Category Archives: Uncategorized

Music Monday

This week’s song is by one of my new favourites. “Nightmares on Wax”, otherwise known as George Evelyn. George is a DJ from Leeds, England. Inpired by Curtis Mayfiled and Quincy Jones in his early years, and by hip hop and rap artists such as Rappers Delight later on. His style is groovy, seductive and soulful.

The lyrics are simple (simple is good):

Better days are comin’ you see
Visions of you and me
Elevate your soul
Fly, come with me.

Listen for yourself

 

 

10 Day Silent Meditation – Vipassana

I just returned from a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Merrit, BC. Vipassana meditation… And I have to tell you about it.

What Happened

The facility held 70 students, split about evenly between the two sexes. The female and males students were separated for the 10 days except for in the meditation hall.

We were asked not to look each other in the eye or use our bodies to signal to one another. It is means to mimic a totally solitary experience.

After an evening meal and chit chat the silence started…

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I had no idea what to expect.

The daily schedule
400 – First wake up gong
430-630 Meditation starts in the hall
630-800 Breakfast break
800-900 Sit of determination (after day 4, everyone must attend these sits and be as still as possible for the entire hour)
900-1100 Mediation in the hall
1100-100 Lunch Break
100- 230 Meditation in the hall
230-330 Strong determination sit
330-500 Mediation in the hall
500-600 Tea break
600-700 Strong determination sit
700-815 Discourse
815-900 Mediation in the hall

Day 1– I observed the nature of my monkey mind. We were instructed to focus on our upper lip for the entire meditation sit for all of the sits of the first three days. We were to feel the sensation of the breath on the area above the upper lip. It was challenging to maintain focus on such a subtle sensation when there were so many things more interesting to think about! My mind would focus for about ten seconds and then a completely random thought would pop up and take me on a ride without my consent. Once I realized I was on the thought train I would bring my focus back, upper lip, upper lip, breath on the upper lip….thought train again, then back, upper lip, upper lip, upper lip… Very slowly the thought train started picking me up for less rides, less often.

Day 2– While observing my upper lip I had a profound and completely unexpected experience. I felt myself open up with a white/yellow light and break open, a literal breakthrough. And through it birthed the forgiveness for an ex boyfriend who I rode on an emotional roller-coaster with for four years in the past. We’ve been apart for 3 years and I had found a lot of healing and forgiveness in that time; however, there was still some residual bits of distaste for his character. To be honest, prior to this experience, I was looking forward to possibly punching him in the face if I ever came across him again… That’s all gone now. I feel like when I see him next I can run to him, look in his eyes and tell him I forgive him for everything we went through and I can genuinely apologize for the role I played in our dysfunction. Wow! Finally. Freedom.

Day 3 – Creative ideas kept breaking my concentration on my upper lip. Great creative ideas though, ones worth remembering, ones worth pursuing. It was like the mundane thoughts weren’t being welcomed in any longer so my mind was like “fine, I will give her these great ideas and then she won’t be able to resist them!” And I wasn’t, yet. I love the discourses in the evening. G.N. Goenka is so funny and has such great stories. I think I have a crush on him.

Day 4 – This is the day I finally was able to sit for the entire meditation in the afternoon and focus on my upper lip without thought interruption. I felt so proud! I did it! I got it!… And immediately after that meditation, S.N. Goenka says over the speakers “We are doing a new technique now”. Damn, I finally get the technique down and now we are changing it. Now we are doing body scans. We “start at the top of the head” and scan the sensation of the body all the way through to the toes. We are instructed to feel every single sensation on every inch of the skin, “part by part, bit by bit”. And so the new challenge begins.

Day 5– I’m loving this. I am keen, I am focused, I am the perfect little mediation student. I didn’t miss any meditations, I focused all of the time and I could feel people noticing my excellent posture and calm focus. I felt great. I scanned the body, head to toe and now we go from toes to the head also… “Patiently and persistently”…

Day 6 – Didn’t sleep well the night before and slept through the morning meditation. Frick! I’m ruined! I feel so guilty, I’m supposed to be the keen one that makes it to every sitting!… I beat myself up for a bit and then I realized this pattern and this desire in my life to be the keenest, or to be the one that tries the hardest. I also started realizing how much of a meal that is for my ego and how often I compare myself to others and measure myself against them. I had realized this before but something felt different this time. This time something dissolved through me, somehow I had a greater understanding and ability to let it go.

