The Subtle Art of Relaxation

I gaze at my candle, at my sacred images and objects, a mishmash of cultures and references that are all significant to me. There’s a quote from the Little Prince, my recent Osho card drawn from my deck, a photo of me when I’m four years old laughing over something which was obviously hilarious. There’s a heartfelt letter from me to me up there too (more on writing letters to self coming soon!). And there are other important objects present on the simple, wooden platform that serves as my alter. A Ganesha button from my yoga teacher training, a beautiful rock with purple crystals from Senegal gifted to me by my best friend. A maple leaf coaster lies underneath the candle and incense gently snakes its way around it all while filling the room with the bitter sweet fragrance of palo santo. Kora music plays from one of my favourite Youtube recordings (check it out here, especially the piece that unfolds starting at 38:38!).

I feel myself smiling, relaxing and breathing deeper. Finally, the stresses and overstimulation of the day melt away. Much like the candle flame is slowly melting away the wax.

And I take a moment to muse about the subtle art of relaxation.

So normal for some of us, and so foreign to others. As anything, it is a question of practice.
In my travels I have found that in general (and yes, this is a major generalization), the people and cultures of the South (I’m thinking latinos, the Caribbean, Africans) are far more relaxed than their colder, Northern counterparts. In some ways they are also further along the Zen path of simply being and accepting what is (and goodness do I admire folks like that!) Granted, the heat has something to do with that, because, let’s face it: when it’s hot all you want to do is lie next to (or in) a pool and sip sweet drinks with umbrellas sticking out of them. But what about when we find ourselves far from a pool, in the cool of winter, and in our “daily grind” and with no time or thought allotted to relaxation?

I truly believe that relaxation is as essential to our well-being as good, nutritious food, quality sleep and loving relationships. And yet, how many of us really work at honing this art of relaxation? How many of us can afford to take a moment to breathe deeply, settle into the here and now and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds (and thoughts!) that soothe our souls?

We talk about experimenting with different diets to see what feels good in our bodies. We’ve opened up the dialogue sexually to explore what brings pleasure to ourselves and to our partners.

But what about when it’s just you, and you have some time, even if it’s only 15 minutes, and you want to relax and unwind. Are you able to do so? Honestly, sometimes watching yet another movie or TV show just doesn’t feel right. Certainly, perusing my phone for the 30th time that day and opening Instagram does not feel relaxing at all. Not when something essential inside is prodding me to take time for me, truly to be with me, and to relax and ease my way into an evening.

You may tell me that you are too busy for this. That relaxation is a luxury reserved for few. And indeed, our high-speed modernity has turned anything time consuming and enjoyable into a sought after commodity. Yet, I argue that relaxation, and its art of enjoyment, has its place in our wellness regimen also.

As this on-point article about slowing down to reduce stress from Psychology Today points out: “Many people live in a constant state of high alert and high anxiety—sympathetic nervous system arousal—even though there’s no immediate threat. Three of the recognized causes for this are our fast-paced, never-enough-time-to-do-everything lifestyle; sensory overload (exacerbated by multitasking); and the media’s distorted but relentless suggestion that danger lurks around every corner. The parasympathetic nervous system—the system that produces a calm and relaxed state—is underactive. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, we can restore the balance. With that balance restored, we naturally slow down our pace of life.”

Relaxation does encourage us to slow down. It doesn’t mean that if we slow down we’re going to suddenly do everything slower. Fear not, your go-go energizer bunny self can still re-emerge the following day. But in order for bunny to keep giving.. give it a chance to unwind, to breathe deeper, and to allow your whole system – body, mind and soul – to recharge.

Can you visualize that whirling download spiral that spins around when you’re downloading a large file? The one you gaze at absentmindedly while waiting for your document/video/zip file to save into Downloads. Yup, that one. Take a moment to recognize that your system – your mind and body – are also downloading and processing everything that you’ve been thinking and doing and the people you’ve been interacting with during this past day and week. It takes time, you need some time. Ask yourself if you can give yourself permission to slow down, even if just a little.

–> Recognize that every time you take time for you, and for your own self-care, you are also serving the other people around you, those that you take care of,  that look up to you, the ones that need you. <–

Relax. Breathe deep…and start honing the subtle art of your own relaxation practice. Please also take the time to report back and let us know how it goes!

p.s. want to hear about one of the amazing side-effects of slowing down and relaxing? When practiced regularly it opens up space inside of you and welcomes in creativity. Creativity is much like water.. it needs some space and room to flow and move. Relaxation provides that necessary space. While relaxing you may find yourself reaching for your pencil crayons and doodling. Your hips may move involuntarily as you begin to dance. You may want to sing a song. You may reach for your notebook and write down some new ideas for that work project you’ve been stuck on.

Or, lo and behold…

you may reach for your laptop and start writing… which, in case you were wondering, is exactly how this post came to be! 🙂

*** image courtesy of Pxhere.com

The Pancha-what? First trip to an Indian Ashram.

How does one summarize 2 weeks  experience of a first-time in India, first-time in an Ashram and first-time doing a Panchakarma program?
With a first-rate smile, I hope.

First, let’s define the terms we’ll be referring to:

1. India, in this case the deep south-west, the province of Kerala. After flying into Trivanandrum (also known as Thiruvananthapuram – I dare you to say that 10 times fast) we take a one hour taxi ride to a village where there is a Sivananda Ashram sitting next to a gigantic river that looks like a lake and where apparently crocodiles abound and tigers can be heard roaring in the surrounding lush greenery. Inside the Ashram everything is peaceful, safe and very orderly. Schedules are set and almost everything is repeated twice daily – morning and evening satsang (which includes meditation, chanting, lectures and more chanting), morning and evening meals, and morning and afternoon yoga (asana) practice. In between our Ashram schedule our group follows the Panchakarma treatments. The Pancha-what? Pour yourself some warm drinking water and read on.

2. Panchakarma, is an Ayurvedic (a sister-science to yoga, Ayurveda is India’s branch of traditional medicine) detoxification program which goes in 3 steps. First, for 5-7 days, you go through a series of daily massages, scrubs and steam-bath treatments all meant to drive toxins into your GI tract for further elimination. Starting from Day 1 we all go on a twice daily calorie-limited, veggies and rice dominant, gentle meal plan. We drink herbal teas twice daily, and in between meals, if you’re like me, you feel empty, light and hungry. Which is fine because you meander your way over to yoga practice, attempt a headstand, do some meditation, have a scrub and then lie down for a nap. After the first week starts the elimination of toxins from the GI tract and this is achieved primarily through: one day of drinking castor oil + medicine (easily the most disgusting thing I have ever swallowed in my life) which cleans your gut out thoroughly, followed by several days intermittent small-oil enemas and larger-herbal enemas. Yup, that’s right, this involves having various fluids put up your bum and running quickly to the loo. The third part of the cleanse happens outside of the clinic (and in our case, the Ashram) as you follow up the treatment by keeping to a restricted veggie diet, and do your best to avoid coffee, wine, cheese, bread and all of the other culinary joys that life holds for at least 2 weeks to a month*.

