habits · meditation · mindfulness · WOTY

Lying to Myself About Meditation

Monday morning. May 8th 2023. I wake up after an unusually restful night of sleep. I know I got up to the bathroom once. Other than that, I have no recollection of sleepless restlessness, which is not the norm for me these last many months. The first thing I notice is the fading rose of the light on the buildings out my window, soft and clear. I am surprised the day is here. I check my iPad for the time. It’s on the bedside table. Reading a novel (on the kindle app on my iPad) in bed as I fall asleep is one of my life’s pleasures.

And, in that moment, reaching for the time, I realize this: I did not meditate yesterday. Horror! How could I have forgotten?

I comb back through the day. It was not my typical Sunday. To start with, I didn’t get into bed until 4:00 am. I was taking part in a big group photo shoot organized by some friends, which didn’t start until past midnight. That same morning, I stayed longer in bed than usual … waiting until the moment before I needed to leave for my 5 Rhythms group at noon. I left my iPad out in a particular location to remind myself to meditate when I got back. But not with a note, as I often do, if I don’t meditate first thing in the morning.

That was May 7th. My cousin’s birthday. He was born 4 days before me. It would have been 1617 days of meditation in a row. 617 days since the last day of the first in-person visit with my mother after pandemic.

My streak!!?? I couldn’t lose my meditation streak, too! Enough with the loss already (I won’t get into the details—I’ve written about them the last couple of months.)

I recalled that while I was lying in bed Sunday morning, I had thought to myself, maybe 5 Rhythms will be my meditation today. After all, Gabrielle Roth, who developed the technique, called it a moving mediation. Still, if I’m honest, I wasn’t thinking about that anymore when I got to the studio. I was just inside my body, inside the dance. So, did it count if I hadn’t thought to myself, in the moment, this is my meditation?

I’ve been meditating daily for more than 4 years now, and I have adjusted my expectations and the form my meditation can take several times. For example, when I started, I required of myself a minimum of 20 minutes. After a month, I relaxed into any amount of time counting, so long as I sat down intentionally. My meditations now are most commonly 10 minutes long. Another requirement was that I be seated—a cushion or a chair (airplane seats count) or a patch of grass. Just seated, you get the picture. Then, about six months ago, when life got especially challenging, I began to relax the seated requirement and relaxed into lying down meditation. Sometimes (often on days when I’ve woken up super early or am having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed), I start my day with a meditation in bed. 

So, I am not averse to adjusting my meditation habits over time. And, I’ve never made the adjustment unconsciously. And, I’ve never included a moving meditation in my streak, at least not before May 7th. And, I do think it’s appropriate to count 5 Rhythms as a meditation, though I’d probably feel differently if it was the only form of daily meditation I practiced every day, which is how I feel about lying down meditation, too. Yes, at times the system of rules and regulations and definitions of what counts and what doesn’t inside my head verge on the Kafkaesque. For example, I don’t count riding around town on a bike as my workout, but I’ve also realized that it is a factor that needs to inform the workout I choose to do on a day when I’ll be riding around town a lot.

Which brings me back to my immediate problem on May 8th—what should I do about the meditation streak?

First, I decided to meditate, with the intention to notice what was coming up around the issue. Then, I thought, why bother? You’re just fooling yourself. You’re back to zero. You won’t get back into the 1600s on a new streak until you’re into your sixties. Suck it up. I sat down to meditate anyway. I considered whether there was a freedom in not being on the streak anymore. I’ve got a number of new, unasked for and unwanted, freedoms in my life. I don’t want more of these types of freedoms.

These thoughts crowded my mind: I have deep expertise in the field of being hard on myself, maybe this was not the moment? But if I follow that logic, was I at risk of being too gentle? What long time discipline would I cheat on next? If I decided to count 5 Rhythms, was I lying to myself? What would I lie to myself about next? A rabbit hole of dire possibilities yawned open.

Then, as if switch flipped, my mind quieted and I heard, count it. Add the session into your log. The streak motivates you If after a few days, you feel like a lying, cheating fraud, you can always take it out.

Well, it’s been more than a week now. When I look at my streak count, which is, as I type this (on Friday May 19, is 1628, I feel no remorse. I’ve come clean here about my streak. That’s enough. No public hanging required. I will continue on with my streak.

That last sentence was supposed to be the end of this post. My intention was to let the writing sit over the weekend and come back to polish the next week.


