fitness · meditation · mindfulness · sleep

A Year of Meditations

Last October I jumped on the Peloton bandwagon. A lot of my friends have one of their bikes and it felt like folks from all different areas of my life were happy with the classes. I don’t have a Peloton bike, but I am able to set up my bike with trainer to be able to take some of the Peloton classes using their app (I don’t get Peloton metrics with this set-up, but I have Zwift and Garmin metrics and am happy with those.) I learned that Peloton offered an “educator discount” on their app and off I went with a whole new world of strength, yoga, walk/run, and bike classes to try out.

A neon "breathe" sign on a background of greenery. Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash
A neon “breathe” sign on a background of greenery. Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Peloton offers a lot of “programs” which are classes they string together in a series. You need to complete class one before moving on to class two, etc. I quickly noticed that they had a two week meditation program called “The Power of Sleep.” As someone who struggles with both falling asleep and staying asleep, I was intrigued by this series.

I have always liked the idea of meditation, and some parts of the meditation practice, but my attempts at regular meditation had been met with a lot of mental resistance and feelings of failure for not being able to “get out of my own head.” I’ve come to understand that those feelings are common and part of the process itself, but it took me some time to get there. Soon after I downloaded the Peloton app I began exploring their meditation classes, seeing which instructors I liked and what types of meditations were available.

Once I discovered “The Power of Sleep” series I decided to give it a try. The meditations were short, most of them only 5 minutes in the first week. My partner and I go to bed at different times most nights, so I would do the meditation just before going up to bed. I found them to be a nice transition from whatever I was doing before that (usually tv or reading), but I still had chores to do after the meditation, such as letting the dogs out and teeth brushing routines. I completed the two week series and went back to my previous on/off cycle with meditation for another week or two, but I noticed it was more on than off.

My partner was away one night and I put a sleep meditation on while I was in bed, just about ready to fall asleep. It worked so well and I fell asleep almost as soon as the meditation was over. I began to brainstorm how I could listen to meditations without disturbing my already asleep partner, and I discovered a headband with headphones built-in. I was already a sleep mask wearer to block out extra light, so wearing something on my face/eyes wasn’t something new to get used to… the headband was a little more compressive, and the on/off buttons hit right on your center forehead (or over your eyes if you are pulling it lower), so that did take some adjustment. Being able to listen to sleep meditations as I drifted off to sleep made the adjustments worth it, and I quickly fell into a nightly habit.

Over the past year I’ve experimented with a variety of meditation classes and instructors. I’ve narrowed my favorites down to about 3 instructors and a strong preference for “body scan” meditations. I don’t mind taking the same class many times, but I do have to rotate my most favorite so I don’t take the same class too many times in a row – that causes my brain to think I should memorize the whole class. Instead I have about a half dozen classes that I rotate through each week, and I always try new classes to see if they will make the rotation.

Pink sky with a rainbow over a lake
My spot when I need a “nature meditation.”

I have not meditated daily for the past year, but I have been way more consistent with meditation this last year than ever before. I will often reach for a short meditation during the daytime hours now too, usually when I arrive at my office and am getting settled in to a busy day. I appreciate that my sleep practice makes meditating at other times of day easier, as my brain and my body know what to expect and I can settle in more easily without a lot of mental resistance.

We talk a lot about meditation on the blog (and in our world) and at times I have felt frustrated that I wasn’t “getting it” or able to do it right. I’m glad this was something I kept trying until I found a way that worked for me… maybe that means there is hope for my yoga practice too!

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

fitness · Guest Post · injury · mindfulness · racing · triathalon

Pause and Ponder (guest post)

This is a reblog of a newsletter post from the Rockvale Writers’ Colony by Sandy Coomer, its founder and director. Note: I’ll be there for a two-week writing residency in mid-October! She has things to say about what happened when she had to take a pause from life as usual. I’ll let her take it from here. -catherine

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m very active and busy. That’s my natural tendency. When I rest, I’m often thinking of and planning for the next burst of energy required for the next new project or idea. It’s hard for me to slow down. In fact, I rarely stop for long . . . unless I’m forced to. Funny how that works. When it’s necessary to pause, when I’m required to stop my busy enterprises, I’m pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it is to simply “Be.”

