Shot of Joy 14

Prettiest tart at the market and the perfect thing after a rushed lap session. (Or so I am telling myself today.)
– strawberries showing up at the market – the slowly warming weather – spending Saturday swimming laps then perusing the market at PSU – the lap pool at PSU Rec Center – learning to swim correctly – prescription goggles – actually seeing in the pool –
Loving my new gym bag. All packed and ready for the am. Now hopefully the Rec Center pool won't have an unexpected closure.
– starting up my yoga practice again – working out before work, even when that means getting up before 6am – mostly having a flexible schedule to allow me to do things like attend a yoga class – lemongrass tea –
Stamps for invitations? ??
– my new essential oil diffuser – filling my place with calming and relaxing essential oil mixes – not making a bunch of weekend plans to recharge – my car, it’s perfect for our needs – not having a bunch of stress from wedding planning – feeling better overall, even with a recent anxiety episode – the sun that’s outside right now –

Monthly Triumphs: January

triumphsIt’s the end of the month which means it’s times to look back and see what was all accomplished. I wrote about my hopes for the new year and what I hope to accomplish overall but I also like to break down some of those things into smaller, monthly goals. Seeing something through for 30 days feels much easier than seeing something through for 365 days. Plus it’s just nice to look back and find some good things and think, “oh yeah that month wasn’t all terrible crap.” Here’s what my January looked like:

  • I realized I have a big sugar problem and so I made the goal of going “sugar free” in January. There are four times I know I failed at this and for starting out I think that’s pretty good. All of those times involved going out for brunch or drinks. I did not have any of the sweets at work (there are cookies/cake/chips brought in twice a week) and I ate healthy, nutritious, meals at home. Overall I would call this a success. I don’t crave sugar all the time the way I used to. Sometimes I’ll see something and think “Oh I want that!” but that never happens unless someone physically hands me something. I’m feeling really good about being able to limit my sugar intake overall and subbing healthier options when I want something sweet.
  • I also started making a real effort at meal planning this month. I have a shared calendar with Vahid and my goal was to be able to plan meals for two weeks at a time. This way I would know exactly what I should get from the farmer’s market, what meat we needed to buy/eat, and take the guess work out of taking lunch (and thus not having to run out and spend $15/day eating). This was more of a miss than a hit. I never got two weeks planned at a time but I am averaging about four days at a time which is better than before which was at 5pm everyday going, “what’s for dinner?” So it’s a work in progress.
  • This month I started (a few times) doing the 200 squats program. Last year I had much more strength that I do currently and I need to build up a bit more base strength before I feel comfortable picking up my kettlbells again. So I started this to get the strength in my body back so I can start really working out without fear of hurting myself (which I have done before by not watching my form and using a kettlebell that was too heavy for me). Right now I am on week three as I had to start over a couple of times due to missing days. But it feels nice to come home and work out for a bit before settling into my evening routine. It’s only the start to much more!
  • I think my biggest triumph this month is picking a venue and a date for the wedding! Vahid and I finally agreed that we needed to get married this year and actually dig into planning and figure out our finances around the wedding, what our budget for it was, etc. Literally a week later I was in talks with a venue that fell within our budget wonderfully and includes many aspects that usually drive up the cost. Right now we are signing contracts and setting up a pay schedule but we have a date! I’m so excited for our September wedding and getting on to the other details.

What did you accomplish this month? What good things are happening for you?

Moving Meditation

“Mornings? Gross!”

That’s been my standard reply for years now. I don’t like mornings and I would never ever like them. So imagine my surprise when I find that I really do like mornings. I just never liked my morning routine.

I love waking up early enough to do some meditating in the morning, have a warm cup of tea and breakfast, and generally take some time to collect myself before the rush of the day. Part of the morning routine I’ve been developing includes some morning Qigong.

I’ve always had this vision of the “perfect” morning routine. Do you do that? I would wake up, blissfully untired at an ungodly early hour. I would get out of bed and luxuriously have time for meditating, exercising, pampering, hot tea, reading, the list went on. I lived in a fantasy world where my “morning routine” would probably take about six hours if I acted it out in total.

Snap back to reality and most often I’m hoping Vahid hits the snooze and I can roll over and pretend that the alarm isn’t really going off. In an effort to a) get me out of bed and b) avoid the constant rushing that seemed to make up our mornings we started developing a routine. We sat down and looked at all the things we wanted to accomplish before going to work or before starting the day (on non-work days).

