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Covid-19: Our Thoughts

Up until a week ago, Covid-19 virus had a small impact on our daily life. Apart from being super aware of washing & sanitizing our hands and staying clear of overpopulated areas, life was pretty much the same. What a difference a week can make.

Social distancing is in full effect. What does this mean to us? It means we are not meeting with our friends, avoiding public places, bars, restaurants, fitness classes, favourite café’s & limiting our grocery shopping to once a week at quiet times. Luxuries like haircuts, waxing, massage & acupuncture have been cancelled.

George will be working from home. Thankfully he still has work as the construction industry is still moving forward with projects. Currently, I am on maternity leave and will be until July 2nd, hoping the pandemic will be complete by then. Fingers crossed.

Skype calls to our family back home in Ireland are consumed with chat about the covid-19 virus. Mostly all positive as Irish people we like to use humour in times of stress. However, it is strange that family members cannot visit one another. It is a relief that they are all safe and are taking the safety measures seriously.

It’s interesting in times like these how we react to crisis situations. We have seen the effects of over buying in our grocery stores. Shelves are empty not because of high demand but because people are over buying unnecessary items such as toilet paper out of fear of running out. Toilet paper of all things!

The news & social media can be very informative but also one of the biggest agents for creating fear among the masses. It is constantly feeding us misinformation, showing the ugly side of us, promoting the sense of lack instead of abundance, showing the fear instead of the courage, highlighting the bad instead of the good. I am not saying that we should be fed only good news (not a bad idea) but more of a balance so people can remain balanced and not one-sided.

This weekend, for example, we have seen so much good from people in our neighbourhood. A neighbour a few blocks away from us had free toilet paper on their lawn and a sign saying “take one, if you NEED one”, this is the kindness we need to be shown daily so people can learn from it and follow this example.

Our neighbour just 2 doors down left out enough non-perishable’s goods on our common room table to ensure everyone has food.

Posters are up around Kitsilano from people offering help to go grocery shopping & errands for the high-risk population. These acts of kindness are happening everywhere, I personally would like to hear more about them. They are super inspiring and motivates us to help too.

Inspirational bloggers & Instagrammers are offering support in ways they can via free mediation & yoga classes. These are great services for people to help cope with increased anxiety & fear.

We have quite a few old people in our building. One of the men fought in WW2, Leonid is 96 years old. He still goes out for his walks every day. Judy who lives across from us was born & raised in Vancouver, such a beautiful lady with the most amazing balcony garden. These are at-risk people & we are responsible for keeping them safe just as much as ourselves.

We were so delighted to see signs go up in our building ensuring that management has increased the sanitization of all doorknobs, lift panels, laundry rooms to help combat the spread of germs. They also noted if anyone needs help with anything to reach out to them. Kindness is such a wonderful gift. Seeing those signs made me feel so happy & confirmed that we do care.

On our daily walks, we notice more people are out enjoying the sunshine and they seem content, children are playing & are riding their bikes, so many people make eye contact and smile as we pass by, the human connection feels strong. I really don’t think I am imagining this. It’s almost like people are giving each other the nod as we are all in the same boat.

The future is uncertain over the next few months, uncertainly about finances, our health, our family’s health etc. are all at the forefront of our minds, however, it is encouraging to hear that governments recognise that people are out of work & they are creating new legislation to help support people financially. We are all going to be affected by this pandemic, some more than others. I believe we need to keep our best side out for those people who are in dire straights, they need our help, support and hope. Hope is what we all need, not doom & gloom. Turn off the TV, get outside for fresh air (by yourself or with household members only), call a friend, smile at a stranger,

Facebook groups have been set up to support people who are out of work as a result of the virus which has directly affected so many people around us. Yoga teacher friends, friends in the housing & rental business, friends who own a café, friends who work in the gym, actor friends…. all of these people are now jobless until this virus goes. For those of us privileged enough to still have jobs and our health we have a further responsibility of reaching out and supporting our friends as much as possible. Even if it’s just chatting over the phone, we cannot have people thinking they are alone.

The elderly are the most at-risk group, it is our duty to ensure we are abiding by all the social distancing protocol to keep our elders safe and healthy. All we need to do is keep to ourselves for the next while (could be months) which is not a huge ask.

Our aim over the next few months is to take each day as it comes, look for the positives with each new day; like

  1. We still have our health
  2. Our families are still healthy
  3. The weather is beautiful
  4. The cherry blossoms are blooming
  5. The birds are singing……….

Let’s keep our heads up and push through the next few months, all of this will end we just have to sit it out. We are all in this together. Reach out, help & do your bit for humankind by keeping your physical distance.

 

Keep safe.

Chat soon,

Theresa xxxx

Our Top Tips for Travelling with a Baby: As a Couple & Solo

We brought our baby girl of 5 months back to Ireland, our home, for 6 weeks during Christmas. We currently live in Vancouver, Canada. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to Dublin from Vancouver during the Winter.

Our first tip would be to book your flights early especially if you are planning on travelling a long-distance during holiday seasons. We did not book our flights early enough & paid through the roof for flights. Learn from our mistake. We flew with Air Canada and had to call them after booking our flights to inform them that we would be travelling with our baby. They booked us into bassinette seats, which meant more leg room & a bassinette which attached to the wall for the baby. We would not do this again. Our baby sleeps on her belly so the bassinette was a no go, she would not go into it at all. In addition, the bassinette seats are by the toilets so there are constantly people and noise by the seats. We are lucky that our baby loves white noise which blocked it all out for her, she slept the whole flight (11 hours). However, for myself, it was a further distraction from trying to get some sleep (did not happen).

Honestly, we will be booking a seat for baby from now on, just for the comfort of the long journey. She is more mobile now and needs more space. Yes, it’s more expensive but it’s worth every penny for an easier flight.

Our next tip would be, bring only what you need. Make a list of the must-have items for each person travelling and use this as a checklist. Check in the majority of your luggage (1 suitcase per person worked for us) Only bring the essentials as carry on and avoid having to carry lots of bags. Our essential list for carry on luggage is:

  • Stoller (Brilliant to use in the airport & a must for the baby when at your destination, the airline crew will store the stroller just as you are boarding the flight & it will be waiting for you as you exit the flight at your destination)
  • Baby carrier (arms get tired carrying baby up & down the aisle, handy in the airport too)
  • Changing bag with diapers etc.
  • Change of clothes for baby & parents just in case child poo’s or vomits everywhere
  • Baby food & bottles depending on if that applies
  • 1 -2 toys (empty water bottles entertained our child so she needed very little toys)
  • Mini travel kit for emergencies (Band-Aids, baby Advil etc.)
  • Snacks & Reusable water bottle(We are vegan & vegetarian so we bring our own snacks just in case we don’t like what’s on offer, the water bottle was constantly refilled by the aircrew which was great)

We managed to fit everything under the stroller & 1 backpack so it meant our time in the airport was not stressful and this worked really well when I had to travel solo on the way back with a baby.

Next tip would be to ensure you are completely packed the night before leaving & returning. Be organised, have as little stress the morning/day of flying. Nothing eliminates stress more than being prepared. Ensure you have passports in an easily accessible bag, have your ride to & from the airport arranged & confirmed, know what terminal you fly out from…. eliminate the stress of forgetting something by being prepared the day before. Nothing is worse than trying to pack under pressure with a baby.

If you can, book yourself into an airport lounge. They may be a little pricey but if you have a long layover or arrive at the airport super early like us, the lounge is a nice area to relax. They generally have showers, food, drinks & comfy chairs. Also, great changing areas for babies.

Next tip, look to see if the airport you travel from has a breastfeeding/bottle feeding room. We used this in Dublin airport on the way back & it was amazing. It’s a private room with comfy chairs for feeding and a microwave if you need to heat milk or food. Highly recommend. This is a cool service.

Finally, as you are checking in your bags ask the person at the desk if the flight is busy if not ask if you could be seated in a row where nobody else is seated. I did this on our way back as the flight was very quiet. We got a whole row of 4 seats just for us. It was great as baby could play and had lots of room to stretch out. It’s always worth asking, it rarely happens on short flights but it’s better to ask, we always do this even before the baby arrived.

The above is our top tips & which we will do for every flight moving forward. Keep it simple and the experience goes much smoother. We hope this was helpful. If you would like to share your tips we would love to hear them.

Thanks so much,

Chat soon,

Theresa

2020 Challenge: Buying Less & Appreciating What We Already Have

Our transition to living a more mindful lifestyle has been a huge eye-opening experience. The amount of needless waste we created in the past is shocking to us now. Personally, I was a compulsive shopper, who would shop to help improve a dull mood. No thought was put into what was bought or questions were never asked like, “Do I need this?”, “Have I something similar?”, “Will I wear this next year?”.

Shopping was something I did when I was bored, sad, happy, excited, basically, I needed no excuse. My perception of happiness & the first thought of contentment entered my mind after we moved to Canada. We began working & socializing with people who had “everything”: the cars, the houses, the clothes, the shoes, the jewellery, the bags, the holidays & the money.

However, these people still felt they did not have enough. After a shopping spree of which I spent A LOT of money, I came home and began looking online at other things I could purchase……for some reason I caught myself doing this & paused. I paused to think about the people who we got to know in recent years, so much money but it wasn’t enough, more money had to be earned, more holidays, more houses, more bags, shoes etc. had to be got. That’s when I realised it would never end for me, I would constantly come home after shopping and feel I needed more. I wanted to feel content with what I had and start to live my life differently.

The first thing that I wanted to change was my wardrobe. I wanted a wardrobe that would last years & not date. I started researching about capsule wardrobes and how French girls always look chic & stylish with only a handful of garments. This was the first step on the road to a new life for us.

Almost 5 years later, we both have capsule wardrobes and are so much more content in our lives. With contentment comes happiness. We appreciate what we have & take care of our things so they can last as long as possible. We are conscious of our waste and look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. In light of all the climate protests in 2019, we have decided to challenge ourselves to reduce our waste further in 2020.

One way we plan on doing this is through the challenge #2020wehaveplenty which was created by Signe from Uselesswardrobe.dk. It is a small set of rules for reducing our buying for 2020. Buying only what we need, trying to source it second hand first are our priorities.

If you are interested in joining the challenge please take a look at the buy less 2020 recommendations list below and post your pictures in Instagram to the hashtag #2020wehaveplenty.

So far, we have been loving this challenge. Today I bought a dress for my friend’s wedding in June in a second-hand store for a fraction of the original price. I had seen the dress in a high-end store last year and couldn’t justify paying the amount for the dress. I was so happy to have found the dress and now I have a beautiful dress for any other fancy occasions for years to come. This has been my only purchase this year, and it was on my list of items to get. Super happy.

The best of luck on your low spending in 2020.

Chat soon,

Theresa xxx

 

5 Practical Tips On Maintaining A Consistent Meditation Practise

We have written many blogs on meditation and the benefits. It changed my life, I went from being a stressed out, reactive person who exploded when things went wrong to a (relatively) calm person who is more or less in control of their actions.

The three main actions I put in place to help me were:

  • Meditation
  • Fresh air
  • Exercise

You can read more about my anger management issues and how I dealt with it here.

If you don’t currently meditate I recommend you try it. Hopefully, you’ll find the following tips useful. They’re also great if you struggle to keep your meditation practise consistently. Consistency is the key to meditation. There is more value in meditating every day for five minutes than in meditating once or twice a week for twenty minutes.

1. Create a comfortable space

The space you practise in is important. You won’t be able to settle into a relaxed state or let go of what’s going on around you if there are distractions, whether it’s noise or discomfort it will be on your mind. Background noise is sometimes ok, for example, if you’re meditating outside and there are distant voices or traffic but a close-up conversation or loud distracting noise will throw you off.

If I’m travelling or for whatever reason, I can’t meditate at home I have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a blindfold. Theresa constantly makes fun of me when I use these, especially if I happen to be wearing my poncho at the same time but that is the way it goes I suppose.

I use a meditation cushion because I can’t sit on the floor without some support. I also like to sit on the floor because if I sit in a chair I tend to fall asleep as I meditate early in the morning.

2. Meditate at the same time in the same place every day

Just as consistently meditating every day is important it also helps to meditate in the same place at the same time every day.

I meditate in the morning for two reasons. I need to get up before the baby (little babies don’t seem to agree that we should sit still in silence), also it sets me up for the day ahead, especially if I have a stressful day in work ahead of me.

Being consistent with the time and place also makes it easier to form a habit. You will hear different opinions on this but it generally takes about 40 days or so to form a habit and come to a point where you will do something without really thinking about it, like brushing your teeth or making breakfast.

Make it part of your morning routine.

3. Start Small

I meditate for 20 minutes every day and have been doing this consistently for about four years. I have certainly missed practises or not gotten my full twenty minutes in over the years but generally, I have been hitting the 20-minute mark every day.

I don’t recommend starting out at 20 minutes, that’s likely to lead to an inconsistent practice. Start small – 5 minutes a day or even 2 minutes a day. Try to keep it up for a month.

You won’t feel massive benefits from 1 or 2 minutes a day but you will feel some difference. Notice that difference and once you have a consistent short practise that’s where you can build up gradually to 10 or 20 minutes a day.

20 minutes is what works for me, I tried half an hour for a while but it was a little much for me at the start of the day from a practical perspective.

4. Use an App to help

I understand that meditation is about getting away from screens and input from everyday life but there are apps available that are very helpful.

I like to use an app because I can see how consistent I am and it’s useful for the timer. I keep my phone in flight mode with the screen black and white and light dimmed so I’m not interacting with it or receiving notifications which will distract me.

It is very important to keep the notifications, emails, texts etc out of your day until after meditation. Also, keep a buffer period between the meditation and screen time. My phone is set up so most of my apps are unavailable until after 7 am. I’m already out of the house at that time. If you’re curious about recommendations to limit screentime you can find them here.

I use Insight Timer. It’s free and it also has thousands of guided meditation available but you can also try Headspace. There are many others out there also that I have not tried.

One little thing I’d like to mention – many apps keep track of how many consecutive days you have achieved. Try and stay away from the competitive mentality of getting a tally of many days in a row. Consistency is the key but it’s not about being “good” at it or hitting 100 consecutive days.

5. If you don’t feel like meditating cut it shorter

If I am in a hurry in the mornings or got up too late or just don’t feel like meditating for whatever reason, I will try to do 10 minutes instead, or even 5 and then sometimes when I reach the 5-minute mark I may be in a state of mind where I continue.

If I miss completely I try to get it in the evening before bed even if it’s just 5 minutes.

Remember, It’s ok to miss a day, just try not to miss two or three days in a row or you will start to form a new habit of inconsistent meditation.

 

I hope this helps. Working towards the 20-minute mark is a good place to be for consistent meditation. Many people recommend 30 minutes or an hour or I have friends who get great benefits from 20 minutes twice a day but that is not always practical.

Do what works for you and notice how you feel after.

Peace,

George

 

Useful links:

My current yoga/meditation routine – How it has changed since baby

Meditation challenge – 40-day sadhana – Habits define you

A daily meditation practice – Make it work for you

Meditation – It takes two minutes

 

My 2019 Reading Challenge: The Highs And Lows

So Back2Basics living has been quiet for the last month.

What have we been up to?

Well, we’ve been back in Ireland introducing Naoise to her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’m back (George) in Canada now, getting into the swing of things while Theresa gets to spend another month in the old country.

I was also lucky enough to give 2 yoga classes in my home town of Daingean. Thanks to all who attended.

Apart from giving a quick update and explaining the lack of blog posts recently, I thought that a nice topic for the first post of 2020 would be a summary of the books I read in 2019 and any recommendations I have from that list.

I like to set myself a reading challenge for the year using the Goodreads app, and for 2019 it was 25 books.

They ranged from fiction, spiritual, fantasy, classics, non-fiction with my favourite being Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Some of them I read, others I listened to the audiobook. I also cheated a little towards the end of the year by listening to the shortest Audiobooks I could find. This strategy got me listening to some unexpectedly fantastic books like A Christmas Carol and the above mentioned Of Mice And Men.

So, here’s the list:

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

This was at the tail end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. Chris has experimented with every Productivity hack you can imagine and presented the best methods in this easy read.

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a great fantasy story about a travelling musician whose family are killed. He then joins a magicians university where most of the first book is set. I really enjoyed this one, if you like fantasy, I recommend it. It is slower than a lot of other fantasy books I read and doesn’t feature any battles or elves but instead follows the main character through his university life and exploits.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

The first book I read by Gaiman was American Gods and I loved it. This one is a retelling of the stories of the Norse Gods. It’s light-hearted and an easy read though the stories and the escapades of the Gods are utter nonsense.

Ethics in The Real World by Brian Singer

I heard of Singer on the Big Think Podcast and he had great things to say. One of his most important projects is Givewell, a website that recommends the most effective charities you can donate to. In this book, he writes several different essays on life and ethical issues. Singer is vegetarian and speaks in-depth about the unethical treatment of animals here also.

I think it is our duty to educate ourselves on these matters and this book is a great place to start.

A Winters Promise by Cristelle Dabos

This is a fantasy book set in a world of floating islands, each one ruled by an ancient matriarch. The book follows a young lady who can travel through mirrors as she leaves her home to meet her future husband.

It’s a far-out concept and for me, it didn’t really work. It’s well written and it held my attention to finish it but I won’t be reading the sequel.

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin E. Kruse

This book is a must for anybody who works in an office or has difficulty managing their time. A lot of the information is common sense but there are so many little bits and pieces that make a real difference.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Another very useful book if you work in an office job. The book focuses on how you can blank out the distractions of modern living to get into a state of high productivity.

The Boys on the Boat by Daniel James Brown

A historical book about the American rowing team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it’s a book about real grit and is truly inspiring. A great story.

The Year Of The Flood by Margeret Atwood

The first Atwood book I read was The Handmaid’s Tale, and with the sequel, Testaments released now it was a big year for her. The Year of the Flood is the second part of a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic world. I didn’t realise it was the second part of a trilogy but that did not take away from the enjoyment. It’s a great story.

Bhagavad Gita

This was part of the required reading for the Vinyasa teacher training course I took part in the summer. It’s a must-read if you are a yogi or yoga teacher and offers some interesting insights.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I found this one a little bit of a slog to get through. If it is productivity your interested in I would recommend Productivity and 15 secrets above this one. It has useful information but it’s a heavy read.

The Snow Leopard by Alex Deghan

This non-fiction book focuses on the efforts of a conservational team to set up a national park in Afghanistan. It thought me so much about the country and people of which I knew nothing about as it follows the team through remote parts of the country.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

I really liked A Wild Sheep Chase by the same author. It was off the wall and completely random. This book is also off the wall and completely random but so much so that it didn’t make any sense to me. Maybe I don’t have the mental capacity to see what Murakami’s point is here but none of the stories the book followed seems to tie together with any satisfaction.

It is set through one night in Tokyo and follows a young girl through the city as she mingles with musicians, prostitutes and criminals.

The Oregan Trail by Rinker Buck

This one I listened to on Audio. It’s narrated by the author as he tells us about his trip with his brother to retrace the Oregan Trail in a covered wagon. It seemed like a nice enjoyable little trip when I started reading but as I read, I realized how difficult it was to cross the country with a wagon and team of horses.

It’s a great read if you’re into American History.

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

This was my first Cheat book as I had researched the shortest Audiobooks in my reading list so I could meet my goal. There are some useful snippets and it is something I would probably listen to again. It’s not a big commitment at less than 2 hours.

Siddartha by Herman Hesse

This fictional piece follows the journey of a young man in the time of the Buddha as he practises the life of a holy man, falls from grace and then returns to the life of a holy man. There are some good real-life lessons to take away and it’s a great read if you are interested in eastern spirituality.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This is a real classic which I had never read before and I got stuck into it just before Christmas. It’s such an easy read and I would recommend it for anybody of any age.

Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Another short read but it is heavy at times. The main take away for me was the author’s pessimism about the future of the human race. He feels that it is too late for us to change our ways and that we have doomed ourselves as a race. The earth itself will recover he believes but we the people will not.

Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor

I found this book to be a drag, though I did finish it. The narrator was not engaging and some of the points were long-winded and uninteresting. Not for me.

Of Mice and Men

This is one of the greatest stories I have ever read and I can’t wait to read more from John Steinbeck. Though it’s not set in a prison, it had a strong feel of The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile. I can’t quite put my finger on why. It follows two companions as they travel through the southern states looking for work.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

This is more of an essay than a book but it made the list anyway. I didn’t take much from it and feel there are much better books out there on getting to a happy state of mind if that’s what you’re after.

The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is another classic which I had never read. I watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie a few years ago but don’t remember anything from it. It follows the lives of extravagantly rich and self-indulgent people in New York. I didn’t like it and wouldn’t be interested in reading more from Fitzgerald based in this.

The Ocean at the End Of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My second book by Gaiman this year, this is a fantasy book set in modern England telling the story of a boy’s fight against a demon who tries to take over his home. For me this book was only ok. The other books I read by Gaiman (Norse Mythology and American Gods) are much better.

Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

I love this book. The whole premise is that in Japanese culture one cannot master the arts like archery, swordsmanship, flower arranging, painting etc unless they come to a zen state first. The bow could not be mastered through constant practise or physical training but only through intense meditation. It is an idea that I love and think that it applies much more than we realize.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I have read 1984 by Orwell in the past and though it is a great book, it is truly depressing. Animal Farm is equally dismal and reminds me a little of The Lord of The Flies.

Most of you probably know that it is not a cute story about animals on a farm, yes it is about farm animals but no, it is not cute, as it reflects Stalin’s rise to power and the growth in strength of communism.

Those were my books for the year, to wrap up if I was to pick my five favourites they would be as follows:

  1. Of Mice and Men
  2. The Year of The Flood
  3. A Christmas Carol
  4. The Name of The Wind
  5. The Snow Leopard Project

If you want to set your own reading challenge go search for Goodreads in the app store and set up an account.

Thanks for reading and I hope that you find some use in the above list. We will be back regularly from here on as the holiday is over.

Peace,

George