store in his truck and filled a jerry can and put gas in her car. Paid for the gas too. The term I heard after was that he was "paying it forward".

The term "pay it forward" I think gained momentum with a movie in the '80's with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey and some little kid.  I have been hearing it an awful lot lately everytime someone does something nice for someone else.  I am however finding myself questioning the whole concept of "paying it forward".  I mean why can't we just be nice for the sake of being nice.  To me the idea of paying it forward is just the same as paying it back.  It almost seems like if you do something nice for someone else that eventually the expectation is there that you will get something nice done for you in return.

I personally just like to do nice things for people because I can and it feels good to do a "good deed".  I drove my neighbor to her church the other day after it snowed.  Not because I think someone is going to do something nice for me later or because I am going to get into heaven or find samadhi.  But because it was really cold, there was a lot of snow, she's in her 60's and doesn't drive! 

Don't get me wrong I don't think the idea of paying it forward is bad it is just the overlying concept that you might have something done nice for you in the future.  I think we would be better off if we were present in our actions and just did nice things for people.  Just "paying IT" not forward or back.  Being present in the nice things that we say or do.  Noticing how it makes us feel and how it makes the other person feel.  I think if we were nice to other people and gave more of ourselves and what we have because we accept that we are rich in our own hearts and lives then this over all would make us all better in the long run.

So next time you do something nice for someone else think about being present in your gift.  Don't do it because they did something nice for you or because eventually someone else might do something nice to you.  Just "pay IT".


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Memories of Christmas

I struggle with Christmas in so many ways.  I am not a scrooge or anything like that.  I find Christmas stressful and frustrating.  I hate that my family insists on buying me things that I don't want or need.  Even though I tell them to just enjoy, get something extra for the kids or donate it - it never seems to work.  Then of course I feel bad either returning the item or sending it to charity, as my family has spent hard earned money on the said item that I didn't want or ask for in the first place.

I love the part about Christmas where we go and cut down a tree from a tree farm as a family.  Even the years where the kids are crying and not having a particularly awesome time.  I am still able to find the joy in these traditions.  We all know that at the end, once we have chosen our tree, taken a family photo, chopped it down and hauled the blessed thing out of the bush - there is hot chocolate and homemade cookies waiting at the end.  I know the kids will love and remember this part!

I also love that every year much to my partner's chagrin I invite a slew of people over to our house for some kind of Christmas cheer.  This year it seems that I have inlcuded a range of people all living in our neighborhood who don't have family in town.  They will be here for Christmas eve.  I have asked that they all bring a non perishable food item for the food bank.  My neighbor and her family rent a sleigh and ride through the area collecting food so out there we will be with our many guests enjoying the horse drawn sleigh through our urban neighborhood giving to those in need.

The family part is also a favorite.  Since I was little we have spent Christmas with my dad's family.  Even now that my grandmother has passed away almost 8 years ago now we still keep the tradition.  I don't know a lot of people who are still close to their cousins and aunts and uncles into adult hood but we are very close.  All together spouses and kids included we make a huge family of 14 people plus one dog and 4 cats.  We have a great time and really enjoy it.  We like it so much that the whole group of us get together again on New Year's day and do it all up again!

My children love Christmas.  We play into the make believe of Santa and have a lovely modest Christmas and Santa brings gifts and fills their stockings.  They always hear bells on the roof and Santa never disappointes by drinking his hot chocolate and eating his cookies.  I love the magic of Christmas that I witness in the eyes and spirit of my children. 

I am passing on to my children that Christmas is about the wonderful smells made by me for a month or so by the many treats I make a freeze, that it is about lots of family and friends about traditions and it is about magic.  I want them to realize when they become my age that it is not about all the stuff that you have to buy or that you want to get... 

Christmas for me seems to contradict my big attachement to non-attachement as well as to moderation.  It is a lot of overabundance and a lot of stuff all at once.  How do I balance it all...

Hari Om

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Letting Go...

I am noticing a pattern with some of my blog posts as well as some of the philosophy of yoga that I love - non-attachment.  I guess it's because I am not very good at it.  I wish I could be but so far not so great.  Sure I can get rid of clothes that don't fit so well or shoes that I don't love.  But sentimental items that belonged to my grandmothers or were given to me by some long lost relative or friend I could do better.  Recently the big one that keeps coming up for me is old relationships.

I am of an age where I have had lots of different kinds of relationships in my life.  Friends, lovers, colleagues that kind of thing.  I don't let go of friends or ex's very well.  I am one of those people in a relationship who when she says "let's stay friends" I meant it and hold to it.  My boyfriend from high school/university and I still chat with each other every couple of months and I love that.  I was genuinely excited for him when he told me his and his girlfriend were having a baby and then a while later when they got engaged.  I still hold a spot in my heart for him and want to know and hear that he is happy and doing well.  I have another old boyfriend that I speak to every so many months and it is great.  We chat on the phone as if there hasn't been many years, children and relationships that have happened.  Again I am happy for him when he is happy and sad for him when he is sad.  Both of these men hold a certain place for me and I can't fully let it go.

I have had as any grown ups do friendships that have ended either because of circumstances or deliberately and I think about them often.  It bothers me that a relationship that has been nurtured, cared for, laughed over, cried with and been silly with would end.  These are the people that you can't call and say - "hey wanna grab a coffee".  These are the ones I can't let go of.  I have one in particular that ended almost 5 years ago.  We were great friends and lives an priorities changed and along with it our personalities and other things.  Within that a misunderstanding and very different perspectives on what happened.  I have tried so many things to let this person go.  I have meditated, I have cried, I have written letters never to be sent, I have imagined saying goodbye, I have sent them loving kindness (this actually worked for a couple of months).  Something happens, either a song or a photograph or a mutual acquaintance will ask how they are and boom - I feel like I am at square one. 

Stuff is easy to let go of.  I can give it away, throw it out or donate it.  Feelings, emotions and relationships - those are hard.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Eating Habits

I'm trying to get on track with the way me and my family eat.  I think this would fall under the bramacharya ideal.  Moderation as well as the ahimsa since I follow a vegetarian diet (95%) of the time. 

I recently said to my partner that I had noticed since we moved to our new house that our eating habits weren't as good as they used to be.  He noticed it too and thought that it seemed to coincide with moving, closing my day care and the car accident.  Three major events in my life caused me to stop meal planning and cooking.  Now when I say we haven't been eating as well we aren't gorging ourselves on junk food and pop.  We just aren't as conscious about how we eat and what.

I used to be really great and at the end of the week I would meal plan everything for the next week.  This made grocery shopping easy, cheap and left the guess work out of "what are we going to eat today".  I always knew when something had to be taken from the freezer or extra made to use as leftovers.  For the last year or so it has been a throw together of whatever we have.  I skip meals or eat the same thing day after day - which is often toast!  I lived on toast for years when I was single... "do you KNOW how many things to you can do with toast"!!!  At lunch time I make nice nutritious and delicious meals for my kids and I have toast or a handful of nuts and maybe some chocolate chips for energy.  Oh and I am constantly sucking back a mug of some kind of tea - herbal or non. 

So I have decided to put a stop to the eating on the fly.  I meal planned for this week and we will see how it goes.  The kids really liked lunch and so did I.  Supper was not a huge hit, but I liked it.  Let's see how tomorrow goes.  I can say there is something comforting in knowing that the next meal is not a mystery.  I have everything to make it and I can even prepare some things in advance.  This makes a busy mom of three, who runs a home day care (again) and her own small business (prenatal), cooking/eating life so much easier.  Oh and healthier too!  Less waste and cost effective - win win I think!