November & December – Silence and Reflection

In our fast paced lifestyle, we rarely have moments of silence, but silence is an incredible resource for the mind, body, and spirit. Silence promotes reflection and allows us to experience ourselves in a new way. Silence can also bring about stillness, meaning slowing down enough to allow your mind, body, and spirit to be fully integrated, rather than one part of you running the show while the other parts are trying to keep up. Silence is the cornerstone of many meditative and spiritual practices, because it allows for connections not only within us, but beyond us.

silenceAs we are reaching the end of another year, make time everyday for silence and reflection. Welcome whatever thoughts and feelings arise during this time with loving acceptance and peace. Take notice of where you are in life, where you have come from, and where you would like to go. This may lead you to understand where you would like your life journey to take you throughout the upcoming year, rather than focusing on traditional New Year’s resolutions. Silence and reflection can allow your true inner self to be your own guide….all you have to do is listen.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
-Arundhati Roy

September & October- Enjoy Nature

While I’m late getting this posted, I have definitely been enjoying spending time outdoors. September and October are absolutely my favorite months of the year, so I knew my goal for these months would be to spend time outdoors enjoying nature.

Nature has the power to rejuvenate and restore us…
to remind us of the beauty that girl in treeexists in the world and that LIFE is sprouting all around us. The next time you are outside, take a moment to notice the breeze zip through your hair, the warmth of the sun shining on your face, or the clouds drifting across an open sky. Try to notice the grandeur of a majestic sunset, as well as the tiny life of an ant crawling along the ground. This is a living and breathing world…do your best to witness it at every level!

While it is great spending time outdoors doing your favorite activities, I am encouraging myself and others to spend some time enjoying nature in silence and stillness. This can be a meditative experience when you take notice of your inner existence as well as the full scope of nature all around you. Usually when I do this, I notice aspects of life that I never would have tuned into if I were engaging in other activities. Give yourself some time to be still in nature, and see what comes into view……….

 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength
that will endure as long as life lasts.”  -Rachel Carson

 

August – Learn Something New

August feels like the perfect month to branch out and focus on LEARNING SOMETHING NEW! If you are anything like me, I often think about all the various topics and skills I would like to learn, but rarely seem to make time to do so. One of the blessings of technology is that we can learn just about anything on the internet 24 hours a day, but that is not the only avenue for learning. You can listen to talk shows and news reports about topics you would like to understand more fully, read magazines and books, take a class for something you always wanted to learn, or spend time researching something that really matters to you.

learn everydayTaking 20 minutes a day to focus on learning something new can expand our minds to discover new wisdom that can enrich our lives. Learning is so important because it keeps us fresh, helps us to grow, and promotes healthy brain functioning. We learn so much as children, but it is very important to continue that same enthusiasm for learning all throughout adulthood.  That is one of the most inspirational aspects of life to me….there is always something more to learn. Get out there and learn about something you have always wanted to know more about, and see how that wisdom can expand your life!

If anyone is interested in trying meditation as their “something new,”  there is a new 21 Day Meditation Challenge through the Chopra Center that just began today.  This is a great opportunity to begin practicing meditation and to enjoy the inspirational messages throughout this series.  For more information, please click here.

Tips for Getting Started

  • Make a list of everything you have always wanted to learn about
  • Look at community colleges and local businesses for small classes on a variety of topics that are of interest to you
  • Choose a new book from the library
  • Invite a friend to learn something new with you
  • Acknowledge any fears you may have about doing something new, and then push through those fears for the sake of a new life experience
  • Think about something you keep saying you are going to try, and really do it this month!

 

 

 

 

 

Updates and Progress
9/1/13

I really enjoyed the topic of learning new things this month.  I must admit that I didn’t focus on doing this for 20 minutes every day, but rather for longer periods of time several days a week.  One of my favorite ways of learning was taking new dance classes that I hadn’t taken before.  There is something really powerful about putting yourself in a vulnerable situation and working through those uncomfortable feelings.  I call these “healthy risks”  because no harm will actually befall you, but it feels risky to your sense of self to be unsure and nervous.  Like most healthy risks, they almost always pay off and in the end you feel grateful for trying.