Saturday morning. May 20th 2023. I finish my run and decide to meditate outdoors. It’s only then that I realize, holy fucking shit, I did not meditate on Friday. The very day I was writing my first draft of this post, I forgot to meditate. Again. And this time, there was no 5 Rhythms waiting in the wings to save me. I was stunned. Was this the universe punishing me because I was lying to myself about my meditation streak with my 5 Rhythms fiddle? I sat down to meditate on my new streak-less reality. As I listened to the wind in the trees and breathed the breeze, waves of grief, followed by waves of jubilation rocked through my body. Each wave swelling into the space of the receding wave, as grief rolled into jubilation rolled into grief. For everything that’s been happening. When I finished my meditation, I was shaken. And I accepted. No, more than that, I welcomed what was. That was my word of the year, here was a reminder of the practice. I was not being punished or tested or whatever. I was living and doing the best I can. Later that day I bought a bottle of champagne to share with the friends I was having dinner with. To celebrate the ongoing deconstruction of my life.

This was the quote on my Insight Timer app on the day I realized that I’d forgotten to meditate. It felt like a message addressed to me rather directly. And the other image is my welcome to what now is.

I’m on day 4 of my new streak today. Or so Insight Timer tells me. And I don’t intend to streak for the time being. I will take the days as they come. 

fitness · motivation · WOTY

Collective Word-of-the-Year Update

Image description: star-shaped word cloud featuring the repetition of four words in block letters: GROWTH, WELCOME, PURPOSE, THRIFT.

A few of us chose Words-of-the-Year back in January and we are due for a check-in to see how the chosen WOTY are working for us.


I couldn’t even remember my word, when Tracy proposed this post. When she reminded me it was WELCOME, I had to go back and look at why. Oh right, because I knew how hard the year was going to be and I wanted to find something that expressed a willingness to receive what was given this year and, in that way, find flow and ease, dynamism and stillness. I rejected the words GRIT and RESILIENCE, as too much focused on survival (versus the potential to thrive). I’m glad of my choice. At this point, every time someone tells me I’m resilient, a part of me wants to punch them and then collapse to the ground screaming and crying to prove that I’m not and that I need their care. I am welcoming those feelings. I am welcoming grief. Sure, some moments I set my grief off to the side, to try to focus on work or a friend or the potential of a pleasurable moment. But I am never denying grief, or pushing it away, as if it doesn’t belong. This opportunity to be reminded of my word and welcome it anew is well-timed. Welcome springtime.


My WOTY is PURPOSE. I also forgot what it was and Tracy reminded me. I thought it was BLOSSOM, but turns out, that was last year’s word. I think there is something to the way my memory has worked with respect to the WOTY. Perhaps, 2022 was getting my mind ready to BLOSSOM, but I wasn’t in a place to actually BLOSSOM. After leaving my last job and having some time to find my next opportunity, I had the privilege of time to think about where I would like to work. I have landed in a place that will provide me with an opportunity to learn, grow, use my legal skills and work at helping others. This seems like an opportunity to BLOSSOM. It also seems like an opportunity to do my work with PURPOSE (2023 WOTY). With respect to exercise, sometimes I have to remind myself the PURPOSE of my exercise. I am good at keeping my schedule, but lately, I find myself tired and cranky, on occasion. I blame it on menopause, but it could be other factors. Either way, in the moments of tiredness and crankiness, I believe it would be wise of me to remind myself of the PURPOSE of why I exercise. It provides me with energy and a clear head and strength – life transitions be damned. I also am purposeful about appreciating the ability to experience these life transitions, as I am more often than not, cognizant of this privilege that not all are afforded. I’m glad to be reminded of my WOTY. I endeavor to use PURPOSE in both my work and working out, for the remainder of the year.


From my original WOTY post, “My word for 2023 is GROWTH. I want to expand in lots of different ways. I want to learn new things, make some new friends, discover some new music, travel to new places, read some new authors, and think about new problems. I want to challenge myself to think big and take risks. I’m not sure yet what the specific fitness applications of this new focus will be but I’m open to ideas.”

How’s that working out for me?

Well, on the one hand, not as well as I’d hoped. It feels a bit more like Groundhog Day, as I’m halfway through medical leave for the second knee replacement. Instead of doing new things, mostly I’m working hard to get back to old things. I keep thinking words like “grit” and “determination” might have served me better.

On the other hand, if I think about life on the other side of this surgery and recovery, “growth” is still a word that excites. I keep thinking about new things I can do and new places I can travel with two working knees. It’s also pushing me to think about goals bigger than mere recovery. I’m excited about a lot of strength training in my future.


New things I have EXPLORED so far this year:

  • Tap dance lessons (first time ever)
  • A new position in soccer (first time ever)
  • Handbells choir (first time in 35 years)
  • Some wild high-tech shorts that measure your shape in 3D (review post forthcoming)

Last year during a tough time @fieldpoppy wrote about following Adriene’s yoga series, Begin, in which she describes the “Beginner’s Mind.” It’s exactly the non-self-critical headspace that gives the rest of me permission to explore new things: “presence, simplicity, no decisions. […] Experience what’s there now, not what was once there, or what could be there in the future.”


