Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Weekend + Links

This morning I'm headed off to Bodega Bay with my FAMILY! They're visiting from Massachusetts this week, and we're going to gallivant around Sonoma County all weekend. Sipping wine, playing games, catching sun, eating yumyums and generally catching up. And...celebrating my 29th birthday tomorrow - eek!

I hope you have a Happy Weekend, friends! Enjoy your days.


Here are some interesting links:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mindful 03 :: Emotions

Ready to step it up? This is the part of mindfulness learning that I found most vague and strange, and also the most helpful. If you ever mind yourself at the whim of your emotions, this is definitely an area worth spending some time on.

Mindfulness of Emotion

I'm not abnormally emotional, but I do think I show my emotions more than most people. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am not afraid at all to let someone know if I'm upset. In general I'd say this has worked well for me, but from time to time it gets me (and usually Jim, if he's nearby...) into trouble. Practicing mindfulness of emotions has helped me quiet down, become more self aware, saved me and Jim from about a thousand arguments (so far), and has helped me take things less personally.

Why is it so important?  

Research shows that our brains have a built-in negativity bias. We are hard-wired to remember, notice and react to negative experiences and emotional states much more than positive ones. Think about it - when was your last "bad day"? The chances are, the positive/neutral moments of that day actually outweighed the bad moments by far, but that you held onto those negative moments much most strongly than the rest.   Bummer.

When we earn to be mindful of emotions, we start to be more open and available to positive feelings. Negative feelings will still occur, but we begin to see them more clearly, without self blame or over exaggeration.  The mind has to be trained through mindfulness to observe and understand the full spectrum of our emotions.

Ready to practice?

Now try “listening” to your thoughts as an observer or listener. Be as objective as you can be, and try not to become lost in it. But as always, if you do become lost it it, just non-judgmentally pull yourself out and bring your attention back to a state of mindfulness.

As you become more quiet and mindful you will see that our thoughts often arise from underlying feelings or emotion. Can you observe these underlying feelings without identifying with them? Perhaps some anxiety, contentment, fear, joy or sadness? Give it a try. Simply become aware of the movements your consciousness takes.

Keep your mind focused completely in the present. Let go of the past, the future, and the feeling of trying to change things, the "I wish I felt different" or "if only I hadn't done that". Just observe, be here and now.

This one takes a LOT of practice, you probably won't be "mindful of your emotions" overnight (and if you are, I wanna know the secret). But if you add a 10-20 minute meditation to your daily routine, and play around with identifying your emotions, you will generally becoming more mindful of your thoughts and feelings. I'd love to hear about how it goes for you. 

Here are some great extra readings on Mindfulness of Emotion:

p.s. on a totally unrelated note - my mom, dad and brother are visiting from Massachusetts today. I can't wait for the whole fam to be together in California!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Getaway Weekend :: Santa Cruz Beach House

I went to the beach for a girls-getaway this weekend, to celebrate a friend's birthday. I hardly knew another soul who was going to be there (besides of course, my friend), so I admit that I was a bit unsure about how it would go.  I was feeling absolutely exhausted from my work week, not quite up for the task of meeting a bunch of strangers. But still, I knew that it would probably be fun and at the very least, I'd be near the ocean - my happy place. 

Well it turns out, my weekend on the ocean surrounded by intuitive, kind and creative women was one of the most revitalizing couple of days I've had in a long time. No doubt it had something it to do with the perfect 73 degree sunshine and ocean breezes, and the sound of waves crashing 24/7. But really, it was the time spent with women that was exactly what I needed. I am a girl's girl at heart. I love to be silly, and talk about skincare and boys, and to burst out into song, and drink mimosas and bask in the sunshine. And I love to discuss career paths and relationships and goals and dreams with strong women who all have a fresh perspective to share. 

I walked out of the weekend with a relaxed smile on my face, and new friends (cue the corny *awwww*).

Favorite moments:

  • A long run in the sunshine, listening to Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (it went with the weekend theme of "women rock") and enjoying the many rich smells (eucalyptus, wood fire, rich soil, bottle brush, low tide, sunscreen, poppies) and sights (surfers, surfers, and more surfers). 
  • Sunning on Sunny Cove Beach. Summer has officially arrive in Santa Cruz.
  • Cracking ourselves up with Ellen's app/game Heads Up.
  • Watching dolphins swim by with hot coffee and a cool breeze on the deck.
When was your last girls weekend??

Monday, March 31, 2014

Getaway Weekend :: Scootin' Sonoma

I love the strong (and completely unintentional) focus on blues and greens in these photos. It must be spring!

Last weekend, Jimmy and I hopped on our Piaggio and scooted our way from the East Bay, up through Sonoma to Sebastopol, through Guerneville to Armstrong Redwoods, to Dry Creek Valley, back to Sebastopol, to Bodega Bay, down Route 1, to Stinson Beach, over the Golden Gate Bridge, over the Bay Bridge, then home. I thought about adding up the miles and decided against it - but let's just say that's quite a lot for an open-air ride!

