Setting Intentions for 2018

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December 21st marks the longest night and shortest day, in our Northern Hemisphere of the earth. As we approach the winter solstice, it’s a time of significance.

It’s a seminal point in time: an opportunity for Transition, and even, of Rebirth. It’s a time to pause: celebrate (looking back) and anticipate (looking forward). Setting our intention for 2018 is important. This is not ‘New Years Resolutions’ nor setting unrealistic goals or achievements. It’s a deeper layer than that. It’s about honouring your soul and what makes your heart sing. Let’s take a moment right now to embrace this for yourself!

We should try to do everything with intention, for it is our intentions that pave the way forward.

Our Intentions create our Beliefs

            Our beliefs create our thoughts

                        Our thoughts create our actions

                                    Our actions create our character

                                                Our character creates our destiny

GHANDI

Before you enter into this intention-setting exercise, perhaps take a few moments to meditate. Meditation can help you to filter out distraction so that you can be more present, sensitive and articulate with your intentions. You can listen to this audio recording of a classical meditation called ‘The Four Celestial Abodes’, which has been modified by a favourite teacher of mine, Todd Norian.

And now, for intention-setting!

  1. Looking back: take a moment to review this past year. Think about any significant events, challenges, accomplishments. There will be good things and there will also likely be difficult things. Appreciate your strengths, your resilience, and also your weaknesses and what you learned. Acknowledge yourself.
  2. Looking forward: Borrow a page from your review of last year. What are you happy about, what made your heart sing? Think now about this fuels your dreams and hopes for the coming year. Pick a few that are near to your heart. These could be about adjusting your lifestyle, dream accomplishments, or nutruting relationships, including your relationship with yourself. What is your intention for 2017?

As you’ve gone through this blog and hopefully the exercise of mindful intentions, I wish you peace, contentment, clarity and joy in the coming year!

Namaste ~

Sandy

 

Being a Life Connoisseur

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Think for a moment about the wine connoisseur in your circles. There’s usually one at every party – you know, the person who knows how to swirl and sniff their wine and then go on into great detail about grape variety, tannins, bottling techniques and their latest wine trip adventure.

You can see the passion when they talk. They aren’t just pulling on knowledge and experience, there’s an excitement that comes from deep, heart-felt curiosity.

What if we could learn to live our lives like that?!

“Slow yourself down enough so you can see and hear and sense with your heart . . . not just your eyes, ears and mind.” Barbara Fredrickson Continue reading

The Holy Grail: Finding Balance

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Finding Balance within our First and Second Natures

We’re all familiar with the extroverts in the room: outgoing, love stimulation, curious and expressive. Where do they get their energy?! And we all know a few introverts too: reserved, thinking before they speak, observant. Do they need to come out of their shell?

Nah! Most of us are somewhere on that continuum between Introvert and Extrovert. We know ourselves well enough to manage the optimal level of stimulation: too much creates anxiety for the introvert, and too little creates boredom for the extrovert.

It’s good to stretch out of our comfort zone regularly, AS LONG AS we build back in equal parts of restoration.

And the truth is, most of us can’t spend all our time in our first nature, whether it leans more toward intro- or extroversion. Case in point, I’m more of an introvert by nature yet I teach and speak for a living, behaving in a more extroverted manner. And extroverts often have to spend time in quiet in study, analysis, thinking in order to have knowledge and perspective to speak out (as an example).

Is it wrong to spend time in your ‘second nature’?

Not at all! It’s good to stretch out of our comfort zone regularly, AS LONG AS we build back in equal parts of restoration. We need to know and respect our need for restorative niches.

For the extrovert, after a time of study or silence, they may need to go to a party to get back in balance. And the introvert may need to spend time in nature in order to feel grounded again.

Finding Balance Between Negative and Positive

Barbara Fredrickson defined this as the Positivity Ratio.

We all have negative aspects in our lives, things we may not be able to change quickly like illness, work demands, difficult relationships, financial difficulties, etc.

We do, however, have control over many of the positive aspects. These are choices, big and small, that we make moment by moment. The more positive choices we add to our life, the more they ‘weigh’ and counter-balance the negative. Positive Psychologists call these Boosters and Enablers.

Enablers allow us to make the most of what we have, things like Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, Self Care, Time Affluence, Relationships. Boosters are the fuel that sustains us: Humour and Laughter, Rituals, Physical Contact, Gratitude, Faith, Dreams and Aspirations.

With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy for the positivity ratio to become unbalanced, spread ourselves too thin, limiting our Enablers and short changing our Boosters. We encourage you to try to pace yourself, incorporate more restorative practices to bring you back into balance!

Namaste ~

Sandy

 

Ain’t Got No Flow

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If you’ve been reading this blog and thinking ‘I have no flow in my life’, you are not alone.

Flow is something that gets squashed out with responsibility, scheduling, stress & anxiety. Lack of flow is intrinsically linked with lack of sleep. Put those 2 scenarios together – anxiety and lack of sleep – and it may just be impossible to find flow in your life right now.

Okay, so what then?

High five, because you’ve just identified some lifestyle opportunities! You’ve taken a moment to realize you need more self-care. And keep going . . . let’s problem-solve together to open some possibilities! Continue reading

The ‘Dark Side’ of Flow?