I had a triathlon race in Wisconsin this past weekend. I had a good swim and was at mile 15 of the bike when a pedestrian/spectator ran onto the bike course and we collided. The collision made me crash head-first into a parked pickup truck. The moments that followed were interesting. I was unable to say where I was or what my name was. I didn’t feel panic – just a sort of confused wonder at what I was doing on the road. I knew I was in a race, but I had no idea where. When someone told me I was in Wisconsin, I remember thinking, “How in the world did I get to Wisconsin?” Within a few more minutes, I remembered everything, and then I was whisked away to the emergency room.

I’m not badly hurt, but I will need a few weeks to heal from my injuries. It’s a forced pause, a slow-down to allow my body to heal and my concussion-addled brain to steady. Living in the still air of patience and acceptance is a lesson in a different sort of fortitude than the one I’m used to. It wasn’t in my plans to get hurt, but the hurt came anyway, and it’s my responsibility now to see what I can learn from it. Otherwise, the experience is wasted.

Here’s what I’m discovering from my forced “Pause.”

  1. People matter more than anything else. So many people have taken the time to check on me and see if I need anything. Am I attentive to others’ needs when I’m in “Busy” mode? Can I take a moment every day to tune into another person’s heart and say “I see you, you matter?” 
  2. Being still teaches a certain kind of balance which can lead to delight. I sat on my back porch yesterday and watched the afternoon fade into dusk. Two chipmunks were chasing each other from the porch to the grass and into the burrow under the shed. I felt like I was a crucial part of this scene. I belonged in an intricate way to the wonders of nature. I didn’t move or direct anything. I simply was there.
  3. Letting go of perfectionism is the key to being satisfied. I was sorely disappointed I didn’t finish the race. I kept replaying the details of the wreck in my head over and over. What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently? Sometimes, stuff happens that we can’t control. Sometimes, we simply have to accept the drama of the day and move on with gratitude.
  4. Beauty exists in every situation if you stay open to it. As I was being driven from the ER back to my hotel, I noticed the light glinting off the water of the lake, little cups of sparkle and glee. I thought, “how beautiful.” Back at home, I settled into my own comfortable bed with its floral comforter and sage green pillows and I thought, “how lovely.” Do I even notice this when I’m focused on all I need to get done?

When I think about my writing, I realize that if I get too focused on the achievement aspect and forget the beauty of each moment, I can miss the whole point of writing entirely. I write because I have something valuable to say. My writing comes from my soul, not my ambition. Remembering that is what will keep me at the page. 

A “Pause,” forced or chosen, can be a time of pondering and eventually, great insight. If we believe every situation has a purpose and a lesson, we’re more apt to let experiences teach us and take the lessons to heart. Yes, we learn a lot from work, but we learn equally from not working, from pausing our “Go” button, and simply allowing the universe to share its infinite wisdom. I would not have chosen to wreck in the race, but I AM choosing to ponder the Pause, the Moment, the Wonder of Being Here Right Now. 

It’s something I’m glad I didn’t miss.

-sandy

ADHD · fitness · meditation · mindfulness

A short reflection on 22 days of meditation

A few weeks ago, I posted about finding ease by doing the easy thing and, at that point, I was on my 9th day of yoga and meditation.

As I write this (on Monday night) I am at Day 22 and I feel really good, really at ease.

A screen cap from a meditation app that shows a small round photo, text reading ‘22 Consecutive Days’, and a row of stars.
I chose this profile photo in Insight Timer ages ago, I didn’t realize until now that the teeny version looks either smug or disconcerted – I’m actually smirking of course. Meanwhile, I love that the app has given me gold stars. Image A screen capture from the ‘Insight Timer’ app that shows a small photo of me, text that reads ‘22 consecutive days’ and a row of 5 stars – 2 bronze and 3 gold.

Not every minute of every day but, at any given point, it’s a little easier to find that space, that breathing room, when I need it.

And, to be clear, I’m not saying that I am meditating here and there in search of that ease. I mean that, because of my short daily meditation sessions, there’s a little bit of extra room in between my thoughts – I just have to choose to look for it.

