Many people don’t have self-care practices simply because their expectations are too high in the beginning, so they never get started.
Do you ever find that because you’re not a perfect yogi or a serene mountain top meditator that it’s not good enough so you practice even less? This goes for decluttering your home and making space as well. You’re not a perfect minimalist, so why even bother trying?
My yoga practice has suffered for great lengths of time in the past because I didn’t meet myself where I was in that moment. Instead I shamed myself for not going to hour long yoga classes multiple times a week at a studio, so I never got on my mat at all.
Pressure to meditate perfectly can have the same effect, the inner shame and comparison game can have you believe that you’re not doing enough. This can be fueled by the ever present barrage of magazine worthy perfection we are fed on our social media feeds.
We see perfection, we shame ourselves for not being good enough, and we continue without growing on our path.
There’s got to be a better way.
If you’ve read through any of my past posts (such as this one and this one) you know that I believe perfection should never be the end goal.
Giving up on perfectionism means you don’t have to be a hardcore yogi or minimalist to learn from these practices and apply them in your own life. You can be you, learning and growing, slowly incorporating life improving practices into your life, at your own pace, in your own time.
When you let go of perfectionism, you make way for a supportive, healthy and ever-changing practice. This is where real growth can happen.
Below I share some practical ideas for you to get started with three of my favourite healthy practices.
Meditation is such an amazing practice. There’s science to back up how good it is for your brain, it can be a completely free practice to take up (you literally only need yourself to do it). There is a huge amount of different ways to practice, and yet so many people that know of its benefits struggle to maintain a practice. Why?
Meditation can feel hard, and it can bring up lots of self judgement. Here’s where the perfection thing comes into play. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon the day after you started jogging would you? Same goes for meditation. Let go of how long you think you “should” be able to meditate for.
Try this instead:
If you really want to develop a meditation practice for yourself, you have to start somewhere. So start simply.
Start with one minute a day.
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet, turn the ringer off of your phone and set an alarm for one minute. Close your eyes and breathe. When the alarm goes off, slowly open your eyes, take one more breath and move on with your day with purpose.
Try and do this for a month. At the end of the month, you will have meditated for 30 minutes! That might be longer than some will ever have meditated in their entire lives.
During this month, notice how your mind reacts to its one minute rest a day. Do you feel any different? This will be supremely personal, and you’ll only know if you try it.
At the end of the month, see where your meditation path takes you.
Yoga will look different in your body compared to anyone else’s, but we get scared we aren't "doing the poses good enough". While the poses in your typical yoga class give a framework for the shapes you take on, they are that way to offer healing benefits, not to look an exact certain way.
Often fear of not looking good enough or being flexible enough while practising keeps too many yogi hopefuls from spending time on their mat.
Try this instead:
Practice at home, for 5 minutes a day.
Start with any simple poses you know. Peaceful cat cows, stress releasing forward folds, even powerful warriors.
To turn yoga into a practice, you have to let go of expecting yourself to look a certain way. Be brave and practice at home instead of the studio.
Get to know yourself through your yoga practice. This is magic. This is the power of yoga.
It seems scary to develop a home practice, but you can start with simple, safe movements that will allow you to get in touch with how your body is really feeling every day.
Minimalism (or Simple Intentional Living) can easily become a comparison game. If you think you have to own under a certain amount of possessions or live in an empty, lifeless home to be a minimalist, you’re missing out on the multitude of benefits this way of thinking can bring you.
Try this instead:
Focus on your own life, your own space and look for an item that you truly have no need for. You don’t use it, you don’t plan on using it. It’s just … there. Then donate it.
Do this every day for a week. One item a day for week.
Remove seven unneeded and unused items from your home in a week.
Reflect on the fact that another human may come along, purchase one of these items and get great joy from it. Isn’t that better than it lying around your house?
At the end of the week, how do you feel? Do you notice that you or your home feel any different? Do you want to keep going?
Small, actionable steps in your path to more intentional and healthy living will serve you more than unattainable perfection.
Through our smallest actions, we build confidence, we make progress, and we grow.
