Yoga Off The Mat: Farm Life Every Damn Day

After becoming increasingly interested the in farm side of farm-to-table food, I spent the month of August WWOOFing on a permaculture farm 45 minutes outside of Seattle. What I learned changed the way I consider food systems, nature, community, and the cycle of life. However, I'm not so sure that the "pre-yoga" me would've had the mental or physical capacity to hit those pinnacle moments, and here are some of the reasons why.


Patience

 Because rams love untying knots with their horns

Because rams love untying knots with their horns

Ducks don't shit in their food because they know we'll bring them new food. Goats don't break out of their pasture enclosure to spite me. Chickens don't crush their own eggs and eat them in front of us on purpose (so I tell myself). Find better ways to feed the ducks, learn to tie sturdier knots, and come up with creative ways to keep eggs safe. 

Animals are inherently innocent.

Taking the time to observe them, understand their behavior, and stay calm when it seems like they're destroying all your plans is a process. That said, it's a beautiful one, and the nature of beings--furry, feathered and otherwise--can't be accepted without a healthy serving of patience.

Ergonomics

A regular yoga practice translated to body awareness, sensory mindfulness, and a better understanding of ergonomic safety than I could've imagined.

 Cleaning carrots in malāsana ALL DAY

Cleaning carrots in malāsana ALL DAY

Harvesting carrots and cabbage for homemade kimchi? Without a squat game that's absolutely on point, getting through more than an hour of labor-intensive, ground-level work would've been hellish. 

A day spent shoveling wheel barrows filled with high quality duck pond can destroy shoulders and backs, but a lifetime of chaturanga helped me figure out scapular engagement within the first few scoops. When hazelnut and plum trees are at stake, keeping them healthy is a worthwhile investment with a delicious reward. 

Breathing

Before I started yoga, I'd never taken any active strides to control my breathing (unless we're counting holding it underwater all the way to the other side of the pool and back.) From the tang of aging goat cheese to apples baking in the oven, smells wafting through the kitchen warranted deep breathing all on their own. This is something I often forget to do when I'm in the city. 

The less palatable smells -- that of an active compost pile, or a dirty goat pen -- took some getting used to, but because all of these scents served as constant reminders to breathe, I did. Taking it all in and experiencing my surroundings in full definitely takes a few solid inhales, and the effect of that wash of oxygen is not to be missed.

Meditation

Threshing rye, felting wool, husking nuts, slicing tomatoes, collecting eggs... tasks that busy the hands can free the mind.  Each simple, repetitive motion took on a quality of active mediation if I allowed myself to experience things from my senses, rather than from the chattery weirdness of my mind. The liminal space is a place I could return to by way of the thousand+ times I reigned in my thoughts during yoga.

When thoughts did emerge, they were crystal clear amidst the stillness.

GET IN THE KITCHEN: Stone Fruit Salad

We're going to admit it- we aren't kitchen wizards. Which is why we consulted with our fav foodie & holistic nutritonist- Jennifer Brott from My Edible Advice for her favourite summer recipe. She came back to us with the recipe below. For more recipes, & to meet Jen in person, come check out our Thug Kitchen Picnic next week. Yoga class at our summer studio followed by a picnic dinner made by Jen with all recipes from the Thug Kitchen Party Eats cookbook. Every participant will also leave with a cookbook so they can recreate the magic at home. 

STONE FRUIT SALAD

(modified from a William Sonoma recipe) 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted and sliced stone fruit of choice, such as
      plums, peaches, apricots or cherries, or preferably a
      combination
  • 3 Tbs. Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups stemmed watercress, torn into bite-size sprigs (any greens work!)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions:

In a small, dry fry pan over medium-low heat, toast the hazelnuts, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and just beginning to brown.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the shallot and sauté until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the fruit and sauté for a few seconds, just enough to coat the pieces in the hot oil. Remove from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit and shallot to a plate and set aside to cool.

Place the same pan over medium-low heat (do not wipe out the pan). Whisk in the vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 5 Tbs. olive oil until smooth and emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Put the watercress in a large salad bowl. Add the cooled fruit and shallot and pour the warm vinaigrette over the salad. Toss to mix and coat well. Sprinkle with the mint and hazelnuts and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

 

Ideas: I often add avocado or leftover quinoa if having this as a main meal. If you eat cheese, a little feta works well here!