My word-of-the-year this year is THRIFT. Not in the sense of “thrifting,” where you shop for bargains at thrift stores, but more in the sense of being thrifty or frugal overall. It dovetails with my no-buy challenge, which involves no purchasing clothes, jewelry, accessories, or camera equipment in 2023.

These things all made the list because they are things I tend to spend way beyond my needs on them. There is simply no need to browse the clothing every time I go to Costco, to buy earrings every time I travel, or to keep adding to my camera kit when I already have more equipment — and it’s good equipment — than I regularly use.

The no-buy challenge and my WOTY have combined to make me think more carefully about my “allowable” expenses. As has everyone, I’ve noticed the prices shooting up in the grocery store and at the gas station, making everyday necessities quite a bit more expensive than they used to be. Taking a more thrifty approach means I will sometimes forgo things I would otherwise have purchased.

It’s also gotten me to try a discount airline for the first time. I’m flying out to Vancouver to see my step daughter and her partner and meet my new grand-baby. on Swoop the round trip ticket is a mere $163 CDN! If I can get away with just a small back pack (I’m gonna try!), I won’t have to fork over the additional $60 EACH WAY for a carry-on! If I wasn’t trying to economize this year I’d probably just do it. But now I feel as if it’s a challenge.

Related to my no-buy thrifty year, is a more aesthetic desire for minimalism. I’m not there but I wish I could be. If in the second half of this year I can combine no-buy with also shedding some stuff, so much the better.

I find having a WOTY can be a motivating touchstone for me when I’ve chosen well. This year I feel I’ve chosen very well. I had a brief moment today where I started browsing for dresses on a website, and pretty much the only thing that stopped me was my no-buy thing. Indeed, I almost said “screw it! I can buy a couple of dresses,” and then a friend who I ran it by said, “but think how you’ll feel after you’ve done so well so far.” That got me over the hump. The moment passed. I didn’t buy new dresses and instead I committed to going through my closet to remind myself what’s in there as far as summer wardrobe goes. I’m sure there is plenty.

I anticipate one exception, which is I need new running shoes pretty soon. I think that should be okay since it’s a well-considered purchase and my current shoes are reaching their training mileage limit.

All-in-all I’m happy with my word THRIFT and can already see a slight shift towards more intentional MINIMALISM in my future for next year.

fitness · WOTY

Catherine’s 2023 word of the year: an update

It’s almost May 1. For me, this date signals a shift in my work, in my schedule, in my life cadence. May 1 is the last day of classes (although not the last day of meetings, or grading or exams). But still. It holds out the promise of summer– of beaches and lakes and forests and backyards and decks.

Four months into 2023, it occurred to me to check out my WOTY– word of the year. We at Fit is a Feminist Issue have been posting them for some years now. Here are a few of our posts:

What’s your Word of the Year? Here are ours (2021)

It’s word-of-the-year time again (2022)

Fit Feminists’ 2023 Words of the Year

Mine for the past three years have been these:

  • awake in 2021
  • creativity in 2022
  • allow in 2023

I’m not sure how these words of the year are working out for me. Maybe it’s not my fault, but 2021 now seems like a haze, with transitioning from life and work entirely online to venturing into work and other people’s homes in person. I don’t remember how awake or alert I was.

Creativity is a good word for any year for me, certainly as an aspiration, a reminder of the joys (for me) of making, making new, opening up avenues for novel activity. I love me some novel activity; if you missed last Sunday’s post on my visits to an alpaca farm, float tank and the wackiest massage chair ever, check it out here. I’m not taking issue with my 2022 word, but rather it’s kind of a primary word for me every year. Does that count? I’m not sure how the word-of-the-year authorities would rule on this one.

Which brings us to 2023: Allow. Yeah, no. What possessed me to pick ALLOW as my word? I am sooo not an allowing kind of person. Letting things be, going with the flow, keeping cool– all these are most definitely not descriptors of me. And they also don’t describe how my year has gone so far.

Work life has been turbulent– coming back from sabbatical to a new department chair, hiring a new colleague, and adjusting to the loss of my dear friend and colleague Laura, who died last year. Home life has been fun but busier, with two out-of-town friends staying with me once a week while working in Boston. Active life has been opportunistic and not systematic, which is not an unfamiliar pattern but one that I’m not happy with. All of this points to one thing: I need a new Word of the Year.

