Human Hibernation: a Forgotten Art


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Does winter get you down a little? Or a lot? Do you sometimes wish you could just sleep it away—at least for a little?   For those of us in northern climes especially, it’s dark. Although here on the Gravel … Continue reading

Find 15 Minutes, Even When You Have No Time

I gave a client of mine a VERY tough challenge in our first call. It made her twinge and squirm “just enough” that I knew it would start her out in the direction she was seeking.

I offer it to you as well… are you ready? This is for the DOERS in the group. For those whose schedules are jam-packed because… PRODUCTIVITY! And being productive means being in action, doing some-thing. This is for those who have NO TIME.

Here it is:

At some point in the day, stop, sit down with a cup of tea (or wine if you wish) and … do nothing for 15 minutes. No book, no magazine, no cereal box, no food, no music, no podcast. Nothing. Cat/dog/ in the lap— OK.

Put a timer on for 15 minutes and simply observe:

Your thoughts

Your squirming

Your feelings of needing to do SOMETHING

Your feelings of feeling like you’re being unproductive and therefore… (fill in the blanks)

Your impulses to stand up and DO SOMETHING

Your breathing

Your relief that you DON’T have to do anything.

Your discovery that you actually like this. Or really hate it…

Don’t write any of this down… just sit.


Repeat this for 12 days. In a row.

Yes, I heard you freak out just a little! That’s OK. I did, too!

For awhile, and perhaps a long while, this will make you feel very uncomfortable. And weird. This is good.

Stay with it. No matter what. Cringe and squirm and stand up and down and walk around in a circle. Grunt or yell. Notice how much noise you’re making in this quiet 15 minutes of nothing. Brain noise, emotional noise, physical noise.

AFTER the 15 minute Do Nothing session, you can journal or write some notes. Or get up and do something productive…

My clients complain they have no time. They want more time freedom. There isn’t enough time.

There is. We all have 24 hours— just like Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Michelle Obama, Helen Keller, Einstein.

This IS time. We simply make weird and wonderful choices in how to make use of the time given us. Some lead us forward; other uses are distractions and derailers.

One of my teachers said,

“There is no time at all and all the time in the world.”

And this is what I believe: that daily quiet time gives us the opportunity to listen deeply, hear our inner voice; quiet time allows us to openly view our lives, honestly and clearly. Spending quiet time, alone, gives your mind an opportunity to re-boot, to re-set, to find itself a new order.

Here are 5 ways to put 15 minutes of quiet time into your day.

  1. End your work day 15 minutes early. If you need to set a reminder for this, do so. Have the tea ready to pour. Put everything down and turn everything off. Shut the door if you need to. Put a sign up if necessary. Here’s a sample sign:

I’m taking 15 minutes of silence to end my day.

If you are on fire, call 911. If the building is on fire, call 911 and pull the alarm if it’s not ringing already. I’ll hear it.

Other than that… if the police have come to the door and look really serious, please interrupt me.

Ditto Justin or Sophie Trudeau, Blake Shelton, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen, Rick Mercer, anyone from Dragon’s Den or any of my family (although they’ll completely understand.)

  1. Schedule it. Literally put it in your calendar like you do your meetings, lessons, kids’ soccer and date nights. It can be anytime of the day. Treat that space with respect. It is sacred time.
  2. Get in to work early. When I was teaching, I would get to school earlier than everyone. If the weather was crappy, I’d go down to the gym where there were few distractions, and do qi gong. During the season when I didn’t bike to work, I’d get off the bus one stop early, which happened to be at a park, and do qi gong there. When I rode… I’d stop as well.
  3. Get out of your office during lunch. Too many of us sit at our desks, eating and working. Not only is this bad for digestion, it’s bad for productivity, it’s messy and your energy tanks.
  4. Cut out TV, social media scrolling, internet surfing. We all know it’s a huge time black hole. Turn your screens off by 9. Use a timer for ‘free time internet time.’ I practiced piano for an hour a day. It was a limited time. Apply that principle to your screen time-wasters. 15 minutes. BAM! Easy Peasy.
  5. Let a little housework, laundry, cooking or yard work go. Just 15 minutes of it. Get someone else in the house to do it. If you are alone, get someone in to help. Nothing will blow up.


