A Born Again Morning Person

Anyone who knows me, up until recently that is, would never classify me as a morning person. Monday-Friday, I set my alarm so that I could get every last second out of my comfy bed which normally meant setting it for something like 6:52. I gave myself just enough time to get ready for work and eat my breakfast. I should mention that I have an internal clock, and don’t even require an alarm clock – it’s really a just-in-case kinda thing.

Sleeping in on the weekends was basically my reward for getting up early five days out of seven. I earned it, and I would take it no matter what. Because of my internal clock, I’d wake up at my regular time anyway, but would stay in bed…just because I could and because it was my reward for having to sacrifice my lovely sleeping-ins five days a week. On the weekends, I generally didn’t make my way out of bed until at least 9:00.

As with most of my life, all of that changed when I began meditating and reading The Tao. I learned the importance of taking time for myself, solitude and silence. I also discovered that the most logical part of the day for me to practice all of these things was in the morning. Yikes! It wasn’t always possible to squeeze in my “me time” after my evening routine – exercising, dinner, dishes, shower, doing stuff for work, and the list goes on. And to be honest, it didn’t really seem fair that I had to squeeze it in, in the first place. I deserved more. And that is the sole reason I became a Born Again Morning Person (remembering my love of Saturday morning cartoons and actually getting up early for them, leads me to assume that at some point in my early years, I was in fact, a morning person).

I, the queen of sleeping in and grabbing every last second I could possibly get out of my bed, now rise and shine at 5:3oish each morning (except for the weekends when I still relish a little bit of sleeping in time!). Technically, I usually wake up before 5:30, around 5:00 (always before my alarm goes off), but stay in bed until around 5:30. I should mention that I now go to bed a bit earlier than I used to. I used to be an 11:00 bedtime person, but now it’s usually 10:00. I also turn off my computer/any DVD I might be watching, etc., by 8:30/9:00. I spend at least half an hour reading a positive, inspiring, uplifting book (one that will put me in a good frame of mind for a pleasant sleep) before bed. Sidenote: I used to have a really hard time falling asleep – I tossed and turned, my mind wouldn’t shut off, I often didn’t fall asleep until 2:00/3:00 in the morning, and when I awoke, I felt like I hadn’t even slept. Since I’ve made all of these changes (meditating, Yoga, changing my bedtime and waking time), I’ve never slept better.

I’m still human though, and occasionally, I don’t really feel like getting up; but then I think, well I’m already awake so what’s the point? Lay in bed for an extra 5 minutes? Reset my alarm for a later time in case I fall asleep, and then feel robbed when it rudely wakes me up? Nah. Instead…

I immediately get out of bed, turn on my lamp with the soft lighting, brush my teeth, light my incense and do my morning Candlelight Energizer Yoga. What better way to start a brand new day than with the first 15 minutes dedicated to me and my peace of mind? Once I’m done my Yoga, I do my makeup, hair, etc., and the rest of the time, until I leave for work, is mine, which usually amounts to a good hour. One hour all to myself to do what I want – meditate, read, sometimes write. Uninterrupted time all to myself. My days have never gotten off to a better start, and I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.

~Carolyn

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Are You Afraid of…the Silence?

One of the most powerful healing things you can do for yourself is to surround yourself, if even for just a few minutes a day, with silence. In a world consumed with quick, costly “fixes,” there’s something we can all so easily find and benefit from (physically, emotionally, psychologically), it’s free, and yet many of us are…afraid of it!

I used to be one of those people who feared silence. I woke up in the morning, and immediately turned on my television. When I got home from work, the first thing I did was turn on my television. It’s not that I actually watched anything a lot of the time, it was just comforting to have some form of noise in the background. Writing this, I can’t believe that there was a point in time (and a long point in time) in which I actually wanted noise.