3. The Ashram. Is a place of peace and spiritual retreat. They also run a tight ship with a strict schedule. See point no. 1 for the general schedule.

We were lucky in that several days after our arrival there was a separate dormitory space designated for us Panchakarma ladies, and since many of our fellow detoxifiers had private rooms, these dorms were pretty empty and peaceful and just for us. That put me at ease for the shitty part of our program because at least in this way I didn’t have to disturb my fellow yoga vacationers with my personal orchestra of sounds and smells.

I would recommend spending time at an Ashram for anyone looking for a place of retreat far from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Requirements: adaptability to a strict schedule, open-mindedness to questions of religion and faith (if you’re singing “Jaya Ganesha, Shree Ganesha, Siva Guru etc.” and feeling at odds with the God of your own religion, then this is not the place for you) and a general good, positive attitude. The Internet is limited, the lush-greenness ever present and the opportunities for meditation and reflection abundant. You’ll also need to get used to doing yoga in loose-fitting clothing since tights and what we in the West would normally classify as yoga clothes are not allowed.

I loved being there and soaking in the meditative vibes (except for the evening satsang and meditation which was misery for me as I would consistently fall asleep!) and some of the realities of the Ashram life were also quite amusing:

– while at morning meditation, in my attempts to practice Ahimsa (non-violence) I transformed myself into a living mosquito buffet as I was besieged by our buzzing brothers. They went for many of us seated there that morning, undiscriminating in their choice of breakfast. Initially, I hesitated to slap and squelch. While my survival instinct is strong I admit there was something that felt very sacrilegious about killing anything in an ashram temple surrounded by the smiling images of the divine (wave hello to Krishna!). So I grinned and bore it, that first time, and 40 mosquito bites later I abandoned all pretense at meditation. Every time after that I doused myself in deep forest mosquito repellent beforehand in order to save my exhausted mind from early morning philosophical dilemmas

– our Ayurveda doctors strictly forbade the consumption of sugar and caffeine, a restriction that was made troublesome by the offering of morning post-meditation masala chai tea (oh heavenly beverage!) and crunchy cookies and other goodies coming fresh from blessings at the alter, then offered to the participants. Many a time we would go up for our cookie and receive raised eyebrows in return since some of the staff knew that we were following a Panchakarma program. We would then have to convince them to hand the cookie over while reassuring them that we were fully aware that the cookie was not allowed. I savoured every little morsel of that forbidden sweetness! I’ve never felt less guilty about breaking the rules since I considered this treat my reward for waking up so darn early.

– while attempting a dynamic sun-salutation during asana practice and tripping over my loose-fitting pants between lunges. I’ve found a new appreciation for my lululemon leggings which, alas, were obliged to lay peacefully in my backpack for the duration of the trip.

In other news, here’s a snarky tidbit written during our flight back to Paris while enjoying airplane insomnia:

Ah, the wonders of yoga. I knew it would have practical, real-life applications. Ever mindful of my sleeping neighbours, squished as I am in my seat between dozing Indians somewhere between 4 and 5 am flying above Saudi Arabia, I tap a friend in the seat diagonally up and left of mine so that he evacuates his spot. I then am free to perform feats of flexibility as I crawl above seats and sleeping passengers to release myself from my human sandwich and go pee. And Stretch. I’ve been watching an excellent French comedy and while I’ve been chortling at the ludicrous situations the movie characters are playing out I’m reflecting on the past two weeks and seeing my own hilarity much more clearly. Panchakarma, the Ashram and all of our personalities combined have written quite the screenplay.

I hear a tinkle of glasses in the elite class in front of the plane and imagine the Champagne pouring. Good thing we’re not flying business after all since we are not allowed to drink a drop of alcohol for at least a month after our Panchakarma detoxifying program. The Panchakarma treatment is quite restrictive in what we can and can not eat and do. Mostly they recommend lots of rest and napping. Once you digest the instructions you start to wonder at the irony of actually paying to travel to India in order to:

– eat bland ayurvedic food instead of delicious Indian cuisine (just kidding, it really wasn’t that bad, but just a bit repetitive)

– avoid the sunshine and sunbathing (not allowed in Panchakarma). Five extra points to us for travelling to India during rainy season.

– avoid swimming in cold water and taking cold showers (well, quite frankly, I wasn’t too sure of the local crocodile population in the river anyhow, so…)

– have medically induced diarrhea

(yes, you read correctly, I traveled thousands of miles to a tropical country to pay a doctor in order to get the runs, on purpose). 

The lip-curling, ironic parts of this trip are dripping like honey on my coconut chapati. I actually burst out laughing a few times startling my fellow airplane passengers out of their sleep. Oops.

As I watch the minutes count down to our descent into Paris I wonder just how well our group will do with keeping to the doctor’s orders of no-meat, no-alcohol, no-caffeine and no-bread. I remember nodding keenly during our final consultation and swearing fidelity to the program for the 14-days following our stay in India, as prescribed. But with every minute we speed towards the land of savoury wines, fresh baguettes and over 1000 varieties of cheese. How on Earth will we see our Panchakarma through to the end? Since Pancha means five, in sanscrit, and karma means action, once we land I’m counting to five and taking action at the first boulangerie that I see*!

* It’s 6 days post-Ashram and I’m happy to report that our entire group has failed spectacularly in this last step. Sorry Doctor Vishnu, but the realities and temptations of France were too much to handle! Nevertheless, for me personally, keeping a mostly caffeine and meat free diet and continuing with daily yoga and meditation still keeps my mind and body feeling very good.

On blessings, dreams, new beginnings and giving myself the recognition that I long for

I count myself as one of the blessed on this planet, the oh-so-very blessed. Not only because my cup overflows with good health, happiness, a quick wit and an ease and pleasure for contact with others. These are infinite blessings in and of themselves, you might think I have it all already… and yet I humbly recognize that there is more. My greatest blessing I believe to be this one special something, this mystery, this force, this connection that allows me to dream my dreams, plan their realization and then – I shudder with happiness and amazement just to type the words – live my dreams in reality.

It is a sudden, heart-stopping surprise to realize in this moment that I am living a reality I dreamed of and planned for in my past. When thought becomes material, when my heart recognizes that it has been heard and is being cared for… this is pure magic to me.