What Will Happen?

No one will die or be injured. You will arrive at the end of 15 minutes fully intact. Also more relaxed, feeling less stressed. And you will be more creatively and productive around the RIGHT things.

Over time, with this practice, your breathing will begin to slow down. The cray cray of the concrete mind will calm down. And a miracle will happen. Time and space will appear. Out of thin air. You will create time for yourself.

More importantly, your inner voice will start to speak—quietly and slowly at first, because you’ve probably spent a pile of hours listening to outside influences and voices and shoulds and what ifs and why don’t you’s and here’s another to-do list and shutting this poor inner voice down.

Over time, another voice will be heard. The one that wants to feel a certain way at the end of the day—or the week— or your life. The Voice of Wisdom (and we all have it) that truly knows who are are becoming. The Voice that Knows what is needed next. For YOUR next steps on YOUR journey.

And THAT is the voice that you must TRUST will come forward. That is the voice that we all want to hear. That inner, truer, subtler voice, which may come through really loudly (as in “FINALLY! You’ve got enough space to HEAR me! THANK YOU!).

The Challenge?

The challenge will be to know which is the inner voice and which is the outer. It’s tough, I can tell you. It’s hard to really distinguish between what you think or wish were the inner voice and what truly is. In fact, we may not ever hear entirely the ‘true’ inner voice. It may take us into the next lifetime or the one after that. But we can all become more attuned to a truer inner voice.

That, my friends, will take time.

For now, go back to the beginning.

Make a commitment to sitting still, in silence, for 15 minutes. Breathe and follow the breath. Experience the sensation of your body on the chair. Dream, friends, dream! And Listen.

And let me know what happened! Or didn’t.



Don’t Push a Rope

Hello friends!

WOW! There has been a disturbance in the Force in my life these past few months (that’s another post!) leaving me now more than a week into 2016 with no solid, tangible Plan and few Actionable Steps. It’s an uneasy place for me to be— to not have very much in place— AND, I’m okay with it for now. Because….

Mercury Retrograde is gracing us with its presence until January 25 (it began on Jan 5) and I will go on record as saying, “I LOVE Mercury Retrograde!” It lets me slow down and not fret when things go a little awry. Start out with Plan A and wind up with Plan Q? Fine. Expect everything technological to go smoothly? Good luck.

Some Mercury Retrogrades hit me more strongly than others. It may do you as well. So far, this one just feels slow and a little muddled. Rather, I feel slow and a little muddled: I have yet to hear my morning chimes go off this past week so I’ve been getting up late.

Mercury is a mental sign and rules anything to do with communication and connection: telephones, self-expression, transportation, air travel, computers, speaking and writing, mental clarity (you have less) and happens a few times every year. It’s nature’s way of saying, slow the heck down!

7 Ways to Navigate Mercury Retrograde:

RE is the Word

Re-do, review, re-member, re-search and double check and triple check… everything. This is a time when we may miss appointments, double book, forget, put the wrong date in the calendar, read the date wrong in the calendar, arrive late. So will our friends and clients.

Do not assume you’ve got the right info written down. You may not have the whole truth. Check again.

You may need to re-do things more often than you’d like or ‘just’ when you thought you had it right. Like this post…

Just let it go… when it happens, it happens.

Technology, Transportation, Timing!2 elephants pulling wagon

Computers and technology can go awry. You may not get the voicemail or you may miss the email, or think (as I did one day) that you’d sent it. There’s just something about “connections” that can be a little off.

Pay attention to things like flight and train times: there may be weird delays. I don’t know the stats, but I’m curious to know how much more luggage finds alternative routes than usual during Mercury Retrograde. It’s happened to me.

Numb Tongue

Watch your words—written and spoken. You may have “foot in mouth” disease.

This also applies to social media. When in doubt, leave it out! What you say or write can be more easily misinterpreted.

This is especially a good time to write what you need to and then go back and re-read and check your tone and meaning! (and spelling!)

