Why You Should Try Something New, Get in the Moment and Discover Yourself.

Are you up for a challenge? A change?


I just returned from vacationing on Vancouver Island and the general Vancouver area and I have to admit that I thought I was prepared for the physical challenges of the trip, boy was I wrong.

Here’s what the Sea to Summit website says, "Intermediate/Advanced. Some steep & challenging sections. Requires fixed rope lines to assist you at certain sections. Not recommended for downhill travel."

Okay, so, I read the above description AFTER I did the trail!

7.5 km, 918 vertical meters
$15 gondola ride back down = PRICELESS!
It was ONE tough, physical, mental and spiritual challenge!

Talk about a body meets mind, meets emotions, back to body, kind of journey! Wow! It was amazing and empowering and strengthening!

So I got to thinking about the summer and our habits and routines and how last month we talked about learning new habits...see my post How to Make Stillness and Deep Breathing a Habit.

Summer is here and it's time for a change.

Kids and teachers are almost out of school, more people are getting outside and changing things up. Routines are disrupted.

You may feel a little off kilter, or relieved, as routines are shifted and program sessions end. What better time to build on last month's theme of building new habits.

This is your time. Time to shift your perspective, try something new, change the shape of your day.

Write a list of things that you'd like to try, maybe something you've been putting off.
Try that new restaurant.
Go to a different park for your walk.
Try a pottery class or painting class, learn an instrument.
Love to read? Try reading a different genre.
Call up an old friend.

And, let's get back to our Beginner's Mind.

When something is new and it becomes a discovery or exploration, and if we can approach it without judgement, or, like I learned on my climb, release limiting attitudes and beliefs about it, we can grow and develop.

I really had to get over my thoughts about the hike being too hard or that I wasn't fast enough or strong enough. I had to take one step at a time, use my senses to take in the beautiful environment and get back to being present.

While I hiked, I realize that I actually became more of a human BEING than a human DOING.

This actually points to the freshness of the Beginner's Mind. It's like a child's mind and their ability to try out new things without judgement. We don't have to know it all. We don't have to be perfect.

So try using your beginner's mind with your actions, thoughts and experiences and then try it in your meditation time. In meditation we can open up to experience new insights, our intuition, and our curious, pure, energetic selves when we let go of judgement and analysis. 

This is what being in the moment is all about.
Being in the now.
Tapping into pure potential.
You might just discover something new.

Maybe you'll find a new superpower!

How to Make Stillness and Deep Breathing a Habit

Moon, sky and Lake Ontario at dusk

Have you ever said, or heard someone say, "Deep breathing doesn't work"?

This got me thinking about habits like say, brushing your teeth. If you only do it occasionally you could say that it doesn’t really work either.
 
Why is it so hard to develop a new habit?
 
There’s a lot of information about how to change a BAD habit but what about building a new one from scratch?
 
Let’s face it, we already know what’s good for us.
 
Try this:

Think about a new habit that you’ve been trying to add to your repertoire.
Got it?
Now see if the journey below sounds familiar.
 
We know how to do the thing.
We can even figure out when.
We sort of know why.
 
But still we don’t do it, at least not regularly.
 
Here come the excuses…
No time.
Too tired.
Forget.
Too hard.
Not urgent enough.
 
Then…
We feel guilty.
We feel defeated.
We’re okay without it.
We forget about it all together.
 
Until…
We realized we need it.
Something’s got to change.
 
AND WE START AGAIN!
 
YAY! WE START AGAIN!
 
This is so important that you need to say it out loud, tweet it, Instagram it or throw it up on Facebook, but share the message loud and proud:

“It’s okay to start again!”

Life’s a journey, you’re on your path, enjoy each day as it comes, try and try again…I know, you’ve heard it all before.
 
My all-time favourite way to fire up a new habit is to anchor it to something I’m already doing.
Let’s say you want to remember to practise your deep breathing. Maybe anchor it to when you get into bed, or just before you brush your teeth, or when you park car, or just before the first sip of your morning coffee?
 
Stress is going to wear you out!

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which boosts the immune system, digestion, your pre-frontal cortex, where you have access to deep thinking, new ideas and more compassion. Click here for my infographic on the benefits.

Now back to the quote at the top of the page, Deep breathing doesn’t work for me.”

 If we only try to breathe deeply during a crisis of anxiety or extreme stress, there’s a chance deep breathing won’t help. The calm deep breath we’re talking about here, is best used as a preventative tool.

We want to build up our emotional resilience and actually change our brain so that the challenges of our life don’t overwhelm us and set us up for stress, illness, worry and suffering.

The more you use this calming tool, the more you and your body will benefit!