Given my galloping ADHD brain, sometimes it is a bit tricky to remember to make that choice but I am definitely making it more often than I ever have before.

An up-close view of evergreen needles.
Looking closely at these evergreen needles also makes me feel peaceful so I thought I’d share. 💚 image description: an up-close view of evergreen needles on a tree.

I know that I have tried to develop a meditation practice several times before and my results were mixed, to say the least.

This time, though, doing the easy thing, not making a plan, just taking it a day at a time has worked out marvellously for me.

It has become easy and straightforward to include meditation at the end of my day – sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 2 minutes – and I feel great about it.

In case you were wondering, Khalee is also a fan of my quiet practice…

A light haired dog rests in a burgundy armchair.
When I finished my practice a couple of nights ago, I looked up from my mat to see Khalee looking off in the distance like this. I can only assume she was mindfully paying attention to her breath like I was. Image description: Khalee, my light-haired, medium-sized dog, is resting in a burgundy armchair. Her head is resting on the seat cushion and she is deeply relaxed while she looks forward but off somewhere to left of the camera.

ADHD · fitness · martial arts · mindfulness · yoga

Christine thinks (but tries not to overthink) about how she’s moving

During her Move program in January, Adriene (of Yoga with Adriene) emphasized how important it can be to think about how you move.

She invited us to consider the actual movements we made when relocating our hands to move between poses, the way we moved our legs into downward dog, the process of how we unrolled our spines to stand up.

This wasn’t about making us self-conscious, it was about grounding us in our bodies, about considering the movement habits that serve us and those that hinder us. It was about figuring out where we find ease and what parts of our bodies need more attention. It was about figuring out how to work with or work around the unique abilities of our individual bodies. 

Even though this process made for a tricky line to walk between being mindful and overthinking, it really set me up well for practicing for my recent TKD belt test.

In the course of learning and practicing my patterns and other movements, I had to think about how I was moving. After all, it’s not just that my foot has to end up in a specific spot but I have to move it in a certain way to maximize my power, to increase my balance, to ensure that I can reach the target that I need to reach. 

Even though my TKD skills are a work in progress (and always will be), concentrating a bit more on the specifics of my movements did help me a lot. Recognizing that in one of my patterns, I always place my foot down at the wrong angle gave me the opportunity to correct it and execute my pattern more accurately.

(Sidenote: I actually learned DURING MY TEST that I was getting another movement wrong and the correction from my instruction made a huge, immediate difference in the effectiveness of that technique. Another victory for the ‘how’ of movement.)

My latest stop for this train of thought is a video I did on Sunday. I felt  like doing some yoga but I also wanted to do something a bit different so I had my metaphorical cake and ate it too by doing this video from Liv in Leggings.

A video from Liv in Leggings called Yoga & Mobility Hybrid. Still image shows a person in purple leggings and sports bra doing a twist pose on a rainbow mat against a purple background.

I really enjoyed it. She’s an engaging instructor and I found her ‘how’ explanations very clear even when I couldn’t quite execute the movements yet.

Considering the question of how – her explanations and my personal experience – helped me to be curious about even the most challenging movements. 

That curiosity meant that I was intrigued rather than frustrated by the difference between the strength of my right arm and the strength in my left arm during a wheelish/bridge-ish pose where we had to support ourselves first on one arm and then on the other.

(I mean, I know that my right arm is stronger than my left and I know that I can be more precise with my right. But the difference was especially apparent on that one movement – and I could feel that I was moving differently as I was getting into the pose and I couldn’t hold myself steady in the same way while I was in it. I could support myself on my right arm for quite some time but my left arm started shaking almost right away.)

And it let me pay attention to my movements when doing twists so I could tell exactly which ones made the tight spot on the left side of my back protest. And I could see how small adjustments could bring some ease.

And, of course, overall focusing on the ‘how’ helped me to be more mindful and present while I was trying this new approach. That just seems like a good thing doesn’t it?

How much time do you spend thinking about the how of your movements?

Do you find it helpful? Does it make you more mindful?