Sign on the Dotted Line signing Napolean marriage contract

It’s not a great time to sign contracts or make firm commitments; however, it IS a good time to review them. If you can, wait until after January 25 when there will be more mental clarity. And you may receive more information that helps you decide and commit.

It’s not a good time to launch… a project, programme, book, a course. You can do it AND it may take some interesting turns. But it IS a good time to connect with people and let them know what’s happening! And a good time to do that final review of details.

You can use this time to go back and fix something that you may have rushed out the door or rushed through. I’m taking some time to look at how I did my colouring book and looking to sense what’s next. I’m happy not to feel pressed to push something out the door!

It’s a good time to tidy up details and finish up projects, to tie up loose ends. Spend some time connecting with old friends, former clients, your connections on FB and LinkedIn. Set up some catch up calls.

Do you need to do some clutter clearing? Go for it! You’ll feel like you’re making progress AND you’ll get more space!

Expect the Unexpected

You may lose things… and find them later in an unusual place. When I lose things during Mercury Retrograde, I assume they’ll show up— but, the lost things have their own timing, so I do a lot of waiting!

Things and people from the past may show up unexpectedly. Surprise! (YOU could be the surprise in someone else’s life!)

Making Mercury Retrograde FUN!

Have you ever wished the world would just slow down and let you get caught up?

Ever wanted some time to think a little before making a big decision?

Have you been moving so quickly you think you may have missed something? And you’d love to have time to re-evaluate, review, reconsider, research revise your plans?

Ta- DA!!! It’s here! You can do it now.

Take advantage of these three weeks.

push and pull a ropeGive yourself permission to not go full out. This is a time of inner reflection. Don’t push a rope!

Resist the temptation to be swept along in the mass thoughtform of the frenzy of New Year’s resolutions and all the external pressure to achieve and drive and push and climb. We’re in Capricorn, the sign of climbing the mountain, so we can remember there are many ways to climb a mountain. Many mountains to climb and many different kinds of mountains. Take time to listen to your inner self.

(And besides, January 1 is an arbitrary date. There are better times of the year to plan out the ‘year.’ So, if you’ve tried doing your planning for 2016 and you haven’t been able to… that’s OK. It’s not just Mercury Retrograde, but you don’t have to kick yourself because you haven’t.)

tea time JapanGo have tea with a friend. It’s a time to do those slower, inner, personal things we think we’ll get to someday.

Cultivate flexibility!

I’m not launching anything in the next few weeks, but I AM looking at year planning with a different eye this year. I’m currently calling it Living and Planning Your Year with the “Heart in Mind.” Sound good?

More later on that.

Teafully yours,


PS. The most interesting thing I’ve seen today… the New York Public Library has made 180 000 digitized items available for free. These are high-res images of documents, photos…it’s astonishing. These items have fallen into the public domain and can be used by anyone! They’re looking for people using them in creative ways , too! What a browsing experience!

The images in this post are all from the collection!

NYPL Digital Collections

Three Mercury Retrograde Hacks— (How to LOVE Mercury Retrograde)!

Forget the doom and gloom about Mercury Retrograde (those 3 or 4 three-week periods every year when it seems that nothing connects). There’s lots to love about these times, once you get that you need to double check every single appointment, your computer may get bogged down for no apparent reason,  you may misplace things and projects begun during these times can take a unusual twists and turns.

You know these things are going to happen, so, well… let them.

It’s time to let things slide a little. Client didn’t show? You completely zoned out and forgot you’d changed time zones? You ALWAYS put your keys in that basket… and they’re not there? Rage will not beat the machine here, so, take a breath, put a smile on your face and carry on. (Dare I make allusion to a certain recent pop tune that emerged from a rambunctiously popular animated hit in 2014?)


1.Finish Things Up

It’s a great time to tie up loose ends, do some sorting and de-cluttering, and finish that knitting project you’ve had in the basket by your reading chair—which you’ve also not had time to sit it lately. There’s something  delightful about letting go of the pushing and striving and starting and driving and settling back into simply finishing.

2. Have Tea, Write a Letter

While your luggage may get lost, and other connections that Mercury rules may disconnect, making connections with real people is perfect for a successful Mercury Retrograde. Pull out your phone and meet someone for lunch or tea. Get caught up. Revive… or learn the art of letter writing. Go ahead. Get beyond hashtags and status updates. Dig in and learn how to write a ‘real’ letter.