My other method of learning this month was reading new books and reading about new topics on the internet.  I enjoy reading about natural health and other related topics to keep expanding areas I would like to be more informed about.  Learning something new is always great for expanding yourself, so I hope others will give this a try!

June – CREATIVITY

For the month of June we will celebrate CREATIVITY!  There are so many ways to utilize your creative powers: art, music, dance, design, acting, singing, building models, inventing, decorating, building…and the list goes on!

paint handsCreative activities are great outlets for self-expression.  Doing so helps us to express ourselves at the soul level…more deeply than what any words could describe.  Creativity is an important part of life for this reason; it’s a way to connect our inner world with our outer world.  Doing something creative for just 20 minutes a day could be a great centering activity.

Perhaps the most important aspect of creative expression is to do it for the enjoyment of the activity, not for perfection in the results.  Many people stifle their creativity out of fear of their own self-criticism.  If you can practice letting go of the final product and just enjoy the art of creating something, you will get in touch with your true self and have more fun doing so!

TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED:

  • Make a list of all the creative activities you enjoy
  • If you don’t already do these creative activities, ask yourself what has been holding you back
  • Plan ahead to find the best times to do these activities
  • Try different activities on different days
  • Think of what you liked to do as a child….this will usually spark some ideas
  • If you notice self-judgment, take a deep breath and remind yourself to just have fun!

Progress & Updates
This month I really enjoyed tapping into some of my favorite creative activities. Spontaneous dancing to various styles of music and choreographing dances for a local dance clinic/fundraiser were just a few of the active ways in which I expressed my creativity. I also enjoyed quiet creative practices such as card making, jewelry making, painting, and drawing. I hope to make more time for these activities in future months!

April and May – Meditation

I say this every month, but time seems to be passing by more quickly as the year progresses.  This month, I am especially behind in posting about my most recent endeavors.  I have decided to combine April and May to focus on the same activity for a longer period of time.

APRIL AND MAY 2013

April and May are dedicated towards MEDITATION.  I currently meditate several days per week, but it is a practice that I want to strengthen and deepen.  The big picture goal I am striving for is a daily routine involving reflective thinking, journaling, and meditation.  Doing each practice as deeply as I would like to on a daily basis involves allocating a significant amount of time.  This is a realistic goal for me to achieve, it just involves prioritizing my time and ongoing intention.

meditation5Deepak Chopra through the Chopra Center offer free meditation challenges periodically throughout the year.  The most recent challenge involved collaboration with Oprah and Deepak Chopra entitled Perfect Health.  So, from March 11th to  April 1st I participated in this 21 day meditation challenge focusing on health, and did this along with the journaling goal for the month of March.  Journaling and meditation on a regular basis is a great habit that I am excited to continue as I build up to my ultimate goal

After completing the Perfect Health meditation challenge, I began repeating my favorite meditation challenge from Deepak Chopra called Creating Abundance.  This theme is great because you can focus on an abundance of health, inner peace, confidence, financial stability, love, or anything you are seeking more of in your life.  Another reason I really enjoy these guided meditations by Deepak Chopra is because they are less than 20 minutes in length, making them very realistic choice for adding meditation to your life. If you are interested in learning more about Deepak Chopra’s meditation series, please click here.  For the Chopra Center’s main website, please click here.

meditation1Aside from these brief guided meditations, classic meditation involves sitting in silence, following the rhythmic flow of your breath, and becoming comfortable with this degree of stillness.  This involves noticing what thoughts and emotions rise up and then letting them go, just like watching clouds pass by in the sky.  When we can learn to quietly observe our thoughts and feelings in this nature, instead of attach ourselves to them, we are liberated from judgment, assumptions, and misperceptions.  Simply seeing the thought or emotion for what it is, and as something outside of yourself, you can learn to let go of thoughts or feelings that don’t serve you and choose how you would like to respond to the world within and around you.

Quieting the mind in this way takes practice, so don’t give up if you find this challenging.  Try to meditate for a few minutes each day and take notice of how you progress.