I can’t attribute my silence appreciation to one particular thing. I did get rid of my cable, but before that, I began meditating, and learning about the Tao. Silence (or attempting to achieve it) can be, at first, a bit overwhelming. And by silence, I don’t just mean a silent room or space, although that’s a wonderful start. I’m talking silencing your mind, controlling your thoughts so that they focus on just one thing at a time. As you might imagine, that can be extremely difficult. I must say though, the more you meditate and enjoy periods of silence, the easier it will become.


I didn’t just jump right into silence, but instead used guided meditations which very quickly helped me to see the benefits of calming my mind, floating into the silence, not worrying or thinking about the past or the future…living and breathing in the now.  It’s a mental renewal every day, and the benefits are evident on a daily basis…patience, less stress, less fear, confidence in tackling everyday problems, better sleep, more energy, positive outlook, and the list goes on. So often, we let everything accumulate in our minds…problems from months ago that may have already been fixed, but for whatever reason, still rent space in our brains. Enjoying silence through meditation helps you to let go, to leave the past in the past, and live in the present, to slow down, to treat yourself to relaxation and rejuvenation.

Silence and meditation allow you to be alone with your thoughts, but in a good way, a productive way. So often our days are spent worrying about our problems, wondering how on earth we’re going to get everything done that “needs” to be done, stressing about the past, present and future, mentally preparing our every move, always trying to be one step ahead, but rarely enjoying where we’re currently standing. Before we know it, yet another day, week, month and year have “flown” by. But why have they flown by? Because we didn’t take the time for ourselves, to be alone with our thoughts, not the superficial “To Do List” thoughts, but deep thoughts, the kind that cause our spirit to reawaken and find its purpose. We didn’t take the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Silence truly is golden. It can slow down the hands of time. It can benefit your well-being in ways you never would have thought. It can heal you. Silence can be your own personal therapist…if you’ll let it.

~Carolyn

Ta-Da! Dream a Little Dream

Judging from when I made my initial post about the Vision Boards, I guess one could say I’m a bit of a procrastinator. Anyway…Today I finally attempted my O Board. The template was very easy to work with, searchable pictures were available on the site (or you could add your own), and they could be moved wherever you wanted on the page as well as sized and turned. The hardest part for me was coming up with enough stuff to fill the board – which is a good thing because it encouraged me to really think about my “dreams,” what I really wanted out of life. What I realized is that my dreams are fairly simple, and have a lot more to do with feelings than with stuff. All in all, it was a good experience  (I even felt a little empowered afterwards), and it currently plays the role of my computer background. My next step? A tangible Vision Board that I can hang in my home.

~Carolyn

Variety Overload

More more more. Is there a point when we reach too much? I’m talking everything here – people, cars, technical gadgets, brands, and on and on and on. In my opinion, the answer is yes, and I’ve got  firsthand experience with what it feels like to live through Variety Overload. Here’s just one example of what I’m talking about…

A few months ago, I was on what I thought would be a simple enough mission at a shall-remain-nameless department store. My goal? Brace yourself here, to buy a new toothbrush. A little background info first…I’m fairly obsessed with my teeth, and have always been a sucker for the electric toothbrush and teeth-whitening products. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never sought to have the Ross Geller sheen, just a nice, naturally looking, white smile. Needless to say, I was quite confident in my ability to pick dental care products. That day, I was shopping with my sister, and each of us had ventured off into separate aisles; my goal was to just quickly pick out a toothbrush, and then track down my sister so we could continue shopping together. Well, little did I know that about 50, 000 new brands of toothbrushes had been invented since the last time I purchased one (the previous year).

