Slow Living in Fast Times

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel cross country with my family. We camped, toured, hiked, swam and laughed a ton. It was amazing time and it showed me how disconnected I had become from the things I loved. Sure, I love yoga. But it isn’t who I am to the core. I use yoga to find that.

I came back from that trip different. Ready to heal from a tumultuous year. Ready for the rebirth of something new. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was craving but it was something simpler, something slower. 

Those things were hard to carve out in our life. We returned home to a business that was still in it’s infancy of expansion. It needed our tending and care. My mom’s health had been deteriorating and I had a family and household to manage. So, I started with small and manageable things that would lead me on the path to what I was calling conscious living. 

I focused short bit of times on “leaning” into the things I loved the most. In his research in 2009, Marcus Buckingham calls it tilting. His study focused on the 40 year downward trend of women’s happiness — opposite of their male counterparts. He found women who let go of the need for perfection, leaned into the things they loved more often, let go of the idea of work-life balance, and instead stacked their favorites in their favor, were the happiest woman on Earth.

I realized that I would need a plan to get me to the place where I was stacking in my favor. And I would get there using all the tools that I had trained others with — understanding my intention in this life, minimalizing clutter and distractions, disconnecting and reconnecting, and mindfulness. 

As behavioral consultant Nicholas Bate calls heavy “M.E.D.S. = mindfulness, exercise, diet, and sleep” were going to be my healing path to creating the life I was craving.

LIFE’S INTENTION

So that fall, on a long road trip north, I wrote out my priorities. It is different and unique for each person, but for me it was family, travel, gardening and downtime/home. I wrote, rather drew it out — a beautiful creative spread with me braindumping the things that felt right and that spoke from my soul. 

At the end of the process, I identified the unifying theme that tied the list together. At the end of the day, all these things resulted in three core feelings — security, freedom and love. Identifying this gave me a sense of where to lean. I began to build my “no” muscles ever so slightly and got used to saying “yes” to the things that mattered.

What’s funny is that in the same breath Buckingham writes that woman should learn to say “yes” but here is where I somewhat disagree. Maybe he means to say more ‘YES’ to your intentions and truth. But I was saying “yes” to everyone and I rarely said “no.” Today, I take a “yes” sabbatical — checking in on my intentional barometer to see if I am still heading in the right direction with projects and people. It’s okay to say “no” and even better, take some time to answer. 

MINIMALIZING

Set on intention, I spent time all fall rifling through books to find inspiration. The ones that stood out were focused on minimalism. Wait! Before you roll your eyes, the definition of minimalism is not sterilism. It simply means getting down to the basics. So I started there. Joshua Becker and the Minimalists, Francine Jay. All these writers really resonated with me.

I’d take an hour out of my week and work one drawer at a time. I let go of the extra utensils, ridiculous amounts of office products, cables, cords, files and thinned out the stuff. I unsubscribed and unfollowed. I cancelled magazines. And a funny thing happened, I felt lighter. 

I was still balancing at this point. It wasn’t a fast acceleration to the life I wanted. It was going to take time. I had my current teaching schedule, my work load and management of our studio and staff, plus three busy kids with their commitments. I wasn’t going to drop it all but rather slowly release myself. OURSELVES. My whole family. 

Around Christmas, I found Courtney Carver of “Be More With Less” and her “Project 333” challenge to whittle your seasonal wardrobe capsule to 33 items. I was intrigued. I didn’t think I had a ridiculous closet but still the challenge seemed daunting and a little bit scary. I counted what I had —80 items to start. Words echoed in my mind “you only wear 20% of your closet.” And I took the leap.

I began with my winter wardrobe. What I didn’t see coming was how hard it was to let go of things that I termed “maybes” — to me the money had already been spent, why not save it for a day when I might need it. What I started to learn was there was a crutch in the maybe. If I wasn’t using it, I wasn’t going to. And if I needed a replacement, research shows it would only cost less to replace than to hold on to it.  I was doing this EVERYWHERE. Not just in my closet. In my drawers. In my friendships. In my work. I wasn’t willing to drop the stuff that was zapping energy from me, just in case. But back to the clothes…

I decided to meet myself halfway. I moved the “maybes” into a separate room. If I went back for them within the month, they were to be reconsidered. If I could live without them, they would move on to donation, or to sell on Poshmark or ThredUP. 

