Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).


In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.

3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.

5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!



A new year’s resolution: another look at Work-Life Balance….


As another year draws to a close and a new year just around the corner, this is generally the time when everyone takes a deep breath and comes up with an impossibly unsustainable new years’ resolution…like going (back?) to the gym, eating out less, or spending more time with the family.  However, one resolution that tends to come up with most of my workaholic friends is striking the right “work-life balance”. 

I first heard of the phrase “work life balance” in the early part of my career as an accountant for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (it used to be the big 5).  The managers and senior managers were always talking about not having time for dinner with their families during the peak of audit season.  In fact, they had not seen their wives or husbands in daylight as they generally left for work before sunrise and when they came home, the whole house was already asleep.  They always said, “I have to get a job with more work life balance, man.”  

What exactly is “work-life balance”?  In a nutshell, it is the holy grail of the art of balancing work (i.e. career and ambition) with life (i.e. family, leisure, health).  This balancing act can be tricky and many of us have fallen into the trap of focusing on the work aspect….leading to the demise of the other.  Burnout and the compounding stress of a never ending workday in contrast with boredom and the compounding stress of always watching the purse strings are just some of the results of too much focus on either work or life.

In Nigel Marsh’s TEDtalk about work life balance, he brilliantly sums the paradox as “it is quite easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work; not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.”

So where does this leave us?  Work life balance is different for everyone but these are some of my thoughts and tips that may help in find YOUR balance:

1.  It was never about Balance

Consider the three words again:  Work, Life, Balance. 

It was just recently that I realized that perhaps I was looking at this phrase all wrong.  Isn’t “work” really just part of “life”?  Why would “work” garner 50% of this equation? In fact, in thinking about this more deeply, MY life would likely be broken down into these components:  work, my family and friends, and my SELF.   All of these contribute to my overall happiness—but certainly not 50% of work!!!

Work is just part of life, such as my family and my health and wellbeing would also be.  Put another way, work is really just a piece of the Pie of Life; we should not give it more (or less) importance as the other parts of our lives. Alas, sometimes, this realization comes too late when our health fails us or when we suffer our first anxiety attack, for example. As far as I know, no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

So perhaps, a change in perspective is warranted since it was never about balance to begin with….it is really about integration of the work in the overall scheme of things.

2.  Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Maybe it was just me but I found that even though I made a good living, it seemed as if it was never enough.  So, I went for promotions that paid me more money which meant more responsibility and more stress; other times, I would change jobs just for the fact that it paid more.  You would think that if I had more money, I could save more and be happier.  Quite the opposite.  Ironically, I found that the more money I made, the more expenses I seemed to have!  So, when finally I realized my happiness was inexplicably connected to my work life imbalance, it was so much more difficult to just throw in the towel and say, ENOUGH! 

Faced with choice—would you quit a job that makes you sick or would you just suck it up?

So beware the golden handcuffs…

3.  Establish boundaries

Employers try to attract talent or keep employees by giving incentives like flexible work environments including work from home, the perks of having the newest smartphones in the market, dress down Fridays, or even a daycare in the premises.  If you come to think about this though, these incentives just make your work day even longer!  I am sure that these employers have good intentions but it is critical that boundaries are set early on or else work will definitely take over all of your hours of the day. 

“But wouldn’t that limit my career?” you are probably asking.  Well, that would be up to you.  I think that you would likely come out to be a more productive and happier employee since you actually have time to BREATHE.  Have you ever worked with someone who always seems to be on edge since they have too much on their plate and everyone is tiptoeing and walking on eggshells around them for fear of being yelled at?  I worked for someone like that—I remember I used to take the longer route to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to walk by his office. Yah, not nice.

So, there you have it, a few thoughts to ponder as a new year is once again upon us.

Do you have any work-life balance tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow me by email so you never miss another blog… sign up below!!!

As always, thank you so much for following and reading my blog and may 2018 be a year filled with smiles, love, much happiness and prosperity.

This is my heartfelt wish from me to you. Happy New Year, everyone!


Plastic detox: 5 easy ways to start

I stared at this picture for a long time. Trying to understand all the emotions that went through me…horror, disbelief, anger…and lastly, shame.

