meditation

The #1 tool to keep you Zen for the Wed: Meditation

You don't even need to be on the edge of a cliff looking at mountains to meditate! You can do it from home!

You don't even need to be on the edge of a cliff looking at mountains to meditate! You can do it from home!

I had this realization lately that I keep bringing up meditation as a solution to every problem I encounter. Talking to friends and clients alike, my recos are always including adding mediation to their routine. I was becoming an obsessed, broken record. But why?

I typically wouldn't refer to myself as a particularly grounded person. I'm one of those people who is always spinning in circles doing THE most. And like most people these days, when I do have down time, I get lost in the mindlessness of the never-ending scroll on social media. 

When I was forced to take my 10-15 minute occasional meditation practice to 30 minutes daily during my yoga teacher training, it really had an impact on my life. It changed the way I process small and large interactions in my life (not to mention time management skills!). When you are planning a wedding, life can be absolutely chaotic. It is a time you should cherish, and sometimes you just want it to be over. Meditation is an amazing tool to have in your stress management toolkit to keep you #zenforthewed! In this post I'll share the benefits I've seen in myself as well as some instructions on how to get started for yourself!


 

Benefits I've seen

  1. I have control freak tendencies (and I'm also surrounded control freaks- love you all!), and we live in a world where we actually have very little control. That is not to say that we are not in charge of our own fates, but we cannot live our lives in fear of what could happen. Meditation has honestly helped me to accept things that are out of my control. I know to focus on the things in my power to change and don't sweat the rest. This is maybe the number one benefit whilst wedding planning, IMO!!

  2. It helps me to process my emotions. One of the hardest things during my meditation is to let really painful emotions come up and to not suppress them. But by just sitting with the emotions, most times I just sit there, feel them fully, and quite often they pass. If for instance I am really nervous about something I have to do, the emotion will come back, but in a more manageable way. (Side note: getting married can bring up so many emotions, its okay to not feel absolutely ecstatic every day you are engaged. Feel the emotions, sit with them, and it will help you feel great in the long run!)

  3. There is no outright goal for meditating, and a "bad session" is just as important to sit through as a "good session". This aspect of meditation has helped me to detach from the outcomes of all my endeavors. I am not my successes or my failures, and it helps me to remind myself of that. And related to that...

  4. I used to feel like I needed to have a reason to do something. Sometimes it is okay to do something for no particular reason. It is okay to do things just for the sake of doing. Not everything has to be an achievement. I have been working on a very difficult puzzle for 4 months. I don't have any reason why I am doing the puzzle, and that is okay. It is worthy of my time too.

  5. When you meditate (at least in the style I was taught in), you are training your mind to come back to focus on the breath. While often that doesn't happen, if you are reliving your 4th grade trauma for the tenth time and then you remember to come back to the breath–it's still a success. That focus has extended beyond my practice and often helps me with my work! It's amazing when I can focus for any period longer than 5 minutes (YEP - my A.D.D. diagnosis is realllll).

  6. Meditation has helped me to become less reactionary. I'm always working to curb my natural lean towards defensiveness, and I've noticed that meditation has helped me to pause before I react. My husband will say something that will trigger me (love you, honey!) and I will actually pause and think before I respond. I will try to see things from his perspective before answering. So I guess I'm saying meditation has made me a better wife?! Just to be clear, I am not a master of this, but I have made a lot of progress in this area.

  7. It's crazy to think about how rarely I truly experience the moment I am in. Through my meditation practice, I have become more in tune with myself, and I am able to pull myself out of my technology and day dreams and actually be present in the moment. Life is so precious, I need to try to be there for it!

  8. Lastly, I am much more comfortable just being. I can just sit by myself and I don't feel the need to distract myself. It's wild that I didn't feel that way before, but I was always using things to distract me: social media, talking on the phone, Candy Crush, etc. It's like I'm comfortable being truly alone with myself. I notice that if I take a few days off meditating, I come back to the distractions more easily too!


How to Meditate

Did I sell you on it? Are you ready to try meditating for yourself? My instructions to get started follow: 

  1. Get comfortable in a seated upright position. You can be cross legged on a mat or pillow, sitting in a chair, or just sitting on the bed propped up with your legs out.

  2. Set a timer on your phone (you can use one of the apps below or just the normal timer). I recommend 10 minutes to start. If that seems like too much, 5 minutes is still beneficial.