Leave a comment below if you give any of these achievable actions a try :)
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It's safe to say that yoga has become widely accepted in our Western society in the past decades. Perhaps for those who might not otherwise partake in an ancient Eastern practice, taking a yoga class is like taking an exercise class. Yoga will keep you fit, and we all know that physical movement is good to keep the body healthy but we need to show our minds the same love that we have for our bodies. Developing a daily practice can seem daunting at first. I love to share my personal journey to help people understand that developing supportive practices does not happen overnight or only to people who have been immersed in deep self care their whole lives. I was raised not knowing a thing about any of this and I spent a good amount of my youth not taking good care of my body or my mind. Yet we all have to start somewhere. We can all look at others and think "easy for them" or "it's not even worth it, I'll never be that disciplined". Truth is, no matter where you are at this exact moment in your life, you deserve to develop a meditation practice that will support you throughout your days. I've put together some tips and insights I've learned along the way in my years of building a steady, supportive meditation practice. Enjoy!
It's not about clearing your mind or stopping all thoughts
There is a common myth that holds us back from meditating that in order to do it "right" you must clear your mind of all thoughts. Try something for me right now, close your eyes, take a slow deep breath, and clear your mind of all thoughts. Done? Cool. How did that work out for you? My guess is that the instant your eyes closed and put effort into clearing your mind, your mind reacted with roughly 100 thoughts, memories, ruminations and song lyrics all at once. The mind doesn't like to be told what to do and it will never be clear of all thoughts. The trick instead is to sit back and let the thoughts come and go without grabbing hold of them in any way. That's it. When we learn to allow the thoughts to just be, they lose their control over us. We can start to notice when we are being swept away in the river of thoughts and we can come back to the only thing we ever really have- the present moment.
Find what works best for you
There are many different methods of meditation out there, so feel free to try out different ones until something clicks. And for some, even after that click, you may want to continue trying out different methods and practices. I never stick with one lineage of meditation or yoga and I used to think that made me flighty or undisciplined. Turns out I am just a Gemini and I've decided to embrace it instead, and accept that I love trying new things. But back to you- here are a few different schools of meditation with free guided practices, maybe one of them will work for you. 10% Happier and Headspace are two cool, modern and simple apps with guided meditations. You may want to check out Metta Loving Kindness Meditation which is a Buddhist practice (I will save a whole post to write about this amazing practice in the future). There is also TM Transcendental Meditation which is a mantra based meditation I have yet to try - but this is what the Beatles were learning while they were in India.
You don't have to sit on the floor
You know all of those poses from yoga class? Turns out they had a very specific purpose behind them. The ancient yogis kept their bodies strong and limber so they could sit in a cross legged or lotus position to meditate for long periods of time. However, if you've taken my yoga classes or read up on my blog, you will know that I never ever want someone to not reap the benefits of yoga and meditations due to inflexibility. So, if sitting cross legged is too much for you, sit your butt down on a chair and get meditating. There! A big scary excuse solved! You're welcome.
5-10 minutes a day can have a huge impact
We tend to be all or nothing don't we? Because we can't find 45 minutes to sit and meditate in a day, we do nothing at all. The biggest gift I gave myself in my meditation journey was permission to do as much or as little as I could squeeze into my morning. Some days that meant setting a timer for 5 minutes. We all have 5 minutes if we choose. Five minutes could just as easily be spent scrolling Instagram or deciding what to watch on Netflix. Five minutes. Start there. Once you start feeling good and noticing the effects those five minutes are having, you may even try ten minutes. It could grow from there, or maybe it won't. And that's okay! Any time you spend on cultivating yourself through meditation will do wonders.
It's not about achieving anything
This can be a hard one to wrap the mind around. In our society, goals and achievement are what tend to drive us. When this way of thinking crosses over into our self care routines, we can set ourselves up for disappointment. I used to think that I had to practice yoga and meditate for at least an hour every morning or it wasn't good enough. After sitting through a meditation session in which my mind was racing, I would think I had failed. On the flip side, when my mind quieted during a session I would think that I had done it right. When we approach our practices as a goal to achieve it sends the message that we are searching for something outside of ourselves to get better. But yoga and meditation share the same beautiful truth - that they are practices that help us peel away the layers to get to the wise, knowing and peaceful version of ourselves that is always within.