I use Q-tips all the time and once I am done with it, it goes into the garbage can, never to be spared a thought ever again…until I saw this picture.

There are so many more images in the internet about how plastic impacts the lives of so many animals and it brings to the fore the reality that we are all interconnected.   However, its not a fair exchange…animals pay a huge toll for our negligence and mindless actions.


So, these past few months, Olivia and I have been mindfully paying attention to our buying habits and doing our part in reducing our plastic consumption.

These are 5 easy ways to start:

1. Bring your own travel mug

Did you know that those takeout coffee/tea cups are not recyclable?

Well, I didn’t.  All these years, I just thought…meh, it’s paper!

Wrong.  In order to hold hot liquids safely, these coffee cups are lined with 100% oil based polyethylene plastic which makes it impossible to recycle since it clogs the recycled paper mill’s machinery.

So, next time you stop by your favourite Starbucks for your caffeine fix, bring your own travel mug…you are protecting our environment…one coffee cup at a time.

2. No straw please…

I love bubble tea.  Who doesn’t?  I mean, it comes in so many flavours (taro is my favourite!), it’s colourful, and those tapioca pearls are a must have!

…..and it always comes with a straw–one of those big holed ones so that the tapioca can pass through.

Think about it for a minute, it is only used for a few minutes and then discarded.  Straws also pose a hazard to sea life like the picture above with the sea turtle…yes, folks, that is a straw being taken out of its nostrils. Imagine a straw being taken out of YOUR nose…yep, not a good picture, right?

So, while I am not going to ditch my bubble tea, I will ditch the straw.  There are actually glass straws that you can buy.  However, if you are a cheapskate like me,  I actually just reuse the bubble tea straws that I bought a long time ago when I didn’t know any better….

3. Buy in bulk and bring those glass containers

We have a Bulk Barn close to our house.  I really wasn’t paying it too much attention until one day I was following a recipe that required 1 tsp of allspice.  I went to the closest grocery store and lo and behold, I have to buy a huge container of allspice just so I can complete my apple crumble!  I actually thought that I should just skip this ingredient…but what if it is a key ingredient?

And as I was standing there, torn and undecided, an old lady who was passing by said …”If you just need a pinch, just go to the Bulk Barn across the street.”

True story.

The rest is history.  Now, Olivia and I frequent our neighbourhood Bulk Barn and to save on plastic bags, we bring our own glass jars.  They weigh the jar and put a sticker on the lid which shows the weight of the empty container.  We scoop what we need into it and when we pay, they deduct the weight of the jar.

So don’t throw those pasta sauce glass jars…they still come in handy!

4. No gum

Did you know that gum is made of plastic?  Enough said.

5. Bring your own reusable bag

With more and more grocery stores charging for plastic bags, bringing your own reusable grocery bags is a no brainer. Besides, reusable bags have become more fashionable, so why not?! Although, I must admit, if you are forgetful like me,  it is sometimes a pain to trudge back to the car as I always seem to remember it when I am already inside the grocery store.

So there you have it, little things that Olivia and I have done to reduce our plastic consumption.

How about you? What do YOU do to reduce your plastic footprint?

Have a good weekend, everyone…and remember to bring your own reusable bags for your Christmas shopping!


“Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”


She is almost 100 years old.

Everyone just assumed she would live forever so it gave everyone quite a scare when she was rushed to the hospital due to a collapsed lung and the doctor said they she doesn’t have long to live.  The priest was immediately called to give her her last rights and there was even a heated discussion about what she was going to wear in her own funeral.

That was a week ago.

As I visited her in the hospital, I came face to face on how old she had become since I last saw her, which was few years ago.  I would have wanted to visit her sooner but her children and I had a falling out after harsh words were uttered. As you may recall, I take grudges to a whole new level. (See my previous blog about my relationship with grudges Holding on…). But, I digress.

She seemed so fragile and so very frail…yet somehow, she had the energy to watch one of the Batman movies “The Dark Knight” on her grandson’s iPad.  She was sitting up and other than a nose breathing tube on her nose, she looked to be in good spirits.  Definitely a far cry from the pictures I received a week ago.

She reminded me of a poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

She also made me rethink about what I should be doing NOW so that in the event that it is my turn, no one will put me in a pink froufrou frilly frock from the 1960’s.