PS- While all that shaking was going on I was really grateful for the various online yoga videos I’ve done from Adriene and Joelle Because they always refer to those kinds of shaking movements in a positive light. In their framework, it’s not about weakness in the shaking body part. It’s about energy flowing and about knowing that you’re alive and about putting the effort in. I think that’s a really encouraging way to look at it.

kids and exercise · meditation · mindfulness

A Mental Playbook for When Exercise Sucks

In a Washington Post article (1991), “The Pleasure Principle in Exercise,” the author provides a “research review” on the importance of enjoying exercise in order to persist with it:

“study after study shows that the people who stick with exercise are the ones who truly enjoy their activity. They don’t view their workout as one more chore to cram in but as a play break that’s one of the highlights of their day” (p.4).

Teenagers running down a streer
Smiling teens running (i.e., not me) in gym class.

This article, published around the time I was in high school, reflects what I have been told for years: ideally, exercise evokes the fun of childhood play and creates a rush of endorphins. Exercise should feel good.

But I recently realized this narrative doesn’t fit with my experience. Starting in middle school (think fitness testing, track and field, etc.), I often felt like exercise sucked. Tired, out of breath, achy. I knew I should exercise, that I should like it, but in fact the effort didn’t feel pleasant. Teenage me thought: why pursue bodily discomfort on purpose? So when high school gym class finally became optional, I stopped exercising altogether.

Mental Aspects of Physical Fitness

Car wash
Meditation: a car wash for your brain?

The disconnect I have felt—between how I should and did feel about exercise as a young person—was made clear to me during my first meditation weekend. It turns out I have had different ideas about meditation as well. I thought meditation was like a car wash: you went into it feeling dirty and unhappy, and somehow came out feeling shiny, happy, and clean.

Meditation, it turns out, is more about noticing what I am feeling and experiencing (good, bad, different), then leaning into that experience. Meditation involves concentrating on letting go of judgements, expectations, and the need to change what can sometimes be difficult feelings and bodily sensations. Meditation is a kind of mental playbook for managing how to show up for sometimes uncomfortable situations or emotions.

Purple mandala on a wall
Mandala for meditation practice.

Mindfulness, the “noticing” part of meditation practice, can be taken to other activities (I further learned). It’s why, I put together, there are so many mental “check-ins” during yoga practice. Noticing tension and discomfort at its first sign can help me to be present in–but without automatically seeking to judge, avoid, or change–what I am experiencing (unless there is pain that will imminently lead to injury, of course). And, indeed, I did find through our yoga practice that it was much easier to handle discomfort in my body when I noticed and accepted that it was there.

There are critiques of mindfulness, namely as a self-help discourse that convinces stressed out folks collective suffering is in their heads rather than a societal issue. I don’t disagree with concerns about how meditation and mindfulness are (mis)understood and (mis)used in Western culture, but I am still learning about them as they relate specifically to my own fitness practices, so for now I am keeping an open mind.

Mindfulness During Exercise

When I was a kid I didn’t have a mental playbook when I wasn’t loving the exercise I was told I should be loving. Without a mindful approach, I immediately leaned away from the tension and discomfort caused by physical exertion and effort.

Now, in my mid-life, I think the so-called “pleasure principle of exercise” is wrong for me. As I continue to explore physical activities (many for the first time in a long time), I am not going to try to convince myself that exercise will always be a “play break” or a “highlight of my day.” (Sam looks at some actual research in her post Rationality and the Hatred of Exercise.)

Instead, I am going to try to be mindful: to notice and accept the tension, discomfort, and other sensations I feel whilst being physically active. I am going be try to be really present when my exercise sucks.

Ironically, it may be precisely the goal of seeking to notice my discomfort (rather than striving for its enjoyment) that may get me to exercise more often. I’ll let you know how it goes.

fitness · mindfulness · new year's resolutions

Kim and Mina’s year of living… poetry

Ah, the “new year”. Time to brow-beat yourself into saying you will do a bunch of things that do not really appeal but that you have a vague sense are “good for you”, insofar as the media has said so. Count down the days until the “new routine” begins to fall apart because… well, because it’s not what you really want or need at this moment, right?

