Spring Ahead

For liveaboard boaters, the spring equinox means longer days and the end of winter hibernation.  It is a busy time to begin boat chores in order to get the boat ready for summer cruising. During our time living aboard, winter would find us hunkered down in our boat watching movies, reading books and enjoying long sleeps as long as the marina wasn’t being battered by a winter storm. During storms, the cacophony of rigging clanging in the roaring wind would keep even the deepest of sleepers awake and would draw us out of our warm bunks to check on lines and fellow sailors.

But the change of seasons does not come without resistance often in the form of strong wind storms. We had one of these wind storms last week in which the wind peaked at 109 kms/hour. In fact, the worst storms that we have experienced on the boat came at the change of seasons in November (fall to winter) and March (winter to spring). Two separate March storms broke the finger that our boat was tied to and made for some scary moments on the dock.

The long, winter rest allows you to store energy that will be needed to complete spring chores.  The beautiful Cherry Blossom trees in my city, Victoria, BC bend with the winter storms during their deep slumber only to awaken in early February with beautiful blossoms. So too, should we rest during the winter so that our bodies have enough stored reserves to meet the energy of the spring equinox. If you overwork yourself during the winter, your immune system will  be depleted and you will be more susceptible to getting sick. This combined with too much sugar from  Easter which unfortunately has become more about sugar than rebirth, will deplete your health further.

Cherry Blossoms, Victoria, BC | www.holisticsailor.com
Cherry Blossom trees start blooming by mid February in Victoria, BC.

Some people find the strong, pre-spring winds disturbing on their bodies.  You might feel the need to wear a scarf to protect your neck from the winds even though others are wearing lighter clothes. Your neck houses the throat chakra and if you feel yourself craving protection from the wind, than listen to this message from your body and wear a scarf. I also find that my body still needs the warm, comfort foods of winter; if I switch to lighter, cooler  foods like salads too early, I will be very tired.

The change of seasons inspires me to think ahead of summer cruising plans, boat chores and walks in nature with friends.  I am filled with the energy of the season and everything seems possible. Now that we are no longer living aboard, the inside of our boat needs a good cleaning from accumulated dust and mildew growth during the winter. The exterior canvas and decks also need to be cleaned of mildew growth. The boat smells of vinegar for the first few weeks of spring cleaning but it is a small inconvenience for an effective yet environmentally friendly cleaner.

The signs of spring are everywhere from spawning herring to baby Pigeons who have already fledged from their nests.  May the energy of spring fill you with light.

Rest in Being: 7 Steps to Meditating

I attend a weekly group meditation during my lunch hour.  I am always so grateful for this shared experience of resting in stillness. The group is a safe place in which to let down one’s guard, quiet the mind and in the stillness, become aware of our divine connection to spirit.

The leader of the mediation group, Henry helps guide us from our mind consciousness which he describes as being busy checking things off our to-do list into our heart consciousness which rests in being and non-doing.

The irony of meditation is that you would think the disconnection from mind would make you feel empty, but the opposite is true. Henry guides us through a progressive relaxation and reminds us to not be perfectionists in our meditation practice. The mind fights giving up control to the heart and will distract you with errant thoughts and twitches.  Henry reminds us to acknowledge the thoughts and return to our breath or mantra to return to stillness.

Once in stillness, you are overcome with a sense of peace, love and gratitude.  It is an amazing place and the energy is amplified within the circle of seated colleagues joined in meditation.  I call this connecting to the grid and have written about this experience before.

Although you might think that connecting to source makes you feel small and lost within the immensity of it all – it is the opposite. The connection fills you up to brimming until it overflows. And all of this is done within stillness. In non-doing with gentle breathing. In and out. Out and in like the tide. No rules. Nothingness. Empty yet full.

The challenge in meditation is to bring the awareness of our connection to source back to our day-to-day activities. I find that the afterglow of meditation stays with me for the first hour back at my desk, but that the connection gradually dims and is replaced by busy-ness.  However, with intentional yogic breathing  I can bring myself back to the peaceful oasis within – even if it is fleeting.

It is a natural that we spend so much of our lives chasing happiness but it is crazy that we let others define what our happiness should look like with checkboxes for the right job, the right car, house, clothes, vacations, friends, pets  etc. You can add your own checkboxes to this list. Deep inside our spirit resists the boundaries created by all these checkboxes because it knows that our happiness does not lie in these false gods. Our happiness lies within ourselves and we spend our entire lives discovering this truth. Meditation helps you discover yourself.

Our happiness lies within ourselves | www.holisticsailor.com
Our happiness lies within ourselves and we spend our entire lives discovering this truth.

