How to be present

This afternoon, when I walked into the hot room to set up my mat, there was a girl on her mat, playing with her phone. Now, I don’t know what she was doing, or who she was talking to, but it struck me as odd. Why would you bring your phone onto your mat? True, there were ten minutes left until class started, but what happened to laying on your back, closing your eyes and just being?

I’m not judging, and I’m not always present during my practice. I do sometimes pick out what I’ll be wearing tomrrow (striped shirt with the pink bow) or decide what to eat after class. I just think it’s too bad that people can’t be with themselves for ten minutes.

Here are my tips for being present before, during, and after your practice, so that you get the most out of it.

1. Set an intention

Take a moment to think about why you’re practicing. Do you need to de-stress or relax? Do you need to move some energy around? I usually intend to find joy during my practice. What brings me joy will depend on the day I’ve had, so my practice is always different. Come back to your intention a few times, and it will help keep you present.

2. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want

If you tell yourself you’ll focus on your breathing, you’ll have a much better chance of actually doing it than if you keep telling yourself you’re not going to think about work, or that fight you had, or that person who drives you crazy. Help your mind out a little.

3. Don’t worry about it

If your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up. Just come back to your practice. It might happen 12 times in one minute, then maybe 7 times, then 3, then 1. Eventually, you’ll get a minute where you are totally focused on your practice and your breathing and it will be perfect. If you catch yourself thinking about how perfect that minute was instead of your breath, don’t worry, just come back to it.

4. Know that every day is different

Yoga is different every time you practice. Your mind and your body are not the same from day to day, so you can’t expect your practice to be either. Maybe you had that perfect minute yesterday, but it’s nowhere to be found today. No worries, you can still find joy. Try again tomorrow.

5. Don’t bring your phone onto your mat

You know. Just don’t.

Now see how many of these you can apply to your life off the mat. Breathe. Be present. Find joy. Don’t worry. Let go of your phone.

just breathe

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Awesome yoga day

It’s been a while since I wrote about yoga. I’m still practicing, but I lost the habit of having my camera with me all the time. I think a post without pictures is no fun. Yesterday, I had a fabulous day that was all about yoga. I didn’t think to bring my camera, but I had to write this post anyways, because it was such a great day!

I’ve had an annoying cold all week. You know, the kind that’s not enough to make you complain a lot (although I did). It just makes you tired and grumpy. It also made me sneeze like one of Snow White’s dwarves. I’m not kidding. Sneezes all the time.

For a few months now, I’ve been a “karma yogi” at my favourite studio, Pure Yoga. It’s an energy exchange program where you work for four hours a week and get free, unlimited yoga. Yay! I normally go on Tuesday nights, but this week, after an hour and a half, I went home because I was sick and sneezy. Yesterday, Saturday, I was subbing for another karma yogi, and, although I still felt a little under the weather, it was much better than Tuesday.

One of the great things about being a karma yogi is that you get to do a class during your shift, so really, you don’t work for four hours. I did a flow class. I wasn’t sure if I should, but Jen told me class would start with a long, supported fish pose. Bliss. I was in. I took a few breaks, including a pretty long child’s pose while everyone else was doing some kind of warrior two torture thing. I didn’t actually see what they were doing, since I was a happy little ball of “I’m not doing this”, but I could hear people lose their regular breath, gasp for air, then try to return to their steady breathing. Yeah, not sorry I missed that. Those breaks made class perfect for me. I’m happy I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer care what people think of me if I spend half a class in child’s pose. My yoga, my bliss.

Jen and I. Ok, it's an old picutre. My hair is no longer than length or colour. But it's still us!

Jen and I. Ok, it’s an old picutre. My hair is no longer than length or colour. But it’s still us!

Then, after my karma shift was over, I raced to another studio where I attended a three hour workshop on Ayurveda with Matthew Remski. I had heard about him during my teacher training, so I was very excited that he was in Ottawa. Learning about Ayurveda was one of my favourite things about teacher training. Ayurveda is a science.

He told us we should be able to explain Ayurveda in seven steps to people who asked us about it. I’m going to pretend all of you lovely people have asked me about it.

1. We consist of two parts: a thinking part and a perceptual part.

2. A unique combination of the two is what we call our “constitution”.

3. Our constitution can harmonize or clash with our natural and scocial environment, either by conscious choise or by circumstance.

4. If we do not pay attention to the feedback our body gives us, we will prematurely weaken our vitality, then our immunity.

5. As immunity weakens, we get congestion, inflamation and disorganization (we get sick).

6. Good digestion (of food, ideas, experiences) is the root somatic (body) and psychic (mind) health.

7. Pleasure and equinimity are the flowers of balances health.

There you go, now you know about Ayurveda! It’s actually much more complex than that, but it’s a good start.

Ayurveda

Now, I’m off to put my camera in my yoga bag and enjoy the rest of my Sunday!

My favourite time of year

Fall is my favourite season. I love September, when fall is just begining. There’s a little chill in the air and back to school excitment. October is the star of the season, with it’s bright colours, sunshine and falling leaves. November might be my favourite. I was born in November, so I’m a fall baby. I love rain and windy days. I like to have an excuse to curl up with a book and a cup of tea. If only I had a fireplace…

When I started posting monthly updates about the wonderful things in my life, I thought it would be hard to keep up. I surprised myself by not missing a month. Until now. The fall has been a busy, full, and happy time. I haven’t been posting much, so I’ve decided to do a what-made-me-happy-in-September-and-October post.

Treats from my patio garden.