My routine actually starts the night before. Before heading to bed I take a few minutes and prep my morning vitamins with a small cup of water. I have a tiny plate that I put them on and this and the water I leave on our “charging station” by our bedroom door. We moved our phone and device chargers outside the bedroom. After an adjustment period I must say that it has been really nice not having our phones in the bedroom. Once we close the door it’s either reading or lights out, no more checking email/twitter/facebook one last time that turns into “why am I still awake at 1am?”

Nearly every morning I wake up before the alarm goes off. We have a natural light alarm clock and the brightness in the room wakes me before I’m jarred awake by the buzzing. I take a few moments to lay there sleepily, I’m awake but there’s no rush to get out of bed until the alarm sounds. While laying there I start a few of the movements I do as part of my morning Qigong session.

Once the alarm sounds it’s time for action. Or rather laying there for a few minutes then action. I finish the Qigong session I started and I go about getting ready for the day. Once I’ve rid myself of the awful morning breath and dressed for the day I do ten quick minutes of meditation and finish with some breakfast. Then I’m out the door for work or onto the next thing I’m doing that day.

Coming back to my vision of the “perfect morning routine,” I wanted to get some exercise in before the start of each day. I do enjoy working out in the evenings and that’s when I do my intense workouts (no one wants to witness me trying to swing a 30-lb kettlebell around first things in the mornings). However, I feel that starting the day with some movement is great at fully waking up your body and just giving yourself some mental clarity for the day.

My Qigong session is my morning movement. It’s almost a moving meditation. The movements are slow, deliberate, and require concentration. The mornings are quiet and I complete my morning practice to the sounds of the birds singing and squirrels scampering about. After I finish I feel calm, tranquil, just the total opposite than what I used to feel every morning upon waking.

Vahid and I settled on Qigong as our practice for the health benefits. I have been dealing with a lot of water retention and subpar kidney function. There’s also some other little health things that need improving between the both of us. Qigong has specific movements for everything from improving kidney function to back pain to getting your digestion going so you digest food better. I have a series of movements that correlate to certain organs and areas of the body. I also have a few movements specifically for the meridians of the body.

I haven’t been practicing enough to be able to say that I have noticed a difference but I have noticed that I just feel better when I make time for this than when I say, hit the snooze until 7:30 and rush around getting ready in twenty minutes to catch my train.

What do you all do for a morning routine? Do you have one? Do you want to start one? Do you have a daily practice that you enjoy doing?

Monthly Triumphs of August

I’m sitting here wondering what I actually accomplished this month. It’s been a little stressful at work and when I think of August those stressors pop into my mind. However, despite that it’s been a good month and here’s why:

  • Vahid and I are cooking nearly all our meals at home. I’m really loving the routine we’ve developed of getting our produce (and most of our meat) at the Farmer’s Market each week and cooking with really good, really fresh ingredients. It’s really great to learn new uses for things I used to just walk by each week like leeks and fennel.
  • We bought a new mattress and our sleep has dramatically improved. I knew our old mattress wasn’t great and wasn’t giving up good quality sleep anymore but I wasn’t expecting such a difference. I don’t wake up in a bunch of pain from sleeping on a mattress past it’s prime. It’s a much better way to start the morning!
  • Exercising in the morning. This isn’t an every single morning activity yet as I’m still adjusting to waking up a little earlier to accomplish this but the mornings that we have been doing this I’ve felt more alert and just felt more energized throughout the day.
  • Reading. This might seem silly but it’s been quite a long time since I’ve dedicated time (nearly) every day to do some reading. I’m even reading a book just for pleasure (I’ve been reading a lot of books on thinking, habits, and general self improvement) which is a great change of pace. This summer one of my favorite things has been to just sit on the shared patio with a book and a glass of iced tea or lemonade in the evenings and read. It’s pretty nice, even if I don’t have the whole place to myself.
  • Drawing some boundaries professionally. I don’t mind my job mostly. I’m not in love with it. I don’t wake up super excited for work, but I don’t dread going either. But it was good that for the first time I was able to draw a line in the proverbial sand about a couple things and it felt good. No one was upset and I was glad that this will end up being a place where I am not expected to be ready to work ‘round-the-clock.

I suppose once I thought about it this month has been pretty eventful!

How has your month gone? What are some things you’ve accomplished or are accomplishing?