The first early morning of my new closet, I walked in to get dressed and I couldn’t not believe the relief that I felt. It was something I couldn’t have expected. My closet wasn’t terrible before, but my after closet made me feel lighter.  No wonder Steve Jobs and Einstein wore the same thing day in and day out. It was so easy to let go of this ONE choice and keep it simple.

One of my favorite students always said “Spaghetti in. Spaghetti out.” Meaning, the chaos that you surround yourself in becomes the chaos in your mind. Organization is helpful and a huge part of slow and conscious living, but rigidity is not. Everything has a place in our home. We are still letting go of things and evaluating every day, what we need or don’t need. It just helps us focus what’s most important. 


DISCONNECTING

On that same fall road trip north, we listened to a life changing podcast with Wil.I.Am. In it he talked about how as a society, we are inundated by messages, emails, communication, visuals and it leads to our disconnection with our God-given technology —our intuition. 

It got me thinking. Our bodies on a cellular level detest space. In fact, if there is space, it will be filled. So what if those cells were also having a dialogue with our brain. What if that message was pervading our mental state. “FILL IT UP,” the voice says. “Leave no space.”

Don’t we all find at some point that we feel this way? I mentioned that I had started to declutter my mailbox and inbox. But I also started creating boundaries. I put an away message on my email and started only answering emails on certain days. I restricted my in-studio appointment days. In January, I took the whole month off social media in what I call my “airplane mode” so that I could continue to lean into the things that were calling me. 

And now. I actually have days now where I turn off my phone. Well, entire mornings. And I have left it at home when I go out — especially when I know that one of us has a phone for emergencies.

This created so much space — for creativity, for connectivity and for leaning into my God-given technology. While I have been practicing mindfulness for years, the informal practice got significantly stronger. The down days seemed slower. More conscious. More responsive and less reactive. I wanted more of THAT. I craved it.


MINDFULNESS

As as meditation and yoga teacher, sitting on a cushion or finding a quiet place to create stillness and observe my thoughts was easy. I could carve that out. It was the informal practice that I was building. I started noticing that things were doing in our daily life had gone missing and helped make time feel slower. Meditation, walking, meal preparation, ecotherapy, gratitude and finding your rhythm.

    MEALS TOGETHER

    We got back to making our dinners together. We even recently assigned all three kids to their own night. We all join in the kitchen for prep, with the head chef guiding us. Music and laughing as we prepare our meals. Other nights it is just a quiet focus on our job at hand. The time together is priceless and makes for more enjoyable mealtime.

    WALKS

    As a couple, we take daily walks with our dogs. Sometimes they are silent. Sometimes we talk about our day. Just the act of being outside and walking is a reconnect with our inner nature. Many times, our kids will come with us.

FAMILY NIGHTS + MEETINGS

One of our non-negotiables is family night. We play together — volleyball, basketball, swimming, or board games. We just spent the night doing something together and most of the time it is physical. A good friend and family therapist suggested we institute a marriage meeting and a family meeting too. Our meetings have time limits, we come to the table with things to discuss, we plan our schedule for the week, we talk about chores and house projects. It keeps us all on the same page and the same team. 

    GRATITUDE

    Every morning, before I even get out of bed, I fold my hands and say a quick list of things     for which I am grateful. And every Friday, Kevin and I both spend time sharing our “Five Things Friday” online to help encourage others to outline their “best of” from the week. It’s a practice of reframing and helping everyone focus on what we have that is going well, even if things are hard. 

    GARDENING

    Last year, I had the intention to grow things. I had never learned though my grandparents were excellent gardeners. They managed a massive garden and small fruit orchard that my parents had built. As a kid, some of my favorite memories were of eating food right off the vine, bush or tree. 

