“Running on Ramen” in Tokyo…

When Olivia told me their team name “Running on Ramen”, I actually chuckled. She is part of this team of high schoolers who decided to enter a TechUnder20 competition with an idea of developing a health app for teens.

I’m not quite sure if they really knew what they were doing but hey, these kids are fearless.  They pitched their app to a cranky old judge and although they did not win the $15,000 price, they walked away thinking they gave it all they’ve got along with some fond memories of coming in at 6th place… and of course, coming up with such a catchy cheesy name.

I remember picking up Olivia after the results came and as she recounted how they did, I marvelled at how these kids shift gears and take risks and have no fear trying something new.

In my mind’s eye, I saw this to be their team’s greatest achievement–do something different, take a risk, and see where it goes–aka “Running on Ramen” motto.

When I think of ramen, I immediately think of those fat traditional Japanese noodles in chicken stock and topped with vegetables and pork slices. Coincidentally, I am in Tokyo this week for Spring break!

Tokyo is definitely not for the faint-hearted…Best place to try “Running on Ramen”!

My ROR journey has been the following so far:

1. Carry-on only:

I have always been in awe of people who just have a carry on for when they travel. My brother Jonah does it all the time and he told me just pack the necessities… so I guess my favourite shampoo and conditioner stay at home. I made sure to book a hotel that provides these little luxuries 😂.

At any rate, my Osprey carryon backpack seemed smaller than when I bought it😢.

2. Onsen:

As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do…”

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring…and it is a must try when you visit Japan.

We went to one onsen/spa in Enoshima (about an hour away from downtown Tokyo) which allowed for swimsuits…

It was so nice, peaceful and relaxing ….until we realized the last train back to Tokyo was at 8pm and we had to go on full sprint back to the train station…

Oh well, so much for peaceful and relaxing!

We plan to go to another one in Hakone ( about 3 hours away from Tokyo). This time, I’m allowing 3 hours to make sure I get my f*^%~ peace and relaxation! 🤯

3. Instagram worthy:

I really have to be more understanding about the importance of the perfect “Instagram pic”.

Olivia also did the minimalist carryon route and so did not pack a lot of clothes as she lamented to her best friend Shayla 😂.

Enough said. We still have a few more days in Tokyo so I’m sure Olivia will get at least one Instagram worthy pic…and I just might cave and let her buy one cheap shirt…

I must admit I’m not that good of a photographer either, like Shayla’s grandma!

Well, that is it for now. If you have ever had an ROR experience leave me a comment!

Signing off from Tokyo!

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!!

Debbie.

Happy New Year!

2018 was such an awesome year for me!!!!

I realized that I take myself too seriously and learned to laugh at myself.  Olivia taught me this.

I learned that some people are very good at giving you the ultimate guilt trip or the silent treatment for even the smallest of things but I realize that I cannot control other people but can only control how I react to it.  So, I have learned to shrug it off and know that it is not the end of the world.  Who cares what other people think when the only thing that matters is what YOU think.  Easier said than done, I know but it’s worth it, I promise.

I learned that if you really want to do something, you go for it.  Don’t let other people discourage you from doing it (this is for my mother-in-law who said I shouldn’t write a cookbook since I can’t cook…yah, she’s a tough one).  Watch 2019 for a cookbook for those who can’t cook!!!

I have learned to forgive all the people who have thrown me under the bus (this is for my old boss who taught me that difficult people are learning opportunities to practice patience as per the Buddhist tradition!)

I learned to always watch my thoughts since sometimes, I always seem to veer towards the negative….

I learned that worrying is a waste of time.  If there is something you can do about it, then do it.  If it is out of your control, then worrying is a waste of time.  Let it go.

Finally, I learned to …. DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING!!!!  Close your eyes and let it all go!!!!!

Here’s to a new year and may 2019 bring us joy and new adventures!!!!

Happy New Year everyone!!!!!

Love always…

Debbie.

 

 

EGO–how to deal with it.

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I’ve had a tough week.

As an accountant, I have had my share of meetings full of fragile egos and people who seem to exhibit sociopath tendencies and do not seem to care about throwing people under the bus.

Difficult people.  You know what I’m talking about. There should be a Difficult People 101 course.

Okay, you are right–I’m probably overreacting but I’m sure I am not alone when I say, dealing with difficult people sucks the life out of you and makes you wonder how you can deal with them.

