Simple tricks to fit meditation into your day

Simple tricks to fit meditation into your day

Usually when one goes on vacation, the mind is finally supposed to relax and not think about stressful things. Have you ever noticed this well-intentioned plan never works?

I’m a woman constantly obsessing about what I need to face when I’m back at work, or things I need to do around the house. It’s a never-ending saga!

While on vacation for the last week in sunny Huatulco, I spent a lot of time napping under the shade of palm trees and meditating with my spirit guide. One thing I learned is that my mind wanders so much that I can’t even keep it still for 5 minutes at a time!

dog-meditating
This dog is meditating better than me!

This means that for the precious moments that I am focused, I need to make my meditation count!

I started repeating short affirmations to myself whenever I caught myself being unable to stay in meditation mode:

  1. I am powerful and abundant.
  2. The Universe is providing everything that I need.
  3. I am getting whatever I want.
  4. Abundance, abundance, abundance!

These short little affirmations were a lot easier to automate in my head than doing the long drawn out versions like:

  • I am abundant and in the flow of money. The Universe provides me whatever I need. All my dreams are being realized. I want for nothing and am financially provided for.

If you find that you are having issues focusing on meditation or doing manifestation work, try coming up with short mantras that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day that are easy to remember.

Repetition is key! Find ways to build meditation into smaller chunks throughout the day.

There are days that I’ll meditate at my desk while I’m working. I’ll close my eyes for a few minutes and just focus on my breath. This helps me to be more centered and alert.

Active meditation is something I practice a lot. Usually when I’m washing dishes, or walking to get coffee, I’ll focus on the moment. What am I seeing, hearing, or smelling? Being present in the moment can often relax the brain.

Woman washing the dishes in the kitchen.
Washing dishes can be very meditative

It’s very easy for us to let our minds wander all day long, but as I get older I’m learning that my thoughts alone cause me more exhaustion than any other outside stimulus!

Mental breaks are very important when it comes to being productive and present in your life and the lives of others. If you are the type of person who likes to be of service, you have to remind yourself to take a lot of breaks.

Short mantras are also great for manifestation work! Try to figure out the quickest way to say what you want to achieve mentally:

  • I am manifesting an extra $2000 in the next 3 months to go on vacation to Hawaii in May 2017.

The best trick for manifestation is to make it seem like it’s already happening in your mind. That means you need to visualize what your intention looks like. Remember, you’ll always get what you ask for so make sure you are really clear when you do this work!

What does it feel like? Can you smell the dollar bills in your hand?  Is your wallet getting thicker? How happy do you look knowing that you didn’t go into debt to go on holidays? How does that beach sand feel between your toes? Can you feel the heat of the sun on your skin?

The visualization of your meditation is what helps convince you that your intention is becoming reality.

I’ve read some forums where people are attempting to attract the right significant other into their lives. You cannot force someone to fall in love with you. Free will is always going to work against you.

If you have a crush, you might let the red flags slide just to be with them. However, if you are focused on particular personality traits, you might end up attracting a mate more suitable for your needs.

How does this person make you feel? What activities are you doing on your dates? Is this person a great conversationalist? Does he or she make an effort with your family and friends?

There are going to be hundreds of qualities to choose from in a romantic partner manifestation. Just pick your top favourites and give it a go. Make up mantras and repeat them in your head when you think about it.

Hopefully this trick of shortening up affirmations into a repeatable mantras will help you if you can’t sit still long enough to meditate. Successful meditation requires frequency and repetition. The way I meditate looks nothing like how other people would meditate, but it works for me.

What are some tips that you have about fitting meditation into your life? Do you schedule it or just do it when you think of it? Share some of your secrets in the comments!

 

 

 

 

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Secret to success: take a 15-minute break

Secret to success: take a 15-minute break

When I was in grade 11, I remember my high school biology teacher was this militaristic school marm-type woman who was intimidating as all hell.  I’m sure you have experienced at least one teacher in your life who basically struck the fear of God in your soul if you were even 2 minutes late to class.  Her death glare was legendary. For the sake of anonymity, I’m going to call this force of nature who shaped me permanently Mrs. Smith (also because I legit forgot her name!)

school-marm
The hallmarks of a typical school marm: Strict, scary, death glare…check!