Helping you smooth out your day!

Michele

Calm Down Keychain

Beaded keychain to calm anxiety

If you’re like me you’re always on the lookout for useful, everyday tools and ‘life’ hacks to move through anxious thoughts and stressful experiences. I’ve put this lesson plan/worksheet together for you so that you can make and try out this colourful, take-anywhere, keychain. It’s a very child friendly activity. Feel free to change, adapt and create your own version of this tool as I’m sure the children in your life will.

Age Range: 7 and up. For younger children choose age appropriate beads with larger holes and use thicker string. Not suitable for children 3 and under.

Overview & Purpose

  • Beaded keychains are easy and FUN for both adults and children to make.

  • Just like beaded bracelets, they can be a great way to connect to your favourite calm colours and can be used as a calm down tool. You can attach it to a pencil case, backpack, purse or keys.

  • Teachers can have their students make Calm Down Keychains and use them in LESSONS around positive mindset, attention focus, emotional awareness and self-regulation.

  • Use as a FOCUSSING TOOL before test taking.

  • These keychains could also be part of a Calm Corner in a classroom.

  • By keeping it with you it can be used ANYWHERE as a gentle reminder to check in with your breath or use positive self talk, when strong emotions or situations arise.

  • Each bead can be touched or counted while paying attention to SLOWLY and DEEPLY breathing in and out. This gives your body and mind a little break so it can reset and recover.

  • Your BRAIN BENEFITS too.* Strong and stressful emotions can fire up the amygdala (the fight or flight part of the brain) and this can be good, but you don’t want to get stuck in the stress. SLOW deep breathing can help shift the focus to your prefrontal cortex (the place where you do your thinking and creating).* www.thehawnfoundation.org, MindUp training resources.

  • It can give your mind and body a break so it can re-set, rest and recover.

Education Goals

  1. Emotional regulation and awareness.

  2. Empowering, self care.

  3. Focussing the mind on the breath while the fingers sense the beads.

  4. Creativity, small motor skills.

Objectives

  1. Choose calming coloured beads.

  2. Make a clip-on keychain.

  3. Learn and practise a deep calm breath. Use it as a calming tool.

Materials Needed

Beads, string, key ring for making calm down backpack buddy keychain by Michele Welch
key ring options for beaded calm down keychain

 

  1. BEADS-assorted colours. I like to use wooden beads that are 10mm (3/8") in diameter.

  2. The STRING is 10 lb. hemp cord purchased from Michael’s (not an affiliate).

  3. KEY RING with plastic clip-I got mine from Canadian Tire (not an affiliate). Also check your favourite Dollar Store. See the the picture for other options.

  4. SCISSORS.

  5. SMALL TOWEL or fabric so your beads don’t roll away.

How to Make a Calm Down Keychain

  1. Place your towel in front of you-this is your work area and keeps the beads from rolling everywhere. I used 9 beads for my keychain. Choose your beads, making sure that two layers of your string can fit through the hole

2. Measure and cut about a 20” piece of string (cord, thick elastic cord, shoelace or hemp). Fold it in half and tie it around your key ring.

2. Measure and cut about a 20” piece of string (cord, thick elastic cord, shoelace or hemp). Fold it in half and tie it around your key ring.

3. String your beads-all one colour, a mix or a pattern, it’s up to you-have fun. Thread one of the strings through the first bead from one side and then take the second string and thread back through, the same bead, from the other side. Pull on both strings to slide the bead up to the knot at the ring.

3. String your beads-all one colour, a mix or a pattern, it’s up to you-have fun. Thread one of the strings through the first bead from one side and then take the second string and thread back through, the same bead, from the other side. Pull on both strings to slide the bead up to the knot at the ring.

4. Continue to thread all of the beads.

4. Continue to thread all of the beads.

5. Slide each bead up to the top. When you’re ready to add the final bead go to the next step.

5. Slide each bead up to the top. When you’re ready to add the final bead go to the next step.

6. Final Bead. Thread the final bead as above but do not slide it up to touching the other beads. Leave a space that is at least a finger width or 1 to 2 times the size of the bead.

6. Final Bead. Thread the final bead as above but do not slide it up to touching the other beads. Leave a space that is at least a finger width or 1 to 2 times the size of the bead.

7. Final Tying. Take the two strings and tie a final double knot so the bead won’t come off. Be sure to keep the space above the final bead while you make the final knot. You can also add a tassel here if you would like. I didn’t do that.

7. Final Tying. Take the two strings and tie a final double knot so the bead won’t come off. Be sure to keep the space above the final bead while you make the final knot. You can also add a tassel here if you would like. I didn’t do that.