My eyes glazed over staring at the sea of toothbrushes. I started to feel antsy, my head swarming. I started thinking, “Ugh…This is going to take me forever. Trisha’s gonna get impatient waiting for me…Hurry up, you can do this, Carolyn…HURRY UP! Just pick one, and go!” I stood there, my eyes glancing along the aisle-long shelf of toothbrushes (OK, that might be exaggerating by a smidge, but it was at least half to 3/4 of the aisle). All I wanted was an electric toothbrush, one I could just plug in and recharge; heck, it didn’t even matter if it was electric, as long as the bristles moved with the push of a button (it may be a mind over matter thing here, but I feel it does a better job). Instead, I was bombarded with soft bristles, hard bristles, softish-hardish bristles, medium-soft bristles, all-in-ones, not all-in-ones, battery-power, manual, crisscross bristles, rounded bristles, tapered brush head…you see how you feel right now reading this? Multiply it by 100! I couldn’t do it. I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. I could not pick out a toothbrush. I left the aisle defeated, toothbrush-less, feeling like I had just been visually assaulted, and eventually, located my sister. I laid it all out on the line, my feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. My sister, being the lifesaver she is, put on her brave face and led us back to that  aisle of doom with a take-no-prisoners kind of attitude; I meekly followed. On the way, I discussed with her my ordeal, and she clearly felt my pain. She whipped into that aisle like a Momma Bear on a mission, picked out the first battery operated toothbrush she laid her eyes on, and we were Outta There!

My experience attempting to buy a new toothpaste followed a similar path which leads me to my concern…when is enough, enough? Do we really need this much selection in everything/anything you can think of? Why not just a low/medium/high end version of the products? Why does there have to be a low-low/medium-low/high-low, low-medium/medium-medium (well, you get the picture) version of everything? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer other than it’s just sheer greed or just because we can.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of meditating. I’ve discovered that with meditation, I have a strong desire to limit the amount of “stuff” in my life. Perhaps that’s why I have such a meltdown when I feel like I’m being bombarded with brands, objects and selection. What have I done to attempt to overcome this? The solution for me has been to KIS (Keep It Simple – Yes, I left off the extra S. I’m not a huge fan of referring to myself as ‘stupid.’). How do I this? By finding my personal favourites of everything I need or use, and sticking to only those products and brands. That way, my eyes know exactly what they’re looking for, and I focus on finding that particular product, not looking at, or for, anything else. Another suggestion I have (but can’t really use myself because there really aren’t any in my neck of the woods), would be to frequent your local Mom and Pop shops. Although they may be a little more expensive (and perhaps, you can choose just a few products you’d like to buy there), you have the added benefit of helping out your local small businesses, probably meeting friendlier employees who value your business and will treat you like a person, and the pièce de résistance, the selection will not overwhelm you into a coma. If you have this option in your own neighbourhood, I’m jealous!

~Carolyn

The Smart Phone: The New Holy Grail?

You know, there was a time not that long ago, when saying “hi” to someone you met in say, the elevator or the laundry room, was the normal, polite thing to do.  At least that’s how I was raised,  to acknowledge people, offer a greeting and a smile.  Today, however, in order to say hello to someone, it means having to get someone’s attention away from their phone.  I don’t know what it is with people and their phones and their need to be on it all the time, but it’s rampant, like an epidemic.

Quite often, I will step onto the elevator in my building and see someone already in there completely engrossed in their text or email (or for all I know, it’s probably Word Mole or Fruit Ninja!), and they don’t even look up to see who has just walked into this tiny, enclosed space with them.  I could have a gun or a knife and they would have no idea because they don’t so much as take a glance at me.  And now they’re trapped in there with me.  I mean, I’m not someone with a gun or a knife but still, I could be, and they wouldn’t know until it’s too late.  It’s crazy.

What’s crazier still is when I do say hi to them they look up at me startled and barely utter a word; I might get a slight grunt, or if I’m lucky a timid hello, before they bow their heads in prayer to the holy BlackBerry/iPhone.  It’s as though any and all social skills that they likely acquired growing up have been lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cells phones or smart phones; in fact, I have one myself and use it quite often to check emails, send/reply to texts, etc.  It’s the people who use them incessantly with zero regard for how they are behaving and treating others around them who cause me concern.  Myself, I rarely if ever use it when I’m in a group of people, such as the example above, and I never, I repeat never, make or take a call unless I’ve stepped outside and away from people.  That is just plain rude and ignorant.  No one wants to hear my conversation and frankly, I’d rather not share my conversation with a bunch of strangers.  And let’s be honest here, who calls anyone anymore, it’s all about emailing and texting.  Even my Dad, who we taught how to text, does it quite often and has become a master texter.  He can reply to a text in record time and he has a flip phone with three letters per key – I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed with his skills!  (A quick note about my Dad and phones: once he’s said what he’s needed/wanted to say, he’s done.  You can send text after text to try to get a reply out of him, which I’ve done, but nothing – he’s done.  I asked him about this and he told me he doesn’t reply because he turns his phone off when he’s finished.  The abruptness of his “last text” is similar to how he gets off the phone.  You can be in the middle of a conversation, but if he gets the urge to get off the phone, he’s gone.  He’s not rude about it he’s just, as I said, abrupt.  It cracks me up every time!)

