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Building Strength: Inspiration and Check In

This week, our focus is on making small tweaks to build strength. As Steve pointed out in Monday's post, our tweaks this week are not merely about having physical strength. In fact that is only one piece of the puzzle. When I think about what strength means at its core, it means standing firm in the face of challenge. Being a strong person doesn't mean one is stone cold and cut off from the world around them. Being strong might even mean being raw and vulnerable at times. Sometimes being strong means you have to say the thing that no one else is willing to say. Sometimes being strong means you have to bend, change directions and even let go when you find yourself in a place that isn't healthy.
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Greens, Tempeh, and Pasta: An Easy, Quick, Nutrient-Rich Meal

When you want to evolve your health and well-being, start with the most fundamental area of life: what you eat. To help you optimize your nutrition, here is a delicious, healthy dish you can make in under 15 minutes. Cook the noodle or pasta of your choice (I personally love Soba) Toss in some steamed kale, spinach, and tempeh (cooked in a light oil with a squeeze of lemon) Top with a good quality sesame oil and tamari sauce. I also like to add a few hot peppers, for colour and kick
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[6WST] Week 2: Build Strength

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images This week we focus on building strength. Why? Because if you're going to change the world, it helps to be fit—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Again, let's come up with manageable tweaks for this topic in the domains of living, working, and being. Living – Peter Ragnar asks the simple question, "When you look at yourself in the mirror with no clothes on, do you like what you see?" This is a question that has nothing to do with age (Peter is a self-proclaimed senior citizen), or any comparisons with other people, but instead has to do with our physical vitality, energy, and presence. So next time after a shower take a look and answer Peter's question for yourself. If the answer is "not so much," then it's time to start exercising. You will find that outer strength leads to inner strength and so much more. The tweak: do something each day that improves what you see in the mirror when it's just between you and you. Here are some ideas: do yoga, row, shoot hoops, learn the Olympic lifts, swing a kettlebell, go for a jog, climb the stairs, do a pull-up ladder (1,2,3,4… up to 10), dance in your living room, walk to work, basically do whatever gets you jazzed! It's far more important to get your blood flowing every day than it is to be overly concerned about what exactly you're doing.
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Feeling More Focused?

On Monday, Steve kicked off 6 Weeks of Small Tweaks inviting everyone and anyone who feels in need of a big shift but may not have a lot of time to make it happen.  Our intention this week was to increase our focus. Today, I want to find out how it is going. Have a look at the list and see how you are doing.  Remember this is an interactive project, so don't keep your thoughts to yourself.  Share the things you found helpful.  Share what was challenging.  Share the ways you modified things in your own life to help you in this exploration. Tweaks for Increasing Focus Living: Did you multi-task while having a conversation with someone? Did you find it challenging to avoid checking text messages/ email or answering the phone during face to face conversations? Did you keep the phone, iPad or computer OUT of your bedroom this week? Working: Did you schedule your time appropriately at work? Did you leave work when you said you would at the end of the day? (Steve's challenge was by 5:30pm) Did you hold off from working after hours on anything that could have waited until the next day? If you HAD to attend to something outside of work hours, did you keep it within a short time frame? Being: Did you meditate for 15-20min each day? How did it affect your state of mind and overall experience of the day? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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When Increased Focus Is a Raft For Troubled Times

Picture by Steve Haase, after a night of spiritual practice. Shortly after Steve and I decided what our 6 Weeks of Small Tweaks were going to be, I received news that a friend in the Hamilton yoga community had died suddenly. Upon receiving this news most of my energy and inspiration was overshadowed by shock and sadness. And to be honest, I really thought it was silly to think about the little things I can be doing to improve my own already wonderful life, when someone else's had been cut short so suddenly. Now however, after the initial shock, I am beginning to look at the whole thing a little differently. The small tweaks we are all trying to make this week are actually very important. In the realm of "Living" we are focusing single-mindedly when with loved ones. This is exactly the appropriate thing to do during hard moments, as well as in times when the waters are calm. We are told that life is short and unpredictable and although we know it is true intellectually, in situations when we lose someone or something important, we feel its truth deeply. When we focus on the person in front of us, it shows them that we care about them and that they matter.
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[Pic] How to Meditate

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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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