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A new tin for my tea. I actually think I bought this in August, but it still makes me happy! 008

My friend Ichih’s very photogenic cat.

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Going to House of Paint.

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Apple picking!

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Babies and pumpkins.

Too big!

Baking apple everything!

Apple muffins.

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Apple maple scones.

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Apple and orange cookies.

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I am a messy cook.

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Going to the National Art Gallery with my students. I don’t particularly like this piece, but the kids were impressed.

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Reading Gone Girl. Messed up. Fantastic. Read it now!

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Early morning fall light.

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Picking pumpkins.

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Apple pie day! One of the best days of the year.

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I tried to do the photo a day challenge for October. I did four days, then my camera got weird and wouldn’t work. I figured it out after a couple of days, but by then I had lost interest! Here’s what I got.

Day 1: Something colourful

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Day 2: Light

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Day 3: Me today

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Day 4: In motion

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And that’s that for October photo a day!

Thanksgiving with my family in the woods.

Me and my momma. Everyday, I am more and more like her, for which I am thankful.

Finding treasures. What a great day this was!

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New (to me) teacups.

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Roasting pumpkins.

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Halloween!

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What made you happy this fall?

How to be a friendly witch

I love to dress up for Halloween. I used to make my costumes, but it feels like as time goes on, I have less time for things like that. I’m trying to figure out a way to make all of my time work for me, doing things I love. However, I don’t mind buying a Halloween costume instead of making it. There are some great costumes out there!

The only issue I have with women’s Halloween costumes is that they’re all sexy and short! Seriously! Some of us work with children and would like a decent costume. Even the princess and nun costumes had tiny skirts! I decided to go with a cute witch costume, to wich I added a skirt, so I wouldn’t show off my rear end to people.

Since I was going to be a friendly witch, I decided I needed pink hair. I bought a wig and thought it would work. I wasn’t expecting it to be fabulous, because cheap Halloween wigs rarely are, but it was awful! I couldn’t wear it, it looked really, really bad!

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I still wanted pink hair, so I googled “How to make hair extensions out of a wig”. Turns out, it’s not that hard.

You need hair clips (the tutorial actually suggested wig clips, but I didn’t have any, it was raining so I didn’t want to go out, and the party was in a few hours.) These worked just fine.

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You just need to cut off a strip of the wig, then cut it into the size you want. Then you sew it onto a clip. Voilà! Hair extensions.

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Make a few more.

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Also, make a huge mess.

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The extensions were longer than my hair, but I kind of liked to have long hair again!

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I went to my friend Ichih’s house where a bunch of us were meeting up to go to a party. I had to add my witchy accessories.

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The party was a lot of fun and everyone’s costumes were great!

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For work on Thursday, when it was actually Halloween, I wore a t-shirt under my dress and didn’t bother with the pink hair.

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My collegues were also witches, but I don’t think they were the friendly kind!

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I love Halloween!

Pumpkin patch

A few weeks ago, before we made a bunch of apple pies, my mom and I went out to the garden to pick some pumpkins. I always bring some to school so my students can carve them for Halloween. I also leave the dirt on them, so that when I explain that pumpkins grow in the garden and not the grocery store, it makes sense! They always tell me I’m lucky that I get to pick pumpkins. They’re right!

My parents’ house is right by the river. Morning light, along with fall colours made it a picture-taker’s paradise!

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I love the way the pumpkin patch looks after the leaves have frozen. You can see all the pumpkins. Also, it would be easier to spot a snake, if there was one. I’ve never actually seen a snake in the pumpkin patch, but i’m sure it happens. I don’t have a snake phobia, but really, who wants to reach down to pick a pumpkin and come up with a snake? Yeah, no one.

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I’m looking for a good pumpkin. Also, I’m checking to make sure there are no slimy bugs underneath.

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Found one! A pumpkin, not a bug.

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I’m checking the ingredients: 100% pumpkin. Ok, I’ll take it!

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I need more pumpkins. Lots more.

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Pumpkins and apples in my kitchen! When this photo was taken, there were six more pumpkins in my car waiting to be taken to school to be carved by my students. Sadly, one of those pumpkins did not make it to Halloween. I believe it suffered a deer bite and started to go bad as soon as it was taken indoors. It’s suffering came to an end in a collegue’s kitchen.

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My pumpkins before they were roasted into deliciousness! Here, too, one did not survive. It got all soft and icky so I put it outside. A squirrel chewed all the way around it and took off with the top. A few days later, I saw the top of a pumpkin in the street. Crazy squirrel.

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Roasting a pumpkin is pretty easy. Cut in half, scoop out gunk, roast, puree, eat!

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I ended up with about 12 cups of puree. Not bad for two small pumpkins. I wanted to can it, but I read all kinds of scary things online about the dangers of canning pumpkin puree, so I decided to freeze it instead.

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I’ve been baking pumpkin-everything for a few weeks now.

Gluten-free pumpkin muffins.

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Roasted pumpkin seeds.

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Pumpkin and carrot mac and cheese. I have to hide vegetables from myself so that I’ll eat them. Also, macaroni and cheese is not photogenic.

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I also made something called a pumpkin dream cake and it was very dreamy and orange and delicious!

Yesterday, for Halloween, the kids got to work cleaning out the pumpkins and decorating them. They were very original in their design ideas.

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I thought the hedgehog was angry, but apparently, he’s scary. Because, you know, it’s Halloween.

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I think that’s it for my pumpkin adventures this year. Well, except for the 8 cups of pumpkin still left in my freezer! November is the month for tea, books and hot yoga! (Every month is hot yoga month actually.)