  3. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. I sometimes like to focus on sounds, but that is challenging if there are none! You can keep your eyes open if you visualize too much with your eyes. I find that too distracting most of the time though.

  4. When your mind begins to wander off, bring your concentration back to your breath. You can call yourself out and say "thinking" to help bring your thoughts back to the breath.

  5. Don't check your phone to make sure the timer is set. It is. :)

Before you start read this: 

I want to debunk the myth that meditation is peaceful or enjoyable. It can be, but it can also be downright torturous. Sometimes I would come out of my meditation sessions more frustrated than when I started. And that is okay. When you sit with yourself, all of your anxiety and embarrassing moments will come to haunt you. That will help you to return to the breath, but it will bring up lots of feelings. The key thing is to truly feel the emotions and to not push them down. This is also why I don't advocate using guided meditations. While I love Headspace (a guided meditation app), and that's how I got started meditating, I didn't really feel like I was diving deep until I was sitting in silence. 


Resources: 

An amazing book, "How to Meditate" by Pema Chodron, is a great resource to help you get started. 

Apps: 

Headspace - this man's voice is truly the most soothing sound in the world. Guided meditation is a great place to ease you into meditating. 

Stop, Breathe, and Think - Has a great timer function as well guided functionality. I like the stickers it gives as achievements. 

Insight Timer - A huge variety of meditations available on this app. In addition to it's timer, it's great if you want to explore the vast realm of guided meditation.


Are you ready to try meditating? Or is it already in your routine? Let me know what you think of this self care tool! -AHS

Morning Rituals And Why You Should Have One (Especially When You Are Planning A Wedding!)

morning rituals gratitude journal erin condren planner superfood latte

I'm obsessed with having a morning ritual. Ever since I heard Tim Ferriss talk about them on his podcast I have been intrigued with getting mine right. It's a super important part of my day as an entrepreneur who works from home. It helps get my head right and start the day on the right foot. However, the more chaotic your life is, the more you could benefit from a strong morning ritual.  If you start your day off rushing through your shower and running to catch the train- you may need a morning ritual even more! When you are planning a wedding you essentially have taken on a second job. Having a morning ritual adds a bit of peace to your day - it's a win from the very first moments of the day. I think we all need that!

There are so many benefits to having a morning ritual, but of course it varies depending on what you include in it. What I love about my morning ritual is that I know I'm starting my day off doing something to take care of myself before the madness begins!

It is always a work in progress and it has evolved over time. I'm going to give you a couple examples so you can craft your own perf version! One that I used for a while is referred to as the "Miracle 6". It takes 6 minutes of your morning.

  • 1 minute of silence.
  • 1 minute of affirmations. 
  • 1 minute of visualizations
  • 1 minute of scribing (journaling)
  • 1 minute reading
  • 1 minute of exercise 

To break it down: 

The minute of silence is without your phone, eyes open or closed, just sitting for a moment int peace.

The affirmations are just a list of positive things to remind yourself of daily. They help keep your mind positive. Example of one: "Today I am surrounded by love and abundance in my life." I think about what I am struggling with overcoming mentally and then write some out, or google positive affirmations until I find what I need. :)  

The visualization is a form of goal setting, and it may take some time to write before your review it daily. You want to think about what you are hoping to achieve in your life. It could be long term or just a few months away. Think about what you are hoping to see in your life and write it down. Get as descriptive as possible, so when you read it, it evokes emotion and gets you excited! You should really see the vision clearly. 

Scribing is essentially journaling. There are many forms you could do. Some people do morning pages - a practice where you practice writing 3 pages of long form stream of conscious journaling (I tried it, it wasn't my cup of tea - but many, many people swear by it!). It also is hard to do in one minute. I preferred gratitude journalling, where I write 3 unique things I'm thankful for each day. 

I read this when I was practicing the Miracle 6 morning ritual- it was perfect in small snippets. 

I read this when I was practicing the Miracle 6 morning ritual- it was perfect in small snippets. 

Reading- pretty self explanatory. If you are doing the Miracle 6 I think it's best to read something with small insights, like my favorite, Tao Te Ching. Or a personal development book (see right) where you can get something out of just reading a page or two. 

Exercise- again this is just one minute, so something like jumping jacks, crunches or push ups are good to get the blood flowing! Or you could take the yoga approach and do a sun salutation or two!