Moira Rose says: ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Resolutions, “new you”s, all that stuff: it’s absolute BS, friends. It’s clickbait; it’s a way to sell you stuff. (Under capitalist patriarchy, it’s almost ALWAYS about selling stuff, esp to women and others taught repeatedly from birth that they are not sufficient in themselves. RESIST THIS. It’s also good for the planet to resist.)

If you want to make a change for you, AMAZING. If you think things are actually moving along about as well as they can possibly move, for now – stay in motion, friends. Stay in motion.

But, if you’ve got a bit of an itch: why not try something completely different, just because, well, it can be a lot of fun to shake things up and see what shakes down as a result?

This was our accidental decision, way back in January 2021. Mina is a big fan of the Word of the Year (#WotY); Kim is a fan of taking down the Christmas tree on 1 January, vacuuming, and then pretending like nothing ever happened. But last January, we got to talking about ways to mark the passing of the seasons, of time, and about how to stimulate ourselves in ways we knew we wanted to be stimulated.

We’re both writers, but both of us do lots of other stuff besides, stuff which often gets in the way of pen-to-paper. So we decided we’d send each other poems – every two weeks, on a Sunday, for the whole year. The poems could be long or short, they could be planned and fussed over or banged out on deadline because OOPS-nearly-forgot. The only thing they needed to be was our own, a snapshot of a moment, maybe, or the capture of a memory. Anything we wanted to express, anything we wanted to share, on that particular Sunday.

To mark the end of our year of writing poems to one another, we’ve decided to share our favourites – one of our own, and one of the other’s – plus a few thoughts on what the challenge meant for each of us.

KIM

My overarching memory of this challenge will be of haikus. I love the form (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables – that’s it); I admire its capacity to capture one image, one tiny slice of the lives we’re living, arrested in stillness like a photograph. The haiku is also a handy container to have on hand for all those Sundays that get away from you, when it’s getting late and you realize that there’s a message from Mina in your inbox but you’ve forgotten to write your poem AGAIN.

This nifty orange haiku reads “Haikus are easy. / But sometimes they don’t make sense. / Refrigerator.” Kim did not write this orange haiku; she only WISHES she had written this orange haiku.

At the same time, though, the gift of this poetry exchange is contained, for me, in the promise of the haiku: to stop (even if only briefly), just breathe, then look at the world for a minute, maybe smile at what you see. To look, twice: to see a thing more deeply than a passing glance can offer. Most of my own haikus were composed in my head on my bicycle; as I was swooping through curves or punching a climb, I’d note and observe and begin to put smells, sounds, and passing glances together. It made the rush or the climb or the slog or whatever so very much, briefly, richer.

Many of Mina’s poems share a similar love of the earth and its blessings, alongside fear for its imminent destruction. Writing from the position of ultra-runner, mountain biker, and committed meditator she’d often reflect on the gatherings of a day outdoors. Sometimes, though, she’d ground herself in the lesson of the haiku: simply stop, stand still, look around, and take careful note – as in this, my favourite of her non-haiku pieces:

The reckonings through observance that Mina and I both practiced in our poetry also allowed me to reflect a good deal on my own strength this year, something that’s increasingly precious to me as I move through some major life changes. This year I realized I am in perimenopause: all the signs are turning up, not least of which are body composition changes that I struggle, at times, to accept. I’m getting older, even though the woman in the mirror is still a girl to me.

This year was also a tough one for my relationship, and not long ago, despite our love for one another, my partner and I decided to part. This was doubly painful for me because I’m a 47-year-old heterosexual woman living in a patriarchy. I ask myself, at my lowest: how many more chances might I have?

It can be very hard simultaneously to feel one’s strength and to hold on to one’s vulnerability – but being both strong and vulnerable is what it means to be human, to accept our responsibilities and our limits, too. This poem of mine, also from March, reminds me of this important paradox.

One of Kim’s poems, also from March 2021.