Another scenario that shocks me every time I see it is the phone orgy.  I know you know what I’m talking about since you can’t go out anymore without seeing it.  A group of people seemingly out together for some type of social activity, say, shopping or having dinner at a restaurant, and every single person in the group is on a phone.  Whaaaat????  I see it all the time and I always point it out to whoever I’m with because it irks me that much.  I mean, why did they bother to go out together in the first place?  They clearly don’t enjoy each other’s company since they’ve all whipped out their phones and are doing who knows what or talking to who knows who.   Please, pretty please, if you’re one of these people, stop (although, if you’re reading this blog I would find it hard to believe that you would be one of these people!).

A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner party at a pretty nice restaurant.  During the dinner, I noticed the host of this shindig on her phone; I didn’t think much of it at first because even then, it was the norm for people to pull out their phones anywhere (although since she was the host, it was definitely a bit tacky).  After a while (since  she was sitting right beside me, I could hear what she was saying, something about the seating), it occurred to me that the person she was speaking to was SITTING AT THE SAME TABLE AS US!  I glanced around and sure enough, there was the other girl sitting on the other side of our table about two people down from me talking on her phone to the host.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating, this is a true story!  And in case you’re wondering, yes, it was a sign of how the evening transpired.  Awkward has been the only word that has ever come to mind when describing that night.

My one last gripe (I promise!) is when I’m talking with someone and they are constantly checking their phones.  I realize I might not be the most interesting person but come on, show a little respect and pay attention to our conversation.  I have to admit that I have done this very thing a few times in the past, but I always wound up feeling like such a jerk that I don’t do it anymore.  It’s slightly disconcerting to see someone you’re having an intense conversation with checking their phone every minute or two.  Just show a bit of respect and some manners and leave the phone alone.  Trust me, the text or email will still be there when we’re done talking and so will the person who sent it; if they’re like you, they’ll be sitting on pins and needles waiting for a reply.  And the plus side, because you don’t reply right away, it’ll make you seem so very busy and important.  Hmm, how’s that for a bonus?!

So, just to recap, when someone comes into a room and you happen to be on your cell, look up, say hi, maybe even offer up a smile; if you’re having a conversation with a friend, keep your hands off your phone, and if you’re out for dinner with friends, put your phones away and enjoy the company of the people you’re with (or just stay home and call them instead!).  Remember, manners go a long way with a lot people, let’s bring them back!!

~Trisha~

Singing in the Rain!

This summer has been one of the hottest and driest on record – a fact that quite frankly, I’ve been reveling in.  Although I’m not a fan of humidity (and really, who is?), I love the heat and will never complain about there being too much sun.  I often say that I was born in the wrong country – Canada is not exactly a tropical locale.

However, even I finally had to admit that we need a bit of rain after my trip up North for my cousin’s wedding last weekend.  The drive up North is a beautiful one – the views are what postcards are made of.  During this trip, however, the further north we drove, I started to see something that I only ever see during my trip back home in October – foliage.  That’s right, foliage, as in bright orange, yellow and red leaves, at the beginning of August! It actually made me sad to see all these trees with their leaves dying so early because of the lack of rain.

We’ve all been hearing about global warming and bumper crops (I never knew what those were until this summer), but it took actually seeing the physical effects on nature for me to understand just how much we need a bit of rain.