This week, a new dream I have dreamed has taken form. I have moved to Africa, I am living in Africa, and I am blessed with work that fills my career values in a most beautiful way, in Africa. Yes, I dreamed of Africa (lol). My fourth continent, a new expatriation, my desire to feed this curiosity and longing to understand the world and its people is being nurtured. I feel fulfilled, and it’s only the beginning! I am in the sunshine of Dakar, Senegal after a vibrant week of meetings, training and integration. My boss who accompanied me during this first week has returned to France, and I am here now to continue the work with our local team, clients and partners. I also have the time and opportunity to pursue so many other pleasures, be they music, travel, culture, sports or activities or places I have not even heard of yet. Again, I marvel that all of this can really be true.

Also, I am amazed and humbled to see some of my own wisdom and life experience and especially all that I have learned from Tara Shakti, my study and work as a coach with Awakening Coaching and my beginning steps into the exploration of Buddhism serving me oh-so-very well. All speak of practice and of looking inside to recognize the comings and goings of the internal Universe. In the last years I have been slowly and surely incorporating many practices into my days – different forms of meditation, yoga, internal dialogue and regular nudges out of my comfort zones are a part of my world now.

This week my practice has been simple and profound: it is the practice of recognizing and loving myself.

For as I find myself living my dreams and connecting with my gratitude for all that I have, I also find myself in completely new surroundings, in a place I do not know yet around people who do not yet know me. In addition, I am new to the industry I am working in (maritime insurance and merchandise surveying) and this triggers ancient beliefs of “I’m not good enough” or “I am not competent” which in turn trigger a profound desire to shout from the Dakar rooftops into the hot sun all of my prior accomplishments. I am competent and smart in so many other things, darn it! Perhaps if I force-feed this information into whoever cares to listen then and only then will all of my intelligence, big heart, sensitivity and depth be recognized. “You do not know me yet Dakar, so let me scream to you my value so that you will recognize me now!” …and when I realize this internal desire, this feeling like a bruised ego, I chuckle to myself. The chuckle turns into a smile. Perhaps this is exactly the opportunity my heart has been asking for. The opportunity to give recognition and to give love to myself.

And so, in the midst of this bustling work week, in the pauses in the back of taxis as we inch our way through traffic, I close my eyes and I pray and speak to myself. “I see you, I recognize you“, I remind myself. “I can see your bravery, I can see how much in your life is new right now”. Brand and shining new, from location to work to people. and “I recognize you and your journey”. I take a deep breath and let the recognition sink in. And I recognize you again, and again and again, Katalina. I speak to me.

And I needed (continue to need!) to hear and to feel it again.

It it not so much a mantra, as a strong reminder. Beyond the reminder it is a big, internal hug to myself. A bear hug.

This is turning into a profound exploration of what it means to be my own best friend. What it means to be my own anchor, my own center. It is also the first time in my adult life that I am single. This too is an opportunity! Before, it was one kind of a teaching to share my life, hopes and dreams with a partner and to be recognized in his eyes…and it is a whole other kind of teaching to share my life, hopes and dreams with my own light and to recognize myself and my own wisdom in my own eyes. It fills and fulfills me in a way that feels right and healthy. And, what’s more, I believe it greatly influences all of my relationships, new and old. I hope that it means that meetings with others and sharing can be enjoyed for their own sake and for the complementary nature and pleasure of another energy and heart. It all shifts, doesn’t it, when I’m not seeking outside of myself to fulfill my own basic needs.

So here I am…stepping out yet again to meet and discover this new place and new people. I continue to pray and to recognize that Universe always has my best interests at heart. I am well cared for, and I am exactly where I need to be right now.

And, I am discovering, I already carry within me all that I have so deeply longed for.

Photo by Jonathan Kos-Read

The Greatest Gift

I couldn’t ask for a better dose of inspiration this morning then to work on compiling all of my notes, materials and recordings from the past 8 months of Awakening Coaching…and to finally write this blog post that has wanted to express itself for some time.

It’s Christmas.

Some time at around this time in 2014, I was sitting on a stone wall in the sunshine of Cap-Haitien, in a courtyard green with palms and shrubs, a wall away from a busy street.  Hot, afternoon haze, women walking by selling fruits, peanuts, soap and underwear, and stray dogs barking, motorcycles flying by and horns honking.  I was visiting the office of my first host institution in Haiti; I had come there a year earlier on an internship.  Now, I had a different job, but I was still in that area, keeping touch with the dear people who had first introduced me to their unique country.  I had an afternoon off, or perhaps the week (I think in the Caribbean it’s harder to tell when you’re working and when you’re not!) and one of my favourite drivers had a moment free too. So, we had a chat.

We had always had good conversations, this driver and I.  He tells me about his big family and extended relations.  We both love the mountains and the Haitian countryside as well as the more festive and party atmosphere of the city. And we both enjoy driving. He’s just one of those people, those kindred spirits, that I can see eye to eye with right away. Every time we cross paths he embraces me warmly, as if I were one of his many daughters.

He’s a smart guy; he’s curious and an observer. That day, he got me going on a familiar topic: The how and why of the Haitians in Haiti dreaming a singular dream – get the heck out of their country and find a “better” life elsewhere.

“You know, people are people, so it’s not like it’s so very different elsewhere”, I began, “It’s love, life, work, daily activities, and people’s emotions wherever you go.”

I continued.

“Your problems don’t just magically disappear when you leave Haiti (contrary to popular belief). Yes, these other countries are much more organized.  Physically, they are more comfortable.  There is plenty of electricity, water and food.  You can get these things when you have some money. You can also rely on the police when you call them in an emergency; the systems work, the government is pretty stable and we don’t have political uprisings every week.  Then again, I assure you, people in Canada, the USA and all over the world, have many problems of their own. Simply, they usually have problems of a different nature.  People have depression, anxiety, they live in a lot of mental fear. They often feel very alone. Some people commit suicide, some young people too.”

Thinking back on that conversation now, it’s as if I were saying that a migration out of Haiti is a move towards freeing oneself from material-based problems and going deeper into thought-based problems.  Like fighting less external demons and facing more inner demons.  Point being, for most, the fighting continues.

We continued our talk. I was not surprised when I asked him, that a suicide occurring in Cap-Haitien is a very rare event.  A once-in-every-twenty-years kind of thing. In this city bustling with activity, full to the brim with youth and with the adamant need for survival, no one is seriously considering taking their own life.  Communities know each other, families interact constantly, many people live together in close quarters and privacy is an occasional concept. Then again, you never feel alone or separate.  In general, people don’t struggle with existential questions of what they should or shouldn’t do – they simply do.  When you’re poor, daily survival takes up a lot of time – getting the water, hauling it in buckets, making your food, taking a shower and washing the dishes all take more time and more logistical creativity.  By the time you’re done surviving, it’s time to sleep again.  The intellectual or the spiritual realms are rare treats, to be dabbled in perhaps, but for which there is little time left over and relatively few resources available.  Sitting around and asking big questions is a luxury left over for the wealthy.

