It can be tough to get a meditation practice going or to stay consistent with your practice. We can always think of reasons to squeeze meditation in later, or make up for skipping today with extra meditation tomorrow (that never happens), or just put it off for the future when we do those healthy things we’ve always been meaning to do. 
I recently did a mindfulness facilitator training workshop with Mindfulness Without Borders and our wonderful instructors introduced a very simple meditation support technique. You only need two things to make it work: 1) email and 2) a meditation buddy. Your meditation buddy doesn’t have to be a friend or even live nearby. They can be an acquaintance or a stranger. All you need to share is a common interest in building a meditation practice. 
Commit to your meditation buddy to meditate everyday. Then, after meditating, email your meditation buddy one word describing your meditation practice for the day. Your meditation buddy does the same. 
This is simple but it works. There’s social support, commitment, a daily reminder to meditate, and a record of your experience. It’s great to use an email client that keeps the emails in a single thread so you can scroll back over your descriptions as you progress.
- Mark

It can be tough to get a meditation practice going or to stay consistent with your practice. We can always think of reasons to squeeze meditation in later, or make up for skipping today with extra meditation tomorrow (that never happens), or just put it off for the future when we do those healthy things we’ve always been meaning to do. 

I recently did a mindfulness facilitator training workshop with Mindfulness Without Borders and our wonderful instructors introduced a very simple meditation support technique. You only need two things to make it work: 1) email and 2) a meditation buddy. Your meditation buddy doesn’t have to be a friend or even live nearby. They can be an acquaintance or a stranger. All you need to share is a common interest in building a meditation practice. 

Commit to your meditation buddy to meditate everyday. Then, after meditating, email your meditation buddy one word describing your meditation practice for the day. Your meditation buddy does the same. 

This is simple but it works. There’s social support, commitment, a daily reminder to meditate, and a record of your experience. It’s great to use an email client that keeps the emails in a single thread so you can scroll back over your descriptions as you progress.

- Mark

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There’s a test in game design used to classify players based on their gaming preferences. According to this test, there are four types of players: Killers, Socializers, Achievers, and Explorers.

Killers live to fulfill their desire of winning. They have a strong sense of competition and are always looking to be at the top of rankings. They want to be the best and they want to win against someone.

Socializers tend to look for experiences that will allow them to find connections and relationships with others. They like to find like-minded individuals and enjoy developing a network of people. 

Achievers are motivated by the completion of goals, quests or objectives. They are likely to look for experiences that will allow them to fill in the steps or milestones towards a bigger goal. 

Explorers are engaged in activities that will allow them to discover new places. They are adventurous, they like going at their own pace, and often like to collect secret or hidden tokens that will help them create or build new things. 

I’ve written some posts here about how I started running to feel better about myself because my health required a change in my lifestyle to diminish the pain caused by a connective tissue disease. And it worked wonderfully! after two years of constant running I was gladly able to say I’ ve conquered the pain, and my disease.

Having that mindset quickly profiled me as “killer” player type. I started to think of my races in terms of what others did and where I was in the leaderboards or rankings. Certainly all the fitness apps I have hold great focus on comparing yourself with others. I was even competing against myself, always looking to run longer and faster. In my case, my killer instinct’s focus was not limited to beating other people, or time, or distance, but on beating my disease.

As I started getting better, and feeling healthier and stronger, there was a funny feeling inside me that started growing: the fear of giving up running. If I was feeling better, would the need of running go away?, if I was running only to beat disease, would I be blinded now that I was feeling better and let go of running?

And then I read a book that started switching the way I thought about running, Haruki Murakami’s "What I talk about when I talk about running". There are many parts of that book that I was able to identify with but here’s a quote that helped me tremendously: “Competing against time isn’t important. What’s going to be much more meaningful to me now is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish twenty-six miles with a feeling of contentment. I’ll enjoy and value things that can’t be expressed in numbers, and I’ll grope for a feeling of pride that comes from a slightly different place”

After reading that book I started shifting away from competition of any kind, and I let go of that killer profile and turned my focus towards being an achiever and an explorer.

Since then, running has become the activity that allows me to get to places that I’ve never been before, to experience life in a way I’ve never had before. Ultimately, running helps me to live the life I want to live, and in that way, it has come to be one of my dearest passions.