So, this is what I came up with:

  1.  Have a plan:

    ..and no, I am not just talking about a will.  Honestly, what good is a will if no one really follows it?  I’ve heard of stories where the will stipulated that the family home be sold.  Yet, somehow, it took years of bickering among siblings to finally follow through and honestly, I really didn’t think all the bad blood was worth it.  People just had to grow up and face reality that you can’t live in the basement of your parent’s house all your life, that’s all.

    What I am talking about is actually having a plan and having someone you can trust who will carry out your last wishes.  It may be a family member or a close family friend.  I remember when my father died, I was about 10 years old.  I don’t recall that he had a will.  What he did get was our trusted neighbour to video tape him so that there was no confusion on what he wanted when he passed away.  In his own words, he outlined what he wanted.  And he entrusted loyal friends to make sure that our family was taken care of.  Of course, you have to bear in mind that this happened in the Philippines in the early 1980’s when the country was in turmoil under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and papers (especially wills!) and lawyers tend to disappear conveniently.  But, again, I digress–but you get the gist.

    2.  Take care of yourself

…and no, I am not really talking about getting a massage and a manicure while you are at it.  Well, on second thought, maybe a massage once in a while.  What I am alluding to is to actually take care of your body inside and out.  I read about this 105 year old from Norwich, England who does yoga and drives a Mini.  Perhaps she has good genetics but the fact that she keeps fit, eats reasonably sensibly, and drinks a glass of wine (or two) a day, but I would certainly want to try to look as good as her when I reach my nineties!  Google her…her name is Eileen Ash.

3.  Be there for your loved ones

I think this is the easiest one to do.  I recently heard about a young mother who had a brain aneurysm and never woke up.  She left two young children and a grieving husband who just could not accept such a tragedy.  So, kiss and hug your loved ones everyday–you never know what can happen in an instant.

4.  Finally, just put things in perspective

This is one lesson that my daughter Olivia has taught me.  There would be times when I would be stressed out at work or juggling several things at one time.  Of course, I would not be the nicest person to be around. She always seemed to have a knack of figuring out what is bothering me.  And one day, she asked “Mom, if you died tomorrow, would this issue even matter?”

Silence. I’m speechless.

So, really, put things into perspective when things don’t go your way.  In the grand scheme of things, what was bothering you may not really be that important.  All this would result to less stress, better outlook, and longer life…win-win.

So, there you have it, my plans to live a longer and you bet I will “rage, rage, against the dying of the light…”

How about you?

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!


P.S. If you’re reading this, thank you so much for supporting my blog! Much love.

It started with an offer of Kleenex…

I caught a really nasty cold this past week…it may have been the flu but nonetheless, it devastated my whole entire week.

I even missed celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving. I am not a big turkey fan but hey, I didn’t get to enjoy the long weekend it came with.

I think I caught it from the person who sat beside me on the train on my way to work.  It started with me offering her a Kleenex. In fact, I even texted my good old friend Joya the dilemma I was going through…


Joya suggested that I should move…


I should have, now that I think about it…

Would you have taken a Kleenex from a total stranger?

I mean, I look like a perfectly respectable person, I take a shower every morning so I’m sure I smelled alright, and I had the obligatory Starbucks mug…and I was offering a brand new Klennex packet!  Brand new!!

The “Debbie smile” as my dear friend alluded to has been known to create confusion. My former boss had once asked… “why is Debbie smiling that weird smile…there is so much to do!…and she’s smiling??!”. Needless to say, she hated it when I smiled my lunatic smile…as if I’m going to lose my marbles…

Anyway, at this point, I was clucking like a lunatic after Joya reminded me about “the smile”…


Well…I caught the cold..img_3382

So there you have it, folks!  It all started with an offer of a Kleenex to a complete stranger who was in grave need of one…

So what have I learned from all this?

You probably think that the moral of this blog is never offer a Kleenex since it will just be rejected and forget about being all martyr-like and sticking by your window seat since you are comfy and you got there first…


The moral of my story that I got from this is…

I am grateful to have very good and dear friends like Joya who would stick by me even when we have inane and silly text conversations like how an offer of a perfectly good tissue morphed into the flu…and actually remember to check up on me.

