Gratitude Practice

Having a gratitude journal has been in my consciousness for several years. In that time, I have practiced gratitude informally and inconsistently. A colleague and friend Erin Phelan encourages us all to have a gratitude practice at her spin class. I got more serious about the practice last year with her enthusiastic encouragement.

At the start of 2018, it became an intention and goal that I will note things I am grateful for each day in my journal. So far it has been an amazing experience. Taking a few minutes each day to reflect on gratitude is the perfect combination of meditation, reflection, positive thinking, prayer, humility, and spirituality. What are the effects? I am finding that the practice of gratitude helps me to focus on the positive direction I can take and to let go of various stressful events much more easily. It feels like contentment and the middle ground is becoming easier to find, which is great news in making life good!

2017 reflections, gratitude and goals

2017 was a year full of discovery and growth for me with many highlights. A couple weeks ago, a client mentioned wanting to make New Years resolutions for 2018. I suggested that he reflect and take stock of all the accomplishments and positive experiences of 2017, make note of the areas that need improvement, which will guide him towards goals to work on for 2018.

Willpower is like a muscle that will fatigue, so when we approach any change of behaviour, it is best to align with what you really want rather than to resolve to change something drastically. Put in other terms finding unconditional acceptance and love for yourself will make any change possible.

I am practicing what I preach today by reflecting, taking stock with gratitude for all the accomplishments and wonderful experiences of 2017. I’m making note of the needs improvement areas and will meditate on and set goals for 2018. Happy new year to all!

Chasing Excellence

My great friend Kathryn is a Crossfit enthusiast. The book Chasing Excellence caught my eye at her house, and she gave me a copy for my birthday. Little did I know it was a book written by Crossfit coach Ben Bergeron and my curiosity was piqued enough to watch every event of the 2017 Crossfit Games.

My exercise habit and program took on a new level of commitment when I was told this summer: ‘You need a trainer’. I took on the challenge and the effects have been immensely positive for my strength and well being in every way. This week I watched this video, which contains some of the best training advice I have come across:

Training with Intention  Ben Bergeron

I have inadvertently followed Ben Bergeron’s recommended ratio of 45% practice, 45% training and 10% competition and have seen amazing progress in my training as a result. His book Chasing Excellence was a great read that places building character first. I agree with him wholeheartedly. It is so important to know what kind of person you want to be. Our physical attributes and accomplishments can change all the time-it is how we handle challenges that build our character.

 

 

Halloween-Who will you be?

I have so many feelings around Halloween. I love seeing little kids, babies and adults in costumes. I love the enthusiasm that people have in anticipation of dressing up. I loved getting lots of candy as a kid. I saw some awesome decorated houses on my walk home and felt a little magic in the air. This year I started colouring a skull drawing in celebration which helped me realize the creative potential of Halloween. The occasion can bring out our creativity and is a great opportunity to ponder the awesome life question of who do I want to be-what kind of a human do I want to be?

As a health professional, I love sugar more than most. I do not view sugar as a villain, and I openly share my love for sweets. However, I quit halloween candy about 10 years ago. I developed an innocent Halloween candy addiction when I bought some for our studio, clients brought in their extra candy and there was a bowl right by our door. I started eating little pieces of chocolate and candy around 10am and every couple hours until the end of the day. After a couple weeks I noticed I had a habit of eating candy that was hard to break. Most importantly, I noticed I was eating a lot of candy that I didn’t really love. It was a simple choice to make when I considered what sweets I truly enjoy eating, so Halloween candy has been off my list. I will eat a piece if a child offers me some from their stash and just the one piece. I had almost forgotten that I quit buying/eating halloween candy until I started reflecting on halloween. What memories do we choose to hold onto?

A couple nights ago, I came across these powerful words in a Paulo Coehlo book:

[It’s not a question of hope in the future. It’s a question of recreating your past.

If you have a past that dissatisfies you, forget it now. Imagine a new story of your life, and believe it. Concentrate only on those moments in which you achieved what you desired, and this strength will help you accomplish what you want.]

 

So on Halloween or any given day we can be who want to be-

 

 

 

Bringing your lunch to school or work

School started after Labour Day and this term I need to bring lunch 3 times a week. I can now relate to parents and the difficulty they have with their children in what to put in that lunch box, as I am that picky kid!!! I refuse to eat microwaved food, warm soup in a thermos is unappealing, only some sandwiches are ok, so it seems like there are not many options to bring. Sometimes I don’t feel like prepping food and want a fresh hot meal…there is no such thing around the school, so it is absolutely necessary for me to bring a lunch! I have meditated on the lunch idea and have the following observations and suggestions:

-Involve the child and allow them to choose the container in which they bring and eat their food in. I find this has a huge impact on how appealing I find my lunch, since my ideal is a white plate. However, there are transport and weight considerations when bringing a lunch, so the right container makes it all better. There is also the lunch box or bag- I have a Spongebob lunch bag

-Ask them to choose what leftover dinner foods they find appealing for their lunch. Food that is prepped at dinner time is a timesaver for packing lunch.

