**This post was syndicated on Thrive Global (eek!)- “Hustle Culture is Out, Mindfulness is In for 2020 & Beyond”**
I’ve thought a lot about whether to share this or not – it doesn’t quite fit the food & travel focus of our family + lifestyle blog, but there’s a significant self-discovery/wellness journey I’ve been walking (sometimes stumbling) along on behind the blogging scenes & the more I share it in my circle, the more I realize I’m far from alone &, well, someone needs to open up this dialogue a little wider.
Forty + Fab-ish: I read this article on “Scary Mommy” recently that nailed on the noggin the truth about the 40s. While it’s true – this season of age has me realizing a new, refreshing level of self-awareness, what I’ll tolerate, & where I want to go (powerful stuff), there’s a whole lot no one’s talking about – “Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About How Confusing Your 40’s Are?” I’m just fresh on the 40s block, but, being a typical early bloomer, have been experiencing some profound, unfavourable things with vigour even before entering the club…These were particularly relatable:
- The physical load of motherhood may be lighter, yes…no more diaper bags, strollers, etc. but that mental load, man it’s heavy. Your kids are older & facing new disappointments, heartbreaks, challenges & you feel compelled to coddle their privacy while navigating through things with them that nearly break you. The mental load swells and you feel like you can’t talk about it. And it’s lonely…comparable to those feelings of isolation/anxiousness/overwhelm many moms feel in the newborn days
- You’re probably facing career shifts (yep!) and in finding ways to be more flexible with work to be there for your family (like self-employment) comes more juggling & stress too
- And on top of all that, you’re facing circle of life despair – loved ones with health issues, ailing parents, losing amazing people in your life & your own mortality is hitting you…hard. Your sense of limited time & necessity to prioritize your wellness ever-present. Stress & anxiety wreaking havoc on your nervous system & why are the things I love to eat now giving me digestive issues?…
- And this one’s hard to admit, but your hormones are WACKED (peri what?)…PMS goes next level & might be making you feel completely nutty as a result. Yet getting clear, effective answers on how to get them on track? Not easy! Still trying…
- Your radar for BS is so fierce, you’ve learned how to set boundaries & stand up for yourself and the things you tolerate in your life, but it also leaves you feeling pissed off … a lot! And being around ungenuine, shady, self-centered people near unbearable (Roar!)
- And, finally, I’ll add… “what are these literal pains in my neck that I now need physio for & making massage therapy less about bliss more I wouldn’t be able to function or move through life without it?!”
For all the above truths & more personal ones, I’ve had to seriously hammer down on my wellness journey in the last few years. And I’ve (mostly) kept it private (because it’s deeply personal & I don’t believe just because you have an online presence you should ever feel pressured to share intimate details of things you’re healing from), but more than a few indicators (like heart palpitations, blocked throat chakras & neck pains) confirmed I need more release or I might break, so on top of physical therapies, energy/spiritual healing, supplements, moderate exercise, modifying my food intake (against my will! Why is sugar making me feel unhinged?), and finding my culinary calm in the kitchen, I’ve also really committed to my guided meditation/mindfulness practice. I know, I know…not another post about mindfulness, but listen up – among all the mental fitness tools I’ve introduced to my life, it’s consistently proven the most transformational & grounding when life throws a whole lot of “stuff” you have no control over (and boy has she ever!). It doesn’t erase the mental load, and it certainly isn’t a cure for all the physical symptoms of stress, but it does seriously help me move forward & through it with more lightness & calm. Essentially, it creates margin to catch my breath and tune in between the go, go goings and craziness of our full life.
BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW MINDFULNESS “WORKS”?…
But how do you KNOW it’s “working”? You can’t measure it like steps on a fit bit, the number dips on a scale, finely tuned abs… why believe the hype? Well, it was on my 40th Birthday in Mexico where I discovered where my own practice was showing its power & confirmed my progress. I booked myself to try the Temazcal Ceremony – it was complimentary at the resort & said be used by Aztec & Mayan cultures to heal & purify the mind, body, & soul…to be reborn by balancing the participant’s wisdom, awareness & will. It seemed like the perfect way to welcome a new decade of life, right? Let’s do this! But what I wasn’t prepared for was having to withstand a very confined, rounded clay space and extreme heat conditions in the what they called “temple of warm stones” (which felt more like the Temple of Doom…I’ll explain).