If any of this has piqued your interest but using an app or following along with a class seems like too much, try this out. Simply find a quiet space, sit comfortably in a chair or cross legged on the floor, turn off your phone ringer and set a timer for 1-5 minutes. Then breathe. Allow the breath to come and go through your nose and keep your mouth closed and gently smile. Bring your attention to the tip of your nostrils and notice how the breath is cooler on each inhale and warmer on each exhale. Every time you notice your mind has been wandering (which it will), bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales. That's it! Keep this up until your timer goes off and take a second to notice your state. After even a few minutes you may feel calmer and refreshed.
Give it a try and leave a comment letting me know how it went!
Ten years ago, I had never meditated. I had recently moved to Ottawa and was in search of some new, healthy habits. I dreamed of practicing yoga more, learning how to meditate, becoming a vegetarian and many other things that compared to my youth, were way outside of my way of living. I remember the first free meditation workshop I attended, the sheer thrill of even following through and showing up for it on my own. During the workshop I mingled with a lovely woman, she was so calm and spoke so thoughtfully. After trying out a few simple guided meditations in the class, I mentioned to her that I really loved being in nature and that I would have these brief moments of just feeling really good and so calm, and that being in a busy city I couldn't seem to replicate that feeling. She replied that the feeling I was describing was always available and within us, and that my journey would be to find that feeling I had in nature no matter where I physically was. Mind = Blown.
After that course, I dabbled with sitting meditation, counting my breath 1-2-3 and coming back to the count anytime I noticed my mind wandered. I read books on meditation and at a certain point was learning more about it than practicing it. It just was not sticking as a daily habit. It became one of those items on my life list that remained just out of reach for many years. In 2013 during a three week stay in a small ashram in the Indian Himalayas, we would wake and begin each morning with 20 minutes of mantra meditation, and end each day with the same. I traveled so far for that experience, and it turned out to feel like a mild form of torture. In those three weeks, I sat through exactly one meditation session without fidgeting, opening my eyes, becoming irritable, restless and insanely jealous of the other students who looked so blissful. I knew it was going to be challenging, but come on! I was not a happy woman facing myself in those moments. I did not return home with a daily meditation practice. I had traveled to India for traditional yoga philosophy, but a mantra given by a guru in the mountains just wasn't for me, it didn't bring me back to that peaceful place I always seemed to find while in nature.
About a year after my ashram stay, I was given a book called 10% Happier by a ABC news anchor Dan Harris. If you haven't heard, he's the guy who had a panic attack on national television and now practices non-secular Buddhist meditation on the regular. He is out to prove that even "fidgety skeptics" and a-holes can be better versions of themselves through developing a sitting practice. He likens meditation to exercise for your brain, just as we should work out our muscles, our brains also need to be trained. It was sometime after reading that book that I realized even if I sat for 5 or 10 minutes a day (even 1 minute!), I could do it. I always thought that to meditate, I needed to sit and clear my mind of all my thoughts. Whoa! Not even close. Turns out it can be as simple as sitting and noticing the thoughts as they come and go, floating in and out with no effect on me. With my practice, my daily reactions have become more skillful. I am developing that split second pause between how I've always reacted and how I choose to best react in that moment. I still have my moments (goodness don't we all?) but I truly love my practice and all the good it has brought me.
I suppose I share this story in the hopes that even one person may read it and decide to try meditation for the first time or return to a practice they have strayed from. It's important to remember that it doesn't have to be, look or feel perfect. If your schedule is thrown off or something comes up, you can still make time (seriously, even one timed minute of silence and listening to the breath can do wonders) Just accept and acknowledge that your practice might look a little bit different depending on the day, week and year, and that's okay. There are also so many different varieties of meditation and it may take a few tries for what works best for you. The greatest lesson out of all of this is that mediation, like yoga, is not a goal to strive and achieve for, but rather a practice to support coming back to the truth of oneself, to the goodness that always has been and always will be tucked down deep inside each and every one of us.