Luckily, the internet has lots of suggestions. I checked out this site, and from all the ads, it seemed like her WoTY was Vrbo. Not helpful. This one had 244 options, which is just too many for me.

But you gotta pick sooner or later, so here’s my adjusted Word of the Year: Friend.

Of all the things I do, being friends with people is one of my favorites. Doing things with them, talking with them, helping out from time to time, and even allowing (yeah, I guess that word is somewhat useful) them to help me– all these things are what I consider my life to be about.

Yesterday I had friends over for brunch and then we went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for their annual Art in Bloom exhibit. Garden clubs around the area are assigned a work of art, and they construct a flowery companion for it. I go often, and it’s always fun. Here’s a selfie of us from yesterday:

Melanie, me, Deb, and Mari at the museum.
Melanie, me, Deb, and Mari at the museum.

Yeah– Friend. That works. I’m shifting words, but I think this is much better.

What about you, friends? Did you pick a word for 2023? Do you remember what it is? How’s it working for you? I’d love to hear how things are going for you and your word.

fitness · WOTY

Grow: Sam’s new word of the year

A small green plant in a person’s hand

It’s been a few years of working hard to handle what’s been on my plate. There’s the big job (no longer so new), a global pandemic, and now knee replacement surgery. I’ve drawn on my strengths and I’ve had help from friends and family and community, at both work and at home. Together we’re getting through.

It’s been tough and some hard struggles are still ahead. Academic budgets are tight in this province and some family members had a particularly tough time through the pandemic. I’m also planning on the second total knee replacement sometime in the coming year. So the challenges aren’t over.

At the same time I’m feeling the need to grow and expand, to learn some new things. I want to reach out a bit more rather than focusing inwards.

In Tracy’s blog post on our words of the year I identified “growth” as my word of the year.

I wrote, “My word for 2023 is Growth. I want to expand in lots of different ways. I want to learn new things, make some new friends, discover some new music, travel to new places, read some new authors, and think about new problems. I want to challenge myself to think big and take risks. I’m not sure yet what the specific fitness applications of this new focus will be but I’m open to ideas.”

The more I think about it though I think I prefer the verb, GROW, to the noun, GROWTH.

I’m still not sure what it means for me fitness wise. I’m thinking a lot about that lately as I gear up for knee replacement number two and think about what’s after that. Long hikes I’m hoping. I’d like to lure Mallory back to New Zealand for some great walks.

It’s also time to think about 60, just a year and half a way, and what the means for my fitness plans and my life, in general. Another book with Tracy? Maybe. We’ve talked about an anthology, a collection of essays drawing on the bigger blog community.

I want to connect to with new work going on in my own academic discipline as well as branching out to learn more about what’s going on across the university.

But whatever is ahead, I’m dreaming big. I’ve got growing and changing on my mind. Have any ideas? I’m ready for new opportunities!

Fruit hanging from vines overhead
fitness · WOTY

It’s Word-of-the-year time again #woty

Image description: Wordcloud composed of the following words: smile, space, spaciousness, stretch, creativity, skillflow, blossom, integrity, focus, better, #woty (from edwordle.net)

For some time now many of us here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue have been choosing a word-of-the-year as a sort of guide or focal point or value for the year to come (or at least that’s how I see it). You can read about our last year’s words of the year here. We also posted a check-in at around the halfway point to see how our words were serving us. Earlier this month Mina posted about the WOTY challenge and set us all to thinking about it. Her new word of the year, which she coined herself: skillflow.

Here are the rest of our words of the year, some with a little context about why we chose them.

Tracy: Focus

In 2021 my word was “mindfulness” and it helped me stay aware and present. For 2022 I have chosen the word “focus” because despite aiming for mindfulness, I have been feeling scattered, distracted, and overextended. I think “focus” will help me feel more grounded in one thing at a time and more aware of when I am taking on too many things that distract me from the things I would like to focus on. I am not an effective multi-tasker, and the idea of making a conscious effort to focus makes me feel lighter already. It will also remind me to take out my camera more often, since photography is one of the things that gives me joy.

Diane: Better

My word is “better”. Not in the sense of improving my skills, or doing longer or more frequent workouts, though I would be happy if those things also happened. I struggle with inertia and decision paralysis when there is no crisis or element of “new, shiny” to focus on. This year I want to focus on remembering that doing something is better than doing nothing. And then do something, even if it is just for a few minutes.

Nicole: Blossom

My word is “blossom”.In the year when I turn 50, I would like to encourage myself to blossom not settle or become stagnant. Whether it’s improving my speed when running or trying new strength exercises or finding things in my career that inspire a sense of blossoming.