I will tell you within the first 5 minutes of this ceremony I wasn’t’ sure if I’d make it through…holy INTENSE batman and anyone who’s claustrophobic would find the conditions immediately unbearable. In fact, at least 3 participants bolted quickly in the first few minutes. But I stuck it out, sweating like I never have before so profusely you could hear the sloshing of wetness behind the backs of my knees that were bent in a sitting fetal position (HALP!), the sweat drops hit the clay bottom underneath me. When the heat got so intense and oxygen zapped as if you were in a pressure cooker that simultaneously sucked out air supply, you had to very consciously find ways to catch a breath… and after (upon sweet relief from exiting the clay torture chamber, I mean temple 😉), while feeling elated from making it through & invigorated by the mandatory cold cleanse is when it hit me – my practice just showed the payoff. Because without going into a meditative state to withstand it, there is no way the logical mind would persuade you to endure it. And that, my loves, is how meditation shows one of its many benefits. It teaches you how to breathe, to access your mental strength & to endure whatever heaviness & weight of things you think you cannot handle – bringing you into the present moment & helping you accept “what is”. It diffuses all that “extra” that clutters & distracts the mind. Another indicator of how it works? I only have to depart a few days from my mindfulness practice to notice why I need it in my life.
When you go deeper into the practice, you may even have “visualizations” that serve to guide you on your “right life” path. It is during one guided meditation a few years ago where I had a vision of a green feather – a sign to focus on wellness & healing and get out in nature more.
A NEW DECADE, A NEW MINDSET
There’s nothing like the dawning of a new decade that prompts us to think about incorporating new habits and practices that can positively impact our lives. If you’re feeling the need for more release & calm in your life like I do, meditation has been instrumental to my mental fitness. For those that have followed the blog/our channels for a while, you’ve seen some of my fave mindfulness meditation resources shared before, but I’m going to share them again here:
“True meditation is about being fully present with everything that is – including discomfort & challenges. It is not an escape from life.” ~ Craig Hamilton
SIMPLE WAYS TO BEGIN YOUR MEDITATION JOURNEY
I never considered myself the meditating “type” before. I couldn’t get my head around the hype of just sitting with your eyes closed doing nothing. I’m going to say that if I knew how transformational this practice is I would have started long, long ago. I could be having the most stressful, overwhelming day, and the aches and racing mind and heart to prove it, and when I make time to get still and get into a mindfulness meditation I feel completely relaxed and achieve a level of mental clarity I would not have otherwise. That’s why I love this book.
It’s for beginners (still me!) skeptics (once me!) and people who feel they’re too busy for it (um, most of us!) and gives simple, practical ways to introduce this life-changing practice into our lives.
It’s called a “practice” for a reason. The more you do it the easier and more transformational it becomes. You know that saying “Be still and know”? This is what meditation does for you. Our minds fill up with all kinds of clutter and can leave us feeling scattered. I’m telling you, when you cultivate silence and get still through mediation, you may get the answers to the things that are causing you unease. I know I have. It’s really unbelievable…until you try it! This book is a good warm-up to it…but if you’re ready to practice, I love this…
The Calm App
One thing I love about meditation is its mobility – no need for excessive amounts of time or specific conditions to incorporate it in our days. You can practice anywhere, anytime, and why I love having access to the Calm app (an award-winning app for sleep, meditation and relaxation) on my phone. I use it in the car while waiting around for our kids’ hockey games to start, most mornings while the coffee brews and while we’re travelling (because finding some calm in the crazy of family travel is a lifeline for me). I’ve tried other apps (like Headspace), and have to say being led with the calming voice of Tamara is one of my reasons for sticking with this one.
The Calm app is free to download but a paid subscription to Calm Premium gives access to over 100 hours of premium content, including an ever-growing library of advanced meditations, soothing Sleep Stories, calming nature scenes, a breathing tool and Calm Masterclasses. I enjoy it so much I renewed my subscription this year.
“Silence isn’t empty…it’s full of answers…”
I adore Gabby Bernstein and everything she’s put out, including the Universe Has Your Back. I also love Miracles Now because she gives quick and effective tools (108 of them) to combat things all of us experience daily or at some point in our lives, like stress, resentment, burnout, frustration and jealousy. Not everyone has time each day to devote chunks of time to other spiritual practices like yoga or deep meditation. Gabby’s tools offer ways to achieve peace and calm inside us immediately. I think I’ve folded down almost half the pages in the book. This one’s too good! I also love her blog where she dishes out wisdom on mindfulness and offers videos to guide your meditation practice.
Guided meditations on YouTube
Keeping at your practices is as simple as a search on YouTube for “guided meditations”. I like going this route if there’s something specific I want to work on – meditation “for clarity”, “for anxiety”, “for positive energy”, “for healing” for example. Like mobile apps, this way is easily accessible and you can choose from a variety of options that suit your time and narrator voice preference.