Mrs. Smith was actually away for the first half of the school year in 1997 for a medical leave. Instead,  a substitute teacher taught my bio class who was super nice, and unfortunately, bullied hard by the students. I always loved Mrs. Burns (fake name).  She was jovial, smiled a lot, joked with the students, and laughed at her own clumsiness. Mrs. Burns was joined by a teaching aide who was just in university finishing up her teaching degree.  I felt bad for Mrs. Kay because she was very mild-mannered and bullied even more incessantly than Mrs. Burns.  Mrs. Kay seemed to always be on the verge of tears as she could never get the class to quiet down or cooperate.  She spoke so softly, we could hardly hear her over the din of raucous classmates who loved the sounds of their own voices. Due to her inability to rally the herd, the students shamelessly ignored Mrs. Kay’s instructions and Mrs. Burns would have to cast her own version of a disappointed stare, which was barely effective.  This toxic situation lasted about 5 months until Mrs. Smith returned to school and worked to shut that shit down.

Due to the easy-going nature of the class during the first half of the year, the students were barely ready for Mrs. Smith’s arrival.

She showed up after the Christmas break and we had no idea that she was actually our real teacher. Mrs. Smith introduced herself and was very open about having been on medical leave. She was very direct about her expectations. She didn’t tolerate students who spoke out of turn and would kick them out of class for disruption.  She wouldn’t let them back in until they apologized and behaved well. Otherwise, the disciplinary action was repeated. Mrs. Smith used shock value to shut us up by slamming a ruler against her desk to create an ear-piercing pop that would startle everyone into silence followed by an icy stare down.  She wasn’t afraid of anything, least of all a bunch of sniveling teenagers.

Every week there would be a quiz on all the stuff we learned in class. If we passed each quiz, we automatically earned 10% of our overall mark. If we failed to study our texts or do our assignments, we’d lose the 10%. It was the easiest 10% I ever earned!  Or so I thought…

That 10% though came at a cost. It meant I actually had to read and re-read all my notes in class. I also learned to re-write all my notes, as they looked like illegible scrawl coming out of class. She taught us study tactics like making up our own quiz questions as we read chapters to retain the information better. She taught us to highlight specific sentences and create flash cards out of glossary words. No one had taught me how to study before Mrs. Smith came along. I was grateful in later years for her advice.

However, there was a chink to her plan. Mrs. Smith realized quickly that students were getting burnt out because many were not passing those weekly tests. I was always very studious so I had no issue with it. One thing she mentioned to us later, that stuck with me all through University years and eventually now, she said take study breaks every hour for 15 minutes. Shut your brain off completely by watching tv, going for a walk, making a snack, or taking a power nap.

I thought to myself “what a waste of time!  I can’t afford to take 15 minute breaks every hour!”

I have a total of 4 hours of studying time after school is done and if I take 15 minute breaks it means I shorten my studying time to 3 hours!  That’s completely nuts!  The nerdy kids like myself all bitched and moaned that the old bat was off her rocker.

Boy, was I proven wrong.

The 15 minute breaks helped me retain more information when it came to memory recall during quiz time. I performed better on tests. In fact, I became more efficient at studying because I had a shorter time to absorb the same amount of information. I used the break trick throughout University. When my friends were exhausted from their studies, I had 2 part-time jobs, a sorority officer position which was like having third part-time job, and full-time studies with my Bachelor’s degree!  Yet I was never as exhausted and burnt out. Sure, I was stressed by deadlines and exams like everyone else and I maintained a respectable GPA of 3.34/4.0.

I wasn’t a straight-A student, and didn’t need to be. Perfectionism is not really my strong suit and even though I try I have always failed at it.

But striving for excellence means I’m hella above average so I’ll take that anyway!

Fast-forward ahead to 20 years later. I build in a 15 minute coffee break every 4 hours during my workday. Every hour or two I’ll get up and walk to the kitchen and do a round through my office which gives me a 5 minute repose. The breaks help me recharge and quiet my brain slightly so that I can focus on the task at hand. It make me more efficient as a worker but also friendlier to my colleagues as I am less wound up.

work-breaks
Gotta de-stress at least once a day by the water cooler to discuss the weather, the road conditions, or the latest Trump tweet!

