Finding Good Space (Sukha) in January

January is a month that feels anticlimactic.  Coming on the heels of December’s festivities, it can leave us feeling cold and bleak – much like the weather.  This is in stark contrast to the energy and extroverted nature of December, complete with frenzied social mingling,  and numerous opportunities for overindulgence.  Often during the holidays, we allow ourselves to go to excesses we would not consider at other times of the year.

Like the morning after hangover, January is the somber antithesis to December's pomp and gaiety. Click To Tweet
January = Time to Take Stock

For me, January is a great time to hibernate, as the cold weather and dark days usually force me to stay indoors anyway.  Perhaps this is why I naturally feel drawn to look inwards, and why many of us feel the need to make changes in our lives at the start of the new year.  Personally, I like to take stock of things like my health and my career goals as well as my messy closets and my (ahem) cluttered desk.

Finding ways to cultivate space – in our hearts, our bodies, and our homes can be important on many levels.   Clearing the space around us gives us a chance for a new perspective.  We are able to see things from a new angle or consider a different solution.  This can be useful when we want to change our approach to our diet, a (bad) habit, or a relationship.  Resolutions give us a chance to formally commit to making that change in our life.  By stating our new goals, we can more easily release old habits and emotions and embrace new patterns.  Sadly, the term “resolution” has become tainted for most these days and it often implies something we fail to finish.  That is why I  prefer to use a different concept entirely.

Finding Sukha

I first heard the term described in a yoga class.  Sukha is a Sanskrit term that can be explained as pleasure, ease, or virtue.  Another way to define sukha is by breaking it down into its root words of “Su” (good) and “kha” (space).  Therefore sukha can be defined as “good space.” When we meditate or turn our attention inwards, we are striving to quiet out minds and cultivate sukha from within.  Now for those who do not meditate regularly, this need not be a foreign concept.  For many, January is the only time of year in which they engage in something similar to this, via new year’s resolutions.

So how does sukha apply to a month like January?

As I’ve already stated, we naturally tend to focus our attention inwards at this time.  After a month dedicated to thinking of others, it’s time to give some attention to ourselves.  For some, this may be a focus on physical health goals, while for others it is on areas of spiritual or emotional health.  Whatever your personal goals may be, cultivating sukha can be an important factor in achieving them.

There is a belief that the idea of sukha or “good space” refers to the hole in the center of a chariot wheel.  If it is not perfectly centered, the ride would be rough and bumpy as a result.  Therefore, having a perfectly centered space was ideal.  I try to remember this as I focus on my goals for the new year.  The more open and centered I am to my new goals, the smoother the transition will be as I let go of the old ones.

Have you already lost momentum on your resolutions?  Don’t feel bad – just know that you are hitting a few bumps, but that they can easily be smoothed out.  Take a moment to reconnect with yourself and focus on why you wanted to make those changes in the first place.  Find your center, and know that you can never truly be sure that you are making a change unless you somehow test your resolve.  When you hit a bump, it’s just a test to see if you are still committed to the new path.  The faster you acknowledge this, the fewer bumps you will hit along the way.

Why wait for Spring to start Cleaning?

January is a perfect time for decluttering in general. It offers an opportunity to analyze the use of space in our homes.  As a workaholic myself, I know how easy it can be to lose sight of the space around me.  Clutter starts to build up in the corners around the house, and before you know it you don’t know where to sit or step anymore.  Spring cleaning is poorly named because for me, springtime is too late!  As the warm weather returns my focus inevitably turns outwards; to the external.  I know I will want to be outside again, not cooped up inside any longer.  The time for internal retrospection will be over.

So let January be a welcome time to focus on ourselves and our immediate surroundings.  I choose not to make resolutions but rather to use this month as a time to reconnect with my goals, my home and my family, and most importantly, myself.

Want to learn more about Sukha, or how to cultivate Sukha in your own life?  Follow the links below:
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Finding Perspective on 2016

Reasons Why I Love/Hate My Yoga Mat

How To Enjoy Wine Festival Like A Boss

With the latest wine festival kicking off this weekend, there will again be an influx of visitors to our local wine region. Many will be returning to visit favourite spots while others will be attending for the first time. As a former winery retail manager, I have been fortunate to partake in many wine festivals over the years. Here’s a few quick tips to help you have the best experience while exploring wine country.

1. Travel in Style: Hire a driver or designate someone to do the driving for your group.  A further incentive for DD’S is that they can purchase a discounted passport, and most locations are offering a non-alcoholic option for the food match. There are many companies in the area that offer wine tour packages as well.  (Be sure to thank your driver too!)

2a. Plan your Route: Pick a few destinations you want to go to each day. Look at the guide/menus in advance and narrow down your top picks based on overall wine portfolio and ambiance.  Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather.

2b. Slow down! Wine touring is not a pub crawl. It does not involve a race to the finish nor a prize for hitting the most wineries in a single day. If you are only interested in getting drunk then stay home. Seriously. You are missing the point and will ruin the experience for everyone else. Wine touring is a chance to slow down and savour life. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes at each location. Allow time for washroom breaks, possible lines at cash, taking multiple selfies, and of course tasting wine.