    I wanted to connect to that again. So I started with simple plants in the house. Giving my attention to them and listening to their needs — more light, less water, fertilizer? Once we got comfortable there, I adopted my mother’s plants. Living? Check. Then we went bigger, and recently turned our attention outside. What is so thrilling to me is that my kids have been so involved. My daughter has been instrumental in helping bring songbirds to our back yard and it is beautiful to watch and listen to them. We are in the process of building a raised bed for our regular veggies. It’s felt good to sit outside. To have a space and sanctuary that we created that is really starting to fill in. And to be a part of something.

   
RHYTHMS

All of this sounds good I am sure, but I still have to work. Giving myself space meant I could figure out my most productive times. I have always woke early enough for my “non-negotiables” — tea, meditation, news. Somedays I have to be at work at 8:30A and somedays 6:30A. My schedule isn’t conventional but finding a rhythm means that I go with the flow more. I don’t feel rushed. And yes, organization comes in to play here but so does consistency. Less time in the closet, in the bathroom and on the phone. It will leave you with more time over all. 

Most mornings, I’ll start a load of laundry while we prep the kids for school. I do a “braindump” on my current situation between 9-11A that helps me figure out what’s important for the day. I might prep for a class, practice yoga, meet with a client or business partner. But my fluid day is structured to end right at 330P when I pickup my first kid from school. 

And we finish our last walk around 9P and unwind for bed on most nights. Sleep in our house, is also a non-negotiable.

Everyone’s rhythm will be different and it changes like the seasons. I truly believe that when we connect to nature, we find our natural living rhythm and it can be slow and conscious. 

HOME CAN BE SLOW
We cannot control the pace around us, but we can control our response to it. Our life is still a work in progress, it’s still busy and our work can be demanding outside of the house, and all of this will forever be changing but I find so much space at home in leaning into the things I love and am meant to do. May this inspire you to let go of the notion of balance, having it all, and life in the fast lane. Here’s to slow.

xo
m

PS- Let me know if you are interested in more. I can show you how I organized areas, weeded down my wardrobe, my meditation space and more.

Our Camp at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Our Camp at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Top of the World, Colorado Springs

Top of the World, Colorado Springs

Family dinners around here is all hands on deck.

Family dinners around here is all hands on deck.

Mornings (and other times of the day) spent here.

Mornings (and other times of the day) spent here.

Lucie embraces slow living… and naps.

Lucie embraces slow living… and naps.

A moment of sibling revelry just cracking each other up.

A moment of sibling revelry just cracking each other up.

Thoracic Mobility: The Cage vs The Spring

I have been working with a client to increase the movement around the thoracic spine - generally from base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs. A comment about her hurt in life and the efforts and care she dotes on others got me thinking about the heart. And it got me thinking about the amazing network of bones around the heart. We call it a ribCAGE which denotes maybe this idea of a static and rigid framework around the most vital organs.

However, when we breathe fully (deep into the diaphragm) we have the sense of movement in the ribs. Most people though tend to breathe into the sternum and upper traps, which leads to a more rounded thoracic area (called kyphosis) and lends a sense of stiffness to this notion of the ribs as a cage. When we rotate, our pelvis moves in opposing directions and when they work together, the two are our prime movers in our overall movement. Even the joints where the ribs meet the spine are more moveable and house receptors for communication with the brain.

So here’s the thing: our ribCAGE is actually is more like a spring. It’s resilient, able to bend and move and return back to it’s form. And the same is true for the emotions that we feel under the spring. We experience heartache and we recover — we bounce back. Or we don’t and our posture perhaps shows it and our the cage does truly become more hard and rigid. Also a good reminder that we should give love as well as receive. It is interesting to note that in a heart attack, our ribs will move 2” to give first responders an opportunity to resuscitate us. But the movement has its limitations.