Tips for Getting Started:

  • Start with just setting an alarm and sitting in silence for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Take notice of how difficult this may be and listen to the thoughts and emotions that arise
  • Journal after you meditate to explore your experience more deeply
  • Some people enjoy soft music in the background instead of total silence
  • As you are sitting and focusing on your breath, you can say to yourself “I am aware that I am inhaling….I am aware that I am exhaling.”  This may help you remain focused on your breath and to be less distracted by thoughts
  • Some people enjoy meditating with their eyes closed, and others keep their eyes open and fixed on a certain object, such as a mark on the wall or lighting a candle and focusing on the flame
  • Try meditating at different times of day to see when you are most receptive to the practice

To read more about meditation, check out this helpful link.

March – Journaling

20 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life has gotten off to a great start.  Exercise in January has been the most successful thus far, and continues to be a routine in my life.  Organization in February was more challenging to accomplish everyday, which was also good for me to experience.  I’m seeing that my level of success is correlated with my level of interest in the topic, which is not surprising, so this month I want to get back on track with an activity I am really excited to complete every day.

MARCH 2013

journal by shoreThe Month of March will be focused on JOURNALING.  This is something I do when I have a lot on my mind, but I have never set a routine with journaling.  I believe in the power of journaling because it creates a strong mind/body connection, builds awareness, and expresses thoughts and feelings in greater depth that just thinking or talking about them alone.  I think there will be great benefits to journaling every day…to me it is like checking in with yourself to see how you are doing and to express what is on your mind.  I’m excited to see what comes to my mind as I sit down for 20 minutes every day to connect with myself in this way.

Tips for Getting Started:

  • Start journaling even if you don’t know what to write about
  • If you are  having trouble getting started, just write about your day thus far
  • Keep your journal with you so you can write anytime you have the chance
  • Handwriting creates a more effective mind/body connection than typing
  • If you notice you are upset about something, take the time right then to journal about your experiences
  • Read your journal later to experience what you have written in a new way; that may even spark another journal entry
  • Try journaling at different times of the day and in different locations to see what feels most helpful for you

 

UPDATES & PROGRESS

3/17/13
Journaling has been a natural fit for me this month. I am eager to write in my journal and enjoy exploring various topics in my life.  I had a great experience the other day; I was journaling about one topic and it somehow linked to a totally different topic that I had no idea was on my mind.  When I finished writing, I was surprised to see this connection and it just reinforced my belief of how significant journaling can be for our self-awareness. I believe that many of us have thoughts or feelings existing just below the surface of our conscious awareness.  With just a bit of time, openness, and focused attention on our self, our awareness of our unique human experience can expand and deepen.

 

 

February – Organization

Wow, it is hard to believe that it is already February!  I’m excited to say that the first month of 20 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life went very well.  (To read the original post about this project, please click here). January was focused on exercise and strengthening the physical body.  Now, I find myself automatically starting my day with exercise or scheduling time to exercise in my work day.  I also noticed that as the month progressed, I was less focused on the amount of time I was exercising and more focused on listening to what was best for my body. As I had hoped, this project has instilled exercise as part of my daily routine, which I truly hope to continue as I move on to new topics in future months.

FEBRUARY 2013

This brings us to the new focus for the month of February, which is ORGANIZATION!   I truly believe that our physical environment impacts our inner experience, and so having a well organized home brings peace and calm to the mind, body, and spirit.  I’m sure many people can relate to the great feelings of accomplishment and order we feel when our home is neat and tidy.  Or, the opposite feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated when living in an environment that is cluttered, cramped, or unorganized.

organized cornerSometimes, our physical environment can even serve as a mirror for our internal state…if you ever notice your home or office slowly becoming more cluttered or messy, take a step back and explore if you have been taking good care of yourself across the past couple of weeks.  Typically, as we get busy or distracted, the first thing to go is self-care, which often just involves some down time to really connect with yourself.  Using your physical environment as a type of monitor of your internal state might be helpful if you notice this pattern within yourself.

 

Tips for Getting Started

  • Walk around your home, office, garage, etc and make a list of the areas that would benefit from some extra organization
  • Prioritize your list and identify small and large projects
  • Start with smaller projects, such as the classic junk drawer in the kitchen
  • If you have a large project that seems overwhelming, use a timer and just chip away at it for 20 minutes each day
  • Keep a journal to capture how you feel as you increase organization in your life
  • Notice if there are any changes in your emotions or thoughts as your physical environment becomes more organized.

