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Fitness, Health

Walking meditation for folks who can’t sit still

Who needs meditation the most? Busy people. Those of us who are not naturally calm. People who have a lot on their mind.

We know that we can benefit from time to quiet our mind, but finding the space for quiet can be hard.

I’ve had both family and friends tell me that they can’t find time to meditate. They don’t feel that they have enough hours in the day or they aren’t the type of people who can sit still easily. So they ask how they can incorporate meditation into their lives if they can’t sit still.

No judgment if people aren’t ready or don’t want to sit in a traditional meditation posture. There are other ways to get the benefits of a meditative mindset even if you don’t want to sit in one spot.

Through my yoga studies and personal experience, I have learned that we can calm our mind even when we are moving. Whether we are flowing through yoga postures, hiking in the mountains or strolling our neighborhood, we can move mindfully and create head space.

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely or to think about nothing, rather meditation is designed to help you become aware of your thoughts as they appear so you don’t become consumed by them. If your mind jumps all over the place from thought to unrelated thought, you are experiencing a phenomenon known as “monkey mind.” And you are not alone.

Many of us wrestle with thoughts that jump all over the place. Thoughts like, “I’m hungry. How far is it from San Francisco to Tokyo? I should Google that. I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I wonder what they are thinking about me. Do I have lettuce stuck in my teeth?” Our minds bounce all over the place, even when we are trying to focus on a project, a task or the present moment.

Meditation is an avenue that allows you to acknowledge your random thoughts and let them go.

We all can begin to tame our monkey mind simply by acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without letting them consume us. This consciousness can be attained through a walking meditation if you don’t have the time or inclination to literally sit with your thoughts.

How to Engage in a Walking Meditation

This is not your typical city walk. You want to reduce outside distractions as much as possible, including traffic, pot holes and other dangers. You will be turning your focus inward, so find a space with even trails or sidewalks that will allow you to do so. Also, leave the technology behind. A walking meditation is a time to be alone with your thoughts.

As you begin your walk, be mindful of the world around you. Notice the noises nearby. Are birds singing? Do you hear traffic?

Then, as you walk, tune in to sounds farther away. Can you make out specific sounds from the overall din of the soundscape?

Then turn the focus inward. Keeping your eyes gazed on the path ahead, become mindful of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow? Are you breathing into your back? Just notice.

Then see if you can maintain a rhythm with the breath. Most of us will need to slow down our breathing. Focus on making the inhalation and exhalation approximately the same length. Keep this focus for a minute or two.

And all this time, you are still moving. You may notice that your walking pace has slowed. That is ok.

Breathe.

Now it is time to turn your focus to your thoughts.

Notice what thought bubbles up in your mind, acknowledge it, thank the thought, and let it go. Bring your awareness back to the breath.

Don’t become discouraged if your mind drifts away to another time and place. Find the breath and begin again.

Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, thank it and let it go. Bring your focus back to the breath. See if you can stay in the present a little bit longer this time.

Keep walking, breathing, and noticing.

It’s a journey. Noticing our thought patterns and quieting our minds isn’t easy. But it’s worth it every step of the way.

Family, Simplify

Frustrated Shopping? Your Guide to Experiential Gift Giving

Maybe you are still stuck trying to think of the perfect gift for your favorite traveller who hasn’t quite settled down or your best friend who is in full declutter mode. Maybe you want to give to someone that has waaaay too much stuff. What do you do?

Consider an experiential gift

Gifts of experience can be the answer to the question “What do I buy for someone who has everything?” or “What do I buy for my minimalist family member?” Perhaps you decide to gift them an activity or help them out with your expertise.

For example, my hubby is pretty handy, and he is always helping out my Mom with projects around her house. I think she appreciates his help much more than anything he can buy since she can no longer do the work herself.

What other kinds of experience gifts can you give?

For the kids:

  • Tickets to the local zoo
  • Tickets to a children’s museum (if you have one in your area)
  • Tickets to ride a train (really, any train. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love a train ride)
  • Make them a certificate valid for a special outing to their favorite park with you.
  • Take them out for their favorite meal
  • Give them a day of yes. Basically, if they want to do something, then you do it. (I read about this awhile back, and the kids loved it. Let the recipient know they have to keep the requests within reason.)
  • Plan a family outing to one of their favorite places.
  • Take them to the movies or drive in

Frustrated Shopping? Check out our Guide to Gifts of Experience

For the bigger kids (aka adults):

  • Make them a meal or give them a gift card to a favorite restaurant.
  • For active peeps: Book a fun workout of their choice or one they have wanted to try. Better yet, do it together. (yoga, acrobatics, color run, obstacle course, etc.)
  • Help them complete a lingering household project
  • Movie tickets
  • Schedule time to hang out and spend the day on new experiences around town
  • Museum tickets
  • Bake something, bring it over, and spend time catching up while eating
  • Tickets to a favorite sporting or concert event (just make sure the recipient is available on the scheduled date)
  • For travelers: gift cards to their favorite airline.
  • If you are handy: Offer to help them with a project around the house. This is especially helpful for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • For avid online shoppers: offer to renew their Amazon Prime membership. At least you aren’t buying the actual items, just enabling their hobby a wee bit.

Do you have any other ideas for an experiential gift? If so, I would love to hear it. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

7 Tips for Simple Flights with a Toddler
Family, Travel

7 Tips for Simple Flights with a Toddler

Despite the fact that my husband and I are veteran travelers, I was still really nervous (terrified) to fly with our toddler. I put off our first family flight for quite awhile. Now after several flights of varying duration with our toddler, I have learned that you can make it through with proper planning and a bit of luck.

It is not possible to eliminate all toddler meltdowns, but you can greatly decrease the probability by following these simple tips.