3. Ask the Right Questions. Winery staff are there to help you learn about your own palate. As a former winery retail manager, I can tell you the most frequently asked questions by guests is “what’s your best wine?”

Don’t simply ask “what’s your best wine?”  The answer to this depends more on your own tastes than anything else.  Ask staff to help you find the wines that will suit your palate. Then you will have “the best.”

If you don’t know enough “winespeak” to describe your own tastes, never fear.  This is the fun of touring wine country.  Let the staff help you put into words what your tongue already understands.  You’ll be surprised how much you already know.

4. Bring Water. And snacks. Plan to stop for lunch. And bring extra water. Trust me on this. If you skip out on refreshing your palate between stops you won’t be able to taste anything properly by noon. Then you’re just wasting your money.

5. RSVP if you Please!  Make a reservation for groups of 12 or more. Just because you are on a passport program doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show some courtesy. Large groups risk being turned away by smaller wineries. If you plan to bring a bus of 50 people out for the day, keep in mind that most wineries will require time to prepare that many wine and food pairings all at once. If you fail to give them a heads up before your arrival, you risk delaying your own groups experience. Avoid creating a backlog for yourself and other guests by traveling in smaller groups or calling ahead.

6. Take Notes: Grab a copy of the winelist and make notes for later reference. Mark down what you liked about the wines you taste, and any aging suggestions if not indicated. These lists can be most helpful if you later regret not purchasing that other bottle.

7. Ask about shipping. Remember; many of the wines you discover may not be available in the LCBO. Be sure to ask before you leave. If so, also inquire about shipping. Most wineries will ship to home or office within Ontario. Shipping rates will vary so be sure to ask what methods are available.

Planning a visit to Wine Country?  Here’s a few links that you might find helpful:

Wine Council of Ontario

Twenty Valley Tourism

Niagara Ice Wine Festival

 

Finding Perspective on 2016

 

Last night’s #New Year’s Eve was the perfect summation of #2016; from the live countdown’s broadcast snafus in #New York to the overall subdued festivities and high rate of jammies (mine included) being reported on my social media feed, it was a pathetic fizzle at best. Add to that the last minute announcements of several beloved star’s passing (#William Christopher, #George Michael, #Carrie Fisher and #Debbie Reynolds) and it is safe to say that #2016 will be remembered as a year of much disappointment and loss. I think the general consensus I’ve run across has been pleasure that it is finally ending.

It is safe to say that this was a strange year overall. So much happened that left us feeling lost and uncertain, like a society adrift in harsh hashtags and depressing social media. Perhaps I am getting old. Or  perhaps I have simply reached an age where my sense of cynicism has outpaced my naivete.

I no longer want to party like it's 1999. Click To Tweet

I want my cup of herbal tea and my jammies and a good book. I want to tuck my daughter into bed and read her stories. I want to prolong her innocence just a bit longer if possible, partly because it means I can hold onto the shreds of my own in the process.

You see, I already know what’s waiting out here in her future. I pay bills. I have a mortgage. I care about the environment and retiring in my senior years. And as a Canadian I know way more about the recent #US election than I’d like to. As such, I would still rather be stuck most days watching the Disney Channel with her than CNN.

I don’t think I am alone in this.

Fear of our planet’s future is everywhere these days. Plastics in the ocean, oil spills, rising costs of living, and wars in foreign countries that are starting to feel closer to our own shores are all very real concerns we felt in 2016. This doesn’t simply end with the start of a new year. As much as I wish ringing in a new year could wipe the slate clean, we are still stuck with the same problems we faced at the end of 2016. No magic ball drop and no amount of champagne can change this.

So as many of you out there are nursing hangovers and coming to terms with your lists of new years resolutions, take a moment to consider these problems. What are you most afraid of in 2017?  I know this may not be easy with a hangover, but humor me.

While I can offer no easy solution to your problems, I will share my own resolution idea. We may not be able to save the world by ourselves, but what we can do is change our outlook and our perspective to our problems. This is my goal for 2017: to change my outlook and perspective to a more positive one.  I want to help create a better world for my daughter and I want to show her how to do it along the way.

So if you feel the same, let’s use the start of 2017 to take a moment to reflect on our fears. Let’s look them right in the eye, take a deep breath, and vow to make them less powerful.  Start in our homes, our communities and then take it globally.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, we must find ways to be the change we want to see in our world. Only then, will change occur. We need to have faith in humanity, and help rekindle that faith for those around us. We can do this in small ways each and every day: holding open a door, helping a stranger, donating old items or volunteering our time.

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’” – Eleanor Roosevelt 

So even though 2016 has left many of us feeling like putting on our jammies and hiding under the covers, we know that 2017 brings us hope for change. The greatest gift we can give each  other in 2017 is the gift of hope. Hope in each other and in our collective future. And like the late George Michael reminded us so well, we just “gotta have faith.”