So how do you start a meditation practice? Here are my seven steps to begin meditating:

  1. Give yourself permission to take this time for yourself. This is probably the hardest step because we define success by our busy-ness and attach so much judgement to not being busy.
  2. Sit in a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. Remember this is your practice so there are no rules. You can sit cross-legged  or in a chair with your feet resting on the floor or whatever position promotes relaxation for you.
  3. Close your eyes and start breathing in and out slowly. Focus on your breathing.
  4. Relax your body by focusing your attention on your feet, knees, upper legs, etc. progressively moving up your body. Initially, you might find it easier to use a guided meditation for this part until you can do this for yourself unaided. Keep breathing.
  5. Some people find it helpful to focus on a word or sound to begin meditation. I use the word “Om”. Breathe in. Breathe out saying to yourself, “Om”.
  6. Continue in this pattern as long as you can. As my mind quietens, I drop “Om” and rest in being. If my mind starts to wander, I reintroduce “Om” with my breath and return to stillness.
  7. Initially, meditate for short periods of time and increase by five-minute intervals. Know that  all of this is meditation. The practice comes from the regular ‘being’ in meditation.

Resist the temptation of the mind to over-analyze and judge your meditation practice.  There is no right or wrong way to meditate. You don’t have to be in a certain space, building or country to meditate.  Eventually, you will be able to meditate on a busy bus, an airplane or during a walk. You carry the ability to meditate within yourself. It does not cost anything but your time. it is a gift of stillness that you give yourself to rest in being. Meditation allows you to discover your best self so that you can share this with your world.

Stress Relief in the Palms of Your Hands

Reflexology was the first natural therapy that I became certified in 15 years ago and its simple yet powerful efficacy amazes me to this day. Although I no longer have a healing practice except for the occasional treatment or exchange, it remains my favourite natural therapy for its holistic effects on the body.

I use reflexology on myself daily by working the reflexes in my feet before bedtime to promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep. It also allows me to check in to see where I might be developing congestion in my body. I also work the reflexes in my hands throughout the work day to help reduce stress. I’d like to share with you a few key hand reflexes so you too, can enjoy healing in the plams of your hands.

Reflexology has roots in Chinese medicine and the endpoints for the 12 meridians  can be found in either the feet or hands. I was trained through the Reflexology Association of Canada which uses a westernized approach to Reflexology, but I had the privilege to attend a workshop by  Lillian Morten where I learned how to incorporate meridian theory into my reflexology practice.

Lately, I have noticed that reflexology is referred to as “reflexology massage’ and I find this odd because the treatment’s benefit comes from the stimulation of specific reflex points. Most reflexologists include a relaxing foot massage as part of their practice to warm up the feet before a treatment and again at the end for pure enjoyment, but the heart of the treatment lies in pinpointing the reflexes. The mastery of the reflexologist comes from the skill developed in pinpointing the reflexes on each client’s unique physiology.

I digress – you want to know how you can help mitigate stress as you go about your day. The reflexes on the feet are easy to identify because there is more space on the surface of the foot. The reflexes on the hands in comparison are stacked on top of each other and it can be difficult to be certain that you are on a specific reflex. However, the following three reflexes are easy to find and will help you to calm your nervous system in the middle of a busy day. The beauty of the hand reflexes is that they can be done anywhere and do not require the removal of shoes and socks.

Solar Plexus Reflex

This is my go-to reflex when I am feeling overwhelmed. Located in the middle of the palm, this reflex instantly calms me down. By combining the pressing of the reflex with a slow inhalation and releasing with an exhalation, you have the ability to interrupt  the physiological response to stress.

You can discreetly press this reflex while walking to a meeting, waiting in the elevator, sitting in a meeting or any other opportunity when your hands aren’t busy. Repeat on the opposite hand.

Solar Plexus Reflex | www.holisticsailor.com

Adrenal Reflex

It can be a little tricky finding this reflex as there are several reflexes in this area. This reflex is found in the fleshy part of the palm below the thumb and is often sharply sensitive. Push and reflex this reflex until the sensitivity decreases. Repeat on the opposite hand.

Adrenal Reflex | www.holisticsailor.com

Shoulder Reflex

I personally don’t find the shoulder reflex in the hand to be that effective in reducing shoulder tension but it might work for you so it is worth sharing. Find the head of the metacarpal bone just below the baby finger and push in a circular direction. The left hand corresponds to the left shoulder and the right hand corresponds to the right shoulder.

Shoulder Reflex | www.holisticsailor.com

Stimulate these reflexes throughout your day to promote relaxation.