Well, for the past couple of days, we here in Central Ontario, have been seeing just that and I have to say, as much as I would normally be moaning and groaning about having to walk to work in the rain, I love it!  Everything is greener and brighter and seems more alive.  I woke up this morning to, guess what, more rain.  Maybe, just maybe, if it keeps up for a while, and remains a bit more consistent in that we get a day or two each week of rain, we will be spared from sky-rocketing grocery prices at the stores and nature will be able to live on until the cold comes. So far, it seems to be doing just that.

~Trisha~

Trimming Your Screen Time – Ten Simple Ways to Watch Less TV

Okay, so the idea of not having a TV is not the ideal option for most people.  In fact, if the statistics that I’ve read are any indication, I’m pretty sure most people would rather chop off an arm and wave it around than give up the old TV.  Basically, most Americans watch 6.47 hours of TV a day (I’m assuming they are talking about both pre and post work hours here ‘cause that’s a lot of TV to be watching in a single day!).

Now I’m not going to sit here and preach about the virtues of going TV-free or even TV-lite, since up until a year or so ago, I was one of those people watching endless hours of mind-numbing television.  However, I will tell you that last summer I made the decision to give it up and I haven’t looked back.  I should point out that I do still, technically, have a television (for watching DVDs and my workout videos) – what I don’t have is cable and where I live, that’s the same thing as not having a TV.  Nary a channel can be found on my TV.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering on more than one occasion what you were doing sitting in the front of the TV instead of out and about doing something, I think I can help.  Although I basically cut out TV completely on a whim, I do realize that that particular way is just not realistic for a lot of folks.  In fact, most TV-lovers would probably prefer to simply cut back on their TV time, not cut it out altogether, which is more than doable – it’s a great idea and I promise you won’t regret it.  I have offered up some tips below that anyone wishing to expand their lives beyond a television screen can work into their day.  Try one, try some, try them all – you won’t regret it!

1) Turn on Your Stereo

Instead of turning on your television the minute you wake up in the morning or the minute you walk into the house at night, turn on your stereo. If you’re like me, you like a little noise in the background when you’re fixing dinner, cleaning up, etc.

2) Set a Time Limit

If the first tip is out of the question because you absolutely just have to have your morning television fix or your evening news jolt, then set a time limit.  Really – say to yourself that you’ll watch only enough to get the “Top Stories” and the weather.  After you’ve seen what you “need” to see, turn it off.  You’ll still be informed, but you won’t be wasting precious early morning prep time lingering in front of the television.

If you’re weaning yourself off TV (which again is perfectly fine – just because I went off TV completely, cold turkey, doesn’t mean you have to – that’s just my personality, all or nothing), set an allowable amount and stick to it.  For instance, tell yourself that you’re allowed a maximum of two hours of TV each day and that’s it.  How you use those two hours is up to you.  My one word of advice is, don’t watch TV right up until your bedtime.  You need downtime before hitting the sheets and TV doesn’t qualify – there is just too much stimulation for your brain (this goes for computers as well – log off at least 30 minutes before you plan on turning in).  Try reading or meditating instead.  I guarantee you will find you have a better sleep.  Really, I promise.

3) Move Your TV Out of Your Bedroom

Speaking of your TV and your bed, don’t watch the darn thing in bed.  In fact, if you have a TV in your bedroom, move it out of there, stat!  Your bedroom should be a peaceful, tranquil room; watching TV while in bed is anything but peaceful, admit it.

4) Eat Your Meals at a Table

What a novel idea! Eat meals at the kitchen or dining room table instead of in front of the TV.  Not only will you enjoy your food and become a more mindful eater, you might also wind up having a great conversation with your family, and what could be better than catching up with your loved ones?

5) Get Out There

Get out of the house or apartment and play!  Nothing is better than being outdoors and having fun.  That’s hard to do if you’ve melted into the sofa in front of your television.