But do we, as the wealthy ones, actually take advantage of this luxury? Or, instead, do we set the bar higher for what is considered “survival” (an annual salary like this, a sizeable home like that, a nice vehicle) and continue in this crazy dance forever?

We as Westerners, live in a world of thought-based problems. Problems that can be argued are real (planning for retirement, choosing a career and doing our part to halt global warming) and that, in this very moment, for you, exist uniquely in your mind.  As you are reading these words, you are simply here.  You are hearing sounds around you, you are seeing shape, colour and texture in the images that are before your eyes, and you are experiencing sensations in your body.  None of these experiences, of hearing, seeing and feeling actually take any effort or thought to occur.  How often do we experience the present moment as it is? How often are we in our thoughts, thinking of a past we have a skewed memory of and dwelling on a future we can’t predict? And for what? One might say, to work hard now to gain the freedom for resting later.  In my experience, however, this is simply not true, because constant doing and thinking are forms of addiction. If we do not practice being present with what is real now, today, we will not master it for later… and our mind will continue to create problems and introduce more fear regardless of whatever security we think we have gained.  We will be caught in the endless cycle of surviving our mind’s increasingly inventive insanity. We will very likely change our standards for survival to continue the addiction we have grown used to.

Right now, some of us have a unique opportunity to live in comfort, in relative luxury, and to learn the nature of mind and connect with our hearts’ inner longings.  I wonder how many of us are actually taking advantage of this luxury. I wonder how many of us are squandering this incredible gift.

It’s Christmas.

Rest assured, I wonder this for myself also.

The books we read matter: my 2015 literary highlights

Dear fellow book lover,

I’m one of those people who is usually reading a half-dozen books at the same time, jumping from chapter to chapter, readings parts, coming back to titles later than planned or never at all.  You’ve likely met a few of my breed before 🙂 So, while 2015 has been a transformative and unique year…it has also been special in that I have actually started and finished a few great books! Some are novels, some are spiritual, some are from the realm of awakening coaching and others are in a class I have yet to define.  Each one comes with a unique story about the how and why the book came into my life, so in sharing these titles with you, I can also share some of 2015. Enjoy!

lenigmeduretourBefore the year began, I had returned to Haiti with an audiobook version of Dany Lafarrière’s “l’Énigme du retour“. This favourite Haitian-Canadian author shares his own experiences returning to his home country after many years of exile.  He describes Haiti and its colours, odours and experiences so perfectly.  As an immigrant he understands in full this incredible pull to that place where we come from and to which we no longer belong.  I started this book while leaving my own ancestral land, that place called Poland, after a half-year return of my own after many, many years of living elsewhere (see: “la polonaise-canadienne“).

agroforestryguideThe Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands” by Craig R. Elevitch and Kim M. Wilkinson was my Permaculture and polyculture guide for learning about useful plants, herbs, trees and companion planting in the tropics. Reference books are never read cover to cover (are they?) but rather skimmed for the useful bits…plenty of which are found in this incredible volume.

wholesomefearTaking a look at “Wholesome Fear: Transforming Your Anxiety About Impermanence and Death” by Lama Zoma Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald was inspired by a desire for a deepening on the meditations on death and impermanence found in McDonald’s book “How to Meditate” that I have been using as my main meditation guide for the past several years. I love the meditations on death and impermanence because they always change my perspective on my own struggles and bigger questions by making me refocus on my priorities. As the book description states: “With the right perspective, our anxiety around sickness, old age, and death can be a “wholesome fear”–a fear with a positive quality that ultimately enriches and nourishes our lives.” I enjoy the authors’ compassionate sincerity and simple, clear messages in this book.

theprophetI am still flabbergasted that it took me nearly a quarter of a century to discover Kahlil Gibran and his incredible book “The Prophet“.  Thank you Osiris for this introduction! It’s only after reading it, that I learned it is in fact a very famous book.  Perhaps that is why it felt so special in the first place; I thought I had unearthed a gem few had ever seen before. 😉 As it turns out the pure love and wisdom that flows here is of the life essence itself and absolutely to be shared by as many as possible! If you have not read this yet, treat yourself to heart-healing-by-poetry right away. My favourite chapters are those on Love, Work, Marriage and Friendship. I continue to read and re-read them. I remember sitting by the water in Fort-Liberté with friends and reading bit of it to each other out loud : )

bettersexNext on the list is Arjuna Ardagh’s “Better than Sex” a mandatory (ah, should all new chapters in life come with a mandatory book this good!!) read for beginning my education in awakening coaching.  If you are curious about what on this blessed Earth could actually be better than sex… this short, sweet and direct book will quench your curiosity right away. Highly, highly recommend!

tomsawyerAs chance would have it this past spring, I also meandered over to the municipalhobbit library in Fort-Liberté, essentially one big room with a lot of books in many languages piled sky high with little order to them, and found Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” lying there.  A needle in a haystack would have amazed me less than these two, classic novels (in English!) found in a library in a small city in very-far-away-from-anywhere Haiti.  That circumstance alone made these two great titles all the greater for it.  I had forgotten how quaint “The Hobbit” really is. I think it was my first time reading “Tom Sawyer”. Yes, yes… that last comment deserves almost the same level of flabbergastedness as with Gibran 🙂

thehelpSince we’re on the novel train, I absolutely need to mention “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. Thank you Sarah for this recommendation! It’s a tale about the making of a powerful and well-told tale, and it’s set in small-town Mississippi in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement.  There is a good movie based on the book too!  Two thumbs up for sure.

leaplookSometime in the early summer, “Leap before you look” came to me as a holiday read between awakening coaching classes.  The practices in this little book are magical, sometimes daring and always guaranteed to snap you out of your mind and right into the present moment.  This is my current go-to book when I’m looking to get un-stuck about something in my life.

feedingdemonsNext, and very importantly, I dove into Lama Tsultrim Allione’s “Feeding your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict“.  This title I turned to out of need in a time when I felt that my own inner battles needed to be addressed using a fresh approach and new tools.  I found an excellent tool here.  It is a meditation and visualization practice that uncovers and addresses a practitioner’s demon’s needs directly – thus ‘feeding’ the demon (and preserving the practitioner from being ‘fed on’ unconsciously). The author herself explains “that if we fight our demons, they only grow stronger. But if we feed them, nurture them, we can free ourselves from the battle.” I think this book has been my initiation into recognizing and accepting the darker parts of myself.