Soon after I started my mindfulness journey, I began to really pay attention to the types of difficult people I normally deal with.  I started grouping them in the  following categories: 

1) Talkers (they talk more than they listen and they interrupt incessantly!),

2) Perfect (they are NEVER wrong),

3) Fake (they often lie to get their way),

4) Control freaks (they are controlling and their way is the only way),

5) Only Me (they bring down others to prop themselves up). 

I’ve thought of this long and hard and I think I may have a way that may ease the pain a bit.  I’m not saying that it will be roses and wine from now on but it may give you a new perspective on how to deal with difficult people.

E—Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to put yourself in one’s shoes and understand what they are going through.  In most cases, I have to remind myself that everyone has a back story.  It may be that they are under stress and feeling overwhelmed, or they have some personal issues they are currently dealing with.

G—Gratitude. Be grateful that you have a difficult person who you can practice your mindfulness on!  In the Buddhist tradition, difficult people are to be cherished. 

O—Opportunity. View difficult people as an opportunity for growth.  Pay attention to what your body is feeling.  Are you holding your breath? Did you just tense up? Tighten your jaw? Stay present. Stay silent and just listen with a beginners mind.  Perhaps, the difficult person may have a good point and emotions are getting in the way, or it may be YOUR EGO that is clouding your judgement.

One final thought–I always believed that these difficult people had inflated egos.  Now that I think more mindfully about it, it may be quite the opposite–they have deflated egos and they need to push people onto oncoming traffic because they believe that by doing so, they can attract more attention and elevate their own value.

What do you think?

At any rate, as I finish my second glass of wine, I am not looking forward to the coming week.  However, armed with a new perspective about ego and how to deal with difficult people, meetings may finally be something to look forward to.

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

S.T.O.P. –A refresher…

 

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I had a little argument with Olivia on our way to school this morning.

I didn’t have time to make her lunch and I was a feeling a little vulnerable since I knew I have not been a model parent these past few days. I was on a training course and we were off our usual routine.  Although I get home earlier than usual, I do not seem to have enough time to do laundry, put away the dishes, or go for a run.

Although…I seem to have time for two glasses of wine and cheese, check the Raptors game, do some Amazon surfing for some retail therapy, sleep later than usual, etc…

At any rate, some consequences have certainly been felt the mornings after….I’ve been oversleeping, Olivia scrambling for clean jeans, no time to sit down and have breakfast (or even packing lunch), and both of us grumpy and testy in the morning.

I knew she was going through a rough patch too…she was worried she didn’t study enough for her Spanish test, she has a history project to work on, a finance test for DECA Ontario (an extracurricular finance club for young and upcoming junior executives), a math test to study for  (trigonometry, as I recall) and she was having some trouble prioritizing which one to deal with first….

Anyway, she said, “I’m hungry.”

For some reason, I took this negatively.  I immediately responded that we should really do better at planning our mornings or even consider laying out our clothes the night before and she should give me some ideas on what she would want for breakfast or lunch instead of relying on me to read her mind…and how late did she stay up last night that maybe she should be waking up earlier in the morning?

…all in my “pissed off” and “accusing” tone.

Silence on the passenger side.

Then I realized that with all the mindfulness practice and mantras I have in my arsenal, there are still times when I fall off the wagon and I revert back to old habits of mindlessness.

Anyway, I dropped her off and said, “Have a good day, honey”.  At this point, I was hoping that she had forgiven me for my outburst.  As I was waiting for the train heading downtown, I remembered one of the simplest techniques in my arsenal that I should have done:

S.T.O.P.

S–stop and take a time out; pause

T–take a slow breath in and out. Take another one, for good measure.

O-observe what is happening inside you. Were you holding your breath? How about your shoulders–were they tense and up? Just notice. No judging.

P-proceed; having checked into what is happening, continue with whatever you were doing.  Maybe, just maybe…you are feeling calmer and clearer to deal with the present situation.

Anyway, as I write this blog on the train on the way home (the course finished early! yay!), I remind myself that there will be times when I will fall off the wagon, but it is okay.

I can always begin again.

Next time, I hope that I remember to STOP… before I blow things out of proportion.

Hopefully, you will too….

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

 

It’s a nice sunny morning…

I missed my 8:17 am train to work today….

As I climbed the stairs to the platform, I thought “It’s okay if I miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I will find a sunny spot on the platform and drink the coffee I made at home.”

As I felt a blur of people rushing past me, I thought “It’s okay to miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I wouldn’t want to be stumbling on the stairs…”

As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw some people were not as fortunate as the sprinters…

As I caught the eye of a lady who seemed out of place with such a heavy coat on such a nice morning, I said out loud “It’s okay, it’s a nice sunny morning and…the next train is in 10 minutes.”

