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::deep freeze

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We've got snow and cold around here.  Yesterday was one of those days that hurt to breathe it was so cold, dipping to -40 (yes below zero) with wind chills.

Those of you who may be wondering, in our school district we have to consider close to -50 below before our school day gets impacted with a closing or late start - so school went on!

Even when it is this cold, life goes on.  Dogs and people need a bit of outdoor exercise, chickens need to be fed and watered and eggs need to be collected - before they freeze.  But it is quite possible to maintain our lifestyle with these extreme weather conditions, especially knowing that it is temporary.  Seed catalogs are welcome additions in our mailboxes this time of year.

As you may relate, sharing pictures of myself is not something I always go out of my way to do, but I wanted to show-and-tell my completed hand-spun hat!   I am very pleased how it turned out and was surprised with the natural variegation of colors in the yarn that formed the stripes when I knit it up - adding a little flair to our North-woods style around here of snow pants, bulky down jackets, scarves and hats! 

I am also guest posting today over at The Conscious Caterpillar at Xan Holyoak's blog based in Australia....where it is summer temperatures are close to 100 degrees.  Check it out, and stay warm - or cool - wherever you may be!


::Managing the Christmas Crazies - a guest post by Xan Holyoak

Sharing with you today a guest post written by Xan Holyoak, contributing in this space all the way from South Australia!  Enjoy Xan's timely inspiration to stay grounded this holiday season. 

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Managing the Christmas Crazies 

Can you feel it?  I can and I believe that anyone within reach of a television, a smart phone, his or her inbox, a shopping center, or any other connection with society probably can as well.  It takes a strong filtering system of mindfulness and awareness to remain centred.  The media and commercial retailers fuel the idea that we need to achieve everything and consume beyond our needs.  Even some of our family members or perhaps our local school community perpetuate the feeling.  Christmas is big business you see and our spending makes it the most lucrative season of the year.  That all sounds rather disheartening, but I aim to place my priorities toward the true essence held within this time of year and that helps to keep me connected rather than dissected.

Whatever your faith or belief systems, we all strive to move through each moment of every day with love, compassion and gratitude.  The Festive Season serves as a reminder of this but I know I am not alone when I confess my struggles to keep this intention.  Most other people I am surrounded by are also feeling it and there are many among us who are yet to gain awareness of their deviations.  I do not mean for that to sound like a judgment, more so that this is how we have all been conditioned by the ‘powers’ we have been exposed to over the last few generations.  This feeling runs deeply, far beyond what we touch, see and hear.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic I sometimes think it feels like an assault upon all our senses and energetic bodies at once.  An electrical current that seems to shock our entire Being - Mind, Body and Spirit.  Goodness, that does sound melodramatic.   That force within the air around us gains momentum throughout the Festive Season and creates a static charge similar to the positive ions that fill the air before a spectacular lightning storm.  In fact, the irritability and agitation that comes about toward the years end is very like that before a storm.  At least, this is something I have observed within my own outward environment beyond the sanctuary of my own home.  I have no scientific background, however, and so these thoughts of mine stem purely from my own observations.

Reading this, one would think I lacked the enjoyment of the Christmas Season when in fact it is the opposite that is true.  I love it and reliving that unbridled excitement through the innocence of my own children is where the true spirit of Christmas becomes reborn.  Keeping that filter in place is what becomes so important to me at this time of year.  Not only is teaching my children the beauty behind making and giving important, but showing them through my own actions helps to instill the love, compassion and gratitude that they can then enriched upon.  It is through my own behaviour that they will learn and that is why I try to be even more mindful of my personal levels of self-care throughout this season.  

 It is common (and so easy) for us all to rush that much more, for our tempers to be shortened and for the ‘To-Do’ list to become impossibly long.  There are the extra commitments to squeeze into an already full schedule and often our sleep is lessened (or not of quality) as the hour we make it into our bed becomes later and our minds are still full.

So far, my words here have been generalized with the assumption every one of us feels this same way.  This is incorrect for there are so many who seem to thrive with this frantic energy.  I am not one of them.  In fact, there exists a little part of me that is slightly awed by those who adapt their lives and welcome in this rush.  I know my limitations and I know what brings me peace and joy.  I relish in a simple quite life with my family and although we enjoy socializing, we try to remain mindful and selective to what we commit ourselves and always consider the needs of our children and ourselves as paramount.  