There were aspects of this routine I really liked, and it worked for me for awhile. But as I evolved, so did the ritual. When I added true meditation into my routine (not just a minute of silence), it changed the dynamic of the morning. I found it really hard to just read for one minute, and it kinda felt cruel to stop at one minute. Then I would read more, and then the routine would last much longer. I've taken some things I really liked from that ritual and incorporated it into my current routine. 

I've included my morning ritual is below. It is not my every day- right now I am at about 3 days/week. And sometimes I don't do all of the components, but if I get one of them done, it is an accomplishment!  


My morning ritual

  • I go downstairs and start the coffee. If I'm feeling really on it, I will use the frother and make a superfood latte (I froth almond milk, cacao powder, and brain octane oil). 
  • I then write in my gratitude journal. I write three things that I am grateful for.
  • Sometimes I will do a visualization and/or affirmations.
  • I pray for a few minutes. 
  • I meditate for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Then I get up, get dressed, and make my bed.
  • Boom! Ready to start the day!

a simple day with my gratitude journal and coffee. 

a simple day with my gratitude journal and coffee. 

This process takes me about 60 - 75 minutes when I do all of the components. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. 

If you have been following along, you probably understand how important coffee is to me. The smell tells me its time to start the day. When I have the superfood latte, I'm starting my day with nutrients that are fueling my body. Just one small step to start the day right. 

I love my gratitude journal because it really helps me cultivate an abundance mindset. I have so much to be grateful for every day.

Praying helps me focus on what truly matters and gives me perspective.  

Meditation deserves its own post. It helps me focus on the present moment. It helps me to be still in my world that is moving so fast. It helps me to just be. I will do a follow up post on meditation soon. 

I used to not make my bed. But now, I realize that making the bed (and keeping my space clean) helps my mind focused and clear. Besides that, it starts my day with accomplishing a task. There are so many things are out of my control, this is one small thing that is definitely within my domain. 

So in sum, having a morning ritual helps me to start the day: 

  • with good nutrition
  • in a positive mindset
  • at peace with what I can and cannot do
  • goal oriented
  • and accomplished

Pretty powerful stuff, right? All of those things are pretty critical during wedding planning! I encourage you to start your own morning ritual! The "miracle 6" is a great place to start.

Do you have a morning ritual already? I would love to hear about how you start your day! Leave me a comment below or on social! If you haven't seen I finally launched the Shed FB page. Go on and give it a like for me! xx, AHS

Yoga Teacher Training and Upcoming Travel

A very zen koi pond at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali. 

A very zen koi pond at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali. 

Hello my friends! A personal post coming atcha today. :)

A peek at my first homework assignments. 

A peek at my first homework assignments. 

As many of you may know, my preferred form of exercise is yoga (for more of my thoughts on fitness read here). My first experience with yoga was in my second semester of my freshman year at Indiana University (Go Hoos!). I enrolled in yoga as an elective, thinking it would be fun to try. It changed the way I felt about exercise, and opened me to the mind-body connection. I hadn’t been an athlete in high school, so moving my body wasn’t something I had realized could affect my body AND mind for the better. I fell in love with the movement, and how yoga made me feel. 

Sometimes I am more into the physicality of the practice, other times for the mental peace and clarity that comes from the focus on the mat. Through my practice I have cultivated a deeper sense of mindfulness that has led to a career changes and other shifts on my journey. 

The Yoga Barn in Bali (2012)

The Yoga Barn in Bali (2012)

All that being said, I have decided to pursue yoga teacher training this spring. I have been contemplating teacher training for at least 5 years at this point, so it is time! I am hoping to deepen my own practice, and also bring my new knowledge to create some Zen for the Wed in your lives!  

I haven't decided how much yogi stuff to share with you guys, but would love to hear if you are interested in my learnings, asanas (poses), guided flows or meditations or anything else related to teacher training. 

Doing TT locally (not somewhere warm!!), just thought this pic captured my excitement and vibe at this moment. Xx

Doing TT locally (not somewhere warm!!), just thought this pic captured my excitement and vibe at this moment. Xx

On a related note: one of my long term goals is to practice yoga on every continent. So far I have practiced in (North America - duh), Australia/ Oceania, Africa, and Asia! Europe is up this month. I will be traveling to London this month for a week celebrating my birthday! I would love your recos - particularly for some healthy eats and yoga studios. 

Today is my first day of teacher training, so please send some good vibes my way! 