THE MANY (SURPRISING) BENEFITS OF DAILY MORNING RITUALS

This week, we've got another sweet guest post on developing morning rituals from Angie at The Five15. See the OG piece here, plus more creativity and positivity on her blog. Keep an eye out for her new designs on Social Yoga's next round of notebooks!



My husband and I have been roomies for one year! (And married for 11 months!) And it's been the most fantastic, mind-blowing experience. Among many of the perks of co-habitating, one of my top favs are our morning rituals. Unlike routine, rituals are intentional, mindful. They have become such an important part of my life as an individual and now of our life as a married couple. 

We both had our own morning rituals that started years before we even started dating. My morning ritual then involved a daily reading from a couple of meditation books, a little bit of journaling and quiet time to set intentions for the day.

I didn’t come up with this practice on my own. It seemed to happened accidentally, when I was going through a difficult time in my life and I was desperately craving direction. The universe put people in my path who seemed to be living meaningful, intentional lives. I started asking them questions and modeling actions I could implement in my life. That is how my morning rituals (among other things) started evolving, very clumsily at first, until I found something that worked for me. 

Discovering the importance of a daily practice was not an enlightened process. It was really more trial and error. Sometimes I didn’t feel like making time for reading or journaling. Other times I thought it was silly, unimportant, a pain in the butt that took some of my precious time (cause I am so busy don’t you know?). What happened is I started noticing that when I made time in the morning to “fill my tank” (read, journal, meditate), I felt more grounded, tolerant, positive, and overall moved through the rest of the day with ease.

I am a slow learner, so fine-tuning my practice was an imperfect, bumpy process.  Today, after many years of practice, I couldn’t imagine a day without my morning rituals. What I do has changed with the years (as have I) but it’s become a foundation of my spiritual practice and who I am today. 

I am not the only one who believes in morning rituals. I stumbled upon an interesting article on Scientific Americandiscussing their benefits. 

“People facing situations that induce anxiety typically take comfort in engaging in preparatory activities, inducing a feeling of being back in control and reducing uncertainty”.

This made sense to me on so many levels. Why not be as prepared as I can to get out there every day, to ensure I have all the energy and resources I need to live life on life’s terms, on good days and on bad days?

It's a no brainer for me. 

So I had this kick-ass practice, and had figured it all out -I thought- then one day, I met the most amazing man, THE love of my life. After spending more time (and mornings) together, it was only a matter of time before we had to adjust the daily morning rituals again.

Luckily, we both have similar values and practices, but no previous experience practicing with a significant other. We tried different things until gradually we found something that works really well for us: we read, together, from a couple of books we both really like, we have (usually) un-timed quiet meditation, and all of it usually involves forms of cuddling (sorry). It not only sets the tone for the rest of our day, but it is also very mindful together time we get every morning as a couple. We always talk about living intentional lives and for us, this is a huge part of that. 

I like how again, finding a new morning ritual happened naturally and again, I can’t imagine doing anything different. It’s interesting how some of the best things that happen to me occur when I (counter-intuitively) let things unfold without trying to control (much). Huh.... I am a slow learner. 

Sitting in our dining room table and either drawing or writing (or both!) every night has somehow become a mini ritual too (for now). Usually it involves lots of sparkling water, tea & Spotify playlists. 

Are you a morning ritual convert? Do you practice any? I’d love to know! 

Learn To Stay

With The Chill & Be Still Series right around the corner, we're featuring a guest post on learning to stay written by our girl, Angie Coates (aka resident artist for Social Yoga's next round of notebook designs.) See the original post, plus many more of her rad words + designs on The Five15


I used to be a runner, both literally and figuratively. I ran from emotions and uncomfortable situations. I ran from people and friends when they were getting too close, so they wouldn’t get to know the real me. I ran from relationships that were never right for me, straight into the next wrong relationship.

I also ran long runs to control my weight. I ran when I was tired. I ran when I was hurt. I ran when I was sick.

I am grateful my running shoes don’t get much action these days. I am grateful these days, I am learning to stay.

My spirit BFF Pema Chodron says staying is the cause of lasting happiness, the path to enlightenment. To me that means the business of staying is worth a shot. She also says escapism is the cause of suffering, and this -I know from personal experience- is the absolute truth.

Looking back, a lot of the times I ran it actually made sense. I want to see it as self preservation. I was getting out of things that were not good for me. It wasn’t intentional running though, it was a painful reaction to the life I was living. Learning to stay has a lot to do with building a GOOD life. A life worth staying for. It also has everything to do with learning to know and love myself.