Samantha: Integrity

My word for the year is ‘integrity.’ I’m not sure that’s exactly what I want though. I was torn between that and ‘authenticity.’ I do know that in a world that’s increasingly turbulent I feel the need to anchor in my own values and centre my way of being in the world. It’s the idea of being ‘rooted’ in the things that matter. Obviously I’m still thinking about the exact word but ‘integrity’ works for now.

Catherine: Creativity

My WOTY for 2021 was awake. And I have been. Awake to where I am in the moment, fretting slightly less over possible futures and past events. It’s been work, staying awake. But I’m here. For 2022, my WOTY is creativity. I’m looking forward to exploring the less analytical parts of myself, especially through writing, but also through movement. What does creativity in movement look like? I don’t know yet. I believe it will include more dancing, wild swimming, nature exploring on foot and bike, taking time out from my usual goal-oriented self. Stay tuned…

Elan: Smile

I took a beginners soccer clinic a few years ago. To introduce our first passing exercise, the coach asked us, “Do you know what is the first thing you do when you receive the ball?” I was expecting him to give an answer about footwork mechanics, but instead he said, “You smile. Because you have possession, and that’s why you are here. To play, be part of the game, and have fun. So no matter what, when you first touch the ball, smile.”It can be challenging to start or continue with new activities when you aren’t really good at them or feel you could be better. So in the new year, as I continue to explore new sports and exercises, instead of thinking negatively and being hard on myself I will instead remember to smile. 😀

Martha: Space

I made a vision board this year and hadn’t settled on a word per se as I was still letting things bubble. When I looked at the images, they reflected creative pursuits, physical adventures, risk taking, and embracing change. I realized all of these things were about space: My word is space: Taking space, making space, holding space. I’m taking space back for things that matter. I’m making space to grow, to reclaim and to explore. I’m holding space for me — to see where I want to go in this next decade.

Christine: Spaciousness

My word for 2021 was consistency and that worked pretty well. I wasn’t necessarily consistent in that I always did things every day or over and over in the way I had originally intended, but I did achieve a sense of consistency overall. I was quicker to come back to the things that I intended to do, they didn’t just drift away until I was reminded of them again. And I’ve also put a lot of systems in place to support consistency and make things easier for me overall.For 2022, my theme is spaciousness. After writing a month of blog posts about making space, I have a richer sense of the sort of space I need in my life on a day-to-day basis. The fact that this knowledge is coming at the same time as my best level of medication yet and at the same time that I have finished homeschooling my youngest child seems fortuitous. Because of a combination of ADHD and personality I have felt rushed and out of control of my time for a lot of my life. I’ve done a lot of work in the last few years to unpack that feeling and figure out which aspects I can change and which ones I have to accept or reframe.Seeking spaciousness for the next year will help me to continue that work and create space in my mind, in my projects, in my home, and in my schedule.

Natalie: Stretch

Last year was “rest” and it really helped me relax into what I could and couldn’t do in 2021. But like a muscle that has been retracted or coiled up I’m choosing 2022 to “stretch” my body, my talents and my ways of thinking. All that rest and inward focus has put me in a rut and I need to stretch out into new spaces and places to grow.

Image description: Winter scene of snow falling and close-up of snow-covered pine boughs in the top right corner. Overlaid on the scene are the words, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. – T.S. Eliot”

Let’s see what next year’s new voices reveal!

What’s your #woty?

challenge · motivation · new year's resolutions · WOTY

It’s WOTY-Challenge Time!

In this last month of the year, two thoughts bubble up: What’s my word of the year (WOTY) and what’s my challenge? Many of my fellow bloggers here are thinking about their words. Nicole, for example, says she is looking for a word that expresses the opposite of existential dread. I look forward to what she comes up with. We will have more WOTY posts, to be sure.

Last year my word was enough. For the early part of the year, I reminded myself with some regularity what my word was. I needed the specific boost. Just now, when I sat down to write this, I realized I’d forgotten what my word was. Yet, when I looked back and found my word, it was like a carillon. Oh yes, now I remember my word and I didn’t need the reminder after a certain point in the year, because I had installed an enough-ness fuel gauge in my bodymind dashboard and was taking conscious note of the fuel level on a more regular basis. That realization, in and of itself, topped up the fuel in my enough-ness tank. My word did its job. Pause for mini-celebratory dance.  

In a recent Peloton class one of my favourite instructors, Christine D’Ercole, said that we should give ourselves user names that, when we say them out loud, have the same effect as an encouraging hand on our back. That’s the effect I’m looking for in my WOTY. A word that encourages me. A carrot word. Not a stick word. 