Namaste :) 

AHS

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Wellness

I have used stock photography of "wellness" or "meditation" throughout this post to demonstrate how unattainable wellness can feel. Wellness is achieved by doing yoga in a fjord, clearly.

I have used stock photography of "wellness" or "meditation" throughout this post to demonstrate how unattainable wellness can feel. Wellness is achieved by doing yoga in a fjord, clearly.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by wellness? Like, you couldn't be taking good care of yourself if you aren't adding reishi ashwaghandha adaptogenic blends to your coffee (wait, excuse me, MATCHA) every morning. Or you drink alcohol (GASP!).  Or you just can't get yourself up for a 6am cardio class before work and then you end up skipping the gym that day and all is lost? Do you eat cheese? Like what is Keto? Why is everyone doing it? What is bio-hacking and should I call my IT guy to help me with it? Where does all of this fit into one's daily existence? 

It is hard to keep up y'all. 

I truly enjoy trying out all the new trends. I like seeing how each new superfood/ supplement/ vitamin/ way of eating/ workout / etc.  affects my body and mind. It's fun, it's interesting. And it is not what actually matters. 

First, let me define wellness. 

ˈwelnəs/ noun 
1. the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.
Meditation is swimming in the ocean at sunset surrounded by mountains. 

Meditation is swimming in the ocean at sunset surrounded by mountains. 

Okay so great - pursuing good health. Yep, all about it! It’s great that all of these superfoods and supplements can help us feel awesome. It really is. More things that fuel the body, and help us kick some a- every day – hey all good. But sometimes it feels like the wellness industry chooses to be confusing. Really, to be well, you need to eat lots of vegetables, sleep, drink water, move your body.  The trends that require you to eat a certain way, those are just diets. Diets are fine, but diets are not sustainable. Diets are not wellness. You can add superfoods to your daily morning beverage, and that can aid in wellness- but you don’t need to spend excessive amounts of money on supplements and superfoods to be well. Being thin is not wellness. Sometimes it’s a byproduct of wellness, but not always. It can also be the byproduct of very unhealthy behavior. 

The second you begin to obsess over your food choices, your fitness level, etc- it is no longer wellness. That means “wellness,” “eating healthy,” or “fitness” is no longer serving you. That means it has become a distraction from the things that really matter. 

Now that we cleared up what wellness actually is and what it is not…why do we pursue it? 

Quite simply, good health is a means to help fulfill our work on Earth. Our soul's purpose... This is not about feeling 22 forever.  

....Woah, Alexandra. That just got intense! Soul's purpose? I don't know what that is?! 

I know, I know. That's not an easy question to answer. 

You too, can be well if you manage to meditate on the beach with your arms up in the air. 

You too, can be well if you manage to meditate on the beach with your arms up in the air. 

If you already know the answer. Fantastic. Now go and be well, and have food fuel you and movement inspire you! You are done here. 

If you don’t have the answer to this, you may not have an answer for awhile. I encourage you to dig deeper. Start to meditate. Pray (yes, I said pray). Go to yoga or for a run - whatever gets you in your zone. Think about what lights you up. What gets you out of bed in the morning? How do you help others in your day to day life? Your purpose could be related to your career, or not. It could be related to your family, or not. I unfortunately don’t have a guide book for this (although I bet one exists). I don’t have the answers, only you have the answer inside of you.

Balanced rocks in water - clearly you have reached the pinnacle of enlightenment if you sit near these bad boys. 

Balanced rocks in water - clearly you have reached the pinnacle of enlightenment if you sit near these bad boys. 

My action steps for you: 

1. Reflect on what has sparked your interest in nutrition and wellness. We are human, having a booty like Eva Mendes is a fine answer- no judgement. 

2. Keep it simple. If you enjoy wellness trends, feel free to jump on board - but you don’t need to eat like Amanda Chantal Bacon to be well (see links here and here). Remember at the end of the day, the wise Michael Pollan deduced healthy nutrition to: “eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants.”

3. I want you to stop sometime in the next day or 3- put down your phone. Turn it off. Spend some time alone and reflect. Reflect on what matters most to you. If you were to be gone tomorrow, what would you have wished you had done?

4. Use that beautiful body and soul of yours to thrive!

Yeah, I went deep on you guys. I hope if nothing else, this gave you some food for thought on this chilly winter day. I hope that this helps inspire the divine light within you. 

Be well, 

AHS