MINA

I want to write ditto. Everything that Kim said. And … I was soliciting ideas for my annual challenge last January, when I realized that so many of my challenges were about self-denial and discipline (don’t shop from Amazon, don’t buy any clothes, don’t drink diet coke etc…). I wanted a challenge to flourish for 2021. There was already enough pandemic deprivation going around. We came up with this poetry challenge. I had no inkling of how attached I’d become to the practice. Even when I forgot and dashed something off in 10 minutes, I was filled with pleasure. There was no grade, just the act of sharing and reminding each other of our creative impulse. Lovely.

Kim mentioned that she wrote a lot of her poems on the bike. I wrote many of mine in the liminal space between sleep and waking, also on runs and a few times during meditations. The haiku form was particularly beguiling. I offer one of mine here from 14 November 2021, that feels particularly aligned with our mission at this blog:

a surge of vitality/a race toward grace/how much longer will I be?

I hate having to choose favourites of anything, so the idea of one definitive, throw-down, hands down poem of Kim’s that I loved from our year was impossible. And easy. Because there were many. So, I chose one of hers that speaks to our mission here, too and takes a different form:

Kim’s fridge magnet poem from 6 February 2021

We’re still writing poems to each other, it turns out! We both so miss the challenge that sometimes, in the darkness of early 2022, we shoot poetry texts at one another across the expanse between us (aka, most of New York State and part of Lake Ontario). Here’s a final haiku from us, a summing up of our year in moments, snaps, and syllables:

The gift of poem/graceful challenge to create/2021

How about you, readers? What mindfulness or beauty-based hopes, dreams, or challenges are you cooking up for this coming year? Let us know!

meditation · mindfulness

Does Meditation Even Work?

I considered different titles for this piece: If I Didn’t Meditate, Would I Be a Monster? Why Even Meditate If I Still Stress Out? I Give Up on Meditation.

But I don’t give up, even as I wonder, why not?  

As many of you know, I’ve been on a meditation streak for some time now. And, an exciting moment happened recently. I did NOT notice the day I passed three years straight in my streak. I meditated. Like it was any other day. Then, ten days later, I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute, did I pass my three-year anniversary of this streak??”

The reason I missed it is this: The first time I saw my mother after the start of the pandemic was in late August. I hadn’t seen her for 19 months. The last day of our visit was my 1000th day of meditation. Since then, I am reminded each day of how long it has been since I last saw my mother. I send out a wish that that day count will not get anywhere near the 500+ of our last interval.

Is it okay if I take a moment here of celebration for three years straight of meditating every-every day?

And, I had one of the worst finish-starts to a year in memory. I got news on December 21st that a yearlong training program I’m in was going to continue with an in-person weekend the first week of January. The email explained all the reasons for pushing back against strict pandemic regulations in Quebec, which only got stricter as the next couple of weeks evolved. And the email said that the majority of the email recipients had been consulted. Not me. I was not in that majority. Plus, I was special needs, given that I was crossing an international border to attend, and all the added risks that entails. I was not worthy of consultation. My opinion did not matter. I slipped into the vortex, a downward spiral of increasing stress.

Stormy sea, by Roan Lavery on Unsplash

Yes, indeed, I fueled that spiral all by myself as I contemplated all the pandemic risks. I deployed all my tools to self-arrest, including meditation. While I could alleviate some of the stress, there was a core nugget that kept moving into darker and darker corners of my psyche. My always-borderline-fragile sense of belonging had been threatened and nothing grounded me or lifted me or offered me ease.

I sat on my meditation cushion and observed my erratic heartbeat fail to settle. I sat on my meditation cushion and watched my staccato breath struggle for smooth passage. I sat on my meditation cushion and felt enraged and heavy and sad.

I kept sitting. Day after day.

No remission of stress. In fact, I managed to work myself up enough that it spilled out all over my partner and set fire to the closing-opening of the years. Then came the news on Monday morning, January 3, that the in-person weekend would be delayed a month. I should-have-could-have been relieved. Instead, I was angry at myself all over again. How could I have allowed myself to stress out about something that simply resolved itself (more or less and with zero elegance)?

More sitting.

Which brings me back to the other possible titles for this piece. If I hadn’t been meditating during these past weeks, would I have been out-of-control monstrous? Would I have lit my angry fire earlier and kept it burning on a higher setting? Is the goal of meditation to never stress out? Or is it to notice that I am stressing out, instead of spending my energy in denial and/or blaming someone else for my stress? Why don’t I give up?