Day 7 – I fucking hate this. I want to go home. I will never do this again. I’m so bored of this. I get it, I will practice when I get home. All I need is a break from all of this. I am going to go crazy, how many days are left? I want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face. I don’t look forward to the breaks any more because all they are is moment to get up, wait in line for the bathroom and then go back in. What kind of break is that and why do I bother looking forward to it? This realization-that the breaks aren’t any better than the meditating and I still have 3 full days to stay in this boredom hell hole with no relief changed something in me. There was a letting go of desires, it was a learning to enjoy the moment. I’ve read all the inspiring quotes and bumper stickers about this and I’ve tried to be mindful and all that stuff but now it felt different. Experiencing this shift makes mindful a byproduct of the peaceful state inside instead of an active and slightly torturous effort to slow down and enjoy each moment for what it is.

Day 8 – Screw this. I am not doing this any more. I am doing full-blown yoga in the hall ways and I’m well aware I’m not supposed to. I want to plan 3 classes for when I teach at home after this. I am going to plan my life. I am going to think about whatever I want. I start thinking of all of the things I want to do. I want to clean up the cookie stand and make great treats when I get back, I want to tell this person this thing, I want to make pins with insightful words, I want to make necklaces from beach rocks… I jumped back onto the thought train in full force. Eventually even my thoughts would get boring and I would start meditation again out of an uncontrollable happening in my brain to meditate. There was a shift now, instead of the thinking being the default mode, now I felt bored of thinking so I would meditate. Cool.

Day 9 – I am still pretty much checked out of being a committed meditator. I start to laugh at my frustrations though because I know it’s all I can do. I don’t want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face because I realize now that’s just my own seed, my own “Sankara” and it would only be causing me pain. I am used to not sleeping at night now. Even though I feel partly checked out, I no longer count down the time during meditation waiting for meals and breaks.

Day 10 – Today after meditation we are allowed to talk. What will my first word be? Equanimity. It’s a main word of the course and is repeated over and over and not only that, it seems fun to say! Equaminity! It has a nice bounce. Other than that though, I’m not sure that I want to talk. I kind of don’t mind the silence. After the meditation is over, the teacher gets up and walks away and we all sit there confused as to what to do. People begin leaving the hall. I walk into the washroom and say “Equanimity” I then walk out of the washroom and say to the first woman I see “We’re free!” And we were free. We started talking. Talking felt amazing. I felt gitty and jittery with excitement. So much had happened in our boredom and in our equanimous meditations observing “annicha” (the ever changing nature of things). I watched the anonymous, blank faces turn to life. People’s spirits were shining out and everyone looked different now that their personality could shine through. I’ve never felt so free in my life. I don’t want anything. I was trying to think of something I was craving, like something I really wanted to eat and I couldn’t. I felt excited to put on my good smells again but other than that I could not think of a craving. I am free of cravings… other than tea, I still do really enjoy the tea. It was the tea, milk and honey that got me through some of the most challenging times in the course and for that I have an emotional comfort connection with it now… And I’m okay with that.

Day 11 – Home bound! I feel so excited and refreshed and pure. I feel like I know myself on a new level :) No cravings, just understandings. Wow, I feel free.

To learn more about Vipassana or to sign up to go yourself, click this link:

www.dharma.org

 

 

 

 

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga! 

What the heck is that?!

It’s awesome! And it has nothing to do with yoga poses, although it does join the breathing or pranayama practice of yoga.

Laughing yoga was started by a doctor by the name of Madan Kataria in India. He started in a park with some friends telling jokes to receive the health benefits of laughter. Once they ran out of jokes they decided to skip the jokes and go straight to the laughing and the results astounded them!

By fake laughing with people you eventually end up real laughing that is contagious and leaves one feeling fantastic after the session.

Laugher yoga has started up all over the world in over 62 countries and there are now over 6000 laughing clubs that get together for the primary purpose to laugh!

There are other aspects of laughing yoga too such as clapping,  playfulness, eye contact, and breathing exercises.

Why would one do such a ridiculous seeming thing?

… to feel happy of course!