 

UPDATES & PROGRESS

2/17/13
When I was planning for February’s challenge of organization, I decided that instead of writing a daily log I would just post updates as the month progressed.  I’m surprised that it is already the 17th and that this is the first time I am writing an update.  I’m also surprised because this month’s goal has been more challenging for me than I expected.

I was so pumped up after January…exercising nearly every day was a huge accomplishment for me, and something I was genuinely excited about.  I’ve noticed that throughout the month of February, I have been more focused on continuing to meet my exercise goals than I have been on the current topic at hand – organization.  So, the good news is that I have continued exercising 4-5 days per week, which is what I had hoped to do, however, I have found it very difficult to add in a second round of 20 minutes to focus on organization.  My progress this month has been very sporadic.  The first couple of days went as expected, but then from there I have found myself spending larger amounts of time on the weekends organizing and cleaning, rather than the 20 minutes a day as I had planned.  Also, on some days organizing turned into deep cleaning and so I wasn’t actually organizing the areas I had identified in the beginning of the month.  On a positive note, I have accomplished more organizing and cleaning around the house, I’ve just not been as dedicated as I had hoped.  Something that just came to my attention is that my degree of organization varies from situation to situation.  For example, at work I am extremely organized and neat, but in certain rooms of my home, not so much.  This just made me realize that I have a sporadic relationship with organization by nature, and so it is not surprising that I am having a sporadic experience with this challenge.

As I was typing this, I realized that I have not done any organizing today and so if I have time to blog about it, I have time to do it.  I decided to put my computer down, turn on the kitchen timer, and organize one of my kitchen drawers.

I was surprised by a couple of things tonight: One, how easy it was to get into organizing once I had set my mind to doing so.  Two, how fast 20 minutes flies by when you are organizing, which can actually be a slow and peaceful process.  Tonight was a great experience for strengthening my focus, which I hope to continue throughout the rest of the month.

2/28/13
I was able to improve my success with organizing 20 minutes every day as the month progressed.  My success was really just a matter of mental awareness of my goals.  If I could keep the goal in my mind and make it a priority, it was easy to accomplish.  If I was not focused, however, days could pass before  I even realized that I had missed my goals.  The power of the mind and awareness is truly amazing!

Open Your Eyes to Life

The other day when it was 50 degrees out in January, I knew I wanted to enjoy this beautiful day as much as I could.  I started by doing a guided meditation sitting outside on my back patio.  This is my favorite place to meditate.  I usually begin by sitting in silence and just observe the beauty of nature all around me.  I’m always inspired by what I see… LIFE!  While sitting there, I noticed a little baby red bird hopping through the grass, and many other animals going about their activities.  This reminded me that everything from the tiniest gnat to the tallest tree is a living, miraculous creation, and that I, as a person, am just a tiny part of this intricate network of life…

Following my appreciation for nature and outdoor meditation, I decided to accomplish my daily goal for 20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Life, by walking outside at a local park.  I ended up walking for about one hour, which was an extra bonus for the day.  While walking around a small lake, I heard a loud splashing coming from the center of the lake.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…geese flying low over the lake and then diving head first into the water!  There were at least 5 geese doing this at one time. I have never seen this behavior in geese before and I have no idea if there is a specific purpose for it, but what I saw was these geese frolicking in the amazing weather and splashing around for the sheer joy of it.

geese lakeI was so grateful to have seen that.  This reminds me of the importance of taking time out of our lives to just look around and witness the wonders of this earth.

Take notice of what you see and take it in through all of your senses.  Whenever I see something amazing like those geese diving into the lake, I think to myself, I’m so glad I made the decision to come here, because if I hadn’t, I never would have seen this.  You have the power to make time for such experiences throughout your life, so take your lunch break at a park, go for a day trip somewhere you have never been, or just look out your window for 20 minutes and observe life.  Open your eyes to something beautiful that you otherwise would not have seen.  Notice what you see and be grateful that you gave yourself that glimpse of beauty!