There are still times I find myself having to disengage from people. I tell friends I’m busy so I can sit on the couch and Netflix all night. I’m ok with that. But last year in an effort to save money, I didn’t go on a proper vacation for almost 12 months. That lead to me feeling drained and empty, even though I was still filling my life with activities that I enjoyed. I lost focus. Those activities felt like work and because less fun over time.

My greatest passion in life is to travel abroad. If I take a 3-4 day mini-break, it’s simply not enough time for my brain to shut off. I’m bombarded by thoughts of everything I need to do when I get back. In fact, there are times I can’t even sleep because my brain will not shut off.  Rather than feeling recharged, I come back irritated and exhausted from my mini-break.

The truth is I feel ripped off when I don’t take a proper vacation.

The end of 2016, I went away to Vancouver for 6 days. I got to meet up with a good friend who moved out there, did some sightseeing, ate too much food, and slept in every day. In addition to this, I still had an extra 3 days off because of the New Year’s holiday. This extra long break helped me feel more refreshed than if I had just taken a couple days off for the statutory holiday.

The moral of this story is that if you are the type of over-achiever who isn’t taking proper breaks in your life, you will wear yourself thin. People will notice your irritability and anxiety and will not want to spend time with you for very long. You need to do yourself and the world a favour by disconnecting solidly every once in a while. Does that mean being cooped up inside your room for 24 hours, or going on a hike where you don’t have a cell signal, or does that mean a 2 week vacation?

After years of studying myself, I’ve learned the magic number of days off is 10 days for me.

Any longer than that and I start to get irritated that I’m not back to my life because I’m ready to take on the world! Any shorter than that and it’s like I wasn’t even on a break.

What’s constitutes a brain break for you?  I’d love to know!  Please comment below and tell me.

The Shift: Stop making new year’s resolutions and start changing your mindset

The Shift: Stop making new year’s resolutions and start changing your mindset

Around this time of year, everyone is running around like crazy.  Parties to attend, work deadlines to meet before the holidays, family obligations, and spending an inordinate amount of time online shopping for the perfect gift!  Stop with the madness already!

Maybe it’s a bit early to talk about New Year’s resolutions, but imma do it anyway!

When all this Christmas stuff is over, we get to set up new expectations in the new year of all the bad habits we want to break or all the new habits we’d like to start.  We want to lose weight, eat more vegetables, stop drinking alcohol or quit smoking.  Or there could be more interesting goals like save money for a vacation, buy a new house, travel abroad, or change careers.

According to the stats, only 8% of people ever successfully achieve their new year’s resolutions.

Well…crap!

That’s because we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect.  Each of the goals listed above is quite lofty in its own way.  How do we keep the momentum once the buzz of the holidays has worn off?  Do you feel withdrawal from cutting out sugar or caffeine?  After a few weeks you’re cranky, hungry, and agitated.  What chance of manifesting success do you really have?

How many diets and weight loss plans have I started and regrettably ended because I lost my willpower?  Dozens of times in the last 20 years.  The featured image I chose for this blog is how I and other gym rats always scoff at the New Year’s “resolution-ers” hitting the gym as of January. Every gym regular knows those people who are attempting to make it based on willpower will most certainly fail by the end of March. Then we don’t have to wait for our favourite machines anymore and the fitness classes become more roomy again! Yaaassssss!

The best advice on achieving goals I ever got was from reading one of those free books you get with a GoodLife gym membership when you sign up.  In Living the Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success, David-Patchell Evans writes about how “good enough is good enough”. He says perfection is something that no one should be striving to achieve on a day to day basis.  You are more likely to give up your goals or get burnt out over the long-term.  Making smaller incremental changes that become a part of your life are the best way to have them become a permanent part of your life.

There’s going to be days or weeks where you’ll fall off the wagon, but that’s ok.  You have to brush yourself off and try again.

Instead of aiming for new year’s resolutions to start making changes in your life, why not start now?  Each day I do something small to work towards manifesting my goals.  I want to be debt-free and have financial freedom.  So I read a lot of books and articles on how to do that.  I don’t do it for hours, but just enough to get a couple new ideas into my brain.