languageemotionsThe “Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren has also been a very important title for me this year. I’m very grateful to my sister for recommending both this title and “Feeding your demons” to me.  In “Language of Emotions” the focus is on understanding what our different emotions are trying to tell us.  The truth is, anger, fear, confusion, grief, joy and so many of our other emotions, whether we think they are good, bad or we try not to think about them at all, carry important messages to us all the time.  The book description starts with: “Your emotions contain brilliant information. When you learn to welcome them as your allies, they can reveal creative solutions to any situation.” Currently, I’m using this as something of a go-to book as well in situations when I’m confused about why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. Ah, the learning continues! 🙂

endpovertySwitching gears somewhat, I certainly enjoyed Jeffrey Sachs’ “The End of Poverty:Economic possibilities of our Time” especially in its excellent and summary of world history and the different geo-political divisions present today. There certainly are economic concepts here that are over my head, and so I’ll be happy to go back and re-read some sections soon.

diamondcutterMeanwhile, the “Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on managing your business and your life” by Geshe Michael Roach came into my willing heart while staying with friend Ania in Cabarete.  I took it out for a first, evening read on the grass by the beach and knew that we would be friends for life.  When spirituality meets business, I’m very satisfied 🙂 This is an excellent book full of Buddhist wisdom intertwined with really interesting stories of the diamond industry. “Geshe Michael gives fresh insight into ancient wisdom by using examples from his own experience as one of the founders of the Andin International Diamond Corporation, which was started with capital of fifty thousand dollars and which today has annual sales in excess of one hundred million dollars. Much of the success of Andin has come from applying the business strategies presented in The Diamond Cutter. Geshe Michael’s easy style and spiritual understanding make this work of timeless wisdom an invaluable source for those already familiar with, and those unfamiliar with, Tibetan Buddhism.” Highly recommend!

desiremapShortly after, a new genius entered my life of the name of Danielle Laporte and her book “The Desire Map“.  Why a genius, you may ask? Because the concept is so simple and so right that it has stuck to me like glue.  Laporte argues that in our intentions and goal-setting we are not actually chasing the outcome or the thing itself: the better relationships, bigger businesses or new houses.  We are actually pursuing the feeling that we think we will feel once we have these things. Truth bomb. So, the book walks you gracefully through identifying what it is that you want to be feeling. We call these core desired feelings. This book and method speak to me in a big way. Thank you, sister!

alchemistA few weeks ago, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist“, this time in French, found its way unto my lap. I loved this the first time through, and it’s even better the second time around. This is also a big bestseller, if you haven’t boarded the alchemist or the Paulo Coelho bandwagon yet… there is still time! 🙂

ciderhouseOh, the power of the written word. I also decided to dabble in John Irving for the first time with “The Cider House Rules“.  The writing style amazes me; it is craftsmanship absolutely worthy of praise. The topic is… heavy. We’re talking about a story about an orphanage and about the abortion debate for goodness sakes.  This novel is to me like the jaw-dropping admiration of an incredible art piece in a gallery – an art piece that is quite sinister and makes me feel uncomfortable, so that I am certain I would never, ever hang it in my house.  I did not finish this novel; I left it half done.

There have also been parts read and re-read of “The Transluscent Revolution” also by Arjuna Ardagh that are inspiring with their clarity, as always.

Rumi has also entered my life although in sections and chapters and never yet a full book in one go. I am so happy to welcome poetry into myself… I am in good company with Gibran and Rumi!

For all of these incredible books and time spent in reader’s paradise I have to thank my sister, Osiris, Ania, Florence, Alex, Adèle, Sarah and of course Arjuna and all the authors. It’s good to know that all the wisdom is within me and reassuring to be able to reach for a great book, poem or a story when I need someone else to spell out that wisdom letter-by-letter to me 🙂

Well it has been a beautiful year, and one for which I am filled with gratitude.

What about you? What have been your favourite books, poems and stories this year? How did these authors come into your life? From one reader to another, I am eager to hear about your own literary pearls of wisdom!

With warm wishes,

Kasia

Just let go of the bar – Kite-surfing’s big life lesson

Rule #1 when you’re learning kite surfing: when it gets challenging, too strong or scary, just let go of the bar.  The bar is how you steer and control the kite flying above you, this fabric and lines that captures the incredible power of the wind and propels you forward with it. It takes practice to be comfortable and consistent in manoeuvring the kite well, and in the meantime you’re making mistakes and getting thrown around by the force of the wind. The first thing you learn is the golden rule of kiting: when it gets to be too much and too strong, all you have to do is let go of the bar.

When you let go of the bar, releasing it away from your body, the lines slacken and the kite loses its force and comes back down to the ground (or water). It’s still attached to you so you won’t lose it, but you are safe and you can’t get pulled, as the kite no longer has any power over you. You can take a breath… and try again.

It is this release, this surrender in light of ‘too much’ that first attracted me to kite-surfing. 

You see, I’ve noticed in myself that when I get scared and when I panic in real life, my natural reaction is to bring my panic closer to my body, to bring my stress back into myself. In the world of kite surfing this would be the equivalent of bringing the bar closer to you instead of away from you when the kite feels unstable.  This is disastrous because in this way you tighten the lines and give the kite more, not less, strength…and that’s when things get super crazy and the kite spins completely out of control, taking you along with it for a hellish ride.  In this panic you can easily hurt yourself, and you endanger other people and kite-surfers in the water with you.

In a moment of ‘too much’ in kite-surfing when you react with more fear, tension and closing in on your body, you only create more trouble, give more strength to the kite and end up falling flat on your face.  Instead of freaking out when it gets too tough, you just have to let go.

This past June I really freaked out when my own life got to feel like ‘too much’ and my plans and projects in Haiti came shattering down.  I reacted by applying more tension on the events and ended up putting even more stress and pain in my life and in the lives of those affected by my decisions.  The result was a sudden and dramatic departure from Haiti, and many weeks of healing and reconciliation with myself just to be able to breathe again.  I could have let go, I could have ‘released the bar’, but I reacted with panic and fear instead. This did not serve me at all.

Of course I’ve known about letting go and surrender for a long time and I did my best to apply the theory to my life.  But it also really helped to feel this ‘letting go’ directly in my body as I went through the kite-surfing course, learned, screwed up and then had to release the bar.  The ten-ish hours I’ve spent on the beach this past week learning kite-surfing has shown me time and time again, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that releasing in times of fear and panic is the only safe and sane thing to do.  If you don’t you’re likely to not only hurt yourself but you can also easily hurt and scare others.  Just like back in June.  Just like well… so many other situations in life.