It turns out that there are many great health benefits of laughter such as

  • Laughing lowers blood pressure. People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will cut their risk of strokes and heart attacks. …
  • Reduces stress hormone levels. …
  • Fun ab workout. …
  • Improves cardiac health. …
  • Boosts T cells. …
  • Triggers the release of endorphins. …
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

All you need to do is laugh! And just like anything that you practice, it gets easier to laugh the more you do it. Have you ever tried laughing when something is bothering you? Laugher immediately lightens our mood and helps give feelings of contentment. So go ahead, laugh it up or laugh it off, whatever you do and for whatever reason or none at all – laugh.

Check it out and see if there is a laughter club near you!

I recently became a Certified Laughing Yoga Teacher, so if you are looking for some help starting a Laughing Club near you, let me know!

 

Self Love / Joy Meditation

I just completed this for my yoga homework and figured I would share it for anyone who may stumble across it and possibly enjoy it. :)

Find yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes if that is a desirable option for you. Begin to notice your breath. Don’t try to change it, but instead just observe it’s qualities. Where is your breath reaching right now? Are you breathing into your chest? Your ribs? Into your belly? How fast or how slow are you breathing? How long is your inhale? How smooth is your exhale? Is there space in-between? Are you breathing through you mouth or through your nose? Are you congested, are your sinuses clear? Just notice. Just breathe. 
Now take notice of your thoughts. Where are your thoughts? Are they stuck somewhere in the past, or are they worrying about something in the future? You have survived everything in the past thus far, which means that in everything is going to be okay in the future. So you may as well relax, and be here, now. Trust yourself. Make this moment your everything.
Breathe. 
Take a moment to notice how you feel. 
Are you holding on to any tension?  If so, where is it? Notice it, send it love, and allow it to release. And then allow it to release again. Scan your body as you release and relax and allow yourself to sink into your mat. You are safe and supported here. You are safe. You are supported.
Take a moment, now, to smile. You’re smiling for no reason at all. Know that you can do this at any time in your day and in fact, the more you manage to do this, the more reason you will have to continue.
Actually there is something to smile about. You are loved and you are love, so take a second here to love yourself… Like really love yourself. Love yourself right now like you love whatever it is in your life that you love the most… Maybe it’s your child or your children, your partner, maybe its another family member, a pet, a friend, a plant, a place. Whatever it is, give yourself the love you give it, and store this love for yourself in your heart to access absolutely whenever you need. Breathe it, feel it, soak it into your every vein and artery.
Possibly your thoughts have calmed. If thoughts continue to arise, watch them with kindness as they transform and conform into the shape of a dandelion going to seed, and then watch the wind of your breath blow its particles into flight. You may notice some of them return and that’s okay, just watch them with admiration as they float on by. 
By calming your mind and taking a break from your thoughts, you are allowing magic to flow in. You are absorbing the wiseness of the earth. Feel as you fill with magic and feel as you fill yourself with all of the qualities you already have, that you tell yourself you lack. You know, what makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful. So, take all of your imagined short comings and use your imagination to make another ball of dandelion seeds. Take a look at this ball and cherish it’s beauty. Can you love every piece of it? Again, allow your breath to blow it’s particles into flight. Watch them fly. Fly. F.L.Y. First Love Yourself.
Steve Ross, author of Happy Yoga says, “If you can’t approve of yourself, then all is lost. The whole world can be on your side, but it you’re not on your side, then what’s the point”.. And he has a point.
Today our yoga class is about producing self love, and joy. So allow yourself, again, to smile. Allow yourself to laugh. Allow yourself to have fun. Do whatever it is in this next hour that makes you feel the most magnificent. If you need an hour of Savasana, please by all means, take it. Spend this time asking yourself, what would give me the greatest amount of joy? And listen to whatever directions come to you. 
If are looking to plant any further seeds of intention, or sankulpas for this class other than producing joy and self love, now is the time to plant that seed. Your body is the garden of your own design. And you get to harvest the fruits of your labour. 
Please take about three more deep, cozy, cleansing breaths here before rolling to your left side. 
(When your ready press your top hand into the floor to push yourself up and find yourself in a seated position….)

Space to Respond

In any situation, there are many different ways to respond. Most often we chose the quickest route, which is reacting without thinking, following old brain pathways and emotional patterns.

If you want things to stay as they are, then keep doing exactly what you’re doing. If you want things to get better, if you want to live a happier life, then you need to change some things.