8. Now try sliding the beads, one at a time, down to the bottom. There will be a space at the top. Then try the reverse and slide each bead back up to the top. You’ll notice that if you stop half way the beads will ‘lock’ and stay where you left them.    So now you're ready to go to the next step to learn a simple way to use your Calm-Down Backpack Buddy Keychain.

8. Now try sliding the beads, one at a time, down to the bottom. There will be a space at the top. Then try the reverse and slide each bead back up to the top. You’ll notice that if you stop half way the beads will ‘lock’ and stay where you left them.

So now you're ready to go to the next step to learn a simple way to use your Calm-Down Backpack Buddy Keychain.


How to use your Calm Down Keychain

  1. Teachers (parents) can use this Keychain to teach students how to:

    -calm down before a test.

    -focus before creating a project, artwork, brainstorming, problem solving.

    -tune inward to identify emotions and feelings.

  2. Use it as a Reminder Tool: use it to check in and notice what you’re feeling, and see if a calming breath is needed.

  3. Use it as a calm down tool with calm breathing. See below:

First-Practise the Slow Calm Belly Breath.

With your hands on your belly try to feel your tummy expand out as you breathe in and slightly flatten as you exhale. Try to relax and don't force it. Another way to practise is to feel your lower ribs expand out. Let your mind follow the air moving from the tip of your nose and down deep into the body. Notice it turn around and flow back out. Remember not to force your breathing so you don’t feel dizzy or lightheaded. Finally, breathe normally while you continue to remain calm.

Next-How to Calm Down with your Keychain.

  • While holding your keychain touch or slide each bead as you pay attention to your breath. Breathe in and breathe out a CALM feeling. Feel the texture of each bead as you move it. 

  • You can also think of a positive message or affirmation like, “I am calm, I am peaceful, I am happy, I am loved, I am smart, I am strong…” while you move the beads.

  • Follow your normal gentle breath or follow the bead with your mind. Remember to go SLOWLY and gently. Continue until all the beads have been moved to the top end and repeat by moving all the beads down to the bottom end.

  • Just try a few beads to start and follow your own gentle breathing rhythm.

There you go. You’ve just tried a calm down technique that can help you get on with your day. Use it before a test, presentation, when you try something new, or anytime you feel that you might need a calm down. You can use it anywhere you carry your keychain, or better yet make more than one!

Your body will feel calmer, be able to think more clearly, and your brain will thank you.

I'd love to hear from you. Let me know if my instructions are clear enough and if this Calm Down Tool helps you or someone in your life.

Michele

Calm Down with Animals

"You got to get away from words if you want to understand any animal. It thinks in pictures, it thinks in smells, it thinks in touch sensations - little sound bites like, it's a very detailed memory." 

Temple Grandin

Find Calm with Animals

My daughter started a new job this week and it just so happened that there was a beautiful 12 year old senior dog in the office.

Needless to say, the first day at a new job is a little STRESSFUL. You're meeting a ton of new people, you have to get to know the tech, procedures and log in's. Everything is new.

Guess where the dog, named Shorty, chose to hang out for the day?

Yup, under the new employee's desk! What a gift it was for my daughter to have this beautiful animal to connect with!

So, once a week, this office has a dog hang out with everyone. I know it's not a new idea to have pets in the workplace but this example really emphasized how ANIMALS CAN HELP us humans to DE-stress. They can teach us to live in the moment and love unconditionally, and they're great, non-judgmental ENERGY readers, with the ability to sense the FEEL of a ROOM and the PEOPLE in it.

Count yourself lucky if you live with an animal family member. My beautiful Labrador Retriever crossed the rainbow bridge years ago but I can find comfort connecting with the memory of her. 

There's no doubt about it, patting, holding or having a pet nearby can be calming and comforting. Therapeutic Paws of Canada, Caring Canine: Toronto Therapy Dogs and St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program all offer a variety of programs that connect a dog with seniors, adults, teens and children. These programs help with everything from stress reduction, autism, pain management to helping children read. Pet Partners list many studies supporting the benefits of the human animal bond.

So what happens if you don't have direct access to a pet? 

Well, getting out in nature, and listening and observing the wildlife around you, will certainly help to increase your odds of experiencing some calming mindful moments.  I love to watch the way animals and birds interact and communicate.
Once you start noticing, you'll see even more interactions and then you might find yourself looking forward to those moments. 

Of course you could go to the zoo or aquarium or a dog park, and who doesn't love those funny Facebook pet videos. Careful with this one because once you go there you might not be back until tomorrow!