3. Curl Up

Mercury Retrograde is a reflective time. It’s not outgoing and gregarious; rather it’s an inner time. When it happens in the middle of winter, you can feel completely justified in hibernating. Get out and walk, pull out the art supplies, do some journalling and dreaming.

I love Mercury Retrogrades. They allow me to slow down; in fact, they require that I slow down and become a little methodical. I can justify time to write a letter or call a friend I haven’t seen for awhile. Justify isn’t the best word. I guess it’s the knowing that it’s OK to curl up and hibernate for a little while. In doing that, I’m fulfilling the need. I’m respecting the natural cycle and ebb and flow of energy.

Having said that, I made a huge decision recently, during the shadow of Mercury Retrograde, which involved a contract and commitment and money on the table. I’m looking forward to see the twists and turns it affords me! (I’ll get back to you!)




Just One ‘Little’ Thing

A single grain of sand can bring a large wheel to a standstill. One little thing can completely STOP something from happening. One voice speaking out. One missed piece of code. Just a fraction of a degree off a right angle on the wall of a new building. Just one little thing.

Changing just one little thing, one little habit will alter the trajectory of an entire life.

If it’s true that there is no neutral, that everything we think, say, or do either adds or subtracts from the quality of life, then it comes down to those little things we do, or don’t do, that make a life of meaning or one that feels somewhat wasted.

Think back to a turning point in your life. There —you can see where just one little change in your thinking, one response to a life event, one decision, one point you came to— life changed.

To live a meaningful, successful life, we need to take charge of the little things we do every day. Those little things that are easy to do and… easy not to do.

Here’s the one little thing to begin today, and to do every day for the next 7. You have to track it, too. Write it down — I find paper is better than digital for this— on a calendar or on a small chart with 7 boxes after it. Check off each day that you succeed. Release the inner critic when you don’t.

Every day for the next 7 days, stop for 5 minutes and sit quietly. Set a timer. Just sit. In nature if you can, looking at it if you can’t, looking at a beautiful image if you’re in a cubicle. Breathe and watch your breath.

That’s it.

If you want the premium version, at the end of the day, as you lie in bed, ready to sleep, do a simple review of just that practice. Did you do it? What did you observe?

You’re done. Sleep well.


Better to Start Than to Be Perfect


This website is a clear example of simply starting and not waiting for perfection. Clearly VERY imperfect and incomplete. And if you were to click on most of the tabs there would be nothing, or something out of date, or something completely irrelevant to life as I know it. And yet… I’m writing.

Being incurably curious about everything and seeing the connections and patterns that run through seemingly disparate ideas and concepts, it’s nearly impossible for me to tease apart the connections to find The One Thing that I’m to do.

This leaves me in a constant state of multi-directionality (seeing the possibility of going in every direction, it being the right direction and the right connection), which can lead to either paralysis and seeking chocolate or scurrying about my office from one corner to the other with no particular like a mouse one of my cats may be chasing (and never catching).

Even this post has perambulated. Fewer than 200 words and I’ve written and deleted several hundred.

The point is to START.

When all options are equal, (and equally interesting) it’s more important to choose than to choose the right one. Sharon Little

Waiting for everything to be right and planned and strategized and written out and listed and scheduled and evaluated and sorted and decided upon and perfect and vetted and focus grouped and surveyed and properly packaged does not work for me. And probably not for you, either.

There is a place for all of that.

I’ve done the Act on the Impulse and Start Without Any Clue What I’m Doing or Where I’m Going as well. There is a place fo that as well.

I had this on my wall for ages. I’m not sure its presence on my wall helped me DO anything, but it may well have.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation.

There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!”  W.H. Murray

SO… don’t wait for circumstances to be perfect. You’ll be dead before that happens. Trust that once you move, you can change direction. And just to be clear. There WILL be mistakes, bloopers, false starts and slightly embarrassing results. They’re inevitable. Instead of running from them, embrace them, look for them… but START.

Now, go… start on ANYTHING. Even for 5 minutes.