#1 Do take snacks for the plane even if food will be served. I guarantee your toddler is not going to like most of the food served. And bring finger foods. Crackers and apple slices = win; spaghetti and meatballs = humiliating mess.

#2 Don’t forget their favorite snuggly stuffed animal AND blanket. Having their snuggly will help them fall sleep once the excitement of being on the plane has worn off. Some budget airlines like Southwest don’t pass out blankets anymore, and who wants a frozen tot? A familiar warm blanket is where it’s at.

#3 In addition to snacks–bring a sippy cup of their favorite drink. Does your toddler love juice and you hate it? It doesn’t matter. Bring the juice. During take off and descent, let them drink from their sippy cup to allow their ears to pop. And if it has to be juice, for the love of god, water it down. You don’t want to deal with a sugar high on an eight hour flight.

#4 While waiting for the plane, walk around the airport with your toddler. And I mean walk with them, don’t push them in the stroller. Let them walk and run all of their wiggles out before getting on the plane.7 TIps for Simple Flights with a Toddler

#5 Bring a few activities for them to do on the plane. This means quiet and portable activities. Coloring book and crayons if they can color on paper without defacing the plane itself. Those triangle shaped crayons are amazing because they don’t roll away–perfect for when you are strapped in. Bring stickers or those magnetic sticker books (my daughter’s favorite) for at least an hour of entertainment for kids who are beyond the put-everything-in-my-mouth stage.

#6 Do NOT be afraid to change your toddler on the plane. If your toddler is still in diapers, then you may have to change a dirty diaper in an excruciatingly tiny bathroom. Believe it or not, not all airport bathrooms have changing tables. It is a good practice to ask the flight attendants about the changing table situation when you board the flight so you know the go-to bathroom in a pinch.

#7 Relax. Your toddler will scream. He will stare at the passengers behind you while licking his lips because he wants some of the candy they are eating. She will slither down to the ground and try to crawl under the seats. Know that other kids have done the same and that the other passengers will live to see another day. If an embarrassing moment happens, apologize, redirect your toddler, and continue to count down the number of seconds until the plane lands.

These are some of the tricks that we have used with our toddler to make air travel somewhat pleasant. It’s not rocket science, but it pays to be prepared.

I’m still working on being a relaxed traveling parent. I chant the #7 tip to myself over and over as we prepare to board an airplane as a family. “Relax, relax, relax. My job is to minimize collateral damage for the other passengers, not completely eliminate it. Relax, relax, relax.”

It usually works.

Here is to a successful flight with your little ones.

Do you have any tips for simple travel with a toddler?

Health, Simplify

Giving Up Caffeine…for coffee lovers

How do you give up coffee when you love it, yet are extremely sensitive to its effects? I’ll tell you how I did it, but first a little background.

I love coffee. Seriously, it has been one of my favorite beverages for as long as I can remember.

My obsession began when I was just a little girl and my Grandma would serve me mini cups of coffee so I would feel just like the adults. No matter that my Mom didn’t agree. When I would stay overnight with my grandparents, in the morning my Grandma would serve me a child’s version of coffee, all kinds of watered down, and then lean in and whisper, “Don’t tell your parents.” And, of course, I didn’t. It was our delicious, fragrant little secret.

So I grew up secretly slurping coffee until I was a teenager and the love affair matured with the introduction to espresso. Oh, how I loved the zing of espresso. I frequented coffee houses and gulped down coffee drinks to stay alert and on task as I studied. Like many others, I drank coffee when working the swing shift. It didn’t take long until I was addicted.

And I fully embraced my caffeine addiction.

Well, until I started to notice some side effects. After much denial I realized that I needed to stop drinking so much of the stuff.

So I stopped cold turkey. After two days of caffeine headaches that felt like an ice pick stabbing my eye and a vice pressing my head, I slowly started to feel like a fully functional human being again. And I was completely caffeine free.

Yet when I don’t have coffee, I crave the taste and I linger over the smell.

After awhile, I decided to start drinking decaf to satiate my craving.

Some people can switch to decaf and call it good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked for me because I am extremely sensitive to caffeine, especially after going cold turkey for a couple of months.

For those of us with caffeine sensitivity, which basically means that our bodies are slow to metabolize the stuff, after one cup or less, our heart rates increase, our anxiety intensifies and we feel as wired as people who drink multiple cups. I noticed this happened to me even when I drank a decaf coffee or espresso. It was no bueno.

I learned that I had to give up caffeine altogether, including decaf.

It wasn’t easy, but I made it through.

Are you interested in giving up caffeine? Whether it is because of a personal decision or for health reasons, it is possible.

Here are some tips to help you give up coffee:

  • Use the taper off method. If you drink a lot of caffeine, consider reducing your intake slowly. Drink fewer cups of coffee every day until you are not drinking coffee at all. You can even replace a cup or two with decaf and then slowly wean from decaf. This method also seems to eliminate or reduce headaches for most people.
  • Going cold turkey is best when you have a few days to focus on you. If you decide to go cold turkey, consider giving up caffeine when you don’t have big plans scheduled over the next couple of days. Especially if you are a moderate to heavy drinker, the side effects may interfere with your daily tasks. Allow yourself to slow down and take it easy.
  • Embrace peer pressure. Tell your family, friends and co-workers when you decide to cut out caffeine. You will be surprised how many people will be happy to be part of your support system. They will cut you some slack for your general malaise and keep you accountable so you are less likely to slip up. Peer pressure is powerful. Embrace it.

Giving up anything you love isn’t easy, so be kind to yourself. Because I love coffee so much, I find that I often give up coffee for several months only to find myself drinking it again.

I thank my grandma for my love of coffee when I am savoring a cup in moments of weakness. When my heart palpitations return—as they always do—I give up coffee again following my tips above.

 

 

 

 

 

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