Colourful assortment of letter tiles
Surendran MP on Unsplash

This year’s word builds on enough. I’m not going to give it to you straight out. There’s some stage décor to put in place first. It turns out that enough is a pretty damn bold word. Enough gives me the courage to plunge into learning new modalities (including two separate yearlong trainings, one in Non-Violent Communication and one in Internal Family Systems). Enough inoculates me against being overwhelmed by the voices in my head and in society, who say that I’m past due on expanding into new disciplines. Enough grants me the audacity to incorporate these new techniques into my work now with the simultaneous confidence of a seasoned practitioner and the caution of a novitiate. I am integrating my existing skills base with the fresh skills I am learning and honing to offer more holistic coaching and workshops.

At first, my word for next year wanted to be something like mastery. But two reasons held me back from that choice. First, the word is outmoded and even ugly, in a world that is waking up to all the hidden and subtle ways we perpetuate inequities. Mastery comes with a heavy burden of colonialism and racism.

This first reason would have been more than enough to keep the word out of contention. But there’s more. The word feels static. As if we can master something and then that’s it. One and done. Thank you very much. You may now come to me with questions. I’ve moved on to answers. No. That’s not how I feel about the skills I already have facility with, nor how I feel about the new tools I’m adding. There’s dynamism in the process. Learning is cyclical, not linear, building and looping back on itself to collect new gleanings.

I wanted a word to express my desire to keep learning, integrating, experimenting and refining. In that spirit, my word itself is freshly coined, by me.


That’s my word. Say it out loud. Feel it on your tongue. Listen to it come out of your mouth. Do you feel how open the word is? Versus, for example, the word skillful, which closes in on itself with that final letter L.

Skillflow: (noun) the continuous, regenerative cycle of learning and applying our skills; the flow of fresh skills mixing with honed skills in a reciprocal renewal of energy.

I am already enough AND I’m going to learn so much this year. I’ve got my word.

So … I wrote all those words above yesterday and I felt plugged in and buzzing with possibility. Excited for the year to come. Up to the task. Empowered. Then I woke up this morning with a possibility hangover. That’s when the part of me who is fearful of failure gets very loud. I was down in the dumps. Questioning everything from my right to even propose a WOTY to my very existence. Apparently, my word is threatening to some part of me that fears that a hand on my back will push me right over a cliff into a humiliating failure; that I’ll choke on my carrot word. Sigh. Thank you, fearful voice. Breathe. Notice that I am learning new skills around befriending that scared voice. Allow her words to flow through me, instead of getting stuck inside like a brick in an impenetrable wall of the-truth-of-who-I-am.      

My word for 2022 is skillflow.

How about that challenge I mentioned? Challenges are my version of resolutions (but not). A friend calls them my annual devotional tasks. They are ways of being I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over.

Last year my challenge was twofold—to continue not to shop for anything from Amazon.com except books and movies (an extension of my 2020 challenge) and to commit to a poetry exchange with my friend (and fellow blogger here), Kim. We agreed to send each other new poems we’d written every second Sunday. We have two poem cycles left and the whole process has been fresh and bracing, plus liberating and connecting. Excellent. Last year, I wanted a challenge that wasn’t all about self-discipline and denial, which has characterized quite a number of my challenges (like not shopping for clothes for a year). This year I want a challenge … well … I have no clue what to do this year.

I’d love to hear your WOTYs and any ideas for a challenge.

fitness · WOTY

Catherine’s word of the year: Awake

I’m not an early bird. However, even the morning larks among us would agree that 2020 was a good year to sleep through. Sleep is magic. Sleep is healing. Sleep feels delicious. Sleep is good for almost anything that ails us. But for me in 2020, I spent a lot of time turning away from the world outside, retreating, trying to shut out the feelings caused by what was happening. I just wanted to go to bed and wake up in 2021.

And now it’s here. 2021. Time to be awake, alert, engaged, curious. Time for sensing, feeling, thinking, processing, inquiring, musing.

It’s sunflower time.

A sunflower (girasole in Italian, meaning “turn to the sun”) seeks the light, turning to follow the brightness of the day.

An upright sunflower, enjoying some direct light against a blue sky. By Lisa Pellegrini for Unsplash.
An upright sunflower, enjoying some direct light against a blue sky. By Lisa Pellegrini for Unsplash.

I’m not sure I can manage quite that degree of exposure this year. Luckily, there are modifications available.

A sensible sunglasses-wearing sunflower. I like that idea. By Wan J. Kim for Unsplash.
A sensible sunglasses-wearing sunflower. I like that idea. By Wan J. Kim for Unsplash.

With or without sunglasses, sunscreen, and big floppy hat, I want 2020 to be a year in which I keep my eyes open to take in what’s around me and in me, even if it’s a bit much. I have dreams and plans and goals: for movement, for creativity, for connection. They can’t be done (or done well) in the dark. I need light and space and energy and warmth (or bracing cold) to be fully involved, aware. And awake. That’s it.