Staying is a workout. It takes practice. It takes discipline and commitment. It is also imperfect. That is why we practice. I am learning to keep coming back, and learning to stay longer.

Today I am grateful for intentional running when it is necessary, and running for health. More importantly, I am also grateful I am not fighting the urge to escape. I am grateful today I actually do enjoy staying.


You can check out Angie's Instagram here. It's cool.

7 Steps to becoming a Morning Person

This is a guest post from Love Your Mornings founder Alice Ko. As self admitted night owls, we are committed to becoming more of "a morning person" this year. After wrapping up our last morning book club at Milano Coffee, we are stoked to keep the ball rolling with our next series at Cartems Donuts. Want to join in and see more sunrises? Details here.

Earlybirds get shit done. 

What are the benefits of waking up early? In my opinion, as soon as you hit the the snooze button, you immediately lose the opportunity to have a successful day.

  Image via pinterest

Image via pinterest

I know this sounds a bit dramatic but here’s some real talk from Richard Branson himself on why he wakes up early:

“THESE EARLY HOURS GIVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO START EACH DAY WITH A FRESH AND ORGANISED SLATE.” (READ HIS BLOG POST HERE).

There are many different morning routines that propel plenty of good people into their day, but everyone is different. Here are a few tips from my morning routine:

1) RISE & HYDRATE

The moment my head lifts off the pillow, fill yourself up with fresh water. Not only is this a super refreshing start to the day after being dehydrated for 6-7 hours, but water helps you flush out toxins.

2) REFLECT & CONNECT

One of favourite things about early mornings, is that this is your YOU time. Be selfish with it. No distractions, no emails, no appointments, no deadlines - it’s your solo time to reflect and set the intention on what type of day you want to have. I will think, write in my 5-minute journal, visualize, set intentions and depending on the time of year - even watch the sun rise! Also, I just started to meditate (thanks Anita!) and use an app called Buddhify or listen to tracks from Attuned Vibrations to keep me focused.

3) PRIORITIZE

If you have not already done this the evening before, make your to-do list and know exactly what needs to be done today. Remember to be realistic. You may have 20 things you ‘want’ to get done, but only a few are mission critical tasks for each day. Make this list first thing in the morning should free your mind of worries and make room for strategic brainstorming and actions.

4) MOVE & SWEAT

Whether it’s yoga, weight-lifting or cardio, making room for your physical practice in the morning is a great strengthening routine for the mind, body, and spirit. Prioritizing your self-care and health first thing sets the tone for the rest of your day.

5) FUEL UP

There are different schools of thought as to whether breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Whether you fuel up an hour after you rise, or right after your workout, the bottom line is this: your first meal of the day should be nutrient-dense and give you energy. There are many different breakfast recipes for you to play with from breakfast bowls, overnight oats and smoothies to good old fashioned eggs and toast. I love finding breakfast recipes on Mind Body GreenGreatist and Breakfast Criminals.

  Photo via pinterest

Photo via pinterest

6) LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Learning new things expands your mind and strengthens your brain. So whether it’s learning a new language, learning a new workplace skills (here are a few ideas!) or learning new concepts, don’t miss out on the opportunity when you have some quiet time in the morning. I personally love listening to podcasts and audio books while I walk to the office in the morning.

7) ACCOUNTABILITY CHECK-INS

When I have hard deadlines or projects with a short timeline, I use an accountability partner to keep me in check. For myself, I find that having an accountability partner is critical to help you stay on track and remind you of all the things you said you were going to do.  A trusted confidante can also keep you motivated and provide clarity and insights on your hangups and fears.

There you have it. My typical morning routine. This has not only become a routine to get geared-up for my goals, but has become a grounding practice and rock-solid foundation of my day. What is your daily routine like?

THE SEEDY UNDERBELLY OF OPTIMISM

I must’ve sat down to write these thoughts ten separate times during January. I sat down, determined to get something down on the page, hating how long it had been since I’d written down a fully-formed thought and then I’d chickened out, running to numb with Netflix while quietly cursing my cowardice before I’d even attempted to put a single word down.