Because. I value the information I glean from the particular discipline of daily observation. I can’t make all my stress go away. I can’t make myself into an angel of patience, which I’m not. I can notice more. That noticing, in and of itself, offers me relief. The sliver of ease may be barely visible to the naked eye, but my nervous system is grateful for the scintilla of extra space. This is not good marketing language for a meditation-is-the-answer-to-everything sales pitch. Meditation is not the answer to everything. It is one tool in what is ideally an ever evolving and updating kit.  

Last year Kim (of this blog) and I challenged each other to write a poem every two weeks (there’s a post coming later today about that). As I was looking through them, I came across this haiku that captures why I continue to meditate:

And if I lived true/ open curiosity / no judgment or fear?

The promise of meditation is that you will notice more. That’s it. That’s enough.     

habits · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 4: Consistency Beats Perfection

This is one of those lessons that I have to learn over and over…which, if you are being optimistic, is a kind of consistency, right?

I have spent way too much time trying to get things right immediately.

I wanted to choose the perfect meditation. The ideal workout. The most effective writing routine.

You get the idea.

I didn’t want to waste time. I wanted good (guaranteed) results. I wanted to know I was on the right track.

You know how this story ends.

I would pick my perfect meditation/ideal workout/effective routine and do it for a few days. Then life would get in the way and I didn’t have time for the whole meditation. Or I would have a bit of muscle pain and not be able to do the full workout. Or I would have to write something other than the project I had carefully planned.

I would not able to follow my perfect plan.

So, logically, I would do nothing.

After all, if it wasn’t going to be perfect, what was the point?

I’d just be wasting my time and effort, wouldn’t I?

When I type it all out like that, it seems ridiculous. How did I ever trick myself into believing that? I know better!

The thing is, I was never consciously walking through that process. Those thoughts were seeping in around the edges of my brain, just enough to steer me away from working out/meditating/writing.

I only clued in when I started paying closer attention to that whole train of thought and stopped it in its tracks.

I’m not perfect. I have no idea what the perfect workout/meditation/writing session will be for me on any given day.

BUT I do know that change comes from consistent efforts. Even small efforts bring change over time.

An occasional perfect session is good in the moment but doesn’t help me much overall.

A string of imperfect sessions, though? Those will make a huge difference.

Trying for perfect sessions is discouraging. And if you happen to miss one, it will be that much harder to get back to them.

But if you are aiming for relatively consistent imperfect sessions, you have all sorts of wiggle room for scaling your session to meet your capacity on a given day. And you can restart over and over, imperfectly.

I went through several iterations of the title for this post because I say things like that to myself all the time. “Done beats perfect.” “Consistent beats perfect.” “Imperfect is stronger than perfect.” and I settled on “Consistency beats perfection” because it sounded best in the moment.

Whichever version you like best, I hope you can embody the idea as you work on your habits today.

And here’s today’s gold star to celebrate our imperfect efforts towards the habits we are trying to build.

Be kind to yourselves out there, Team.

A glass ornament shaped like a gold-star is resting on a wooden table top.
A glass ornament shaped like a gold-star is resting on a wooden table top. The surface of the ornament is crackled to give a weathered effect.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · goals · habits · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 3: Pick A Time

One of the trickiest things about adding something new to our lives (or about continuing a habit when other parts of our lives have changed) is actually fitting it into our schedule.

We can have a clear plan and all the good intentions in the world but we still need actual time to exercise, or meditate, or stretch, or whatever we have chosen to explore right now.

And if we don’t consciously choose a time for that new habit, it will probably get pushed down our to do list until we are scrambling to fit it in before we let ourselves go to bed or we end up putting it off until “tomorrow.”

I know this happens because I do it ALL THE TIME. My ADHD brain thinks time will expand to let me fit everything I want to do into a day. It NEVER works. I apparently do not have control over the flow of time after all.

So, if this happens to you, too, I invite you to take a few minutes today to consider WHEN you will work on your new habit.