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Some of you know I’m a recreational long-distance runner – I train for Half Marathons (21.1km) twice a year. I co-coach the Half clinic which keeps me connected to the community and giving back, and it keeps me in shape. Having said that, after 13 years of running, I’ve peaked and I’ve valleyed, many times over.

Let’s be frank. Running long distance is hard. The mental game is a challenge EACH run, no matter how short. My body seems to adapt pretty well, in spite of how much my hamstrings complain on hills. Yes, I do a lot of yoga to compensate for the toils of running!

Back to the mental game. Someone has said that running is 50% physical and 50% mental. There are days when I’d say it’s more like 20/80!

I was chatting with some friends this weekend about their last race experience. Each had trained really well over 4 months; no injuries, did all the hard training of intense hill work and speed work, negative splits (coming in faster on the last half of the run), hitting their pacing, etc. And, on race day, they PB’d (achieved a personal best in terms of finish time).

Yet somehow, they were rather depressed the week after the race. What if they’d held their OMP (‘Ordinary Mortal Pace’) on the downhill so they had more gas in the last 4k? What if it hadn’t been pouring rain and sideways wind? What if they’d taken another gel at 16k?

Runners high can come with an equal dose of runners low.

As I heard their mind game reel out, I thought ‘What is this? The dark side of Flow?’ No, this rumination is the opposite of Flow. Even tho they PB’d, they fell into a negative, disappointed state. They were absorbed with looking back, ‘what ifs’, negative bias and self doubts. They lost sight of their significant accomplishments over the course of training and in the light of race day.

I gently helped them remember their excellent training season – pushing and holding their paces for the various training runs, different kinds of speed work, AND that they were injury free. That’s all progress and highly significant. They had too much hanging on the race day result, and lost focus on what else they’d achieved.

With the risk of sounding trite, they’d downplayed the journey and put too much focus on the destination. Flow, my friends, is all about the journey. The challenges and moments of small victories. Of course, moving toward a reach-goal, AND acknowledging each small piece of progress and celebrating in the after glow!

Tal Ben-Shahar, my Positive Psychology teacher, describes this phenomenon as the difference between the Perfectionist, and the Optimalist. “While the Perfectionist rejects failure, the Optimalist accepts it as a natural part of life, and as an experience that is inextricably linked to success.” He also puts his spin on the Pareto Principle, the ‘80/20’ rule and applies it to the Optimalist: ‘investing our efforts in the 20% that will give us the 80% of results we want to achieve’.

Flow, my friends, is all about the journey.

Would love your thoughts and experiences on this topic!

Sandy

Creating Space for Flow

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We talked last week about cultivating the state of Flow: where you become so engrossed in an        activity – a challenge – that you lose track of time. Have you thought about what takes you into that state? Some mentioned they find flow while swimming, while cooking and while making Christmas cards. What is your ‘sweet spot’ activity, and how can you enable more opportunity and possibility?

Mihaly defines what he calls ‘the Flow Channel’ as an ascending balance between the tension of    facing a challenge and matching with your skills. This is the path to the Sweet Spot!

It may seem happenstance to find yourself in Flow – the perfect storm of conditions. However, you can create the opportunity and possibility by building in steps and rituals. Rituals signal your subconscious memory of Flow. Here are my suggestions: Continue reading

Cultivating Flow

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“Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy, or power command.

Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Trying Not to Eat Crow

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Have you ever realized that something you confidently remember as easy and ‘in the bag’, now suddenly isn’t? What happened to my strength?!

I believe practice makes perfect, and that we can accomplish pretty much anything we put our minds to (thanks, Dad!). 12 years ago when I started my yoga journey, I embraced many strength challenges, including standing balances, arm balances, and inversions.

Setting up Crow pose

Standing balances like Vibrahadrasana III (Warrior III) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) were daunting at first, but with strong legs and core I soon figured them out (pretty much!). Arm balances and inversions brought up deep-seated fear about falling and breaking my neck, no kidding! I learned gradually how to do Forearm Headstand, that was a big day! And, I did master the arm balance pose called Crow or Crane (Bakasana). Ahem, but all that was over a decade ago.  Continue reading

Let’s Get Physical

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Whenever one hears the word ‘strength’, we typically think of physical strength . . . squats and bicep curls and the like.

Of course, strength as a concept affects all layers of our being: mental capacity and stability, emotional intelligence and resilience, and spiritual perspective. The real strength comes when all aspects are both independently and synergistically vibrant. I certainly found that to be true and lacking, years ago when I was working in the corporate world.

Back in those days – running a brand strategy business, married and raising 2 kids, managing a home – I had no time or energy for fitness. It pretty much felt like running a marathon every day, just getting everything done. My stoicism kept my nose to the grindstone, and the stress kept getting stuffed down. My ‘tricky’ back, low immune system and GI challenges meant I was almost always working thru illness and discomfort. I thought that’s what I had to do!

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Building Strength and Resilience

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Research has shown that shifting our focus to building our character strengths boosts positivity and resilience. The truth is, we accomplish far more in life by building on our strengths than by focusing on our weaknesses. And we make our life journey more self-concordant with a strengths-focus, building our self-esteem along the way.

“Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence . . . One cannot build performance on weaknesses . . . it takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity, than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. Peter Drucker ‘The Practice of Management’

Want to work on your strengths?! Give yourself this awesome experience!

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