  Image via @blogsociety on Instagram

Image via @blogsociety on Instagram

We’re now comfortably into February and so far, 2016 has already been a bumpy road of highs and lows for oh so many reasons. [Sidebar: right here, not more than a few sentences into writing this post, I ran to facebook to scroll through my feed which showed me nothing of interest and was done purely as a coping mechanism. I did it mechanically and without thinking. When I realized what I was doing, I took a breath, acknowledged my fear, and came back.] It’s time for some real talk: we all have fears which hold us back from living our best lives. One of the many things I’ve learned from Brene Brown is this--fear breeds shame and shame holds power when left to fester in the dark space of things we leave unsaid.

THAT IS TO SAY, THE BEST WAY TO PULL OUT OF A SHAME SPIRAL IS BY ADMITTING OUT LOUD, TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN ONE. SIMPLE AS THAT.

The New Year is supposed to bring with it a fresh start, a shiny package of optimism dropped on our doorstep with which we can usher in a year of new beginnings.

  Photo via @studiodiy on instagram

Photo via @studiodiy on instagram

I’ve always found this to ring hollow but this year, I finally put my finger on why. In a time of year when everyone is excited, fresh-faced, and eager to share their enthusiasm for the year ahead, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one haunted by dark thoughts and self doubt. No one’s voicing their fears and doubts. Your instagram feed is brimming with beautiful, hand drawn quotes sparkling with the newness of January; your facebook feed fills with statuses declaring goals and fear-conquering mindsets of pure badassery. During times like this where we are bombarded with messages of can-do and positivity, it’s so easy to give into the voices in your head, mentally lashing out at those shiny optimists and judging them as try-hards.

  Photo via Danielle La Porte's Truthbombs

Photo via Danielle La Porte's Truthbombs

And this is why it’s taken me so long to write. Because writing that sentence, putting that darkness within you onto the page for all to see? That’s hard. But it’s real and it’s my truth. And chances are, it’s someone else’s truth too, someone who might also be too scared to admit it out loud.

[Here I had to take a day and a half break. I strongly considered giving up on this draft entirely. I started doubting whether I could put something like this out there for all to see. I started wondering is this really how I feel, or am I being dramatic? I tried to rationalize myself out of putting this out into the world, basically.

IT ALL COMES BACK TO THAT DEEP-SEATED, IRRATIONAL FEAR THAT I’M THE ONLY ONE FEELING THIS WAY FROM TIME TO TIME, THAT BY SHARING SUCH A VULNERABLE, HONEST, AND IN SOME WAYS BITTERLY NEGATIVE PART OF MYSELF, OTHERS MIGHT START TO SEE ME AS ONLY THIS, THIS ONE SMALL PART OF MY IDENTITY WHICH I USUALLY TUCK QUIETLY AWAY AND ONLY SHOW TO MY TRUSTED CIRCLE.

  Image via @tonyfutura on instagram.

Image via @tonyfutura on instagram.

Today, I had a great day which reinvigorated me. I currently feel fulfilled and lit up about my future; the mood in which I chose to sit down a few days ago and start writing this feels a million miles away, yet I know it will return. Our lives and our moods ebb and flow like the ocean. Being back on the upswing gives me the courage to finish what I started, see this post through to the end and get it online.]

 

But that’s just it, right? We all have these dark thoughts from time to time--all of us. Some of us are better at recognizing them for what they are, as doubts founded not in logic but in the social construct that is our worldview, and are able to keep them from affecting our outlook on life. Some are powerless to overcome these worries and allow their occasional negative thoughts to run rampant with their life. I find myself constantly straddling these two extremes, hovering closer and closer to the former as I learn more about myself. But it’s an imperfect journey. It’s two steps forward and one step backward...but I know that if I keep moving, I’ll keep improving.

I’VE LEARNED THAT THOSE STEPS BACKWARD ARE STILL PROGRESS FORWARDS BECAUSE THEY TEACH ME VALUABLE LESSONS.

I’m writing this because everyone struggles. I’m writing this to say it’s okay, I feel that way too sometimes. I’m writing this because every one of my close friends seems to have had a particularly difficult January this year and I know I’m lucky to have a group of friends to talk to about things like this. More than anything, I’m writing this for those who struggle alone. Whether by choice or necessity, struggling alone is so. freaking. painful. So give yourself some credit and remember that you’ve gotten through the tough times before. Remember that sharing how you’re feeling with friends is the best way to build trust and a bond, the best way to establish a connect with another human being enough that next time you feel this way, you don’t feel so lonely. We’re all human. We’re all looking for connection. Everyday can be New Year’s Day, if you want it to be.