Right now, it is irrelevant whether or not I continue working in Haiti in the future, just like it’s irrelevant whether or not I continue kite-surfing.  What matters is that in this moment, in order to release the pressure of ‘too much’,  I learned to completely let go. So that I can take a deep breath, come back to centre and… start again.

That being said, kite-surfing is a pretty sweet sport.  With my instructor’s voice in my ears ‘suave’, ‘despacio’ and ‘suelta la barra’ ringing in my ears, my appreciation of kite-surfing and of its golden rule grows stronger every day.  Plus, it’s an amazing workout and you get to hang out on the beach and in the water – what’s not to love?

As an aside, if you’re ever in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, look up Aryen of AGK: www.AGKiteboarding.com He’s a great teacher and professional and also has tons of experience teaching kids. And when you do, don’t forget to tell him that you already know about the golden rule of kite-surfing… at least, in theory 🙂

Day #1 of kite-surfing. Learning the kite, on the beach.

Day #1 of kite-surfing. Learning the kite, on the beach.

kiteday1(2)

kiteday1(1)

Attending my first buddhist teachings: 2 days with the Dzogchen Ponlop Rimpoche in Vancouver

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

You may have noticed my blog entries as of late have been sporadic at best, and non-existent for the most part. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have noticed because you don’t read this blog anyways – who does – it’s not written particularly for anyone; keeping a blog was meant to keep me dedicated to my meditation and fasting. A place to report to everyday about my progress. I’m being brutally frank when I say that I’m not writing for others, I’m doing it for myself.

Well, as of late, there is much to report. I haven’t really been fasting – it’s turned into more mindful eating (I hope) and learning to eat when I’m hungry not when I think I should be hungry. The all-day every week fasts became too difficult to adhere to – I’m usually so active physically that my body is used to the fuel-burn-refuel rhythm and to suddenly go into stasis once a week is a shock to the system. Fasting also requires significant mental prep work and I began to tire of the mental stamina required of me. Not to mention the effect of a woman’s cycle which makes fasting very easy on certain days of the month and very difficult on others.  These aren’t excuses, simply observations. I’m feeling into new ways to fast and cleanse and rest the digestive system – ways which would allow the process to be more intuitive so that it can happen when its meant to happen not because a calendar entry says so.

Meditation – again, I realise that a regular meditation practice is one, if not the most important thing for my mind and being at this time in my life. I continuously observe the mind getting caught up in many stories, as it creates its own paradigm and continues to act from fear and fixation. Understanding and learning to quiet the mind is a crucial part of connecting with my heart and also with my intuition. It is with this intuition that I make so many of my choices, after all.

The buddhist teachings that I was able to attend these past 2 days in Vancouver have been a friendly, necessary reminder as to why a meditation practice is so important in my life. I take up the mantle of a daily practice yet again, the realisation still fresh in my mind.

My notes from teachings with the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The Rinpoche begins by asking a very valid question: if we are all so excited about transcending and going beyond, do we even know what it is we are wanting to go beyond? The trick is to know what to transform. This thing is the mind.

We enter into a discussion about happiness. Happiness is extremely personal – what makes one person joyous may be miserable to someone else. How we hold on to, create and pursue this elusive happiness is all rather complicated. But what is quite simple to us is the following: the nature of our own mind. We are in it, with it and a part of it every moment of our existence. It is not mysterious to us. Ultimately our own mind is much simpler and easier to understand than, for example, the idea of happiness.

The mind is like our roommate. One with which we’ve signed a life-long contract. Befriending the mind is important. It is the mind that creates every experience for us – the interpreter through which we experience all suffering, joy, every emotion and thought.

Sometimes, oftentimes, knowing the mind is not a comfortable thing. It is a very personal knowing. The patterns woven there should be acknowledged. They weave an intricate web of layers upon layers of pattern. Ultimately however these can be summed up into two categories: fixation and the emotional mind.

Thinking and fixation evolve from some level of fear. However, at its very core, a genuine sense of knowing at the heart level exists – this we call naked awareness or “Rigpa”. But there is no way to rest in the true and naked nature without knowing and understanding the mind first.

Day 2 teachings

What is Dzoghen? It is the natural state of our being. The state that is fundamentally free and aware. It is our real nature. The Dzogchen teachings help us to discover, or rather rediscover, this nature of Rigpa. Notice that the difference between Buddha nature and a confused mind lies in awareness. The difference is in the recognition of the mind and state of mind.

When you let go of your daily habits and of the clinging to the mind you are already going beyond. Taking that genuine leap (no safety cords attached!) you are able to experience a piece of that awakening. Working on that “ordinary” level, with the seemingly mundane everyday tasks, truly allows you to go beyond.

What do you do to bridge the gap between method and realisation? The only way is to be genuine, honest and brave. Have the courage to make mistakes!

Notes continued:
The in between: the meeting point between subject and object. Where they unite. That contact is where we experience awareness. This is what we call experience – when subject and object meet together. That’s where we find freedom. Awakening is found right here, within our experiences.

Remember: there is method and there is realisation. Methods (ie technique) are our tools – like meditation, prayer, awareness – these bring us to the realization.
Key point: work with the mind. If you don’t know the mind you cannot know Rigpa.

1152050_XAbout fixation: to simply experience, to be the observer and to simply experience, is difficult for a mind used to fixation.  A practice: close your eyes, and turn your head to one corner of the room or space you are in.  Open them and shut them again quickly.  Allow yourself just a flash of the visual before you; it is enough to discern the images before your eyes but not long enough to allow the mind to begin judging and labeling that which you see.  Close your eyes again, turn your head in a different direction and repeat the exercise.  Observe what it is to work with appearances and what it means to remain calm and to simply experience things the way in which they appear.  Fixation begins when we begin to own things… when we feel that we own our thoughts.

An interesting analogy: think of a dumbbell, a weight of about 30 kg, for example.  Imagine that you are holding this heavy weight in front of a mirror.  Look at what you see in the mirror – does the weight of the dumbbell show up?  Even though you see a reflection, the very moment that it appears, it does not exist there.  Our entire life is like this reflection – there is no weight attached.  Do not identify with your own experience and you will see how beautiful and liberating it can be. Leave appearance in its own place.

chainThoughts: a single thought in and of itself is not dangerous.  It is like one link in a chain; a link that stands alone is not a problem – in fact, like a smoke ring, it is beautiful alone – it is the many links bonded together that create the chain.  It’s that solidification process in which we think things through, and think them over again and again, that brings out our compulsive nature – the very nature that keeps us within the Samsara.  Have you noticed that we repeat the same actions (and thoughts) time and time again hoping for a different result? (Is this not the definition of insanity!).  Release and let go of thoughts – don’t hold on to them!