Goals for the New Year

The holidays have passed, winter is officially here, and now many people are reflecting on their experiences throughout 2012, as well as their aspirations for the year ahead.  Sometimes this involves setting a New Year’s resolution, but for many people (including myself) these goals never seem to last.  This inspired me to find a new way of looking at the goals I would like to achieve for improved health and wellness in the New Year.

I recently completed a 21 Day Meditation Challenge: Creating Abundance hosted online by Deepak Chopra.  It was a great experience that strengthened my meditation habits, but more impactful was the realization that you can do something meaningful for yourself with just 15-20 minutes.  From this experience mixed with my desire to reach some of my personal goals for health and wellness, 20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Life was born.

20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Life

This is a yearlong project I will be experimenting with and writing about each month on this blog.  The idea is that each month I will choose an area to focus on, such as exercise, organization, meditation, creative pursuits, etc, and then dedicate myself to that for 20 minutes every day for the month.   This is an active process, so it is important to choose something you DO instead of something you restrict or don’t do.  The hope is that doing something for 30 days will set a healthy habit that can be maintained even when the topic changes for the next month.  I see this as a way to slowly build up several healthy habits throughout the year that will improve well-being.  Making major lifestyle changes can be daunting, but when I think about doing something just 20 minutes a day, it seems realistic.  For me it comes down to priorities and making time for what matters.

stretching by sunsetJANUARY 2013

The area I am choosing to begin with is EXERCISE.  There are so many areas I am looking forward to spending more time on, but I wanted to start with the one that is most important to me.  Exercise is something that I have struggled to make a habit of for many years.  I think it is so important for physical and emotional health, and I really want to start the year off focusing on this area of myself.  I welcome you to join me in this project.  You can do the activities that I am doing each month, or create your own that are meaningful to you.

Tips for Getting Started

  • Identify the best time of day for you to exercise
  • Make a list of several methods of exercise available to you this time of year
  • Switch up your routine if you find yourself getting bored
  • Tell friends and family about your goals so they can be supportive
  • Use a timer
  • Try to enjoy your 20 minutes even if it is difficult
  • Positive affirmations are really helpful, such as: “I am taking care of my body”, or “I am making the time for my health and well-being.”
  • Most importantly, DO YOUR BEST.  If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up.  Be kind to yourself and remember that each day is a new day.  It is never too late to start something healthy!

 

January 2013 Progress & Updates
Goal: EXERCISE

We are officially one week into 20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Life, and so far it has been a successful start to the New Year.  One challenge I have had to work through is not having a consistent workout schedule due to my work schedule changing day to day and week to week.  I have managed this by planning my workout schedule one day in advance, and so far this has worked well.

I am already noticing the benefits of exercising for 20 minutes a day.  I have noticed an increase in my general energy level, feeling accomplished for meeting the goals I have set, and feeling more empowered to take care of my health and body.  I am pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to make time for exercise, which I believe is related to clearly expressing my intention (to myself and to the world) and deciding within myself that exercise is a priority.  Basically, I have given exercise my focused attention and intention, therefore I have been very mindful of creating the time to exercise.  This experience has only strengthened my belief that our minds create our reality, and highlights the power of what we can accomplish through mindful living.

Below is a brief log of my day to day exercise activities:

1/1/13
I worked out on the elliptical first thing in the morning.  I’m ready to start this New Year focused on my health!

1/2/13
Today I exercised at my office in the afternoon.  I like exercising in the middle of the day, it keeps my energy up.

1/3/13
Today I exercised on the elliptical while dinner was cooking in the oven.  I wasn’t sure how I would like exercising in the evening, but this worked out well.

1/4/13
Today was one of the most fun days of exercising.  While dinner was cooking, I turned on some of my favorite music and danced in the living room.  Dance has been my favorite past time for most of my life, and I always love making time to dance!

1/5/13
Today it was slightly warmer outside, so I decided to go mountain biking on some trails.  I ended up exercising today for over an hour, which felt great and so did being outside.  I view anything over 20 minutes as a bonus!

1/6/13
Today was my first day of not completing my goal.  As I was preparing to go to sleep, I suddenly realized I had forgotten to exercise.  It just wasn’t in my awareness today.  I didn’t feel upset or frustrated.  Instead I acknowledged how great I have done so far, accepted that I missed a day, and just focused on the next day to make sure I would get back in the groove tomorrow.  Great experience!