Dear readers: do you have a word of the year? What would you like it to be? What do you need to inhabit your word? I have extra sunglasses, if you want to borrow some.

fitness · mindfulness · WOTY

Tracy’s word of the year: mindfulness

Image description: Leafy country walking path with wood fencing and lush trees in Grasmere, the Lake District, England.

Like Mina (2021: “enough”), Cate (2021: “steadfast”), and others (group summary post coming this aft!), I too have adopted a “word of the year.” Anne’s guest post about it at the end of 2019 (2020: “explore”) inspired me to try it. For 2020 my word was “authenticity.”

I think it’s interesting to consider what motivates people to choose their words of the year and even whether they choose a noun (as most do) or a verb (as Anne did in 2020, and also, if you read her post, in 2018 and 2019, with “believe” and “bloom”).

My word for 2021 is “mindfulness.” Sometimes it happens that words that seem trendy or like platitudes take on new and profound meaning. Such is the case with me and the word “mindfulness” right now. I’ve seized onto it this year because I have found myself doing all sorts of distracted things since the pandemic started. Distracted eating. Distracted doom scrolling. Distracted television watching. Multi-tasking (I hate multi-tasking). It never feels good when I do things that I don’t feel present for — that’s how I think of mindlessness. And mindfulness, or being present to what’s in front of me, is the best way for me to reverse that habit of distraction.

My commitment to mindfulness grew out of the September meditation challenge using Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness. Catherine gathered a bunch of us to commit to it as a blog book group. Daily meditation is a great way to be mindful, at least for 10-20 minutes or however long you’re on your meditation cushion. When I’m not doing anything else it’s easy for me to be immersed in the task at hand (even if that task is just to sit quietly).

Since I’ve adopted “mindfulness” as my word of the year (two weeks ago!) I can’t say I have been practicing it consistently. Indeed, this week has flown by in a blur so fast I can’t believe it’s already Friday. When that happens, it usually means I haven’t been paying attention.

We have just begun a new stay-at-home order here in Ontario. I do not want to come up for air at the end of this 28 days (is it a 28-day thing? I don’t even know) and wonder what happened, having spent a month in a distracted state of auto-pilot. So I’m committing to being mindful, paying attention, appreciating the details, tasting my food, showing up for my meditation, my yoga, my workouts, my walks and runs, and focusing on one thing at a time.

Do you have a word of the year?

fitness · WOTY

Sam turns to Aikido for her #WOTY for 2021

Last year my word of the year was FOCUS. That didn’t play out as I had hoped. (HA!)

Today's word: Focus. You move in the direction of your focus. Where are you  headed? Is it where you want to go? | Words, Directions, Your head

Way back when, in the Before Times, I wrote, “This year I need to focus. I have one goal in mind which is getting ready for total knee replacement surgery next year. It’s not going to be easy. I have to keep up the physio, stay active, and do everything with knee health in mind. There’s no wandering off in pursuit of other goals. Everything has to be about my knee.

I need to practice saying things like, “that’s not the best thing for my knee and right now I need to give priority to my knee.” Focus. I need to not do things, like certain yoga poses, that I can do but that hurt my knee. Focus. I need to walk the right amount to help the joint but not enough to hurt it. Focus.”

Instead this turns out to be the year that we all have the attention spans of guppies because of pandemic stress and for me, some of the time, even reading novels and watching some TV shows turns out to be too challenging. Focus? Really?

Gif of tropical fish swimming

My knee surgery is delayed because our hospitals are in crisis. I don’t know when it will happen.

An awful lot of things feel up in the air.

There is so much celebration about seeing the back of 2020 but frankly I’m very worried about the future and not feeling that the right attitude is simply “boo hiss 2020” and “yay yay 2021.”

2020 wasn’t a bad year by chance. Impending climate disaster and political turmoil make me nervous and apprehensive about what’s to come next.

I keeping thinking about this quote.

In light of Big Change and the recognition that life as we knew it may be no more, I was considering some options–flexibility, resilience, adapt–for my 2021 word of the year. For me, the year to come is all about growing with and responding to change, and doing that in a way that’s grounded in the things I value, not just in a reactive way. I want to be flexible but not driven hither and which way by the winds of change. I want to use the feeling of change and the potential of the energy around me to move towards things I care about.

Could the pandemic help us live more lightly on the earth? Might we start to think differently about non-human animals? Will we still fly around the world? What about economic and political inequalities? How could we structure our society differently so we can better respond in times of crisis? My grad class on pandemic ethics spent a week reading and talking about Basic Minimum Income. There’s nothing like a glocal pandemic to make you realize that we all truly are citizens of the world and that we need to care for one another.