I forgot this for a short time last week and felt the inevitable challenges because of my oversight.  You can read all about that in this blog post over at The Conscious Caterpillar.  Those days last week were a very timely reminder for me to take stock with my priorities.  Over the years and with the passing of each “Silly Season” I am learning what works best for my family and me.  It is a work-in-progress and I am sure I will continue to refine these ideas and methods as my children grow and our lives flow forward.  For right now though, it is about planning, organization and the gracious decline of most invitations that stand as our strongest filters.

In the weeks before Christmas and for us here in Australia those are also the weeks which close our school year, I can usually expect a moment of overwhelm as the inbox is flooded and the collection of notices begin to burst from an overstuffed school bag each day.  That becomes my signal of when to pull back.  I watch our wall calendar and my diary and I note those things in which we choose to commit, everything else gets placed into the recycle box and I let it go.  Making time for my family to go gently and quietly is an absolute priority for me and as a former “people pleaser” and “yes-maid” I have come a long, long way in setting those boundaries.  

Admittedly, I am a thinker, a planner and an organizer (although you wouldn’t know it if you saw my desk!) and my secret to gift giving is quality over quantity.  I don’t mean the purchase of an expensive item, quite the opposite.  As the first few months of any new year pass, I begin to germinate vague thoughts towards our Christmas gifts of that year.  Yes I’m serious!  I start that soon, annoying right?  Well, yes it would appear that way, but for me this is one of the keys to remaining calm and less financially stretched come the end of the year.  This season for example, I made the decisions for what I wanted to give to family members sometime around June.  By August I had gathered my materials and begun the making.  Granted one of them is a knitted gift and knowing I am a very slow knitter, I knew I had to get started.  December is only just upon us and I am now very close to complete with my entire holiday 'making'.  Sometimes, depending on the homemade gift, you may have to be organized in advance.  Take soap making, the bars need time to cure, and for me this year our teacher’s gifts are beautiful bottles of vanilla extract.  It was around the middle of the year when I infused the vanilla pods into a large bottle of vodka and hid it away on a dark bottom shelf in the pantry.  I’ve maybe checked on it two or three times and this week I will dispense the extract into the small gifting bottles I ordered a month ago, finish them off with some pretty labels and they will be ready to give next week.  

More recently, I have spent a few moments clicking around the ‘blog-a-sphere’ and gaining inspiration for next year.  Already, I know what I’ll be making for some people and my hope is to start on it even earlier than in the past.  Told you I was annoying!  

Planning and being organized in this way is what keeps me relaxed at this time of year.  The making without the pressure is gentle, slow and pleasurable.  I am able to put into the gift all those golden thoughts of love, compassion and gratitude.  I do purchase gifts as well, but like the homemade ones, I try to shop well in advance and stow away until the Christmas wrapping begins.  These gifts are bought mindfully with the same intentions as those that are homemade and we always choose to spend our money with small businesses that are ethical and sustainable, and even better if they are local.  

Of course, last minute things always crop up but I find I can adapt and manage them in a far better way if I know I am balanced in my three key areas.

  • Managing our schedule to allow plenty of room to breathe
  • Planning, making and organizing our gifts well in advance
  • Allowing a little moment each day for yourself – a gift of self-care

My wish is that you take from this whatever parts may work for you and your loved ones.  We all have different needs and the measures of our boundaries are unique to each of us.  Happiness and joy is there for us to grab hold of so may you seize it tightly within your grasp and hold it close throughout this Festive Season.

Merry Christmas!

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Xan+holyoakXan is a lover of life and fills her days with her family.  She is also a writer, maker, baker, and all around home creator.  With her husband and children, the four of them are carving out their dream to live the 'good life' and are learning how to be homesteaders on a suburban block in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.  Xan blogs at The Conscious Caterpillar, where you can follow along and join in on their adventures.


The Simple Step to Live & Parent With Greater Ease :: Guest Post by Hunter Clarke-Fields (and Giveaway!)

Today I am so happy to share with you a guest post by Hunter Clarke-Fields!   Hunter has inspired me personally to focus on self-care on mindful living.  Today she is contributing in this space and offering a generous giveaway! 

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This morning my 4-year old balked, fussed, and cried at brushing her teeth for the 100,000th time. Okay, maybe it wasn’t refusal number 100,000, but it felt like that. It’s so frustrating. I know that this kind of situation can trigger my temper.

My mindfulness practice helps me in moments like these.