A word to the wise: if you ever feel jealousy, take that opportunity to rejoice for that person and their success!  You get free merit if you do this 😉

A mind full of excuses – Week 12 & 13

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Preamble: as work piles up and I gain direction and momentum in my life, I observe my attention slip away from meditation and into action. As you can see from my notes of the past 2 weeks I am still attempting to carve out time for the all-important mind-clearing… I’m successful at times, not so much in others. Truth be told, I’m sleepier than before, as if my mind is tired of slowing down only at the sleep level and wishes it to happen at the conscious level too.

An experiment indeed!

Meditation week 12 & 13
Sunday :
Monday: a blank
Tuesday :
Wednesday: yay – a whole 5 minutes. Watched my mood go from confused and muddled to settled and optimistic.. all I did was send out a little prayer to the universe and let her know that my trust is in her, always in her 🙂
Thursday:
Friday: 10 minutes were dedicated, and happily so, to prayer and conscious relaxation. It feels so good to relax but the moment my energy meter reads just 1% stronger I begin getting impatient and excited to work on all of my awesome projects. There is so much I want to DO!! I am a bubble of happy energy 🙂
Saturday: again, didn’t meditate so much as let my thought catch up with me. Simply sitting, and being and not doing was the most healing thing I could have done for myself.
Sunday:
Monday: Nearly overwhelmed by wave of sadness that came over. Many factors contributing to it, but you might say today’s meditation was time needed and spent on a good cry! Very healing crying is, it always is.
Tuesday:
Friday: the time that I set aside was filled with thoughts… I went instead to visual meditation and to my “peaceful place”. On another note I’ve been witness to amazing examples of direct manifestation – I have been consciously asking and receiving exactly what I need and desired at the perfect time. I feel in line and one with my intentions, the universe is openly supporting me, my biggest cheerleader unleashed 🙂
Saturday: once again I found some seemingly plausible excuses not to meditate. Argh.
Am missing fasting – perhaps I’ll give it another go?

Meditation week 10 & 11 – hanging on…

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Day 1: Sunday – no fasting, not much mindfulness either

Day 2: Monday – nope

Day 3: Tuesday – tried, only lasted about 8 min. and there was a lot of squirming at that.

Thursday : beautiful, sunny and energy filled day. I indulged in one of my favourite childhood addictions: the swing set. Taking the time to enjoy my surrounding and maybe even a quick nap on the sunny bench… 🙂

Week 11:

Day 2: Monday
Set aside 10 minutes today and watched feelings of tension and anxiety come up in response to all of the changes and decisions taking place in my life right now. It was difficult to keep the thought stream from slowing or dissipating… but I practiced it all the same. Have been reading about the Dalai Lama and buddhism and his words of inner peace ring loudly in my ears right now.

Day 7: saturday
Gave self 10 minutes to simpy catch up with self. Very helpful – I wish I had time for more! Correction: I wish I would make time for more.

As you can see the meditation is sporadic, at best, right now. The fasting has been replaced with mindful eating – these days I’m getting so much exercise (fitness classes, skiing, biking etc) that it’s increasingly difficult to fast. Combine this with a woman’s cycles and there are days when not eating is not an option. That being said, I can feel that my body misses it and I’m planning for a half-day fast later this week. A fresh vege juice can replace a meal and I can indulge in that delicious, empty feeling once again.

Rest assured, I am continuing to make a significant effort in incorporating both meditation and fasting in my whirlwind adventure of a life 🙂

Here comes week 12!!

Week 9 – a diversity of methods and experiences

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Day 1 (Sunday) – 5 minutes of mindfulness painfully scheduled in and a good effort given at being in the moment – just for 5min!!

Day 2(Monday)
Did 10 minutes today, and as usual am overjoyed to be consciously resting the mind during the day. Have also noticed that within a few minutes of rest, the mind starts to come up with very intriguing, creative and juicy new thoughts. I basically had to congratulate my own genious for its innovation and then mindfully let that thought know that I was not about to follow it down its path just yet.. I had another 8 minutes of awareness to practice 🙂

Day 3 – Tuesday:
15 minutes while listening to classical music in the car. It’s so wonderful to arrive places early! I wish I could sit and be all day… But would anything get done?

Wed: no time to be alone, let alone be alone with myself (lol). No meditation. Amazing day though!! (Was at an all-day workshop with Joel Salatin about profitable, sustainable farming 🙂

Thurs: my 15 minutes was a welcome respite from the day’s business. Curious emotions came up for me.. If not for the quiet I wouldn’t have even known they were there.

Day 6: (Friday) I am so happy and fulfilled that I’m quite litteraly trembling for joy, especially when resting in the moment. I want to do so much and my focus is exceptional and so once again I find it difficult to justify non-doing. I know, however, how beneficial it is regardless my mental and emotional state and so grit my teeth and see the 15 minutes through 😛

Day 7: (Saturday)
Took a moment while sitting in the sun to simply be, enjoy and rest in the moment.

Week 8, Days 2-7, a week of excuses

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I know and fully realise that there are very few things more important than my meditation practice. The entire experience of life is derived from, takes place in and ends in the mind itself. And yet this very mind that I am so keen to train and to quiet has effectively conjured up a series of particularly convincing arguments this week – reasons to forego meditation and enjoy mental complication. Don’t misunderstand me – I’ve made “great career moves” and visited with great friends that “are only in town for the week” as well as indulging in “excellent exercise” and “phenomenal networking opportunities”. And in all of this I have neglected my meditation and my mind is busy running away with me again.

The positive spin on this – as I am always determined to find one of these – is that I can tell the influence that the practice in mindfulness thus far has had on me. My concentration and focus in the moment are unlike ever before. My heart is open and I am able to discern between good things (and people), not for me and “might consider” quicker and more efficiently than before. And my intuition is serving me and guiding me like I need it to.

However, on the same token, I can tell that the work ahead of me and the road still left to travel is long. And I still have much to learn. And that regardless of all other goals, priorities and dreams the best thing that I could possibly have done for myself in the new year is commit to meditation.

As I sit here and mindfully schedule in next week’s sessions, I think to myself: “good grief, woman, it’s just 15 minutes a day.”

I can do this. I know I can.

Week 8, Day 1 – a great “fasting” day

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So today I decided to live by some age-old wisdom: be kind to yourself.

And so, with a busy day of pottery painting ahead of me (livin’ the high life!) I had only a few kiwis and pecan nuts for breakfast, some weak coffee and orange juice and I was out the door.
The intensity of focusing on my painting creation – which took all afternoon – followed by a long talk with my sister meant that my mind was constantly engaged… and the body forgot to feel hunger. I’m also in a moment in my feminine cycle where I’m less hungry… so that helps too.