OTHER WAYS TO INCORPORATE MINDFULNESS
There’s a reason hustle til’ it hurts culture is on it’s way out (hello burnout!), and mindfulness increasingly more mainstream. Without bringing forward all the nitty gritty details about it, mindfulness is really just finding simple ways to bring yourself into the present moment… it doesn’t need to be complex or overly woo-ish to be effective. And when you start to dive deeper into your practice, you may find that carving out time to tune in, you can actually accomplish more, quicker than the counterproductive frenzy of “hustling” and manic manifesting. Here are some simple ways to incorporate it (some of which you probably already do! Whoop!):
I’m sure this is no surprise, but the feeling of warmth ignites a feel-good, relaxed response in our bodies and has the power to bring you into the present moment. Having a warm bath with lavender Epsom salts or essential oils & participating in a hot yoga class are two of my favourite mindfulness activities. Both get you in touch with breath & body awareness – keys to a mindful state.
Go where there’s water. More & more research is revealing (*and I’m sure no surprise for most, here*) the therapeutic benefits of being near natural aquatic “blue space” & the positive impact on mental wellness. Watch & listen to how it moves. While being near an ocean & waterfall is my fave, it’s also as simple as finding a river/stream in your own neighbourhood.
Social Media Time-Outs
I earn a part-time income on social media and won’t bite the apps that feed me but there’s a difference between using social mindfully (for tips, insights, recommendations, marketing, recipes, connecting) and letting it completely distract us from being present in our own lives. There’s also a likeliness where using it for inspiration can become an unhealthy infatuation & lead to damaging, unrealistic comparison. I know from my own experience of falling into the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling more than a few times so I’m not judging you one bit. But what helps? Giving myself a designated chunk of time to complete my social media work, hashtag specific searching & connect with people I want to engage with and then tapping out for the rest of the day. Use it as a tool, not a compulsion. Regular “scroll free” weekends help tremendously too. What you may find after practicing a bit of digital discipline is that your greatest source of inspiration doesn’t come from a feed but from immersing, eyes up, engaged fully in the good life you’ve got & not admiring or trying to imitate someone else’s. TRUST! Taking a social sabbatical over the holidays was soul-fuelling & refreshing. My creative juices started flowing again, I returned to journaling and exciting project ideas came through. One of my plans for 2020 is to become even more “indistractible” – time expands when you #scrollwisely.
The real gift of gratitude is that more grateful you are, the more present you become. – Robert Holden
Enjoy Your Meals
I’m a mom of 4 – I get how valuable quick service & drive-thru anything is and we’re definitely grateful for it. But I’ve also found making time to indulge in slow-cooking/eating and making it a point to eat together as a family instead of on the run all the time so valuable & good for the soul. Having a full sensory experience with your meals, appreciating the food you’re eating, chewing slowly & noticing the flavours is a form of gastro-mindfulness. And if you know how much we love making food, marrying the act of savouring it + mindfulness feels dang good.
We’re so busy keeping up with routines and schedules it’s easy to forget to just slow down, pause, look around and appreciate the beauty around us. Operating on autopilot, we’re depriving ourselves of the gift of noticing. Getting out in nature (forest-bathing), being mindful of our surroundings and stopping for just 5 minutes each day to notice the simple things (the way the snow sits and glistens on the trees, the colour of the sky and clouds, the smells in our surroundings, the brightness of a flower, the fullness of the moon) improves our mindset. And the more I practice this PAUSE. BREATHE. APPRECIATE. way of life, I see how my kids, especially our daughter, have begun to notice more of the simple things in their day too.
One of my favourite things to do on a blah day is going for a drive, look for scenery that uplifts me and get out to take photos. Photography has become one of my favourite mindful endeavours too. Finding the beauty in and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures has truly been a catalyst for many of my positive mental shifts, even during heavy times.
Mindfulness/meditation doesn’t rid our lives of stress, but it certainly helps with managing it. These last two years have been some of the most fulfilling, yet stress-filled of my life – job transition, tremendous loss (and accompanying grief), fixed salary to self-employment, ill loved ones, treading difficult parenting waters we’ve never had to navigate before. I choose not to dwell on the heavy, but it has often left me weighed down & weary and why I’ve leaned into activities that focus on mindfulness even more. Mindfulness practice helps me from feeling stuck and where I find clarity & strength to take my next steps and move through the muddiness of life. My hope is by sharing this, it will help you do the same.
How have you incorporated mindfulness into your life & how has it helped you manage the load of life? (*And if you’ve stuck around long enough to read this whole piece, thank you. This one’s been in “drafts” on the blog back burner for a while waiting for the right time to release it…fresh into 2020 seemed like a good time 😊…*exhale*)
Love & light,