Do you need to be in a specific location? Do you need particular equipment? Will you need to shower/sleep afterwards? Is it too noisy to do at night or early in the morning? Do you have caregiving responsibilities that you need to work around? When do you PREFER to do your practice and is it possible to do it then?

I know we would all like to assume that we will just automatically do the things we want/need to do in a day but the truth is that we need to make room for them.

And while you’re trying to figure out your timing, please ignore the nonsense advice that says “If you *really* wanted it, you’d make it happen.” because that’s garbage. Your desire to include this new habit in your life is only one factor in the equation and reality is much more complicated than that. Please do NOT let advice like that add to your pile of guilt-related shoulds. (In fact, burn that pile of shoulds at your first opportunity.)

If you discover that you don’t actually have time in your schedule for your planned habit right now, it’s ok to make a note in your calendar to reconsider it later. (I like to put things like that in my calendar so I don’t forget to return to them.)

And it’s also okay to scale down your habit so you can fit them in at the moment. For example, if you can’t figure out how to fit 10 minutes of meditation into your days right now, maybe you can start by taking three deep breaths while the kettle boils for your tea. Or you can do 5 squats while you text a friend.

Every little bit counts and your efforts will help you feel a bit better, even if you have to go slowly.

And, speaking of your efforts, here’s your gold star for today.

I’m proud of your hard work.

A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.
One of my year-round gold stars that I keep hanging next to the wall calendar in my kitchen. Image description: A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · Happy New Year! · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 1: New Year, Same You! Yay!

Hello Team!

Welcome to January and welcome to my 2022 series of encouragement posts.

Even though the changing of the year is a fairly arbitrary thing, January 1 is as good a day as any to take a step toward something you want. And I am going to be here all month to encourage you to be kind to yourself as you figure out the steps you want to take to build your fitness, wellness, or mindfulness habits.

If you are making changes in this area of your life, please feel free to join me and to collect your gold stars for your efforts all month. We are all in this together, whether we are just starting out or if we have long established practices and habits. Making changes can be challenging (and non-linear) and it’s good to remind yourself that you aren’t alone in facing those challenges.

Now that I’ve explained myself, onto today’s topic:

As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I am not a fan of the ‘New You!’ narrative that pops up all over the place this time of year.

I may be overthinking* it but the ‘new you’ thing gives me a bad feeling.

Obviously, if you find the phrase inspiring, forge ahead. But, to me, the idea that you need to become a new person in order to add enjoyable things to your life, or to subtracting things that no longer serve you, is a bit weird. It feels like there is something wrong with the current you.

SPOILER: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CURRENT YOU.

And I don’t want you to start this new year with the feeling that you are some how less than, that you are a project, or that you need fixing. None of that is true.

You, just like all of us, are doing the best you can with the resources you have. If you want things to be different, if you need more time, space, fitness, energy, mindfulness, or whatever, I want you to be able to make changes that let you have those things but I don’t want you to think that you need to be a different person in order to have them.

With slow and steady effort, and a lot of self-compassion, you can change your routines, your systems, and the necessary parts of your schedule, and reshape your days so they serve you better.

Making those changes may alter your self-perception, add layers of confidence and skill, and may bring different aspects of your personality to the forefront, but I like to think of all of that as an expansion of your current self rather than becoming a new person.

And when you think of those changes in terms of expansion, it means every little thing about the process counts. Every time you try, it matters, even if those attempts don’t pan out. You can celebrate your efforts in every direction.

Whether you jumped into your January plans or if you are in your pajamas getting your mind wrapped around what you might do this month, I’m proud of you.

There are a lot of thoughts, small steps, and stages in making changes, no matter how committed we are to them, and when we learn to celebrate all of those thoughts, steps, and stages, we are encouraged to try, to try again, and to keep going.

Here is your gold star for your efforts today.

A person’s hand holding a slithery star ornament into a patch of sunlight on a green wall.
Our first Go Team! Gold star for 2022. Image description: My left hand holding a glittery gold star ornament into a patch of sunlight between two stripes of shadow with a light green wall in the background. The star is intended as a tree-topper for a small tree so it has a coiled stand as a base.

*Overthinking *is* one of my superpowers so I may as well lean into it, hey?