I did end up getting a persistent headache around 8:00pm and so made a delicious salad of greens, with a bit of goat cheese, oil and vinegar and rounded it off with an orange and tea.

The body feels great as the headache dissapates, and I feel centred and focused as I head to do my meditation for the day and to read and go to sleep.

Thank you Universe for another beautiful day of existence!!

Week 7, day 2 – 7; movement in meditation

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Days 3 & 4: My focus when I am “doing” is phenomenal. In fact, all I want is to do, to move to act. It’s the “being” that is trickier… But in the energy I find myself in now it’s equally difficult to justify “being” as necessary or desirable. However, I know deep down that it is my anchor, that it is so very important. I can feel the mind creating its stories, partnering with the ego to waste emotion on trivial and non-existent pursuits.

Yoga and moving – it is enjoyable and feels great on the body to focus on breath while in movement. My favourite time to stretch and do yoga has always been right before sleeping.

Day 4 – went through a guided meditation on relationships… Phenomenal! Just a random mp3 recording I found on my sister’s iTunes account 🙂

Day 6: I chance upon a RAIN practice in Yoga journal – for weathering any storm. RAIN stands for “recognition”, “allowing life to be”, “investigation with intimate attention” and “non identification”. I do the practice and centre it around a turbulent relationship.. the healing and fresh space that arise are like a long-awaited balsam applied to an old wound.

The mantra is going well, although my practice of late is very sporadic. But I repeat it when I can, wherever and whenever the spirit moves me.

Liebster Award – Thanks for nomination… now here are mine!

Thank you A Mindful Traveler for nominating my blog for the Liebster Blog Award! It’s very sweet of you, and it’s fun to answer these questions, share fun facts and nominate other great blogs that deserve some time in the spotlight too!

Rules of the Liebster Award:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 bloggers who you feel deserve to be noticed. These blogs must have 200 followers or less. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated by you.

4. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. Post all the items listed in item 2 on your blog also.

My Answers To The 11 Questions From A Mindful Traveler

What is your favorite color?

Bright green.

How do you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life?

By taking the time to observe self, surroundings and other people free of judgement, simply being present in the moment as much as I can

What do you like most about travel?

Discovering that there is so much world to see, and so many incredible people to interact with! Ultimately however, travel makes me realise that the greatest journey is the journey within

How frequently do you meditate, for how long, and in what way (sitting, walking, standing)?

I aim for 15 minutes, sitting, daily

  1. What is your favorite animal?

The horse. Arabian, to be exact.

  1. Have you ever lived outside the country of your birth?  If so where and for how long?

I was 4 when my family immigrated from my native Poland to Canada.  Since that time I’ve lived on and off in France, Spain and Peru.  I hold 2 passports and am currently a resident of 3 nations. The term I identify with the most is….  global citizen!

  1. Who is the most important mentor you have had in your life?

Difficult question!! Should I call upon the Great Teachers like Christ, the Buddha, Gandhi and the like? I cannot choose just one… there have been so many incredible teachers and there is still so much to learn!!

  1. What is your favorite novel?

“Johnathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach. It’s a tiny book… and incredibly powerful.

  1. What is your favorite cuisine?

Again, difficult question. I just love food in general! If forced to name a cuisine or two I’d go for Indian (good sense) and Polish (for purely sentimental reasons 🙂

  1. Who has inspired you in your life?

Well, I am very inspired by my parents and my sister – they are so brave and so willing to take on new challenges!!

  1. What is your favorite hour of the day?

Getting up with a spring out of bed, making the morning coffee and getting excited for the new day!

11 Random Facts about me:

  1. As per being a horse-lover… it is my dream to one day train for and compete in an endurance ride
  2. the physical characteristic that I notice the most in people is… their hands
  3. I play the piano, clarinet (kinda) and guitar
  4. when I was a kid I was terrified of water and swimming…and as an adult absolutely adore it
  5. I love messin’ about with photographs and making collages
  6. last summer I biked across Europe in a fundraiser for World Literacy Canada
  7. I’ve never had a cavity
  8. Nor a broken bone in my body (knock on wood 🙂
  9. on my bucket list is: attending the Sensation White event in Amsterdam (before I turn 30)
  10. as per no. 9, yes, it’s true… I love trance music! Especially Armin Van Buuren
  11. people, people, people… what I love most about life are… people!!

My 11 Questions for my nominees are:

  1. Do you have a  Bucket List… and why?
  2. (if YES to no. 1) – What’s the last thing you crossed off your bucket list?
  3. What personality trait do you love the most about yourself?
  4. Do you like where you work right now?
  5. What’s the last thing you photographed? (with iPhone or otherwise)
  6. Why do you blog?
  7. What’s your favourite hobby?
  8. How would you “spiritually” describe yourself?
  9. What did you eat for breakfast?
  10. What are your minor addictions? (ie. coffee, food, blogging… lol)
  11. Who is currently your favourite singer / band?

My 11 Nominees Are:

1. www.certainwaymarketing.wordpress.com

2. www.ellatitman.wordpress.com

3. http://happsters.com/

4. http://yaz2004.wordpress.com/about/

5. http://mindfulacting.org/

 

6. http://ambitioninthecity.com/

7. http://silkroadcollector.me/

8. http://diarioelena.wordpress.com/

9. www.amindfultraveler.wordpress.com

10. http://freshrawlife.wordpress.com/

11. http://meditationcommunity.wordpress.com/

Week 6, Day 7; Week 7, Day 1: adaptation

Went through quite the adaptation process this weekend.  The mind has played many tricks on me… but I feel I’ve come out of the experience understanding it’s illusory nature just a bit better.

Fasting: today I went on just tea and a shake until about 17:00 at which point I did tuck into a nice guacamole, beets, tortilla chips and fried eggs.  I’ve been exercising a lot and my young body is burning through calories like mad.  A short fast of 15 hours or so feels great – I love experiencing that empty, gnawing, energetic feeling in the pit of my stomach – but the next step, when energy conservation and tiredness kicks in, just doesn’t feel worth it right now. My energy is high, and I like it there… that’s where I want it to stay.

It’s a learning process, and I have to remember to adapt and to leave room for exploration.

Meditation: the mantra is helpful to settling the mind, and I’m experimenting with short bursts of mindfulness and in-the-moment presence – focus on 10 deep breaths and feel every part of the body and mind and breath in the hear and now – as compared to 15 minutes of watching the mind-parade saunter by.  Again, neither way is the superior choice.. I’m simply experimenting!