1/7/13
I worked out in the morning today to ensure getting back on track with my goals.  Great way to start the week too!

1/8/13
I really enjoy exercising in the morning; it just starts my day on a healthy note.  The elliptical is my go to exercise because I feel like my body really responds well to cardio.  I’m grateful that a family member gave this elliptical to me a few years ago!

1/9/13
Today I decided to switch things up, so I tried a 20 minute Pilates DVD that I have had for years and never tried.  I really enjoyed it and it was great for strengthening and toning.  I am going to keep Pilates in my exercise repertoire!

1/10/13
Today I went back to my elliptical work out, but exercised in the evening this time.  While I enjoy exercising in the morning, I also find benefits from exercising in the evening.  It is a nice time to reflect on your day, bring your attention back to your body, and for making some time for yourself before moving on the household responsibilities.

1/11/13
Today was by far my favorite day in January.  It was 50 degrees outside and just absolutely beautiful.  This day inspired me so much, I wrote a separate post about it.  If interested, click here.  For exercise, went to a local park and walked for about an hour.  It was so peaceful and I remembered how much I enjoy exercising outside.  I’m really looking forward to spring, but am grateful for every beautiful day we have! I hope everyone got a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather today.

1/12/13
The weekends have proven alittle harder for me to stay on my routine.  It was after dinner sometime when I realized I hadn’t exercised.  Part of me thought it would be okay to miss another day, but then I looked at how much time I still had this evening and so I made the conscious choice to exercise on the elliptical before anything else.  Once I completed the 20 minutes, I felt glad that I had pushed myself.  This experience reminded me just how short 20 minutes really is, and yet how powerful that 20 minutes can be towards creating healthy habits.

1/13/13
Today was another day where exercise wasn’t my main focus and I once again considered skipping today.  I was watching a movie and realized I can exercise right here.  So I continued watching my movie, set a timer, and moved to the floor where I completed a series of Pilates exercises.  This was another nice reminder that exercise can be integrated into your daily life.

1/14/13
Today I exercised on the elliptical first thing in the morning.  I like starting the week with morning exercises!

1/15/13
I can’t believe we are already half way through January!  It feels great to be meeting this goal everyday and I am beginning to notice feeling healthier and more connected to my body.

1/16/13
Pilates seems to be a nice alternative to more intensive cardio workouts.  I’ve noticed that I prefer Pilates on days I am feeling less energetic.

1/1713
Sit-ups, push-ups, stairs, and Pilates were a great way to work out in the middle of the day.

1/18/13
Back to the elliptical today.

1/19/13
I had a full schedule today and missed my goal.  I remember thinking in the morning that it would be best to exercise first thing since I knew my day would be busy, but I didn’t leave enough time.  This was a great experience for really remembering that I am in control of how I spend my time, and next time I hope to make the time for a morning workout.

1/20/13
Today I exercised first thing in the morning – This really helps me get back on track after missing a day.

1/21/13
The elliptical is one of my favorite ways to get cardio.

1/22/13
Alternating days of elliptical and Pilates seems to be becoming a pattern.

1/23/13
Back to the elliptical.  I am noticing how the time is going really fast and I can tell my body is used to the 20 minute work outs now.

1/24/13
I’m not sure what happened today, but I missed my goal again.  I had plenty of time to exercise at various times throughout the day.  I kept saying to myself, “oh, I’ll exercise at this time” and when that time arrived, something else had grabbed my attention.  By the end of the evening, I wasn’t feeling well and decided to go to sleep early and just start fresh again tomorrow.

1/25/13
A good night’s sleep did alot of good.  I woke up energetic and achieved my goal through a combination of dancing, Pilates, and a few minutes on the elliptical.

Rather than finish my log for these last few days (which just goes back and forth between the elliptical and Pilates), I thought I would recap how the month went. Throughout the past 31 days, I have noticed my body becoming stronger, the time going faster, and a real sense that I have instilled a new pattern in my daily life.  I’m pleased with my success, and I hope to continue exercising 4-5 times per week as I move on to a new topic in February.