Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Time is flying.  It seems like New Year’s Eve was yesterday and here we are nearly in April.  Is this a sign that I’m getting older?   These past few months have been packed with work, friends, time with the new beau (who I suppose is not all that new anymore), and time for me.  I committed this year to focusing more on my inner peace and I can now say that I’m making some headway.

Those of you that know me well know that generally I don’t land in one place for too long.  If I have five free minutes to spare, I find a way to use that time.  Friends joke about it, I think my mom would say something about this demonstrating leadership and organization or “meaning and direction”, something mom-esque, but towards the end of the year I was feeling this way of being was just stressful.

Living in Colombia has introduced me to a culture that is certainly not as fast-paced and time-obsessed as the U.S. culture.  At first it was frustrating, especially at work, but then I thought maybe there’s something to be said for taking a full hour for lunch or sitting in the sun and enjoying a coffee for 20 minutes in the afternoon during the school day and catching up with co-workers.  As I started thinking about how to slow down a bit and make time to soak in each day and appreciate the things around me – it seemed like the world heard be and was responding with lots of advice:  I stumbled across numerous articles about meditation, a friend recommended a book to me that was exactly what I needed to read, a great offer for my favorite yoga magazine popped up on my computer screen (a bit creepy, but appreciated all the same) and I discovered Pinterest and great ideas for how to make my apartment more “Zen”.  

This post is dedicated to sharing with those interested the things I’ve been doing these past few months to slow down, shut off (or at least soften) the running commentary and solving of the world’s problems that goes on in my mind,  appreciate the little miracles in the day-to-day and overall just be a bit happier.  If this sounds extremely new agey, I apologize, but maybe there’s something to be said for being new agey.  

1.  Meditation:  I came across an online article when I was perusing the Yoga Journal online.  It was about the benefits of meditation and also provided a 28-day guided introductionto meditation.  I signed up immediately and began day 1 when I returned to Bogotá after the Christmas break.  For all of January I got up a little bit early every day to dedicate 5 – 15 minutes of my morning to sitting on some pillows in my living room and just listening to my breathing.  For me this is muuuch more difficult than it sounds.  The goal is to not think at all, to give your mind a rest and just be in the present.  I was terrible and still am, although I’m definitely improving.  I can get through 10 minutes without creating to do lists, writing lesson plans or solving my other little problems-of-the-day -  HUGE SUCCESS.  And the effects of just 10 minutes a day of meditation?  I’m calmer, I’m more productive at work (for 3 months straight I haven’t brought work home!), I’m more patient with my students, I feel more alert in the mornings and I am happy heading into work.  Now obviously, there are still bad days but overall the effects have been noticeable.  I’m also sleeping better.  According to other articles that I’ve come across since I started this practice, meditation will also help to live longer, show signs of aging at a slower rate, and will help me to lose weight.  I mean why wouldn’t I keep meditating, apparently it is a cure-all! J

2.  Yoga:  The next step has been to incorporate yoga more regularly into my life.  For awhile I was going to a yoga studio, but the hours don’t work very well with my schedule and the classes are ridiculously expensive for something that I know how to do and can do for free in my apartment.  I bought a subscription to Yoga Journal Yes, they deliver to Colombia!  And yes, the first month already arrived and not late at all!  Woo hoo!  The journal provides me with the motivation and the inspiration I need.  The march article was all about how to develop your own routines and the important parts of a yoga practice.  I’ve been trying.  Some days I only have the energy and/or patience to give it 15 – 20 minutes of my time.  Other days I’ll workout for an hour without even thinking about it.  I’m getting stronger and feeling less like an almost-30-year-old than before.

3.  The Four Agreements:  My boyfriend is generally a very happy guy.  He’s very driven and successful professionally, but unlike me he doesn’t seem to be consumed by constantly planning and organizing and doing.  He takes life as it comes and always seems pleased with what comes his way.  Early into the new year, we were talking about what drives us, motivates us and what we think about life – the kinds of conversations I LOVE!  Anyhow, he mentioned a book called The Four Agreements and said that the book really spoke to him and he tries to follow the advice of the book because he thinks it is dead on.  With my handy dandy Kindle I immediately purchased the book and dove in.  It was exactly what I needed, at the exact right moment.  I have referred back to the book several times these past months to maintain my focus and my calm.  I definitely recommend it! 

4.  Fuel.  Another part of taking better care of me, is eating better.   For starters, I’m bring my breakfast to school every day.  The school offers teachers a morning snack but it’s unpredictable  - some days it’s something nutritious:  yogurt and fruit or crackers and cheese and an apple but other days it’s a chocolate croissant or a donut.  These things are delicious and I have been losing weight living in Colombia, so I wasn’t really worrying about it.  But this year I’ve been really tired and have had numerous migraines – upon reading quite a bit I decided that perhaps it had something to do with my diet.   I am now trying to only buy whole foods, I’m avoiding white rice and other starches from the school lunch, and my breakfast is always very nutritious:  yogurt, fruit and bran flakes.  This is a bit of modification of a breakfast that another friend posted on her blog.  This is just a bit easier for me and plenty filling.   I also have one small coffee in the morning and no more caffeine the rest of the day (just can't seem to quit the caffeine completely) .  I drink LOTS of water – this part is a bit inconvenient because the bathroom at school is not very close to my classrooms or the teachers’ office but my energy levels are MUCH higher and I haven’t had a migraine in months.

5.  DIY.  Lastly, I’ve been working on making my apartment more peaceful and more green. 

I started by creating a place for my meditation with pillows to make me comfortable – I keep a wool hat and a pair of wool socks there too because it is pretty chilly in my apartment in the mornings (before the sun comes up).  I also bought some candles to create better lighting for me in the morning when I’m meditating or in the evening when I’m reading.  I then decided that I wanted some wall art.  Here’s what I created:

I feel so accomplished!
... but now I need another project...

This was a small idea that turned into quite a major undertaking.  Rolling nearly a thousand pieces of magazine to make the rolls to 
With a glimpse of my potted flowers too!

paste on the letters, pasting the rolls, creating the letters, hanging the letters….oof.  But when it was all done, it felt great.  Maybe the word Namaste is a bit cliché  But when I was deciding what word to hang on my wall, I was just getting back into yoga and starting meditation and the meaning of Namaste was mentioned in several articles.  For many, it’s simple the word you say at the end of a yoga session, kind of like a thank you to the instructor.  It has many translations but the one I like best is “the light within me honors the light within you”.  The idea being that we can see God in everyone.  No, none of us our perfect but we all have our beauty and goodness within us amongst our imperfections.  The idea of Namaste recognizes that we all are the same and that when we live from the heart we can recognize this union.  Again, very new agey, I know, but I also think it’s beautiful.  I’m hoping that having this word on my wall will be a constant reminder to me of all the good within me and also a reminder to focus on the good within others. 

Finally, this week is my vacation so I finally got around to two other things:
  • PLANTS in the apartment!
  • Creating an indoor compost bin. 

The plants part is awesome.  I love having flowers, so I bought some potted ones that will last longer and actually for three plants and the pots, I spent less than I do I an arrangement of flowers for my apartment.  I also bought a large plant that is on the floor.  Today I read about the best plants for cleaning the air in the apartment and I read about creating an indoor herb garden.  Coming soon…
As for the compost bin, the verdict is still out.  I read about the process for creating the compost bin online and followed the instructions.  Some sites say I need worms, others don’t mention them at all.  Worms seem gross, but I think it makes sense., they do the work and help break things down quicker.  Don’t know where to purchase worms in Bogotá, however, so will have to see how the worm-less composting works until I can track some down…
Drilled holes into the bin...

Keeping it under my sink, next to garbage
with extra dirt and paper scraps available when I need them.
So that’s how I’ve been working on me for these past few months.  I know I’ve been rather silent on this blog but I’m still here, very content in Bogotá.  Would love any advice folks have on meditation, indoor composting, house plants/indoor herb gardens, and/or great books on personal growth and reflection.