I know from my stillness practice each day that the way out of these difficult feelings - frustration, anger, anxiety - is not to stuff them down or avoid them, but to go through them.

So this morning, when I started to feel that frustration instead of stuffing it down, I felt it.

I put my awareness into my body and felt the surge of energy that means my fight-or-flight response has been triggered. My mind was going. So I greet it: “Hello frustration.”

I didn’t try to pretend that everything was calm and peaceful, hoping it would be that way.

I told my daughter, “I feel really frustrated when you refuse to brush your teeth in the morning!” I felt the feelings, and I breathed into it.

The cool thing was that it didn’t escalate. I went through the feelings with awareness, and then was able to let them go. Escalation often happens when we try to deny or suppress our feelings. They come back to bite us until we are forced to feel them.

Notice I didn’t mention my daughter too much here?

That’s because mindfulness helps us realize that we can only control ourselves. If I work on taking care of my own feelings, my daughter see that.

In fact, children naturally just feel what they are feeling (sometimes really intensely!), and then move on. She doesn’t linger. Tantrum and tears in the bathroom to smiles on the mini-trampoline. She instinctively knows how to let her sad out.

The work of mindful parenting is work on ourselves.

We are the ones who were taught by our parents and culture to suppress our feelings (“Don’t cry. It’s not that bad. Buck up.”), not to pay attention to our bodies (“You have to eat everything on your plate.”), and not to trust ourselves (“Parents and teachers are always right.”).

These voices of our parents and culture still ring in our heads: “She shouldn’t disrespect me like that.” “You deserve this for what you did.” “Just do what you are told.”

Of course they do. That’s how most of us were raised. It’s natural that we should default to that place - we were trained in it.

That’s not to say it’s how we want to live and parent. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves when we have those thoughts. When our parents words sometimes come out of our mouths.  Compassion begins with ourselves.

And this is where mindfulness practice really helps.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. To be aware of where we are and what we’re doing. Not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us

Mindfulness practice gives us the space to objectively look at our thoughts. Then we can choose what we want to believe. It gives us the grounding to be able to feel our feelings. We don’t get pushed and pulled by the emotional winds as much.

That’s why my coaching clients report more patience, more self-awareness and generally greater ease when they start their mindfulness practices. It’s not that the frustrations of the world have gone away. They can handle them with greater equanimity.

You can try it right now.

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Sit up tall wherever you are. Close your eyes and take a minute to feel your breath coming in and out. Let your belly be soft. Focus on your breathing.

When thoughts come, notice them. Then come back to your breath. When you are ready, continue reading.

This is very simple, right? Hard to stay focused on your breath, right? Our thoughts drag us away from present at a dizzying speed.

This is how we practice separating ourselves from our thoughts. And the benefits it can bring are many - from physical to mental health and more.

Support for you.

I want you to have the support you need to develop a mindfulness practice. I know that as each of us creates more peace in ourselves, it makes for more peaceful families and ripples out into the world.

That’s why I’m hosting a Free 14-day Virtual Mindfulness Retreat starting this November 10th. Please go check it out and join us in creating more peace.

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Mindful self-care incorporates all of you - body-mind and spirit. That’s why I’m offering two of my Yoga Mama Home Practice video packages as a giveaway too!

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Now it’s your turn.

Do you incorporate mindfulness practices at home? Would you like to? Please share in the comments below!

Thank you so much for reading! It’s really a treat to meet some new folks, so please come over and say hello on my Facebook page. I always respond and love hearing your stories.

With warmth & lovingkindness,

signature.jpg10710767_10152737553654350_7415973879415876714_nHunter Clarke-Fields, MSAE, RYT, helps mamas let go of stress and overwhelm and bring more peace and joy to life using the traditions of yoga & mindfulness. Hunter has over 18 years of experience in yoga & mindfulness practices. She has the dharma name, "Calm breath of the heart." Find out more about Hunter at Hunteryoga.com as well as free resources and how you can work with her here.

 

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Thank you Hunter Clarke-Fields!
 
Enter below for your chance to win Hunter's Yoga Mama Home Practice. (a $49 value!)   
I recently purchased the package and it has been just what I needed.  The Yoga Mama Home Practice offers a variety of streamable and downloadable yoga videos that range from 5 minutes to 75 minutes long, with most in the middle at about 15-25 minutes.  I highly recommend this practice and am grateful to Hunter for offering two readers a chance to win!
 
Enter below!

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