This post was written by our girl Mara- you can learn more about her & read more of her work on her personal site: http://www.mfalstein.com

LETTING GO OF GETTING IT "RIGHT"

This is a guest post from friend & life coach Jess Muhlbier of Life Ninja- with whom we are partnering for our upcoming Coach Series. Still a few spots left in class! 


DO YOU EVER FEAR MAKING THE 'WRONG' DECISION?

We humans like to figure it out, analyze the details and be certain that X will lead to Y. Notice how life doesn't really work like that? 

Allow me to share from my life. I am dating someone who lives in a different city than I do and the question "is this right?" comes up for me a lot. Will this work out? Are we really committed to the same things? The list can go on, believe me. And the familiar desire to "figure it all out" kicks into high gear the minute I board the airplane. 
 

THE THING IS -- I WILL NEVER FIGURE IT OUT.

I will never know how it will end up in three months or ten years from now. Sure, I can predict, pray, hope, wish, cross my fingers, doubt, read my horoscope more closely...all of which MAKES NO DIFFERENCE. 

Here is what I can do that leaves me with more power, freedom and self-expression in my relationship. I can ask, what am I committed to? What is really important to me? When I am crystal clear on what's important to me in a relationship - partnership, communication, love and affection, fun and adventure - I am then able to take action! I'm able to take on what matters to me as a way of being -- I canbe communicative, loving, affectionate, fun and adventurous. And when I'm being what works for me in a relationship I can then invite him to explore what he is committed to in a relationship. 

  From @jessmuhlbier on Instagram

From @jessmuhlbier on Instagram

And when we're clear on our commitments we're freed up from 'figuring it out'. We're able to dance and choose what works for us, moment to moment. 

What are you dealing with in life that you're struggling to figure out and solve? Can you explore what's important to you in this area and take actions that are aligned? 

Here it is as a simple formula: 

1. Ask yourself, what am I committed to? What is really important to me?
2. What actions - as a way of being - can I take on right now?

Give up getting it right and take on choosing what you're committed to in life. 

Upward into 2016! To learn more about Jess, check out her website or join us (& her!) in our upcoming series. 

NO FUN NOVEMBER- WRAP UP #2

Last month we said no to fun (and no to booze), and yes to yoga with a solid crew of people both in Vancouver and around the world- hello to the gentleman from Texas! While our skin didn't get better nor did we achieve enlightenment, we did manage to save a few dollars, get more work done, and reset our alcohol intolerance- just in time for December parties (can't tell if that's a good thing or not...). Don't believe us on the benefits of snoozing on boozing? Have a read on what others had to say about their experience:


I’ll be perfectly honest – I don’t really know why I signed up for #NoFunNovember. I had been cutting back on the beverages for a while before that, and was feeling awesome (albeit slightly granny) about my newfound nearly sober state. However, I had never really committed myself to a full month sans alcohols. The thought of it always made me instantly roll my eyes. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of going out and trying to have conversations with drunken slurring strangers in dark rooms, I do love a good glass of wine at the end of a long week.

  image via instagram @amandarsinger

image via instagram @amandarsinger

I HAD TO PROVE TO MYSELF THAT I DIDN’T HAVE A DEPENDENCY ON DRINKING, AND THAT IN THE END IT WAS ALWAYS A CHOICE – MY CHOICE.

As November was drawing closer and the reality of giving up my vino was too, I began to think that I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. But I did – and it was easier and more enjoyable than I anticipated.

Everyone has their thing - anyone who knows me well knows that I thrive on proving people wrong. To me, one person who doesn’t believe in me oddly gives me twice as much motivation as a room full of encouraging people who want me to succeed. Strange, but true. Thankfully #NoFunNovember was full of naysayers who continually doubted me when I said that I was going sober for the month. To be honest, these were people whose opinions I valued; but at the same time, I relished in the thought of rubbing it in their face when the clock struck December.

The most difficult part of the month were the social engagements.

I KNOW THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT THEY CAN HAVE FUN WHEN THEY’RE SOBER AT A PARTY. I LEARNED (AND NOT TO MUCH OF MY SURPRISE) THAT I AM UNEQUIVOCALLY NOT ONE OF THOSE UNICORNS.

  Photo via a good ol' google search of Lisa Frank

Photo via a good ol' google search of Lisa Frank

When the music is bumping and the energy is high and everyone else has a drink, I want one too! Going forward I realized that if I don’t feel like drinking, staying home and indulging in a Netflix binge is a perfectly acceptable (and affordable) choice.