While not large we have mobility in the thoracic spine — rotation, lateral and some extension and flexion. I find that the ability to backbend improves as you improve rotation and axial extension (that sense of lengthening the spine). We have this resilient network of bone and cartilage that protects our heart from the outside world all while having the ability to be expansive and more mobile than we might think. And maybe on an emotional level, we can remember that there are lots of ways to open ourselves up to love, but the first is to start within.

Fall Seasonal Symmetry Course, November 17

It’s like a girlfriend’s night in. Wear your comfy clothes, circle up and drink tea. Let’s nourish our souls with the talk of self-care and how to balance our mind, body and spirit in the seasonal times of transition.

Each attendee will receive a survival gift kit to help them at home. Sign up today for the course. Live out of state? Join the newsletter at megankearneymovement.com and order the kit directly to your home!

Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine + the Earth Element

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient practice that supports health and wellness, and believes in harmony between the opposing complementary forces of yin and yang. TCM also believes that the human body is a microcosm of the expansive universe around us. The five elements that appear in nature (fire, earth, wood, metal and water) also appear within us and represent all manners of life and explain the function of the body and how it changes during dis-ease. In TCM, disease is a result of a imbalance between yin and yang, and fluctuation of energy within the five elements. This vital energy that flows through the body is known as qi (CHI) and performs multiple functions in the body and helps maintain health. 

Each season corresponds with an element, just as we have different seasons in our own lives. The transitional time between summer and fall is known as late summer or the earth element. It is comprised of two meridians — stomach (yang) and spleen (yin). 

The earth meridians govern the muscle as it relates to our sense of strength and stamina. The stomach meridian travels from just below the eye through the front of our body, down through our quads and across the top of our feet to the second toe. It is tied to the action of seeing our goal in front of us and using those leg muscles to move us forward towards it, grab it, and draw it into our being. At times of imbalance, we can become "stuck in the mud” and not possess the inability to move forward in life.

10 Keys to Balance in Late Summer

The earth element is the archetypal mother figure. In balance, she is nurturing, supportive and balanced. Out of balance, she is overburden, heavy with worry and unable to create boundaries for her own self-care.

Here are 10 keys to balancing this seasonal influx and creating ease in the body.

  1. Replace worry.
    Allot yourself a limited amount of time to focus on a specific problem. Then move forward with ways to overcome and action items to correct your course. Keep yourself focused on the present and gentle guide yourself away from thoughts about the future.

  2. Exercise empathy and compassion
    Start with active listening. Bring to the conversation acceptance, trust, a beginner’s mind, patience, the ability to let go, detachment from a goal or fixing, and non-judgement.

  3. Seek out activities that bring contentment
    Look to participate in activities that make you feel content. Being with friends, laughing, walking the park or painting a picture.

  4. Altruism and service
    Participate in something for a higher purpose. Champion a cause within your community that helps the greater good.

  5. Practice gratitude
    Try daily or morning gratitude practices or even just a simple one-sentence thank you to those things for which you are grateful. Join me on social media and try “FIVE THINGS FRIDAY” to establish a practice and grow the habit.

  6. Practice self-care
    Every day, take time to care for yourself the way you would a loved one. Give yourself extra time in the morning to linger in the shower, or maybe draw a bath at night and light a candle. Make a list of things that feel like self-care and do those for yourself on the regular.

  7. Enroll
    Join or establish a connection with others you enjoy. Join a book club, become a member of a church, or find a support group. Affiliation helps us feel like we are a part of the fabric of life.

  8. Maintain good nutrition
    We will be talking more about food in the late summer, but be sure not to skip meals as it is hard on the spleen. Make eating a ceremony, taking time to make and savor your food.

  9. Take care of your digestive system
    Allow yourself time for digestion, eat a full spectrum of foods that allow the body to take in nutrients, and be mindful of medications that might eradicate the healthy bio genome in your belly.

  10. Commitment and security
    When we commit to a goal or to our life, we establish a firm foundation that helps us to feel stable and secure. Set some intentions, recommit to your family, friends and self, and create a strong stable roots.