I listened to a podcast by Tony Robbins this morning where he spoke about the entrepreneur mindset. Robbins believes that 80% of success comes from thought while 20% comes from mechanics.  Tons of books have been written on the subject of changing your thinking.  Fear, which is a construct of our brain, holds people back from executing the tough stuff.  Maybe instead of taking giant leaps forward all the time, we just need to take baby steps and get closer to our dreams.

We need to give ourselves a break from being our worst critics.

It’s hard to achieve a goal and one should be praised for getting it.  Why is a reaching a goal worthy of praise? People forget how hard the journey itself is.  The journey is where we learn how to be the best parts of ourselves, through the learning and the mistakes.  We survive somehow.  It doesn’t make you weak if you don’t succeed at something.  The fact that you tried anything at all should demonstrate how strong you are.  And if you dust yourself off and try again, you are even stronger for doing so.

Success is 99 percent failure.

-Soichiro Honda

So instead of making a list of unrealistic new year’s resolutions that you may achieve a little but then give up on by March, maybe just tell yourself that you aren’t going to make them anymore.  I haven’t made new year’s resolutions in years because I think they are a waste of time and energy.  I’d rather just go on impulse and do whatever I want no matter what time of year it is.

I bought a guitar at the beginning of December 2016 and want to learn how to play it.  Doesn’t mean I’ll succeed but I’m going to give it a go.  I tried to learn by watching YouTube videos but quickly realized that my fingertips weren’t hitting the strings or frets correctly and my posture was completely off.  The strumming didn’t sound right either.  Rather than learning how to play badly without one-on-one instruction, I just figured I’d pay someone to teach me.

Like everyone else, I figured that it was cheaper and just as good to try something on my own. But unlike everyone else, I didn’t give up when I didn’t get it. I changed my mindset to accept that I am not a guitar teacher and I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s better I hire a professional to save me time and energy!

In my first lesson, my instructor helped me loosen the grip on my hands.  He watched me and taught me how to make it feel natural playing chords and strumming the guitar.  I wouldn’t have learned these tricks on my own. I’m not the expert.  Just check out the hundreds of ads on Kijiji where people have written that they bought the guitar on a whim and only ended up playing it a couple times because life got in the way. Basically, for the people who didn’t want to invest in the journey, they gave up.

It doesn’t matter to me that I become an expert at the guitar. I want to play it as a stress reliever because I’ve always loved music. When I was a child, I learned to play a variety of instruments (accordion, harmonium, sitar, clarinet and saxophone) and I remember how good it felt to play a song.  When I was 17, I stopped playing the saxophone because I hated band practice!

So why did I quit music if I loved it so much? I used to force myself to practice at least an hour and I absolutely loathed it.  Knowing what I know now, it was a mistake to make my practice sessions so long to the point that I hated practice at the end of it.  I thought I was being disciplined and everyone else in band was practicing at least an hour a day (or so I thought).  Unfortunately, it made me hate playing music so much that I ended up quitting it for almost 20 years.

Now when I practice the guitar, I don’t practice for an hour.  I practice until my fingers start to hurt too much and then I stop.  That’s maybe 20-30 mins at a time, and sometimes even less. As I build up the calluses, I know I’ll play longer. My goal is just to play what I learned quicker and better than when I started the practice.  If I achieve that, I stop when I reach my high point. It leaves me with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I’m farther now than I was before.  Good enough is good enough.

How many of you reading this were musicians, dancers, athletes once and have given up because the practice schedule felt overwhelming to you and now you have given it up permanently?

 It’s always a good idea to invest in yourself and work towards personal development.

Sometimes you have to fight yourself against yourself too.  Your inner critic is always waiting for you to fail so why not shut him/her up by changing your mindset?  Push out the negative thoughts and pull in the positive ones.  It’s easier said than done and takes practice. But that’s the Law of Attraction and manifestation for you!

Forget Monday or New Year’s Day.  Start your goals today.  Don’t think in terms of calendars anymore.

Here are some journalling prompts in case you are thinking about goal setting now:

  • What goals are you trying to achieve?
  • What have you started and given up on?
  • Why did you give up?
  • Was there anything you’ve stuck to long-term?
  • What made you stick with something longer than another goal you gave up on quickly?

In the meantime, what is your advice for those of us trying to stick to our goals: resolutions or otherwise?  Have you successfully stuck to a new year’s resolution?  Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know!