The turning point in doing this came to me mid-month. For starters, I didn’t really think that I used alcohol to take the edge off. I rarely have more than one glass of wine at a time, so I felt like I had a completely healthy relationship with my friend ethanol. I began to realize that unfortunately this isn’t the case – I had to find other ways to take the edge off, de-stress and come back to a sane mind. I was able to make it to 15 yoga and fitness classes that month, and take some time to colour in my “adult” colouring book – to no surprise, I am still as terrible at colouring in the lines as I was when I was a kid. Patience is a virtue that I have yet to master.

IN THE END, I MADE IT THROUGH THIS ARDUOUS MONTH BECAUSE OF ONE THING: NUTELLA - SO MUCH NUTELLA.

  Hitting jar bottom via @ineeeda on instagram

Hitting jar bottom via @ineeeda on instagram

The very thought of that jar of wholesome chocolaty hazelnut goodness just waiting for me in my kitchen cupboard helped me get through many a day. It’s possible that I may have created a new (tastier) monster in my life. #NoNutellaNovember 2016, anyone?

-Amanda

 

NO FUN NOVEMBER- WRAP UP #1

Last month we said no to fun (and no to booze), and yes to yoga with a solid crew of people both in Vancouver and around the world- hello to the gentleman from Texas! While our skin didn't get better nor did we achieve enlightenment, we did manage to save a few dollars, get more work done, and reset our alcohol intolerance- just in time for December parties (can't tell if that's a good thing or not...). Don't believe us on the benefits of snoozing on boozing? Have a read on what others had to say about their experience:


My experience with No Fun November was completely different than I anticipated; it was easy! Drinking was less of a temptation then I expected it to be. I found it easy to socialize with my friends at parties while holding a glass of water, saying no to a drink became fun to see the expression on people's faces and I relived my childhood by only ordering virgin drinks at restaurants. Wow there is a lot of sugar in a Shirley Temple! It was the after that was difficult; I had changed.

No Fun November was perfectly timed for me, I was just starting to work on some personal growth and Anita’s journaling activities have really helped me figure out more things about me I didn’t know, or just forgot. I have been struggling with some confidence issues, which if you know me sounds silly, but it is all internal.

I FOUND MEDITATING VERY GROUNDING, WHICH HELPED ME GIVE MY BRAIN A NEEDED REST TO FIGURE OUT WHY I DIDN’T LOVE MYSELF AS MUCH.

I coupled No Fun November with acupuncture, some tinctures and colouring. I didn’t do every activity Anita sent us, but it’s nice knowing that I have a few more activities to help me finish 2015.

On day one we wrote out why we were doing this activity and for me it was an easy response – I would like to complete a challenge for myself without falling to peer pressure. And I did, I was able to stay true to myself and no let outside forces affect my decision.

 2016 No Fun November? Challenge accepted!

-Robyn

8 TIPS FOR MINDFUL GIVING

Ashley is the gal behind The Anthropology of Giving- she is in the business of gift giving- curating the perfect gift for people to give to people and businesses to give to businesses. The first time we met Ashley for coffee, she handed over her business card and we knew this girl was rad.  Each of her business cards are slightly different from the other with Ashley customizing each one- talk about attention to detail! With the new launch of her website, we wanted to highlight her work by asking her to write a piece on Mindful Giving- something we can forget this time of year.


The Holidaze can truly be a daze. They can go by in a complete blur, a tornado of chaos, leaving us dazed and confused to “wake up” in the New Year wondering where the time went, how we spent that time, and why we have a gigantic credit card bill to face. There’s no doubt it’s a busy time of year for most humans, full of obligations, some which can be super fun, and others that may be a challenge for our hearts and souls.

Small pauses make a HUGE difference.

Be present as much as possible, and it will be so much more enjoyable.

Speaking of presence, let’s talk about presents.

Starting with a quote by Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda (yes the cartoon from 2008) “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it iscalled the present.”

This statement applies all year around, but it can’t hurt to be reminded of this time of year.

TREATING EACH DAY AS A GIFT IS AN AWESOME WAY TO GET THROUGH BUSY TIMES.

Keeping that in mind, let’s visit the concept of giving mindfully…

Here are my 8 tips for giving mindfully, and avoiding being consumed by the consumerism that is so prevalent over the Holidaze.

