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Note: These Mindfulness Moments are short reflective exercises that encourage us to pause in our day and notice our self and our surroundings with practiced attention. All of these ideas are ones I’ve learned along the way in my study of mindfulness, and many more are available at length if you just do a little digging. These are just examples. I recommend moving slowly through each step. There is no need for hurry here.

Nicola's Rock Pile

(Photo credit: Nicola Gladwell)

  • Sit or stand comfortably.
  • Beginning with your forehead, scan each part of your body by drawing all of your attention to that place.
  • Notice each sensation you are experiencing one at a time, and release any tension found present in your body.
  • Notice any signals your body may be trying to give you – are you thirsty or feeling stiff, for example?
  • Focus all of your attention to your present moment, letting go of thoughts and distractions, bringing yourself repeatedly back (without judgement) to the sensations you are experiencing.
  • Stay in this moment, breathing calmly, for as long as you are comfortable.
  • Take this sense of awareness with you as you continue your day.

Note: These Mindfulness Moments are short reflective exercises that encourage us to pause in our day and notice our self and our surroundings with practiced attention. All of these ideas are ones I’ve learned along the way in my study of mindfulness, and many more are available at length if you just do a little digging. These are just examples. I recommend moving slowly through each step. There is no need for hurry here.

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  • As you are walking, take notice of your breath.
  • Relax your breathing to a natural pace. Focus on letting your breathing shape the rhythm of your steps.
  • Count the number of steps you take during each exhale.
  • As you are comfortable, extend the length of your exhale by one step. Maintain a natural inhale.
  • After a few steps, try to lengthen your exhale by another step.  Continue this process until your exhale is 3-4 steps longer than your inhale.
  • Continue your focused breathing as you notice the various sensory stimuli around you (sights, sounds, smells, what your skin can feel, even the taste in your mouth).

Note: These Mindfulness Moments are short reflective exercises that encourage us to pause in our day and notice our self and our surroundings with practiced attention. All of these ideas are ones I’ve learned along the way in my study of mindfulness, and many more are available at length if you just do a little digging. These are just examples. I recommend moving slowly through each step. There is no need for hurry here.

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  • Begin by standing or sitting comfortably, with both feet on the ground.
  • Breathe deeply and focus your attention on your feet pressing against the ground below you.
  • Slowly rock your feet against the ground, feeling your weight shift from your heels, to the ball of your foot, and to your toes.
  • Imagine you are a tree with roots that go deep into the earth, as you notice the strength of your connection to the ground.
  • Feel steady and tall as you connect your whole being to the earth through your feet. Feel yourself rising from the roots that balance you. Feel these roots connecting you with all Life that also stands on this same earth.
  • Take this steadiness with you as you face today’s challenges and joys.

Thanks to my friend Shelley for inspiring this reflection.

We start hockey season this week and I’ve been feeling nervous and discouraged because last season pretty much sucked with ECT and being in and out of the hospital. I lost a lot of my endurance and gained weight and now my equipment feels tight.

But here’s the thing, I want to play hockey because I LOVE hockey and well, dammit if that isn’t a good enough reason to lay my ego aside and get out there even if I’m the slowest slug on the ice.

So cheers to starting fresh and loving what your body CAN do instead of hating what it can’t. I likely won’t ever be the fastest on the ice, but that is no reason to quit.

Go HERicanes!!!

On Sunday night I sat on my team’s hockey bench, sucking in air after a long shift. I cursed my body for the poor choices I’ve made when I’ve given in to the addiction of sugar, and the laziness of screens.  I love the game of hockey – the thrill of chasing the puck, confronting an opponent, and being part of the team.  But at times my body holds me back, and at that moment I felt like quitting for not being as fast, as strong or as skilled as some of the other players.

And then I remembered my brother.  And what he would give for lungs that could play hockey, for the chance to be sucking wind on the bench after a tough shift.  I took notice of my breath, of the relief of air entering lungs, and felt my pounding heart slow down and my energy return.

Later that night I lit a candle as a prayer for my brother’s health.  I pictured him playing with his dog, and skating with my niece, and swimming at the cottage.  I cannot wait to see him run.

As gratitude for my body, I wrote these words:

This body is not perfect.

She is marred with scars and stretch marks.

At times she creaks and groans.

I hide her from the lens of cameras and the eyes of others under layers of cloth and shield.

This body is not perfect.

She is not as fast, as swift, as graceful.

At times she huffs and puffs.

I conceal her fatigue and weariness with silent gasps for air, for life.

And yet this body moves.

This body breathes and digests and regenerates.

She can run and play and jump.

She makes rhythm, song and dance.

This body tastes and hears and smells.

She feels my lover’s embrace.

These eyes seek out beauty in its endless forms.

These muscles and bones are strong and able.

These lungs take in air and give oxygen to this blood.

This heart circulates life to each cell.

This body is blessed with health.

She deserves love over judgement, movement over idleness, food over filler.

This body deserves kindness.

This body sustains Life.

I have a confession.  I am an addict.  I deeply crave sugar.  White, refined, sweet, toxic sugar.  This addiction is fed by a multitude of sources, from breads and pastries, to sweet treats and chocolate.  Even my store-bought pasta sauce and soups contain more sugar than I should be consuming on a daily basis!  My body suffers from this addiction, as does my mental health.  And equally, my relationships.  I have been unkind and impatient when I am without this addictive substance.

Kathryn and I have committed ourselves this year to one goal: working towards physical, emotional and financial health.  My addiction to sugar directly contradicts each of these three facets of my life.  My body is unhealthy, my emotions are easily triggered, and we waste far too much money on junk that we simply do not need.

And yet we claim we don’t have enough money to buy wholesome, organic or local veggies and fruit.  Today at the grocery store we felt the need to limit the fresh produce we put in our cart in order to stay on budget.  And yet I bought an Iced Capp on the way home.  An Iced Capp Supreme!  With whipped cream and a shot of (sugar-filled) mint flavouring.

But this is not my only addiction.  I am also addicted to self-criticism.  I fill my body with these processed junk foods and then loathe my appearance.  My skin is frequently irritated because it does not receive enough hydration or proper nutrients from healthy fats.  My joints ache from carrying excess weight.  I am still young and yet at times I feel old.  And I fear the future for Kathryn and I (and our children) if we cannot learn to love ourselves and love our bodies.

I also berate myself for the choices I make on a daily basis, from letting the laundry pile up to reacting negatively to stress and emotional triggers.  I judge myself by harsh, impossible standards.  If I spoke to any of my friends the way I regularly speak to myself, our friendship would likely dissolve.

I know I am not alone in these weaknesses.  At the recommendation of my therapist, Kathryn and I have been reading Self Compassion, in which Kristen Neff explores the causes of our society’s unhealthy addiction to self-criticism and outlines an alternative path.  In order to learn to love ourselves, and our bodies, we do not first need to change our appearance, physical health or financial status.  First, we must learn to respond to our inner critics with self-kindness, mindfulness of our pain, and acceptance.

And so Kathryn and I have taken a step towards a new journey.  We have decided to finally invest in our health and our local agricultural community by purchasing a CSA-Share from Plan B Organic Farm, located in Flamborough.  We have committed ourselves to replacing the items we crave with other equally delicious and far more satisfying options (like the coconut Kathryn just cracked open with her drill).

And we have agreed to begin and end each day with our own self-compassion mantra, “I accept myself just as I am today, full of strength and weakness, beauty and brokenness.”  We have discovered that the key to unlocking our hoped-for future is in the way we treat ourselves right now, including the thoughts we dwell on and the foods we consume.  Today we choose to journey away from addiction and towards wholeness.

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