The one thing in life that is the easiest and most accessible to change is yourself. You can’t change anyone else but you can change yourself. Making changes to how you respond to situations can begin to change what situations arise. The first step is to begin to understand why you react or respond to situations the way you do.

By finding a way to create space between stimuli and how you respond to it, you begin to understand yourself and your environment more clearly. It’s a powerful tool and is falls under many categories. It is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, becoming your own observer… Whatever you want to call it, this practice gives you space to see yourself as an outsider and give yourself the chance to respond with reason instead of reacting without self-awareness or understanding.

Following is a link to a record sheet to use to understand your response in any situation. This tool helps not only to understand your response to something, but also to begin to understand where it is coming from and why. The more you can understand why you are responding to something the way you are the more freedom you have to respond in a way that is most effective.

ThoughtRecordSheet

REFERENCES

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/ThoughtRecordSheet.pdf

 

 

Hydrotherapy for Happiness

Yup. It’s November. It’s dark and it’s getting cold. In past years I have called this one of my least favorite months but things have changed. I’m enjoying the changing colour of the leaves and I’m feeling cozy in the darkness this time around…. So far anyway.

Science says that we need to embrace the cold! I don’t mean jumping out into the elements unprepared… I’m talking about in your home, particularly in your shower.

There is nothing like enjoying a nice hot shower on a cold day and I would never suggest giving this up. Keep having hot showers! But…. bring on some cold spurts if you want some major extra benefits.

Yup. Hydrotherapy is something you can enjoy from the comfort of your own shower. There is no need to spend heaps of cash to go to the spa. If you wanna beat the blues, find the courage to turn your shower dial into the blue zone.

Noradrenaline is produced in part of the brain called the “blue spot”. Using hot/cold therapy stimulates your blue spot to release more noradrenaline. This, combined with our friend serotonin helps to increase mood. It helps you to feel more awake and invigorated throughout your day.

The cold water gets your heart pumping and actually wakes you up more than a cup of coffee does!

You can save money not only on water but also on coffee!

Not only is this good for your mood, and energy level, it is also an efficient way to reduce pain by releasing endorphins. Additionally, this hot and cold water combo increases the strength of your immune system.

It’s cheaper than a multivitamin. It’s basically an all around win.

Now try it!

Let me know how it works for you. I’m loving it so far… However it hasn’t helped me kick my coffee habit as of yet. It’ll take a little more than a few shots of cold water to kick my lovely coffee habit. Mmmm coffee….

:)

REFERENCES

http://healthfree.com/other_benefits_hot-cold-shower_therapy.html

 

 

Label Me!

Halloween is coming and you know what that means? Ya you do, dress up time!

I was having trouble figuring out my costume until I realized there’s not really a name for what I want to dress up as. As soon as I realized I don’t need a name for what I am, everything became more fun.

Now I can just go shopping for all my favourite things and put them all together and call it Carly dressed up. Actually I’m calling myself “Sherry Poppins” because I have a bag full of treats.

But that got me thinking, maybe that simple realization I had this morning about my costume can spread into other aspects of life. There are so many things in life we try to slap a label on.

We even have names for every personality type; the punks, the hippies, the hipsters, the red necks etc…

Truly we are all mix of all kind of characteristics. How can we really throw a label on ourselves and/or others? And if we are going to label ourselves/others maybe we should consider the possibility that the label we choose may be as deceptive as the labels on our food.

ie. Did you know that the “natural” flavouring Castoreum, comes from the castor sacs underneath a beavers bum, right next to its anal glands? Ya, it tastes like vanilla. Yum yum!

:)

**BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE FOR HALLOWEEN AND BEYOND**

RESOURCES

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/what-is-the-difference-between-natural-and-artificial-flavors.html

 

 

Grow Old Get Happy

A study has found that the older you are, the more appreciation you have for the simple things in life.

:)

Of course those kind of “once in a lifetime” moments like major vacations and the birth of new life make both young and old folks happy; but, a study posted in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the older populations find more enjoyment in the simple things in life.  The younger folk on the other hand, rely more on extreme events for happiness.

This is not new news. Studies have found time and time again that as we age we generally become happier. There are a few contributing factors.

As we age, we get to know ourselves better. We learn what interests us, who we like to be around, and what our main values are. Also, we become less tolerant of things that we were willing to put up with when we had, or felt as though we had, all the time in the world.