1. GENUINELY THINK ABOUT THE PERSON YOU’RE GIVING TO.

The over-used statement “it’s the thought that counts” is only relevant if there was true thought put into the giving process in the first place. It’s really easy to get caught up in the madness, go out and buy something to get it off your list without thinking about the receiver.

Take some time to do this before you go shopping.
Who are they really? What are they all about? What do they love? What is meaningful to them?
It’s not about you. It’s about who you’re giving to.
(A little side-note here, this does not mean that because you know they like a really an extravagant brand of whatever, that you go purchase something way over your budget because you believe they will love it.)

2. IT’S NOT ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU SPEND.

It really isn’t. It’s about the sentiment, the thought behind it, the effort that went into the gift. There are so many things that can be put together on a tight budget. You’ll see some suggestions in the tips to follow.

3. THE CARD.

I honestly believe the card is the most important part of any gift. It’s the juicy part, the personal and sentimental part. I like to make my own cards, which a lot of you may not have time for, and this is not necessary. But be sure to include some sort of written message with the gift (even if it’s on a post-it). If you struggle with what to write, spend some time googling quotes to find one that suits who you’re giving to.

The heart of this for me goes back to why you’re actually giving a gift in the first place, why you care about the person you’re giving to.

HANDWRITTEN CORRESPONDENCE IS TRULY SPECIAL, SO MUCH MORE THAN A TEXT OR AN EMAIL. PUTTING PEN TO PAPER CAN BE MAGIC, AND THE RECEIVER WILL FEEL THE EFFORT YOU MADE IN DOING SO.

4. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A “THING”.

Some of the best and most unique gifts I’ve received are not things, they’re experiences that create memories. So much can be done around this premise… Ask yourself what would have a positive impact on the day to day life of the person you’re giving to? 

Offer to cook them dinner, and send them home with left overs if they’re really busy and don’t find time to cook for themselves.

  • Babysit for friends that have kids so they can go out on a date.
  • If you have a car, and the person your giving to doesn’t, offer up a day of errands that they need a vehicle for.
  • If your sister is always talking about running out of clean socks, do her laundry once every 2 weeks for three months.

I could go on and on, there are a zillion creative options here, but the key is follow-through; only commit to something you’re willing to actually do, and make sure you do it.

5. SHOP LOCAL.

I’m a huge fan of supporting the movers and shakers in our own hoods. I like to know who made what I’m giving, and where it came from. Budget-wise this sometimes means the gift is smaller in size or quantity, as yes, things that are made here can be pricier, but not always.
I would rather give one pair of baby leggings made by a local designer, than a five piece outfit made in a foreign country under far from acceptable working conditions.
Shop small, shop local, shop consciously. It’s good for the soul, the planet, and all of us humans.

6. GIVE BACK.

I seek out companies that donate partial proceeds to charity, or are just generally doing good in the world. This is one of the foundations of The Anthropology Of Giving; every collection we put together gives to a specific charity. I put this ahead of profit. 
Something to think about here is how the companies you’re buying from make their charitable donations. Sometimes it’s a percentage of profit, which means if the company as a whole isn’t making money, the donation will never be made.

There are lots of people doing good out there… Find them.

7. WHERE TO SHOP?

Any mall at this time of year is my worst nightmare. There are so many amazing maker and craft fairs going on right now, that’s where I would recommend shopping. Not only will you find radtastic things, you get to meet the people who made said things.
Check out your local newspaper for a list of craft fairs taking place near you.
In Vancouver this weekend, there is one I love called Got Craft which is more than worth checking out (http://gotcraft.com)

8. FINAL TEST… PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES.

Think like them and ask yourself “if I was (insert name of receiver here) would I LOVE this gift?”

 

I’m totally up for any gift giving questions.
Shoot them my way if you have some…

ashley@theanthropologyofgiving.com

3 LESSONS I'VE LEARNED FROM BRENE BROWN

In celebration of Brene Brown’s latest book release Rising Strong and the recent conclusion of Social Yogas successful book club centered on Gifts of Imperfection, I thought it would be apt to take a look at some of the lessons Ive learned through reading Brene Browns books. If youve checked out my writers bio under Social Fam, you know that I am a passionate studier of all things Brene. Even if you dont think you know of her, chances are you saw her viral TED Talk centered on the Power of Vulnerability, one of the most popular TED Talks of all time (its been viewed over 20 MILLION times on the TED Talks websiteyowza). Brown lives in Texas where she is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She considers herself a storyteller and a shame researcher, using the study of emotions such as anger, shame, and guilt as entry points to better understand how we can strategically use emotional vulnerability to engage more deeply and more authentically with those around us in our quest to live our dream life.