The next time you're near a pet or out in nature, check in to your body and notice your tension levels and your breathing.
Do you start to let go and relax?
Can you gently slow your breath?
Are you able to connect and just BE with the animal? 
Does your heart soften or a smile come to your lips?

If this resonates with you and if you discover that your MIND gets a break from all the CHATTER, then you can use the memory of these experiences to access this positive feeling later on, when you need it. A positive memory can go a long way to putting a smile on your face just like the memories of my yellow Labrador can.

Helping you smooth out your day!  Michele

Grab my 3 Simple and Fast Meditation Tips BELOW.

Where Is Your Home?

"As the Mother of life, Mother Earth gives birth, and gives us everything we need to live – the food, the water, the medicines, the clothing, the shelter, and most of all, the love, kindness and teachings that a mother gives to her child." 

Manitoba Elders, Turtle Lodge,
The Great Binding Law• December 25, 2015

turtle.png

As I sat down to figure out how to honour our collective mothers this Mother's Day, I stumbled upon the turtle, as a symbol of the great mother earth.

Turtles symbolize long life (they can live to be 150 years), fertility and good health. Creation stories see her as rescuing mankind from the floods while others say she dove down and retrieved mud so the creator could make the earth.

Some indigenous cultures view the turtle as a mother, who carries man on her back, and moves slowly and deliberately while grounded to mother earth.
Even the 13 sections (on some species) of her shell have symbolic importance as they are said to represent the 13 moon cycles of motherhood.

She not only carries her home, SHE IS HER HOME. Her shell is her home; a place of safety, protection and support. 

We all need a home where we can feel those qualities and by going within, finding a quiet place of presence, both men and women can find their MOTHER WITHIN their ALIVENESS and the grounded safety of Mother Earth. 

In our quietest moments we find our inner, safe, place of support where we can 'mother' ourselves.

We all came from the home inside our Mothers. 
So, this Mother's Day take a moment of quiet so you can go inside yourself to recognize that you too carry your home.
Home is where you are.

Thank you to all of our mothers who...
Love, Protect, Laugh, Hug, Listen, Nurture, Make Peace, Guide, Challenge, Love, Inspire, Boost, Cry, Worry, Push, Comfort, Teach, Hold, Question, Release, and Love.

Helping you smooth out your day-Michele

activate more love within yourselF. CHECK OUT THIS PREVIOUS BLOG POST: YOUR HEART ENERGY IS YOURS TO USE.

Grab my 3 Simple and Fast Meditation Tips BELOW.

References:
https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/turtle-symbol.htm                      https://taniamarieartist.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/gaia-earth-mother-and-turtle-ancient-wisdom-for-conscious-living/                http://www.shamanicjourney.com/turtle-power-animal-symbol-of-mother-earth-fertility-protection-support-security

How NOT to Make a Decision

"Be wary of any decisions in the 'zag' of life. They are almost sure to be wrong. They will be too coloured by our anger or depression or doubt or discouragement."  Rev. Dr. Walter Welch, The Zig Zag of Life, 1980.


Keira-pinata.JPG

How many times have you had to make a decision and you feel stuck? AFRAID to make the wrong decision? WHAT IF this happens or that happens? You pound away at it. You make lists, weight your pros and cons, walk a way, survey your friends, sleep on it, and you still can't move on it! We've all been there!

When Rev. Dr. Welch speaks of the ZAG in life, he's referring to your circumstance and the feelings and emotions in that present moment. Trying to make a decision when you feel less than your best self is really tough. The decision may be rushed, or lead by outside pressures. I like to feel good about my decisions and try to avoid "Ya, but..." self-talk, which is almost always fear based.

So, after you check in with your present feelings, you can do 2 things:

1. Find something to APPRECIATE and let that feeling flow through you. It could be a memory or shifting what you're doing.

2. This may be a little harder to swallow but here it goes, ACCEPT that both decisions are offered to you for your growth. You can't NOT grow. With acceptance you'll find a shift in your stress about the decision and, as you'll begin to relax, clarity can seep in.

Either way, give yourself a little space from your decision.

Finally, and you could do this first if you're ready, you can slow your breath and meditate. I didn't mention if first because sometimes when you head is overflowing and super busy with thoughts the idea of being still and calm is met with a huge amount of resistance. Resistance will just bring you more of the same and add to your stress, so by shifting your mood first you can then find a way to allow stillness.

Be sure to grab my printable meditation cheat sheet HERE.

You know the drill it's time to get still! Ha, ha, ha!

Nice rhyme but you've just got to go there. Like it or not, a calm mind is a clear mind and it's easier to hear that inner voice giving you answers.

Helping you smooth out your day.-Michele