She is who I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Happy belated thanksgiving, everyone!


Birthday wishes

It was my birthday a few days ago.

Another year older.

One year closer to retirement.

I didn’t get a lot of birthday well wishes and even my mother forgot. She’s 86 so I couldn’t really blame her.

My sister almost forgot and she admitted it on a text at 8:30 that night while I was getting ready for bed. She asked me what I did for my birthday and I replied, “Nothing. Just went to work. Had dinner at home. Cheaper.” I had a smiley face somewhere in those sentences for added effect.

My brother forgot and tried to cover it up by sending me a text the next afternoon asking nonchalantly “What did you do for your birthday?”

My reply was the same.

Then we talked about one year closer to retirement and what I need to do to make it a reality. We are both accountants after all and investment strategies are infinitely more important than whether I had a birthday cake and whether it was chocolate or vanilla…

If I sound a little disappointed that my birthday was really nothing special, not really. It’s just that I seem to have come to a point in my life where birthdays have become just another mundane day of the week. I don’t expect any special treatment or presents or even a day off….

Is that sad?

Actually, I don’t think so. I quite enjoyed not having to dress up and think about where to go or even consider what to eat since a birthday dinner must somehow be more special than any other meal.

Too much effort.

Have I become lazy in my old age?

Actually, I don’t think so either. I think I have just realized how much more I enjoy a glass of wine at home than going out to a bar and having decide whether one glass of wine is enough or should I get the bottle instead…and who will be the designated driver.

Too much effort.

At any rate, I quite enjoyed my birthday–I had a quiet dinner at home with two glasses of my favourite wine and had combination of chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake with little icing flowers.

I got a hugs and a kisses from my daughter and hubby…and that is the greatest birthday gifts I could have!

So, for all September birthday celebrants out there…happy birthday!

Hope you had a fabulous birthday too!


Wasting time (part 2)


I survived last week without playing Candy Crush….see my last week’s post Wasting time…

Okay, let me qualify that a bit….I survived last week without spending too much time playing Candy Crush.  I ended last week at level 1170 and I am just on level 1172.

Needless to say, it was tough in the beginning….

“How can I give up on two hours of free lives?” I remember thinking as I pressed the “claim prize” button…

Well, I clearly impressed myself when after 15 mins (yes, I actually put a timer on my Iphone), I swiped away the Candy Crush app…

So, as with any challenge, it started off pretty tough.  It was like breaking a bad habit but as days passed by, it became easier.

I started reading The Art of Happiness which is based on insights from the Dalai Lama and when it just became too preachy at 8am while riding the train, I started another book that I found in the deep recesses of my book shelf, the Automatic Millionaire by David Bach.  It was a really old book (copyright 2003) that I got free when I worked for a bank.  It is actually a pretty simple book and an easy read so you don’t have to be a financial genius to read it.  I think it has a really good concept…”pay your self first…and make it automatic!”  Let me know if you want to borrow it and I will see how I can get it out to you…hahahaha!

So, in the past week, as I had to replace the time I usually spend playing Candy Crush to actually thinking about how I can get ahead in achieving financial freedom…at 55.

I went through my finances and looked at a few investing ideas and came up with a plan to maybe curb a few expenses that I found out was getting a little out of hand….I actually found this app called Mint that tracked my expenses and it seems my gas and fuel expense is overbudget by $48 and I have $3 left in my budget for alcohol and bars.

At any rate, what I want to convey here is not to get into investing or finding the most awesome app out there, but that sometimes pausing and not have Candy Crush (or Facebook or Pinterest) get away with all your precious time.  Maybe when you are walking with your baby in your stroller or on a long run on a nice Sunday morning to actually look up, ahead, and around…instead of posting what your status is on snapchat or Instagram…..It sounds surprising, but it does happen!

I realize this past week that my time is precious and I would rather spend it on what is meaningful to me.

Of course, I am not going to give up Candy Crush (are you crazy!!!), I just am going to keep it in check.  Five lives for a day and if I still can’t get past the level after five lives, I am not going to go on my settings and change the time so I get a new set of five lives….(Candy Crushers–you know what I’m talking about!!)

Have a good week, everyone!