My husband and I visited the Stawamus Chief mountain in Squamish, BC. yesterday, and it was the very first time I went on a hike that required climbing. There were many moments when I had to climb up some rocks when I thought: I can’t do this, I’ll try, but I know I can’t. I had to focus a lot and use most of the muscles in my body to do things I didn’t think I could do.

When we got to the top, all I could think about was: Oh, the wonderful places running will take you! I certainly didn’t run my way up that mountain, but it’s precisely because of all that running I’ve done that I was able to get there.I can’t imagine myself doing that if I didn’t have the strength I’ve gained for the past years.

Every time I go to a new place that requires some kind of physical activity and I’m able to get there without feeling like I’m dying, I’m thankful for being able to run. Because it has taken me to some really wonderful places, both physically and mentally.

Murakami wrote “For me, the main goal of exercising is to maintain, and improve, my physical condition in order to keep writing novels, so if races and training cut into the time I need to write, this would be putting the cart before the horse, which is why I’ve tried to maintain a decent balance”.

When I was running to compete, I was definitely putting the cart before the horse, and I had to think of something that would help me find my balance again. Now, there’s some bigger goals behind my running, and they’re all oriented towards discovering and exploring new things. Last Murakami’s quote for this post “It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself.” 

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-Daniela

I love canoeing deep in the wilderness, but I work in the city—the opposite of the wilderness—so it requires extra work to to get out into the woods and spend time with my animal friends.

The extra work is always worth it. With any of the other things I’m passionate about, there’s also work involved. Helping connect people with a path to better mental health is something I’m passionate about and that requires work, too. All of the blog posts, and videos, and articles, and books, and art get made outside of my day job, so it adds up to a big chunk of time and it doesn’t always go smoothly. But the end result of that has been, and continues to be, so enjoyable. 

The things we’re passionate about take work and energy. If you’re passionate about recovering from a mental illness, that’s going to take work, too, and it won’t always go smoothly. As beautiful and wonderful as the wilderness can be, sometimes it rains, or a canoe tips. That doesn’t have to stop us from pursuing what we’re passionate about. It’s all part of the journey. And the journey is hard work, no matter you go, so make sure you go someplace you’re passionate about.

- Mark

"I used to have some really bad days, and I kept them in a little box, and one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh it was just a couple little innocent bad days… Well we had a big rain…. I don’t know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put eggshells out there, and coffee grounds too. Don’t plant your bad days; they grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months, before you know it, you’ve got yourself a bad year." -Tom Waits
A while back, I had hit my personal lowest-low, and the bad experiences seemed to keep piling on — The poison ivy of my mind was growing higher and thicker. Mentally, I was trapped in a vortex of bad thoughts, and physically I was trapped in my bedroom (well, not literally…).
When things were beginning to slowly come back together for me, I got some really great advice from a peer-support facilitator that expedited my recovery. She told me that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you think about it, and how you deal with the situation. By extension, she argued, you have control about how you feel.
This piece of advice turned my world upside-down (or perhaps, right-side-up). It wasn’t the first time I had heard this, in fact, I remember my dad giving me similar advice when I was a kid. Maybe it was the fact that I was so lost, that I was willing to try anything. Maybe it was that I needed to hear that advice a thousand-and-one times before it made sense… For whatever reason, when the facilitator told me this, it finally ‘clicked’, and I was determined to change my life. (Cue inspirational music.)
About a year ago, I decided that I was no longer going to have bad days; I wasn’t going to have regrets, or dwell on negative thoughts. At first it was incredibly difficult; it’s hard to give up trying to manage things you’ve spent your life trying to control. And honestly, it’s kind of scary… It’s a habitual exercise, that I still have to remind myself of sometimes, but with time, and experience, it becomes easier and easier… When I dedicated myself to this idea, I had begun to plant my good days, those days grew into weeks, which grew into months, and before I knew it, I had myself a good year. 
Be careful what you plant.
- Andrew

"I used to have some really bad days, and I kept them in a little box, and one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh it was just a couple little innocent bad days… Well we had a big rain…. I don’t know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put eggshells out there, and coffee grounds too. Don’t plant your bad days; they grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months, before you know it, you’ve got yourself a bad year." -Tom Waits

A while back, I had hit my personal lowest-low, and the bad experiences seemed to keep piling on — The poison ivy of my mind was growing higher and thicker. Mentally, I was trapped in a vortex of bad thoughts, and physically I was trapped in my bedroom (well, not literally…).

When things were beginning to slowly come back together for me, I got some really great advice from a peer-support facilitator that expedited my recovery. She told me that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you think about it, and how you deal with the situation. By extension, she argued, you have control about how you feel.

This piece of advice turned my world upside-down (or perhaps, right-side-up). It wasn’t the first time I had heard this, in fact, I remember my dad giving me similar advice when I was a kid. Maybe it was the fact that I was so lost, that I was willing to try anything. Maybe it was that I needed to hear that advice a thousand-and-one times before it made sense… For whatever reason, when the facilitator told me this, it finally ‘clicked’, and I was determined to change my life. (Cue inspirational music.)

About a year ago, I decided that I was no longer going to have bad days; I wasn’t going to have regrets, or dwell on negative thoughts. At first it was incredibly difficult; it’s hard to give up trying to manage things you’ve spent your life trying to control. And honestly, it’s kind of scary… It’s a habitual exercise, that I still have to remind myself of sometimes, but with time, and experience, it becomes easier and easier… When I dedicated myself to this idea, I had begun to plant my good days, those days grew into weeks, which grew into months, and before I knew it, I had myself a good year. 

Be careful what you plant.

- Andrew

That’s what we’re all going to be posting on this week. If you’d like to join us, click here to share your thoughts

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Recovery really is a journey. As much as we’d like to just have the experience of recovery, that’s not possible without doing the work of traveling that journey. And that work isn’t possible without the right supports. Canoeing without great gear, or a compass, or a map, or healthy food, or the right protection, is a miserable experience. The same is true for recovery. Plan for recovery just as you would for a canoe trip. And if you’ve never recovered from a mental illness before, approach recovery the same way you’d approach canoeing if you’d never done that before: you’d talk to somebody that canoes.

- Mark

sketchesinstillness:

Yogi Ant-

(via canicky)

For me, being truly focused comes from a good blend of what I’ve done to prepare, and where I’m at. It’s never a cakewalk to get to a place I can focus, but I do know which things help me focus, and which things make me stray from any complete train of thought.

The first thing I do when I know I have to focus on something is to set aside some time. Even if I think it’s not going to take much, I always feel more comfortable and get more done if I say to myself - “ok, I only have 30 minutes to do this.” For some reason, that mentally prepares me to really get down to business and make that time worthwhile. If I go over that time - no big deal. Then I know how much to give myself for something the second time around.

The next thing I do is figure out the type of place I need to focus on something properly. It can be a pretty wide range of different places, but experimenting with different things has helped me figure out what works for me. I’ve noticed I work better when I move from place to place during a day. During a work day, I’ll often go to a coffee shop or restaurant for a bit to focus on some things. The key thing is changing my physical surroundings - which tells me to switch my mind and focus on something else for a little while. 

My surroundings are incredibly important to me. Whether it’s at home or at work, I make sure that they feel comfortable and encouraging to the things I’m doing. I put things around me that trigger happy memories or symbolize something to me - usually pieces of art or photography. I love things that add some color to a space. Music can help me here too, especially when I don’t have the means to hang up things or have a small space. I almost always listen to relatively calm, instrumental music when I’m writing or designing. The faster, up-tempo stuff I save for more repetitive work, that doesn’t require so much out-of-the-box thinking - it’s just something to pass the time.

Cleanliness is something that’s in the background of these surroundings, but it’s pretty big for me. While I’m not the type of person that will polish something spotless every day, I make sure where I’m working on something is organized and free of unnecessary stuff. Plus, I like the act of cleaning. Taking 5 minutes or so to organize stuff and wipe things down can help me focus on that for the moment, and get to the more important things after.

These aren’t complex rules, really just some guides I set for myself. By making them fairly loose I can still find what works best, and hopefully find better ways to focus as time goes on.

- Matt

The photo above was taken on my trip to Japan earlier this year. This gardener was one of the most focused people I had ever seen, taking his time to softly place each plant in the ground through the sweltering heat that day. It made me think much deeper about the importance of time and place with things in life.

People today are unable to have such an enlightening experience because their minds are scattered.
From the letters of Dahui Zonggao, a Chinese Zen monk, born: 1089, died: 1163.