 

1. GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION

 WE CANNOT SELECTIVELY NUMB EMOTIONS, WHEN WE NUMB THE PAINFUL EMOTIONS, WE ALSO NUMB THE POSITIVE EMOTIONS. BRENE BROWN, GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION

 

Feeling vulnerable is deeply uncomfortable. It means grappling with our demons, our insecurities. It means sitting with our shame and guilt, leaning into the discomfort in order to gain valuable insight. Many people without realizing it decide that this discomfort is too much to bear and choose to numb themselves. This might mean overeating, a Netflix binge, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, shoppingnumbing addictions come in many forms. What you might not realize is that there is no thing as selective numbing. If we are too scared to feel the negative emotions, we accidentally also dull out our incredible joys and epiphanies. You either choose to engage with the uncomfortable valleys in order to experience the election of the peaks or you choose to live your life in a grey zone, simple as that.

 

2.)  DARING GREATLY

SHAME DERIVES ITS POWER FROM BEING UNSPEAKABLE.// IF WE CAN SHARE OUR STORY WITH SOMEONE WHO RESPONDS WITH EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING, SHAME CAN'T SURVIVE. BRENE BROWN

 

Brene describes shame as taking the form of gremlins that are constantly whispering into your ear. They are the voices in your head saying youre not good enough, using evidence of how people react and respond to you against you. They are powerful simply because we dont feel comfortable talking about them; however, negative feelings grow and fester in the darkness and as soon as we can shed some light on them through talking through our feelings with someone else, its as if our gremlins are vampires and weve just thrown the heavy curtains back to expose the sunshine. It may be scary and the gremlins will tell you it wont help, but as soon as you start to talk about your shame and your insecurities, they no longer define you. Its a crucial first step in the healing process.

 

3.) RISING STRONG

WE DONT JUDGE PEOPLE WHEN WE FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES. BRENE BROWN

 

Through Brene, Ive learned a powerful trigger that signals to me that theres something in my life that Im not addressing which is holding me back emotionallyI start judging others. This was a huge key to improving my relationships, with others as well as myself. When I start falling into the negative talk and comparing myself to others, its a sign that Im unhappy. This has become a vey powerful tool for me to realize when I need to sit back and do some serious reflection about where my emotional blockages are. This in turn has helped me avoid ignoring these blocks until they burst out in the form of an emotional breakdown of waterworks and intense emotions, which is the cycle of repression and over-expression I used to find myself endlessly repeating.

 

—————

 

Have I peaked your interest? Are you curious about the world of Brene Brown, but find yourself unsure which book would be best for you? Brene says it best (and most succinctly) in a quote pulled from Rising StrongHeres how I see the progression of my work: The Gifts of ImperfectionBe you. Daring GreatlyBe all in. Rising StrongFall. Get up. Try again.  She suggests to read them chronologically (Gifts first, then Daring Greatly, finishing with Rising Strong);however, I believe its important to consider what area of the journey you feel you most need help in the present.

Choose Gifts of Imperfection first if you want to get to know yourself better. This is a great place to start if you feel you have patterns in your life that keep repeating despite your best efforts (you date the wrong people, your friends abandon you, etc.). In Gifts of Imperfection, you receive lots of useful definitions and metaphors to understand complicated emotional concepts such as shame, guilt, and worthiness).

Choose Daring Greatly first if you’re seeking inspiration to take a leap of faith. You might be about to graduate university, considering leaving your job, debating a big move, etc. Daring Greatly will offer you plenty of tools and the courage to take that leap into the unknown despite not knowing what you might find on the other side.

  Photo from Tumblr.

Photo from Tumblr.

Choose Rising Strong first if you find yourself too wrapped up in the fear of failure. Perhaps you take failures hard and personally, making it hard to pick yourself back up and try again. Perhaps your fear of failure is so great it keeps you from taking the chances that will help you lead the kind of life you want.Rising Strong will arm you with the tools to craft a new definition for failure and empower you to embrace the learning inherently present in failure.


This post was written by our girl Mara- you can learn more about her & read more of her work on her personal site: http://www.mfalstein.com