We tasted wine, we ate the good foods, we enjoyed nature. But first and foremost, we enjoyed the time on the scooter, zipping through the breeze and sunshine, able to soak every last piece of the ride in. There's something so wonderful about traveling this way, especially for me as the passenger. I get to see, hear and smell everything as it flies by, making every last moment of the road trip feel like part of the fun rather than a means to an end.

Here's a little instagram-vid that I took from the ride:
[Click here for on-scooter instavid]

Where we stayed: The Sebastapol Inn was a great place for our weekend stay. We liked that it was affordable but better than your average chain, and very central to much of what Sonoma County has to offer. Also, Sebastapol in itself is a worth a stopover - it's a very "groovy" little town with a strong community vibe.
Where we ate: This weekend was all about "what looks delicious?", rather than my usual focus on "what's healthy and/or cheap". This was a very fun change. Favorites:
  • Angelo's Wine Country Deli in Sonoma is the perfect place for a casual lunch between tastings. Check out the jerky tasting bar (you can't miss it) with complimentary bite-size pieces of every kind of jerky under the sun.
  • Ono'z Cafe in Guerneville for Hawaiian - who knew you could get Hawaiian food in wine country? Yummy onion rings + lumpia + an enormous shaved ice will stick in my memory.
  • We found the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastapol so enjoyable that we went here twice. Great food eaten with local beer in a friendly-stranger filled beer garden next to a fire. How can it get better? Add a perfectly grilled ham and cheese + chunky tomato soup...that's how.
  • The Bodega Country Store (in Bodega) is always a must for us; we find ourselves passing by strangely often and we love it each and every time. There is AMAZING chowder, lots of local knickknacks and flavors, and our favorite kind of gluten-free cookies which is what we grabbed this time on our way home.
  • We stopped at the Parkside Cafe snack shack at Stinson Beach for some burgers and chili fries (I told you we weren't focused on health...), which we took over to eat on the beach in the sunshine. 
  • The Community Market in Sebastapol is the adorable place where we stopped for morning breakfast and coffees - I wish we had one of these in our town!

What we drank:
Though Sonoma and Napa are closer to us and renowned for their wines, we tend to venture out to the Dry Creek Valley / Russian River Valley wineries more often. They are a bit less pricey in general, there's less traffic, and since there is less packed into the area, you can't beat the views. We're wine club members of both Dutcher Crossing and Truett Hurst, which are both amazing, delicious, off-the-beaten path wineries in the area. Check 'em out!

What we did: Besides eating and wine tasting, we had an awesome time exploring Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (I just can't get enough of those majestic trees), walking around Stinson Beach, and spending time on the scooter, stopping every 5 minutes to get a view of this or a photo of that. 
Have you been to Sonoma County? What was your favorite stop? 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mindful 02 :: Deep Breaths

"Pause for a few seconds to observe the flow of your breath. 
Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence."

Happy Spring everyone! I'm so happy to get back in to the Mindful thang. I am ready. My workaholic stress-case has subsided. Spring is shining over here, and us East Coasters are bred to be happy and relaxed on sunshiney days.

Today I wanted to keep it simple by talking about Mindfulness of Breath. As you're starting your mindfulness practice, this is one of the easiest things to focus on. The more you practice, the more you'll do it. I find myself focusing on my breath now occasionally throughout the day, and each time it brings an enormous sense of calm over me. In a boring or irritating meeting? At the dentist? Having trouble shutting off before bed? These are all wonderful moments to try a discreet mindfulness of breath meditation.

Like last time, you will sit or lie in a comfortable position. Usually I recommend sitting up with good posture to keep you alert (especially if you're tired!). You may choose to close your eyes or keep them open (if I feel distractable, which is almost always, I keep them closed).

Begin by gently moving your attention onto the process of breathing. Simply observe each breath as it happens. Without feeling the need to alter your breath, just notice everything that's happening. Is your chest moving up and down from the breath? Can you feel the air going in and then out of your nostrils? Notice how the breath is always changing. One moment it might be deep and slow, the next it might be shallow, the temperature of the air might change. See if you can notice the changes while you practice.

If your mind wanders, know that this is okay. Simply notice the distraction (this is a moment of mindfulness!) and gently bring your attention back to the breath. One thing that helps is to use noting phrases to keep your attention on the breathe. I often say in my head "". 

Zoom in and out during the exercise. Increase your curiosity - how detailed can I feel this breath? Then zoom out and feel the expansive nature of your breathing.

Ending and Reflection 
Take a few moments to yourself, just to feel connected with the present moment. Expand your awareness from the breath into the room around you, and as you feel comfortable to do so, take a deep breath, stretch, open your eyes and bring the exercise to a close.

You can practice on your own, but if you would like a guide, here is a 5-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation.

Enjoy your mindful breathing! I hope you all give it a try this weekend. 
Pin It button on image hover