6) Do Something You Enjoy

Find a hobby or pick up a new one!  There has to be something that you’ve wanted to do, but kept saying to yourself you didn’t have the time for – gardening, knitting, a sport.  Remember, if you’re like the average North American, you’ll have an extra 6 hours a day – think of what you’ll be able to do with all of that free time!

7) Say “Om” 

Try meditating.  There’s something about the idea of watching garbage on TV after meditating that seems almost vulgar.  You have just cleared and reset your mind, centered yourself – why would you want to introduce anything negative and/or unbalanced into your mind?  You won’t, that’s why this is on the list!

8) Volunteer

Not only will you be getting out of the house and away from your TV, but you’ll be doing something good to boot.  You’ll feel better, the people you’ll be helping will feel better – everybody will be happy.  Smile!

9) Enjoy…Silence

Enjoy the peace and quiet, and watch your days slow down! Mindlessly watching television, scheduling your days/evenings around television programs, only serves to diminish your “me time,” believe it or not. Watch what happens when you begin to lessen the time you spend in front of your television. Miraculously, you’ll have MORE time for yourself, and your days will, literally,  slow right down.

10) Do a Little Math

If none of these tips are up your alley, try this one – grab your cable bill, look at the total, multiply it by 12 and see what you come up with.  Have you done it yet?  Crazy isn’t it, how much money we spend, or have spent, to be “entertained”?  Now think of all the other things you could be doing with that money!

I hope that I’ve given you some ideas that you feel you can and will use in your daily life to, if not cut it out completely, at least trim your screen time.

~Trisha~

Drive Carefully…

Someone loves you. While watching my favourite morning show before work one day, there was a short segment on a digital sign that one of the co-hosts had seen on his way to work. Instead of having the typical traffic play-by-play of current conditions, it had Drive carefully. Someone loves you. In this world of short attention spans and overpowering bombardment of messages, this caught the co-host’s eye, and he decided to share it on the broadcast. I have to say, it stuck out in my mind, and I later shared it with my sister on the way to work.

For some reason, I was truly touched by the message on that sign. To me, there was a much greater message than just drive carefully. Someone in charge of updating traffic conditions, took it upon him/herself to broadcast something that went beyond what was expected. That person was encouraging others to not only think of the people who loved them, but to hopefully think of the other people sharing the road with them, their safety, their loved ones. ..the proverbial “ripple effect.” How many people saw that message that day? How many people went on to share what they had seen with others around them? How many people took a step back after reading that, and thought, “Wow. That’s so true. I really need to be more careful on the road.” In a city where people drive as if they are the only ones on the road, perhaps that message planted a seed, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see it grow into a forest. The biggest changes sometimes happen with the smallest of actions. Perhaps that sign was one of those small actions.

~Carolyn

Vision Boards

They say with meditation, your creative juices begin to flow and your mind begins to awaken to new adventures, new dreams, new ideas, and new desires. I’ve never really considered myself a creative person – in school, poetry and creative writing were never really what I’d call a piece of cake for me. However, I think I might finally be inspired to do something a little on the adventurous side (at least for me) – a Vision Board! I found what looks to be a simple enough web-based version on Oprah.com – The O Board.  If you have no idea what a Vision Board is, it’s basically exactly what it sounds like – a board full of your visions – your hopes, your dreams, your desires, your goals. It acts as a visual reminder to you to focus on them, and not just let them be content renting some unused space at the back of your brain. It reminds you to  bring them out, think about them, daydream about them, imagine having or achieving them – and consequently, they may just make their way to you. Hey, it’s worth a shot, and a little positive thinking never hurt anyone! I’ll keep you posted!

~Carolyn

Hello world!

Hello and welcome to Simply Om! With this blog, we hope to inspire as well as share and gain knowledge of all things Zen. We have, over the past couple of years, been transforming our lives and decided to share that process with like-minded people. You can read about each of our (ongoing) journeys under Our Stories. We will also be sharing some of our favourite things including our favourite books, favourite recipes, favourite blogs, etc.

We invite you to take a gander through our baby and leave a thought, story and/or add your two cents to our favourites collection.

Enjoy!

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