As we age we have a greater acceptance towards the unchangeable truths in life. We become more content with what we have and less focused on what we want.

There are some conflicting studies out there. Some say that our happiness happens on a U curve, suggesting that we hit a high happy point in our early twenties and then slope down through as we move towards middle age. But when we pass middle age something extraordinary happens- our happiness levels rise back up, reaching a point higher than ever before! This study found that at age 69 people are the happiest.

A study done in the UK however, found that people were the happiest at the age of thirty-seven, which is a little on the early side. Still, this study suggests that at this age many people have accomplished some of their life goals and are now able to coast a bit and enjoy the ride.

***

I’m writing this post because I just had a birthday yesterday! I’m not so concerned about getting older. Life seems to get juicier each year.

Each year I get a little bit better at navigating my ship through life.
I meander happily through it’s sweet flowing patches,
Until naturally it’s sweetness turns sour
And I’m pushed off my tower
Only to plummet onto a hot pile of shit…
Both parts of this ride help me explore a separate side of me.
And apparently the longer I hang on to this real life ride,
The happier I will be :)

Thanks for reading :)

RESOURCES

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/674724?uid=3737720&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104921998073

Ted Talk by Laura Carstensen about how older people are happier (check it out):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/scientific-proof-that-the_n_5110179.html

Happy Turkey

So we know that the turkey makes us sleepy… or at least the heavy amounts of turkey and other delicious traditional foods that we indulge in at Thanks Giving make us feel sleepy.

The turkey in fact, is high in tryptophan which is a precursor to              5-HTP, which is converted into serotonin in our brain!

Serotonin is our good friend

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.

Interestingly, 80-90%  of the body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract. The serotonin made here is not used in our brain. Only the serotonin that we make in the brain can be used by our brain.

The focus for this post, of course is the mood enhancing effects!

Serotonin in the brain plays a role in not only our moods, but also appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sex drive.

Now you can not only feel good about the delicious turkey and leftovers; but also, you know that your brain is soaking up the extra serotonin- helping you to feel just a little bit better about life happenings this week :)

For more mood enhancing foods check out this previous post:
Feel Good Foods

RESOURCES

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php

Myers & Briggs

The more you know yourself and how you relate to the world, the better you can understand when and why are comfortable or uncomfortable in different areas or circumstances in your life.

Knowing yourself is key to being happy

The Myers & Briggs quiz is a great tool to help you understand your preferences. It is often used for businesses to help employees understand each others preferences, processes and strengths.

There is no personality that is better than the next. Doing this quiz is about knowing your preferences.

Doing the full quiz off of the Myers & Briggs website does come with a fee; however, there is a free version online (both are listed in my resources). I have done both and the free one gave me accurate results.

The preferences are divided into 4 letters. For example, right now I am an INFP. Your letters can change at different points in your life. Following is a short explanation of each category in the quiz.

Introvert/Extrovert

Introverts recharge by spending time alone. They often are reserved and reflective.

Extroverted people get energy from being around people and sharing ideas. Many extroverted people like to be surrounded by people often and don’t really enjoy being alone.

Sensing/Intuition

Sensing people pay attention to facts and reality. They rely on their senses for information. They notice facts and remember details. They learn through experience.

Intuitive people pay attention to impressions or patterns. They learn by thinking things through and think more about the future than the past. They like abstract theories and don’t need to understand the details of things. They remember things as how they experienced them rather than through factual details of what happened.

Thinking/Feeling

Thinkers like basic principles. They like to look at pros and cons and find the most logical choice. They try to keep focus on facts rather than on feelings.

Feelers on the other hand, like to make decisions by thinking about what people care about. They want to maintain harmony. They come across as caring, warm and tactful.

Judging/Perceiving 

Judging people typically like to have decisions made, have things preplanned and have life under control. Judging does not mean judgemental. Judgers are task orientated and like lists and like to get their work done before playing.

Perceivers appear to be more flexible and spontaneous. They do not feel that they need to organize life as much and instead just let things happen. They are often open to change and like to keep their schedule open also and may struggle to commit to one plan or decision.

***

By reading the short descriptions you probably get a sense of what letters you think represent you best. It is fun to see if what you think corresponds with the test results.

Access the test free here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

RESOURCES

Myers & Briggs website:
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

Access the free, shorter version of the quiz here:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp