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6 Weeks of Small Tweaks! Week 1: Increase Your Focus

You may have heard about Project One, a holistic self-development program launching in Hamilton, Ontario on October 25 & 26. To prepare for it, Erin and I are going to use ourselves as guinea pigs for the different activities and experiments of the program. We're going to do it here, in real time, on the blog. And you're invited to join us! The three fundamental areas Project One will help you develop are Living, Working, and Being. Just thinking about what those areas mean, and what aspects of life fall into which category, is an exercise in itself. But rather than waxing too philosophical, this blog is going to focus on concrete actions, small tweaks you can do right now to start making improvements in your own living, working, and being.
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Why Fad Diets Fail and Boot Camps Are Bad

During the past week, Steve and I have been preparing for Project One, the holistic development program that starts in late October. We're both aware of many things we'd like to do to whip ourselves into shape, so we can be the kind of facilitators that are going to motivate and inspire people in October. My big personal challenge is that around this time of year, life gets very busy again. My teaching schedule and time in the clinic more than doubles, so while we both agreed to start adding some more prep work into our daily lives, I had to express that I was really unsure. How can I realistically do all of these extra things without being irresponsible to my pre-existing (and more financially beneficial) commitments? You see, the big promise of Project One is that all the participants will authentically develop in the domains of Living, Working, and Being. It sounds lovely on paper, but the challenge is that all three domains have to be intact and operating in a healthy manner in order for the Project, and the participants, to be successful. So while part of me knows that I could just stay up even later at night than I already do, or put some major things on hold, if I want to stay true to the philosophy of the Project itself, my approach in fact cannot be one of "cramming" for spiritual and personal growth. Why Fad Diets Fail and Boot Camps Are Bad What I find so interesting about the whole thing, is that the first inclination to address my little conundrum was to apply the boot camp and fad diet approach. We live in a fast-paced, results-oriented culture. As a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, if someone comes to me looking to lose weight, I insist that they keep a food journal and we start to find ways of improving the quality of food, their eating habits, and the sometimes very emotional relationship people have to what goes into their mouths and why. This method, when followed, creates amazing results because it is not a system of deprivation, but one of deep change. Sadly, most people would rather torture and potentially harm themselves by: a) removing most of the essential food groups to try and lose 10 pounds by Thursday b) eating 6 almonds a day and 20 mystery diet pills c) attending some 3-week Bikini Babe Booty Body Bootcamp Don’t get me wrong, cleaning up the diet and getting exercise is great, but in all my years of working in the health and wellness world, I have never seen anyone stick to any of these more extreme programs. Most do more harm than good, if not physically then by damaging a participant's own self-confidence. I have watched people expend super-human effort to make a dramatic change only to, at some point down the line, experience a rude awaking when they injure themselves through over-exertion or exhaustion. Plus, no one can maintain a heightened level of intensity forever. And the resulting "return to normal" often damages people's hope of making real change. So instead of applying the quick fix, bootcamp, and bad diet to my own situation, Steve and I came up with another solution. The best part is, it is one we can all share together, but you will have to wait until Monday's blog post to find out what it is. :)
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Stop Lying to Yourself! Keep a Food Journal

When I work one on one with clients  in my Chinese Medicine practice, something we always talk about is nutrition.  I ask clients a lot of questions about food, how they eat and what they eat and we try to get as specific as possible. Many people come in into my clinic telling me that they eat very well, but often with a bit of probing we find out together that things could be better. It is very interesting how many of us are disconnected to what we eat as well as the quality and relationship we have with that food.  The most effective way I have found to investigate the diet is by a  keeping a food journal.  If you have never done this before, I highly suggest you try it, it takes less than 10 min a day,  but the potential rewards are huge. How to keep a simple food journal Find a method of record keeping that is handy and works with your lifestyle (pen and paper, email yourself, keep a note in your phone). Write down what you eat and when you eat it and how you feel before, during and after.  This doesn’t have to be more than a few words per entry, if you are spending more than 2 min per entry you are doing too much. The most important thing is to be completely honest about what you are eating and how you actually feel. Don’t think about it too much, just write it down. Assessment At the end of the 3-5 days we start to assess the information.  Most people are shocked to find (even before I go through the food journal with them) that they are eating more processed food and sugar than they believed they were! However, it is good to keep in mind that food journaling isn’t an exercise to make you feel ashamed of what you eat, it is simply to illuminate what you eat and how you feel as a result so you can start to see the connection we have to what we put into our body. With this valuable and honest material you can begin to shift your habits.  Do you wait too long after waking up to eat breakfast or find yourself rushed in the morning?  This could be fixed simply by learning a few 5-minute breakfast recipes. You could also use a crock pot with a timer to set up your oatmeal or cooked millet the night beforehand.  Nothing like a nice warm meal that you can enjoy without much effort! There are so many ways you can be creative, but first you have to collect the information to know how things are going. If you are doing this without the guidance of a health care practitioner and see clearly there are big changes to be made, find a qualified practitioner with a good reputation who really knows about and cares about nutrition. So give food journaling a try and while you are at it, you can also take the 3 Question Nutritional Assessment which will offer a general idea of how things are going in this realm of your life. Feel free to share what you found in the comments!
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Indifference Is A Sin

I will be honest and tell you that if you asked me to name the 7 Deadly Sins, I would be able to guess maybe 4 of them.  The word sin however, is not a word to be used casually and so I say it again, Indifference is a sin. And while it may not be one named in the Big Book, it is a sin in mine. I went through a phase as a teenager as most of us did where being “too cool to care” was an acceptable way of being.  Luckily that phase in my life was short lived, and I grew up and began to engage with passionate people who were excited to make a difference in the world.  Sadly, my personal education on the matter of care seems to be in deep contrast to the indifference that plagues so many people in our culture. Photo by Andrew Bossi, Flickr What’s the big deal with indifference? Indifference, or lack of interest or care, is a huge problem when poured over things that matter in the world around us. First of all, indifference is self-centered and simplistic. It is easy to lack concern about something that isn’t affecting you right this very minute even if it is causing someone else suffering.   It takes a much bigger person to see the ongoing implications around a given situation and care about the next steps if it won't affect their own personal life any time soon.
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How to Make a Difference: A Poem

This Photo by Me & Her Photography This poem was originally written and published by Steve Haase in Aug 2013. To celebrate his birthday we wanted to share this powerful message with you once again and thank you for being part of the Aquin Yoga tribe. The universe did not second guess you, my friend. For billions of years life has labored for you. Now you're here. Alive. How amazing is this? You are life itself—evolution in motion. Your human ability to think and to wonder To plan, and to dream… all are miracles themselves. Creation, it wants to move forward, right now And you are the best circumstances it has. When you hold your thoughts back, feeling not good enough, You deprive all of us of your greatness. When you hesitate to act out of fear of failure, You deny your own divinity.
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5 Tips to Transform Your Side Project Into a Motivating Mission

"What exactly is the POINT of all this work you're doing for the Aquin Yoga site?" I asked Erin last Sunday. It was a sunny afternoon, but all I wanted to do was sit inside brainstorming with Erin about her business and website. Even though this is what I do all week-long for my day job at HubSpot, my enthusiasm for the project overpowered my desire to relax that day. "I mean, let's say more and more people come to the site and check out your posts and audios, what's the ultimate GOAL with all of this?" I continued. "Well, I want to help people… help the people I know and care about to live healthier, more inspired lives." oto by Me & Her Photography "Good, and…" "And I want to start with people here in Hamilton who are doing amazing work and need a community and support to develop their bodies, minds and spirits." Now we were getting somewhere. I had an idea. "Look, what if we create a program that does exactly that? It brings together people who are 'fighting the good fight,' doing amazing things in their local communities and lives but just need some more wind in their sails." The energy started to build. Erin added, "We could start with a weekend retreat here in the area and teach yoga, meditation, nutrition…"
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Is Your Life A Hot Mess? Try These Yin Yoga Baby Steps to Self-Discipline

If you are like most people, you can probably admit that there are areas of your life that could use some tightening up…. or, you know, a complete overhaul (the kind with bulldozers and a full time construction crew). The catalyst for making changes and improving your life can come from just about anywhere.  Something may inspire you, scare you, or even infuriate you to start renovating your life and moving in a new direction. The ability to  follow through on the change you want, however, comes in large part from self-discipline. Photo by Me & Her Photography It takes self-discipline to make a decision to do something radical and see the process through. And the act of implementing this discipline can be difficult, especially if you are out of practice. The two big reasons are: 1)    You feel your life is too hectic and out of control.  Life is busy and you don’t really get a break from living it.  It can leave you feeling suffocated by your responsibilities and circumstances.  For people who feel wildly out of control, applying self-discipline can feel like further restriction.  When we feel restricted, it often forces us into a deprivation model for our lives.  We deprive ourselves of something and then, in a moment of "weakness" we cave and over-indulge in the very thing we didn’t want to do.
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3 Creepy Things About Yoga That Need to Change

Fighting Hartebeest by Filip Lachowski Yoga has completely changed my life.  The practice has provided a fertile ground for traversing the yet undiscovered parts of myself, and the world around me.  Yoga has provided discipline and structure in times when I needed it most.  It has been a touchstone during periods of doubt and disillusionment and a welcome break from my busy life.  Yoga has helped to keep me healthy and most of my close relationships have a connection to that world.  Yoga continues to teach me how to yield and be flexible, and how to stay strong and hold my position. But this is not a Yoga love fest. Even the beloved world of Yoga has its imperfections, and today I want to tell you... 3 Creepy Things About Yoga That Need to Change:
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How to Make A Perfect Green Smoothie

It has been a VERY hot week. The prolonged heat can rob you of your appetite, but as any health conscious, self-aware person knows, it still essential to get enough nourishment. One of my favourite ways to stay on top of good dietary habits in the middle of the summer, is to add a green smoothie to the daily menu. I absolutely love this healthy treat after yoga or a hike and it keeps my body happy. If you are looking for truly sustainable snack to help you maintain your energy even in the deep heat of summer, this might be just the thing for you.
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