As I saw her pause, I realized that somehow she didn’t realize how rare these mornings are after our brutal ice storm just last week. She replied happily “You are right! It IS a nice sunny morning! It’s okay to miss this train. There is always the next train.”

As I walked away to find my sunny spot and enjoy my coffee, I thought “What a beautiful sunny day….maybe tomorrow, I’ll miss my train again…”

Have a wonderful sunny day, everyone!!

Debbie.

Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).

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In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
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3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.
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5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

A new year’s resolution: another look at Work-Life Balance….

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As another year draws to a close and a new year just around the corner, this is generally the time when everyone takes a deep breath and comes up with an impossibly unsustainable new years’ resolution…like going (back?) to the gym, eating out less, or spending more time with the family.  However, one resolution that tends to come up with most of my workaholic friends is striking the right “work-life balance”. 

I first heard of the phrase “work life balance” in the early part of my career as an accountant for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (it used to be the big 5).  The managers and senior managers were always talking about not having time for dinner with their families during the peak of audit season.  In fact, they had not seen their wives or husbands in daylight as they generally left for work before sunrise and when they came home, the whole house was already asleep.  They always said, “I have to get a job with more work life balance, man.”  

What exactly is “work-life balance”?  In a nutshell, it is the holy grail of the art of balancing work (i.e. career and ambition) with life (i.e. family, leisure, health).  This balancing act can be tricky and many of us have fallen into the trap of focusing on the work aspect….leading to the demise of the other.  Burnout and the compounding stress of a never ending workday in contrast with boredom and the compounding stress of always watching the purse strings are just some of the results of too much focus on either work or life.

In Nigel Marsh’s TEDtalk about work life balance, he brilliantly sums the paradox as “it is quite easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work; not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.”

So where does this leave us?  Work life balance is different for everyone but these are some of my thoughts and tips that may help in find YOUR balance:

1.  It was never about Balance

Consider the three words again:  Work, Life, Balance. 

It was just recently that I realized that perhaps I was looking at this phrase all wrong.  Isn’t “work” really just part of “life”?  Why would “work” garner 50% of this equation? In fact, in thinking about this more deeply, MY life would likely be broken down into these components:  work, my family and friends, and my SELF.   All of these contribute to my overall happiness—but certainly not 50% of work!!!

Work is just part of life, such as my family and my health and wellbeing would also be.  Put another way, work is really just a piece of the Pie of Life; we should not give it more (or less) importance as the other parts of our lives. Alas, sometimes, this realization comes too late when our health fails us or when we suffer our first anxiety attack, for example. As far as I know, no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

So perhaps, a change in perspective is warranted since it was never about balance to begin with….it is really about integration of the work in the overall scheme of things.

2.  Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Maybe it was just me but I found that even though I made a good living, it seemed as if it was never enough.  So, I went for promotions that paid me more money which meant more responsibility and more stress; other times, I would change jobs just for the fact that it paid more.  You would think that if I had more money, I could save more and be happier.  Quite the opposite.  Ironically, I found that the more money I made, the more expenses I seemed to have!  So, when finally I realized my happiness was inexplicably connected to my work life imbalance, it was so much more difficult to just throw in the towel and say, ENOUGH! 

Faced with choice—would you quit a job that makes you sick or would you just suck it up?

So beware the golden handcuffs…

3.  Establish boundaries

Employers try to attract talent or keep employees by giving incentives like flexible work environments including work from home, the perks of having the newest smartphones in the market, dress down Fridays, or even a daycare in the premises.  If you come to think about this though, these incentives just make your work day even longer!  I am sure that these employers have good intentions but it is critical that boundaries are set early on or else work will definitely take over all of your hours of the day. 

“But wouldn’t that limit my career?” you are probably asking.  Well, that would be up to you.  I think that you would likely come out to be a more productive and happier employee since you actually have time to BREATHE.  Have you ever worked with someone who always seems to be on edge since they have too much on their plate and everyone is tiptoeing and walking on eggshells around them for fear of being yelled at?  I worked for someone like that—I remember I used to take the longer route to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to walk by his office. Yah, not nice.

So, there you have it, a few thoughts to ponder as a new year is once again upon us.

Do you have any work-life balance tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow me by email so you never miss another blog… sign up below!!!

As always, thank you so much for following and reading my blog and may 2018 be a year filled with smiles, love, much happiness and prosperity.

This is my heartfelt wish from me to you. Happy New Year, everyone!

Debbie.