-Most importantly, find out what healthy food the child is enthusiastic or excited to eat. Involve them in preparing the food they want to eat. Many will try for pizza and other foods most parents find unhealthy. Those are not options. If you have a picky eater who is an aspiring food critic, it is time they learn some food prep skills. Mom or Dad are not short order cooks!

Here are my current packed lunch ideas that are edible room temperature, and are fairly nutritious to provide energy for focus:

greek salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, cucumber, green onion, fresh oregano, parsley, grilled haloumi cheese, olive oil and lemon juice

roast turkey with kale salad, and roasted sweet potato

quinoa salad with fresh herbs, and green veggies, boiled egg

I also pack fruit and a small sweet treat to round out the meal. Best wishes for lunch prep and healthy eating!

 

 

Enjoy food and eat slowly

Enjoy food and eat slowly is a line I saw on an Italian menu board. I have enjoyed a variety of delicious Italian food on my holiday in Tuscany. I am managing to stay in shape by exercising and choosing to truly enjoy food. I look for a level of enthusiasm I feel in the foods I eat. If I am not really enthused, I choose other foods to eat. For example, I am no fan of bread dipped in olive oil, so I skip bread most of the time here in Italy. I love pasta, so I enjoy that regularly. A daily dose of a small gelato is great. The cheese is awesome! I love desserts too.

So I believe the making life good secret to staying in shape while on holiday is to exercise and enjoy foods you love, plus eat green veggies daily.

Work Life Balance

During a recent conversation with a client on work life balance, this client asked: ‘Vivian, you seem to work all the time and are still full of enthusiasm and energy, how you find the balance?’

I almost surprised myself when I answered my work life balance is completely tilted to fulfilling what I know is my life purpose of helping others to be their best through health and fitness. I have the energy to balance work, going to school for traditional Chinese medicine, family and friends, and staying fit myself, only by living my purpose which aligns with my spirit.

I made it a goal a couple years ago to teach more yoga to share the practice of meditation with more people-teaching is immensely fulfilling. I have benefitted so much from practicing yoga, it has opened so many doors of growth for me that I must pay it forward in helping bring others to the meditative space…so they may be closer to their truth, intuition and life purpose.

Work life balance is a challenging aspect of life that many people come across. I’m sharing my perspective of living life with purpose through work that I am hugely passionate about. It’s a life devoted to being of service. This may not be for everyone, however, every person has their unique gifts to contribute to our world for the better. I am sure the world can improve behind our imagination if every person is able to tap into their unique purpose. Those of us that know better need to do better, raise our vibration and those around us-making life good!

Canada Day

Tomorrow marks 150 years of Canada, the country of my birth. The country existed well before 150 years ago and this is important to acknowledge. We are all descendants of immigrants that came to a land of raw natural beauty, abundant resources and space for everyone.

This week I have been ending my yoga classes with a moment of appreciation for Canada. I am delighted to be teaching a yoga class on Canada Day, which feels like the perfect way to celebrate the occasion for me. Canada is the place where I have been able to grow up in a diverse environment amongst many cultures, which taught me tolerance and compassion for others. ‘Canadians are nice’ is a great value to live by. There is a real level of consciousness we can tap into in this country-every one of us can make a difference in the world by giving our unique talents and gifts. Canada is the place to do this.

What does Canada Day mean to you? How are you making life good?

 

Habits for better sleep

This spring in Toronto has been full of rain and one benefit I noticed is a cloudy rainy morning can help me sleep a little extra if I manage to allow myself. Being a student of traditional chinese medicine has me experimenting with various herbal formulas to balance my health. The unexpected benefit of these formulas has been improved sleep. I would say my sleep has always been pretty good and this spring I have experienced a whole new level of high quality sleep with trying chinese herbs and getting into a beautiful new bed. Sleep and rest is an extremely important component of health-we regenerate ourselves with sleep. In the spirit of sharing my good news of great sleep, I would like to share some habits that help ensure a good night’s sleep:

-No television or computer time after 10pm. Keep electronics to a minimum near your bed if possible.

-No caffeine intake after 3pm.

-Keep the same bed time ritual, such as reading, tea, brushing your teeth, so your body knows to wind down. Sleep is process of letting go, so develop your own routine to let go of your day in preparation for rest.

-Develop a meditation practice. One benefit is should you ever experience insomnia, you can observe yourself and what thoughts or feelings you experience while awake.

-Keep a gratitude journal to reflect on things you are grateful for at the end of your day. This practice has a life changing positive effect-

 

Recipe: Carrot, mint and date salad

My trip to Morocco was a unique experience in terms of culture and food. I will never forget the meals that came with many plates of salads, one of which was carrot salad. I am not a fan of raw carrots at all. However, once cooked and seasoned, I like carrots enough. This salad is inspired by the salads I had in Morocco and more recently by the opening of my friends’ restaurant Atlas.

5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of cumin to taste

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

honey to taste

handful of chopped fresh mint

5-6 pitted dates, chopped

Bring salted water to boil in a medium pot. Add carrots and boil for 6 minutes or until desired tenderness. Drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey and cumin. Add cooked carrots and dates, toss together gently and top with mint. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature