Are we JUST consumers?

Have you watched the documentary ‘True Cost’ yet? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it – you can find it on Netflix. The director/creator of that film, Andrew Morgan, just did a podcast with Rich Roll which brought it back to my consciousness. In the podcast, Andrew, says something about how we’ve been labeled (turned into) consumers and we believe that we don’t have a choice – that we’re just bystanders.

This just isn’t the case! One person CAN make a change and an impact!

Five years ago, lululemon began the SeaWheeze – a beautiful half marathon followed by yoga and an outdoor concert. I had never run that far before, but FUN. was the band playing the concert that evening and I wanted to go see the concert, so I signed up to run. Btw, this was the year that FUN. won a Grammy – they were kind of a big deal. Anyway, I digress. The other piece of this event is that lululemon, being a clothing retailer, creates specialty product that is sold on the SeaWheeze weekend. Yahoo!

Fast forward five years. The SeaWheeze now sells out within minute, well in advance of the band being announced, and the SeaWheeze shop is INSANE! People were paying to have someone line up for them the day before the store opened; people were posting items online while they were in the store to find out if they could resell them; the shop is supposed to be open all weekend, but it sells out on day one now.

I picked up my race package first thing in the morning this year and I watched people run into the shop! I also, later, stood in the line for an hour; however, I picked up three things once I was in the store, then looked down, looked at the cash line, and realized it really didn’t need or want any of it.

Ok, so what can we learn from this?

We are constantly told that we are just consumers – we are expected to consume. We are expected to covet what’s new, better, trendy, but do we have to be that way? Do we have to give in? Will it really make us happier, healthier, more loving people?

In yoga, there are the Yamas and Niyamas that are basically the guidelines for how to live. There are five of each (kind of like the 10 Commandments). The fourth Yama is Aparigraha, translated to mean “non-attachment/non-possessiveness”.

I love this description of Aparigraha:

This important yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.

Part of removing ourselves from the label of “consumer” is to become more conscious about what we’re bringing into our space, why we’re bringing it in (what purpose it’s serving), and if it’s the choice we want to make.

Are we collecting stuff for the sake of having it? Because someone told us we should want it? Because we think it will make us happier?

I find this to be an extremely difficult practice and I definitely find myself wanting the newest iPhone, boots, scarf, brand-name jeans… We don’t perfect these moral and ethical codes; we continuously bring ourselves back to them. We constantly have to ask ourselves, do I need this? Will this make me happy? Will this make me a kinder person? Will this choice make me more loving?

Sometimes we really do “need” to purchase a new ____, and we all need to purchase food. So how do we make the best choices for ourselves, the environment and those creating the goods that we buy?

Being conscious about the consumer choices we’re making is still challenging, but with more of us making these conscious choices, they will become easier to make. Organic milk didn’t come to Walmart because Walmart wanted it!

What and how you buy MATTERS! If you believe in supporting local farmers, then buy foods that are in season and local. If you believe people shouldn’t be killed making your clothing, look into who is making your clothing and invest into products that last and that are made to a higher standard.

Right now, this costs higher; however, if more of us choose to support this, the costs will come down.

We don’t need all the clothes that are in our closets; we don’t need the newest release of something when our old product works just fine; we don’t need to over-purchase.

I am NOT just a consumer. I am a conscious human who wants to do better for the World around me. I want my choices to bring positive change into the World.

This is a practice and we’re all working on it together. Please share what helps you make more conscious consumer choices.

In love,
Alannah

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Finding Balance

Do we ever “find balance” in our lives?

I am often told that I seem to be good at finding balance in my life; I think it’s because I’m constantly making conscious choices – which are rarely easy to make.

One of my goals in life is to help others live happy, balanced lives – easier said than done. Finding balance is a constant practice; and sometimes when we think we’ve found balance, something happens and it’s gone – poof! Balance isn’t something we find and maintain! Life is constantly changing and so we’re constantly in this process of bringing ourselves back into balance. And sometimes that means there are stretches of time when we live out of balance – usually part of this time is unknowingly.

Each moment we are faced with decisions that will either help us find/remain in balance, or will knock something out of balance – and sometimes, that’s ok! In order to move forward, chase dreams, make changes in our lives, we, usually, have to knock ourselves out of balance. It’s about being aware of these choices.

Right now I’m rekindling my desire to live my life to it’s fullest potential; part of that is to set goals and check-in with them and yet, part of this is to also consciously make choices that will allow me to stay balanced.

So what is balance and how does one achieve it – while still following/finding your purpose/passion?

According to Merriam-Webster, balance is defined as: “the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall; the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling; a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.”

That’s great! So…??

I find that it helps to know what my “end game” is – what are you striving to achieve? What is your purpose?

When I notice that I’m not living in balance, I like to think through my commitments and decide what matters most to me and what I can give up – sometimes these aren’t the same! That’s where the difficult choices come into play. If the things I can give up are the things that matter most to me, I ask if those commitments mean more to me than living in balance for a while – if they are, that’s fine, I’ve made the choice to continue until a new opportunity presents itself to adjust again.

If I realize that I’m ok giving up a few things to bring myself back into balance, most of the time, there is a lag. It’s important to act quickly because living consciously knowing what you need to do to bring your life closer to balance, being able to do it, and not doing it is agonizing (at least for me)!

Knowing that I’ve taken action to bring my life towards balance, or that I’ve consciously decided that I’m ok not living in balance for the moment due to the “importance” of what I’d be giving up is what helps me to feel like I’m, usually, living a balanced life.

I hope this helps!

 

 

A Vegan Experiment – The Recap

As my Vegan Experiment comes to an end and I start to reintroduce foods, what I had hoped would happen is actually happening! I am starting to question What I want, Why I want it, and Do I really want it or do I just want it because I can, and because I had wanted it either before this experiment started or during the experiment.

Throughout this month I have wanted everything, even the things I don’t normally eat and I figured out that I wanted those things because they were magically taken off my options list. Now that I’m looking to eat those foods again, I’m questioning if I actually really do want to reintroduce certain foods, just because I can.

At Whole Foods over the weekend I found myself confused about what to buy; why did I want a salad with egg and cheese? Was that what my body was really asking for or was I tempted by the option of having it? Would it make me feel good after eating it, or would it just make my tastebuds happy? I bought the eggs, but abstained from the cheese; I have yet to do anything with the eggs.

I also purchased two amazing milk chocolate bars, that are currently sitting, unopened, in my fridge… Prior to this month, I had gotten into a habit of eating A LOT of chocolate, consistently; after almost 31 days of (mostly) avoiding chocolate, my habit feels broken. And I’m calling it a habit, because eating chocolate wasn’t for enjoyment, it was because it was there and I wanted it. To be honest, I’m actually scared to break that barrier and have a piece of chocolate.

Overall the experiment has actually been what I needed: insight into my habits and an opportunity to break some of those habits. It also provided me with a better understanding of why diets fail and reaffirmed my belief that the best way to “diet” is to create small, sustainable lifestyle changes that focus on adding instead of taking away.

I am excited to eat certain foods again, but I will eat those foods with more awareness; something I’m hoping will last as this experiment fades in my memory. Who knows, I may pick it back up again in the future, but for now, I’m happy to remove the label! First thing on my list? Salmon! I don’t know if I’ve ever craved it as much as I have for this past month.

A Vegan Experiment

A few months ago my best friend suggested going vegan for a month. My eating habits lean towards clean vegetarian most of the time so I figured it wouldn’t be that hard. Boy was I wrong!

As someone who makes ethical food choices and avoids restricting food (unless there is a physical reason to do so), restricting my food to this level has been more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Even with my busy and active schedule, my energy levels have been fine and I haven’t found any issues recovering from my activities. I also haven’t noticed a change in my mental capacity; what has changed though is my desire for foods I don’t normally eat!

Prior to starting this experiment, I don’t remember the last time I ate cheese; since starting this month of veganism, my brain has told me every day that I want cheese. Thankfully, these aren’t physical cravings (like I sometimes get for DQ Blizzards), but just the fact that “I can’t” means that “I want”.

This experiment is teaching me that, just like when we were children and someone told us we weren’t allowed to do something, when we put restrictions on ourselves, all we want is what has been restricted.

My overall philosophy on food is to eat good, healthy food that is enjoyable, but don’t deamonize “treat” foods.

If you don’t find healthy foods enjoyable, begin by making small transitions, not massive overhauls; and avoid labelling foods as “bad”. When we set strict rules, deprivation follows; and deprivation leads to binging on what has been placed off limits.

If I’m trying to adjust a recipe to make it healthier, I start by substituting one ingredient; if that works, I’ll try substituting two ingredients the next time. This can be done with a recipe, a snack, a meal, a day, a week…wherever you start is perfectly wonderful! It’s all about starting the journey to a life-long, sustainable change.

As for me, I will continue this experiment until February 6. After that I will be back to my normal food habits: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” (Michael Pollen); “I’m a human, I eat food” (Alannah). When I do eat meat, I try to select healthy, local, organic/wild meat. And I will do my best not to binge on everything I currently “want” because I know I actually only want it because I “can’t” have it.

For the Love of Food!

I’m lucky, I know, I’ve been blessed with good genetics and brought up by a mum who taught me to eat because I needed to. This meant small, clean, simple meals using olive oil and spices for the flavours instead of butter and cream. This upbringing has instilled a love of healthy foods with some treats thrown in the mix (I have a nasty sweet tooth and minimal willpower) and the ability to make healthy food that (I think) tastes good!

It saddens me when people aren’t excited to eat a “healthy” meal – a bed of lettuce with fresh veggies, lean protein and some lemon juice dressing – because they feel they’re limited to the boring and mundane. I know we all get into food ruts, but these ruts shouldn’t be caused by limiting your food options due to a diet! That, my friends, leads to a very viscous cycle of deprivation followed by indulgence, followed by…

It’s hard to reverse cravings you’ve spent a lifetime developing, but there are ways to minimize them, and I’m not going to tell you to drink water and wait 15 minutes, because, although wonderful in theory, does not work when my brain latches onto a Blizzard craving! My three craving-busting tips are:

  1. Work out! When a craving hits, work it off before you eat it, this does two things 1) gives you a workout, which leads to 2) raises your endorphin levels and lowers your desire for crap food
  2. Think about your craving and ask yourself if it’s really worth it, if the answer is “yes, if I don’t give into this craving I’m going to eat far more”, then
  3. Give in! Make the conscious decision to enjoy whatever it is you’re craving, and maybe order the smallest, pre-portioned size (not the family-sized bag of M&M’s because they’re on sale)

A point about number 2 up there; a lot of times, we try to replace the real thing with a “more healthy” substitution, these substitutions are usually chemical sh*t storms developed in a lab as an attempt to fool your body, they don’t work. If you’re craving sugar, don’t try to replace it with an artificial sweetener! However, if you’ve thought about your craving and have decided you can do better, a little honey won’t hurt.

Be conscious of your cravings and, as I’ve said before, add so many wonderful, healthy, clean, natural FOODS that you don’t have space for the junk anymore.

So onto the healthy tips:

  1. Use onions, garlic, spices, chili flakes… Chili flakes have become my go-to when a dish is lacking a little je ne sais quoi.
  2. Use millet (just bought some and excited to experiment!), quiona, zucchini, squash, rice noodles, rice, tofu noodles… there are so many options these days, play with them!
  3. Know your comfort foods. I LOVE spaghetti, maybe because we ate a lot of it when I was growing up, but, good golly, do I ever love it! But here’s the thing, my spaghetti sauce is loaded with spinach (or Kale), onions, garlic and organic tofu (or extra lean meat).
  4. Play with methods of preparing your food. Bored with baked chicken breast? Try stir-frying it for a salad topper.
  5. Did I mention spices!? Play! Get creative!
  6. Jump onto Pintrest to see what others are doing. When I was getting back into shrimp, I searched Pintrest for shrimp recipes and was amazed with all the options.
  7. Try to know what you’re eating. If you can’t/don’t know how/don’t have time to make it yourself, do your best to find a product as close to how you would make it if you could.
  8. In the words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”

There is no magic pill, no magic workout, no replacement for eating good (tasty) food and sweating once a day.

Monkey Mind…time to get honest

Recently I’ve felt my mind is scattered — too much to do and absolutely no focus on anything! So this post will be an attempt at focusing in preparation for the beginning of 2013. 2012 has been a year of goal crushing, but with the year coming to a close (much faster than I had expected), I’m finding myself spinning trying to wrap up loose ends, and getting nowhere fast.

With the holiday season upon us, my teaching schedule is winding down, leaving me with more time in the week to work on my goal “homework”. Ok, I put that in quotes, but really, it’s real homework.

There are two key things left on my 2012 goal list:

  • Start dating someone with the potential to become my husband (it’s been an intention, but I haven’t made any steps to actually meet anyone)
  • Complete my Personal Training certification (this is where Monkey Mind is coming into play)

Also, I will be in Aruba January 19 to complete my Yoga Teacher Training and have A LOT of homework to do BEFORE I leave!

So…the plan…as always, dating is being pushed to the back-burner (much to my family’s dismay).

Here is my commitment: I spend a minimum of 1 hour per night AND 2 hours per weekend day on work related to attaining my Yoga and/or Personal Training certification until December 31, 2012.

This can include:

  • Observing a yoga class
  • Teaching a yoga class
  • Watching an online lecture
  • Taking notes on human anatomy and systems
  • Reading a book related to either of these goals (I have to do a book report as part of my YTT)
  • Creating personal training programs
  • Doing a Home Practice

Outcome: by committing to the above, I will be confident in my abilities to write and pass both my Personal Training and Yoga tests in January 2013.

This is my pre New Years Resolution.

What do you want to get accomplished before 2013 begins? Maybe we can encourage each other to finish 2012 even stronger than we started it!

Amazing things happen when you don’t turn on the TV

On weekdays I set two alarms, the radio goes off at 6:05 and my cell kicks me out of bed (or tries to) at 6:15. Apparently I forgot to turn off my radio alarm last night so instead of rolling over and uselessly dozing for two hours, or crawling onto my couch and watching TV, I made myself a cup of tea, started studying the muscles of the shoulder and made a playlist for my yoga class tomorrow.

Then I felt like I had been productive enough so I turned on the TV, flicked through the guide and decided I could better spend my time writing a quick blog…stranger things have happened, but it’s always nice when you are aware of the choices you make! Many weekend mornings have seen my aware choice be watching TV, but I love being aware of making the conscious choice to not!

All that being said, I’ve been awake for three hours and I desperately want coffee before yoga!

I will tell you all about my Yoga Teacher Training shortly 🙂