Heading for An Emotional or Physical Landslide?

Signs your earth element is out of balance. These are just a few symptoms of earth element deficiency +/or stagnation:

  • lack of motivation + fatigue 

  • excessive worrying + overthinking

  • foggy thinking + trouble concentrating

  • lessening or lack of an appetite

  • changes in bowel movements

  • flabby muscle tone

  • easily bruising + slow wound healing

  • sense of anxiety

  • sense of heaviness in the body

  • difficulty losing weight

  • gas and bloating

Five Poses to Stimulate the Earth Lines

Five Poses to Stimulate the Earth Lines

Here are some great poses to help you continue your 21-days of balancing of the Earth element. 1) Malasana or squat pose. Use a blanket under your heels for assistance. 2) Deep lunge or dragon. Blanket under the back knee for support. 3) Lunge variation. The twist helps the lines that move up into the abdominals while holding the back leg gets stimulation along the quadriceps. Hold at the toes to tap into the lines in the shins and top of the foot. 4) Bhekhasana or frog pose. Modify based on what your knee allows. Press your pubic bone towards the mat to intensive and take out any low back compression.

Worry Dolls, Anxiety + Earth Element

Worry Dolls, Anxiety + Earth Element

I remember holding the tiny little dolls between my fingers and handing my worries over to them. No more than an inch tall, they were a piece of wire wrapped in thread and stored in a yellow painted bamboo box. I don’t remember why my grandmother had gifted them to me after a trip to the caribbean but I remember using them frequently as a child. I’d pull them out before bed and use them so that I could sleep.

Nut Milk Mania

Growing up in the country and surrounded by farms, I drank milk every day. I drank it every morning for breakfast and every night, full fat, for dinner. Once I got older, I questioned my drinking another animal’s milk and started to learn about all the effects of diary on my system. But I can say that it did not make me want to quit cold turkey— especially with the store alternatives (soy, rice, almond, to name a few) as none of them could compare to the richness of a class of cow’s milk and left me with a bad taste.

What’s for Brrrrrr-eakfast? Warm Ginger Cardamom Compote

I created this recipe early one morning when the crisp fall air had me ready for something warm in my belly. I didn’t want oatmeal — though I could have added this to the top and it would have been delicious. I’ve been doing my full three servings of fruit first thing in the morning (30 minutes after my lemon water) and I really enjoy having a warm version. When it’s cooler out, I will sometimes add a chia pudding (again you could make a warm version) and use this as a topping. Enjoy!

Salad Spin: My Favorite Four

The weather hasn’t quite turned cold in Georgia and so fall is really still summer weather.  I’m able to still enjoy cold, raw foods before I head into soup season. I rounded up my favorite go-to’s so you could enjoy them too. Now, I try to encourage you to eat seasonally, and some of these fruits are out of season depending on your location. So get adventurous and try your own combinations!

Clean Thai Peanut Slaw

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

For the slaw:

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup carrots shredded
  • 1 cup kale shredded
  • 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 6 finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup rough chopped fresh cilantro

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons organic tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey (local if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons creamy organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 inch chopped fresh ginger

Prep slaw accordingly OR use an organic bag of slaw and add missing ingredients. Put all of the sauce ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Toss together and serve.

Avocado and Mango Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Avocado and Mango Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Recipe via http://www.mountainmamacooks.com

Yield: 2 large salads

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or Vegenaise author recommends)
  • 1 tablespoon local honey
  • 3/4 cup avocado oil or other light flavored oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad:

  • mixed greens
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 mango, sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons toasted, unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. To make dressing, whisk the minced shallots, lime, orange and lemon juices with the mustard, mayonnaise and honey. Slowly whisk in the oil until the dressing is creamy. Stir in the poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Divided desired amount of greens between two bowls. Divide the sliced mango and avocado between the two salads. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and drizzle with desired amount of dressing.

Notes: There will be enough dressing for more than two salads. Use desired amount of dressing and save rest for another use.