With all of these thoughts swirling around, I started to think about some concepts that are key to Aikido.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the mat. I can’t kneel with my injured knee. But I am not ready to say goodbye just yet.

I need a word that captures the feeling of going with the energy around you. It’s a year for Aikido words, I think. Going with the flow but taking it in the direction that you want to move, being centred and grounded but not like an unyielding block of cement. There’s an element of agency that’s involved. You don’t stand still and resist the attack. You don’t let it just blow you over either.

I posted the following question to Facebook, “Aikido friends, what’s the word or phrase in Aikido for going with the energy in an attack? Moving in that direction but using the energy to ultimately blend and get where you want to go. You know, that thing we all need in this awful, terrible, no good year! Not resisting all the time, that’s exhausting, but taking the energy and making it yours.”

An Aikido friend or two shared the obvious choice, the root word, “Aiki.”

“Aiki, a Japanese budō term, at its most basic is a principle that
allows a conditioned practitioner to negate or redirect an opponent’s
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiki_(martial_arts_principle)

The friend continued, “As a budo principle, aiki is a decent way of living with things as they happen.”

The blog’s Mina Samuels suggested “flow” not as an Aikido word but as one that captures that meaning. She wrote, “I like that way of repurposing the word. In the short time I did Aikido, that principle has always stuck with me. The surprise of the “yes” when you go with the person’s energy direction, instead of resisting, that gives your strength the boost it needs.”

My Aikido friend K wrote, “Aiki and blend are good; whatever you call it, it begins with acceptance and is facilitated by gratitude. All power is in the present moment…”

Another Aikido friend M wrote, “”Awase” is blending, but another term to consider is “Musubi”: this is a more advanced concepts regarding the deep connection one makes with their partner or the reach within their body that allows an aikidoka to guide the flow of energy.”

You can read more about connection in Aikido here:

I like the Japanese Aikido words but it’s not my language and I don’t feel I understand the concepts well enough to make them my word of the year. I want to read more and learn more even if I can’t kneel on the mat right now. Maybe after knee replacement surgery. Maybe?

So, I’m left stiling thinking about “flow.” I do like the way “flow” follows after “focus.”

So I think I’ll declare FLOW to be the word that guides me through 2021, with a side of remembering the role of agency in going with the flow. All of this has made me realize how much I miss Aikido. Even if what I can do is limited, I’d like to get back to basic movements and some sword work.

Here’s me with my sword a few years ago:

Sam with wooden sword, while wearing Aikido gi, in the lobby of the student rec centre
Sam with her Aikido sword

We’ll do a #WOTY wrap post at some point here at the blog. Have you considered a Word of the Year for 2021? What’s your word and what’s it mean to you?

Given the year so far, I’ll totally understand if it’s ARGHHHHH!

Sat with Nat · WOTY

Nat’s Word of the Year is Rest

Recommended Soundtrack: Lay Me Down by Loretta Lynn featuring Willie Nelson

I thought about a lot of things I could focus on in 2021. While I thought restore, recover, re-emerging, recharge…what I really need is to rest.

For folks like me, who are privileged to work from home, there is a real problem of overwork. Even when I’m mindful of the hours I work it’s the pace & intensity that has really ramped up. No more casual coffee with colleagues after a meeting. They can be booked literally back to back.

There’s also the emotional work of supporting folks and it is exponentially more intense and frequent. Both in my paid work and social life. There seems to always be that one more thing I can do.

Many times in 2020 I would get to the weekend and sleep. Sometimes a whole day punctuated with 2-3 hour naps and a loss of interest in anything.

One thing that has drastically improved is my sleep schedule. Keeping the same routine regardless of the day has me now routinely getting 8 hours of sleep.

I fall asleep quickly & sleep soundly until the morning. I’m less groggy. No more 2 am wake ups. I sleep until 6. It’s marvelous.

So I want to keep this newfound bounty of sleep. More than that I want to honour the pace of my body, the need for rest, relaxation and not being productive.

When I rest I can meet the next challenge fresh. I can tap a reserve of energy for a big push.

My fitness plans are waking, yoga and cycling. Nothing epic, nothing impressive because I will need time to recoup from 2020 and be sure I don’t wring myself out in 2021.

I don’t need to justify my existence by being productive or impressive or inspiring. I need to take care of myself like a good friend would.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the other words folks have picked this year. Are you up for picking a word? What will it be?

Natalie smiles with her eyes closed while her beloved gives her a kiss. Thank you to Ruthless Images for our wonderful photos.